A/N This was my entry for the What's Love To You Contest hosted by TwilightFicZone. They had some beautiful prompt pictures and I couldn't resist. It was in the company of some amazing stories & still managed to win the public vote! If you were one of the voters thank you so, so, so much. Be sure to check out the other entries & the banner made by Sweetlovincullen can be found on my profile.
Prettyflour, Twilightladies, and ChloeCougar helped me so much with this so they deserve a huge wet sloppy kiss from Edward for that!
I'd love to know what you think. Thanks for reading :)
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
The Only One I Ever Saw
Thirteen years ago...
Edward watched as the pretty little girl tripped over her shoelaces and fell into a heap on the floor.
"Ow," she cried and began rubbing her grazed knees. "I want my Mommy."
He ran over to her and presented her with the gift he'd spent all day making. "Don't cry. Here I made this for you."
Bella looked up at the boy with the dirty face and messy hair, and frowned. "What is it?"
"A flower of course," he said. "Can't you tell?" His face fell and Bella smiled at the red crepe paper glued to the bent piece of pipe cleaner.
"Thank you, it's really cute," she said and he grinned.
"I'm Edward," he said proudly. "You live next door. Your Daddy's a policeman."
"Yes. I'm Bella." The two shook hands and Bella blushed. "Shall we get married then?"
"Sure," Edward replied and then ran away to rejoin his other friends.
Little Bella Swan spent the entire day watching Edward Cullen, and she was still watching him when she heard her mother calling out to her.
"Bella, honey, come here. I missed you." Bella ran into her mother's arms, still clutching the flower. "What's that sweetie?"
"A flower. Edward made it just for me," Bella said proudly. "We're getting married you know."
"Oh really?" her mother laughed.
"Yep, you'll see." Bella looked back and waved at Edward one last time.
Thursday – present day
I look at the world through the camera. The trees; the sky; the dull, grey clouds above. It's all photogenic, something I could capture, but I don't. There's only one thing I really see, just one person, and it's been that way for as long as I can remember. I zoom in as I see them together, one of his hands caressing her long hair, almost down to her waist, and the other holding her chin as they kiss. I want that to be me, I want that more than anything, but over the years I have come to accept that will never happen.
"Come on, guys, I'm growing roots waiting for you," Tyler Crowley calls out to you both, and you finally break apart.
As you look to see who shouted out, your eyes land on me. For a fleeting second your brow furrows and you look to the person standing beside you before looking back at me, a look of regret... maybe... in your face. Raising one hand, you wave tentatively, and I wave back. Then your hand drops and you walk away in the arms of another without looking back.
I continue taking random photographs, then head to my art class. Mrs. White is waiting for me, and asks to see how my project is coming along. I show her, only her, and she smiles sadly before saying, "It's beautiful, you should really consider it being part of the display for graduation."
"No," I say. "I can't."
She says nothing else, but places her hand softly on my shoulder before leaving me to work. Art in any form is the only way I can express how I feel. I paint, draw, or photograph and then immerse myself in creating my own little story with the pictures. I used to do it for my mom for her birthday or Christmas, and I even made one for my parents' anniversary. Now though, this is my own story, and I am not finished with it yet. It is all for my best friend, the person who knows me the best, but who really knows so little.
At the end of my last class I walk quickly to my car, eager to see you. We always share the ride; it makes sense, being neighbours and all. So each day we take turns in driving, and today it is my turn. That same feeling of relief washes over me as I see you leaning against the hood. It's always the same for me when we're apart, I feel empty somehow and I hate how dependent I've become on you. When you see me, you stand up and give me your most breathtaking smile. It makes me feel like I'm the only person on the planet, and to this day I don't think I've seen anyone else get that smile from you.
Best friends since that day in nursery, we became inseparable. We played together at school, after school, at weekends, and our parents even holidayed together. When you were seven your mother died suddenly. You wouldn't talk to anyone except me, and when you ran away during the funeral, I knew exactly where you'd be. I stayed with you until our parents found us, and I even snuck into your house later that night to make sure you were okay. After that, your father immersed himself in his work, so my mother helped take care of you. You would come over before school and have breakfast with me; then after school, you'd come home with us and eat dinner. Your dad always collected you after work, and the routine would be repeated the next day.
