A/N: So, this was a case of ATTACK OF THE INSANE, CRAZY, PLOT BUNNY. My collab partner, celesticbliss, emailed me the night before this competition and was like "dude, I have a sick idea, let's do it". And I was on board. We wrote this in less than 24 hours, and placed second in the public poll. We also won best lemon in the judge's pick.
I love you, Kyndall, I'm so glad you had this random idea :)
So...yeah, thanks to everyone who voted, and the judges of the Showers to Flowers contest for being awesome!
Number of Picture Chosen: Number Eleven
Pen-name: celesticbliss & AcrossTheSkyInStars
Title: Speak Now
Word Count: 11,760
Pairing: Edward & Bella
Disclaimer: Any recognizable characters and settings belong to their respected owners. No copyright infringement is intended.
"You've got your ball
You've got your chain
Tied to me tight tie me up again
Who's got their claws
In you my friend
Into your heart I'll beat again
Sweet like candy to my soul
Sweet you rock
And sweet you roll
Lost for you I'm so lost for you"
-Dave Mathews Band: Crash Into Me
A low rumble swept through the sun-doused field, a tinkling of wine glasses that forced me to pucker my lips for my fiancée...again.
I grimaced inside, and stepped up on my toes for a quick kiss.
I thought this tradition was only for the wedding?
I supposed I shouldn't have been complaining. We were in the small clearing behind Jacob's childhood home, which had been transformed into a beautiful, yet humble party to celebrate our engagement. Alice had done the majority of the organizing, parading through the place for most of the day with all the decorations you could imagine.
I had to give her credit, she had done well; the yard looked spectacular – with six linen-covered tables, twinkle lights strung up around the fences, and a giant white canopy over the food and drink tables – and though it had made her cringe to use plastic plates and cutlery, she'd been calm.
Despite how perfect and simple the party was, with my friends and family surrounding me, I couldn't enjoy it. The only thing keeping me in place was that Jacob's father, Billy, and my father, had planned this party with Alice. They'd done it with every good intention...and with so much happiness that we were finally tying the knot.
What they didn't know, and what would kill them if they did, was that I had walked in on my dead man of a fiancée deep inside my maid of honour the previous night. On my gorgeous new counter top. She was screaming his name so loud neither of them heard my approach or the sound of my feet as I ran for the front door.
More shocked than anything, I had driven around my small town for an hour before realizing I had to return home. Only that time, I called.
The funny thing? I didn't even cry.
The not-so-funny thing? I haven't had the guts to tell him he had been caught.
Truthfully, I knew I didn't want to marry the guy...I wasn't sure I had ever really wanted to. We'd dated for three years before he finally popped the question, and even then Jacob was the only 'real' boyfriend I'd ever had. He'd been my friend all my life, but it was during my first year of college we'd decided to take the next step.
"I'm serious about this, Bells," he said, "let's do it. I love you."
But now, I could see how 'serious' Jacob truly was.
Serious about screwing my maid of honour.
My problem was in how to break it to everyone. How was I supposed to tell them we weren't going to get married like they'd always dreamed? How could I, when this is what they'd expected since we'd been lifelong friends?
We'd grown up together, spending early mornings on my dad's fishing boat and making mud pies when we got bored of the tedious past time. I glanced up, looking at Jacob across the yard as he laughed with my father.
When Jacob caught my gaze, his lips curved up into a smile, but his eyes...those showed something else. Regret, maybe?
No. He looked...questioning, curious. Perhaps he'd heard me last night and expected me to say something by now.
To hopefully confuse him further, I raised my champagne glass to him – a mocking salute – and brought it to my lips; the bubbly nectar was delicious. I was glad Alice hadn't opted for the cheap stuff.
I set my shoulders when I was finished, and walked away. I couldn't really let him in on when I would admit to knowing about his infidelity, since I didn't know when I was going to admit to it myself. It felt surreal, like it had been a hazy mirage of events.
The reality, however, was in my concern for my dad, and for Billy; every time I looked at them and saw their smiles, it hit home how crushed they would be when they found out.
A loud roll of thunder boomed overhead – powerful and warning. My eyes flickered up to the sky before I looked to see Billy, hands cupped around his mouth, speak over the mingling crowd.
"Okay, time to head inside, everyone!" he said, "We have a surprise for the bride and groom anyway."
I looked up at the sky again; the dark and foreboding clouds, then out of habit glanced around for my other half.
Jacob was already inside.
Thanks for waiting for me, babe.
The crowd followed Billy inside, perching themselves on various seats throughout the living room. It was by no means organized, but it was the best they could have done given the small space. Billy was in front of the T.V, messing with the buttons on the DVD player, and my dad was next to him, murmuring instructions on how to get it started.
When I sought out a place to sit, I spied Jacob on the love seat which, much to my sur-well, okay, not at all to my surprise, also seated my ever-so-loyal maid of honour; and to say she looked quite comfortable next to him would be a gross understatement.
More agitated than anything, I glanced around for another tray filled with champagne flutes.
I took two glass champagne flutes, one for each hand, and downed them both as discreetly as I could. I was fairly sure Alice had caught my binging, but if she had, she didn't say anything to me. I left my empty glasses on a side table, and took a third, heading over to my two ex-favourite people in the world.
"Rosalie, you mind?" I asked sweetly, "I'd like to sit next to my fiancée."
It had taken every ounce of my willpower not to rip out every strand of her blonde hair.
"Of course not," she replied. When she stood up and walked away, hips swaying, I noted how she avoided my eyes, and the eyes of Jacob.
Rosalie and I had been friends just about as long as I had been friends with Jacob. We typically fought just as much as we didn't, but she had always been a loyal friend. Though we had been good friends for a long time, Rosalie had never able to swallow any type of attention focused on me instead of her. When I had only been nominated for prom queen, I was afraid she was going to have an aneurysm.
We both knew she'd win, but it didn't stop her from turning green with envy.
Despite her ugly pride, we'd stayed close. When Alice had moved to town, Rosalie had become envious again, so afraid Alice would 'steal me away' that she'd sunk her hooks into me in hopes I wouldn't choose Alice over her. I hadn't, of course, but now I was wishing I had, because Alice was a true friend.
A definition I had learned about twenty-four hours ago.
I looked over at her, rushing around like a life-sized busy bee, making sure everything was perfect for my completely imperfect day. I wanted to stop the party, all the things that were wrong with right now, and confide in her. I wanted to get this weight off my chest, because if anyone would know what to do, it would be Alice. She'd have a flawless plan.
If only I had the guts to say something.
Instead of opening my mouth, I crossed my arms over my chest – next to my fidgeting fiancée – and turned my attention to the T.V as a title screen popped up. Billy backed up, glanced to us over his shoulder, and smiled, clinking his glass to grab the attention of the room. My stomach rolled at the sound, not wanting to kiss Jacob, so I ignored it.
