Pop the Question Contest Entry
Title: Forget Hollywood
Word Count (without the A/n and header): 3057
Summary: Long time couple Edward and Bella are having a movie night at home. Will the chosen movie, Sweet Home Alabama, inspire them to take the next step? And if so, how?
Warnings (if any): There are no sensitive subjects in this fic, at least not intentionally. However, there is a lot of copywrited material, from Twilight to Sweet Home Alabama. If a disclaimer is needed, let this be it: I own nothing.
"Is there any way I can get you to change your mind?"
Bella pursed her lips, pretending to give Edward's question any consideration. She knew that he didn't like romantic comedies, and since he started his internship, they've hardly seen each other, even though they live in the same little rented house. The urge to just give in to his every whim, whenever they were together, was strong, very strong. It only got stronger the more she looked in his pleading, intensely green eyes, the more she studied his incredibly sexy pout. And he knew it, too, the rascal. He used it without shame.
But, on the other hand, she needed the extra sugar in her day. She was finishing up her course load for her master's degree in library science, and it was killing her. Besides, they had both agreed long ago to the movie-night rules, after many frustrated attempts and even a few fights. He already knew the answer, even as he asked the question.
"Hmm ... Nope." she finally said. "I won the rock-paper-scissors contest fair and square, Cullen. Rules are rules. Now push Play."
"Yes ma'am." Edward's grin belied his (greatly exaggerated) annoyed tone. He didn't mind the movie ... so much. He didn't expect it to be any good; it was a ten years old romantic comedy named after an almost forty years old song, which was fighting Hotel California for "most overplayed song ever". But it made his girl happy, so what was he gonna do?
He was gonna push Play, that's what.
They settled down as the opening music started. Bella turned her attention to the movie. Edward turned his attention to Bella. He didn't spend enough with her, just enjoying her. He could say that he was busy, with med school, and that would be true enough, but even if he hadn't been studying to become a doctor, even if he'd been a multimillionaire who could spend his days doing nothing but follow her around, he still wouldn't have enough time to just be with her. They could both be immortal, spending the rest of eternity together, and still, Edward wasn't sure that would be enough time.
He would have to make do with the time given to him, the present moment. He watched her smile at the screen, played with her hair. It was shorter now than it used to be. When they first met, her hair reached down to the small of her back. At some point, in their second year of dating, she decided that it was just too much bother, and she cut it up to her chin. Then she decided that that was too short, and she let it grow out. When it reached her shoulders, she decided that was the perfect length.
Her struggles and frustration had made Edward chuckle. He didn't care about any of that, as long as it was long enough for him to play with. And if it wasn't, if she decided to get a pixie cut, or worse, shave it all off ... well, he'd figure something else. It was Bella that mattered, not her hair.
"Do you know who wrote that?" asked Bella after a short while. The question confused him for a moment, distracted as he was by his inner monologue about her hair.
"The movie? How would I know?"
Bella rolled her eyes at her boyfriend's confusion. "No, not the movie. The song. Sweet Home Alabama."
"Oh. It's Lynyrd Skynyrd."
Edward nodded. "Seems to me we need another study-buddy session, baby."
They smiled at the memory of their first meeting. They were freshmen at the University of Illinois, Bella in English and Edward in Pre-Med, and they had chosen the same elective: Introduction to music, because it sounded easy. For Edward it was. For Bella, not so much. Edward jumped in when he was offered the opportunity to tutor the pretty girl he had noticed in class, and though Bella objected to the term "tutor", she didn't mind the idea of a study-buddy, especially one as nice and as cute.
The study sessions were first held in the library, until Bella timidly suggested that it might help her if she could hear the music examples, which wasn't really possible in the library. They began to meet in common rooms of their dorms, and eventually in their dorm rooms, when their roommates were busy elsewhere. The relationship evolved so easily, so naturally, it was like breathing. By the end of the semester, Bella had not only managed to get a B in intro to music, she also had a steady boyfriend.
They spent their Christmas break together, and even had Christmas dinner with Edward's family, who resided in Chicago. They continued to date through the next semester. When summer came, Bella had to leave Illinois and return to Forks, Washington for the summer. The separation was hard, but they made it. They call each other every night. They also kept in touch using Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr, until their parents started to complain that they spent all their time at the computer. Edward even managed a surprise visit to Forks, so he could meet Bella's parents. The amount of effort he took to please her parents was the last argument Bella needed; Edward Cullen was definitively the perfect man for her.
When fall rolled back again, they picked up right where they left off. The cycle continued all though their undergraduate years. The summer before graduate school, they announced that they were moving in together, to the shock of absolutely no one. They looked at apartments, at first, but then they stumbled on the most adorable little house to rent. They considered getting a dog, to go with the yard that came with the house, but Bella learn to her eternal embarrassment that she shared her mother's allergies to dogs, so that plan was scratched. They enjoyed the good days and worked together to get through the bad ones.
