A/N: This is my Christmas gift/thank you to everyone for getting Hot Commodity up to over 200 reviews. :)
This is the first of eight outtakes I'll be releasing. There will be four outtakes for Edward and four for Bella, covering their sophomore, junior, and senior years in college, and the period from college graduation to present day in the story.
I wanted everyone to have a little back story on each of them, in hopes that this would better explain their behaviors and ways of doing things in the present day. You'll also get a glimpse of the rest of the characters as well!
Edward's first outtake is done, however, it will not be posted until after January 1 because I donated it to the Fandom 4 Texas compilation. :)
Chloe Masen - You're amazing! Thank you a million more times for all your beta expertise and help with everything! *MUAH*
Reviews = love, so please don't hesitate to leave them!
Characters belong to SM. Everything else belongs to me.
HOT COMMODITY: THE BELLA DIARIES – VOLUME 1, SOPHOMORE YEAR
September 23, 2001 - Sunday
Holy shit is it good to be back in Cambridge! Don't get me wrong, I miss the summer and I'd give anything to have a few more weeks without deadlines and due dates and the other pressures that come with college life, but I don't miss Forks one bit.
The school year is off to a good start, especially now that Alice, Rose, and I have a place together. The move itself was quite the fiasco, but now that it's over and done with, it was worth every minute…
I dropped the last moving box on the hard wood floor and collapsed on my bare mattress. Rosalie appeared in the doorway looking flustered. Her brown hair was a tangled mess and chunks of it stuck to her sweaty forehead. She crossed the room and flopped down next to me, resting her head on my shoulder.
"Remind me again why we didn't hire movers?"
I heaved a sigh, wondering the same thing internally. "Because your parents already forked over too much for this apartment and I refuse to take any more of their money?"
Rosalie waved her hand dismissively. "It's not like they have anything else to spend it on. Bree and I both have scholarships." Bree was Rose's older sister. She was studying law at Yale.
"Point taken. Next time we'll hire movers." I heard the front door open and close and a minute later Alice came bounding in the room.
"What are you two doing?" She put her hands on her hips and frowned down at Rose and me. "Eric and Jane are going to be here any minute and we've got an entire apartment to unpack!"
I groaned and sat up. "We just got done moving all this stuff, Al. Can't we have an afternoon to drink beer and relax and deal with the unpacking tomorrow?"
"Absolutely not!" Alice was tapping her foot like an impatient child. "I know you two well enough to know that these boxes will still be sitting here when classes start if we don't tackle them right now."
"Knock, knock!" Eric's voice rang through the apartment. I rolled my eyes and looked over at Rose.
"I guess that's our cue to get moving." She sighed and we both stood up, following Alice into the living room.
"You guys are a hot mess!" Jane looked Rose and I up and down and chuckled. "Mark it on the calendar, ladies and gent, Rosalie Smith isn't wearing any makeup!" Rose swatted Jane's butt playfully and pulled a toolbox to the center of the room.
"What's first? Me and all my manliness are yours for the afternoon and evening!" Eric flexed his non-existent muscles playfully. Alice and I shook our heads in amusement while Rosalie rolled her eyes in exasperation.
"Perhaps you could put these bookcases together? I think that's the only furniture we have that needs to be assembled." Rosalie pointed to a stack of cardboard IKEA boxes leaning against the far wall. Eric muttered something inaudible under his breath and trudged across the room. "No whining, Yorkie, you volunteered to come over here and help."
"'More like I dragged him kicking and screaming," Jane held up a few plastic Target bags and addressed Alice. "All the cleaning supplies you asked for are in here, along with a few of those delicious scented candles we had in our dorm last year."
Alice gave Jane a hug and took the bag from her. "Thank you sweetie. How much do I owe you?" Jane shrugged and smiled at the three of us.
"Consider it part of your housewarming gift."
"I don't mean to break up social hour, but I could use some help over here." Eric rocked back on his heels and looked up at us expectantly. "I don't want to split the wood and I'm going to if someone doesn't hold these boards while I drill."
That signaled the end of our chat time. Alice set out to help Eric while Jane began unpacking different boxes for the living room and dining room. Rosalie and I turned our attention to the kitchen and bathroom areas. Four hours later we'd managed to get the majority of our stuff unpacked and put away, leaving us with a big mess of empty boxes and packing paper.
"We'll deal with this later," Alice pointed to all the rubble in the middle of our living room. "I vote we go to Moe's."
"Yes!" Rosalie turned to me and gave me a high five. Moe's was our favorite campus bar. The crowd was a mixture of students and locals, the live music was always good, and the drinks were cheap.
"Meet there in an hour?" Jane draped her purse over her shoulder and headed for the door. Eric followed behind her with a scowl on his face.
"Cheer up, Eric! If you play your cards right one of us can probably help you get laid tonight!" Rosalie punched his arm jokingly and ruffled his dark hair. Eric tried to look offended, but he broke down smiling.
"I'll see you guys at Moe's." He closed the door behind him, leaving Alice, Rose, and me alone in our new space.
"I'll call my dad, I'm sure he can have all this trash hauled out for us." Rose pulled a beer out of the fridge and popped the top off. She chugged the entire thing in two big gulps, belched, and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
"Nice, Rose. That's really attractive." Alice clicked her tongue in disgust.
