Your pen name(s): ***
Your beta's name: ***
Your story name: Down the Line
Song that inspired you: Missing You by John Waites
Summary: Bella never thought that preppy Edward would fall for a hard rock girl like her. Turns out there is more to Edward than she thought.
Rating: T for language
Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters belongs to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
I groan. Why is it that when you're dying to hear an upbeat song to get you out of the funk you've been in all day, the radio only plays sad, depressing break-up songs? I'm curled up in bed wearing leggings and an old Skynyrd t-shirt that should have been in the rag pile, but I can't bear to part with it. I'm listening to bad Top 40s music on the radio. I should turn this shit off, but it's feeding my bad mood.
"Every breath you take,
Every move you make,
Every bond you break,
Every step you take,
I'll be watching you."
I stood in the front of the Biology classroom, hardly able to breathe. I was the last person to arrive in class due to a minor scuffle with my locker in which I had been the loser. The only empty seat left was next to HIM! The most gorgeous boy I'd ever seen. The boy who starred in my dreams every night and took up an alarming amount of doodle space in my Trapper Keeper. The popular, smart, athletic, perfect boy that didn't even know I existed. Make no mistake, people. My life is no John Hughes film. The Jake Ryan of Forks High isn't suddenly going to suddenly have an epiphany and realize that I'm the girl of his dreams. More likely he's going to wonder why I consider myself worthy of breathing the same air as him.
I wasn't being self-deprecating. Really. After years of internal struggle, I had made peace with my average looks, average height, and less than average bust size. I had learned to value the things that made me unique in a herd of high school sheep. I was intelligent, had totally rad taste in music and could string together some pretty snappy verbal comebacks if I do say so myself. That is, if it doesn't get lost on the tip of my tongue due to crippling shyness. Being shy wasn't really so bad. I'd even had a few friends back in Phoenix, quiet, bookish kids who liked to hang out in the library during lunch just like me. But transferring schools in the middle of last year had made it hard for me to get to know anyone here in Forks, especially since I hated being stared at like a zoo animal and preferred to blend into the background.
I had lived all over the country as I raised my flighty mother. Technically she is the adult, but I was always the one who made sure the bills got paid and we had food. She had discovered the flower child movement about fifteen years too late, after she'd married her high school sweetheart and produced a child. She took off to find herself with me in tow when I was just a baby. She never seemed to be able to find herself as we moved from commune to commune, but we had met some interesting people along the way. She had met Phil at a Grateful Dead concert and it was love at first sight. When they decided to follow the Dead across the country, I decided it was time for me to get to know dear old dad, thus how I ended up in the rainiest place on earth.
Living with my father was a lot better than I had imagined. Although he had broken down and bought a microwave a few years ago, he hadn't yet figured out how to use it. After years of existing on diner food, he seemed glad to have someone cook for him. Dad was a lot more like me in personality than my crazy but lovable mother. Mostly he left me alone to do my own thing and didn't ask too many questions. This summer, my own thing had consisted of working at Newton's Sporting Goods, rereading a few of my favorite classics after I finished all twelve of the books at Forks Public Library, and hanging out with my friend Jake down at the rez in La Push while he worked on his car and blasted Zeppelin.
The only exciting thing about school starting back up was I would be spending less time at Newton's, so Mike Newton would spend less time staring at my chest. Most girls would have been thrilled at the chance to sit next to Edward Cullen, but I was just hoping that my debilitating clumsiness didn't draw any attention to me. I stumbled over to the table and dropped into the seat next to Edward Cullen, immediate bending forward so that my long hair curtained my face. I darted a few glances at him through my hair. He was just like I remembered him from last year when I had admired him from afar. Rumpled copper hair, piercing green eyes, perfect body honed from soccer and track. He was the epitome of a prepster, in an Oxford shirt, khakis and loafers. He was so not my type and I knew he would look at my ripped jeans and sweatshirt with disgust. The girls in his crowd wore miniskirts and heels to school and never had a hair out of place.
