Happy Friday everyone! It feels like it's been forever since I've posted anything. This story began as my entry in the Fandom4LLS, The Leukemia and Lymphoma society, fundraiser.

Thank you so very much to all of you who donated to this incredibly worthy cause. Your help was greatly appreciated by all of those fighting so hard to find a cure and by all of those who have loved ones affected by these diseases.

Because these characters had more to say than what I wrote in the fundraiser one-shot, I have decided to continue it just a little bit. However because the original one-shot was so long, well over fifty pages, I have broken it up into the first two chapters. So if you have the compilation and read it and at the end are wondering, where's the rest, now you know.

Huge hugs and thanks to, My-Bella and Hope4more, for all the time you put into the edits and re-edits and for making sure I put all those annoying commas in all the right places. You both rock and I couldn't do this without you!

I also have to give a big thank you to Rosalynn at Banners for Causes, for the amazing and awesome banner she made me to go with this story. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

The banner is on my blog and the blog link is on my profile page. I hope you enjoy the story.

Disclaimer:

All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters, plot, names, nicknames are all the property of the author. Unauthorized use of such material is plagiarism. In simple terms— it's theft. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. And of course just in case that doesn't cover it, Stephenie Meyer owns anything and everything relating to Twilight. No copyright infringement is intended.

~*Memories of Christmas Past*~

Christmas Eve, 2010

~*Bella*~

Everyone was making their way out of the dining room now that Christmas Eve dinner was over and into the family room to open presents. I was beginning to think that maybe I should have stayed home with Mom and Gran. We had all been invited, but with Gran's declining health she had not felt up to coming. Alice had refused to let me stay home with them and so here I was.

"Bella, honey, are you going to join us while we open presents?" Esme inquired as she placed her hand on my arm and stroked it gently a few times, letting me know she was there for me if I needed her. I wished it was that easy. That I could go to the woman who I had once upon a time looked to as a second mother and have her wave a magic wand or concoct some magic spell and make everything in my life all sunshine and rainbows.

Sadly my life was not a Disney Princess Classic or a tale about witches and wizards, nor was it one within a world where magic spells and wands really existed. No in my world heartbreak and disappointment had taken over more than once. The first time had been six years ago and the second was two months ago. Now here I was still trying to come to terms with the fact that I was back in Forks. The sleepy little logging town I had grown up in and had been whisked away from the last time tragedy had struck my family.

"I'll be there in a few minutes. I wanted to call my mom and check on Gran," I told her and let her pull me in her arms and hug me. It was a lie and I knew it, but I really needed a few minutes to myself before I was ensconced in all the commotion that came with a Cullen family Christmas. As I closed my eyes and for just a second gave into to the feeling of Esme's warm embrace, it was as if no time had passed. I was comforted even if it was only for the short time she rubbed her hands up and down my back soothing away my worries.

"Remember what I said, honey, we're here for you if you need us," she said when she pulled away. I nodded, afraid if I spoke the wall I had up holding my emotions in check would crumble. Guilt surged through me when she gave me a look as if she could see right through the lie I had told her and the wall I was so desperately trying to keep erect.

I hated lying to her. I knew if there was any change with Gran, my mom would call me immediately. Truth was I was disappointed he wasn't here. I had missed all of them, but him most of all. Alice had managed to visit a few times, but once my mother and I had left Forks, I had never seen anyone else in her family again. I had hoped to see him today if for no other reason than to see how he was. Just to catch up. To know that he had been able to move on and have a great life. To know my sacrifice had been worth it.

I stared out the wall of floor to ceiling windows, looking at the full moon. Its bright beams reflected off the snow covered rocks and the ice along the frozen edges of the creek at the end of the yard. Not only did this house and the people who lived here hold so many memories for me, but so did the long yard sprawled out before me and the creek that ran along its border.

Memories of snowball fights and snow angels made when it was covered in a thick blanket of snow just like it was now. Memories of it covered in warm green grass as we ran across it on our way to the creek for an afternoon of swimming and water fights.

Memories of her.

Memories of him.

Memories of them.

Memories of us.

Memories that had never left and would remain etched in my heart forever.

It had been six years since I had last looked out these windows and equally as long since I had been to this house. Six years since my father had been shot and killed in the line of duty as the Chief of Police and my mother, unable to get past her pain while being surrounded by his memory, had packed us up, moving us away from the tiny town of Forks, Washington to sunny Arizona.

The choice my mother had made to move had shattered my world. Being here again brought to the surface many good as well as many painful memories. As I watched the snowflakes being picked up and swirled around in the wintery winds sparkle in the moonbeams, my mind traveled back to before that day.

I had met the Cullens when their family had moved to Forks just a couple of weeks into my freshman year of high school. Carlisle and Esme had moved their family here when he had accepted the job as the new head of Obstetrics at the local hospital, Forks General. Tired of the big city life in Los Angeles, they had moved here for a more quiet and family oriented atmosphere. Well that and to be closer to their oldest son who had been rewarded a full scholarship to play baseball at The University of Washington, or UDub as it was commonly known as, which was only four hours away in Seattle. I had never gotten to know Emmett very well since he had been away at school when they had arrived in Forks. But the two other Cullen children had instantly become a very huge part of my life.

Alice and I had been inseparable from the moment we met. We were the same age, in the same grade and somehow had all the same classes. I remembered one of my first thoughts of her had been that her dark, nearly black spiky hair, fair skin and big blue eyes made her look like a porcelain doll. However she hadn't been anything close to fragile. She was strong willed and very outgoing, completely the opposite of me, but yet we had clicked instantly and after only a short time of being friends, we had come to be more like sisters than best friends. Alice had been so easy to love. She was warm, caring and not stuck up or pretentious like some of the other girls our age. Despite the differences in our personalities we had gotten along famously and had found that we balanced each other out quite well. I hadn't been a pushover or a recluse before I met Alice Cullen, I had simply kept to myself never having much in common with the other girls my age. However she made me more social and I calmed her down. Her mother had often referred to us as Yin and Yang.