You were my everything, even then. But everything changed when we started high school. I am shy, painfully shy with everyone except you. You, on the other hand, are so full of life, so friendly, and so devastatingly beautiful. How could you be anything but the centre of attention? It might have been different had we shared the same classes, but we didn't. You met new friends, and I hung back watching as you fell in with the popular crowd, and I paled into the background. But, you being you, never treated me any differently, and before and after school it was always just us.
I've wanted to tell you for years that you are so much more than my friend. I want to tell you that I love you; that I will always love you, but I can't. I'm too afraid that the moment you realise how badly I'm infatuated with you, you'll back away and then I'd lose my best friend. The thought of not seeing you, of not hearing your voice every day physically pains me, so I settle for whatever I can get.
My mom knows, she's always known, but I trust her not to say anything.
"Hey you." Your voice sends shivers down my spine. "Do you mind if we call at Thriftway? I need to get those pictures developed from Dad's party."
"Sure, I have some I want developing too." I smile and open the door.
"Cool," you say, and get inside the car. "For your project again?"
"Will I ever get to see it?" you ask, your voice genuinely interested.
"Probably not," I reply and try to look away to disguise the blush.
You don't say anything about it, you know me enough to leave things alone. We chat about school, this Saturday's prom, and of course graduation. After that it's college and the future. You've always wanted to become a doctor, ever since you were little, and I know you'll achieve it. You can do anything you set your mind to. Being accepted at Yale made your father so proud, and we all know your mother would have been too.
I 'm going to Yale to study too. I'd applied and been accepted, but then was too afraid to tell you at first. I'd done it purely to stay near you, and I was scared you'd see right through me. But you weren't upset, not at all. "I can't wait," you'd said and then given me the biggest hug. The smell of your hair and the feel of your body against mine left me speechless.
When we arrive at the store and walk to the counter, I have to watch as the sales assistant flirts shamelessly with you as you hand over your film. I'm barely given a second glance, but I'm used to it.
"I'm afraid the printer's offline. The prints aren't going to be ready until the weekend–is that okay?"
We nod and again the attention falls back to you. "How about you give me your number, and I'll call you when they're ready?"
"Saturday is fine," you say, and smile politely.
The store is just a few minutes from home, and soon we're parked in my driveway and out of the car.
"See you in the morning, Bella."
"See you tomorrow, Edward."
I watch as you trudge inside; you don't come over like you used to. You like the space, you say. I want to shout to you and ask you to come for dinner, but I don't. With a sigh I go inside.
"Hello, Sweetheart, how was your day?" Mom wraps her arms around me.
"Usual," I answer.
"Your teacher called, a Mrs. White. She told me about your project and just how good it is. She really wants you to consider letting it be part of the display. What do you think?"
"I already told her no." I shake my head.
"I think it's a wonderful idea..."
"No!" I shout, but she ignores me.
"Maybe, it could be your way of letting someone know exactly how you're feeling. The words you can't say out loud..." Her hands hold my face. "I don't know how you can keep it bottled up inside, you should tell..."
"And then lose my friend? No thanks."
"But perhaps that's for the best. All these years you've spent feeling like this. If it doesn't work, then you can go to college and start over. Just think about it. I'll call you when dinner's ready."
I pull out an old photo album and look at the pictures. They're all of you, us, our families, and I trace my fingers slowly over your face. What if I did put my project on display? What would happen? I could lose my best friend; I probably will do. But, what if I don't? What if instead of losing my friend, I win something else? Something I've always wanted.
The next morning at breakfast, I sit with Mom and talk to her. "I've been thinking, and you're right. I can't live like this forever, so I'm going to tell Mrs. White to use my project. It's time to move on, even if..."
"Have some faith. You two have been inseparable all this time for a reason. I can see it's something more. Just trust it."
