This was my submission for TLS's Lyrics & Lemons Contest. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I absolutely LOVE this song. The song is "Arms" by Christina Perri. You can check it out on YouTube.

Thank you to the illustrious Magnolia822 for once again lending her beta skills for this story. I 3 u always, bb.

Disclaimer: SM owns everything Twilight. Christina Perri owns the song. They both own the immense talent that inspired this story. I bow to them in reverence.


Fall 2003

"That was it? She just left just like that?"

"Just like that. I don't even care anymore. Good fucking riddance." I took a drag from my cig and exhaled, letting the nicotine calm me. I wasn't exactly being honest. I did care. My best friend Alice knew better, which is why she was giving me the pity face. Fuck that. I didn't need the pity face. I needed to get the fuck out of Forks—like my mom just had.

"I don't understand why she would leave after all these years. Were they really fighting that much, B?" Alice sat at the lunch table in the middle of our school's courtyard, resting her chin on her propped-up arm.

"That's just it, Allie. They never fought. I guess that was the problem. My dad sucks at talking, according to my mother. Mom just told me she felt trapped and needed out. What the fuck do I know?" I flicked the burned out butt onto the grass, feeling sorry for myself.

Allie's boyfriend, Garrett, sauntered over, and all conversation ceased as he practically mauled the poor girl. PDA's were never my thing, and watching those two go at it in broad daylight was enough for me to lose my lunch on a good day. Today, I was this close to combusting.

"I'm sorry." The whisper came so quietly I hardly heard it. But the voice was smooth and comforting. I looked over to find Edward Cullen, Allie's twin brother, sitting across from me, nose in a book. For a second I thought I had finally gone insane and was just hearing things. But then he glanced up, his sea-green eyes shyly peeking above the rim of his glasses, and I couldn't look away.

Now, I wasn't blind. The guy was cute. Where Allie was vertically challenged, Edward was tall and lanky. Where Allie was Little Miss Popular, Edward was mostly invisible to the student body. Everyone knew him as Allie's nerdy brother. I'd been friends with Allie since the fifth grade when their parents moved to Forks from Chicago. But for some strange reason, Edward and I hardly interacted. He was super introverted, sticking to his books and music class- I didn't pay him much attention.

So imagine my surprise when Edward Cullen looked at me. He saw me.

"You didn't do anything. You have no reason to be sorry." My voice sounded surprisingly low and gruff . I could blame it on the smoking. I could.

Edward gave me a half smile before closing his book and meeting my gaze full-on. It was the first time I had the chance to really study him. I couldn't look away. His hair was all over the place with flecks of bronze when the light hit it; his skin was pale, but then again, that was par for the course in Forks. HIs eyes struck me the most. They burned right through me and I could feel myself curling away from his scrutiny. I didn't want anyone to know- to really know. It was easier this way.

"I know, but I'm sorry you're going through this. I know my sister can be..." he glanced over to Allie, still sucked into the Garrett vortex, "difficult. But if you ever want to talk, or you just need an ear... you can talk to me." He shrugged, looking down at his fidgety fingers.

At that moment, the bell rang, beckoning us back to class. Everyone stood up and started making their way to their destinations, but I sat frozen. Edward slowly rose and glanced down at me one last time, then walked away. But before he could get too far, I ran a few steps and grabbed his upper arm. He stopped and looked over his shoulder, eyeing me cautiously.

"Thanks. I might take you up on that," I said.

Edward smiled gently. "I'm usually in the music room after school. Come by," he replied, smirking slightly before continuing towards class.

...

For some reason I found myself following Edward's instructions after school that day. I made my way to the music room, not really wanting to go home to face my dad and a suddenly empty house. Edward sat tinkering on the piano some tune I couldn't place.

"Hey," I called out.

Edward stopped and turned, smiling. He had a really beautiful smile.

He gestured me to join him on the piano bench, and I did. For a moment, we sat in silence as he tinkered with a few notes. Then somehow I just... talked. For over an hour, I spoke without censure, without fear. Edward listened, alternating between looking at me, nodding, and playing a few chords. It was all very easy and normal, as if we'd done this every day. I told him all about my mother's sudden "need to find her true calling" and whatever bullshit she'd spewed to me the night she left. I told him all about hearing my dad's silent sniffling through the walls of my room. And through it all, Edward listened as he promised he would, offering no stereotypical bits of wisdom. When I couldn't take the pain anymore and finally broke down, right there on a piano bench next to Edward Cullen, I felt the weight and warmth of his arm wrapping carefully around my shoulder. The sensation warmed me to the bone and my body instinctually melted against his, searching for security and comfort. He responded by hugging me with both arms while I held on to him for dear life. I sobbed into his chest, probably ruining his shirt, but he didn't seem to give a shit. And it was at that moment I realized I would never let go.

Summer 2006

To: Ecullen(at)email . com

Fr: IzzyBella(at)mymail . com

Subject: Party party...