Thankfully, Billy began talking, drawing the attention to himself instead.
"Thank you all for coming out to celebrate this joyous occasion!" he bellowed happily. He paused briefly while everyone applauded for us, and then continued, "Charlie and I, with the help of our dear Alice," she skipped up to the front of the room, curtsied, and sat on the floor in front of me, "have put together this small video dedicated to our Bella and Jacob."
"May your love inspire us," Billy said warmly, looking to me and Jacob, "and give you two a long life together."
Our friends applauded again, and Jacob took my hand.
I downed the remainder of champagne in my glass, which I had firmly decided was entirely too small for how much alcohol I wished to consume. I mourned the empty glass, and frowned at the heat of Jacob's palm against mine; it was unpleasant.
I sighed, watching the start of the video – a picture of me and Jacob, grinning and each missing a front tooth, both covered in mud. Billy and Charlie were behind us, holding their fishing poles, laughing at our state of mess.
At first I smiled wistfully at the picture, yearning for those carefree days, but when the music began, my smile fell. My lips set into a hard line when Elvis' I Can't Help Falling in Love with You softly filled the room, and I wanted to snort at the first line of the song.
Wise men say, only fools rush in.
I was a fucking fool.
But I can't help falling in love with you.
I couldn't help it, could I?
It had been expected of me, all of it; to grow up and love him, to marry him, have his children. I would have been content with that life. I could have married Jacob, and had his children...but after everything, I knew I wouldn't have been genuinely happy with him. I may have been expected to do all those things, but was I expected to stay with a man who had cheated on me?
I knew the answer to that question, and while I sifted through scenarios in my head, the montage of photos switched, presenting four more childhood snapshots, and then transitioned to a video. My heart jumped up into my throat when the camera showed Jacob – it was something I'd never seen it before.
Jacob, around six or seven years old, was sitting at his kitchen table, colouring a picture of a heart he'd drawn on a hand-made birthday card.
Tears stung the back of my eyes.
I remembered that card...
"Whatcha got there, Jake?" Billy asked in the video.
"Bella's birthday card. Do you think she'll like it?" little Jake asked, holding it up.
"She'll love it, kiddo. You're putting an awful lot of work into that."
"Well, duh...she's my girlfriend. And when I grow up, she's going to be my wife." Jake smiled a toothy grin, and then continued colouring.
"Oh yeah, bud? You love her that much?" Billy asked.
"I love her more than that, dad. I'll love her forever and ever. I don't even care if I get cooties or nothin."
The video faded out, and a sickening chorus of awww's filled the room.
But it was too much.
Jacob squeezed my hand, and reluctantly, my eyes found his. He was pleading with me; it was something I could see without him speaking. But I couldn't do it...I couldn't forgive what he'd done. I couldn't spend my life pretending to love someone I didn't.
I couldn't spend another second living a lie.
My vision blurred with unwelcome tears, and Jacob tightened his grip, understanding they weren't tears of happiness at his sweet gesture in the video. They were tears of regret and sadness.
"I can't," I told him. Consequently, I also happened to tell the rest of the room. I slipped my hand out of his, cradling it in my lap as the tears fell down my cheeks.
"Bella, please," he whispered, attempting to reach for my hands again, "don't-"
I snatched my hands from his, and found enough strength to snap, "No, Jacob."
I brushed the tears from my cheeks, and stood up, warily searching for a path out of the room. Every, single person was staring back at me, almost all of them confused at the sudden turn of events. However, Alice was the one who stood with me, and grabbed my arm. She towed me behind her, directing me to the back door.
"You go," she said, "I'll take care of things here." She pulled me into a tight hug, and I was overcome with tears again. I was glad she had always been such a great friend.
"Thank you," I murmured to her. She said something in response, but with the chaos behind her, and the jumble of thoughts in my own head, I wasn't able to make it out. Jacob called my name from inside the house, fighting to get his way to the door, and I panicked.
I threw Alice one last grateful look, and ran out the back door into the summer rain.
The storm had grown in the short time we'd been inside. The decorations were in disarray, blowing around the yard.
I squinted through the darkness, toward the front of the house, and saw that my car was blocked in by everyone else's. I cursed at the inconvenience, and with another quick glance to the back door, decided I was going to make a run for it.
Jacob was there, attempting to argue his way past Alice.
Without another thought, I took off toward the woods.
I ran as fast as my legs would carry me, stopping only once to rip off my heels and leave them behind. I sprinted past familiar trees, down along the ridge, pressing my feet into the warm, spongy earth beneath. I had played in these woods all my life, exploring them and relishing in their serenity since I could walk; I knew them well.
I slowed after a while, breathing hard from the humidity. My hair clung to my face and my neck, a result of the hot summer night in combination with the unrelenting rain. I brushed the slick strands away, and glanced down, frowning at my filthy, throbbing feet. I ignored the pain and tugged at the fabric clinging to my stomach, regretting the fact that I'd chosen my cute, white summer dress.
I had no way of knowing how much time had passed, or how far I'd run from Jacob's house. But the rain had yet to surrender, and the sky was now pitch black above me. The woods were becoming less and less the familiar the more I walked, and that was my first clue I'd ran too far.
I stopped in the middle of the forest, uncertain. I took a few steps toward a large tree, and leaned against it. I just needed to find a place to rest and wait out the rain before I tried to find my way back.
I tilted my head up toward the canopy of trees overhead, allowing the falling droplets to calm me down and clear my head. Leaning against the damp wood, I realized how rash I'd been in my actions. Of course, the amount of alcohol I'd forced into my system certainly hadn't helped. I knew I needed to go back and face my problem like a grown up, not to mention I would have to actually come out and tell Jacob I knew.
Although, I suspected he was already aware of that fact.
I winced when I stood up straight on my pulsing feet, and walked slowly forward. I glanced around me again, and when I heard the audible boom of thunder shake the trees, the unfamiliarity of the forest suddenly frightened me. I knew I had gone a long way from the house, into public woods, who knows how far from Billy's property line.
I took an unsteady breath to quell my anxiety; I'd never encountered anything dangerous in these woods before, and I was hoping the rain was enough of a deterrent to prevent this night from being the first.
I would have felt safer had my phone been with me, but it was in my purse, which was sitting on the counter in Billy's house. I absently wondered if Jacob had tried to call it, only to realize there was no getting a hold of me tonight.
I didn't put it past him to try and follow me into the woods, and I wasn't sure how persistent he'd be in this situation. I was just hoping Alice had held him back long enough for me to get a good head start. With the sound of the storm, I wouldn't have heard anyone on my trail, nor would they have been able to hear me.