I wandered to my room in search of a towel. I'd have to locate my sheets at some point in time, but it wasn't a top priority at the moment. I took a quick shower and put some curl enhancing products in my hair. I couldn't find my makeup bag so I decided to go au natural, slipping into a pair of flared jeans and a tight maroon t-shirt with "HARVARD" written across the front.
"What are you wearing?" Alice scolded me when I walked into the kitchen.
Rose handed me a beer and I took a big swig. "Half my clothing is in boxes and the rest is stuffed in the backseat of my car." I took another sip of beer and bent down to lace up my Converse sneakers. "I'm not trying to impress anyone tonight, Alice, not even you."
"I'll let it slide this time, Swan, but rest assured you will be beautified the next time we decide to go out." Alice grabbed her purse and keys from the kitchen counter. "Let's go, ladies. I'll drive."
I looked at Rose and rolled my eyes. Alice was in one of her moods tonight, and I wasn't sure I could handle it - especially after all the work we'd done today. She squeezed my hand and tugged me out the door.
"We'll find some reason to dip out early," Rose whispered in my ear. I slid into the backseat of Alice's Volvo and pulled out a cigarette. Alice cranked up the radio and we sang along to Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca" on our way to the bar.
"Bella Swan, get that sexy little ass over here and do a shot with me!" Seth Anderson grabbed me around the waist and picked me up, spinning me around in a circle and slapping my butt before putting me down. I punched his shoulder and laughed.
"It's good to see you too!" I'd met Seth midway through our freshman year. He was best friends with Rosalie's man of the moment, Royce, and we'd hit it off right away, developing an easygoing friendship that came with lots of playful banter and laughter. When Rose and Royce ended things last week, I was afraid that my friendship with Seth might suffer as a result. Seeing him tonight proved me wrong; his smile was wide, his blue eyes twinkled with excitement, and he seemed genuinely happy to see me.
Seth pulled out the bar stool next to him and patted it. "Sit down, Swan, we've got some catching up to do! I hear you're living with these two crazy women now." He pointed at Rose and Alice with his thumb and smirked. "By the way, it's nice to see you two as well. I trust you all had a good summer?"
"Perhaps you should ask Royce how our summer went." Rose's voice dripped with sarcasm. Seth held his hands in the air and shrugged.
"I knew you guys broke up, but beyond that, he and I hardly talked after May." Seth turned back to me and grinned. "I was foolish like you and decided to spend the summer back home. Worst. Decision. Ever."
"Hey guys, we got a table by the dart boards!" Eric waved at us from the other side of the bar. Rose and Alice looked at me expectantly.
"You guys go and I'll be over in a few minutes." Rose broke out in a wicked grin and whispered something to Alice, who started giggling and winked at me.
"Bottoms up, Swan! I hope you're prepared for this." Seth handed me a shot glass filled with dark colored liquid. I sniffed it and immediately knew it was Jagermeister. I clanked my shot against his and lifted it to my lips.
"To sophomore year," I said before I tipped the shot back and swallowed it. The alcohol stung my throat and the taste made me want to puke, but I held the liquor down and slid the empty glass across the bar.
Seth squeezed my shoulder and grinned at me. "Just like old times, Swan. You're the only girl I know who can drink a fully grown man under the table."
"One of the many talents I perfected in Forks." I ran my hands through his shaggy blonde hair, tousling it and grinning back at him. "Are you staying on campus this year or did you get a place?"
Seth ordered two more shots and a beer for each of us. "Well, Royce and I were going to get a place, but that plan fell apart, so Paul and I got a place instead. We're renting a duplex in Somerville."
"Wow, that's so awesome! You'll have to have me and the girls over to see it sometime." We took our second round of shots and started in on the beers. I told Seth about my summer, leaving out the parts about sitting home bored out of my mind most of the days. Seth told me about Madison, and I guessed he was leaving some details out as well.
I didn't know if it was the effects of the liquor, but something about Seth seemed different. Summer had worked its magic on him, leaving him tanned, more buff, and looking better than ever. As the night went on, I shared more and more about myself with him. He'd always been easygoing, but it seemed like the dynamic of our friendship was changing, and instead of sticking to our usual banter, we were discussing serious subjects, like his summer breakup and my continuous fight with my parents over moving to the East coast.
Closing time rolled around in what seemed like a matter of minutes and Rose came to collect me.
"Thanks for hogging our girl all night, Seth." She punched his arm playfully and grabbed my hand in an effort to steady me. "Our first night with all of the gang back in town and Bella is stuck to you like glue. I hope this isn't a preview of what the school year is going to be like!"
Seth smiled and kissed my cheek. "Anytime you're in the market for a kidnapping, let me know." His breath tickled my ear and I giggled.
"Goodnight Seffy!" It probably wasn't a good idea for him to share his childhood nickname with me when I was sauced.
He shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Goodnight Jelly Bellie." I cringed as he fired my own childhood nickname back at me.
"Jelly Bellie?" Rose eyed me suspiciously as we walked to Alice's car. "Care to share?"
I shook my head and fell into the backseat. "There's nothing to share, my dear Rose. We just got caught up, that's all."
"Caught up?" Alice piped in. "Bella, you were in deep conversation with him for four hours! I don't even think you got up to pee in the time that we were there!"
I smiled to myself and closed my eyes, resting my head against the seat. I could hear Rose turn around, and I squinted one eye open.
"You have the hots for Seth!" Rose pointed at me accusingly. Alice clapped her hands in excitement.