Yes, I know how many times you've told me you don't want to go to Mike's party, but plleeease? Just for a little while? I don't want to be there without you. So come with me.

Please. for me?

-B

To: IzzyBella(at)mymail . com

Fr: Ecullen(at)email . com

Subject: RE: Party party...

Bella, none of those people have spoken more than a few words to me over the last 2 years, and those few were because I was hanging around you. They're not people I care to be around.

But, I'll do it for you, and only because you ask me to.

And for the record, I'd much rather just have a quiet evening with you.

-Edward

To: Ecullen(at)email . com

Fr: IzzyBella(at)mymail . com

Subject: RE: RE: Party party...

:)

xo.

Pick me up at 8.

-B

...

I was no fool. I knew Edward was hot. And over the course of three years, I managed to coax him out of his shell a bit. We were best friends- just friends. We went out, we hung out with our buddies, including Allie and her boyfriend-of-the-moment. Garrett, apparently, had not been her "soul mate"- her words, not mine- and so Alice was now with a stoner-slash-skater named Alec. Even though he was a bit of a shit, he did provide us some world-class weed, and I was not gonna bite the hand that fed me. I would learn to like Alec.

Edward never liked me to smoke. He managed to get me to quit cigs, but failed to keep me away from smoking up. I respected him though, and only did it when I wasn't with him. Edward was pretty straight-edge and even managed to gain quite a few groupies who silently pined over him and gave me evil stares at every turn. I could give a shit really. We shared most of our AP classes senior year and were pretty much inseparable. He was sweet, and knew everything about me, or at least what I would tell him. I had to keep some things to myself.

Like the fact I was crushing on him. Just a little.

I didn't really realize it until half-way through junior year when Lauren-Mother-Fucking-Mallory asked him to the Sadie Hawkins dance.

That's right. All boobs and fake nails. Every guy wanted her, and she wanted Edward.

Sigh.

I sulked at home that night, getting play-by-play phone calls and text messages from Allie from the dance, telling me everything that bitch attempted, including neck nuzzles, grinding on the dance floor, and even pressing her gigantic boobs against his chest. My only solace was that Edward seemed pretty uncomfortable, according to Allie, and it wasn't long before he called my cell phone at midnight, claiming he'd had to peel Lauren off of him before running away.

Like literally, he fucking ran away from her. He was still out of breath on the phone. I giggled, silently relieved he didn't want Lauren, but wanted to talk to me about nothing at all. Those were the best conversations ever.

But of course, I had to keep my feelings to myself. With my logic, we'd be going away to college- Edward to Dartmouth, me to NYU, and there'd be no point in telling him how I felt. It was just a stupid crush. And besides, his friendship meant more to me than anything else. I would probably suck at being a girlfriend.

So I said nothing and instead proudly watched my best friends walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. Moments later, when it was my turn, I heard the distinct cheers from my dad and Allie. When a strange impulse forced me to glance through the faces in the gymnasium I caught Edward's green eyes staring right back at me with happiness and pride I nearly jumped off the stage and into his arms. I did contain myself, though, because I wasn't insane.

Now, here we found ourselves at Mike's graduation party. Edward wore a v-neck teeshirt better than anyone I ever knew. And the black one he wore today, combined with his jeans and chucks, had me breathing a little harder than usual.

"You okay?" He asked next to my ear, his lips lightly grazing it. I shivered.

"What? Oh, yeah, I'm fine."

"You look very pretty, by the way," he said, still whispering only to me. I could smell his natural scent- he just smelled clean and just... Edwardy.

Don't ask me to explain that.

His innocent compliment sent waves of want through my body, and I had to get away. So I pulled him through the crowding bodies and into the kitchen where the real fun was already in full-swing. Allie was already there and quite stoned.

"Hey, no fair. You didn't wait for me! Sharing is caring, pass it over," I told her. She giggled, and I felt Edward tighten his hand around mine slightly.

I knew I was alienating him. I was being stupid, I knew that. His pleading eyes made me want to just escape with him, but I couldn't let him too close to me, or I'd fall. I couldn't afford that, and frankly, I'd break his heart eventually. I just knew it. So I pushed him away the only way I knew how. It wasn't at all the way I'd seen this evening going.

"Do you really have to do this tonight? Can you just not do this? Stay with me?" Edward pleaded. On the inside I screamed at myself for breaking him like this. He'd mentioned to me several times before how much he hated how I acted when I was stoned. But I couldn't control myself.

"Oh, lighten up, Edward. It's just a couple of hits to relax. You really should try it. Then maybe you wouldn't be so tense all the time. Like I've told you before, just go away if you don't want to see me have fun."

Everyone around us laughed and snorted, their goofy faces showcasing various levels of fucked up. When I turned to smile at him, he looked at me sadly, letting go of my hand, and I immediately felt the absence. When he turned and walked out on me, I didn't follow. I'd apologize and beg for him to forgive me later. It was always that way.

He'd forgive me.

