A/N: So this was supposed to be a short, simple oneshot that wouldn't leave my head one day after listening to the song "Then" by Brad Paisley. And as seems to be a problem with me, once I introduce characters to my brain, they tend to not shut up until they've had their say. It's still relatively short (six chapters and an epilogue, as it stands right now), and I'm working on editing it as quickly as possible so I can get it all posted. But it is complete, so no waiting forever and a day for me to actually finish a chapter and get it posted for you all. (I know how fail I've been at that, and I'm sorry :( ). And now that I've gotten this out of my head, I am working on wrapping up Playing the Part and All I Want For Christmas, as those two are the closest to completion.

Thank you all once again for all your support and for continuing to read my drabbles. It seriously warms my heart. And thank you Erica for keeping me encouraged and writing, even through the hell the last few months have been. You're the best!

Disclaimer: Twilight still belongs to Stephenie Meyer, that will never change. But they are still so fun to put in my little playgrounds.

Chapter 1 : I Remember…

I walked along the shoreline with Bella, my arm wrapped securely around her shoulders and watching the way her hair blew in the breeze off the ocean. Something about the way the light of the setting sun reflected off the water and highlighted the multiple hues of each strand was what had me mesmerized the first time I laid eyes on her. On that very beach, what felt like forever ago.

Five years earlier

"Have you seen Alice's new dormmate? Daaaaamn!" Emmett groaned in an almost pained voice, biting his fist for effect.

"Actually, yes, I have seen and met my girlfriend's new dormmate," Jasper replied in annoyance, rolling his eyes and taking a sip of his beer. "She happens to be a very nice girl."

"Alice has turned you into such a chick, Jas," Emmett sighed in mock sympathy, grasping Jasper's shoulder and shaking his head.

I laughed as Jasper flipped him off, but was cut short as Emmett looked to me and I shook my head. "I prefer girls my own age, thanks. They at least have to be able to vote and drink."

"Well, you're in luck, my friend. Twenty-one, just transferred up here from Arizona, and smo-kin'," Emmett encouraged with his arm around my shoulders, oblivious to the not-so-subtle hints both Jasper and I were giving him.

Alice was Emmett's stepsister, which for years, made her like a sister to us all. Only once Mr. McCarty announced that he and his wife were divorcing did the entire dynamic of our associations change. She was completely devastated when her mother announced that they would be moving back to Oregon. She subsequently pleaded to be allowed to stay with Mr. McCarty, who was more of a father to her than her biological "donor" as she called him, for her final year of high school.

Alice refused to leave her friends, her school . . . or Jasper.

That revelation took everyone by surprise, no one more than Jasper, especially once Emmett began playing the big brother card. Yet, once they got together, it was suddenly clear to all of us what should have been obvious all along. Alice was completely smitten and Jasper guarded her with his life—they fit so perfectly.

For myself, however, I still couldn't get past the familial emotions surrounding Alice, and it was just an unwritten rule that you didn't hit on friends of your family—or family-like—members.

"Dude, seriously, I want to know what they put in the water down there in the desert, because shiiiiit," Emmett grunted, his head lulling back slightly.

"They don't have an abundance of water down there. It's a fucking desert," Jasper pointed out and I snorted into my beer.

"Oh fuck, maybe that's the secret. Up here, they are drenched, down there, they are denied. I'm moving to the fucking desert, man."

"All right, we get the message. She's hot, but I'm still not interested. I've got to put everything into school and studying this year if I have any chance of getting into Harvard next year," I said with more than a hint of irritation in my voice.

"Edward, your grades are nearly perfect. If you don't get into Harvard, there's a serious problem. And I know your standards are high for yourself, but just remember that practically no one passes the bar first time around, either," Jasper replied, shaking his head.

"Hence my efforts not to fuck around," I stated in a matter of fact tone.

Emmett made another painful sound, bringing our attention over to him. "But seriously, look at that!"

I sighed in exasperation, following the direction he was pointing with my eyes and I swore, it felt as if the Earth momentarily stopped spinning on its axis, as lame as that sounded. It was the only way I could describe the feeling of that moment.

The bonfire was just getting started as the sun was beginning to set, officially kicking off our end of summer beach party. Right to the side of it was the most beautiful girl I thought I'd ever seen, and I only had a view of her profile. The dampness of the air made it a little chilly, even for late August, and her shoulders were curled forward a little and her hands were tucked up into the sleeves of the massive green hoodie she wore. Being an "ass guy", I was a little disappointed that it covered her to about mid-thigh, but I quickly dismissed all other thoughts when her head turned toward us, with wisps of her hair blowing across her cheek.