"I don't have the hots for Seth, you're crazy." I closed my eye again and tried to drown out the noise around me.
"We're your best friends Bell, you can't hide this stuff from us." Alice pulled the car into a parking spot outside our complex and cut the engine. "Besides, there's nothing wrong with liking him. He's a nice guy and you two are totally cute together."
I stumbled out of Alice's car and lit a cigarette. "There is nothing going on with Seth," I insisted. "We're just good friends."
"Whatever you say." Rose shrugged and followed Alice inside. I stood on the steps of the building and finished my cigarette in silence.
My mind was spinning from the Jagermeister and events of the evening. As I butted my cigarette, Alice and Rose's words played over in my head.
I couldn't possibly like Seth … Could I?
As it turns out, I do like Seth … A lot.
In the three weeks since we moved in, I've talked to him almost every day. We text, hit each other up on Facebook, and I see him on campus pretty regularly. He's visited our apartment a few times for game night and movie night (yes, we're those kind of roommates) and we've gone to Moe's once or twice as well.
I don't know how he feels about me, but I get the sense that things are more platonic in his eyes. I've never said anything to him about how I feel, I'm way too afraid of damaging our friendship to ever dream of doing something like that. I would be lying if I said I hadn't imagined what being with him would be like though.
Bella Anderson … That kinda has a nice ring to it, right?
Oh God. I better go before I turn into one of those girls.
December 30, 2001 – Sunday
The holidays are here, which means we all get a much needed, well-deserved break from our studies. Sometimes I wonder what the hell I'm doing at an Ivy League school. The workload is ridiculous, the classes are all advanced, and the expectations are so much higher than they would be at, say, some state school like U-Dub. Then I think about how good this will look on a resume in the future and I remember how proud and accomplished I felt the day I got my acceptance letter, and everything falls back into place.
I had a blow-out fight with my dad two weeks ago, which led to me having my ticket home refunded and protesting the Swan family Christmas celebration. Alice and Rose both invited me to spend the holidays with their families in New York City, but I ended up spending them somewhere I never imagined I would…
"Bella, enough with the moping already!" Alice sat across from me at our kitchen table and poked at her oatmeal. "Christmas is in four days, Rose and I both gave you places to go, why are you sitting here looking like someone just killed your cat?"
I pushed my cereal around with the spoon and sighed. "I just can't believe my dad hasn't called and apologized for the things he said on the phone." I swallowed the bile that rose in my throat as I remembered his uncharacteristically hurtful words. He'd made me so upset that I'd cussed him out and hung up on him. I never swore at my dad, and I certainly never had the audacity to hang up on him. I texted my mom later in the day to tell her I wasn't coming home for Christmas and didn't get a reply.
I was trying very hard to see the entire situation as a sign that I was meant to do something bigger and better for the holidays. I couldn't help but feel somewhat pessimistic about everything though.
"Once Christmas rolls around and your parents wake up to an empty house for the first time in twenty years, they'll realize how shitty they've been and they'll both be calling and begging you for forgiveness." Alice finished her breakfast and set her bowl in the sink. "In the meantime, you need to decide if you're going to come home with Rose and I or not. We're heading back tomorrow and it would be nice to have a general idea of what is going on."
I dropped my head in my hands and heaved a sigh. "I know, I know. I'll let you both know by tonight what my plans are. I might just stick around here and enjoy a week of peace and quiet."
"It's Christmas, Bella." Alice hugged me from behind and put her chin on the top of my head. "Nobody should be alone for Christmas."
A faint smile danced on my lips. "I'd be alone by choice, Alice, not circumstance. There's a difference." She pushed herself off of me and took her coat from the hall closet.
"Choice or not, Iwon't let you be alone for Christmas. Now, I have some last minute shopping to take care of, but I should be back around five. That gives you seven hours to decide what you're doing and report back to me."
I gave Alice a fake salute. "Aye aye captain." She rolled her eyes and waltzed out the front door. I picked up my cell phone and typed a text message to Seth:
When r u leaving for Wisconsin? – B.
Seconds later he messaged me back:
2morrow morning. R u in Seattle already?
I hadn't yet told him about the fight with my parents. A part of me hoped he would invite me to go to Wisconsin with him, which I knew was an absurd idea, and therefore I decided to keep everything under wraps. Now it seemed silly that I hadn't told him. I quickly composed my response:
Change of plans. Not going to Seattle. Thinking of spending Xmas in Beantown by myself. – B.
Moments later my phone started to ring, just like I thought it would.
"There's no way I'm letting you spend Christmas alone." I giggled. Seth sounded just like Alice. "What's so funny?"
"That's the same thing Alice told me before she left to go shopping." I stood up and looked out our living room window. A light snow was falling, coating the trees and buildings in white.
"How come you aren't going to Manhattan with her?"
I filled the teakettle with water and put it on the stove. "Honestly, the idea of spending Christmas in the city like that makes me ill. It feels too impersonal, if that makes any sense?" I put a bag of my favorite Celestial Seasonings True Blueberry tea in a mug and waited for the water to boil. "I know I'd be with their families and whatnot, but I think it would be too much."
"Come to Wisconsin with me."
"Excuse me?" There was no way I heard him right.
"Come to Wisconsin with me," he repeated. I pulled the whistling teakettle off the burner and leaned against the counter.
"Seriously? Your family would be cool with that?"
He chuckled. "Of course they would be. They've heard so much about you it would probably be nice for them to have a face to put to the name."