The rest of the night passed in moments of lucidity and blurs. The last thing I remember, strong arms carried me out, my body against a warm chest that smelled of Edward.

The next morning I woke up with a bitch of a hangover and a note on my bedside table.

Take the aspirin and drink the full glass. Then meet me at the cafe at 3. We need to talk. -Edward

...

I plopped down across from him, sitting at our favorite table next to the window. He'd already ordered me my lemon crumb cake and mocha. I spoke quietly.

"Hey. Listen, Edward, I'm really so..." His hand in the air stopped my string of apologies. He didn't look too happy.

"Why did you invite me to that party if all you were going to do was get fucked up?"

Woah. I'd never hear him curse at me... or ever, really. His jaw was tight and his voice deceptively calm. I knew he was angry.

"I'm sorry, Edward. I wasn't planning on doing any of that shit. But it was just there, and everyone was already having fun, I figured..."

"You figured you'd smoke up, even if I was there? What kind of a friend are you, Bella? I had to watch you dig yourself into a hole. It killed me last night to see you like that. You're too smart to do that to yourself. I thought I meant more to you than that," he said seriously, his expression reflecting a disappointment I never thought I'd cause.

"I fucked up, Edward. I know that. I don't know what made me do it, but I promise you, I'll never embarrass you again. Just please. I can't bear to see you upset at me," I pleaded, grabbing his hand between both of mine. Edward looked at our connected hands and closed his eyes, breathing deeply. After exhaling, he glanced at me again, a small smile tugging at his lips. I sighed in relief.

"I just want this last summer together to be really good. I want us to have fun. It will be a long time before we're able to see each other again after we start classes."

He nodded, and just like that, we were okay. And it was an awesome summer. Together.

...

"Bells! C'mon, no way you'll make good time on the road if you don't leave now!" Charlie yelled up the stairs at me. I was always a last-minute girl, and today was no exception. I double and triple checked my room and bathroom to make sure I had everything before bounding down the stairs with my duffle bag.

"Well, it's about time. Edward already loaded up everything. Don't forget to check in whenever you two stop for the night, and I put two bottles of mace in the glove compartment."

"Dad." I rolled my eyes.

Edward leaned against the door of my car, looking on at the father-daughter dynamic in action. He was amused. I stuck my tongue out at him.

"Now Bella, you can't be too careful, so just humor me, alright?" He gestured for me to give him a hug, and when I wrapped my arms around him tightly, he turned to whisper in my ear.

"I'm very proud of you, baby. Don't lose touch with Edward. He's a good kid and a good friend. He cares about you a whole lot."

It was the most profound statement my father ever shared with me. And I would never forget it.

Dad turned to holler at Edward as I walked towards the car. "Take care of my baby, son. Keep tabs on her and fill me in from time to time. I'm countin' on you." He gave Edward a pointed look and bid us luck and a safe trip. I wiped a stray tear as Edward held the door for me. After settling in, we were off.

...

The cross-country road trip passed without incident, and we dutifully checked in with Charlie and Edward's parents along the way. We finally made it to New York after a few days and Edward helped me unpack and check into my dorm. My roommate had already settled in, greeting us with a smile as she mentioned going downstairs to the common area to meet with the RA. As the door closed Edward plopped onto my bed, eyeing everything around him.

"Everything to your liking, Mr. Cullen?" I giggled.

"It will do, I suppose," he sighed playfully.

Sitting down next to him, I rested my head on his shoulder and stared blankly at the wall in front of me. After a comfortable silence, Edward stirred. "I'll miss you."

His words were quiet and hardly there, but the weight of them pressed on my heart. When I gazed up at him, the deep green of his eyes made me panic. I could almost feel the words bubbling up within him and I just . . . couldn't. I needed to stop him before he said something I couldn't handle.

"Hey, don't be silly. We're not that far away from each other. Just a train ride, really," I said, looking down at my fingers.

A pregnant pause made me look at him once more, only to see a bit of resigned sadness that I wanted nothing more than to erase.

"Yeah. I guess you're right. And we have email and stuff. It'll be fine." His voice sounded rehearsed and flat. I needed to brighten his mood pronto.

"Hey, let's go get a bite or something. This is New York City. It's like food Mecca."

I stood, pulling him up and dragging him out until we were off campus, enjoying a New York slice.

...

Grand Central bustled with commuters, travelers, and tourists. But all I could really see was my Edward- his mess of hair towering over most everyone as he pulled me by the hand through the crowds. Once we arrived at his train he turned to me and smiled.

"This is me."

"Promise me to text me when you get there. Let me know you're safe."

"I will," Edward replied before his brow furrowed. "Bella, I really need to say something..."

"No."

His eyes snapped to mine in surprise. "No?"

"Just. No. Edward, let's not do this now. I can't do this now..." I didn't dare look at him. I felt so small and ashamed. I was hurting him, but I couldn't stop it.

When he didn't respond, I felt his fingers gently graze my cheek until they reached under my chin, lifting it so our eyes locked. I couldn't even describe the look on Edward's face. He shut his eye briefly before sighing, giving me a very small smile.

