Hope

I was at the bridge again. I couldn't figure out how I always ended up back here every day, it must have been the bridge, it drew me in like a magnet, some force tempting me with what it could bring me.

Or rather, what it could take away from me.

It wasn't a very fancy thing, half rusted frame and weather worn wood hanging over a small river below. The only thing remotely new about it was the train tracks running across it, shiny and new even though they were probably nearly older than me.

Although it wasn't the most popular bridge in Forks, it still would serve it's purpose well, the water was far enough below the bridge that on a stormy night, or if you couldn't swim, it could kill you.

Maybe that's why I was continually drawn here. The promise of a better life, for lack of a better term. Maybe alternative existence would be the right term to use.

Either way, I was still faced with the decision every time I found myself standing at its ledge, to jump or not to jump?

I didn't know if it was fear or just the instinctual will to preserve ones self that kept me from making my first, and most likely last, jump from this bridge.

I didn't even know the name of what would one day serve as my tool for freedom, if I ever found the courage to jump.

Maybe that's what kept me from jumping, the curiosity inside me that I had never been able to curb. The need not to be left in the dark.

I sat on the ledge, swinging my legs, my shoulder bag sat beside me, carrying some of the few personal belongings that I owned: a battered copy of Wuthering Heights that I was given years and years ago, the first book I ever owned, a hardcover notebook and pen, both overused and well past their use by dates, a pair of sunglasses and a drawstring purse that I used to store my money in, both the lunch money I was given for school and what I earned at my pathetic job at the local diner, the only place in town that you could buy a pre made coffee.

It was hard to own many expensive things when you lived in a house with ten other children, all younger then you and less able to take care of themselves.

Granted the couple that owned the orphanage were extremely nice and made sure I had everything that they were realistically able to give me, but I understood when the younger children got more gifts then me at Christmas time. I wanted them to have a magical childhood, not one full of worry and heartbreak.

Sighing I closed my eyes and imagined for a few minutes that I lived in one of those houses near the centre of town, the ones with heated pools, large backyards, flower gardens and front porches with swings. I imagined I had a family who loved me, pets, and when I came home from school everyday I would be able to hug my mother who would greet me with freshly baked muffins and yell at me for not doing my chores because I was to absorbed in the computer screen.

It was hard not to hate those people some days. Not because they were mean, because most of them weren't, but because they didn't realize how good they had it, they were constantly complaining about what they didn't have and not focussing on what they did have.

Pushing those thoughts from my head I concentrated on the feel of the breeze on my skin, the tickle of my hair on my face and neck, the sounds of the water and the trees around me and the distant sound of the few cars on the road leading onto this one.

This was my peace, my sanctuary, and my escape. It was the only place I had to myself in my crazy messed up life. The orphanage was my home now, but it had never really felt like home, not for the last eight years I've been living there, ever since a house fire took away all my remaining relatives, leaving me as the only survivor on that fatal New Years Eve night. A nine-year-old girl left to face the world all alone.

Shaking these thoughts from my head I stood up and grabbed my bag, knowing I should get back to the orphanage soon as it was nearly dark and I still had a half hour walk back.

I looked again over the edge of the bridge, tempted again by the water below. All it would take was one step to my right, the lack of railing providing a clear path straight down into the depths below.

I shuffled forward so that my feet were right on the edge of the bridge. Even though I felt incredibly stupid for it, I held my arms out to my sides and closed my eyes. I pretended again that I was somewhere else: The Titanic, or on the Eiffel Tower maybe. Anywhere but here.

A noise from behind startled me, causing me to loose my balance. I waved my arms wildly, trying in vain to find something to grab a hold of. The ironic thing about this whole situation was that five minutes ago I was contemplating jumping off the bridge and now that the possibility of me falling had arisen, my self-preservation was taking over.

Suddenly I was grabbed around the waist and hurled backwards onto the bridge, crashing into the chest of the person who had saved me.

Now that the panic of the moment was over I noticed my panting breaths, my pounding heartbeat and my shaking limbs. I noticed how the arms holding me upright were strong and muscular, a mans arms, though lean at the same time. I noticed how his chest seemed unyielding behind me, not giving in despite how I pressed myself against him in an effort to get as far away from the ledge as possible.

The arms released me, slowly unwinding from around my waist as if they were expecting me to break down or try to run back towards the ledge at any second. They were maybe right in their caution, I didn't know what I was going to do myself.

