A/N: This was my submission in "For the Love of a Man in Uniform" Contest. I didn't win anything, unfortunately. However, it was so fun! To check out other stories in the contest, there's a link on my profile page.
Thanks a lot to my wonderful beta, hmmille!
The lovely ashes at midnight made me a wonderful banner for this story! You can see it on my blog (link on profile page). Thank you, darling!
"For the Love of a Man in Uniform" O/S Contest
Title: Ice Cream and Rain
Word Count: 4,462
Summary: Things were perfect until Edward's bravery and patriotism made him join the army. Now, a year after he left, Bella has lost all touch with him and believes that he's dead. Then why is she so anxious when there's a knock at her door in the morning?
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and the plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
I suddenly opened my eyes, extremely frightened, although I had no reason to be. I rolled over, turning onto my side and looked at the alarm clock. It read 3:54 AM. Breathless and shaking, a cold sweat quickly spread all over my body.
I needed more time to truly wake up. Had it been just a dream, when everything felt so real? I was still able to hear that smooth voice, to see that light-hearted smile, to feel that electrifying touch. I didn't know if it had been a nightmare or one of the most beautiful dreams ever.
One year had passed, but it was still so painful.
I began silently weeping as the memories flooded me and the tears turned into gut wrenching sobs. Salty tears freely flowed down my face, just like the rain that fell outside.
I hated sleeping alone, the other side of the bed always cold and unoccupied.
I hated not having someone to tell me stupid little things that would make my day better.
I hated always coming back to an empty house.
I hated cooking just for myself.
I hated not having to clean up after someone.
Oh, how much I hated being alone and how much I missed him!
I missed his comforting touch.
I missed his bone-crushing bear hugs.
I missed the way we anticipated each other's needs with only a glance or a touch.
I missed the gleam in his eyes whenever he liked something.
I missed his crooked smile.
I missed the smell of burned bacon and the mess in the kitchen whenever he tried to cook.
I missed the adorable look on his face and the same mess when he did succeed cooking, just like a child that had received a huge amount of sweets.
I missed listening to my personal Mozart playing his own music.
I missed seeing him wearing that stupid, pink t-shirt that I used to make fun of and that I have been sleeping in almost every night since then.
I missed staying in bed, cuddling and eating tons of ice cream while the rain poured down outside.
I just missed him.
I hugged a pillow, pretending it was him, curled up under the blanket and cried for hours. Hours that seemed like days. I wanted the pain to be over. I wanted him to come back to me. I wanted the last months to be just a nightmare.
I jumped startled when my alarm clock rang – had the time passed so fast? I threw away the pillow. It hit the wall and fell with a quiet thud on the floor. I slowly opened my swollen eyes, noticing that a ray of sunshine was making its way through my large bedroom windows. He had always liked those windows and the way rain washed them.
I turned off my alarm clock, suddenly deciding a day off school would be marvellous. I rolled over and tried to get some peaceful sleep, in spite of knowing it would be impossible – I'd just dream of him again and by the end of the day I would be on an emotional rollercoaster.
I closed my tired eyes, remembering how everything had begun.
I was in my junior year, my first year of school in Forks. Charlie, my father, had lived in this town his entire life. He met my mom, Renée, during high-school. They soon fell in love and just after graduating, they married and had a child – me. However, Renée had never been the kind of person who just sat around doing nothing, just waiting for something, for anything, so she got bored very quickly.
She wanted another life, one more exciting, more eventful, not just through the gossip of some people living in a rainy little city. Although she loved my father, she decided to leave him when I was still a baby, taking me with her, and searching for something else.
Since then, I have seen Charlie only once a year, in the summer holidays, for about two or three weeks. For me, it was extremely boring. For him, it was extremely fun – we would go out fishing with his friend, Billy. The only interesting part was when Jake, Billy's son and my best and only friend in Forks in those times, would be there too.
When I was sixteen, Renée decided photography was the best way of spending her spare time. While I was wondering how much time she needed until she gave up on it, one night she came home telling me she had met this interesting young man, Phil, a baseball player.