I noticed that Edward was reading a battered copy of The Catcher in the Rye, which surprised me. Not the Playboy or auto magazine that the typical teenage jock would choose. But Edward Cullen had surprised me a few times. He was a straight A student, president of the junior class, captain of the soccer team, and one of the most popular boys in school, yet he was also a genuinely nice person. I had heard him tell Tanya Denali to stop being a bitch when she was making fun of Angela Weber's sweater. I had also been standing behind him in line last year when a freshman slammed into him and knocked his tray over. Not only had he made eye contact with the trembling, stuttering boy, he'd smiled and called him by name. Edward Cullen seemed to know the name of every person at Forks High. Okay, so I may have stalked him a bit last year. I didn't think he knew my name, but I couldn't be sure, because every time I had managed to catch his eye last year, I had immediately turned in the other direction and ran. A few times this had resulted in a fall or a slightly bruised freshman.
Mr. Banner came in, handed out the syllabus, and began to go over it. I was half-listening, darting glances at Edward and looking away quickly before he could catch me. I was caught off-guard when Mr. Banner announced a short partner assignment near the end of class.
"Hi. Bella, right?"
Holy mother, he knows my name!
He stuck out his hand for me to shake. His voice was soft and seductive.
Seductive, Bella, really?
"I'm Edward Cullen."
Oh, I know. Sad to say, but I am one of your many admiring fans and crazed stalkers. Shit, Bella, focus. He's been holding his hand out for you to shake for almost a minute. He's going to think you're mentally deficient. Crap! I hope my had isn't sweating.
I tried to calm my swirling thoughts as I shook his hand and mumbled, "Yeah, that's me." I wouldn't be impressing anybody with my verbal skills today.
Somehow, I managed to collect enough brain cells to muddle through the introductory assignment without drooling on Edward. He smiled at me as the bell rang. I stood to leave, catching my foot on my backpack. I prepared to meet the floor. As someone who was walking impaired, I had perfected the art of the tuck and roll. But for some reason I wasn't lying on the ground. In fact, I was being gripped by two very large, very warm, very male hands. Edward Cullen's hands. My heart raced and my face felt like it was on fire.
"Careful, there. We wouldn't want any injuries on the first day of school."
"No big deal. The hospital has a special room for me," I mumbled.
Edward chuckled. I made Edward Cullen laugh! "If you spend a lot of time at the hospital, you must know my dad."
"Yeah, Dr. C and I are old friends." He chuckled again.
I am on fire today!
"Careful, Bella. I need my lab partner in one piece." He moved to leave, pausing in the doorway to turn and grin crookedly at me. Unthinkingly, I raised two fingers and saluted.
What the hell did you just do, Bella? Such a spaz!
I didn't see his reaction because I was too busy banging my head against my hands.
I sigh, peeved that I'm stuck listening to crappy sheep music since my roommate threatened to throw out my Skynyrd tape if I play it one more time. She has no respect for good music but what can you expect from a Go-Gos fan? It's not like that's the only tape I listen to. At least, not in the past few weeks. If there was a fire and I had to choose between saving her and the tape, it would be a hard choice. Damn, there are some good memories connected to that tape.
I bounced in the seat next to Jake. I couldn't wait to get to the theater. The longest I'd ever spent in Seattle was two hours in the airport and tonight I was going to see Lynyrd Skynyrd live in concert, as an early birthday present from my dad. Who knew Charlie was so cool? Well, I had my suspicions when I found a Doors album in the hall closet. Two hours later, I was still silently thanking my father. The concert was everything I had imagined and more. Totally rad music, awesome atmosphere, and a crowd of people who dressed exactly like I did, in casual shirts and jeans. For the first time in a long time, I didn't feel like I stuck out like a sore thumb. I poked Jacob and mimed getting a drink. There was no point in trying to make myself heard above the noise. He nodded and turned back to the stage. I stuck my elbows out and slowly made my way through the crowd toward the bar.
After a long wait, I finally managed to grab the bartender's attention and ordered a Tab. As I took a sip of my drink, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I whirled around expecting to find Jake. Instead I found exactly what I'd dreamed of two nights ago, Edward Cullen in jeans and a Skynyrd tee. I blinked hard and tried to pinch myself surreptitiously. When did I fall asleep? Dream Edward tilted his head to the side to indicate the exit door about twenty feet away from us. He dropped his hand from my shoulder to my wrist, circling it and tugging me hard enough to break my trance. This was the best dream I'd ever had! It had never felt so real!