Turning around slowly, I faced the person, figuring it was only polite to at least look at the person who saved you.

Blinking I stared first at the chest that I was leaning on, noticing I was right in my assessment of it being a man, muscular but lean. Dragging my eyes upwards I looked into two very concerned green eyes.

"Are you alright?" I saw his mouth move around the words but barely registered what they meant in my shocked haze.

Man, everything is happening way too fast.

"Uh, yeah," I mumbled, bringing a hand to my head, willing it to stop spinning.

"Hey, maybe you should sit down," the man suggested, gently grabbing hold of my arm and leading me towards the middle of the bridge, far away from the edge.

We sat down against the side of a fancy silver car, I couldn't tell what brand it was but I knew I was expensive. Everything about it shined, like it was new.

Looking at his clothes as he sat beside me on the pavement, still looking at me with concern, I saw he was wearing some very fancy jeans and a white button down shirt with the private school logo stitched on it.

He must come from money, the opposite side of town from me. Only the rich families could afford the send their kids to the private school.

No wonder I had never seen him before.

And I wasn't particularly keen to stay and hang around with some private schooled pretty boy, despite the fact that he had probably saved my life, he seemed perfectly nice and that he had the most awesome hair I had ever seen. All bronze, messy and devilish.

"So thanks for well, you know. I've got to get home now." I stood up, offered him a small smile before I walked off quickly towards the town.

"Hey, wait!"

I paused mid step, despite my not wanting to talk to him unable to be as rude to pretend I didn't hear him. It was a flaw of mine, well, a flaw in my books.

"Do you want me to drive you home?" I heard his voice from right behind me, he sounded concerned. No one had really sounded concerned for me before, not truthfully and fully concerned like he did now.

And that alone would have made me take him up on his offer. Yes, I didn't know him and yes, I met him on a bridge in Forks of all places, one of the most dangerous things here was a local teenage party. But he was one of the private schoolers. I couldn't trust him.

And I didn't want him to know I was an orphan. Too many people had turned their noses up or started walking on eggshells around me when they found out. I didn't want another person doing the exact same thing.

"No, thanks. I'll be fine. It's not that far away," I lied, still with my back towards him. No need for him to see how bad of a liar I was. He could already hear as much.

"Are you sure?" He asked, the concern in his voice melting me inside while his persistence made me clench my teeth in frustration.

"Yes, thanks. Positive." I tried to hide the hint of frustration in my voice but, again, my voice betrayed me.

"Ok, if your sure," he replied, still sounding uneasy.

With that I walked away from him and started the long walk home. It was about fifteen to twenty minutes till dark, meaning I would at least get to the edge of town before it went dark.

Unlike the rest of my afternoon, the walk back to the orphanage was as ordinary as every other day. I made it well into the suburbs before it as fully dark and was at the orphanage gates not ten minutes after the sky went pitch black.

The building the orphanage had been housed in for as long as I can remember was as normal as every other house on the street. It was white, two stories and the garden was neat and green. It was originally the house of Elizabeth and Henry Nelson, they bought it when they married and then decided that they wanted to help the children of Forks who didn't have anywhere else to go. Like myself.

Inside I was greeted by the sound of laughing and utensils clinking. They were eating dinner already.

When I appeared at the entrance of the dining room I was welcomed by a chorus of greetings from all the children in the room. For some reason they loved me, always following me around the house and seeking out my company whenever possible. It was all beyond cute, but could get incredibly frustrating all the same. I would never tell them that though. Most had experienced enough heartbreak in their lives already.

I smiled at them.

"Hi guys. What's for dinner tonight?" I asked them, walking up and hugging Elizabeth. She had been the closet thing to a mother I've had for eight years and she had loved me as such since the first moment she had met me. I don't know what I would have done without her. She helped me through the years of grief following my parent's deaths. A grief I still carried with me but had learned to live with.

"Chicken Kiev!" Fred enthusiastically answered, revealing a mouth full of orange mush.

"Swallow first!" Elizabeth scolded.

Fred swallowed.

"Sorry," he said, grinning.

The other children in the room giggled, looking at each other.

I smiled lightly, collecting my food from the fridge in the kitchen and sat down next to Elizabeth at the large table.

"Were you at the bridge again, Bella?" She asked me softly.

I nodded, not daring to look at her, instead looking down at my plate.

I heard her sigh. I knew she didn't like me going there. It was secluded and dangerous. She was scared I would fall off. Like I nearly did today.