We'd spend Friday nights at her house and Saturdays at mine every weekend for the next year. Whether painting our toenails, doing our homework, or spending our summers in the creek at the end of her yard, we did it all together. We weren't always alone though. About six months after we'd met, things began to change. After that we'd often find ourselves hanging out with Alice's other older brother Edward and his new best friend Jasper when we weren't doing our own thing.

Edward and Jasper were juniors, two years older than Alice and me. I had met Edward many times and had said 'hi' casually a few times in passing at Alice's house or when he'd drop her off at mine. But I'd never spent any real amount of time with him. However one didn't need to spend much time around Edward Cullen to see how cute he was. I think each time I saw him I crushed a little harder on him. His crystal like green eyes, his reddish-brown mop-top messy hair and his sexy grin were enough to melt any girl. And believe me there were plenty melting at Forks High even if he didn't seem to be particularly interested in many of them.

I was pulled from my thoughts when I heard footsteps coming down the hall. I quickly pulled my phone from my pocket and put it up to my ear.

"Hey there you are," Alice called from across the room.

"Hang on a sec Mom," I said into the phone, pretending my mother was on the other end.

"Oh, I'm sorry I didn't know you were on the phone."

"It's okay. What's up?"

"Well Santa is going to be here in about ten minutes and then we are going to open presents. Jasper and I have something for you."

"Alice, you really shouldn't have."

"Oh, shush will ya. It's not much. Just a little memento of our past."

"Okay, let me finish checking on Gran and I'll be right there," I promised.

"Okay. Hurry and give my love to your mom and Gran."

"I will."

She then spun and left the room. When her footsteps were far enough away, I shoved the phone back into my pocket and turned back to the window, my thoughts picking up where they'd left off.

Edward and Jasper were different than most the other boys at our school. I didn't know much about Jasper, but from what I knew of Edward, like his sister he had a great personality. While most of the guys at our school were wrapped up in sports or hanging out at the local arcade, Edward and Jasper were into music. It wasn't that they didn't like video games or sports because I knew that Edward and Alice's family watched Emmett's games together whenever they could, but Edward and Jasper just liked music more. Edward could play the guitar and piano, Jasper the drums and guitar, and they could both carry a tune. In fact it had been music that had led to us all hanging out together.

Alice and I had been doing homework in the kitchen one afternoon and had heard music coming from the third floor of the house where Edward's room was located. After investigating, we had found the two of them playing and had stood in the doorway listening for nearly half an hour before they had noticed us. Once they did, they had shocked us by inviting us in to join them and listen some more instead of telling us to get lost.

That had been the start of things for Edward and me. It was slow and hadn't been much at first. For the most part things had stayed the same with the exception of Alice and me spending some of our time with the guys here and there. But just after the beginning of my and Alice's sophomore year, and Edward and Jasper's senior year, things had changed again. Alice and I had both turned sixteen and were now allowed to date.

It hadn't come as a great shock when Alice and Jasper had begun to date. They had flirted with each other on several occasions and it had been abundantly clear they had a thing for each other. While the two of them hadn't seemed fazed by it at all, and had gone on with life as if their dating was a normal progression in their lives, I had been stunned when Edward had asked me out. Over the course of the next couple of months the four of us would go on several double dates. However as each couple grew closer we had begun to want time alone and found ourselves going on more separate dates. Before I had even known what had hit me, I realized I had fallen head over heels in love with Edward Cullen.

But that had been so long ago, it almost felt like it had been another lifetime. I glanced over my shoulder to the doorway across the room before turning my gaze back to the yard. Just as there had been that night, there was now a sprig of mistletoe hanging at the top of the doorway. It was a bittersweet moment remembering it had been in the same doorway where he had pulled me under the mistletoe and had kissed me after telling me he loved me for the first time. It had been the best moment of my life at the time. I closed my eyes and it was as if I was there again. The sounds of chatter coming from the other room were similar to the sounds that night as we had snuck off praying no one had seen us.

The scent of gingerbread cookies had hung in the air. Alice and I had helped Esme bake them earlier in the day. I had tried not to giggle too loudly and get us noticed while Edward tugged me out of the room. I remembered thinking Edward simply wanted to steal a kiss or two and couldn't wait until later. He had always told me how much he loved to kiss me. And well…I didn't mind at all.

I could feel my heart racing now as it had then when he had pressed me up against the doorway in anticipation of his lips on mine. But when the expression on his face had changed from a cocky smirk to one with a more serious tone that was so full of emotion, I knew something was up, although I had never imagined he was about to tell me he loved me. His eyes had stared at me with such intensity that it had felt like he was looking into the very depths of my heart and soul.

Edward had leaned in and whispered my name softly, sending chills down my spine. His spell over me had been broken for a moment when we'd thought we'd heard someone coming. I had started to pull away but he had caged me in with his arms and told me to wait that he had to tell me something first. After waiting a second to make sure we hadn't been discovered, he held both my hands in his and told me he loved me. I'd been so surprised and hadn't even had the chance to tell him I felt the same before his lips were on mine. It had been as if he needed to show me as well as tell me. We had kissed until we broke apart gasping for air, and after taking in a long pull of air, I told him I loved him too. The smile that spread across his face upon hearing my declaration of love for him had been biggest and brightest I had ever seen from him. It had definitely been the best night of my life. One I would never forget.

Life had been so easy then. Back then, back when I was with Edward and Alice and Jasper, we had shared many fun times. Alice and I had been saddened when Edward and Jasper had left to go to Seattle for college but they had promised us they'd come home frequently on the weekends, and they did.

Then one weekend in October, about a month after my seventeenth birthday, I had gone to Seattle with Alice and her parents for the weekend. That weekend had been the biggest roller coaster ride of emotions I had ever experienced in my entire life. We had a wonderful time planned. In addition to visiting with Edward, Jasper and Emmett, one of Edward's music classes had been having a concert and he was going to play the piano during it.

