Major time jump in this chapter, just a heads up. Last chapter ended at Christmas 2011.
I own nothing Twilight.
There's nothing I can say, nothing I can do,
To bring you back again.
This of life I know is true,
It's all falling through,
And so I reach for you.
A Falling Through - Ray LaMontagne
"This might very well be the saddest looking Christmas tree I've ever seen," Alice stood back, looking at the tree we'd just finished setting up.
It was barely as tall as her, with popcorn strung around it and colored lights. It was the cheapest one in the tree lot, but Alice had fallen in love with it immediately. I think she had some sort of Charlie Brown complex.
"It appears to be leaning slightly to the left," I replied, leaning in the same direction as the tree.
"That's not the tree, Bella," she laughed, "That's our apartment."
I joined her laughter, knowing she was probably right. We lived in a fifth floor walk-up in Brooklyn above bodega in a building that was at least a century old. There was a good chance it was the apartment.
"No wonder I can never get anything to stay on a shelf," I shrugged.
Alice plopped down beside me, throwing her feet onto my lap.
"What time does Rose get in?" she asked, flipping on the television.
"Around six," I said, glancing at the clock.
I was so excited to see Rose, it'd been so long. She'd come to visit back in August, but I hadn't seen her since. Talking on the phone and texting just weren't the same thing as having my best friend right in front of me.
"Are you sure she'll be okay taking a cab from the airport? We can always go pick her up," Alice said, concerned.
"I think I'd be more afraid for the cab driver than for Rose," I answered, "I've known her my whole life and she still scares the piss out of me."
I glanced at the clock, 5:36 p.m. It was already dark outside, the wintertime made the days so short. This was my first holiday season in New York City and I found myself loving it more and more everyday. I still couldn't believe I lived here, that I hadn't been back to Seattle in almost a year. Hadn't spoken to my father since that Christmas day.
"Mom," I said, coming up behind her as she placed the sweet rolls on the cookie sheet.
"Hey sweetie," she turned, smiling, "There's fresh coffee brewed. It's no Bella Rose coffee, but I hope it'll suffice."
"Haha, mom," I rolled my eyes, reaching up into the cabinet to grab a cup.
I sat at the table, watching my mother as she went about preparing breakfast. I could hear my father upstairs, showering, getting dressed. They'd both already been in bed by the time I arrived last night. I planned to confront my dad before people started arriving for Christmas brunch.
"Mom," I said softly.
"Yes, dear?" she asked, not turning around as she moved onto the eggs.
"Is dad okay?"
She stopped then, turning to look at me.
"What do you mean?" her brow furrowed in confusion.
"He's barely spoken to me in the past month, I'm beginning to think he'd avoiding me," I looked down into my coffee idly.
Before she could speak, dad walked into the kitchen. He grabbed a cup, filling it with coffee.
"Charlie?" my mother came up beside him.
"Hmm?" he muttered, taking a sip.
"Are you avoiding Bella?" she straight-up asked.
He choked a bit on his coffee, coughing into his hand. He looked from her to me. He didn't need to say a word, I could tell just by looking at him the answer was yes.
"What's going on, Charles?" she set down the bowl in her hands.
Dad looked at me cautiously, like a trapped animal.
"Dad," I started, "Tell me."
There was no avoiding me now, not now that I was here, in front of him. I wasn't going to let him push me away anymore, I was going to get to the bottom of this no matter what. I knew he could see the determination in my eyes, I was his daughter after all and we were more alike than either of us cared to admit.
He motioned for my mother to join us at the table, folding his hands in front of him. We sat in silence for a few minutes before he began to speak.
"There's something I need to tell you," he started, "but before I do, you need to know that your mother had no part in this. She had no knowledge of any of it. At all."
"Okay, now you're scaring me," mom said, placing her hand over his.
"Go on," I said numbly, not liking where this was going at all.
"I never thought I'd have to tell you this, I never thought he'd come back," he pulled his hand from my mother's, running it over his face.
"He?" I asked, utterly lost, "Who?"
"Edward," that one word made my heart stop.
My mother gasp, the name having an effect on her as well.
"Dad, what are you talking about?" I shook my head, trying to make sense of it all.
"Edward came to me, right before you two broke up," his eyes were looking down at the table, unable to meet mine, "He came to ask my permission to marry you."