I banished those thought from my head. I was not to think of the bridge now. Those kinds of thoughts were reserved for when I was at the bridge, not surrounded by the laughter of the young orphanage children. Most could look past the tragedies in their lives, especially if they were too young to remember it in the first place. Only a few were plagued by nightmares and grief.

Dinner went on as normal. I listened to the stories the children had from school, the adventures their young minds could conjure up. I was envious of their innocence, even through the horrors life has thrust on them they still held a view on life that I didn't anymore. My mind was jaded, had been tainted by the things I'd realized as I grew older. The things I experienced.

Unless you were introduced into life with stability and had that love and foundation throughout your childhood then, unless you could always see the bright side of everything, even the dark times, life seemed pointless to you. What was the point of living until old age in a world you felt you weren't wanted in when you could embrace death and peace?

I intended to embrace that peace a lot sooner then everyone else sitting around this table, and I preferred it that way. Better me than them. They still had that innocent view on life, they didn't witness their lives burning in front of their eyes. They still had hope for lives full of happiness, where as I didn't. No ones except for Elizabeth and Henry had ever shown me kindness and love, actually cared, since my family died. Sympathy was common, but even then most of the time it was out of courtesy. When someone tells you they're an orphan, it's the expected reaction.

After everyone was finished eating I insisted that they let me clean up the table. I knew it was supposed to be Bree and Riley's turn but I needed something to do. If I was going to live here at seventeen years old then I should at least make myself useful. Why let the younger kids do all the jobs when I was most capable of doing them myself? They should be out having fun, not doing dishes.

Elizabeth disagreed with me.

"Bella, how are they meant to learn responsibility if you do all their work for them?" She chided me, drying the dishes despite my protests.

"I don't do all their jobs for them."

She laughed softly.

"Enough that if they ask you to do a job for them you will."

"They're young, they should be out having fun, not slaving away in the kitchen," I smiled at her jokingly.

Elizabeth shook her head at me, rolling her eyes at my teasing.

It was silent for a while as I washed the plates and Elizabeth dried them. I was on my last plate when she spoke again.

"I know I can't stop you from going to that bridge, Bella, but I do ask that you not. I don't like it when you aren't back before dark. That bridge is dangerous and anything could happen." I could hear the fear in her voice, and it pained me, knowing that one day I might not come back.

"I'm sorry, I can't promise you that. It's peaceful there Liz. I have time to think by myself," I said quietly, not daring to meet her eyes. I would do nearly anything for the people that had taken me in, but not this. That bridge was my quiet place. The place I got to think and be by myself. No one had ever disturbed me there, besides that private schooler today. He was the first.

She sighed.

"Well at least try to be back before dark then. You know how I worry," she said, her light humour paled by the sadness in her voice.

Handing the plate to her I dried my hands, facing Elizabeth.

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to worry you, but I need time to myself sometimes Liz and no one bothers me there. I promise to be back before dark next time though."

She set the plate down on the counter, pulling me into a hug.

"Sleep tight, sweet. I'll see you tomorrow," she whispered.

That night as I slept, I dreamt of falling off the bridge, the terror of plunging into the icy water below. Drowning wasn't pleasant in my dreams, the water choking me. The night sky was pitch black, no stars and no moon.

For some reason, it was always night in these dreams.

The diner was full today, no doubt a product of the rain the sky had graced us with. As soon as I entered I felt the urge to walk right back out and seek the comfort a warm bed could provide me. I hated coming here. I had only been here once before and I already hated the place.

If Mike Newton hadn't begged his father to fire me from my job at his store then I wouldn't be here. If I hadn't refused Mike's advances I wouldn't be here. Then again, I think I would rather be here then in bed with Mike Newton.

I shuddered at the very thought.

Sue, the sweet middle-aged lady who owned the diner, smiled at me as I came in. She had given me this job as soon as I had asked. She and Elizabeth had been friends since they were little girls, and I knew she felt sorry for me. Even the same she tried not to let it show in her everyday actions and speech. For that I felt grateful. Others didn't even try to hide their pity, and it annoyed me. What made them think I wanted their pity? I already knew my life sucked, I didn't need them walking on glass around me because of it.

"Good afternoon Bella. How was your day?" She asked me, filling a mug with a light blend of coffee.

I smiled and shrugged in reply as I put on an apron.

"Same as every other day, just school. Yours?" I asked, if only out of courtesy. Sue always had some small town gossip to share. It was amusing and a great way to fill time, even if I didn't have any interest in the lives of the towns folk.