I was standing in the kitchen, drinking my blueberry tea, and blushing profusely. "I don't know Seth, I don't want to impose on them. And you're staying there for a few weeks, aren't you? I'd like to be back in Boston for New Years."
"Stop." If I knew Seth, he was holding his hand up right now, despite the fact that I was across town in a completely different apartment. "I won't take no for an answer. I'll take care of your ticket and make sure you're back before the thirty first. You just worry about getting yourself packed. It would be easier for you to spend the night here since we have to leave so early tomorrow, so why don't I pick you up at eight?"
I thought about protesting, but I knew it was no use. Seth was stubborn if anything and besides, wasn't this what I'd wanted – a chance to spend my break with the guy I liked in his hometown? "Okay, sounds good."
"Yes!" His excited shout was met with the sound of breaking glass in the background. "Shit, I gotta go. I'll see you tonight."
I stared at my phone in stunned silence. I was going to Wisconsin with Seth.
I was going to Wisconsin with Seth and I needed to pack.
I grabbed a magnetic notepad off the fridge and started making a list of things I'd need for the trip. I rummaged through the bathroom closet, marking off the items I already had, and bundled up to go to the store.
By three o'clock I was exhausted. I was trying unsuccessfully to unlock the door when Rosalie flung it open.
"Jesus Bella, what's with all the retail therapy?" Rose stepped out of my way as I stumbled inside, dropping my purchases on the foyer floor. My roommates both knew how much I hated shopping. I thought Rose's eyes were going to bug out of her head as she stared at the pile of purchases in front of us.
"I'm going to Wisconsin with Seth tomorrow and I got a little carried away at the mall." Rose's head snapped up and her mouth fell open in surprise. She placed her hands on my shoulders and leaned towards me.
"Excuse me? Where did you just say you're going?"
Her brown eyes twinkled with excitement and I was sure mine mirrored them. I put my hands on her shoulders as well and leaned forward so our foreheads were touching. "Seth invited me to go home for Christmas with him and I said yes! He's picking me up to stay at his place tonight and we leave for Wisconsin tomorrow morning."
A huge grin spread across Rose's face and she let out an Alice-like squeal. She threw her arms around me and I couldn't help but laugh.
"Bella, this is huge! A guy doesn't invite you home for the holidays unless he likes you. Are you going to tell him how you feel? Do you think he'll ask you out on Christmas?" Rose backed away and picked up a few of my bags. "I'm so excited for you! We need to get you packed!"
I grabbed the rest of the bags and followed her to my room. "Slow down, Rose, it's not like I'm marrying the guy."
"No, but he's taking you home to meet his family. That's a pretty big thing, even if you're 'just friends'." Rose made air quotes with her fingers. "Besides that, I don't think Seth has ever brought a girl home. Period. At least that's how Royce made it sound."
I sat on the edge of my bed and thought about this piece of information. If Rose was right, this wouldlikely be a big thing for Seth's family. He would tell his family I was coming with, right? He would certainly let them know we were just friends and nothing more, wouldn't he? Was he bringing me with him because he wanted us to be more than friends? If so, was he going to ask me out in Wisconsin? How would I answer? Did I want to risk our friendship?
"I can practically hear you overanalyzing this situation in your head Bella. Stop it right now!" Rose pulled my large suitcase and matching carry-on bag out of my closet and set them on the bed next to me. "You'll ruin your trip before it even gets started if you over think everything."
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and stood up. "You're right. I just need to play it by ear and see what happens." Rose ruffled my hair and nodded in agreement. We got my bags packed and Seth's present wrapped in record time.
"Honey, I'm home!" Alice called out. I heard her footsteps echoing down the hall and a minute later she appeared in my doorway. "What's going on in here?"
"Bella decided to go to Madison with Seth for Christmas and needed some help packing." Rose zipped up my carry on bag and patted it. "He's picking her up at eight."
I thought Alice was going to drop the Starbucks cup in her hand. Luckily she managed to set it down on my computer desk before completely freaking out. "WHAT? Bella, why didn't you call me?" Alice threw her arms around my neck and hugged me. "Did you know about this before I left earlier?"
I shook my head. "I texted him right after you left to tell him I was sticking around campus for the holiday. He called me and insisted I come with him. He didn't leave me much choice."
"Didn't leave you much choice, my ass." Alice placed a hand on her hip and narrowed her eyes at me. "I know you well enough to know you're not afraid to say 'no' when you want."
I blushed and looked down at my sneakers. Rose put her arm around my shoulders and squeezed me in a half-hug. "We should go grab an early dinner before Seth gets here. Alice and I were convinced you would come to the city with us for break, so we planned on exchanging gifts there. It would be nice to do it before you leave."
"That is a perfect idea, Rose!" Alice took her latte and skipped down the hall to her room. Rose winked at me and gave me another hug. I collected the gifts I'd purchased several weeks earlier from my closet and met my roommates in the foyer.
Mr. Bartley's was our favorite place to get a burger in Cambridge. We'd stumbled upon it one drunken night during our freshman year and had been going there regularly ever since. Once we were settled in our usual table, we placed our orders and brought out our gifts.
"I want to go first!" Alice blurted out. She pulled two neatly wrapped packages from the shopping bag sitting next to her and set them in front of Rose and me. "Go ahead, open them."