"You'll always be my Bella, you know that?"

And with that he put his arms around me as he'd always done. I felt at home. Oh God, what was I doing?

I hugged him hard, my mouth to his neck, mouthing how much I loved him silently against his skin. I don't think he even realized it, but I kind of hoped he would. I was silently screaming for him to see right through me, because I knew I couldn't open up to him the way he deserved. Instead, I hugged him tightly, whispering in his ear.

"And you'll always be my Edward." I felt his shiver in my arms and as he pulled away first, I swore I could almost see wetness in his eyes. I placed my hand on his cheek.

"Don't be a stranger. You're not getting rid of me any time soon."

He smiled boyishly. "I really hope not. Take care of yourself, Bella," he said, pulling away, our linked hands the last to disconnect. He walked backwards, his intense stare never leaving mine before he had to turn and board the train that led to the rest of his life.

When I got back to my room, I sat... and cried.

...

Winter 2009

"Is Edward in town too?" Dad asked as I sat down on the couch untangling Christmas lights.

"He said he would be, we haven't spoken much the last couple months. We're both super busy with school."

Freshman year, Edward and I texted, emailed, and Facebooked each other all the time. He'd tell me about his classes, how he'd joined the rowing team and was becoming active with student government. I told him about my stupid professors and the new friends I'd made at the coffee house where I part-timed.

It was comfortable. I was happy.

His school's breaks were scheduled a little differently than mine, but we'd managed to see each other a couple of times each year. Each time was like old times.

It was comfortable. I was happy.

I thought that maybe my feelings for him had finally waned. Maybe.

Until he sent me an email... about a girl he'd met.

Talking myself out of going nuts over this, I reminded myself that they were just dating, and he had every right to do so, since I had never claimed him.

I never allowed him to claim me.

Soon, the emails and texts came fewer and farther between. He was busy. Busy with school, busy with rowing... busy with life.

I fucked up.

I never told him how I felt.

So here I was, at home with my grandma and dad, stringing lights and taking out old handmade ornaments, talking about the boy I thought I loved- maybe still did- and no one knew.

He didn't know.

"I hear he's doing quite well up there. Might graduate with honors," Grandma added, absently organizing the chaos around us.

"Yeah, that's what I heard too. He sent me an email a couple weeks ago telling me he'd call me, but you know how that is."

"Well, I certainly hope you two can find the time to hang out. He was your best friend for so long." Thanks for the reminder, Grams.

"Yeah, we'll see."

...

The Clearwaters always held a huge holiday party. Everyone was there- some old classmates and their parents- the Blacks, the Stanleys, and yes, the Cullens.

Allie immediately ran over to me, squeezing me with her tiny arms.

"Ah! I'm so happy to see you! It's been too long. C'mon, let's talk." Never giving me the chance to speak, she tugged me towards a quieter part of the house and sat me down on the couch.

"So, what's new with you? Any boyfriends?" Her gray eyes gleamed with mischief. It made me laugh.

"Um, not really. I mean, I dated this guy a couple months ago. He's in my program. But... I don't know... I just wasn't feeling it." I actually felt kind of shy about talking love life stuff with my friend, since she was also Edward's sister.

"No spark, eh? Yeah. I totally get that. I can't seem to find the one guy to sweep me off my feet. I mean, there is one guy who I can't get rid of. Jasper. He's cute. Really smart. But I want to have fun, you know?"

Ah, yes. I see Allie hasn't changed.

We entered into conversation about nothing at all before we heard Esme Cullen, Allie and Edward's mom, say something rather loudly.

"Oh, there he is! My handsome son! Edward, I'm so glad you finally made it!"

I perked up immediately, head snapping in the direction of her voice, feeling my heart stutter. I swallowed hard, all of a sudden giddy to see my best friend.

"Hey cool! Edward's here. Let's go say hi." Allie stood, once again tugging me along until we reached the foyer. When I turned the corner and took in the scene, I really wished I hadn't.

Edward was with a girl. Holding her hand.

My breath caught, and Edward's eyes met mine. He looked shocked, scared, and quickly averted his eyes.

He made the rounds, introducing the girl to everyone. I vaguely heard Allie whisper in my ear.

"I can't believe he brought her."

I wanted the ground to swallow me. The world had come crashing down on me.

When Edward had almost made his way to my side of the room, I excused myself, telling Allie I wasn't feeling well. She glanced at me worriedly, but nodded.

I didn't stay. I couldn't face him.

After midnight, I'd finally managed to get comfortable enough to sleep when I heard the buzz of my phone.

I heard you weren't feeling well. Are you ok?

Edward. He hadn't texted me in months, and now here he was, inquiring on my well-being. I wanted to scream at him, maybe push him. But I knew I did this to myself. I pushed him away.

I'm fine. Sorry couldn't stay.

I want to see you before we leave again. Please?

