Disclaimer: Sadly, I don't own the world of Twilight—SM does. I just make her puppets dance.

So, here's my entry for the Jukebox contest. I was surprised by the response it received. And to answer those reviewers questions: Yes, I am extending this story. Once Forever is a Promise You Keep is finished, I will be working on this fic. :)


I snapped the last suitcase shut and took a look around my childhood bedroom. Fucking hell, I had never thought I'd try to fit eighteen years worth of crap into three small bags, preparing to leave everything I knew behind the night I graduated high school. It wasn't something I had chosen, rather it was a decision I was forced into by my parents' prejudices.

I rechecked my bags, making sure I had what I wanted to take. There were lots of things that would be left behind to gather dust until someone threw them away or became someone else's possession. Among them were my games, CDs, and other items I'd received for birthdays and Christmases throughout the years. I set the bag down and checked my surroundings one last time.

The many trophies I'd won for participating in various sports during my elementary school years lined the far wall. At ten years old, they were my most prized possessions. Looking at them, as a man, they meant nothing. Clothes, pictures, small mementos, and cash were the only things I needed to take with me and were all that fit into the bags sitting on the bed. For a moment, I wondered if I was really making the right decision, and then a beautiful face with dark, soulful brown eyes, full pink lips, and rosy cheeks framed by long, dark brown hair filled my mind.

I shook my head and smiled, letting the image comfort me. The face belonged to the person who had changed my world, and I honestly wouldn't have had it any other way. She was the reason I was running away from this dead factory town and my judgmental parents. She had taught me that standing up for what you believed in was one of the most noble things you could do. Even if it would cost you everything you had thought was important at one time in your life.

That person was one of the bravest people I'd ever known—my girlfriend, Bella.

Her family had moved to Anderson from some Podunk town in Washington during the last half of Sophomore year. Her arrival was met with little fuss—students were known for transferring from one of the other three high schools in the city or from others in the surrounding farm towns all the time. So when Bella joined the ranks of the other three thousand students in attendance, it was hardly noticed.

Somehow, in my fifth period Chemistry class, she caught my eye on that first day. I'd like to be that romantic type of guy and say it was love at first sight, but I'd be lying if I did. It was her quiet nature and rocking body that first grabbed my attention. She seemed like the type of girl that was discreet, and it was something I needed after messing with the whores at that school. Every fucking one of them couldn't wait to tell their friends that they had fucked the "great" Edward Masen. That shit went to my head for a while and inflated my ego, but it got old after a couple of months. A never-ending string of meaningless encounters were traded as currency in the latest round of gossip and had all kinds of crazy girls going to desperate measures to get me to screw them. Yes, I was a guy and I loved sex, but who really wanted their private shit broadcasted all over the school?

As she sat in that class with her head down and her mouth shut, I began to form a plan in my head to lure her into an arrangement that would benefit us both. I presented her with my proposal after school that afternoon. She was shocked at first, but came around after a couple of weeks, after much persuasion on my part. Thus began our secret trysts and late night encounters.

It took Bella exactly two months to flip my world upside-down.

I thought I had been smart in the beginning by being exclusive with one girl sexually, without being boyfriend/girlfriend. However, the quiet girl I'd decided was a push-over was really a stubborn goddess in disguise. She told me during spring break that her conscience was eating at her, and if I was just going to use her, then she couldn't be a part of it, us, anymore. It had kind of shocked me, because she was the first girl to stand up to me and demand to be treated right. I had always gotten away with being a prick because of who I was and what family I belonged to. She walked away from me without a backwards glance, and it made me question everything I believed about who I was. I would never be more grateful to her for knocking some sense into my thick skull.

For weeks, I was a brooding mess. There I was, the captain of the football team, star of the baseball team, and one of the most sought-after guys in school, and I couldn't even get her to look at me. Bella was content to pretend that I had never existed, and I didn't know why, but it killed me.

The realization that she was more than just a sexual object came that summer, when I saw her with another guy at the annual Midnight Parade held every Fourth of July. They were standing a few feet away, and she was laughing at something he had said to her. Watching her head thrown back in hysterics, making her whole body shake, made me realize I was a fuck up. It could have been me that had caused her such joy, and I had spoiled everything because I wanted casual sex with no strings attached.