Dream Edward towed me through the crowd and out the door. He grinned and blinked at me. "I never would have placed you as a southern rock girl, Bella." His voice was teasing.
"Yeah, of the two of us, I'm the one who's out of place here, Don Johnson." Somehow, instead of mumbling nervously like I usually did in class, I was actually managing to string together a coherent sentence.
He laughed wryly. "I'll give you that one. But I wouldn't have thought you would judge a book by its cover. I thought you would be the one person to realize that there's more to me than what they see at school."
The two of us had stayed outside talking for hours, missing the whole show and only stopping when Jake had me paged. There had been a weird vibe between Jake and Edward, almost like jealousy, but I hadn't believed that was possible at the time. That night, I had gotten to know the real Edward Cullen, not the boy who everybody took for granted. That boy dressed to please his parents and drove himself to be the best at everything he tried so he could follow in his father's footsteps to Brown University someday. The real Edward Cullen had eclectic taste in books and music and a dry sense of humor that matched my own. It was amazing how much we had in common.
After that night, he started inviting me over to his house to study. His mother had given my clothes a wary look, but had relaxed once Dr. C vouched for me. Dr. C and I had grown tight after my many visits to the emergency room. Edward came over to my house to study and often ended up staying for dinner. At first Charlie had regarded him suspiciously and his gun had never been cleaner, but eventually they bonded over the Mariners. Our study dates turned into movie nights and long sessions of hanging out in his room listening to music and debating books. I had never felt so comfortable around someone in my life, but at the same time my crush always simmered in the back of my mind. Before, I had been infatuated with the idea of Edward Cullen. Now that I knew the person, my crush had turned into something that felt a lot like love. I tried desperately to hide my feelings because I knew he saw me as just a friend. The one point of contention between us was the publicity of our friendship. I staunchly refused to be seen with Edward at school outside of Biology. School Edward was different from my Edward and I didn't trust that the ease I felt around him would last in front of all of the popular kids at school.
"This is ridiculous, Bella! Just walk to the cafeteria with me. I'll sit with you and Angela. Nobody will care."
"Yes, they will! The whole school will be wondering why the great Edward Cullen is taking pity on the weird girl. I don't want to embarrass you in front of your friends!"
"Jesus, Bella! You think I care what they say? I thought you knew me better than that!" His jaw was tense.
"I know that's not you, Edward, but things are different here at school."
"Things are only different if you make them." He huffed in frustration. "I can't argue about this anymore. I'm just going to sit in my car until next period. Let me know when you decide to start being my friend again." He stormed out of the empty Biology classroom.
I knew I was right, but I couldn't stand having Edward mad at me. I hurried to catch up with his long stride. I caught him just outside the main office. The hallway was empty for now. "Edward, wait!"
He turned around and raised an eyebrow at me. "Look, I'm sorry. I know you don't care what other people think. But you know I hate having people stare at me. And if I'm with you , everyone is going to be staring."
He ran a hand through his hair. "Would it really be so bad for us to be seen together?" he muttered, not meeting my eyes.
My stomach fluttered, but I quickly pushed it aside. He was only trying to be a good friend. "No matter what you say, you're still Edward Cullen and I'm still Bella Swan and no one will understand why you want to hang out with me."
He grabbed my hand and stared at me intensely. "You don't see yourself very clearly, Bella. You're smart and funny and beautiful. If you gave everyone a chance to get to know you, they'll feel the same way about you that I do."
"You think I'm beautiful?" I stuttered.
"I think you're the most amazing girl I've ever met." He kept eye contact with me as his face moved toward mine. Just as our lips met, the bell rang and students began to pour out of the cafeteria. I flinched and began to pull away, but Edward put his hand on my neck to keep me in place as he deepened our kiss. After a few seconds, I didn't notice anyone but him. That was how Forks High learned that Edward Cullen was dating Bella Swan.