I sighed, wondering if it was a good idea to see him. I'd have to put on my bravest face and suck it up. My best friend deserved happiness. I knew that. But fuck, it hurt.

When?

Tomorrow? I'll pick you up around 10?

What about your girlfriend?

She left to visit her folks in Portland.

Ah. So he wasn't denying the girlfriend status. And he still wanted to see me. I couldn't deny him. I wanted to see him, even if it killed me.

Sure. I'll see you then.

Sweet dreams, Bella.

Funny. The sweetest dreams I ever had were when he was mine.

...

Edward looked amazing. I hadn't given myself the opportunity to really look at him the night before since I'd hightailed it out of the party. He was broad-shouldered- a product of the rowing, no doubt- and his frame had filled out with lean muscle. His blue-gray v-neck sweater hugged all the right places.

"What happened to your glasses?" I asked as he drove us towards the diner.

"Oh, um, contacts," he replied.

"I see. You look... good," I managed, looking out the window. Truth was I missed his glasses. They were such a part of him, and our history, and the best parts of our memories, that I wanted to make him put them back on.

I could feel his eyes on me at a stoplight.

"Bella, why does it feel like this?"

"What?" I turned to see him. His eyes were pleading.

"It just... feels wrong. It shouldn't be this hard to be around each other."

"I don't know what you're talking about." I did, but I couldn't confess to that.

Edward sighed as the light turned green. We spent the rest of the drive in silence.

...

Our brunch at the diner was more of the same. We chatted lightly about whatever, never hitting the subjects we really needed to hash out. We were dancing around it.

"So. What's her name?" I blurted.

He froze a moment before answering. "Jane."

I nodded. "Is she the same girl you told me about that one time?"

"Uh, yeah. We met in class. I took her to a few of her sorority formals, and things just kind of happened."

"What things?" I couldn't believe I just asked that. Apparently neither could he. He gazed at me, eyes wide. Deer caught in headlights."Never mind. I don't want to know."

He continued to stare at me. A flurry of different emotions passed though his face. He settled on anger, it seemed.

He paid the bill and marched outside, not even waiting for me to follow. But I did.

I kept my head down, embarrassed that I couldn't keep my fucking mouth shut. I couldn't look at him. I could feel the waves of his anger flowing from him.

"What did you expect me to do, Bella?" He shouted, turning towards me suddenly, making me halt in place and snap my eyes to his.

"What do you..."

"No! Don't 'what do you mean' me! You shut me down, Bella! That day at the train station. You shut me down, and then you shut me out. I couldn't make heads or tails of what you wanted from me."

I couldn't speak. This version of Edward was magnificent. He'd changed. He wasn't the boy I loved anymore. Now he was the man I could never deny I loved. So I stood there... and took it all. I deserved it. I felt my eyes water.

Edward seemed to be trying to calm himself, tugging at his hair as he paced and took deep breaths. There was so much I wanted to say. I couldn't tell him now. He had someone. I'd only fuck things up for him by complicating everything with my shit.

"Does she make you happy?" I whispered.

He stopped pacing, his eyes piercing my heart.

"She's a good person."

I nodded and wiped a stray tear. "I just want you to be happy."

WIth that, I walked small, cautious steps towards him and he didn't hesitate before embracing me. His warmth engulfed me and I felt like I was exactly where I belonged. I inhaled all I could of him, burying my nose against his chest. When I pulled away, his face was distractingly close to mine, a breath away.

His lips inched so close I could taste his air. Then they were brushing mine so lightly, I almost didn't believe it was really happening.

Time stopped. Breathing... stopped.

But before it could register, I felt the cold.

"I... I'm sorry... I can't..." He stuttered, moving away from me as he spoke, looking anywhere but at me. My world crumbled.

"Of course. I'm sorry. It's been a long couple of days. Just drop me off, please."

We drove in tense silence again.

I wanted to explode.

After an uneventful afternoon following that completely fucked up morning, I pretty much went on autopilot. He never called or texted me, and I certainly didn't contact him. I wanted to throw up I was so scared of losing him completely, but I couldn't find the courage to face him and tell him what was really going on. He had a life now . . . and a girlfriend. I had nothing. I missed my chance.

The day before I left to go back to New York, I called Alice to wish her a Happy New Year and tell her that she was welcome to visit me anytime.

"I'd love to. Hey, what happened with you and Edward?"

"Allie, it's complicated."

"Okay. It's just that he's been a total shit this last week. He wouldn't talk to me and just mumbled something about you and things being fucked up, but I rally couldn't catch all of it. And, Bella, you know how rare it is to hear him say the F-bomb. He's been a big emo brat since then. And when I told him maybe he should just give Jane a booty call to feel better, I heard something crash against the wall or something..."

As I listened to Allie prattling on about what went down a little part of me thought about what the all meant. Was he angry at me? Did he care more than he let on? Did he just want me out of his life completely?

That last thought made me pause.

Look at what I managed to do to him in such a short amount of time. Maybe I really wasn't good for him. I decided right then and there... I'd stay away.