Since Alice and I had, had the Friday of that week off school, we all drove to Seattle Thursday evening. Carlisle and Esme had an evening out in the city planned for themselves on Friday, so that had given Alice and I time alone with our guys. I hadn't had any idea what Alice and Jasper had planned to do with their time, but Edward and I had made plans to make love for the first time. Under the guise of spending the night in the sorority house with Rose, Emmett's girlfriend, Alice and I were able to spend the night with Edward and Jasper. Emmett, who had been successfully sneaking into Rose's room for months, gave his room to Edward and I while Alice and Jasper stayed in his and Edward's room.

The night went off without a hitch. Edward and I had made love like we'd planned and it had been a wonderful, beautiful experience. One I'd never forget even though my world was about to be turned upside down. Sunday on the way home from Seattle, my mother had called and had informed me of my father having been shot. The Cullens had taken me straight to the hospital as soon as we had gotten back in Forks. The next day my father had passed. Two months later, just after Christmas my mother had announced we were moving. And that was the last time I had ever seen Edward.

A door slamming shut startled me back to the present.

Seconds later I heard, "Bella. Bella! Come on. Hurry it's time." Alice was hollering down the hall, her voice getting louder as she got closer.

Knowing there was no way she'd leave me by myself this time, I sucked in a long breath and plastered a smile on my face as I headed towards her.

"Geez, Alice," I said when I saw her. "You look like you're three years old and just woke up Christmas morning to find Santa in your living room."

"Well I may not be three, but Santa will be in my living room any second," she stated gleefully. "Come on, I don't want to miss Lizzie's face when she see's Santa and my dad in the room together at the same time."

Alice had explained to me earlier today that her niece, Lizzie, Emmett and Rose's three year old daughter, had figured out that it was Carlisle who had been playing Santa for her at her house and for the kids at the hospital. Not wanting her to give up on believing in Santa just yet, they devised a plan to have someone else play the jolly old elf and allow her to see her Paw Paw and Santa in the room at the same time. I had no idea who they had gotten to stand in for Carlisle, but I was sure Lizzie was going to be quite surprised when she saw them both.

"You're crazy, Alice. You know that, right?" I teased as she pulled me down the hall by my hand like I was some disobedient child being led off for a proper scolding.

"Oh come on, Bella, its Christmas Eve. Where's your holiday spirit?" she asked as she stopped and turned to face me. "Look," she stated softly, taking both of my hands into hers. "I know that life has once again dealt you a shitty hand. But I have a feeling things are about to get better for you. I believe there was a reason you were meant to come back to Forks. Not just because of your Gran's health either. I know it's—"

"Alice, I just don't see a lot to be in the holiday spirit about right now."

"I understand why you feel that way. I was going to say that I know it's hard for you right now. But just try. Sometimes good things happen when you least expect them to. Okay?"

"Okay. I'll try, but that's the best I can do right now."

"It'll be okay," she assured me as we hugged each other. I then found myself being pulled down the hall once again. Alice had always loved Christmas time and it was clear that hadn't changed about her. Her excitement was infectious and I decided that there was no sense in trying so hard not to enjoy myself. So I blew out a long breath and put a smile on my face.

Upon entering the living room I stood in the doorway taking in all the decorations and letting the inviting, festive atmosphere warm my mood. The tree they'd gotten this year was huge. They'd always had big trees from what I remembered, but this one was by far the largest I had ever seen here or anywhere other than on television. The ceiling was a good twelve feet high and the tree couldn't be less than six inches from reaching it.

Next to it was a large fireplace with a mantle which was decorated in grand style. Hanging from it were garlands and stockings and the top of the mantle had nutcrackers along with many candles in various shapes and sizes, all lit and casting a warm glow as they reflected off the large mirror hanging behind them.

"Where's Santa?" Alice's niece Lizzie cried from where she was standing by the front window bouncing in place as she waited for Santa to arrive. You could practically feel her excitement buzzing throughout the room.

"Lizzie," Emmett said causing his daughter to turn and look at him. "Santa isn't going to drive up to the front of the house. Remember he has a sleigh. Why don't you come over here by Mommy and Daddy or sit by the tree?"

Before Lizzie could move or I could figure out where I should sit, we all heard a loud, "Ho ho ho," coming from the back of the house.

Lizzie instantly stopped bouncing and let out a loud squeal. Alice must have seen me begin to frantically look for a place to sit because she quickly hopped up from her spot next to Jasper on the sofa and pulled me over to sit on the large ottoman that went with the chair next to the sofa.

I had just gotten myself situated in my seat when the loud footsteps that had been getting closer to the living room came to a stop. I looked up and saw Santa standing in the doorway.

A strange feeling crept over me, sending a chill up my spine when Santa looked in my direction and did a double take before he stood frozen with his eyes locked on me. But after a few seconds when he cleared his throat and called out asking for a little girl named Lizzie Cullen, I blew it off to him being curious about the stranger in the Cullen's living room.

It was adorable to watch Lizzie look back and forth between her grandpa and Santa. You could see her mentally coming to terms with them both being in the room at the same time.

After her gaze flitted back and forth like a ping pong ball a few more times, she put her hands on her hips and looked straight at Santa and said, "You're late. You were supposed to be here before dinner."

"You're right, Lizzie," he acknowledged while walking over and squatting down in front of her. "Santa has been very busy today. It is Christmas Eve you know. I've had lots of little boys and girls to visit today."

"Are you sure you're Santa?" she asked folding her arms across her chest. I couldn't stop the giggle that escaped my mouth which caused Alice to do the same thing.

"Of course I'm Santa. Why would you ask me such a thing, young lady?" You could hear whoever it was getting just a little unnerved by her questions. I guess he'd expected her to be so thrilled to see him she wouldn't care that he was late.

"Because Santa is magic," she declared with every ounce of authority she could muster. "He can be wherever he wants to be. I saw it in a movie."

"Well…you see, Lizzie, one of the reindeer were sick and so I had to take him back to the North Pole," Santa told her confidently like he was sure she wouldn't question him at all.