I slid my finger under the edge of the wrapping and eased it open. My eyes filled with tears when I realized what it was. I spun the canvas around so it was facing upright and ran my fingers over it. My favorite picture of my late Grandma Swan and I was staring back up at me, enlarged to the size of a small poster.
"Alice, how…" my words trailed off as a fresh wave of tears started up. Alice stood and came around to my side of the table, enveloping me in a tight hug.
"I called Renee and asked her to send me the original so I could do this." Alice gave me a kiss on the cheek. "I remembered you showing it to me on Facebook and thought you'd like it for your room."
"I love it, Al. It's beautiful and perfect." I hugged the canvas to my chest and blinked back more tears. Rosalie opened her gift, which consisted of a Chanel clutch and their newest shade of nail polish (anyone who knew Rose knew Chanel was enough to bring her to tears).
Rose passed out her gifts next, handing us each a blank white envelope. Alice and I looked at one another in confusion before opening them together. Inside was a hefty gift certificate to a prestigious Upper East Side day spa (Rose later told us she'd booked us all a joint girl's day), and slips of paper that read "Europe Summer 2004." Rosalie's eyes lit up when she saw that Alice and I still didn't comprehend the gift.
"I'm taking you both to Europe the summer after we graduate!" Rose clapped her hands together and leaned forward excitedly. "I wanted to wait to tell you both but I just couldn't, I'm so excited! I know it's a few years out, but we'll spend the whole summer there and visit all the countries! We'll have an amazing time, just the three of us!"
Alice and I were both beaming like kids in a candy store at this point. I'd barely traveled at all and had dreamed of going to Europe since I was in junior high. I leapt up from my chair and flung my arms around Rosalie's neck. The restaurant patrons around us were eyeing us like we were crazy, but none of us cared at that point. We were too overwhelmed with emotions.
I pulled my gifts out next, feeling like I needed to offer a disclaimer before I let anyone open them. "These are nowhere near as lavish as the ones you two have shared with me, but I sincerely hope you both love them for what they're worth."
"Sweetie, Christmas isn't about how much you spend on a gift. It's the thought and the meaning behind it that counts." Alice reached across the table and squeezed my hand. That gave me just enough confidence to give my two best friends their presents.
I'd gotten both girls the same thing, so it didn't matter which one opened her gift first. Rose tugged the white ribbon off of the Tiffany & Co. box and gently lifted the top. She pulled the small velvet box from inside and looked up at me, batting her eyelashes.
"Why Bella, I never knew you felt this way," she teased, easing the lid open. I nodded to Alice to open hers as well. Both girls pulled out the matching silver rings that were composed of small x's and o's. I reached in my pocket and pulled out my matching ring too, holding it up for them both to see.
"I've never been closer to anyone in my life than I am to the two of you." Tears pricked the back of my eyelids again and I started to choke up. The resident waterworks is in attendance, I thought to myself. "I'll never regret moving to Cambridge because it brought me to you two."
Both girls slid the rings on to their pinky fingers as I had. We were all three teary eyed messes when the waiter delivered our food.
We chatted about the holidays as we ate, discussing what we hoped to get for gifts and what we were and weren't looking forward to. Alice paid for our meal (a last minute present for Rose and I, she decided) and we arrived at our apartment just as Seth was pulling in.
"Good evening, ladies." Seth winked at me and followed us inside.
I retrieved my bags while Alice and Rose entertained him with friendly conversation. "I just realized I bought everything but a hat and scarf today. Go figure! The one time I travel to the Midwest it's in the dead of winter and I'm not prepared."
Seth chuckled and took my suitcase from me. "Contrary to popular belief, there is civilization in Wisconsin, including clothing stores." Rose stifled a laugh and Alice rolled her eyes. I giggled at his cheesy joke and gave each of my roommates a hug.
"Call us when you get in tomorrow." Rose wiggled her eyebrows suggestively at me and blew me a kiss.
"Don't worry you two, I promise I'll return her in one piece." Seth gave a final wave before closing the door behind us. When we were loaded up and seated in his Nissan, he turned to me with a wide smile.
"I got you a ticket back to New York on the thirtieth," he said cheerfully. "I'm staying in Sconnie until the following Friday, so you'll be on your own flying home."
"Believe me, flying home is the lesser of the two evils when the other option is facing the wrath of Rosalie Smith. She'd have my head if I missed New Years Eve." I lit a cigarette and turned up the radio. The sounds of Pearl Jam's "Last Kiss" flooded the car and I swayed to the music.
I couldn't help but smile at the thought of all the fun we would have – just the two of us – in Wisconsin…
December 31, 2001 – Monday
I really didn't mean to cut my entry off yesterday. Rose and Alice got back without warning and I was quickly swept away for an evening of shopping and catching up.
I snuck off to Starbucks in hopes of finishing the tale of my Christmas adventure. I don't have much time since I have to get ready for tonight's party, so I'll spare all the boring travel details and get right to the heart of the matter – my post-Christmas pseudo-relationship conversation with Seth…
I was worried sick the entire flight that Seth's family wouldn't like me or wouldn't want me invading their Christmas celebration.
It turned out I had absolutely nothing to worry about.
Seth's parents were some of the nicest people I'd ever met. Jared and Emily Anderson welcomed me into their home like I was one of their own children. I helped Emily wrap presents on Christmas Eve, prepared a portion of Christmas dinner, and ended up winning not one, but two rounds of charades – which was unheard of for any house guest prior to my arrival in Madison.