There were no words. I was figuratively knocked flat on my ass when I got the first full glimpse of her. The dimming light of the sky made the angles of her face and cheekbones seem more pronounced, as well as the shadows around her eyes. Her fingertips peeked out from inside her sweatshirt to brush away a strand of hair that was stuck to her lip from the wind, and I became lost in the blends of reds and browns. That was until her eyes met mine from across the beach, and my throat closed in on itself.

"Ed, man. You look like you're about to throw up, or I don't know, jizz in your pants or something," Emmett so crudely stated, snapping me back to the moment and I punched him in the arm.

"Seriously, Emmett," Jasper said, rolling his eyes.

"What? He does!"

Jasper continued to admonish Emmett for his serious lack of tact and all around "appropriate for public" behavior, but it was drowned into the background as I met her eyes again. A small smile played at her lips before she whispered something to the girls around her, causing them to giggle, and then turned to walk toward me. She stumbled once on the sand on her way toward me and her face colored slightly, but before I knew it, she was standing right in front of me—and so help me if she wasn't more beautiful than she'd been at a distance.

"Hi. You're Edward, right?" she asked in the sweetest shy voice I'd ever heard, tucking a windblown tendril of hair behind her ear.

Say something, you idiot! Don't just stand there gaping at her like a mindless moron, I mentally cursed myself, taking a sip of my beer to wet my parched throat and nearly choking on it as Emmett unceremoniously nudged my back. I shot him a brief glare before turning my gaze back to her. "Yes, I am."

"So I get to meet the elusive Mr. Cullen at last. And here I thought you lived in books," she said with a ravishing smile, tipping her own beer back at her lips.

"Alice!" I said through clenched teeth and a tightened jaw, my eyes finding the tiny brat's form in the middle of the now hysterical group. A soft laugh brought my attention back in front of me. "She exaggerates. I do more than study."

"Read. Practice tests. Stress over maintaining a better than perfect GPA and the celibacy level of a mo—Oof!" Emmett exclaimed with a loud gust of breath as the back of my fist met his stomach.

Her smile never wavered, even as she took her lower lip between her teeth. "Have a beer with the new girl, maybe?"

Emmett's jaw could have reached all the way to the sand with the shock he received at that request, to which I agreed. "I'd love to."

"Great. I'm Bella, by the way," she said, holding her hand out to me, which I graciously took and kissed her knuckles gently.

"It's very nice to meet you, Bella."

She and I spent the rest of the evening at the far end of the bonfire, talking and laughing over countless beers. Subtly, her body inched closer to me as the time passed until her shoulder brushed against my arm and her hand curled in the crook of my elbow.

When she removed her touch from me to check her watch, I fought back the shiver that threatened to course through my body at the lack of contact. Yet, all thought was gone when her eyes met mine again.

"I should probably go grab Alice. It's nearly one," Bella said in an almost sad tone, pushing herself up off the sand and brushing it off the back of her jeans. "So when are you going to ask me out?"

I was so mesmerized by her hand moving over the denim covering her ass, with her sweatshirt risen enough to see it, that her statement took me completely off-guard. "I'm sorry, what?"

Bella laughed and rolled her eyes before tugging her hoodie down and folding her arms around her. "Okay, I'll make this easy on you. Would you like to go out with me on Saturday night?"

If my eyebrows rose nearly as high as they felt they had, I must have been a serious sight to behold. The wind was almost literally knocked out of me, and for several moments, all I could do was stare at her in disbelief.

"You don't have to say yes. I just had a really great time here with you tonight, and thought maybe we could do something sometime without the crowd and the smoke," she continued, suddenly shy again and looking down to the ground.

"No! Yes. I mean, I would like that," I replied anxiously, her eyes rising nervously to meet mine again.

Her smile returned and she held out her hand to me. "Let me see your phone."

Pulling it from my pocket, I set it in her palm and watched as her thumbs began moving over the buttons until her own phone rang in her purse.

"Edward. Cullen," she said as she typed in my name, smirking up at me as she chose the ringtone to accompany it—"Sexyback" by Justin Timberlake. I fought the urge to roll my eyes, which was pretty easy considering how adorable I found her at that moment. She slipped the phone back into her purse and stepped closer, brushing her lips softly on my cheek and just as quickly pulling back. "Perfect. Give me a call Friday night, or before if you'd like."

As she walked away, I looked back down at my phone and took a picture of her looking over her shoulder at me for her contact photo. What surprised me was that she smiled sweetly.

How could I possibly wait until Friday to hear her voice again?