Emmett mumbled "bullshit" just loud enough for those of us sitting near him to hear and a loud snort shot out of me along with another giggle. I found myself again being stared at by Santa.

With him being much closer to me than he had been in the doorway, I couldn't shake the feeling there was something familiar about his eyes. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it was as if I should know them. Like I'd seen them before.

After what felt like a much longer time than I was sure it actually was, Santa turned his attention back to Lizzie.

"How about I give you the present I brought for you. Would that make up for me being late?" he asked her with a pleading tone in his voice.

As if someone had given me laughing gas, I was giggling again when Lizzie didn't readily accept his peace offering. It may have been a bit evil of me, but a tiny part of me wanted to see what he'd do if she said no. She literally took a few minutes to think about it, causing me to wonder if she would.

There was no doubt in my mind she was her mother's daughter. From what I had remembered of Rose, she was never quick to accept any answer or apology unless she was one hundred percent certain of it first. And I found it to be completely adorable to see Lizzie not so easily swayed. Besides my brief thoughts of wanting to see Santa squirm a little, it made me believe that she'd have a level head on her shoulders when she got older.

Finally after careful consideration, Lizzie's face lit up as bright as the Christmas tree while she nodded her head several times indicating she indeed wanted the gift. It took her only a few fast moments to have it ripped open and to be squealing, "This is just what I wanted. How did you know?"

Santa chuckled lightly and said, "Ho ho ho," with another chuckle and then told her, "Because Santa knows what everyone wants for Christmas."

"Really?" she asked, her eyes going wide and now acting like the dazzled child who had Santa standing in front of her.

"Really," he stated confidently. While looking around the room he then said, "I know what everyone in this room wants for Christmas. Except—" He stopped when his eyes landed on me. His finger was pointed directly at me as he announced, "Her."

I could feel my face turning red from him singling me out in front of everyone, and then Lizzie inquired, "Why don't you know what she wants, Santa?" which only made it worse.

"I don't know. Maybe she was on the naughty list this year. What do you think?" he asked Lizzie. "Do you think she was a bad girl this year?"

Lizzie shook her head back and forth. She then tugged on the white fur trim of his coat before motioning with her finger for him to bend over so she could whisper something in his ear. He turned and squatted down next to her. I had no clue what it was she said to him, but by the time he stood back up she was giggling and he was scratching his beard as if he were thinking about something.

"Are you sure?" he asked her softly after glancing over his shoulder at me. She nodded vigorously with a huge toothy grin on her face.

Next thing I knew he had closed the distance between where he had been standing and where I was sitting. I knew I was in trouble the second he stopped in front of me and held his hand out because when he did, I looked up at him and immediately recognized who was in the Santa suit.

I didn't need any other clue to know exactly who it was; his emerald green eyes gave him away. They were clouded with questions and swimming with emotion, but they were the same eyes that I had seen in my dreams many times over the last few years. Piercing green eyes that I would never forget. And now the reaction he'd had when he first entered the room and saw me made complete sense.

He hand was still extended to me but I wasn't exactly sure why since I had no idea what Lizzie had said to him. I didn't know what to do. I almost felt afraid to take his hand not knowing what would happen when I did.

However, it must have been obvious to everyone else, because Alice chirped, "Bella, I think Santa wants to know what you want for Christmas."

I was torn between dashing out of the room or burying my face in my hands to hide the blush I knew was still there from the heat I felt burning my cheeks. However not wanting to disappoint Lizzie or make a fool out of myself by either running or hiding my face, I reasoned that it was best to just get this over with quickly and get myself out of the spotlight. So I took his hand and he pulled me into a standing position. I felt my cheeks get even hotter as this put me even more in the spotlight than I had been in before.

Unable to look directly at Santa, my eyes searched the room for something to focus on. Settling on the Christmas tree behind him, I took a deep breath and began, "All I really wa—"

"Oh come on, everyone knows you are supposed to be sitting on Santa's lap when you tell him what you want for Christmas!" Emmett eagerly informed us.

I quickly shook my head in protest, but before I could move away I found myself being spun as Santa sat on the ottoman I had just been on and tugged me down onto his lap.

Everyone was laughing and despite being mortified, I found myself laughing with them. There really wasn't anything else I could do besides plot my revenge against Emmett. Especially since Lizzie had already lost interest in the situation as she became engrossed with the present she had just received.

"Okay, I think we've embarrassed Bella enough," Esme said. "Bella, dear, why don't you tell Santa what it is you want so we can pass out the rest of the gifts?"

Everyone quickly hushed and I wasn't so sure that was better as all eyes were once again on me. Clearing my throat I quickly said, "All I really want is for all my friends, family and loved ones to be happy and healthy."

"That's a wonderful thing to wish for," Esme stated. She had been down to the house to help with whatever she could since my mom and I had returned to Forks to care for Gran.

I hopped up quickly when Carlisle announced for Lizzie to come say goodbye to Santa so he could be on his way to deliver presents to the rest of the boys and girls across the world.

A few minutes later when everyone was busy going about the business of handing out gifts now that Santa was gone, I excused myself from the room under the guise of needing to use the restroom. What I really needed was some time alone to get a hold on all the emotions that were surging through me. I had thought I'd be able to handle seeing Edward again. But even under the cover of a Santa suit, I wasn't so sure now. Excuses for Alice to take me home began to flit through my brain as I escaped the living room.

Loving the view and peaceful feeling it offered, I made my way back to the wall of windows in the dining room. This time there were footsteps leading from the driveway to the deck stairs, marring the previously untouched blanket of snow covering the Cullen's backyard. As my gaze followed the footsteps they changed to a trail of snow tracks across the deck to the back door. It must have been how Edward had gotten in to play Santa without anyone having seen him.

Edward. He was here. When I had stood here earlier, disappointed he wasn't here I thought I had known exactly what I'd say to him if given the chance. But now I wasn't so sure. I was caught off guard by how much my being here seemed to be affecting him.