The morning after Christmas, Seth woke me before the sunrise and took me to his favorite breakfast joint. Gabe's was located on a country road just outside of Madison. The place was incredibly small, with a total of three booths and a counter that seated four people. It was decorated with old-fashioned photos of different areas of the state and various trinkets that I guessed were from flea markets or garage sales. Seth boasted that they had the best waffles he'd ever eaten and maple glazed bacon that was to die for.
We weren't even together and this man already knew my weakness for sugar coated pork products.
"Is Wisconsin as bad as you thought it would be?" Seth asked through a mouthful of waffles. I took a gulp of coffee and shook my head, swallowing my bacon before responding.
"I love it! Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the hustle and bustle of Boston, but I could definitely get used to this place." I took another giant bite of bacon and chewed it appreciatively, rubbing my stomach and sighing. "For the record, I never thought Wisconsin would be bad. I believe it was Rosalie and Alice who voiced that concern."
Seth spun the straw of his soda back and forth between his thumb and forefinger. "I'm glad you're enjoying yourself. My parents love you, by the way. I think my mom is practically ready to wed us herself."
My eyes shot up to meet his and I felt my cheeks flush with embarrassment. I tore at my napkin, scattering pieces of it across the table in front of me. "I think my dad might have some objections about that. Oh, and Renee too. She's been planning my wedding since I was a toddler." I grabbed my coffee and took another sip to stop my nervous babble. I didn't like the direction the conversation was headed in, but there wasn't a whole lot I could do to stop it.
Seth chuckled. "I was just kidding, although I do think she's secretly hoping I'll call her after break and tell her we're together." Seth looked at me again and I couldn't read the expression on his face. "She knows we're just friends. I mean, we are justfriends, right?"
I laughed nervously and looked down at my shredded napkin. Now is your chance to tell him how you feel, Bella. Stop being a baby and go for it. My subconscious and my heart wanted one thing. My head, which was controlling my mouth, wasn't on the same page, however.
"The last time I checked, yes." I gulped and mustered up my best poker face before meeting his gaze. "We're the best kind of friends – the ones who get piss drunk at Moe's and travel the country together."
"That's for sure." Seth averted his gaze and let out a sigh of what I assumed was relief. "Really Bella, I just don't want this," he gestured to the space between us, "to ever change. I'm not saying I'm not attracted to you, but we have such a good thing, I wouldn't want to do anything to risk losing it."
His words stung. I'd heard this excuse before on more than one occasion. The few times I'd actually tried making a pass at my high school crushes, they always ended up using the friend card and trying to make the blow a gentle one. What I felt for Seth went far beyond what I'd ever felt for a high school crush, however, and this blow felt more like a stab directly to my chest.
I didn't know how to respond without giving myself away, so I decided to go along with his thought. "You're completely right. Our friendship is too important to risk it for something as trivial as a relationship." Now it was Seth's turn to look like I'd stabbed him.
"I didn't mean it that way, I just…" His words trailed off and he ran his fingers through his hair nervously. "Never mind, just forget I said anything. Are you ready to go?" He grabbed the check and stood up before I had a chance to answer. I nodded and slid into my coat, following him to the cash register and then out into cold Wisconsin morning.
"What do you want to do today?" Seth grabbed my hand and swung it in the air. He did this quite often and I'd never objected before. Today I had to resist the urge to turn to him and yell, "Why do you think people are convinced we're a couple? Look at what you're doing right now!"
"I'm game for anything," I lied. What I really wanted to do was curl up in a ball and die.
Seth started the truck and pointed us in the direction of the city. The sun was starting to come up on the horizon, casting a beautiful amber glow across the snow-covered fields. This had the potential to be a nice, romantic moment. Instead it felt forced and incredibly awkward.
"There's this party tonight I was hoping we could go to." Seth glanced over at me nervously before continuing. "Some of my buddies from high school will be there and it would be nice to see them."
I shrugged. "Sure, whatever you want to do."
The party was a bust.
Seth didn't bother telling me his high school sweetheart would be there. He also didn't bother telling me his high school sweetheart happened to be the same girl he'd "broken up with" over the summer. I watched them get drunk and hang on one another before retreating to what I assumed was bedroom in the upstairs half of the house we were at. A few of the guys there tried hitting on me, but mostly I just wanted to be left alone. Royce of all people came to my rescue, driving me back to Seth's parents' place and apologizing to me for his friend's behavior.
Seth himself never apologized for leaving me high and dry and all alone at the party. In fact, he never even bothered to ask how I got home (although I had a sneaking suspicion Royce told him, despite his insistence that they never talked). Heidi (aka aforementioned high school sweetheart) was around the rest of the week. Seth and I didn't have much time alone and really didn't say a whole lot more to one another. I hated how uncomfortable things felt.
When it came time for me to leave, I found myself wishing I'd have gone to Manhattan with Rose and Alice instead.
The drive to the airport was short. Seth and I rode in silence while Heidi filled us in on everything she thought was wrong with Boston and why she refused to follow Seth there. I grabbed my bags and was halfway in the doorway to the ticketing area when he reached me.
"Bella, wait up!" He grabbed my elbow and spun me around to face him. "You weren't going to say goodbye?"
Men could be so dense sometimes.
"Goodbye." I wrestled my arm free and continued my trek into the airport. Before the automatic door closed behind me, I spun around and faced Seth. "Have a nice New Years with Heidi."