"It was okay, but it'll be much better when I get home. Those kids down at the reservation are a rowdy bunch, always coming over for some of my baking," she laughed, happiness wrinkling her face. The love she had for all the kids down at La Push was astounding. She loved them all as she loved her own two kids. I didn't know how she kept up with them all, especially with her husband having passed a few years back.

As Sue told me about all the things reservation kids had gotten up to, I smiled an nodded along as I helped prepare the drinks for the tables. Katie, a girl from my school, was busy going from table to table, taking their orders and reporting the drinks and pastry orders to us. We would swap in another ten minutes, me doing half an hour taking orders before she would take over again. Sue had already done her fair share of floor time today.

I cringed and looked down at the drink I was preparing as a group of teenagers from the private school came in. Their white uniforms with the school logo stitched on clearly identified them to the whole diner, who mostly ignored their entrance. To them they were nothing special, nothing unusual, but to me they were a symbol of everything I would never have.

The group took a seat at a table near the back of the diner, quietly discussing and laughing. Unlike what you read in stories, they weren't a rowdy bunch of teenagers who had no regard for others, but they were closely knit, rarely hanging around anyone who wasn't from their school, though I guess that was product of who you made friends with. It was easier to make friends with people who go to your school then it was to people who didn't.

Katie came up to me then, letting me know me it was time to swap. I sighed at my luck. I guess I would be the one to serve them.

Grabbing a notepad and pen I came around from behind the counter and made my way towards the group. They were the only ones who hadn't been served yet, having just entered the diner. If luck decided to gift me with its presence after this, they would hopefully be one of the last people to come into the diner for the next half hour. I didn't give a crap about tips toady. The rain had put me in a worse mood than usual already.

I stood beside the table the all eyes turned towards me. I smiled at the faces, freezing when I saw the guy from yesterday at the bridge sitting there. He looked just as surprised to see me as I was him, his eyes wide and lips parted.

Looking down at my notepad I collected myself for a few seconds.

It didn't matter that he was here. He was nothing to me, no one. So what he had seen me at my most vulnerable moment? I could continue on with my day as if nothing had happened. It wasn't like this was a life-changing event, just another blip in my life.

With that resolved I looked up, painting a smile on my face.

"Are you ready to order?" I asked them, sugar and spice coating my words. Fake, fake, and fake. It was easier to pretend nothing was wrong.

"Yes!" One guy boomed eagerly. He was huge, like he worked out everyday at the gym. I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of him.

A blonde rolled her eyes, sighing impatiently. She looked up at me.

"I'll have a hot chocolate and cookie, please," she said, politely but lacking in warmth. Obviously she was one to pick her friends carefully.

I looked towards the big guy, anticipating that it was best to take his order next.

"A large chocolate milk shake, a cookie and a muffin," he listed. "Actually make that two cookies," he amended quickly. I smiled amused. I'd say his eyes are bigger then his stomach but I have a feeling it wouldn't be true.

I turned to a little black haired girl next.

"Just a vanilla muffin, thanks," she smiled up at me.

"I'll have the same," the blonde guy next to her said.

Lastly I turned to the guy from the bridge, trying to keep the smile planted on my face.

He means nothing, just a blip…

He smiled warmly.

"A cappuccino and muffin please," he asked, his voice still as velvety as it was last night.

I nodded and turned away, the fake smile falling off my face as soon as they couldn't see it anymore.

After I had reported the order to Sue and Katie I took a seat on one of the stools, resting my head on my arms, listening for the bell on the door in case more customers were to come in.

"Are you okay?"

Looking up at Sue I smiled weakly.

"Yeah, just tired," I lied. It was true in a sense, I was tired, but that wasn't the cause of my troubles.

"Get some sleep after your shift today then ok?" She suggested, smoothing my hair down.

I nodded, silently assuring her that I would. Of course it was a lie. After my shift today I would go to the bridge, like I do everyday. Lack of sleep wasn't going to change that.

The order for the private schoolers table came faster then I hoped it would. I sighed as I picked up their tray and carried it over.

They were laughing loudly, presumably at the big guy, as he was frowning at then all. The blonde girl shook her head at him, smiling as she kissed him. I looked away from their intimate moment shyly.

As I set the tray on the table, everyone's eyes turned to me, the couple breaking away from their embrace so the guy could quickly grab his food eagerly, not waiting for me to set it in front of him.