The more I thought about it, I began to wonder again if I should just leave. Perhaps he was upset that I was here. I wondered if maybe he didn't want me here and how I would've reacted if he'd had someone with him. You're so stupid, Bella. You should have thought about all that before you agreed to be here tonight.

I was still mentally chastising myself when without warning the voice I hadn't heard since last time I'd been in this house cut through the room like a hot knife slicing through butter.

~*Edward*~

After saying goodbye to my niece, and reminding her she still had to be good and go to bed when her parents told her to, I left out the front door and trudged through almost a foot of newly fallen snow to the back door.

Once I had reached the door, I stomped as much snow off my boots as I could before entering my mother's kitchen. I knew she'd drag me by my ear through the whole damn house for getting snow and mud all over the place.

Toeing the boots off on the rug by the door, I picked them up and carried them the rest of the way up to my old room. Removing the Santa suit, I hung it in the closet so I could return it to my father once Lizzie was nowhere in sight.

I had sweated a lot while in the costume so I wanted to take a quick shower. When I was done and had dried off, I made my way back into my bedroom from the adjoining bathroom, catching a glimpse of the picture of Bella and me sitting on the bookshelf across the room. It had been taken on the day I had graduated from high school.

It was so hard to comprehend the fact that she was here, in my parent's house. I hadn't seen her in so long and honestly thought I might not ever see her again. I sat on the edge of my bed as my mind became flooded with memories of her, of us. I flopped backwards on my bed when the memories turned to questions about why she was here and why she cut things off between us the way she had. I had heard that Alice had kept touch with her over the years, but I had never questioned her or my mother about it. Part of me wished I had and another part didn't want to know in case the reason was she had found someone else. So in an effort to protect myself I had remained silent and had moved on as best as I could, despite the fact I had never gotten completely over her.

It suddenly dawned on me that I was lying here in my room wallowing over the past and questions I needed answers to, and the one person who could answer them all was downstairs.

Jumping up off my bed I got dressed so fast you'd have thought I was the little kid eager to see Santa. I was still rolling the sleeves to my shirt up as I flew down the stairs. It was a miracle I didn't trip and break my neck while doing so.

As I took the last two steps at once, I landed in front of my sister who was on her way out of the living room.

"Where you off to?" I asked her.

"To find Bella. She left a while ago to use the restroom and hasn't come back. I was a bit worried about her. She looked upset. I think she may have realized it was you in the Santa suit."

"You don't think she'd leave without saying anything do you?" God please tell me she was still here.

"Well, maybe if she could."

"What do you mean if she could?" I was about to freak out and beg Alice to tell me where Bella was staying. I had to talk to her before she left town.

"Jazz and I picked her up from her Gran's house. So she can't leave," Alice clarified.

"Oh."

Alice started to walk away.

"Hey, Alice."

"Yeah?"

"Since I'm supposed to stay out of sight until Em and Rose put Lizzie to bed, why don't you let me look for her? I'd really like to catch up with her. You know for old time's sake."

"Un huh, old time's sake. Sure," she said in a playful accusatory tone.

"What?" It came out as more of a squeak than a question.

Alice stepped closer to me and placed her hands on both of my biceps as if she were trying to comfort or brace me for what she was about to say.

"Look, Big Bro, I know there may be some unresolved issues, feelings, questions or whatever between the two of you. But she's going through a really hard time right now. So go easy on her. Take it slow ok? Promise me you won't push her. You'll have plenty of time to get things settled between you both."

"Plenty of time? How long is she here for?"

"They moved back. She's here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future anyways," my sister told me.

"You said they?" I questioned. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping the other person in the "they" was her mother.

"Her and her mom. Now do you want to go find her or not? She's been gone a while."

"Yeah. I'll come get you if I need to."

"Okay. I love you, Edward."

"Love you too, Munchkin."

Alice and I hugged briefly before she left me so I could go find Bella.

Alice had mentioned Bella had gone off to use the restroom so I checked there first. She wasn't there and after checking the kitchen and entertainment room, I finally found her in the dining room.

She was standing at the glass window looking out into the yard. I was overcome with a sense of déjà vu finding her here and on Christmas Eve of all nights. I looked up over my head and sure enough there was a sprig of mistletoe just like there had been years ago when Bella and I had snuck off to find a few minutes alone and make out. I remembered pressing her against this exact door frame and kissing her right after telling her I loved her for the very first time. I couldn't help chuckling to myself as I remembered her giggling while I tried to hurry her out of the room without us being seen.

I had been trying to figure out how to tell her for weeks and when my whole family had been wrapped up for a few moments talking wedding plans with Rose and Emmett, I saw my opportunity to steal her away. She was pressed against the wood of the doorway and I was pressed against her. I wasn't sure which one of our hearts was beating faster, but I could feel hers hammering away and was pretty certain she could feel mine too.

I had been just about to tell her when we'd thought someone was coming down the hall. She had been spooked and started to dart away, but there was no way I was letting her go without getting out the words I'd been dying to say. I braced my arms on both sides of the doorframe and trapped her there. I think then she realized I wanted more than to just sneak a few kisses. Not that I didn't want those too, because I could kiss her for hours at a time and never get tired of it. Not wanting to wait any longer I finally told her I loved her and without even giving her a chance to respond I immediately kissed her with all the love I felt to make sure there was no doubt in her mind that I meant those three words with everything in me. We kissed until we couldn't any longer and had to catch our breaths and in that moment something even better than telling her how I felt happened. She told me she loved me too. I remembered smiling so widely that it was almost painful. How I would love now to hear her utter those same three words to me again.

As quickly as that memory came, it faded and morphed into the one where I had stood here that first Christmas after she was gone and felt the start of my heart cracking in two when she didn't come to visit like she was supposed to. When she called me and told me to go on with my life. That she couldn't leave her mom in Arizona all alone.