I didn't think it would last longer than a couple of weeks, but I was proven wrong. By the end of the year, I was assisting at their wedding.
After their honeymoon, Phil had to leave to play and Renée stayed at home, with me. Although she never mentioned it, I knew she missed him a lot, so I decided that I'd go and live with Charlie, in Forks.
My first day of school in Forks, a surprisingly sunny September day, wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, especially because I met Edward. As I walked into the Chemistry lab, running late because I hadn't been able to find the damned classroom, all students' eyes remained glued on me, like always when there was a new student. As I searched for an empty spot in the almost full classroom, I saw him.
He had yet to sit down, for some unknown reason, and I admired his beauty. Tall, lean, with honey-coloured messy hair and an angelic face, he stared at me until he saw that I'd noticed him. That was when he turned his head, muttering something and blushing redder than a tomato.
"Mr. Cullen, please have a seat. Oh, Ms. Swan, yes. Welcome. From what I can tell, from now on, you will be Mr. Cullen's lab partner. Have a seat. "
Of course, where in the whole world could I be sitting but next to him? On the one hand, I was happy, because he was gorgeous and maybe, just maybe there was a chance we could...know each other better or some other cliché.
However, on the other hand, I was extremely frightened. I knew I wasn't ugly, but I couldn't say I was beautiful either and from what I'd seen, there were many beautiful girls in there.
Of course, beauty did not always imply intelligence, but for most people that didn't matter – all that mattered was having great looks. Why would he be the exception to that 'rule'?
"Hurry up, Ms. Swan, we are already running late. Have a seat," the teacher sort-of barked, scaring me. I shyly, slowly made my way towards my lab partner, paying almost too much attention to my best friend, the floor.
Finally I got to my seat and sat down, trying to look only at the teacher, but failing miserably.
"He does have a problem with telling us to sit down, you know. Um, I'm Edward Cullen," my lab partner (oh, dear, I liked how it sounded way too much!) said in a low, attractive voice.
"Isabella Swan, but you can call me Bella. Nice to meet you," I replied. I mentally slapped myself hard – way to ruin it, Bella! 'Nice to meet you'? Was he your boss or something?
Nevertheless, he showed me a toothy grin and looked me in the eye for the first time, taking my breath away. He had a pair of forest green eyes that astonished me and I kept looking at him while my mouth probably hung open, making me look even more like an idiot.
"Nice to meet you too, Bella," he said, chuckling, then turned his head to look at the teacher.
Wonderful – in my first day I meet a nice guy and I have to ruin it all from the very first second. Isn't that just lovely?
I tried to stop thinking about Edward, even though I was much too close to him. Instead, I focused on Mister "Have a seat", as I decided to name the annoying teacher, even though it was a rather hard thing to do – despite the fact we were in an advanced class, there wasn't anything advanced in the lesson.
Finally, the bell rang and I rose, stuffing my books into my bag at a slow pace and trying very hard not to look at the place Edward occupied just seconds ago. Maybe he had already left by the time I was done and spared me some awkward moments that would get me even more embarrassed.
As I put my bag on my shoulder, I heard that beautiful voice again. 'Hey, um, I was... you know, I was wondering if I could help you, um, find your way to your next class. Um, of course, only if you want me to... I just...' he started stuttering. I turned around to look at him, noticing the same cute blush spreading all over his cheeks.
"Well, sorry but..." I started, smiling, when he interrupted me.
"Never mind. Bad idea, Cullen, bad idea," he began muttering to himself and tried to leave.
Oh, why doesn't he listen?
"Wait! I mean, I'd love to, but, you see, it was the last class," I told him and he became even redder.
"Oh, I guess I forgot about that... maybe I could show you the way to the parking lot?" Edward asked again.
Gosh, he's adorable!
Maybe you didn't mess up and he likes you, even a bit? Why else would he be so nice to you? my inner voice whispered, but I couldn't believe this.
Maybe he's always so willing to help people, I argued with her, then reminded myself Edward was still waiting for my answer.
"Um, it would be great! I mean, yes, if you don't mind..." Stupid Bella, stupid!
