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The wonderfully talented SUNFLOWER3759 makes this pretty; she's epically brilliant! All mistakes are mine.

"We need to get you heels." Her eyes assess me head to toe with a critical eye, her lips tugged into a frown.

I snort. "I'll end up in the hospital within minutes."

Jane huffs, putting her fists on her hips, clipboard leaning against her side. She's impossibly short, more so than Alice. She doesn't even reach up to my shoulders, and the sight of her trying to intimidate me is terrifyingly hilarious.

"Have you ever even tried?"


She raises an eyebrow.

"I have!" I defend. "It just really hurts."

She smiles in triumph. "You'll get used to it. Besides, it'll make your ass, and your outfit look even better."

I sputter in shock, my eyes widening. She just laughs, shoving me to the side with her hips to do inventory.

She's gotten comfortable around me compared to the first day we were introduced. Too comfortable, I'd say. It's a bit awkward to hear crude words from her mouth when her voice is so sweet and gentle, almost like a little kid's. At least until the perverted statements spew out.

"Plans tonight?" she inquires.

"Alice wants to watch the Cinderella movies while filling her college applications."

"I've heard so much about her not to know her face."

"Is this your way of inviting yourself over?" I tease.

"I'd make Alice cry with my anti-love parade."

"Who are you going out with if you're anti-love?"

"Just because I'm anti-love doesn't mean I don't have needs."

I make a face, causing her to laugh.

"You're covering for me this weekend, right?"

I nod, leaning on the tall counter with my elbow, resting my chin on my hand. "This weekend. I'm off the next one."

Her mouth drops open in surprise. "Aro gave you the weekend off?"

I nod.

"That bastard! I always ask for one, but he never gives me anything!"

"He's only bending to my requests to entrap me permanently," I deadpan. I'd come to learn that the only way to knock Jane's irritation off was to go along on whatever path she was on with humor.

Her lips twitch as she fights a smile.

"How did you come to work for him anyway?" I ask curiously.

"I was fresh meat, and Aro didn't tell me I would have to work weekends," she starts. "But it grows on you. I learned that working at a gallery wasn't at all how I imagined, and I had more fun in the work rooms in the back than I ever did working at a coffee shop. The fact that I can buy all my clothes with the company credit card is a big bonus."

"So you'll continue working here after you graduate?"

She shakes her head. "Aro recommended me for New York's Salute Tribute gallery, and they offered me a job."

I grin at her. "When did you apply?"

"I never did. I'd told him once that I wanted to move away from here—I hate this horrid weather," she explains in between, "and he found me the job. He comes off as this empowering figure, but he's really a big softie. He's got an eye for deducing people and what they want to achieve in life, even if they don't know it."

"Isn't New York worse in the weather department?"

"Yes, but it's New York."

I pause. "Have you ever been there?"

"No, but I'll live. I was born to be a New York. I've already got the fast pace and rudeness down!" She winks.

I consider telling her that it's a beautiful city, and while the people on the streets were hurried, they weren't rude; they just looked determined to get out of the cold air and to their destination, but it would be opening a can of worm. She loves gossiping, more about boys than anything else.

She finishes up her work, signing her name on the bottom of the papers before putting them into a large, thick envelope.

She points a long nail at me. "We're going shopping for heels, and you can't complain about it." She struts off towards Aro's office, her heels clicking in the otherwise quiet room.

I head back behind the desk to continue updating the gallery's webpage about the artists we are featuring at the upcoming event.

Jane's words spark something—Aro had been intimidating at first. His entire presence required attention the minute he steps foot into the room. The way he usually leads someone into the room gives him entire control, and maybe that's what he's used to, but I'd never gotten that kind of indifference from him.

He'd been nothing but helpful and accommodating toward me.

And I had to admit—I do like working here more than I thought I would. I'd gotten used to the dresses and pencil skirts, and I could walk around and be comfortable in my own skin. I'd grown accustomed to the fact that they were flattering to the figure and raised my confidence.

I no longer felt like this was a world out of my reach.

Maybe I ought to give the heels a try; Jane hasn't led me wrong yet.



"We should host a party," Alice mentions offhandedly as she sits in front of me.