I was positive I was good and lost.
Since forward was the only option, it was the way I decided to go. I began heading in the same direction, hoping to eventually hit the road or a housing development. I knew if I kept going, I was bound to hit town at some point or another. I couldn't remember veering too far off a straight path while I had been running, but then again, I hadn't really been paying attention to much than putting distance behind me.
Instead of fretting on how far I'd come, I simply walked. I had to go slow, since the cuts and scrapes on my feet were beginning to hurt, but I pushed myself against it. They were nothing too serious, but I didn't want to press my luck.
I ambled through the trees, stepping over large twigs and into frequent puddles to wash away the dirt; avoiding anything that would add anymore damage to my aching feet. After a while, I saw a dim flicker of light through the thickness of rain and branches; I could tell I was deep in the woods now, because even though I could hear the rain, I couldn't feel it nearly as much.
Relieved, I made my way toward the light, hoping it was a lamp from someone's home, or perhaps a parked car of someone searching for me. I would have even dealt with Jake for the five-minute car ride if it would have gotten me out of the dress and into my bath tub.
As I got closer, the light began to flicker – softer, then brighter, over and over again. The colour, hypnotizing, had an orange hue to it.
Forgetting about my see-through dress, and what I must have looked like to a complete stranger, I sprinted toward the first sign of civilization I'd seen in hours. The air was still humid and wet, but my need to be warm and comfortable gave me a final boost toward the heat of the fire.
Soon enough, I broke out of the tree line, and into a small, beautiful field of flowers. I stood for a moment, in awe of the place before me; stems as tall as me, if not taller; gorgeous, water-tipped petals of yellow and white; leaves and thick grass weaving their way through the clearing.
I tentatively walked forward, admiring the beauty of this unsuspecting place, and inhaled the strong, fresh scent of rain and grass. I meandered through the flowers until they, too, cleared into a meadow. I hid in the obscurity of the flowers, and looked out toward the sizable place. The clearing, which was no longer subject to the pelting rain, was alive with spring. The trees were full with their leaves, and flowers and grasses lined the woods, outlining what had to be one of the most peaceful places I'd ever seen.
In the center of the clearing, a fire burned brightly. A small tent was set up a few feet away, and next to the warmth, the figure of a person was sitting in a folding chair. Straining toward the night sky, smoke and embers floated up, fading against the blackness. The light from the fire cast the person in shadows, but it was clear they were alone.
I went to take a step forward, but I paused. Fear suddenly struck because almost everyone I knew had been back at Billy's...my hometown was tiny. Granted, I didn't know every single person in town, and it could very well have been a random person.
You know, not a serial killer, like my mind was telling me.
I shook my head to clear it, when a chord struck the air, pulling me from my neurotic train of thought. The sound lingered and continued, flawlessly stringing together a tune to form a familiar melody.
The mystery person, strumming an acoustic guitar, suddenly became a mystery man when I heard his voice sing along with the tune he was playing.
"She says it's cold outside and she hands me my raincoat..."
Matchbox Twenty. Nice.
I stepped out of the tree line, and walked closer in an attempt to hear him better.
"And she only sleeps when it's raining, and she screams, and her voice is straining.."
My feet brushed against the cool grass, drawn to the beauty in his voice; raspy and deep.
"She says the rain's gonna wash away I believe it..."
I was so focused on the music I wasn't watching where I was going. I stepped a stray branch, and snapped it, alerting him to my presence.
He turned his head slightly at the noise, and when I attempted to backtrack, I only succeeded in stepping on another branch. The man stood up, and spun around, wielding his guitar as a weapon.
I held my hands in front of me in surrender, taking another few paces backward.
"Jesus, what the hell?" He squinted to get a better look at me. "Who's there?" he asked, lowering his guitar a bit.
"I-I'm sorry," I replied, "I got lost, and-" I took a step forward, enough for the fire to cast its light on me, and said, "I'm sorry."
I wasn't sure what else to say.
His eyes travelled my soaking wet, frail frame, and he gently set his guitar down on the chair. He came toward me, his hands up as if to show me he meant no harm, and his brows puckered, as if in concern.
I swallowed. "I...I was running," I explained, "I didn't mean to come this far, and I saw your fire, and..." I dropped my hands, cold and defeated, "here I am."
"What happened to you?" he asked. He spoke softly, still cautious as he walked, and began unbuttoning the red and black flannel shirt he was wearing. I realized why, and quickly covered myself up with my hands, feeling my cheeks redden in embarrassment.
"It's a really long story," I murmured.
He removed his shirt, and graciously handed it to me. I smiled at him in appreciation, and slipped my arms through the over-sized sleeves, shivering at how instantly warm I was. I felt bad for dampening a stranger's shirt, but I was alternately cold and hot from the humid rain – I needed something to get rid of my chill.
He smiled back at me, and glanced down to my bare feet. He looked back up at my face, and frowned again, concern still evident in the way his brows pulled in and creased his forehead. He took another small step forward, and reached out, brushing the wet strands of hair from my face.
It was a simple gesture, but it was sweet.
I took in the man's appearance – he was gorgeous; shaggy, auburn hair, set just above his ears; brilliant green eyes that seemed to illuminate in the fire's light; lean and thin, but not too skinny; clad in jeans and a fitted wife beater.
His hand stayed on me, warm, and cupped the side of my face. It should have been uncomfortable – with this complete stranger touching me in such a familiar, intimate way – but oddly...it wasn't.
"What happened to you?" he repeated.
And then, for the first time since my life had come crashing down around me, I truly cried. Not just a few shed tears, but tears that wracked my body with violent sobs. The stranger's arms came around me, holding me up so I didn't collapse, and he guided me over to the fire. He moved his guitar, and helped me into the chair.
I gladly sat down, willing the tears to stop, and he left me alone. He returned a minute later with a cold bottle of water, and unscrewed the cap before handing it to me. I took it gratefully and drank half without pausing for a breath.
He sat on a log next to me and waited.
I collected myself as much as possible, and before I realized what I was doing, I was telling him about Jacob – all of it. I started with our mud pies, then went on to his proposal, and ended with Rosalie on my kitchen counter.
He didn't look away, and he didn't speak. He was silent, but he had listened.
The crushing weight of bricks that had been on my chest slowly lifted away with each revelation.
"Tonight was my engagement party," I told him, sniffling, "I had every intention of making it through the night before figuring out what to do about this whole mess." I took another swig of water. "But...I just couldn't," I continued, "I couldn't – our parents played a video...of him telling his dad how much he loved me when he was a kid. I think...it hit me fully, then."
I glanced at him, his saddened expression, and explained, "How our love was never anything but puppy love. We were kidding ourselves thinking we were doing anything but settling. He was never who I wanted to be with, I just thought..."