I finished my phone call with Allie, staying as vague as possible about things with her brother, and returned to the life that was waiting for me... without Edward.

Only one text came in right before my plane took off. My heart nearly beat out of my chest.

Safe trip. I'll miss you.

I hadn't noticed I was crying until a drop splashed onto the phone's screen.

...

Summer 2011

As much as I promised myself I'd move on and live my life without Edward in it, I always found myself thinking about him at odd times of the day. Anything could set it off, really. I'd see a book he used to read at a bookstore, or hear someone talking about doing graduate work at Dartmouth. I thought about what he was doing. If he'd married Jane. The thought made me involuntarily shudder.

I'd graduated a summer before and was currently interning at one of the best publishing houses in New York. I made a home here. I felt happy... somewhat.

My love life was a blip on my radar. I'd gone on a few dates, had been involved in one semi-serious relationship with a good guy. It just never clicked.

I blamed my work ethic and school taking priority, but the truth was I just couldn't open my heart to anyone.

I couldn't even let Edward in, and I loved him. I always would.

Edward and I exchanged safe texts the last two years. I felt the distance between us and it pained me to think of how we arrived at this point- once inseparable best friends, now nothing more than simple acquaintances. Or at least, that's what I pretended to be. I knew better. Nothing could ever be simple with my feelings for Edward.

I was a train wreck.

Allie had finally decided to visit. She was taking some time off after graduation and accepted the offer to stay with me. The two of us chatted on the phone making last minute travel plans before the conversation veered to Edward, as it somehow always did.

"So how is he, Allie?"

"He's doing pretty well. He applied to a bunch of medical schools, and he had a couple of acceptance letters already, so he's just weighing out his options."

"What are his options?"

"Well, John Hopkins wants him bad. So does Columbia."

"Columbia? Like here? In the city?"

"Yeah, I say he needs to move to New York. I mean, he already knows you, so he won't be completely alone..."

"Wait, wait, Allie. What about Jane? Doesn't she have a say in this?"

There was a short pause, something unheard of when talking to Alice Cullen.

"Bella, he broke it off with that idiot a long time ago. After that Christmas we were all together, actually. I thought you knew..." she trailed off.

I couldn't focus at that moment. All thoughts were swimming around my head, trying to sort themselves in some logical order. Questions littered my mind.

"No. No I didn't know. He never told me."

Why didn't he tell me?

"Oh." Allie paused again before the sound of realization changed the tone of her voice."

"Bella, can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Did something happen between my brother and you? I mean, I know he always had a thing for you, and I could've sworn you had a thing for him. too."

"Um. That's hard to answer."

"No it's not. It's quite simple, really. I know my brother, even if he pretty much keeps to himself most of the time. He was happiest when he was with you. And I gotta tell you, girl, you've been different ever since that Christmas. You're not the happy, smart ass chick you were..."

"I'm a grown-up now, Allie..."

"Oh, shut up. Don't give me that shit, Bella. Being grown-up doesn't mean you have to be miserable and serious. And let me tell you, B, I can see how much you guys miss each other. I just thought maybe you guys just missed being around each other, but I knew Edward always had a thing for you. Knowing him, he was probably too noble to say anything..."

"He did... kind of... say something though..." I mumbled.

"What? When?"

"Back when we were leaving for college. At the train station."

"What did he say?"

"He didn't. He wanted to say something, and I stopped him..."

"WHAT! Bella! What the fuck?"

"I know, I know! Allie, it was a weird time. I couldn't do it! We were both going in different directions. What good would it have done? A long distance relationship? Really? I couldn't risk losing him..."

"But you ended up losing him anyway, right?"

"Um... well..."

"What? Tell me." Now she sounded upset.

"Christmas. That year... when he brought Jane..."

"What..."

"He got angry. We went to eat something and afterwards he got upset that I wasn't being straight with him... And he's right. I was completely jealous, and it showed."

"Oh, Bella..."

"And we almost kissed..." It pained me to relive the memory. I'd wanted so badly for him to kiss me that day.

"Almost? What happened?"

"He pushed me away, Allie. He said no. And he was right. I had no right to change my mind at that point. So... I let him go."

"Both of you are dense."

"What?"

"You both suck. You're both whiney assholes. Trying to be martyrs for each other. Shit. I'm so pissed at the both of you. Do you know he was thinking of not coming to New York because he thought you wouldn't wanna see him?"

"What? What are you talking about?" My head spun.

"Can you do me a favor and talk to him? I'm not gonna be the middle person here. You two are grown adults, and I just want to see you two happy again. So go! Get off the phone with me and talk to him, Bella."

"But..."

She hung up on me. Bitch just hung up on me.

She had a point, though.

After about an hour of trying to organize my feelings I shook off the nerves and decided to send him a text. At least it was something we were used to.

Hey. Thinking about you. Hope all is well.

There. Innocuous enough.

A response came almost immediately.

Hey. I'm ok. I miss you too.

What are you up to?