I tell Mrs. White I'll do it, and she asks me to have it ready within the week. It is almost complete, a year in the making, and I just need one more picture to make it perfect. It's your life story. There are photos of you as a baby; with your mother; and then hand sketches, paintings, and images of you as you've grown up. In some of them we're together, and in some of them we're not–like this year's winter formal. I edited that shot of course; I removed the date that should have been me. As soon as you see it you'll know–everyone will know.
The day passes quickly and soon we're driving home. It's Friday; our Senior Prom is tomorrow.
"Are you really not going?" you ask quietly.
"No," I say. You already have a date, although you've never actually told me. "You know it's not really my scene. But have fun."
You nod once and I slam the door behind me.
I call Thriftway, and they tell me the photos are ready to collect. I look at the clock and wait; your limo will be arriving soon and I don't want to see you, not tonight. I leave just a few minutes before you're supposed to leave. The clouds are darkening; more rain no doubt.
The store is quiet, and I walk straight to the counter. "I've come for..." The assistant recognises me straight away.
"Here you go, sorry for the delay. The engineer only turned up this morning."
"No problem," I mumble and then stop. "Um... I can take the others too if you like... we're neighbours."
"Someone collected those already."
The rain has already started to fall as I drive home. I pull onto the street just in time to see the taillights of the limo pull away from your house. I'm not an idiot. I know what will happen tonight. Everyone's been talking about it, gushing about prom Queen and King, the parties, the kegs and of course the fact people are spending the night together.
You're going to the party at McCarty's, and I wonder if tonight's the night? You don't say much, not in front of me anyway, but I know you're a virgin. Sure, you've shared a few kisses, maybe more, but that's it. I doubt that will be the case after tonight.
I stay in my car and look at the photos to try and rid my mind of the image of you with someone else. It turns my stomach to imagine you kissing, touching, and loving someone else. The first picture confuses me, I'm expecting to see you–all the photos were of you. But I don't just see you. I see your father, me, my mother and father, all of us together... these are not my photo–they're yours. But that means you have mine. I freeze and my stomach lurches as I realise how that will look. You have no idea I was taking photos of you, no idea at all. Ignoring the rain, I jump out of the car, race to your house and begin pounding on the door furiously.
"Alright, alright, where's the damn fire?" Your father opens the door and frowns. "Oh, I didn't expect to see you."
"Do you have the photos from Thriftway? Only, they got them mixed up and I have yours..." I pant and hold out the photos.
"Yeah we picked them up. I hear they're really something; seems you have quite a talent."
"You... you saw them?" My voice shakes.
"Just the first one, then I couldn't get near the rest. I'm the only one here you know... I think you should go on home." He inclines his head to my house and I nod sadly.
I don't run this time, I walk. Slowly... slower... slower still. I'm sodden by the time I reach the porch and I don't look up until your voice catches me off guard.
You're standing in your navy blue prom dress with muddy splashes up the front, your hair is dripping wet and your mascara is running down your face. But it doesn't matter to me–you're still beautiful. You never cease to take my breath away.
"Bella? What are you...? What about Prom?" I ask, and you step closer to me.
"What about it, Edward? How could I go to prom after seeing these?" You hold out your hand and hand me my photos.
"I'm so sorry; I promise I'm not some crazy stalker. It's just..." I sigh. "You. It's always been you." I look down and can't bring myself to watch you walk away. I'm more scared than I thought I would be, because I'm not ready to lose you.
"Always? How long is always?" you ask quietly.
"Since we were kids," I reply, and you giggle.
"All this time?" You laugh louder now and I look up to scowl at you, but I can't help but smile. "Why the hell didn't you say something, Edward?"
"Because I didn't want to lose my friend, Bella. You're my best friend," I whisper, and you reach out to hold my hand.
"Edward, you know me better than anyone else. How could you think you'd ever lose me? I would never, ever, stop being your friend."
"But, that's not all that I want, Bella. I want more..." I trail off sadly.
"Were you ever going to say anything? I mean, we graduate next week."