I didn't bother waiting for his reaction.
I texted Seth yesterday to tell him I made it home safely. He never responded and I haven't bothered sending anything since.
I'm probably being childish about the whole situation. Yes, he gave me the opportunity to tell him how I felt, and yes, I chose to take the safe route and keep my feelings to myself. Does that excuse his behavior at the party? Not one bit. Does it make me hate Heidi any less? Absolutely not. Does that change the fact that he hardly bothered to acknowledge me for the rest of the week? No it doesn't.
I need to go meet Alice and Rose at the salon. Everyone knows the world will end if we don't have perfect hair and nails at the masquerade party tonight. Insert sarcasm here
One last thing before I forget…
Bella Swan's 2002 New Year's Resolutions
1. Never like a guy again.
January 24, 2002 – Thursday
A new year has arrived, and with it a full load of new classes.
2002 also got a new Bella … Well, a new looking Bella anyway. I was pretty pissed at Seth when I got to the salon on New Year's Eve, so I did what any normal, angst-ridden, twenty year old woman would do – I cut my hair and dyed it black.
It was cute for the first week. Now I hate it.
Speaking of Seth, I saw him for the first time since Christmas on Saturday night. It was awkward, but not unbearable…
Rose and I walked into Moe's and were immediately greeted by the familiar sounds of eighties rock and laughter. Alice waved at us from the other side of the crowded room and we made our way to her as quickly as we could.
"What took you two so long? We've been here for almost an hour!" Alice had clearly indulged in a few cocktails already. Rose and I ordered our drinks and settled in the booth across from her and Jane.
"Rose couldn't decide how she wanted her hair." I rolled my eyes and laughed. Rose poked my side and glared at me out of the corner of her eye.
"Just because you're off the market doesn't mean the rest of us are." Rose had a point. I'd taken my resolution not to like any men seriously so far. Of course I hadn't had to face Seth yet either, making things all the easier.
Jane stood up and adjusted her skirt. "I'm going to use the restroom. Does anyone else have to go?"
I nodded and grabbed my purse. "I'm going to go now before it gets any crazier in here." I followed Jane through the sea of people and was almost through the restroom door when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"Bella." I barely heard his voice over the music. I turned around and was greeted with a familiar pair of blue eyes. I stepped out of the doorway and he followed me.
"Seth, hi." I didn't know what else to say. I crossed my arms over my chest and watched as he shifted nervously from one foot to the other.
"I've missed you," he blurted out. I swallowed back the lump that had settled in my throat and smiled weakly.
"I've missed you too." He reached out and tucked a stray strand of hair behind my ear. His fingertips left a red-hot trail on my cheek.
"I owe you an apology," he said, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "I didn't realize how upset you were after the party until Royce told me. I didn't mean to ditch you there, especially not for Heidi. I don't know what I was thinking."
"Clearly you weren't thinking." I fired back. There was no better time to be honest than the present. "Do you think I enjoyed being left in the middle of a house full of strangers while you ran off and got your freak on with her? I went to Wisconsin for the holidays to spend time with you, Seth, and I ended up feeling miserable for the entire tail end of the trip."
"I know, and please believe me when I say I'm sorry. You're one of my best friends, Bella, I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you." He reached out and took my hand in his. "I fucked up, I get that. Please tell me what I need to do to make things right between us again."
I sighed and looked away. I had two options here: I could tell Seth to fuck off and stay mad at him and continue to feel miserable or I could put the past in the past, forgive him, and have my buddy back.
I chose option number two.
I squeezed Seth's hand and pulled him towards me for a hug. "Molten chocolate from Finale has been known to erase my memory in the past," I whispered. He relaxed immediately and chuckled.
"I think that's doable." I pulled back and smiled up at him. I still had to get my feelings for him under control, but I'd figure that out later.
For now, I was just happy to have my friend back.
Perhaps I let Seth off the hook a bit too easily, but I didn't want to drag this thing out any longer than necessary. Not talking to him for almost two weeks felt more like not talking to him for two months, and I couldn't stand anymore silence between us.
I have a meeting with my advisor in twenty minutes to declare my major and discuss classes for next year. I'm a wee bit freaked out, because that means college is almost half over, and it feels like I just got here yesterday, but I'm pretty excited at the same time.
Wish me luck!
May 2, 2002 – Thursday
In classic Bella fashion, I misplaced this thing shortly after my last entry. I never bought a new one because I was positive I'd find this one again, and then after a while I stopped thinking about it. Low and behold today, as I was tearing my room apart looking for my econ book, I pulled my desk away from the wall and voila – there it was!
Finals start in a few days and then we're free for the summer. I'm staying in Beantown since we have our own place this year, and I got part-time job lined up at a record shop down on Newbury Street. The most exciting piece of news I have has nothing to with school or Boston, however, but has to do with Seth …
April 30 started out as a typical Sunday. I slept in for a bit, had breakfast with Rose and Alice, and then headed off to the gym for an afternoon workout. I was in the middle of dragging my tired, smelly ass to the car when my phone buzzed:
What r u doing tonight?
I smiled when I saw Seth's number on the screen. I typed up a quick reply before pulling out of the parking lot:
No plans here. What r u up to?
Five minutes later my phone rang. I knew who it was before I even answered.
"I'm pretty sure we have ESP because I was just thinking how I wished you'd call me instead of texting."
Seth laughed. "Do you want to get dinner with me tonight?"