You're not going to be one of those girls that throw themselves at every guy that happens to pass by! the same inner voice screamed at me.
I ignored her and started walking towards the parking lot, next to the green-eyed boy I had just met.
The following days, at school, we spent almost all of our time together, talking about everything and nothing. In a week, he was already asking, blushing as always, if we could spend an afternoon together.
I accepted, giddy at the thought, but I didn't let it show. What if he was just playing with me? However, that option did not seem plausible – he just wasn't that kind of guy.
He was supposed to come and take me from my house at 3 PM. At 3:30 he wasn't there yet, so I just supposed that I had been wrong about him and that he was that kind of guy. When I wanted to go upstairs in my bedroom and possibly cry for a few hours, the doorbell rang.
I went to the front door and opened it. There was Edward, standing in the pouring rain, completely soaked, but with gleaming eyes and his crooked smile. "Sorry I'm a bit late. I was quite busy and couldn't make it earlier," he apologised, but I kept staring at him, not believing he was there.
"So, I guess thirty minutes was all you needed in order to forget me? Oh, well, and I hoped I would get the chance to eat some ice cream with you..." he continued, flashing the bag in his hand, making me laugh.
After a few days, we went on a real date, with clichés and everything from him taking me from Charlie and giving me roses to taking me to a movie and dinner.
That night, after we left the restaurant, we decided to walk into the park and enjoy the lovely weather. While we were lying down on the grass, Edward told me how much he loved our country and that he would love to serve it as a soldier.
He also said that his parents didn't agree, but there wasn't much they could do. After all, it was his choice and they love him too much to try to do something pretending it was for his sake.
I listened to him carefully, even though I didn't understand for what reason he was telling me all that. It was interesting, but still... out of the blue! Nevertheless, I let it go and didn't ask him anything.
"You know, there wouldn't be a real date without this," Edward said, soon after 'the army talk', confusing me.
"I wanted you to know about my desire to be a soldier because I thought you had the right to know about this before we got more involved. I... really like you, Bella, more than you can imagine. And... I would love to... be with you," he continued, saying all this in one breath and turning on his side to see me better.
To say I was shocked would be the understatement of the year. Of course, I knew he liked me, otherwise he wouldn't have been spending so much time with me, but I had never thought he liked me more than a friend. Just thinking about it made me high and I wanted to tell him how much I liked him too.
However, I remembered I had read in one of Renée's magazines that 'you shouldn't let a guy notice how much you like him or he would think you're desperate and obsessed'.
Then what should I tell him?
I quickly realised I had been lost in my thoughts and I still hadn't answered him. When I looked at him, I noticed that he was nervously fiddling with his long fingers, his cheeks the same shade of red that he had on the first day of school.
Oh, screw the magazines!
"I'd also love to be with you, Edward. I like you a lot," I sincerely told him.
He smiled, came closer to me and put his hands on my face, his fingers stroking my cheek. His lips were slightly parted, his breath washing all over my face.
I was quite afraid of what was about to happen, considering it was going to be my first kiss.
What if my breath smells? What if he thinks I'm gross? What if he doesn't like it? What if...
Oh, shut up and enjoy it!
When his soft lips touched mine, I closed my eyes and felt as my body was invaded of millions of sparks and I was flying. It ended after just a few seconds, but it was one of the best moments of my life. I could feel Edward smiling against my lips and I also smiled. It was perfect.
After that moment, things evolved rather quickly between us, even though many people disagreed with our relationship. There were the most insignificant ones, the gossiping girls at school, then Charlie and finally Renée.
Charlie thought that I was too young to have a boyfriend – in his mind I was still the ten year old kid that came to visit him in the summer. As for Renée, she simply didn't want me to get disappointed.
Of course, things got somewhat worse when we announced we wanted to marry just after graduating.
Both of my parents saw themselves in us and they didn't want us to end up the same way. But in the end, they agreed wholeheartedly. However, there were also Esme and Carlisle, Edward's parents, who were very supportive of us. Also, there were Edward's sister, my best friend Alice and his brother, Emmett. Of course, they had already found their "love of their life", in Jasper and Rosalie.