The next day, I went to her house, hoping to convince her that I wanted more. I got lucky somehow and caught her at home alone. It took a half hour pleading my case in the doorway before she would even let me inside. Lots of tears, arguing, and begging on my part happened before she told me that she wasn't seeing anyone exclusively and that she missed me. It was music to my ears and a balm to my tattered soul. One issue, though, made her hesitate.

"Edward," Bella whispered. She leaned into me, so close I could feel the heat coming off of her. I was sitting next to her on her small living room love seat, welcoming her touch in any way she was willing to give. "What…I mean, when school starts again, how is this going to work? Your friends and mine—they don't get along. I don't think we'll ever have a chance."

The fact that our different groups of friends didn't get along was a huge understatement. I was part of a group that thought they ruled the school, and her friends had made it their sole purpose in life to knock us off our self-imposed pedestals. A silent war had been declared between the two cliques the moment James Hudson, my best friend, had made fun of Gianna Jordan, Bella's friend, when she had asked him to the Sadie-Hawkins dance freshman year. He was a jackass, but I had stood by him because we'd known each other since kindergarten. Since James' rejection, it was a game of which group could one up the other. Cars had been keyed, lockers defaced, and there was even an incident with a goat, toilet paper, and the involvement of the entire school administration. No one was ever caught, but that one event had upped the stakes to the point that it would have been detrimental to Bella if it was found out that she had even associated with me, let alone was my girlfriend.

"Bella," I said, pulling her to me. "I don't care what anyone thinks. These last few months have been hell—I can't even begin to apologize for how big of a jerk I was, but it would kill me if you became a part of this sick battle. I don't want to hide you, really I don't, but what else can we do? I swear, I won't even look at another girl."

Tears sprung to her eyes, and she grabbed me by my shoulders, pulling me tightly to her. She whispered in my ear that she felt the same way and would do anything to make things work. I told her that I agreed. I told her I loved her for the first time that night, too. Those words had scared me, but telling her felt like the most natural thing in the world. We began our relationship knowing that there would be many obstacles for us to face, but we were determined to overcome all of them to be together.

Little did we know, the biggest wall between us would come from our own families.

The first couple of months of junior year were spent sneaking around to see each other. Every time I met her in some clandestine location, another piece of my heart broke off. I felt like we were back to square one, only instead of meeting to fuck her like it meant nothing, I made love to her while telling her how I couldn't live without her before going back to my lonely existence. Not only was I hurting myself, but I was also putting her through a lot of pain, too. One night after coming home from seeing Bella, I made the decision to pick her up at her house and take her out on a proper date. That next Friday evening, I did just that, and it was the biggest mistake I had ever made.

Bella answered the door with shock written clearly on her face. She was expecting to see me later that evening after her parents went to bed. Her father came to see what was going on when she tried to shoo me away. When he saw me standing on his front porch, asking his daughter out to dinner, he was more than a little pissed. He accused me of being just like my brother, pulled Bella into the house, and slammed the door in my face. I stood outside for twenty minutes, trying to regain my composure from the surprise her father's words had caused.

On my way home, I punched my steering wheel, enraged that the shit my brother, Royce Masen, undisputed king of the school and suspected rapist, had caused was becoming my burden to bear as well. I'd known he was guilty of rape the moment Angela Weber accused him of taking advantage of her when she was drunk. She was the most trustworthy and honest girl, but fifty thousand dollars wired to her father's bank account by City Councilman Edward Masen, Sr., and the retraction of Angela's original police report, meant my slime of a brother got away with it. Turns out, though, that fate really hated me because Mr. Swan, Bella's father, worked as a plumber at the same company as Mr. Weber and had been warned against the evil my family was capable of inflicting.

I was no rapist, and I had never slept with a girl that wasn't fully aware and willing. It was something I was extra careful of after the situation with Royce happened. To be lumped in the same category made me sick, and I prayed that Bella wouldn't let her father's prejudice drive a wedge between us.

Things got worse when Charlie Swan showed up on my parents' doorstep at eleven the same night, demanding that they make sure I stayed away from his daughter. My father, being the first-class asshole he was, laughed at Charlie and told him that it wouldn't be a problem because he would never allow his son to date trash like Bella. Charlie left in the back of a police cruiser after punching my father for that last statement, causing my mother to call the police.