I laughed softly to myself at how I thought Jacob was the one just because we'd been close all our lives.
"You want to know the weird thing?" I asked rhetorically, "I'm not even that mad he cheated. I know it was wrong and horrible and everything...but I can't help to think it needed to happen. I can never forgive him for hurting me that way, or Rosalie. But thank God he did, right?"
I looked up again, into the stranger's eyes, full of empathy and comfort.
"I can't believe I'm burdening you with all of this," I said, slightly embarrassed, "what a night to camp, huh?"
He smiled, and shook his head, looking down into the dirt.
Finally, he met my gaze, and held out his hand. "Hello, my name is Edward Cullen," he introduced himself, "my ex-wife ran away with her ex three months ago."
My face erupted into a smile, despite the circumstances, and I extended my hand to meet his.
"My name is Bella," I replied, "and I just ran God knows how far into the woods, in the rain, in a white dress, because I was too chicken shit to face my cheating fi-well, he's my ex now."
We shook hands, and laughed together.
"How are your feet?" Edward asked when he released my hand.
"They've been better, but not as bad as you'd think." I lifted them up one at a time, using the fire as light to inspect them.
Edward got up from the log, and went to cooler, returning with two more bottles of water – one for each foot.
"Let's wash them off and get a better look, yeah?" he suggested, "We need to see what shape they'll be in by morning. It's a little bit of a hike back to my car. But it'll probably be less time than you walking all the way back by yourself."
"Oh, no...Edward, I couldn't impose," I said hastily. He'd done too much for me already. "I planned on finding my way back tonight. Everyone will be so worried."
"You're kidding, right?" He slipped his hand under my calf, and lifted it over his knee, draping my foot across the other side. Gently, he poured the cool water over my skin – it felt amazing even though it stung the small cuts.
"Look," he said, brushing the dirt from my heel, "there's no way I'm letting you out of my sight until I get you back somewhere safe. There's a reason you stumbled across me tonight, and I could never live with myself if the last I saw of you was you walking into those woods alone."
I blushed at his words, knowing full well they were meant as platonic and innocent.
"Also without shoes, might I add," Edward said with a playful wink.
I chuckled at him, and nodded. "Okay," I acquiesced, "I'll stay." Edward hummed in agreement, and I watched him work on cleaning up my feet. "Thank you," I murmured, "for everything...especially for listening. You probably think I'm crazy."
He dropped one foot, and picked up the other, rinsing the dirt and grass from the soles. "Not so much," he replied calmly, "I know what it's like to be in your position. It's not fun." He glanced sideways to me, and offered me a small smile. "But at least what you said is true, you're kind of glad it happened...you can see the mistakes you've made instead of living a lie."
I sighed, and tucked Edward's shirt tighter around my body. The day had been nice and sunny, but the summer night was beginning to grow chilly.
"It just hurts now," I told him, "I feel so...stupid."
"It'll go away," he assured, "it took time for me to realize I wasn't the problem. It was her. My ex was a stubborn woman, and toward the end of our marriage nothing seemed to make her happy."
I frowned at how any woman could be unhappy with a man as kind as Edward.
"I know now it was her," he told me, "and I hope you see this thing with your ex isn't you either. It's him." He softly brushed his hand across the top of my foot, and added, "Personally, I think your ex is nuts for chasing you away."
My cheeks darkened with my blush, and I curled my flannel-covered fist up by my mouth. "I thought so, too," I replied, "but now..."
Edward smiled at me, and set my other foot back down on the ground. "There," he said, "all clean."
"Thank you, really, I-"
"There's no need for you to thank me," Edward said, "it would have been rude for me not to help you."
I smiled again, and we continued talking. We sat around the fire for over an hour, chatting and laughing, forgetting all about cheating exes and unfaithful friends. Edward retrieved a package of hot dogs from his cooler as well, and I perked up at the thought of cooking them on sticks over the fire.
Those were the best.
"Mm, I'm so hungry," I said when my stomach growled.
Edward chuckled. "Well that's what they're here for, but there's one stipulation," he said cryptically, "you have to make them the special way."
I frowned, watching as he pulled out a pocket knife and began slicing into the hot dog.
"What are you doing?" I asked curiously. I leaned over, and watched, examining the precise way he seemed to be cutting the meat. "Does it cook better that way?" Edward laughed again, and I became conscious of the fact that I was being nosey. "Sorry," I said with a laugh.
He finished cutting, and skewered the hot dog through the middle on a nearby stick.
"Okay, now cook it," he told me.
I took the stick, and did as he said, holding the hot dog just above the flame, so it licked at the ends without burning the meat. But as I cooked it, the hot dog began to curl, until it soon had four limbs on either side, shaped like a meaty spider.
My mouth shaped a small O, and I pulled it from the flame, tentatively touching the hot ends. "It looks like a spider!" I said in amazement, "That is so cool." He smirked, and skewered his own spider hot dog. "Where'd you learn how to do that?"
Edward held his stick out toward the fire, staring intently at the flame. "My dad taught me when I was younger," he replied, "I camped all the time as a kid."
I peeled off a leg of my spider dog, and blew on it to cool it down. "You're not from here, are you?" I bit into the hot dog, humming in contentment. "This is good."
Edward laughed, slowly rotating his stick to evenly cook his hot dog, and I continued to eat. "No, I'm not," he replied, "I lived here as a kid, but moved before I got into high school."
He brought his stick closer to him, and tested the temperature of the hot dog with his fingers. Satisfied, he tore off a piece, blew on it like I had done, and began eating it.
"My family relocated to northern California," he continued between bites, "I still live there, actually, but after my ex took off, I decided to hit the road. I had some vacation days I needed to take, so I just...left."
I put my stick on the ground, then balanced my elbows on my knees, my chin resting on my palms.
"When did you end up here?" I asked; I was completely engrossed in him...his story. I didn't want him to stop talking.
"Um, about a week or so," he replied, "I stayed in the local motel for the most part, and I was hoping the rain would let off long enough to come camping at least once." He finished his spider dog, and picked up the package for another. He held the bag towards me in offering, but I shook my head.
"How did you find this place?" I asked curiously, "I've lived here my entire life and I've never seen it before. I have no idea how to even get here."
He smiled to himself, busying his hands while he prepared his skewer for a second spider hot dog.
"My dad told me about it, actually," he explained. "We used to camp lower down, where it was easier for me to get to," he continued, "but when I was too young to camp, my parent's hiked a lot. He always told me about this meadow, a small, secluded place they'd found..."
I smiled at the memory he was having. Sometimes I wished on everything my parents were still together, but deep down I knew they had never really loved each other. They'd known each other since grade school, and from then, everyone had expected them to be together.
