I don't own these characters. They are the sole property of Stephenie Meyer. I only borrow them. No humans are permanently harmed through my actions, though I do confess to harassing, annoying, torturing, and exasperating them – just because it's fun. I make no money from my little stories, sad day. I only play in the sandbox, I didn't build it.

Author's Note: This is a very short story and is really just an expansion of a one-shot I wrote a while back. I just wanted to flesh it out a bit and see what happened. Sometimes when I get writer's block, it helps to work on something completely different. :p I like to use guerilla warfare tactics on my muse.

By Just This Much

"Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable." ~Bruce Lee

Chapter One: The Worries and Trials of Isabella Swan

Isabella Swan was a little girl with a lot on her mind on her first day of kindergarten. She worried about losing her lunch box. She worried about not making it to the bathroom in time if she had to pee, even though she hadn't wet her pants in more than a year – even during naptime. She worried that her mommy would forget to pick her up on time and she would end up spending the night on the steps of the school and everyone would laugh at her when they got to school the next morning. And it would rain all night so she would catch a cold and have to go to the doctor, which she hated because there were usually shots involved. She worried about writing her whole name on the paper. Even though she and her mother had practiced it over and over again this summer, her name was very long and it was easy to forget some letters when there were so many of them. And if she forgot some letters the teacher would think she was stupid and Isabella's mother and father would be so upset with their stupid little girl that they might not let her have that Strawberry Shortcake birthday party they had promised.

She felt a sharp tug on her hair and turned around to stare at the offender. A little boy with messy hair and a big grin beamed back at her. Isabella frowned at him, but he didn't seem impressed, even when she put her eyebrows together like her daddy did when she had done something naughty. The boy's smile just got bigger.

Carefully rearranging her hair over her shoulder, she gave the boy one last frown and turned around to face the front of the classroom just like Mrs. Roberts said they were supposed to. The boy giggled behind her. Isabella decided to ignore him.

Boys... ugh.

~~~~This Much~~~~~

Isabella decided that she liked recess. The teacher let them play on the swings and the slide and the monkey bars. Isabella even made a new friend, whose name was Angela. The boy who had pulled her hair tried to look up her dress while she was on the monkey bars. She stuck out at her tongue at him but he only laughed.


~~~~~~This Much~~~~~~

Their teacher let them eat lunch outside because it was a rare and sunny day in Forks. She was chatting with Angela and they were discussing which Barbie they liked best and if chocolate cake with white icing or chocolate cake with chocolate icing was better. Isabella thought you could never have too much chocolate. Then she felt a sharp tug on her hair. Again.

"You're a doo-doo head," a voice sang out behind her. And everybody laughed. At her. Isabella hung her head and was about to cry.

But then Isabella got mad instead of sad. So she hopped off the bench, gave the boy a good kick in the shins and called him stinky. He stuck his tongue out at her and stalked away, sulking in his seat just a few places down, casting glances at her from beneath his long lashes. After a few minutes, he got up and came to her, one grimy hand outstretched.

"You can have my cookie if you want it," he mumbled.

Isabella looked at the cookie. It was little crumbly, but it was chocolate chip, which just happened to be her favorite. She thought about it for a moment and then took the cookie from his hand. The hair puller flashed her another wide grin.

After she had popped the last morsel into her mouth, she gave him a disdainful look. "You're still just a stinky boy," she informed him in a superior tone.

"I don't stink," he insisted, obviously outraged at her opinion.

"All boys stink," Isabella retorted. "My Daddy says so." And she stuck out her tongue for good measure.

The hair puller retaliated by doing the same, putting his hands by his ears and giving them a wiggle for good measure. Then he grinned...and she laughed.

"My name is Edward," he told her.

"My name is Bella," she replied. Her mommy called her Isabella when she was in trouble, and the teacher called her Isabella all the time. She wanted Edward to call her what her Daddy called her – just Bella. She leaned in a little closer. "You don't stink as bad as the other boys," she reassured him.

"Thanks," he said, pleased. "And you're okay...for a girl."

~~~~~This Much~~~~~~

Later that afternoon when her mother picked her up (she hadn't forgotten after all!) Bella told her mother about her day. "Oh...and I met my best friend," she said casually.

Her mother laughed and turned to give Bella a smile. "Really? How lovely. What's her name?"

Bella was looking out the window, trying to remember how many days it was until her birthday party. She was pretty sure it was eleven, but she would have to count the marks on the calendar in her room to make sure. "Edward," she answered her mother distractedly. "His name is Edward."

~~~~This Much~~~~

A week and a half later, Renee Swan was trying to herd twenty five-year olds into the backyard without any escaping. It wasn't even as easy as it sounded, and it sounded pretty damned difficult she thought. Then the doorbell rang and she wanted to say a word that would make the cuss jar a quarter richer, but instead, she plastered a smile on her face and answered the door.

A little boy was standing there, his hair brutally tamed with what Renee suspected was massive amounts of hair gel, and he was clutching a somewhat mangled present in his hands. "You must be Edward," she said when she caught a glimpse of beautiful green eyes. The woman standing behind Edward held out her hand.

"I'm Esme Cullen and I'm sooo sorry we're late," she apologized quickly. "I got lost. I seem to do that a lot, even in a town as small as Forks. You should have seen me when we lived in Atlanta!" Esme laughed and Renee knew immediately that she and Edward's mother would get along just fine. Which was a very good thing since their children were best friends, she decided.

"Don't worry about it," Renee said. "Charlie's in the back with the kids, trying to make sure everyone is present and accounted for." On impulse, she did something she hadn't done with the other parents. "Why don't you stay?" she offered. "I know you're new in town and it would be nice to chat with you." Renee opened the door wide and Edward ran through, yelling for Bella as he went.

"I think someone has a crush," Esme noted with fondness.

"Don't tell Charlie," Renee teased. "He'll lock up Bella until she's forty." She rolled her eyes. "He keeps telling her that boys are stinky and have cooties."

Esme laughed. "Well that certainly explains some things."

~~~~~This Much~~~~~~

Bella Swan and Edward Cullen were the best of friends throughout the school year. Edward talked his mother into packing extra chocolate chip cookies into his lunch and Edward was a frequent guest at the Swan household. Esme and Renee became fast friends and finally decided that they might as well just share the pair of children that seemed inseparable.

When Edward caught a cold, it was Bella who fussed over him the most. When his brother Emmett teased him about it, Edward made sure to sneeze in Emmett's direction. Emmett was soon sneezing and coughing right along with Edward, but go no sympathy from Bella at all.

When Bella's favorite Barbie went missing, it was Edward who launched the search and rescue mission. She was finally located beneath a shrub, where Bella had apparently forgotten her. Bella hugged the doll first and then her hero Edward, who protested but didn't move away.

When Bella won the "Best Reader" for kindergarten, it was Edward who bragged the longest and loudest. When Edward fell off his bike and scraped his knee, it was Bella who held his hand while his mother cleaned out the injury. Bella even pretended she didn't see the tears well up in his eyes.

And it was that summer, between kindergarten and first grade, that they first said, "I love you." Edward said it first, and then promptly qualified it with "but not like a girl. You're just my Bella. My bestest friend. Right?"

Bella, who thought that most boys were stinky and mean, was quite happy to be his friend. They played in the Cullen's backyard that day, twirling around until they were dizzy and fell to the ground. They were sprawled on the grass, looking up at the bright summer sky, enjoying the sun and the endless summer that stretched out before them.

Bella turned and looked at him. "Let's always be best friends, okay?"

He shrugged. "Okay."

Bella gave a satisfied laugh and looked back up at the clouds. "Always," she whispered.