I put the fake smile on my face again, handing them their respective orders. The blonde girl thanked me with a nod while the other three smiled at me warmly and they said their thank you's. They big guy was too busy eating to talk but smiled at me hugely anyway.

Despite their warm attitude I hurried away from their table as fast as I could without being insulting. The guy from the bridge had been staring at me the whole time I was at their table and it unnerved me. Even now I could feel his eyes on my back.

Maybe I was just being paranoid.

He means nothing, just a blip…

As soon as I arrived at the bridge I almost turned right back around again.

Sitting there on the side was none other than the guy from yesterday, his chin resting on his hands and his car parked behind him.

He turned around as he heard me coming and saw me standing there unmoving. My face must have showed my indecision because he quickly got up and moved towards me.

"Wait, don't go yet. I just want to talk okay?" He asked, holding his hands up as if I was a scared, unpredictable animal.

I didn't run away but I didn't rely either. If he wanted to talk then he could talk, but I wasn't going to start any conversation.

He sighed, apparently realizing that I wasn't going to speak just yet.

"What's your name?" He asked.

I sighed, relieved. That was an easy enough question to answer.

"Bella."

He smiled.

"I'm Edward. It's nice to meet you Bella," he introduced himself, lowering his hands.

It was silent once again as I waited for his next question.

"Do you come here everyday?"

I nodded.

Edward raised and eyebrow at my lack of speech.

"Why?"

I frowned and shook my head. That was one question I wasn't going to answer.

"Okay," he sighed. "You go to the public school right?"

"Yes. You haven't seen me at your school I assume," I retorted.

He chuckled at my snark.

"Sorry, that was a stupid question. How about this? You come and sit with me and I'll tell you all about myself. No input on your life necessary," he offered, gesturing hopefully to where he was seated before.

I thought it over. What harm could it do? I didn't particularly want to hear all about the perfect life of a private schooler, but then again I didn't want to abandon my private time and place just because some rich guy was invading my space. Which would technically mean it wasn't my private space anymore.

I nodded my acceptance and he led the way back to the edge of the bridge, patting the space beside him for me to sit.

"Ok, lets start with the basics. My name is Edward Cullen, I'm seventeen years old and I go to Forks Private School with my older brother Emmett and twin sister Alice. They were sitting at the table today, Emmett is the one who eats his weight in food and Alice was the black haired one," he said, and I nodded my recognition. "The other two were their respective partners, Rosalie and Jasper. They look like they could be related, and used to pretend they were, but they're really not." He laughed and shook his head.

I sighed quietly. If only I had friends my own age, or siblings. The closest I would get would be the children at the orphanage.

Edward continued.

"We go to the diner every afternoon when school lets out, just to stay away from home a little longer. Out parents are a little strange, nice enough and completely in love, but strange. My mom doesn't have a job but she likes to dabble in designing, which is the reason out living room looks like a cross between a home magazine and Wonderland. Some days I think the living room is going to jump out and attack me," he chuckled again and I snorted. Of course they would have the perfect house with the perfect mother. Life just liked to do that kind of stuff to me.

He looked over at me, shooting me a confused but amused look.

"Something funny?" He asked, a smile on his lips.

I shook my head. As if I was going to go and insult a complete stranger.

He raised an eyebrow at me again but otherwise didn't press the issue.

"Anyway," he said. "My father's a doctor at the hospital. He works long hours and he just can't seem to tear himself away from that place. When he is home he's either sleeping, spending time with mom or locked away in his office. I don't see him as much as I used to when I was little." He sounded sad at the fact, and I felt a little sorry for him. Not enough to say anything, because at least he still had parents to be mad at, but I did feel sorry for him. It was a casualty of his father's job, less time with his family. It didn't make it fair though.

Edward continued to talk about his life, telling me all about his family, friends, school, homework and anything else that he could think of. It wasn't particularly interesting, listening to how great his life was, even if he seemed to have the opinion that it could be better. Maybe it could, but he still had much more available to him than I did. It was actually quite painful to hear him talk about his nightly family dinners that his mother insisted on, and how Jasper and Rosalie had seemed to be accepted as a part of the family, even attending family events as though they were already married to Emmett and Alice.

It made my ache so much that I was grateful when I saw that it was nearly sunset and, due to the promise I made Elizabeth last night, I had to be getting back if I was going to keep that promise.

"I've got to go, Edward," I said when he had paused in between subjects.

He sighed and looked down at me.

"Already?"

I nodded.