"Sure!" I pulled into our parking lot and cut the engine. "Should I meet you at your place?"
"I'll pick you up at six?" He never wasted any time getting to the point. That was just one of the many things I enjoyed about him.
"Sounds good! I'll see you soon!" I jogged inside and jumped in the shower. An hour later my hair and makeup were done and I'd slipped on my favorite yellow sundress. I wandered into the living room and found Rose watching TV.
"Hello hello," she greeted me, scooting over on the sofa so I could sit down too. "Are you going out tonight?"
I nodded. "Seth invited me out for dinner. Where's Alice?"
"She's not back from the city yet." Rose flipped through the channels for a few more minutes before shutting off the TV and turning to face me. "I met with my advisor on Friday."
"How did it go?" Rose had been struggling with declaring a major since the semester started. Her parents were pushing her to go to medical school, and Rose was all for it when she first started college. As time went on, however, she'd started exploring her options, and had recently reached a point where she didn't know what to do.
"Well, I think it went quite well." She twirled a strand of hair around her finger absentmindedly. "I finally declared a major."
The curiosity was killing me. "That's so great! What did you decide to go with?"
Rose took a deep breath and her eyes met mine. "Business administration with a marketing focus." I smiled and gave my best friend a hug.
"I'm so happy for you, Rose!" Now for the question that would inevitably sour the mood, I thought. "Have you told your parents yet?"
She shook her head and stared out the window. "No, not yet. I talked to Bree this afternoon and she thinks it would be best for me to tell them in person after the semester is over."
Rose's parents tended to be somewhat melodramatic, especially her mother. "That's probably a good idea. I think you could handle a potential freak-out better that way too."
There was a loud knock on the front door, signaling the end of our conversation. "Come in!" I hollered. I heard the door open and close and a moment later Seth was in the living room.
"Hey Seth!" Rose stood up and headed for the kitchen. "Enjoy your dinner! Bell, we'll finish our chat when you get home."
"I'm not interrupting anything important am I?" Seth whispered. I led him outside before answering.
"Rose finally declared a major and is concerned about what her parents' reaction will be," I explained. He held the car door open for me and I slid inside, fastening my seatbelt and adjusting my sunglasses.
"I bet she's stressing out, huh?"
"You know it." I turned the radio up a little and was greeted by the sounds of No Doubt's "New." "Her mom is a total control freak. She's going to flip out when she hears this."
We rode the rest of the way to the restaurant in a comfortable silence. As soon as we were seated, Seth started talking.
"I'm really glad we were able to get past everything that happened over winter break," he began, playing with his silverware nervously. "Maybe it's just me, but I almost feel like our friendship got a little bit stronger because of that."
"Or maybe you just wised up and realized it's better to never do anything to make me mad again?" I teased. He chuckled and leaned toward me.
"That too." His gaze held the same intensity as my father's did when he looked at my mother, and I felt my insides melt on the spot. "Do you ever wonder what might have happened if our conversation at Gabe's had gone in the other direction?"
"All the time," I answered honestly. I wasn't sure where he was going with this train of thought, and I didn't want to open myself up to get hurt again, but at this point honesty was the only option I saw for us.
"Me too." He picked my hand up and traced the lines of my palm with his index finger. "Maybe I'm a little too late to the party, and if I am I understand completely, but…" His words trailed off and he looked around the restaurant.
"But…?" I coaxed. His eyes met mine again and he continued.
"I like you, Bella. A lot, actually." He swallowed hard and sucked in a nervous breath. "In all honesty, I've liked you since last spring. I just never had the balls to tell you … until now."
I wasn't sure how to respond. This sounded like the beginning of a speech I'd wanted hear for the past six months, but I didn't want to get my hopes up only to have them shot down again. Damn it all to hell, I thought.
"I like you too, Seth. I probably should have told you back in December, but you sounded so sure about seeing me as nothing but a friend, I didn't know what to do." He smiled and took my hand in his again.
"Are you willing to risk our friendship for something as trivial as this?" he teased, using the same words I had used at Gabe's all those months ago. I laughed and entwined my fingers with his.
"Seth Anderson, are you asking me to go steady?" I joked. The corners of his mouth pulled up into the familiar smile I loved and an adorable blush colored his cheeks.
"I guess I am. Bella Swan, would you do me the extraordinary honor of being my girlfriend?" My stomach flipped with happiness and a smile spread across my face.
"I would love to be your girlfriend, Seth." I leaned forward and pressed my lips against his, closing my eyes and relishing in the feel of a kiss I'd spent half a year dreaming about.
Perhaps this summer wouldn't be so bad after all.
April 30 turned out to be one of the best days of my life.
So, there you have it – Seth and I are together, just in time for what's sure to be the best summer any of us have ever had in Boston. Although I guess this is technically the first summer I've ever had in Boston … Never mind, technicalities aren't important!
I never thought I'd fill all these pages in just one year. Perhaps that's a sign that I should take a break from writing so I can enjoy my summer and make the most of every minute of it? Especially now that I have a significant other to spend it with…
I need to close this so I can study for my econ final, otherwise I have no hopes of passing and that would be just plain bad. Plus Seth is coming over in a bit and I'm sure he'll serve as enough of a distraction, if you get my drift.
Here's hoping for a summer filled with lots of laughter, time spent with good friends, and maybe even a little love.
I'll be back in the fall for junior year – with a new journal to boot!