I know, I said that my life wasn't a John Hughes movie, but I really did end up living the Breakfast Club fantasy. I know what happened after the movie ended. I lived it. Life wasn't all smooth sailing after Edward's Emilio Estevez hooked up with my Ally Sheedy. Some of his friends got to know and like me, just like he said they would. Others never stopped staring at me like I was Mork and had come from another planet. He made a real effort to get to know my friend Angela, but she was never able to form full sentences or speak without stuttering around him. I really enjoyed getting to know his brother Emmett, the giant senior football player who acted like an overgrown toddler most of the time. For an only child, it was fun to see how the brothers could be wrestling one minute and laughing at a stupid joke the next. I almost grew comfortable around his icy blonde goddess of a girlfriend, Rosalie. She thawed a bit once she had sized me up and found me completely lacking in comparison with her. We settled into a comfortable routine as a couple and chose to spend our time around the friends and family that truly mattered. It was nice to see Edward start to relax the façade he wore at school and realize his parents weren't expecting near as much of him as he expected of himself.
The biggest source of tension in our relationship for me was that I was a virgin and he wasn't. I decided to give in to the cliché and get it over with on prom night. He assured me that it would be perfect, but I couldn't relax. It was painful, messy and over very quickly. I was wondering what all the hype was about when I met Edward's glowing eyes as he basked in the afterglow.
"That was amazing!"
"Was it okay for you? I know you didn't, you know, but I tried to make you feel good. Damn, it was too fast, wasn't it? Did I hurt you?" His voice was coming out fast and high. He sounded as nervous as I had been going into the situation. I had to laugh at the reversal of roles.
"No, I didn't, you know., but I will next time."
"You want to do it again?" His voice was starting to sound hopeful.
"Give me a few minutes."
"You are amazing. I love you." His eyes met mine, looking as stunned as I felt.
"Did you mean that?" My voice shook.
"I didn't plan on saying it right then, but yeah, I meant it."
"No! I mean, thank you! I mean, shoot me now!"
"It's okay, Bella. You don't have to say it until you're ready."
"I am ready. I've been ready since sophomore year!"
"Good to know."
"So are you gonna say it?"
"Right! I love you too!" I threw my arms around him, knocking him back into the pillows of the cheesy motel room bed. He laughed and hugged me tightly. I cocked an eyebrow at him. "Someone's getting excited."
His ears reddened. "We don't have to. Just give me a few minutes in the bathroom."
I flushed and whispered, "No, I want to."
"I really love you!"
As graduation approached, we both had a huge decision to make. He had been offered a partial scholarship to Brown, his dream school and I had gotten a full ride to U Dub. Although I'd been accepted to Brown, the small scholarship they offered me wouldn't come close to covering the astronomical costs of an Ivy league school. My cop father wanted to help, but Brown was definitely beyond his means and being an eternal flower child didn't have my mother rolling in dough. Edward wanted to help pay my way to Brown, but I refused to let someone else pay my way. After practically raising myself, I was much too stubborn to let someone else take care of me. Next, he wanted to come with me to U Dub, but I wouldn't let him do that either. I had visions of my parents disastrous young marriage and us as a resentful middle-aged couple running through my mind. He would hate me because I had forced him to give up an incredible opportunity and I would spend my life paying for that mistake. In the end, it would be long distance for us, or nothing.
The summer flew by too quickly, filled with unshed tears and forced smiles. Too soon it was September and he was settling into an off-campus apartment with three roommates in Providence and I was trying to settle into the dorms in Seattle. My roommate was more than a bit of an adjustment. Alice was a five-foot tall Southern belle with a wardrobe that spilled over into my half of the room and a perkiness that wouldn't go away no matter how little sleep she got. Coffee just turned her into something resembling a hyper lap dog. Her Madonna-esque clothing and frighteningly chipper attitude had me convinced that we would never get along, but after a few weeks she started to grow on me. At first I was annoyed by her attempts to drag me away from the phone and out into daylight, but soon I began to appreciate the distraction. As the semester passed, she became one of my closest friends and a great source of comfort.
The greatest fullback in U Dub history, according to the man himself, also became the highlight of my social calendar. After a game of "Never Have I Ever," which I soon grew to regret, Emmett made it his mission to check as many things off of my never-have-experienced list as possible, causing Edward many stressful moments over the phone. I could almost picture him tugging at his hair as he sighed in frustration. Rosalie was a godsend, helping to rein Emmett in with a well-placed head slap and providing me with much-needed levity in the form of heavy sarcasm.