A strangled sob escaped my lips, my hand flying to my face.
"He was going to ask you to go to London with him," he continued, his head hung low, "But I. . ."
He stopped himself.
"You what?" I asked.
"I told him he was being selfish, that he was going to force you to leave everything you knew behind," he was looking everywhere but at me, "He wasn't thinking of how it all would affect you, Bella. He was going to take you away from me, your mother, Rose. I couldn't let him do that."
I could feel the hurt and anger building within me, the shock slowly wearing off.
"You. . .you told him to break up with me?" I gasped.
"I didn't tell him to break up with you, I told him not to ask you to go to London with him," he looked me in the eye then, finally, "I asked him not to make you give up your dream."
"My dream was him, dad," I felt the tears in my eyes then, "My art, that internship, it was all because of his encouragement that I got to that point. Nothing else mattered without him there to share it with."
The tears spilled over, my rage boiling. I stood up suddenly, the chair slammed into the wall behind me.
"How could you. . .how could you put me through that?" I spat, "You saw what a complete mess I was days, weeks, months, years afterward. You held me while I cried, you force fed me when I wouldn't eat, you sat there and saw me dying right in front of your eyes and you said nothing!"
"Bella, I-" he started.
"No!" I held up my hand, silencing him, "I cannot believe this. You and Edward both lied to me this whole time."
"Bell, baby," my mom came over to me, resting her hand on my shoulder, "Lets talk about this."
"You didn't trust me to make my own choice so you took the choice away from me," I ignored her, staring at my father, "I don't care if you thought you were doing what was best for me, you nearly destroyed me!"
We both stared at each other as my mother kept repeating herself over and over, with words I couldn't make out. The pain was enveloping me, that my own father would do that to me and then watch me self-destruct, never saying a word.
"I hate you," I finally said.
I turned on my heel, heading for the front door. I flung it open, jumping back in surprise when I realized Rose was standing on the other side. Her hand was raised, poised to knock. She looked just as surprised as me.
"Merry Chris-" she stopped abruptly upon seeing my face, "Bella, what's wrong?"
I lost it then, the sobs overtaking my body. She wrapped her arms around me, pulling me close to her in a hug.
"He lied to me," I cried into her ear.
"Who lied to you, Bella?" she asked soothingly, rubbing my back.
"I'm never talking to him again."
She walked me to her car, driving me over to her parents' house. They had already left, going to her grandparents' house before planning to head over to mine. We sat on her bed, the same bed we'd spent most of our lives on; laughing, reading magazines, gossiping about boys. I told her everything, Edward's request for my hand, my father's refusal, his lies.
The next day she drove me to the airport. I hadn't been back to Seattle or spoken to my father since.
We heard Rose long before we saw her. The thud thud thud of her luggage being dragged up five flights of stairs. Then came her voice, yelling into her phone.
"Okay, seriously? I can't leave for one day without the whole place going to hell," she was saying, her voice getting closer, "I said no to a salad bar, that's just tacky."
I laughed, knowing what she was talking about. Rose was in the middle of expanding the Bella Rose Café. We'd bought the property next door once its former tenants moved out. Although I no longer had my hand in the day-to-day operations, I was still Rose's partner in the business. She never did anything without consulting me. And now that I was working full-time at the Museum of Modern Art and my work was actually turning a sizeable profit, I could afford to put more money into the shop.
"Having people serve themselves completely ruins the atmosphere we're going for here, Javier," she was now directly outside the door.
I ran over, throwing it up. Her whole face lit up when she saw me.
"Javier, I gotta call you back," she said quickly, "No salad bar!"
She dropped her stuff, wrapping her arms tightly around me.
"Rosie!" I squealed.
"Bells!" she replied.
"Alice!" Alice chimed in, throwing her arms around the both of us, causing us to burst into laughter.
"Get in here before you catch your death," I helped her grab her stuff, pulling her in from the drafty hallway.
Once she was settled in, we all three plopped down on the oversized couch that took up the majority of our living room. Although Alice and I both made a decent income, New York was ridiculously expensive and our apartment, as cozy as it was, left a lot to be desired.
"I need an alcoholic beverage, stat," Rose said, taking a deep breath.