They were like another family and I knew they also cared about me.
After our intimate wedding, despite Alice and Esme's desires, and our equally intimate honeymoon, I went to college with Edward. Dartmouth. I didn't have enough money for it, but Edward found a way to convince me to let him pay for everything.
Needless to say, Edward hadn't forgotten about his dream of being a soldier and defending our country, so he didn't apply. His plan was to spend a year with me, then join the army.
That way, a little over a year after our wedding, Edward's family and I had to say good-bye and watch him go.
He promised he'd write us letters and he said he loved us. None of us cried when we said farewell. Edward because we were in a public space and he liked to keep his mask on, and us because we wanted to be strong for him.
Nevertheless, after we saw him walk away, each and every one of us was crushed, not being able to keep up the brave façade.
Although we all knew that being a soldier was one of the most courageous things to do, it was also extremely dangerous. Many people never came back to their beloved ones while serving their country. I didn't want him to become one of those unfortunate souls.
Until February, Edward and I wrote letters to each other and I knew he also kept in touch with the rest of our family. We even got the chance to make a few short phone calls, which made me smile for days.
However, in March, the last letter I had sent him was returned to me. During a conversation with Esme and Carlisle, I found out the same thing happened to their letter. Alice, always the optimistic one, kept saying that maybe they had to leave the area and there was no way we could be in touch, that he surely was alive.
But she didn't fool anyone, not even herself.
A couple of weeks after our letters were returned, I received a call from a number I did not recognise. As I answered, my thoughts flew to Edward and I prayed it wasn't something bad. Still, a cold, emotionless voice formally informed me that Edward Anthony Cullen was nowhere to be found and that he was most likely dead.
The woman kept talking, but I couldn't pay attention to her words. I replied robotically, not knowing any of what she was saying. I could only hear the lady's previous dreadful words. It couldn't be true, could it?
He just can't be dead! He'll come back, I know it!
Since then, each and every member of our family had tried to be strong and hopeful for the other ones, but at times it was so hard and painful! None of us knew anything about Edward, but we had to remain positive, because, after all, it wasn't like his body had been found.
God, I hated thinking about this!
I was awoken from my daydreaming when somebody knocked rather loudly at the door. I remained for a few more seconds in the bed, trying to remember if somebody had announced that they would visit me, but my mind was blank.
Who in the world could be here at this hour? I wondered.
Nevertheless, I reluctantly rose from bed and slowly walked downstairs, towards my front door, with my heart pounding, despite the fact there was absolutely no rational reason for it.
I realised the last time I felt something like this was three years ago, when I was waiting for Edward. I suddenly understood the meaning of the word déjà-vu – everything was way too familiar... maybe...
No, you cannot allow yourself to hope! You'll just end up being disappointed!
With these thoughts in my mind, I hesitated for a few seconds before opening the wooden door. However, the moment I saw who was waiting at my doorstep, I thought I was still dreaming and would probably wake up much too soon.
I just couldn't believe what I was seeing; I couldn't believe that there was Edward. My mind went blank for more than a few seconds and I gaped at him, with red puffy eyes wide open and a slack jaw. I didn't know what to do, what to say, what to think.
He suddenly chuckled, also staring at me, and said "Sorry I'm a bit late. I was quite busy and couldn't make it earlier."
When I didn't answer, he continued "So, I guess a year was all you needed in order to forget me? Oh, well. I hoped I would get the chance to eat some ice cream with you..."
I was still gawking, but quickly recovered. I stood still for a couple of seconds and then began laughing so hard that my body hurt. I just couldn't believe he remembered! He was taken aback by my reaction, looking slightly surprised, but then also began laughing.
"So, are you going to let me inside the house, or do you need some time to tell your lover to leave? I see you're already wearing his clothes," he laughed, making me blush. I'd forgotten I was wearing his t-shirt and I went like that to open the door.
"C'mon, what do you say? I'd like to have a shower, eat, maybe, just maybe be with you," he suggested, laughing. I playfully smacked his shoulder and shoved him inside, or at least tried to – he was too strong for me.