"If I meet you here tomorrow do you promise not to run?" He asked, smiling light-heartedly, but I could see the apprehension behind it.

I shook my head. "But I will come," I promised. I came here everyday and I would continue to do so, despite his presence.

He smiled.

"That's good enough for now."

The next day at the diner I was in a better mood then I was the day before. I didn't know what had caused it but I was grateful. It took a lot out of me when I was consistently in a sour mood.

Sue apparently noticed my better mood, smiling at me every time she caught my eye. I couldn't see the usual worry in her eyes like I usually could, and that made my mood better as well. Knowing that people weren't worrying about me was a relief; they had more important things to worry about.

Edward and his siblings, plus Rosalie and Jasper, had already arrived and been served by the time it was my turn to take orders, but Edward did smile at me every time I looked his way. I hoped that the rest of his group didn't notice, I didn't need to worry about what they were thinking on top of everything else.

As promised, when I arrived at the bridge, Edward was already there, sitting on the side again with his car parked behind him. He looked up as he heard me coming and smiled, gesturing for me to come and sit next to him.

"Good afternoon," he said once I had sat down.

I giggled at his formal tone, and then stopped dead. Since when did I giggle?

Edward took a look at my face and chuckled.

Great, now he was laughing at me. I felt myself blush.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, Bella! Giggling, seriously? You're not twelve!

"I didn't get a chance to see you at the diner today," he mused, apparently ignoring my embarrassing debacle.

"You came in during Katie's floor shift," I explained, refusing to look over at him and instead staring at the water in front of us.

"Well I'll just have to make sure that next time we come in ten minutes later," he declared, bumping his shoulder against mine. I stifled a gasp. Casual human contact was something I had very little of, besides with Elizabeth, but she was like that with everyone.

He was just being friendly, don't freak out…

"Yeah," I whispered, afraid to speak any louder than that in case my nerves were evident in my voice.

It was silent for a while, both of us just studying the river down below. I wasn't going to be the one to start a conversation, I actually quite liked the silence, and even with Edward here it was peaceful and not at all awkward. I could sit here all afternoon like this.

"So," Edward said, interrupting the silence. "I told you all about my life yesterday, would you feel comfortable sharing yours today?" I could tell that he was choosing his words carefully.

I sat up straight, folding my arms across my lap. The peaceful silence from before had now turned stifling, squeezing my airways shut and making me sweat.

Edward apparently picked up on my silent refusal.

"I'm sorry, you don't have to tell me anything you don't want to. I won't pressure you, this is, after all, your space that I'm invading," he apologised, sounding remorseful.

I took deep breathes, my breathing coming easier now that I knew he wasn't going to pressure me on the subject. I felt bad though, after his openness with me yesterday I felt that I should share my life with him, but I couldn't. He was the first person my age that had willingly talked to me without being forced. I wasn't going to destroy that by telling him that technically I didn't have a home or a family. That I didn't really belong anywhere.

A rich kid like him from a well off family wouldn't want to make friends with someone like me.

The next few days went by the same as the past few. I went to school, after school I did my two-hour shift at the diner and then I would meet Edward down at the bridge for an hour until I had to get back to the orphanage.

Edward had kept his promise and had somehow managed to arrive when my floor shift had just started at the diner. I knew his siblings knew about what was going on, or at least suspected something. If the fact that Edward would disappear every afternoon didn't let them know, then Edwards greeting of, 'Good afternoon, Bella' every time I would arrive at their table certainly sealed the deal.

At the bridge we would continue to talk about meaning less things, me adding to the conversation more and more each day. That had become my escape now, those afternoon talks with Edward. It was strange to think that I had ever gone without them. I couldn't imagine going back to that now.

And true to his word, he didn't push me to tell him about my life. Just waited patiently for me to share it on my own. Realistically, I knew that I couldn't keep it a secret forever, especially if I wanted to remain friends for a long time, but I wanted to keep it a secret for as long as possible. At least until I felt confident that he wouldn't run away as soon as he found out.

The most difficult part was trying to explain to Edward, without giving anything away, why he couldn't pick me up instead of letting me walk to the bridge every day. It was touching, how he worried about me so much, and I wished I could take him up on his offer, but I couldn't take the chance.

The next Monday, a week since we had started meeting at the bridge, I was arriving home from the bridge like normal. I could hear the kids squealing from the backyard as they played like every other day. Henry's car was missing, most likely working late again and I could see Sue in the kitchen window cooking dinner, either singing or talking to someone, I couldn't tell which.