I groaned, getting up to grab some beers from the fridge.
"How was the trip?" Alice asked, pulling rogue tinsel out of her hair.
"Long, boring," Rose complained, "I got stuck sitting next to this guy with bad breath who wouldn't stop talking to me about his kid's soccer team. I finally had to fake fall asleep to get him to leave me alone."
I handed out the beers, sitting on the arm of the couch, taking in the sight before me. My two best friends, together. Though I'd only known Alice for a year, I couldn't help but feel as close to her as I was to Rose. She had been there for me through a lot, my move, my job transition. I couldn't say that I was the most pleasant person to be around for the past year, but she never gave up on me.
Having her as my roommate for the MoMA program back in January was the best thing that could've happened to me. We'd been inseparable since.
"How things back at the old homestead?" I asked, pulling myself back into the present.
"Oh my god, I have to tell you!" she sat up, excited, "Jessica and Mike are engaged!"
"Seriously?" I laughed, not really all that surprised.
I still spoke to Angela and Jessica on a weekly basis, so I was privy to the goings on of my friends. I knew when Mike and Jessica started dating, I knew when they became exclusive and I knew when he said 'I love you' for the first time. I got to live their love story through Jessica's words over the phone, every Thursday night. I was so happy for my friend, but sad that I wasn't there to witness it all in person.
"Yeah, but she made me promise not to tell you because she wanted to tell you herself. . .so you have to act surprised when you talk to her," she said.
"My lips are sealed," I pretended to lock my lips, throwing away the key.
Before any of us could say anything else, Alice's phone beeped from its place on the coffee table. She picks it up, groaning as she reads the text.
"Are you kidding?" she asked, rhetorically, "I have to run to the museum."
"For what?" I asked, surprised that they'd ask her to come in this late.
"That half-wit Grace didn't set up the Milan exhibit up right, and it opens tomorrow," she slid off the couch, walking towards her room, "Mrs. Cope asked if I could come in and lend a hand for a couple hours."
Alice was more into the design side of art. She worked on setting up the displays within the museum, as well as freelancing with different department stores like Barneys and Saks to set up window displays. I was more into the actual creative side, helping to scout new talent while still having time to work in the studio the museum had set up for resident artists. Needless to say, I very rarely ever got these types of "emergency" phone calls.
"Well, hey, why don't we go into the city with you," I said, turning to Rose, "We could grab dinner and then all meet back up after Alice is done."
"I like the sound of that," Rose nodded, "As long as there's more alcohol involved."
Alice was a cab snob, and insisted we take a cab into the city as opposed to the train. After about three months, I'd finally managed to figure out the New York City subway system and realized just how much cheaper it was than taking a cab. Alice couldn't be bothered with figuring out which train to take where, and instead relied on others to drive her. I didn't even want to ask how much she paid a month in cab fare, but her family was well enough off that I figured it really didn't matter.
While Alice headed to the museum, Rose and I made our way down to Rockefeller Center. We walked silently down the street, taking in the crowds of people as the city breathed around us.
"I can see why you love it here," Rose said as we crossed West 51st Street, "There's so much going on, so much diversity."
I linked my arm around hers, pulling her closer to me.
"It's easy to get lost here," I added, almost to myself.
"Who are you hiding from?" she asked softly.
I didn't answer, instead pulled her along through the crowds of people. After stopping into a Starbucks (or as Rose called them, her arch nemesis), we made our way over to the skating rink. The music, the tree, the lights. . .it was all incredibly beautiful.
"Are we going to talk about the obvious?" she asked finally, sipping on her hot chocolate.
"Obvious?" I asked, staring at a little girl as she wobbled along the ice.
"Your father, Edward," she replied.
Though she often brought them up, I always managed to change the subject. Since we were usually talking on the phone, it wasn't that difficult. But now that we were face to face, well I realized it was going to be a lot harder looking into her eyes.
"Rose," I warned, knowing it was useless.
"Bella, this is me, your best friend," she took my face between her hands, "You need to talk to someone about all of this or you're going to go crazy. . .well, crazier than you already are."
"Gee, thanks," I laughed, pulling away and taking a drink from my cup.
We stared ahead, watching the lights of the tree sparkle. It was a total cheese ball moment.