A huge fight erupted between my parents and me after Charlie was taken away. My mother demanded to know why I would hurt the family by dating someone beneath me, crying about how I would ruin their standing in the community. My father, the bastard, had the audacity to tell me that she was the type of girl you fucked on the side, not a girl you went public with. His words upset me, and I told him exactly where he could shove his suggestion and the people he considered to be "proper dating material." I also told him how I felt about his handling of Royce's fuck up. That earned me a month's grounding, I was permitted to go to school, my afterschool job, the house—that was it. I didn't care, though. For the first time in my life, I had told him exactly what I thought about him and his perfect family.

That Monday at school, I was terrified to see my girl. When I met her at her locker before the first bell, I was scared she might tell me to go to hell. Bella, being the wonderful girl that she was, didn't believe that I was like my brother. She said it didn't matter what her father thought of me, because she knew me and loved me. It was the greatest thing anyone had ever said to me, and I told her so. I wasn't going to lose the one person that had become my entire world.

The months passed while the pressures at home and school continued, causing us to fight every time we were alone. She was upset because she was scared I was going to get tired of all the bullshit we had to go through just to be together, and I was tired of seeing her friends try to set her up with guys they wanted her to date. Hell, I was tired of my own friends giving me shit because they hadn't seen me with anyone in over a year. Everyone was starting to believe that I was gay and had finally given up the ruse. It was ridiculous and completely false, but since I wasn't fucking my way through each class anymore, it was the only way the student body could explain my sudden "abstinence."

I knew that we had to get out of that fucked up town, or we'd never stand a chance at happiness. During a secret, late night phone call, we discussed things and decided the only way we could beat the people and forces against us was to run away right after graduation.

My job as a caddy at the local country club—set up for me by my father as a way to humiliate me—became a means to fulfill our dream. I used the money to buy a used car, giving back the one bought for me under the guise that I didn't deserve it, and then saved every other penny so we'd have money to live on.

Bella followed my example, using the excuse she was saving up for college since her father couldn't afford it. Our plan was flawless—no one expected the real reason we were busting our asses to make good grades and save money. I knew community college was in my future, at best, and it was yet another big fuck you to my father, because I knew he would shit himself when he found out I wouldn't be attending Purdue after high school.

The one thing I will always regret is that I was never able to take Bella to prom—junior or senior year. When spring came around each time, I begged her to find a date and go. She waved me off each time, saying that if I couldn't go with her, she wasn't interested in attending; she didn't want to hurt me that way.

In truth, it would have been agony to watch her in the company of another man, knowing I'd never be able to pick her up at her door, take her to dinner, and then dance with her in the ballroom of the Paramount. I wouldn't get the chance to see her dressed to the nines, while we were still in school, and show her off. I could never gloat silently at our male classmates surrounding us, because I was with the most gorgeous girl in the room.

I almost let our fight about Senior Prom tear us apart. Missing prom had the potential to be the one thing she'd hold against me, and I would have ended up losing her. So, with my fucked up logic, I reasoned it was better to let her go so she could have that chance, than to lose her later over regrets.

Fortunately for me, Bella never put up with my moody bullshit.

It took her all of two seconds to point out the flaws in my plan, making me see reason.

"Edward," Bella said, huffing my name. "What is the point of everything we've been trying to do if you're just going to give up now?"

I rolled my eyes, not wanting to drag it out. I knew that once I left, I was going to be a mess. I wanted to get things over with as soon as possible.

"You'll hate me one day. Maybe not tomorrow, the next day, or even in ten years, but it will happen. I can't sit around, waiting for that day to come. I'd rather just…end it now." I hung my head, hoping she wouldn't see that I was about to fall apart.

She let out a scream that reverberated through the park we were in, causing me to jump. I looked at her with wide eyes and then checked behind me. Cops patrolled the area—did she want us to get arrested?

"Edward Anthony Masen, you are the stupidest, most irritating, and the biggest pig-headed jerk I have ever met. Quit trying to tell me how I'm going to feel one day. Just because you know me does not mean you know how I will react to everything. I. Don't. Want. To. Go," she yelled in my face.

"Bella, be reasonable—" I said. My words were cut off when she shoved me so hard that I stumbled. I furrowed my brow and looked at her, shocked she had just pushed me. Bella wasn't one for violence, and I knew that if she was using it that I was in big trouble.

"Shut up!" she yelled. "Just, stop it already. Breaking up with me isn't going to change my mind, so you might as well give it up. Unless I can show up with you by my side, I have no interest in going. Don't you see it would hurt both of us if we went with other people?"