The only difference was the strange expensive car sitting in front of the house. It was red, shiny and I was scared to walk near it in fear of scratching it.

What would a townie be doing at the orphanage?

I walked into the house, placing my bag on one of the higher hooks by the front door so the kids couldn't reach it. I could hear Sue talking about me from the kitchen, laughing as she filled whoever it was in on my life.

"She's a nice girl, really great with all the younger kids, though she does all their jobs for them, which I would prefer if she didn't, but I don't have the heart to make her stop," Sue was saying.

I walked around the corner into the kitchen, prepared to make light conversation with Sue's guest, but I stopped in my tracks when I saw who it was.

How on Earth did she find me?

Rosalie turned and smiled at me, a mask of welcoming on her face, though her eyes betrayed her. I could see the malice in them.

I stood, staring wide eyed, a feeling of horror washing over me.

It was all over now. She would leave here and go tell Edward and he would never want to see me again.

I remembered the last hour, sitting side by side at the bridge laughing and joking together, I having just recently felt comfortable to have a real conversation with him. I couldn't believe it was all over now. It was way too soon for him to find out, he wasn't ready yet, it had only been a week.

I didn't know how I would go back to the way it was before.

"Bella!" Rosalie thrilled, smiling at me. "We've been waiting for you!"

"Have you?" I asked in a shaky voice.

Rosalie grinned, turning around in her seat to Sue couldn't see her face, and raised one of her prefect eyebrows at me.

What are you going to do now? It said.

"Are you okay Bella?" Sue asked, taking in the expression on my face. I could see her worry, I had been in a better mood this week and she didn't want me to go back to the depression I was in before.

I pained the fake smile on my face and nodded at Sue reassuringly.

"Yes, yes. I'm fine. I just wasn't expecting to see Rosalie here," I said, not lying. I definitely wasn't expecting to see Rosalie here.

Sue smiled.

"It was a nice surprise, you never seem to bring any friends over, it worries me you know," she said, turning back to the stove.

I let the smile drop off my face and looked at Rosalie. She was glaring at me now.

I gulped.

"Sue, I'm sure Rosalie has to get back for dinner. Would you mind if we talked for a bit?" I asked, still staring at Rosalie, who grinned sweetly at my proposition.

"Oh not at all! Just make sure your back in time for dinner ok? It'll be another half hour," Sue said, shooing me off with her knife.

I lead Rosalie out the door, stopping on the side of the porch out of sight from the kitchen window.

I faced Rosalie, who was leaning against the railing, her arms crossed over her chest, her face now expressionless.

"Rosalie—" I started.

She cut me off.

"Here's the deal. I wont tell Edward about this if you stay away from him from now on," she declared, looking down her nose at me.

I looked at the ground.

Would it make a difference? Either way I would be loosing my only friend.

"You know, when I followed you last night, I wasn't expecting you to come here. And a bridge, seriously?" She scoffed and I could practically hear her eyes rolling.

I took a deep breath.

"Ok."

She smiled, but it was lacking in emotion.

"Good." She walked away from me then, brushing her clothes off as if the orphanage had somehow infected them. She glared at me, took one last look at the house, rolled her eyes again and then got into her car and sped off.

Once she was around the corner I dropped down onto the porch, exhausted.

Rosalie may have thought she had won, and maybe she had, but I wasn't going to let her have her way. If she wanted to play this game then I was going to be the one to break the rules.

Because it didn't make any difference if she were to tell him or if I were to abruptly stop meeting him. The result would be exactly the same.

So I was going to tell him myself.

Tomorrow.

Maybe.

I walked into the diner the next day, smiling at Sue in welcome. I was practically vibrating in apprehension. I didn't know what I would do when I saw Edward here. I couldn't act like everything was normal, because then Rosalie would tell him before I got the chance to, but I didn't want to ignore him either, letting him think that I didn't want anything to do with him.

Not that it would matter once he found out anyway.

I shakily tied my apron on and started helping Sue with the orders. She kept shooting me looks, obviously concerned. I sighed.

Sooner then I would have liked Katie came over and we swapped places, me taking orders and her making them. It was a small relief though that Edward and the others weren't here yet. With any luck they wouldn't show up today.

An hour and a half later my shift was over and there was still no sign of Edward. I was worried. What if Rosalie had lied to me and had decided to tell him anyway, despite our agreement? I wanted him to hear it from me. It was my secret to tell and if he was going to find out then I wanted him to know why I had kept it from him. If he even stuck around to listen to my explanation in the first place.