I sat up straight, as if someone had dumped a bucket of cold water down my back.
They had been expected to be together...
Just like Jacob and I.
I knew I'd caught Edward's attention with my sudden movement, and when I glanced sideways at him, he had a mouthful of hot dog and a raised eyebrow. His gaze was questioning, and his expression was slightly comical.
I smiled and shook my head.
"It's nothing," I murmured in response.
He swallowed what he had in his mouth, and said, "So, I was thinking tonight you could take the tent, and I can sleep by the fire. No arguments," he added, pointing his finger toward me in authority, "I happen to like sleeping by the fire."
I laughed, and nodded, holding my hands up in surrender. "Aye, aye captain."
I relaxed into my chair again, and we picked up our conversation where we had left off. Edward talked, and I learned he was a few years older than me; since he hadn't gone to high school here, I figured it was why we had never crossed paths. He mentioned as well that his father was a doctor, and his mother, a nurse. I reminded myself to ask my father whether or not he remembered Mr. and Mrs. Cullen.
After leaving here and moving to California, Edward had breezed through high school, and eventually graduated from Cal State Sacramento with a business degree, and was now running his own bar and grill. He asked me of my schooling, and I admitted to graduating from Peninsula College in Port Angeles the month before, with an English degree I wasn't quite sure what to do with.
"You'll figure it out," he said to me. When he looked back at the fire, I smiled. I knew he'd had his own heartbreak, but already I envied his life, because it was his own. I would have given anything to be able to pick up and leave this town, to leave behind every expectation of me and my love life.
I wanted to, so much, but I couldn't. Too much was holding me back.
Before long, I yawned, blinking to clear the haze of drowsiness from my eyes. Edward insisted I get into the tent and sleep. "We have a long hike tomorrow," he argued, "and I'm pretty sure that will be the easiest part of your day." I sighed, feeling terrible for making him sleep outside. "I'll be fine," he assured, "trust me. I've spent nights under the stars before."
I smiled at how humble he was, and nodded. "Okay...and you're probably right about that," I admitted, "goodnight, Edward...thanks for everything."
"It was my pleasure," he replied softly, "goodnight, Bella."
I padded over to the tent, and awkwardly brushed off my feet before unzipping it and crawling inside. I sat on my heels and zipped it back up, catching one last glance of Edward's face, cast in the bright light of the fire, before I was alone.
I shivered at how cold it was away from the flames, and after double-checking I had zipped the tent correctly, I slipped out of Edward's flannel shirt, and then out of my damp dress. I tugged at the strap of my bra, frowning at the wetness, and decided I wanted my undergarments dry as well. With a bite of my lip, and a little internal conflict, I quickly took them off and laid them next to my dress.
Naked, and shaking, I hastily covered myself in Edward's shirt, attempting to thread the buttons through the holes with numb fingers. The shirt was long enough to cover the parts that mattered, but not if I raised my arms even slightly. I figured it would do for the night, and scrambled into Edward's sleeping bag, irrationally feeling better once I was fully covered.
I zipped it up around me, and closed my eyes. Despite my exhaustion, my mind wouldn't stop reeling long enough from the day's events for me to fall asleep. I tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable, but nothing seemed to be working. Lying on my side was painful, and on my back, it was awkward.
Eventually, I turned to my left, half on my back and half on my side. Just as I began to drift off, a shocking boom of thunder jolted me back awake. Seconds later, the tent was shaking under the heavy rain pounding down outside.
I sat up, worried about Edward.
I unzipped the sleeping bag, and crawled toward the entrance, but Edward was there, launching himself inside and bringing some of the moisture with him. He was completely soaked, from head to toe, his hair dripping steady droplets of water onto his face. In spite of it being the middle of summer, he was shaking from being so cold.
"Edward," I gasped, "Jesus..."
He zipped up the tent, and shook out his hair. "Sorry, Bella," he said, kicking off his shoes and grabbing at the hem of his shirt, "looks like we're going to have to bunk together tonight." As he spoke, he lifted his sopping shirt, and tossed it to the far corner of the tent. My mouth hung open at the sight, and I watched him unabashedly.
I had no words.
Edward continued, stripping down to nothing but his briefs, and crawled over to me. I covered myself further with the sleeping bag, and regarded him with narrowed eyes.
"Hi," I said uncertainly.
He chuckled, "May I come in?"
He reached for the zipper, and undid it a little, slipping in next to me. "Holy-ever hear of personal space?" I asked, pushing myself as far against the edge of the sleeping bag as I could. I was trying to sound appalled, offended, even...but the truth was, I wasn't. Not one bit.
My skin was hot, tingling with his sudden proximity.
"Ssorry," he stuttered, "I have to warm up, Bella. Shit," he cursed, and I felt his body quiver against mine, "I can get out, if y-"
"No!" I practically shouted, "No...it's okay. I...I'll get out." I said the words, even though I had no real intention of leaving. For one, I was practically naked, and the rest of the tent was not particularly inviting in such a state of undress. It was also a reason I should have gotten out of the sleeping bag, but I digress.
And two...I just didn't want to.
Edward's body behind me was cozy.
"Well, if you're willing to stay," he added, "I could really use the body heat right now. You know...just l-long enough to get the warmth back in me." My lips pulled up into the smallest smile, and he whispered, "Then I'll sleep next to you, outside the sleeping bag. Is that okay?"
I released a shaky breath, and nodded, cautiously pressing my legs back against his. I gasped at how cold they were - he was freezing.
"Your legs are like Popsicles," I murmured.
He let out a broken chuckle, and said through his chattering teeth, "Bella...this, it would work a lot faster if we were...c-closer."
"Yeah?" I asked.
I felt him nod behind me, and I nodded as well. "Okay, um, just..." Trying to hide the longing in my voice, I scooted back further, and Edward shifted forward, pressing the entire length of his body against mine.
My breath left my lungs in a great whoosh at the contact, and I closed my eyes. This was nothing more than Edward needing my body heat.
He didn't want me or my baggage.
The space between us disappeared, and our skin touched - his legs against mine, his arms around me. His cold torso pressed into my back, and I wanted to arch away at the temperature, but I didn't. I only hoped he couldn't see how his touch was affecting me.
He tightened his arms around my waist, and pulled me even closer. I blushed at the intimacy, and murmured, "Is it working?"
A mild shiver ran through him when I asked, and he nodded. "Yeah, thanks."
After a few minutes, once his shivers began to dissipate, I turned around to face him. His eyes were closed, and though he'd noticed my movements, he didn't feel the need to open them. He readjusted his arms, and I did the same, pressing my hands to the middle of his bare back. I gently ran my palms up and down his spine, hoping to speed up the process of getting him warm again.