"I had a plan," I say with a wry smile. "There's something I've been doing... I thought once you saw that you'd know."
"Oh." You blush. "But I know now."
"I'm sorry you missed your prom. I know you had a special night planned; I heard the guys talking about it in gym." I look up and try to smile. "Maybe Jake could come and pick you up?"
"Why would I want Jake to come and pick me up?" Your face is serious. "To say you spent a lot of time taking pictures, Edward, you never really paid attention, did you? You never really saw me?"
"What do you mean?"
"I spent as much time with you as I could when we were growing up. I never let anyone else ride with us to school. Angela and Alice only live around the corner. I could have gone with them or let them ride with us. I thought you disapproved of me at school, and that's why you are always so aloof and quiet when I'm around. I know you don't like my friends and I didn't think I'd be anything to you but just your friend." You bite your lip. "Come with me. I want to show you something."
You pull me back into the rain and across to your house. Shouting a quick greeting to your dad, you drag me upstairs and into your bedroom. After rummaging around under your bed you pull out a small box and open it.
"Most of the stuff in here belonged to Mom," you say quietly. "But she bought me the box because I needed somewhere safe to keep this." You reach over and pass me something old, but familiar. The pipe cleaner is bent, almost broken in fact, and the red paper is crumpled and torn, but I know what it is.
The flower. My flower. Your flower.
"You kept this?" I ask and your blush returns.
"I look at it all the time. I even told Mom we were getting married." You sit close beside me. "You've never been just a friend, Edward. You've always been more to me. I wanted to tell you, but I keep finding reasons not to. When you said you were going to Yale too, I thought I'd wait until then... try and grow up a little beforehand."
Your hands squeeze mine. I'm trying not to get carried away. Dare I hope?
"I only went out with Jake, because... well... you never asked. I wanted you to ask me to prom. I even thought about asking you myself. Dad told me I should; he said that you're too shy, but I didn't believe him... I thought you weren't interested."
"I wanted to ask you, I wanted to dance with you, and I wanted to be the one who got to kiss you at the end of the night," I say, and your face falls a little.
"Wanted? Past tense?"
I smile and shake my head. "No, definitely present tense. Past, present and future tense probably." I dare to lean closer, my eyes focusing on your lips.
"Good," you mumble and tilt your head up.
Slowly, we move closer and closer until I press my lips softly on yours. They're so soft, and warm, and a small groan escapes my mouth as your hand holds onto the back of my neck.
It's better than I ever imagined it could be and I'm so overwhelmed. Suddenly, a flash of a camera startles us and I turn to see our parents standing in the doorway grinning.
"See, I told you to have some faith," Mom says, and she sets the camera down before they walk away.
We sit in shy silence for a minute before I speak. "I guess I should thank the guy at the store for being too pre-occupied with you to pay attention to his work."
"Was he?" You blush again. "I didn't see him. I was too busy looking at you. I can't believe you never noticed. Everyone at school used to moan at me for staring at you all the time. Even Dad threatened to say something to you if I didn't. I can't believe you never noticed."
"I will now," I say honestly. "I always will."
"Now what happens?" I ask quietly. "I'm kind of new to this stuff."
You smile and say, "Whatever we want to happen, happens, Edward. But first, I want you to kiss me again."
We can hear our parents cheering as we take our seats in the auditorium. My project is in the middle of the display at the back of the stage, and everyone is talking about it like I knew they would. But it's no longer the moment of truth, because you already understand. You and I are together, officially. I thought Jake might have caused a bit more trouble, but your dad's the Chief, so Jake didn't do much besides shoot the odd menacing glare in my direction. But I'd take anything, because I have you.
You love my project; you even cried when you first saw it. But now there's one new picture–the perfect shot I'd been waiting for–and this time it wasn't mine. The photo of you and I sharing our first kiss is there as the last part of our story.
I watched you for all those years, hoping that you would notice me. And in all those years I never really saw you. But I do now.
"I love you," I say, and you smile.
"I love you too."