I waved goodbye to Sue as I left, not having it in me to smile like usual. My nerves were taking over and it was taking all I had just to keep walking towards to bridge to meet Edward, if he was even there.

Half and hour later I arrived at the bridge. When I saw Edward there, sitting on the side of the bridge with his car behind him like every other day, I didn't know whether to cry in relief of dread. He was here, smiling at me in welcome, which meant that Rosalie hadn't told him, but now I would have to, which was just as worse.

Edward's smile turned into a frown when he saw the expression on my face and how I walked towards him slowly, trying to put it off as long as possible.

Maybe I could wait until I had to leave to tell him? Spend one more hour with him before he would leave my life altogether?

No, Bella. That's selfish.

When he noticed that I wasn't going to walk any faster he stood up, walking towards me, his face twisted in concern.

"Are you okay?" He asked, reaching out and brushing his hand across my arm.

I shook my head, cowardly refusing to meet his eyes.

"Hey," he lifted my chin so I was looking directly at him. "Don't start hiding from me again."

I felt tears flood my eyes before I furiously blinked them away. Now was no the time to start crying.

Just say it. Get it over with. Like a bandaid.

I took a deep breath.

"I never told you about my life because I knew you would run away as soon as you found out," I spat out, starting an avalanche of words. I continued before he could interrupt. "My parents died when I was nine and I've been living in the orphanage ever since. Forks is too small to find adoptive parents for everyone and most people don't want to take in a child, they want a baby, so I've been living there ever since. I come to the bridge because the house gets really crowded and I need time to myself sometimes, and then you came along and you're perfect, you have the perfect family and the perfect life and I didn't want you to know how messed up mine was. I tried to push you away but you wouldn't let me and I decided to tell you when I was sure you wouldn't run away but then Rosalie showed up yesterday and told me that if I didn't stay away from you then she would tell you—"

Edward put a hand over my mouth, halting my words.

"Bella, slow down."

I took a shaky breath through his fingers.

When he was sure that I wasn't going to start spewing out words again he removed his hand from over my mouth and shook his head.

"Bella," he sighed. Here it comes. "Didn't it ever occur to you that it wouldn't matter to me?"

Time stopped. I couldn't breath. I just stared at him, blinking, not comprehending what he was saying.

"Huh?"

He chuckled without humour.

"How could you ever think that it would change how I feel about you?" He exhaled, shaking his head is confusion.

"You don't care?" I asked in disbelief.

He smiled at me.

"No Bella. I don't care. You could be homeless and living on the streets and it wouldn't matter to me because you'd still be you, and nothing can change that." He brushed a hand across my cheek.

When tears filled my eyes this time I didn't fight them, just let them fall. How could I not cry when he goes and says something like that?

Edward pulled me into a hug, shushing me and rocking me from side to side. I couldn't stop crying if I tried, I was just so relieved. He wasn't going to leave me. I hadn't lost my most valuable friend. It was just too good to be true.

We stood there like that for ages, my crying in relief and him comforting me, whispering soothingly into my hair.

"Silly girl," I heard him say, followed by a chuckle.

I hiccupped through a relieved laugh.

I sat on the edge of the bridge one last time, watching the sunset over the water.

It was strange how far I had come from when I first sat here. How different my life seemed to be.

I was happy now with how my life had turned out. I didn't have my real parents, but I did have Elizabeth and Henry, the next best thing I could have had. They had been so good to me over the years and I had never felt unloved by them, which is not what some other orphans could say all over the world.

Maybe I didn't have many friends, but I did have the children at the orphanage. We shared a bond that would take the end of the world to break. I would be staying in touch with them throughout my life that was for sure.

And I didn't have a lot of money or possessions growing up but I wasn't neglected or unloved in any sense. I couldn't say I never wanted for anything, because that would be a lie, but I never wanted for Elizabeth's love or attention. She had always made sure that she asked me about my day and shared stories with me.

It was strange to think that I was going to give up. I couldn't imagine doing any such thing now. I was finally content being myself and I couldn't wait to see where my life was going to take me.

"Are you ready to go?"

I turned and faced him, watching his bronze hair sway in the breeze. He was smiling at me, holding out his hand for me to take.

I was ready to start a new adventure, and this was an adventure we would be taking together. College, here we come.

I took his hand and smiled back.

"Yeah."