The wind had been knocked out of my sails, and the fight left me. I couldn't think of anything that would sound reasonable against her logic. I grabbed a hold of her shirt and pulled her to me, crashing my lips against hers. My mouth hungrily sought out hers, wanting to erase my blasphemous words with a kiss. It was a lie; I didn't want to break up with her, but I also didn't want her to regret anything. As my tongue pushed through her lips, dominating her, I realized that nothing mattered but her. She was everything I had never known that I needed, and I wasn't going to be that stupid ever again. Nothing on this earth could ever make me let her go.

I pulled her over to one of the baseball dugouts in the back of the park, knowing it would be dark and hard to see in. Minutes later, after we had hurriedly undressed each other, I laid her down on the bench inside. When I finally took her, I wasn't sweet or careful. The need that had built up in me came out in rough thrusts and demanding open-mouthed kisses on her skin. I had come so close to losing her, and it was all because of my stupidity. She must have felt the same way, because her touch was forceful. Her nails dug into my skin as I picked up the pace, wanting to see her fall apart.

It was the most intense and beautiful sight I had ever seen, when the ecstasy washed over her at last, pushing me to my own climax. Afterward, we dressed and held each other. I apologized for being an idiot, and she assured me once again that she only wanted me.

Weeks passed, and then graduation was upon us. All of the sweat, tears, fighting, bullshit from our friends, and our secret meetings were coming to an end, and I was happy that it was time to start my life with Bella. Walking across that stage to get my diploma was one of the happiest moments in my life, but not for the reasons any of the other students had—besides Bella. My joy came from the knowledge that, in less than twelve hours, Bella and I would be gone.

James blocked my escape from the high school gym as I was trying to leave. He pulled me into a hug and whooped in my ear, aiming to get me to celebrate the end of our forced academic career. I watched Bella exit with her parents as James released me, mouthing that I would see her tonight. She caught my words, giving me a small, undetected nod and a smile.

"So, man, I haven't seen you in what seems like forever," James said. It was true—I hadn't spent much time with him since Bella had become my girlfriend. The desire to hang out with privileged jerks and gold-digging whores that felt entitled because they were spoiled by their daddies had lost its appeal. James was on that list, as well as his girlfriend, Victoria Johnson.

Of course, she chose that moment to join us. Speak of the devil and the devil shall appear.

"Eddie!" she screamed, jumping into my arms. I caught her only because her boyfriend was standing next to us, and I wasn't in the mood to get my ass kicked. I patted her back lightly, setting her down.

"Oh, you have to come with us tonight," she demanded. "Kate's parents are getting a keg for her party, and I'm not taking no for an answer."

"Um, I'd love to come, but I have some dinner I have to go to with my parents," I argued.

"So, come afterward. Irina Davis will be there, and you know she's hot for you. She hasn't shut up about the party the two of you hooked up at during freshmen year. She's a sure thing, Eddie," James said, winking at me.

Hearing that name made me want to throw up in my mouth a little…I remembered Irina Davis all too well. The night we hooked up, as James had so eloquently put it, I'd had a great alcohol buzz and wanted to fuck. Irina just happened to be in the right place, or wrong place as I recalled, at the right time.

She was one of the prettiest girls in the school, but also one of the biggest bitches. It was because of her less than stellar people skills that she and I had never gotten together before. My dick, though, had decided to do the talking, and I ended up pulling her up the stairs to the second floor.

Since the party had been held at James' house, I had full access to his bedroom. He was never picky about shit like that, just as long as I changed the sheets when I was finished. James said he didn't want to fuck his girl in his bed with the possibility of getting covered in my jizz. Yeah, he was a pretty sick fuck, and I really didn't know why we'd been friends for as long as we had.

When we got to his room, I turned her around and pushed her onto the bed face down. I'll admit it—I was a giant prick back then. Still am if you ask certain people. The bitch was so hot for me—it was like her panties dropped at the sight of me.

As the actual fucking commenced, she made these God awful noises that would sterilize cats. I'm sure she thought she was making hot, porn star moans, but they made my cock want to crawl inside my body and never come back out. It was the first time, and the last time, I ever faked an orgasm.

I tried to will the contents of my stomach to stay down. James and Victoria were staring at me expectantly, as they waited for my answer.

"What time is it?" I asked. I had no desire to go—hell, I was leaving town in a matter of hours, but asked out of fake politeness.

"Party starts at eleven. Man, it's going to be epic," James gushed. No doubt he was imagining said epic-ness.

"Uh, yeah, I'll be there. Tell Irina I'll find her," I lied.