I remembered telling her it was okay, that I understood, and that there would be other chances for her to come visit or I could visit her. That we would see each other next time. But that was when the crack officially went from crack to full on broken. Because it was then that she had told me, "There won't be a next time, Edward. My life is here now and you have your life there. It's time for us to move on and forget about what we had. You have to let me go. It's what's best for us both."

For a while after that, I had held on to hope that eventually she'd miss me so much that she'd come anyways. I mean she had said she loved me so she was bound to miss me right? But that had never happened.

I ran my hand through my hair at least a half dozen times as I tried to figure out what to say to her, what to ask her first. Then as if I had no control over my actions, "Why'd you do it?" shot out of my mouth as if someone had suddenly typed a text in my brain and pushed the send button.

I heard her gasp as she spun quickly to face me. She didn't say anything. She just stood there staring at me almost as if she wasn't sure I was really there. As I took the steps to bring myself to stand in front of her, her gaze shifted until she was staring at the floor. I remained silent for a few seconds as I watched her nervously pick at her fingernails. I caught myself wanting to smile at the nervous habit she had apparently not outgrown in the time she'd been away.

With my hand slightly shaking from my own nerves and the uncertainty of what she'd say, I reached out and placed it under her chin so that I could lift her gaze to mine.

"Why? If you have nothing else to say to me, can you at least please just tell me why? Why you gave up on us?" I begged her. Despite my best efforts at reining it in, my voice nearly failed me on the last question, becoming raspy and thick with emotion no matter how hard I tried for it not to.

Her big brown eyes filled with tears that threatened to spill over any second as she opened her mouth to speak once and then twice with nothing coming out.

She brushed away a few tears that made their way down her cheek then let out a long whoosh of air. In barely more than a whisper she said, "I had to. She told me—made me see it was what was right… that it was the right thing to do."

"Who, Bella?"

"My mom," she choked out, the words barely audible.

My mind began spinning, trying to figure out why on earth Renee would suggest such a thing to her. And then it hit me. All that they had been through and why they had left in the first place.

"Oh my God, Bella," I said as I reached out and pulled her to me. "Now I see. Don't you see what she did?"

She didn't answer me with words, but I felt her nod her head as her body began to shake with the dam of emotions that had finally become too much for her to hold back any longer.

It became clear to me we had so much to talk about. I had to believe that if she had someone significant in her life that Alice would have told me before she let me come find Bella. I needed to get her out of here before someone saw her crying or before we could be interrupted.

"Where's your coat?" I asked her.

She backed up enough so she could look up at me. "What? Why?"

"We need to talk. And there are too many people here to possibly interrupt us. Will you come with me?"

Without hesitation she nodded and then told me her coat was by the front door.

"Okay. Wait here."

Not waiting for a response from her, I took off down the hall hoping I could grab Bella's coat from the foyer without being noticed. When I was successful I ran upstairs and grabbed my keys, cellphone and wallet and quickly made my way back to Bella. Helping her with her coat, I then took her hand and pulled her to the back door where mine was hanging. Once we both had our coats and gloves on, we made our way out the door and through the snow to my truck. I helped her climb in since it was a high step for her and then made my way around to the other side. Inside the truck, I turned on the heat. While waiting a few minutes for it to warm up and the windows to defrost, I sent Alice a short text letting her know Bella was with me and that I was taking her home. That was all she needed to know for now. I then put the truck in reverse and backed out of the driveway knowing exactly where we were going. It was where we had always gone when we were younger, a place that was special to us both.

It didn't take Bella long to figure it out. "You're going to the lake?"

"Yeah. I thought it would be someplace we could talk without any interruptions. Are you okay with that?"

She nodded in agreement and then turned to look out the window as we continued on our way.

About twenty minutes later I turned the truck off the main road onto the gravel one that led to the lake. When we came to the dead end, I parked the truck and turned it off. I could see Bella chewing on her lip nervously as she picked at her fingernails again. The last thing I wanted was for her to be a nervous wreck. I had brought us here hoping it would help her relax and feel more comfortable talking with me.

Reaching behind the seat, I dug around until I found the extra hat and scarf I kept there in case of an emergency. Last thing you wanted to happen during a Forks winter was to be stranded without enough gear to keep you warm. I tugged the hat I normally wore out of my coat pocket and put it on. With the extra hat and scarf in hand, I got out of the truck and walked around to Bella's side. Opening the door, I held my hand out to her to help her down. Once she was out of the truck, I slid my extra hat onto her head and then wrapped the scarf around her neck to help keep her warm.

"Come take a walk with me," I said holding my hand out for her to take. She gave me a soft smile and then placed her hand in mine.

While we walked up the path which led to the clearing where the lake was, neither of us said anything as we concentrated on watching our step so we didn't fall or slip in the snow and ice that covered it. As we came to the end of the path, the canopy of dense evergreen trees gave way to a sky that was now crystal clear with a full moon hanging overhead. It had been cloudy earlier in the day, but now that the snow storm had passed the moon was lighting the area like a winter wonderland.

"It's beautiful," Bella gasped as she took in the sight before us.

"Stunning," I whispered. Only I was looking at her and not the lake.

We walked along the lakeshore until we came to the old huge fallen tree trunk we used to sit on when we were younger. After brushing off as much of the snow as we could, we both sat down on the tree with our hands still clasped together between us. I noticed she had begun to look around. When she seemed to find what she was looking for, she got up and walked over to a huge old oak tree; I followed behind her.

"Do you remember the last time we were here together?" she asked while walking around the tree trunk. She stopped when she found what she was looking for.

"It was the day before I left for college."

She nodded and swiped away the snow that had clung to the tree during the storm to uncover our initials that I had carved into the bark on that day.

"It was a tough day for us both."

"I'm glad that things turned out for Alice and Jasper," she whispered.

"Bella, do you remember what we talked about that day?"

"Yes."

"You remember how I told you that it might be hard for us until you graduated and came to UDub with me, but we'd find a way to get through it? We'd visit and have holidays, school breaks and vacations together right?"

"Yes. And I remember you said something similar when I told you that my mom was moving us to Arizona." Her voice was low and filled with uncertainty. "But—"

Cutting her off I asked, "If you remember, then why?"