God, I'm a teenager again.

Researching.

Oh. I'm sorry. You're probably busy. I'll leave you alone.

Incoming call: Edward.

Shit. He was calling me.

"Hello?"

"I don't want you to leave me alone."

I missed his voice so much.

"Oh, okay. Well, what are you researching?"

"Schools."

"Oh, Allie told me you got accepted to a bunch of them. Congrats."

"Thanks. But I'm just looking at two right now."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. John Hopkins and, um... Columbia." He sounded insecure and shy. The Edward I remembered from so long ago.

"I'd go with Columbia," I blurted out.

"Uh... You think so? I... yeah. I like Columbia's program a lot more..."

"You'd be close to me." Damn it. I tried to keep it together, but I could hear the desperation in my own voice.

"I thought... I don't know... maybe you didn't want me around."

"I always want you around." No truer words could ever be spoken.

"That's... that's good to know." I heard the relief in his voice. A smile crept on my face and suddenly hope dared to bloom in my heart.

"Hey. Maybe you could come to the city. You know Allie's gonna be here in like three days. It would be good to see you." I swallowed hard.

"I'd really like that."

"Great! I can't wait to see you, Edward."

"I can't wait to see you either, Bella."

"Okay. Well, let me know what time you'll be in, and we'll meet you."

"Okay. See you then."

"See you then."

...

The next day was a half-day at work, so I took advantage of the clear blue skies and made my way to the park. Days like this helped keep me sane, I thought as I watched the scene before me, bustling with life. A blanket, a sandwich, and a good book under a tree. Perfect.

I had been reading for about an hour before I decided to stretch and take in my surroundings. Parents threw baseballs and footballs with their kids, dog owners tossed frisbees for their fur babies to catch, runners jogged along the path, having to circumvent around Edward...

Wait... Edward?

"Edward?"

I was officially going insane. It was a mirage, swore it. But no. He stood there, no more that thirty feet away from me.

"Bella," he said, jogging towards me. My heart pounded loudly in my ears. I wanted to run to him, but I was stunned. Paralyzed. He was beautiful.

Jeans, v-neck teeshirt, wild hair made blazing bronze in the sun, and...

He wore his glasses. He was heaven.

"Edward, what are you doing..."

"I caught an early train," he said, out of breath. His eyes shone bright and pure green.

"But, why? Why would you do that? I would've picked you up, why didn't you call me?"

"I wanted to surprise you." He suddenly looked unsure.

"You did. You really did." And with that I threw my arms around his neck. He smelled so, so good as I nuzzled my nose against him. His arms wrapped around me tightly as he nuzzled me the same way. I could stay glued together like this for an eternity.

When he finally released me our eyes met, silently speaking words we couldn't articulate. Then, he uttered the words that opened the floodgates.

"I broke up Jane. After Christmas. I just couldn't..."

"I know."

He stared at me, surprised.

"Allie. She told me yesterday. And Edward, I'm not with anyone either."

"I know."

It was my turn to look confused. Edward smiled shyly.

We both answered together.

"Allie."

After sharing a laugh, we turned serious again as his eyes found mine. He saw me. He was the only one who knew me.

"Bella. I have been in love with you since were fifteen. I know maybe you..."

My lips stopped him from continuing. I didn't need to hear anything else.

His lips stayed frozen at first, but when my tongue swept over them and my hands tangled themselves in his hair, things changed in an instant.

His tongue met mine, and I heard a low groan rumble from his chest. His hands were everywhere- their warmth spreading all over my back and neck. He pulled me closer to him until we were connected from top to bottom. His arms. That's where I belonged.

"Bella, I... Jesus..."

"I love you, Edward. I was so afraid..." I began, our foreheads connected, our lips inches apart.

"Afraid of what?"

"Afraid of losing our friendship... I couldn't lose you." I was on the verge of tears.

"You could never lose me. I told you you would always be my Bella. There will never be anyone for me but you. Never." He kissed me again. This time the fire between us bloomed hotter, and I could feel how much he wanted me against my stomach.

I wanted him. Enough waiting. He must've had the same idea.

"Could we go? I really don't want to make a scene in front of these good people," he said before we both looked around and noticed a few passersby staring We giggled and I nodded, and before I knew it Edward had picked up my stuff. Not wanting to waste another moment, we quickly hailed a cab to my apartment.

His hands roamed all over my face, jaw, and neck as we made out in the back seat of the cab. We were apparently making up for lost time in high school.

Reaching my apartment, we practically fell several times climbing the stairs. Our lips were locked and we couldn't be bothered with seeing where we were going, but somehow I guided us to my door. Fumbling for the keys while he kissed me and tightly grabbed at my waist was quite a challenge, but when I finally opened the door we stumbled in. He quickly pressed me up against the closed door and assaulted my senses with his mouth, lips and hands. He pressed his hardness against me and I moaned. I had to get him to my bed, though, so I broke away reluctantly.