Edward situated his hands on the small of my back, keeping them there as I slowed the motion of my ministrations. I moved my hands deliberately, allowing them to linger against his skin before trailing up, over the slight dips and contours of his back. I traced his cold, sinewy muscles, reminding myself repeatedly why we were like this.
Body heat...body heat...body heat.
However, as the coldness left Edward's body, and the heat between us grew, so did my desire.
My inhibitions fell away with his chill, and my skin was ablaze from his touch.
I switched to my nails instead, scraping them lightly down his back, keeping the same pattern. A deep sound came from the back of Edward's throat, but he stifled it, and began creating a pattern on my back with his own hands. His movements showed his mirrored interest, but what caught me off-guard was the softness of his hands when he slipped them beneath the flannel shirt. They were hot and strong, sweeping the fabric up, tracing my ribs and the protruding bones of my shoulder blades.
And if that wasn't enough to display his rapture, then the firmness I felt, clearly pressed against my abdomen, certainly was. When I stilled my hands at the feel of him, hard, Edward stilled as well. The only sound in the tent was our heavy breaths, and the pelting rain against the rippling nylon cover.
"I-" Edward paused, his heavy-lidded eyes finding mine in the darkness, silently asking me to put a stop to this if it wasn't what I wanted. But it was, so badly. To answer him, I bowed my neck, and placed a small open-mouthed kiss to the space just below his earlobe.
I wanted this - no...I needed this.
I needed him.
I needed to feel.
I lowered my lips, ardently kissing beneath the strong line of his jaw, then back up again. Edward's hands were quick to move, lifting the material of his shirt even further up my body, skimming his hands over my sides while he went. I resumed my hands as well, and dug my fingers into the curve of his back the same second I gently bit on the lobe of his ear.
He produced a small sound, something in the resemblance of a growl, and pressed his body into mine, hard. His breathing turned into quick, short pants, and he suddenly pulled away, so his face was level with mine.
Our gazes met, and I wished for more light, just to see his eyes. I couldn't tell what sort of expression he was wearing, but I was afraid he wanted to stop. I kept my fingers on his back, hoping he wasn't second-guessing his decision. The lapse in time should have cleared the lust from my mind, but instead, it only made me crave him more.
The heat between us was excruciating, and the promise of what his lips would taste like crippled me with want.
But Edward didn't say 'stop', and he didn't pull away. He leaned in, and pressed his lips firmly to mine, pulling my bottom lip between his teeth. He swiped his warm tongue across it, causing me to mewl into his mouth at the ecstasy, driving me to voraciously hook my leg around his waist.
We both groaned at the contact; his cock pressed into me in the most delicious way, the only barrier between us his thin, black briefs. I knew I was wet, and I also knew it was only a matter of time before he would be able to feel the moisture through the fabric.
I curved my leg around the back of Edward's thigh, and kept myself anchored to him, reciprocating his slow, deep kisses. I felt his hand slip between us, working the buttons on the flannel shirt, exposing more of me to him with every pass down my torso. His fingers trailed over the swell of my breasts, and between them, languorously exploring every inch of my skin. He followed the path with his lips, pressing a kiss to the corner of my mouth; my jaw, the hollow of my throat, the line of my collar bone, the valley of my breasts.
I gasped at the sensation of his lips on me, and arched into him, threading my fingers into the soft, damp hair at the back of his neck. Edward nipped at my fleshy skin, and reached down, freeing his cock from the restraining briefs. He slipped them off into the bottom of the sleeping bag, and my breath caught at how hot and thick he was against me.
There was no going back now.
As if Edward could read my thoughts, he spoke, his lips still warm and soft in the middle of my chest. "I want you...so fucking bad, Bella," he said, low and husky. He lifted his lips tentatively, shifting them and capturing the overly-sensitive peak of my nipple between his teeth. He closed his mouth around it, sucking gently, and I trembled in his arms.
My voice was breathless yet urgent when I replied, "Please." I bucked into him, causing the head of his cock to briefly brush against my clit. "I need you," I whispered.
Then his hand slipped lower, his palm resting on the space just below my belly button, his fingers dipping down to gather wetness. He circled his fingertips around my entrance, and swept them back up, teasing my clit. He repeated the technique, and when he coupled it with another swirl of his tongue around my nipple, I wasn't able to stifle the emphatic moan that escaped my lips. I dug the nails of one hand into his back, and rooted the other further into his hair.
I gripped, and he gasped.
I guided his face back up to mine, and captured his lips in a kiss. He opened his mouth to me hungrily, and without thinking, the hand I had on his back skimmed over his hips, down toward his cock. I gripped him firmly in my hand, pumping his smooth, solid flesh.
His moan filled my mouth, and he rocked into my hand, simultaneously slipping his fingers inside me. I hiked my leg up higher on his waist, angling my hips to coat the length of him in my moisture. Before I had a chance to spread the lubrication, Edward paused, and placed his hand over mine.
Then, he flipped me over, so his body was bowed over mine and his neck was bent. He looked down at me - with his hair falling absently in his eyes - and held his weight up on one elbow, his knees purposefully between mine.
With his other hand, he cupped the side of my leg and hoisted it up, hooking it back around it's place at his waist. I gripped his shoulders to steady myself, and when Edward was satisfied with the placement of my leg, his fingers gently caressed my calf, ghosting up to my hips, and then my ribs. His soft movements travelled my stomach, down to the top of my thigh, drifting to the inside; where I was aching.
With one swipe of his thumb over my throbbing skin, Edward grasped his cock in his hand and lined himself up with me. He leaned down, allowing his forehead to rest against mine, our breaths collecting in the middle. Sinking his hips forward a fraction, the head of his cock entered me, earning a chorus of moans from both of us. I rotated my hips once in response, managing to sheath a few more centimeters of him inside me.
I sucked in a deep breath, whimpering, "Edward...just - please. I need this, so bad-"
Without a moment's pause, Edward plunged forward, swiftly concealing the rest of his length and girth until my eyes rolled back in my head and my lips parted in a silent scream. He was unrelenting, taking me fast and hard, in and out, every thrust of his hips causing my chest to jerk back and forth and my breasts to bounce with his actions.
Their movement quickly caught his eye, and it didn't take long for him to trap one of my nipples in his mouth. His tongue lapped at the aroused tip, and his hips clapped against mine. I curved my back, giving myself to the passion of the moment, and contracted my leg around his waist. It forced him to slow down, since I was holding him in place, but it did nothing to hinder him.
Without the option of rocking back and forth, Edward gyrated his hips instead, echoing the pattern of a circle so many times my my mouth was dry from crying out into the silence of the summer night. Edward continued his rhythm, grazing my clit so briefly and carefully with every pass I could feel my orgasm building. It was there, deep in my stomach, tugging and burning, begging to be released.