I hold up half a section of her hair and try to make it even with the other ponytail. She'd refused to go to a salon to cut her hair, but the ever growing long strands fall all over her face. They're uneven, but she refuses to cut them until they've grown a little over shoulder length.

That and the ponytails enable her new obsession with bows. She'd gone through an obsession with Disney shows and entwining them with logic, and now to sparkly, glittery bows. She didn't care if the glitter flicked everywhere and ended up attached all over my black, pencil skirts. She would swish her hair with a grin and bounce happily. Even if she didn't have chocolate, she'd still be hyper.

I put a matching black bow on her right ponytail, standing up to flicker my pajamas clean.

"Kind of like how Jasper and Tanya are doing."

"But they're doing it because they're moving in together," I point out.

She twists her lips to the side. "Then I'll throw a party when I move out."

I blink back at her, my chest tightening. I make a noise in my throat. "Move out?"

"Closer to college."

Is this how Charlie felt when I told him I was leaving Forks and him behind to pursue my degree elsewhere? I'd been feeling almost choked up and proud the last few days when Alice printed out applications to various colleges and transportation schedules that link our house to them easily, along with FAFSA forms.

Now I just want to shove them under a pillow until I feel Alice is ready to move out.

"You're not going anywhere."

She frowns, hurt crossing across her expression. "What?"

"I mean, why would you want to leave?" I redirect, letting out a sigh.

She shrugs her tiny shoulders, tilting her head to the side. She prances towards the kitchen, gathering bowls and spatulas. I follow after her, albeit detachedly. I've heard her words, but I'm having trouble registering them. I should've known this was coming, should've expected it, but I'd never thought her wanting to go back to school would bring her need to experience it fully.

Horror burns deeply into me as I imagine Alice navigating through co-ed dorms or apartment parties.

No. Nope. I'd faster ground her.

"Besides, being the third wheel wouldn't be all that fun when Edward moves in."

I choke on air. "That's your reason? Nothing's going to happen, and even if it does, it doesn't mean that you have to leave. This is your house just as it is mine."

"Bella," she coos sweetly. "I'm ready. I know I am. And when Jasper gives me the go, I want to move out; that doesn't mean that I don't love living here. I love you and I love this house; it's the first stable thing I've received, and I don't say it enough, but thank you for everything."

Alice's getting everything ready for cookies and brownies as if it's a casual talk about a small thing, yet I'm freaking out and trying not to show it to her.

"And I need to move out. I've never had a chance to make my own decisions. Going to college and studying what I want to study won't hit me until I go out on my own. I feel like something's going to swoop in and stop this entire process."

I move around the island and grasp her hands to halt her movement. They shake in mine.

She's too stiff. Alice isn't one to be oblique with her words; she always keeps eye contact and I'm so used to her blunt statements that I've missed the lingering fear underneath her words until just now.

"Are you afraid of your parents coming back?"

Her wide eyes meet mine. "It's possible, isn't it? Just because they haven't visited me since I've moved here doesn't mean they won't know that I'm out." She falls against me, her tiny body curling against mine as if seeking protection. "I keep feeling like I'll open the door one day and they'll take me with them, forcing me to become whatever they need me to be for their gain."

"They won't be able to take you with them this time," I tell her fiercely. "I won't let them."

"I know. And that's exactly why I need to move out: to believe that I can stop them myself. If I keep hiding here, behind you, I'll never reach that point."

It's the most I've heard her talk. I don't want to cry; I refuse to, but the stinging at the corner of my eyes, alerts me that I am doing just that.

I can't deny her anything, especially when I understand her so clearly. So I think logically.

"How will you pay for this apartment?"

Alice's face falls, and I immediately want to rectify my mistake just to make her smile again.

"I didn't think about that."

"How about we look for a job whenever Jasper gives us the go, and then think about moving out?"

She beams up at me as her arms loosen around me. "You'd do that for me?"

"Every milestone, Alice; I'll be with you every milestone."

A/N: Thank you for reading!

Bad news: My school has started with a full class load. :/ BUT this will be an outlet, so I'll be writing every free time I get! (Just a few more chapters left anyway :) )

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