"Hey, come over here," I whispered against his lips. He nodded before stepping away slightly, allowing me to guide him. When the back of my legs touched the edge of the bed he smiled, his eyes taking me in.

"I can't believe you're here," I said.

"I can't believe I'm here either. Bella, this is not about sex though, you know that, right?" He caressed my cheek with the back of his hand.

"I know that. But we've spent years being stupid when we could've been together, and I don't want to waste any more time." And with that I leaned forward and kissed him, putting all insecurities to rest.

We were a flurry of hands unbuttoning, unzipping, unclasping. With my shirt and bra discarded, his hands pulled me close, the feeling of his naked chest against mine spreading want and desire through me like nothing I'd ever felt before. His hands and body gently pushed me down onto the bed, his body immediately hovering over mine.

He looked down at my breasts with his mouth agape. I giggled before his eyes snapped to mine. His expression turned from dazed to mischievous as he started to tickle my sides. We burst out in fits of laughter and it was so good to be able to laugh with him again.

But soon, all laughter ceased when his body pressed against mine, sending jolts of heat through me.

Now, we were serious. The weight of what was about to happen heavy as he lowered himself again, leaning down to kiss me.

Everything was slower this time, neither of us wanting it to end.

His lips traveled down my chin to my neck, grazing all the way to my ear.

"I love you, Bella." The sound and feel of his breath made my skin break out in delicious goosebumps.

"I love you so much, Edward. I loved you from the day we met. I'm sorry it took me so long to say it and to show you."

"Shh. Nothing but the past now."

Edward continued his exploration with his mouth and hands, moving down between my breasts. His hand finally brushed against my nipple, making me gasp and buckle my hips up against his hardness. My hands traveled up and down his toned back before I dipped on hand around his hip and skimmed his erection.

He faltered and clamped his lips around my nipple.

His cock was hot and smooth as I wrapped my hand around him and slowly pumped once. His hips pushed against me and pushed my legs apart. I quickly wrapped my legs around his waist, bringing him closer to where I wanted him most.

"Oh God, Bella," he choked out when he felt me. His hand snaked down my stomach and touched me where I was wet and waiting.

"You're so wet... so warm," he said against my lips while his fingers gently massaged me up and down before entering me. He pushed in and out slowly until I couldn't take anymore.

"Edward, please. Just... Please. I want you."

His eyes were fiercely dark green, sparkling and pleading.

"Bella, I don't..."

"Pill..." I said quickly, already understanding his hesitation.

He nodded silently, pulling his fingers out of me and settling his body against mine. I felt him... right there.

He pushed into me until we were connected completely, skin against skin, soul to soul.

He gasped and froze. His eyes were shut tight, his forearms framing either side of my face.

"Edward. Sweetie... move... move in me," I panted. My hand lifted to brush sweaty strands of hair away from his face. He leaned into my hand before kissing the inside of my palm.

"I will. I'm just... If I move now... I won't last long... It's too good. You feel too good."

But there was only so much waiting he could do before his body automatically started to move against mine. It was very slow at first, as if he was memorizing every feel, every touch, every inch of me. His eyes never left mine.

When he started to speed up his movements, my hips moved in sync. He felt amazing inside me, and all the emotions and love I felt at that moment were almost too much for me.

We both panted, teetering on the cliff into ecstasy, as his hand grabbed my thigh, pushing it higher against his shoulder.

"Oh... Oh Bella... I'm close... I can't..."

His hand suddenly found its way to where we were joined and, as his lips crashed into mine, his finger pushed tight circles against my clit.

"Shit!" Oh fuck!" The words erupted out of me when seconds later my orgasm sent me into a euphoric free-fall that took my breath away. I grabbed his hair, pulling him towards me, our lips fused together as I moaned into his mouth.

His grip tightened as he continued to pump into erratically, until he buried his head into my neck and shoulder, sucking on my sensitive skin. His movements stopped suddenly as he spilled into me, his orgasm ripping through him violently.

"Fuck! Oh Jesus, Bella. Oh God..."

I held onto him for dear life as he came down, the weight of his body heavy and perfect.

Minutes passed in silence while our breathing calmed. My arm stretched blindly in search of his hair, and when it reached its destination, Edward took it and brought it to his lips. He pulled me towards him until I was cradled in his arms, my head resting on his chest as I inhaled the perfect smell of sweat and sex. My fingers drew patterns through his chest hair and he kissed the top of my head.

We stayed this way for a while, reveling in each other's warmth and love. When I felt myself about to dose off, I heard his voice.

"I'm not going anywhere now, you know."

I smiled into his chest.

"I'm afraid you're stuck with me," I whispered.

"Good. I'm moving to New York."

"You better be."

"I love you."

"I love the sound of that. I love you too."

I felt Edward lean towards the clock to check the time.

"It's about three. Do you need to be anywhere?"

I looked up, resting my chin on his chest.

"In your arms is where I need to be... always."

He smiled down at me, as I leaned up to kiss him, he whispered.

"I'm never letting go."