"It was just so hard and unfair to us both," she murmured.

"But we knew it wasn't going to be easy, Bella. When we met at the airport the day you left, you were as sure and as determined as I was that we'd get through the distance between us no matter how hard it was. We talked about looking at the little picture, taking the time we had until you finished high school and breaking it up into little pieces so that we didn't let the whole amount of time overwhelm us. So that first hurdle we had to overcome was six weeks. You were supposed to fly up here for Christmas break. We had already talked about it with our parents and Alice. So what happened? What did your mom say to you to change your mind?"

She pulled her glove off and ran her fingers over the groves of our initials in the tree. After tracing the carved heart that surrounded them, she took in a deep breath and leaned her head in the direction of the fallen tree trunk and said, "Let's sit back down."

"Okay," I said as I followed her back to our makeshift bench.

"My mom was still having a really hard time dealing with my dad's death even with our new surroundings," she began as soon as we were both sitting again. "A few days before I was supposed to leave, I was bored one afternoon. In my eagerness to come see you and Alice I decided I'd start packing for my trip. My mom had seen me digging through the large closet in the downstairs hallway. She had watched while I pulled out my suitcase and took it upstairs with me to my room. I knew she had seen me, but she hadn't said anything so I didn't think anything about it. I was too eager to pack."

"So you're not coming to Forks that Christmas truly was a last minute thing? You hadn't been lying to me?"

Her only response was the back and forth movement of her head.

"I don't mean to sound like you are a cruel person, Bella. I know lying isn't something you would have normally done. I'm just trying to understand what happened to change things so suddenly."

"No. I didn't lie. I had been dying to come see you up until the day before I was supposed to be there. Well...actually I still wanted to after that, my mom just made me see that it wasn't fair to either of us."

"What do you mean? What did she say?"

"Up until the day before I was supposed to leave, I had been going on and on practically non-stop with how excited I was to come up here." Bella stood and walked to the edge of the lake as she continued to talk. I noticed how she wrapped her arms around herself. At first I thought maybe she was cold, but then when she wasn't shivering or doing anything else to indicate that was the case, it appeared to me, almost as if she were trying to comfort herself over what had happened. Turning away from the lake so she was facing me, she said, "That night as I was getting ready for bed, my mom knocked on my bedroom door and asked to talk to me."

Bella went on to explain how her mom had told her that we weren't being fair to each other. That every time she came up here to visit that it was going to get harder and harder to let go. How we would both be living in limbo waiting for the next visit and not moving on with our lives and that we could be holding each other back from living life as we should, that we were too young to be caught up in some long distance relationship. Renee had told her these years were meant to be fun and carefree, not clouded by us missing one another and maybe missing out on doing things we wanted out of a sense of obligation to one another.

"Wait," I called out to her as I got up and walked over to her. "Your mom thought I was only staying in our relationship because I felt some sort of obligation to you? Bella…that's just…I don't know…wrong." I was beyond shocked that her mother could even think such a thing. Our parents had been such good friends and I had a really hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Renee thought so little of me.

"She thought we both were. She was convinced neither one of us wanted to be the one to say goodbye and be the one to hurt the other one. She said neither of us wanted to be the 'bad guy'."

"I don't even know what to say to that. Bella, I wanted to stay with you and do everything we could to make it work because I loved you. "Maybe I still did. Love? I wasn't sure if that was what I still felt for her, but I knew there were still strong feelings and I wanted to explore them. But first, I needed to know everything her mother had said to her.

"What else?" I asked.

Next Bella told me that her mother had asked her what would happen if one of us met someone we wanted to be with, someone we could see and do things with all the time. Would we cut ties then or would we still feel that sense of obligation and then have regrets? Would we start a relationship anyways and then disappear from each other's lives? Her mother had reiterated to her that each time she would come up here to visit me it was going to get harder and harder to say goodbye and that we were only prolonging the inevitable and making a long sad goodbye hurt even more. But the last thing she explained to me was like a slap in the face. Renee had told Bella that young men my age had needs and sooner or later I'd give in to those needs and then where would that leave Bella? That it was in both our best interest if we had a clean break now and didn't look back. It really hurt and pissed me off that Renee had thought I'd give up on Bella for some random, meaningless sex.

"Bella," I said to her as I grasped her shoulders and looked straight into her eyes. "Please tell me that you didn't believe I would ever cheat on you or just forget about you. Hell the fact that we are here now having this conversation should tell you that I've never forgotten about you."

"No," she said while shaking her head at the same time. "I…" She paused for a minute and wiped away a tear that trickled from her eye. "I never believed that you would do that to me, and I certainly wouldn't have done that to you. But…I couldn't help thinking that one of the things she said made sense."

"What, Bella? Tell me because I don't think any of it does."

"The part about each time we would have to say goodbye to each other it would get harder. I was already torn, feeling guilty and selfish for leaving my mother in Arizona to spend our first Christmas without my father alone, but missing you so much and Alice too. And after I laid in bed all night crying and torn up over what she had said to me and fighting between what my heart was saying and what my head was saying, I began to think that maybe she was right, that maybe a clean break was what we both needed."

I took a step closer to Bella and let my hands slide from her shoulders to her hands. Linking the fingers on both our hands together I pulled her closer to me. She let her head fall forward so that her forehead was resting on my chest. "I'm so sorry. You must have hated me back then. Wouldn't blame you if you still do," I heard her mumble.

"Oh, Bella," I whispered as I let go of her hands and hugged her tightly. She was beating herself up for something that really wasn't her fault and a no-win situation that fate had dealt her. I couldn't let her do that. "I don't hate you. I've never hated you?"

Her head snapped up and her eyes were wide with shock. "How could you not?" She pulled away and backed up before turning her back to me, hiding her face from my view.

"I was many things…confused, angry, lost and hurt. But, Bella," I said as I moved to where she was standing. I placed my hand on her shoulder which caused her to turn and look up at me. "Hate was never an emotion I felt for you, Bella. I don't even think it's possible for me to hate you."