Seconds later, I clenched around his cock tightly, lost in the wave of teasing euphoria.
I was so close.
"Fuck," Edward grunted, "Bella, I'm-"
"Me too," I breathed. I drew my other leg up around his waist, locking my ankles around his back, causing him to penetrate me further. His body tensed with his sudden throaty groan, and he pulsed inside me, finding his release and bringing me with him.
In that moment, I didn't want to think of anything but the pleasure, the complete satisfaction, but my mind was screaming at me realize how sublime it felt. In that moment, nothing else in the world mattered than being in this stranger's arms, coming down from the single most intense feeling I'd ever experienced.
I let my legs fall limp, slipping down off his hot skin, and began to loosen the grip of my arms around his back. Edward lifted his head slightly and pressed his face into my neck, where he sensually peppered small, soft kisses.
I smiled at the affection, tilting my head away to give him more space. He chuckled quietly, and persisted with his gentle pecks, being playful and sweet all at the same time. Now that the haze of lust had gone, and my head was clear of my desire, I was glad to see I wasn't regretting my decision.
Edward kissed me one last time on the side of my neck, rolled off me (and out of me), and grabbed my arm in the process, pulling me with him. He cradled me to him, curving his hand around my waist, allowing me to rest my head on his shoulder.
My body fit against his, almost too perfectly.
Hearing nothing more than the soothing lullaby of rain against the tent, we both let the persistent melody put us to sleep.
I woke up slowly to the feel of a hand tenderly brushing the hair from my face. I was confused at first, and frowned at the unfamiliar gesture; Jacob had never been one to give me so much as a second glance after waking.
My thoughts went hazy when the softness of the hand returned, and a finger trailed down the side of my face. I knitted my brows together in confusion, slipping in and out of consciousness because of the serene feeling that filled me.
I was drifting toward sleep again, but I knew this couldn't be a dream.
And when the finger was replaced by a full hand, cupping my cheek, it all came back to me.
I found him.
He'd made me wake up, from the charade of my life, and feel. Now, he was doing it again.
My eyes fluttered open, and I squinted, still sensitive to the light.
"'Bout time, sleepyhead," he said quietly. A crooked smile, set into a handsome face and topped with an auburn head of hair, greeted me. I smiled at him, and snuggled closer.
"Morning," I replied. I turned my face into his side, careful not to talk directly up at him in fear of my morning breath.
"Morning, yourself," he said with a slight twinge in his voice I couldn't place. He looked down, then, avoiding my eyes. "Listen," he continued, "about last night..."
I held up my hand to stop him.
"Look, Edward," I interrupted, "if you're going to tell me how much of a mistake it was, and how out of character it was for you, then please...save it. Don't waste your breath. I'd much rather you just take me home. We'll part ways and leave last night behind us."
I exhaled loudly, surprised and proud of myself for speaking my mind.
"Well," he said, looking down at me, his eyes an even brighter green than I had imagined, "what if that isn't at all what I was about to say?" He punctuated his question with a lift of his brow and a small, knowledgeable smirk.
I bit my lip, waiting for him to continue.
"Bella...I want to pack you up with all my camping gear, put you in my car, and take you back to Sacramento with me," he told me genuinely, "I want you to live in my bed - I want to live in my bed with you. I want to find every single way to make you smile, and every moment I'm not inside you, I'll try to find new ways of doing that."
He paused, offering me a timid smile. "And before last night, we were complete strangers. So...if I'm freaking you out with all this, we can go back to being strangers. You'll never have to see me again."
My lips were parted in awe, and he reached out to playfully press him thumb against my agape jaw.
"Okay...I'm not going to say that didn't freak me out," I said honestly, "because for one: I don't know how a person could live in a bed, and two: I'm not all that thrilled with riding back to California as part of your camping gear." He laughed at my sarcasm, and I admitted, "But if I knew I could have a repeat of last night every night? I might consider it."
I smiled at him, and he eagerly returned it.
"But, before anything," I added, "I think I should probably officially hand my ex-fiancee over to my ex-best friend, and tell everyone to cancel their 'save the dates'. Oh...and tell them all I'm still alive."
He nodded in understanding. "Yeah, I suppose those things are important."
"When do you have to leave?" I asked. When he unzipped the sleeping bag, and grabbed his duffel bag in search of new clothes, I took the time to admire his toned, firm ass. He caught me ogling, and winked.
I couldn't help how badly I blushed.
"I need to be back early next week at the latest," he replied, tugging a t-shirt over his head and and pulling on a new pair of briefs. He tossed me some sweats and a wife beater, and I took them gratefully, thankful I wouldn't have to put on the white dress again.
I leaned over to grab my undergarments, and awkwardly hid inside the sleeping bag in my attempt to get dressed. Edward shook his head, and laughed. I'll admit, it was a little ridiculous, but I was too self-conscious to be comfortable yet.
Once I was fully-clothed, I slipped out of the sleeping bag. "Edward...I-I don't want to let you go," I said apprehensively, "I must sound crazy, I mean...I'm not even technically single yet, but...already, I can't imagine waking up tomorrow knowing you're gone from my life."
Edward had been tucking clothes back into his duffel, but with my words, he paused. He turned, crouching next to me. He reached up to touch my face, tilting it until his eyes were staring intently into mine.
"Bella, let's just take this day-to-day, yeah?" he said in a placating tone, "I have no intentions of letting you go, either. We'll figure it out. Let's get through today first."
Uncertain on how I was going to get through 'today', I nodded.
He was right.
"I'll be here for at least another five days," he assured, "whatever you need me for, I'm here. Besides...I'd like to take you out for a real dinner. Not that spider dogs don't constitute as a real dinner or anything."
I giggled, and nodded again.
"Day-to-day. I can do that."
"Annnd, I have to pee. I'll be back."
He leaned over, pressed a quick kiss to my lips, and then he was gone.
After that, Edward and I worked on packing up the rest of his gear.
I stepped out into the beautiful warmth of the morning when it was time to take down the tent, awe-struck at how breathtaking the meadow was in the sunlight. The plants had welcomed the storm from the night before, flourishing from the incessant rain, reflecting the rays of sun with the leftover droplets lingering on their petals and leaves.
I wanted to remember this place, the serenity - the beauty - and come back as often as I could. I made a mental note to ask Edward for directions.
In the end, it took some convincing on Edward's part to get me to leave. With one last look at the humble meadow, I turned away, storing the sight of it in my memory; a mental picture.
We stepped out into the forest, and although I was dreading the walk to his car, I knew there was no way around it. He held my hand the entire time, taking it slow to avoid any more damage to my feet. They weren't as sore today, and since I wasn't running through the darkness, I could actually see where I was stepping.