"Yes!" James said with a fist pump. "Do you need a ride?"

"Naw, I'm cool, man," I said, trying to get him to shut up so I could leave. "I have to get past my parents after they go to sleep. They're being tyrants."

"All right, I'll see ya there. Don't forget—eleven. God, I can't wait!" James hollered, picking up Victoria and running out of the gym.

Mother fuck.

I was really starting to wonder what I had ever seen in that guy. He was an idiot, yet I'd thought of him as my best friend at one time. Fuck, until Bella, I was an idiot, as well.

I did regret that I'd miss the priceless looks on the faces of James, Victoria, and Irina when they realized that I wasn't going to show. Okay, I really didn't care that much about James and Victoria—they'd get over it. Irina, though, that was the person whose expression I would have loved to have seen. A big part of the reason I had had to hide my relationship with Bella was because of her. She had been nasty to every girl I'd slept with since that horrible night we'd spent together. Bella would have gotten it a million times worse since she was the first girlfriend I'd had since seventh grade. Irina would have been upset over it and would have made it her personal mission to humiliate Bella at every turn.

I feel sorry for the poor bastard she does end up sleeping with. Then again, I hope he gives that slut herpes or something.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.

Sighing, I decided it was time. I looked at the clock on my nightstand, seeing it was midnight. In a half an hour's time, I'd be picking up Bella. I grabbed my bags and walked out of my room.

As I walked down the stairs to the first floor, I noticed the family portraits that lined the walls of the stairwell. To an outsider, the smiling faces showed a happy, loving family. I, on the other hand, knew better. Looking at my family, the regret I thought I might feel by leaving like I was didn't come. I smiled and walked over to the front door, opening it so I could finally start my life.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

"Hey, baby," I said into the phone as she answered. "Are you about ready?"

"Hello to you, too, Edward," Bella answered. I could hear the smile in her voice, which caused me to smile.

"Um…I just have a few more things to pack, and then I'm all set," she said.

"I'm loading up the car right now. I'll be leaving in a few minutes, so I'll see you then," I said. "Bella, I love you."

"I love you, too. See you soon," she said, ending the call.

I snapped my phone shut, put the last bag into the trunk, and slammed the trunk lid. Taking one last look at my childhood home, I got into my car and drove away.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

Bella was standing at the corner of Fernway and forty-Second when I saw her. The headlights washed over her when I turned and caught her attention. She ran over to the car just as I stopped, opening the door and jumping in. I had to throw it in park because she attacked me with small kisses and was practically bouncing. I had never seen my girl this excited or happy, and it made me glad that I was the one who'd helped make it possible.

I pulled her to me, claiming her lips in a sweet kiss. She backed away after a few seconds and sat in the passenger's seat.

"So, where are we going?" Bella asked.

I chuckled. "Anywhere we want," I answered. "For tonight, though, I thought we could get a motel room. That way we can sleep and figure out where to go from there."

"Okay, but not here. Anywhere but here," she said in a small voice.

I nodded my head, agreeing with her. The sooner we ditched that one-horse town, the better.

I started the car and headed back onto the main stretch of road. She grabbed my hand, intertwining her fingers with mine. I squeezed her hand, and she smiled back at me.

When we passed the "Thanks for Visiting" sign, indicating we were outside the city limits, I breathed a sigh of relief. After everything, Bella and I had beaten the odds. They hadn't won.

At that moment, the song on the radio changed—it was "Don't Dream it's Over" by Sixpence None the Richer.

I turned it up, thinking it fit perfectly.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

There is freedom within, there is freedom without

Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup

There's a battle ahead, many battles are lost

But you'll never see the end of the road

While you're traveling with me

Hey now, hey now

Don't dream it's over

Hey now, hey now

When the world comes in

They come, they come

To build a wall between us

We know they won't win

Now I'm towing my car, there's a hole in the roof

My possessions are causing me suspicion but there's no proof

In the paper today tales of war and of waste

But you turn right over to the T.V. page

Hey now, hey now

Don't dream it's over

Hey now, hey now

When the world comes in

They come, they come

To build a wall between us

We know they won't win

-instrumental-

Now I'm walking again to the beat of a drum

And I'm counting the steps to the door of your heart

Only shadows ahead barely clearing the roof

Get to know the feeling of liberation and relief

Hey now, hey now

Don't dream it's over

Hey now, hey now

When the world comes in

They come, they come

To build a wall between us

Don't ever let them win