"I stopped by your house last week," she began, "Your mom is doing great, she's taking all her energy out on redecorating the house. It looks like QVC threw up all over."
I couldn't help but laugh. I did miss my mother, but every time we spoke, it ended up in a fight. She couldn't understand why I was unable forgive my father for what he'd done. I couldn't understand why she kept insisting I forgive him. I needed time, time to heal and come to terms with everything my father had cost me. Maybe one day I would forgive him, but I wasn't there yet.
"How's. . ." I heard the word start out of my mouth, cutting myself off.
"Edward?" she finished for me.
I couldn't look her in the eyes, instead choosing to look down at my hands. Edward was a wide open, gaping wound for me. One that I was finding harder and harder to stop thinking of. It didn't help that he was still a huge staple in the news media, for both his business ventures and the fact that he was one of the most eligible bachelor's in the country. Women fawned over him all the time, including most of the women I worked with, all of whom but Alice didn't know of my history with him.
"He still stops into the café, you know," she kept going, "I mean, he knows you're not there anymore but I think he still hopes one day he'll come in and see you behind the counter."
I wanted to ask if he lived in Seattle for good, if he was seeing anyone, if he ever asked about me. But I couldn't. I was still angry with him, still disappointed in him. Though my father's role in our breakup did change some things, it didn't change the fact that Edward chose to leave me. He could've ignored my father, could've had faith in us, but instead he left.
"He travels a lot for business," she was saying.
"What? Are you two like, best friends now?" I asked, bitterly. Then, realizing how it sounded, I added, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that."
"Seattle's a small town," she began, "Well, small in relation to New York. People talk, particularly about handsome, young billionaire types who can't seem to settle down."
I still didn't understand what he was waiting for, why he wasn't moving on. I figured that last Christmas would be the final nail in the coffin of what was our fucked up relationship. That it would've given him the ultimate shove in the other direction.
"He's waiting for you, Bella," Rose said, as if reading my thoughts.
New Year's Eve, December 2012/January 2013
"I am so glad we are not one of those millions of poor bastards stuck standing in the freezing cold, down on Times Square," Alice murmured into my ear, as we made our way through the crowd.
The museum was throwing a New Year's Ball to help raise money for the Support the Arts program for local public schools. As employees, we were invited and allowed to bring a guest. I'd invited Jacob out for the holiday, I hadn't seen him since he'd come out with Rose during the summer and I desperately missed him. Also, I was secretly hoping him and Alice would hit it off since I thought they'd be perfect for each other. Rose kept yelling at me for meddling, but I couldn't help myself.
"This is pretty swanky, Bells," Jacob laughed, "I'm glad I dusted off my tux for the occasion."
I punched his arm, pulling him and Alice over towards our table. We were sitting with the rest of the museum lackeys in the back of the ballroom. I couldn't really complain, though, at least we'd been invited in the first place.
"Anyone want a drink?" Alice asked, taking off her coat and placing it on the back of her chair.
"Ooo, the real reason why I came, open bar!" Jacob jumped up, following behind her before calling out, "Sorry Bells!"
I waved him off, watching the two of them make their way over towards the bar. I took this opportunity to survey the room, taking in the people around me. It reminded me a lot of the Cullen's New Year's galas in years previous. I wondered what Edward was doing at that moment, if he was getting ready to walk into his own celebration. It was a three hour time difference, so I'd probably be long asleep before he rang in his own New Year.
I found my thoughts drifting back to him more and more lately. It was probably the holidays, but a part of me still couldn't let him go. Not even after all these years. I felt like there was never any closure between the two of us, never a final word. I'd grown so much in the last year, moving across the country, working in the field of my dreams. I finally felt confident enough in my own skin, more so than I ever had before. I also found my anger towards Edward dimming, turning more into a feeling of bitter sweetness than anything else. I often wondered what it would be like if we were to see each other again, one day, probably years from now. Both of us aged, matured. If we would be able to look at each other and there be no pain, no regret. A lot of it had to do with my loneliness, I knew that. Being in this gigantic city.
Despite constantly being surrounded by people, by friends, I still craved to fill that void that had long been created by Edward's leaving me.
And just when I was beginning to let myself fall into that trap, that black hole of emptiness that I usually only allowed myself to dwell in late at night, when Alice was long asleep, I saw him.
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