It wasn't nearly as painful or dangerous as it had been the night before.
After an hour of hiking through the woods, we finally returned to road on which Edward had parked. Thinking about my game plan, I decided to have him take me back to my house. I couldn't bear to face Billy right now, and if I knew Jacob, he'd be there waiting for me.
Honestly, I hoped for it - I didn't want to put this conversation off any longer.
During the drive, I gave him quiet directions, calm and collected because of his comforting hand that never left mine. He squeezed it every now and then, telling me he understood, silently reminding me he was there for whatever I needed.
Whenever he did it, I'd squeeze back, thanking him.
When he pulled up in front of my tiny, two-bedroom home, Jacob's car, as well as my own, was in the driveway. Since I'd left my keys at Billy's, it didn't surprise me too much. What did surprise me, however, was that there weren't more people there. I could only hope my father hadn't organized a search party or done anything too rash.
Edward parked, but left the car running. I inhaled deep, and looked at him, holding my breath.
"Bella, breathe," he instructed, "you'll be fine."
I nodded, still holding my breath.
I exhaled loudly, puffing out my cheeks.
"Good girl," he said with a laugh, "now go in there and stand up for yourself. Hey, who's name is the house in?"
"Good. Kick him out," Edward said with a wicked smile on his face.
I laughed and punched him in the arm. I knew he was trying to find a way to make me laugh, and it was working.
"Here," he added quickly, writing something down on a torn piece of paper, "here's my cell number and where I'm staying. No matter what, I'm here. Even if I never hear from you again, I'll understand."
I began to protest, before I realized there was nothing more to say. I could only show him how much I reciprocated his feelings.
I stepped out of the car, the white dress hanging from my arm. With another deep breath, I walked up the stairs, and in the front door.
I found Jacob sitting on the couch, sipping on a cup of black coffee. His eyes were bloodshot and strained, and I could tell by looking at him he hadn't gotten much sleep the night before. He scanned me up and down, his gaze narrowing at my clothing. I could see the question forming on his lips, but I knew he was too chicken to ask.
I met his eyes, daring him to do so.
I was wrong for what I'd done, running out like that, but he'd been wrong, too. Before he went off with a slew of questions, he would have to answer to me first.
Thankfully, he left it alone, and was quiet so I could speak.
I decided to bite the bullet.
I laid my dress on the back of the couch, and sat next to him, staring at the coffee table.
"When do you think we fell out of love?" I asked honestly.
"Oh, come on, Bells-"
"No," I interrupted him, "I'm serious, Jake. When?"
He let out a breath and took another sip of his coffee.
"I don't know, Bells," he said, conflicted, "I really don't. I-I told my dad and Charlie last night...you know, what I did. Alice heard me and socked me in the jaw." I glanced up at him, smiling internally at the fresh bruise. "Your dad hit me in the gut," he continued halfheartedly, "and my dad threatened me with a cake knife. That's why no one went off looking for you," he explained, "they all knew you needed space, and Alice intimidated anyone who said otherwise."
Despite how screwed up everything was, I smiled. I really needed to tell Alice just how much I appreciated her as a friend. I made a mental note to add her to the list of people I had to call today.
My dad. Billy. Alice.
"I'm sorry, Bella," he apologized. The sound of defeat in Jacob's voice was gut wrenching. I honestly believed his sorrow.
"Me, too, Jake," I agreed, "I'm sorry we ever let it get this far. I have a hard time saying you deserve better after watching you fuck my best friend, but I know for damn sure I deserve better. I only wish you'd told me how you felt before you'd betrayed me like that. I hope one day you get an ounce of the feeling I did when I saw you."
He nodded, then let his head fall.
"How long do you think we would have lasted?" he asked, finally turning to look at me.
I shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe somebody would have stood up when Pastor Weber said that line...what is it, Speak now, or forever hold your peace?"
"So is this your way of speaking now then?" he asked, almost hopeful.
Hoping for which answer, I wasn't sure.
"Yeah, I suppose it is. I want you to leave, Jacob. Maybe someday we can grow to be friends again, but please don't bet on that. I hope someday I can look at your face and not feel pain. But that day isn't today."
I stood up, and slid the ring off my finger. Looking down at the empty space on my hand, then toying around with the petite diamond for a few seconds, I set it down on the table in front of him.
When I walked back into the living room after my long and overdue shower, rather than Jake sitting on my couch, it was someone else. I tossed the towel I had been using on my hair back down the hall, and turned around, smiling.
He looked up from his spot on the couch, and smiled at me. He stood, opening his arms and gesturing me toward him. "Hey, Bells." I ran to him, allowing his comforting embrace to surround me. "Don't you ever do that to me again, Isabella," he murmured softly, rocking me side to side.
"I'm sorry I ran off and made you worry," I said apologetically, "I just really needed space, dad."
He put his hands on my shoulders and pushed me back so he could look at me.
"Bella, that's not what I was talking about. Don't you ever keep something like that from me again just to save my feelings. All I've ever wanted was for my girl to be happy, and I wish you would realize that."
I felt my eyes burn with tears, and I nodded.
He smiled, and sniffed his own tears away. He had never been one for showing his emotions.
"I'm going to take care of cancelling everything today. Billy, Alice, and I. So you just rest and take care of you, okay?"
I agreed, and hugged him again before he left.
Truthfully, I knew I wouldn't be able to rest, because there was only one thing I wanted to do.
After drying my hair, I applied a light coat of make-up, trying to appear as natural as possible. I dressed in a simple, black lace tank, and a pair of my favourite jeans. My black flats seemed like the most comfortable shoes I could find, and I was satisfied when they didn't irritate the cuts and scrapes on the bottom of my feet.
Tiny piece of paper in hand, I followed the directions to the only person on my mind.
The entire drive, I couldn't help but notice how much brighter my town looked. The streets were nicer, the people seemed happier, and the grass and trees seemed more green than they'd ever been.
It was as if the storm had not only cleansed me, but everything.
The thought had a smile on my face when I parked in front of the small motel.
I found the correct door, and knocked twice. Before I could pull my hand away, the door swung open, and Edward pulled me inside, into his arms, clutching me close. I giggled, kicking the door closed with my foot.
He wasted no time, pressing a kiss to my waiting lips. Nothing too eager, or demanding.
Just sweet and simple.
After a few minutes of affection I had been yearning for, I finally pulled back and looked up at him.
"Hey, stranger," I said with a small smile.
"Hey, yourself." He smiled back.
I knew then, beyond any doubts, everything happened for a reason, and it was no accident I had fled to him last night.
I would never have to wonder...what if?
I wouldn't have to forever hold my peace.