"Why not?" she asked so softly I could barely hear her. "I hated myself. I don't know how you didn't."

"I can see why you would hate yourself, sweetheart. I don't agree with it, but I see why. You blamed yourself for the situation. But the truth is you were just as much a victim as I was, and even your mother. Although I do believe she used her grief to manipulate the situation a bit to her advantage. But part of me can understand why she did."

"How was I a victim, Edward? I called you on Christmas Eve and broke your heart?"

Feeling the need to touch her I tucked a stray piece of hair that had fallen into her face back under my hat she was wearing and then slid my hand along her jaw to cup her face. As she looked up at me the moonlight caused her skin to glow and despite her tear stained cheeks I was taken aback by what a beautiful woman she had become. She had always been pretty but the changes that had taken place over the six years since I had last seen her had only enhanced the natural beauty she already had.

Rubbing the pad of my thumb across her cheek I began to explain. "The way I see it, Bella, is that we were all victims of a tragic event. As much as I hated it, I can't say that I blame your mother for wanting to move or for wanting to keep you as close to her as possible for as long as she could. After all once your father had passed all she had left were you and your grandmother."

"It still doesn't make what I did right."

"I don't know if there was a right or wrong in that situation. You are right, I think it would have gotten harder for us to say goodbye each time we would have seen each other. But, Bella, I can't fault your mom for wanting you close to her or you for wanting to give that to her. Not after losing your father so suddenly and tragically. Did it suck? Did it hurt like hell at first? Yes it did. But we had all been dealt a shitty hand by fate."

"I am so sorry for hurting you, Edward. I see what you are saying and it makes sense. I guess my mom did manipulate me in a way. But like you said, she was still so lost in her grief. But even so, I still can't believe how incredibly understanding you are being. I wish there were some way I could make it up to you."

We stood there staring at each other. I could see she was still struggling with all I'd said to her. I could see the doubt in her eyes.

"Like I said, I was incredibly hurt for a while. I did eventually learn to move on. However, maybe there is a way for you to make it up to me," I told her.

"Really? How? Because I would do anything for you to forgive me. For you to see just how sorry I truly am."

"Go on a date with me."

"What?" she squeaked, hardly getting the word out in her surprised state.

"Go on a date with me," I repeated as I nervously reached up to run my hand through my hair, forgetting I had a hat on. "Look, I know you are probably going to be helping your mom with your grandmother a lot. And while I am extremely sorry that her bad health is what brought you back to Forks, I also can't help but wonder if maybe we've been given a second chance."

"But—"

"But what?"

"Alice said you had a serious girlfriend."

"She's right. Had, as in past tense, not anymore."

"I don't want to be some rebound girl, Edward." She started to turn and walk away, but I grabbed her arm and pulled her back to me. She was pressed against my chest and trapped in my arms.

I leaned down so that my face was barely an inch from hers. "Can you honestly tell me you can't still feel the connection between us, Bella? Can you tell me you didn't know the second I entered the dining room back at the house? Because if you try, I'm going to call you a liar. I saw your body tense, saw your breathing stop and your hand clinch at your side. It's still there, Bella, after all this time. You said you'd do anything. All I'm asking for is one date. One chance."

I could see her searching my eyes to see if I was serious. "Well? It's just a date. I'm not proposing marriage here," I teased her trying to lighten her mood. "What are you waiting for? What's holding you back?"

"I'm scared," she admitted hesitantly. "I don't exactly have the best track record when it comes to dating and—"

"This is me, Bella. I won't hurt you. I promise. Please just one date. That's all I'm asking. If you don't have a good time or you decide you don't have any lingering feelings for me, then we can part and just be friends or whatever. But like I said before, I think we are being given a second chance here. It might be scary, but no risk, no reward. So what'd ya say?"

I watched as she chewed on her lip nervously for a few moments while she pondered what I'd said. However the second I saw a soft but timid smile grace her lips, I knew what her answer was before she had spoken the words.

"Okay. When?" she asked.

"Alice and Jasper are having a New Year's Eve party. Be my date?"

"Kay."

I was leaning in about to kiss her when I heard my cellphone chirp in my pocket. Reluctantly I released her. Checking my phone I saw it was Alice wanting to know if I was still with Bella.

"I guess some things never change do they?" Bella giggled when I showed her the text.

"No. Alice is still just as nosy as ever."

"Um, it's getting late. I should probably be getting home."

"Yeah I guess I should get back too." I wasn't really ready to take her home yet. I felt like I had six years of not seeing her to make up for. But hopefully our one date would lead to more and we'd have plenty of time to get caught up on what each of us had been up to since we had last seen one another.

We turned to head back to the truck. But just before we reached the path I knew there was one more thing I had to say. One more thing I had to do.

"Bella," I said, causing her to stop and look up at me.

I took her hand in mine and pulled her into my arms again. "For the record, I would never use you as a rebound girl." Before she had a chance to respond, my lips were on hers, kissing her like I'd been dying to since we'd arrived at the lake.

Stunned I'd kissed her so suddenly it took her a second to respond. But when she did, it was as if no time had elapsed and her lips moved in time with mine as if they had a memory of their own and knew exactly what to do. Her lips were soft, warm just as I had remembered them. Her hands slid up around my neck and knotted in the hair at the base of my head, spurring me to change my position slightly so I could deepen the kiss. And when I did, she didn't resist at all. Our tongues tangled together and kept going until I felt her slipping in my arms, signaling that she was getting weak in the knees and needed to come up for air. I'd thought the memory of kissing her had been good, but actually doing it again—there was no memory that could compare to the real thing.

So Edward got a kiss and a date. Will it go as he hopes, or will fate intervene once again?

I have pictures on my blog under the page for this story. I will add to it as the story continues to unfold. Link for the blog is on my profile page. Also look for a teaser on the blog and on The Fictionators on Monday.

Thanks so much for reading. Let me know what you thought.

See you next week.

EA