Despite the various distractions my friends tried to provide, I could feel myself becoming moodier as the semester went on. By November, I could barely leave my room. Most of my stress was caused by the fact that Edward seemed to be pulling away lately. He'd begun to cancel our phone dates and during our actual conversations, he seemed distracted. I was trying not to be paranoid but I could feel the distance between us growing.
"And there's a storm that's raging,
Through my frozen heart tonight."
Late November in Seattle had produced a thunderstorm, big surprise. I sulk in my room, trying to force myself to finish a paper for my fiction class. I'd found out yesterday that Edward wouldn't be making it home for Thanksgiving break as he'd planned. His excuse had been vague and he'd been in a hurry to get off the phone as soon as he broke the news. As I pretend to work on my paper, I wait tensely for the phone to ring. Today, I was expecting the conversation that would seal the fate of our relationship.
"And there's a heart that's breaking down this long-distance line tonight.
I ain't missing you at all,
Since you been gone away.
I ain't missing you at all,
No matter what my friends say."
When the phone rings, I practically do a somersault in my haste to pick it up. I am out of breath as I answer.
"What are you up to today?"
"Trying to finish a paper. I'm going to Emmett's later. He's obsessed with some actress, Winona something-or-other."
"Yeah, I think he said something about that when I talked to him the other day. Sounds fun."
"Yeah." We used to talk for hours about anything and everything. Now we were tapped out after a few sentences.
"Edward, can we talk about something serious?"
"Now's not a good time, babe. Stuff to do. You should probably get going to Emmett's. Don't want to miss the movie. Later."
I huff in frustration as he hangs up the phone. At least Alice isn't here to give me a pitying look. The way she's been bouncing around like a Jack Russell terrier lately, you'd think she was up to something. Oh well, I might as well get going to Emmett's. It's not like I have anything better to do.
I change my shirt, but I don't bother with make-up or fixing my hair. I'm not trying to impress anyone. Emmett opens the door at my knock. He's grinning like he did on his last birthday, when he shared the story of Rosalie's "gift" to him. I look at him suspiciously. I don't need any more pictures of his hairy ass in my head. Alice is nearby, practically vibrating with excitement. Rosalie is standing next to Emmett, grinning widely. This may be the most suspicious thing I have encountered today. I watch all of them dubiously.
"What did you give Alice and how long is it going to take to wear off? Rosalie's cowboy cousin puts stuff in his brownies, you know?"
They all roll their eyes at me at the same time, as if they have practiced. Alice grabs my arm and yanks me toward the living room. She is surprisingly strong for someone so small. I try to break her grip and stumble, suddenly noticing a familiar mess of copper hair and the grin I have been longing to see for months.
I close the photo album. The ridiculous outfits and my big poofy hair make me smile, but it's time for me to get ready. Edward will be home soon and, with his appetite, he will want to leave for dinner right away. I can't believe we are celebrating twenty-five years of marriage. I know there is a surprise party after dinner tonight. I saw the date written on Rose's calendar, Alice can't keep a secret for shit, and I've been able to tell if my kids were lying to me since birth.
Edward takes me to the same restaurant we ate at after our wedding. We got married in June after our freshman year of college in a small ceremony attended by our families and a handful of friends. The following September we moved into Brown's married housing and I finished my degree with the help of Edward's father, swallowing my pride for the sake of happiness. After he had surprised me during Thanksgiving break, Edward had laid down an ultimatum: either I transferred to Brown or he dropped out and ruined his future to bum around Seattle. The small diamond ring I got for Christmas helped to make my decision.
He finished his degree in pre-med and I finished mine in English. My degree qualified me to do exactly nothing, so while he finished med school at Brown, I sold insurance during the day and wrote freelance pieces for a few magazines at night. We had planned to wait until he was into his residency to start a family, but as usual, Carlie had her own plan and she arrived the year before he graduated. We settled back in Seattle to be closer to friends and family. Masen came three years later. Following his birth, I quit my soul-sucking day job and tried my hand at writing full time. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not I balanced my time between shooting for a Pulitzer, keeping my kids alive, and sucking as an undomestic goddess. These days, Carlie is off terrorizing the population of California at Stanford and Masen plays third-string in football because he has the misfortune of inheriting my clumsiness.
As we walk into our house, I squeeze the hand of the man beside, smiling at the gray hairs threading through his temples and the lines around his green eyes.
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