He feigned he was hurt by my inappropriate behaviour and walked inside the house, pouting and ignoring me.
After I closed the door, I walked into the kitchen, where Edward probably was, shoving food into his mouth. Sometimes I wondered if he knew what it tasted like before swallowing it. However, he was just standing with his back to me, looking out the window.
I had never been graceful, so he must've heard me coming, but he didn't turn around until I was right behind him.
There was sorrow and love in his charming eyes, which were shining with unshed tears and he immediately crushed me in his strong arms.
I could feel his body shaking and something wet touched my hair. I hugged him back as tight as I could, while trying so hard to stop myself from crying.
I needed to be strong for him. Who knew what kind of horrible things he had seen during the mission. I was more than grateful for getting him back, safe and sane.
After a time, it might have been minutes or even days, I wasn't able to tell, he let go of me to look at me.
"You know how much I love you, don't you?" he softly asked in a strangled voice, stroking my cheek. I was wordless, too distracted by his touch, so I just nodded.
He kissed me slowly, gently putting me over his shoulder and carried me upstairs. We had a shower together and then he took me into the bedroom. We had also missed that aspect of our life. He made me remember how good everything felt; every caress, every look, every kiss was reconnecting us, making our link stronger and stronger.
After a while, Edward was spooning me, playing with my hair. "I love you," he whispered almost too quietly for me to hear and he placed a soft kiss on the top of my head.
"I love you too, darling," I replied, and then I suddenly began crying. I didn't know why, but he must've expected it, because he just embraced me tighter, hushing me like a baby. I couldn't be strong anymore, I just needed to let it all out.
I fell asleep crying in his arms. When I woke up, it was evening and Edward was staring at me while playing with my hair, the same crooked smile on his face. I smiled too, but our moment was interrupted by our stomachs growling loudly at the same time – I hadn't eaten since the previous evening, not to mention Edward probably hadn't had anything for even longer.
"Shall we, my lady?" he asked with a serious face, making me laugh. Of course, he didn't even wait for my answer and proceeded to take me into the kitchen.
Later on, while we were eating, Edward began to tell me what he had done while everybody thought he was dead. Apparently he had been hurt while on an extremely dangerous mission, making his colleagues think that he had lost his life, not to mention that they couldn't search for him on the enemy's territory.
He was there for a couple of days, trapped underneath some ruins, unable to get up or to scream. In the end, he was very lucky to be found by some peaceful people that cared for him. He hadn't been able to return any sooner, his health wouldn't allow it.
"You know, it seems almost impossible to be this lucky. I would have been dead if other people found me, not to mention they helped me get back too. Oh, and I have some good news," he smirked at me.
"What?" I asked. What indeed could be better than having him back home?
"Well... it was my first and last mission, darling," he announced me.
My mouth hung open for a few moments, eyes almost out of my orbs, making Edward chuckle.
What did he just say? He couldn't be serious, could he?
"Yes, sweetie, I am quite serious. And I thought you'd be happy about it... eh, never mind," he said, putting on a devastated face, obviously mocking me.
I didn't mean it that way! Everything's just... too beautiful to be true!
Did I think out loud again?
"Yes, honey, you always do. You know, you wouldn't be a good undercover agent. You can't keep a secret," Edward said while trying not to fall off his chair because of his laughter.
"Shut up," I intelligently replied, although it was useless.
"Oh, you know we'll have to go to your family's house tomorrow morning, don't you? I bet they'll love seeing you," I said, changing the subject.
"Yeah... I can't wait to see them! They were the only ones I missed, you know," he teased.
"Screw you!" Another clever comeback – good job, Bella!
"With pleasure," he chuckled.
I gave up.
I love you, Edward!
"Love you too, darling!" he smiled, shaking his head.
"Oh, and do you have some ice-cream?" Edward asked, pouting like a child.
I loved seeing him like that. I knew that he had lived some painful things, that probably changed him, but it was nice to watch the teenager I fell for three years ago, in that Chemistry lab.
I also knew there were many things we had to talk about and many things to do. Some were going to be hard and painful for both of us, but it didn't really matter, as long as we had some ice cream to eat while it rained.
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