Their friends and family had started to say their two names as if it was one word; Edward-and-Bella, Bella-and-Edward. Almost from the start, there had been a lot of teasing aimed at the two sweethearts, from "when's the wedding" to "don't you dare make me a grandmother until I'm at least fifty". The former was a lot more common than the latter, especially since both Edward and Bella's mother had turned fifty. Apparently, fifty was the magical grandmother age. The love birds bore the teasing with a smile. They never talked about their couple and their future plans with family and friends. They were discreet, and preferred to enjoy their private lives privately.
"I think we have better things to study," she answered, licking her lips and leaning toward him until their mouths were less than half an inch away from each other. With their breath mingling and the tension quickly rising, she whispered: "After the movie."
Bella giggled at Edward's groan. She tried to lean back, but he was having none of it, wrapping one arm behind her back and the other around her legs, keeping her firmly pressed against him. "You are a tease."
"Just watch the movie. The best part is coming up."
"The best part? Ten minutes in? This is going to be a long night."
"One of the best part, then."
On the screen, Reese Whiterspoon and Patrick Dempsey walked in a dark, vaguely cavernous-sounding room. The lights come on to reveal the engagement ring floor at Tiffany's. The first time Bella saw this movie, this moment felt like a modern fairy tale, a bit over the top but still terribly romantic. At each repeated viewing, she always let a little sigh. But this time, she was distracted by Edward's snickers.
"Edward! Don't be like that. This is romantic."
"Romantic? Look at her face, she's terrified!"
It is true that Reese's reaction with Patrick got down on one knee was far from optimal.
"There are extenuating circumstances."
Patrick is now back up on his feet, and he's telling Reese: "I don't usually ask questions I don't already know the answer too."
"Of course, you don't," said Edward mockingly.
"Seriously, Bella, don't you think it's a little weird. I don't mean just in that movie, I mean everywhere. You have a guy and a girl. They've been dating an indeterminate amount of time. The guy decides, "I like this girl, and I want to spend the rest of my life with her" Does he talk to her about it, maybe see what she thinks about it, plan for the future together? No. Instead, he spends weeks, or months, sneaking around, planning this perfect proposal in complete secrecy, because God forbid she should figure it out before he's ready. And when the moment finally arrives, the girl is completely blindsided. She has like three seconds to answer. And if she says no, then it's basically the end of the relationship. Is that really what romance is? Really?"
Bella had to admit that, put that way, Edward had a point. It was one of the things she best liked about him: he had no tolerance for game playing, especially in a relationship. He'd just tell it like it is, and expected everyone to do the same.
"I'm not saying that you're wrong, but you're kind of bursting my modern fairytale bubble, here."
"I'm sorry, baby." Edward wrapped his arms around Bella, gathering her in a hug. "I came on too strong, didn't I?"
"Nah, it's okay. I owed you one after my "jealousy and possessiveness aren't sexy" rant of the other day."
"You were right, though."
"So were you just now. Aren't we smart cookies?"
She looked so adorable, in her mockingly smug attitude, Edward had to kiss her. Just a quick kiss, before she could complain about missing any more of the movie.
On the screen, Patrick Dempsey's overbearing mother discovered the engagement Reese wanted to keep secret. Reese then took a plane to Alabama. When Reese demanded that Josh Lucas gave her a divorce, Edward exploded with laughter.
"Oh, man alive!" Edward finally said once he caught his breath. "See that, McDreamy? That's the kind of thing you would've known if you'd talked about marriage with Reese before proposing."
"Well, to be fair to Patrick, Reese probably would have lied. She had no business accepting the proposal as it was."
"That is true. That is very true."
After a few moments of silence, Edward asked: "So, what do you think of marriage, in general?"
"Hmm." Bella hesitated for a moment, surprised by the question. "Well, I guess it depends on what you mean. The part where two people in love make the commitment to stay together, celebrate the joys and share the sorrows of life, I'm in favour of, absolutely. But if you mean, like, a wedding ... I'm not sure."
"You're not sure?"
"Yeah. I mean, it's like for some people, the whole relationship culminates in that one, big event, and it becomes a circus. You can ruin yourself planning a wedding and a honeymoon, you know. When you spend the kind of money that would buy you a good second hand car on one dress, that you'll wear one time, you know things have gotten out of hands. And it's like, at the same time, the relationship isn't real until the wedding. That's the point of the bachelor's party, right? One last night of screwing around and the next day you commit yourself to one person forever. Wasn't the engagement the commitment?"
Edward pondered over what his girlfriend had told him for a while. "That would be an interesting concept. The guy calls all of his friends and says, I'm getting engaged tomorrow, let's go to a strip club!"
Bella laughed. "Yeah. And when he proposes, the next day, the girl would say; Sure, but let's wait until tomorrow, I've got to get the girls together for a last wild night out."
"But seriously, sounds like you're not in favour of big weddings."
"I'm not, I guess. But on the other hand, I like the idea of a big reception. Everybody dressed in fancy clothes, with awesome food and music, and games. There should be games, too. It should be, like, I choose to spend the rest of my life with that person, and it's the best thing in the world, and I want all my friends and family to celebrate that with me. Does that make me a hypocrite?"
"Well, big weddings and big receptions kind of go together. It's not like you can have a small, intimate ceremony and a huge reception."
"Why not? That actually sounds kind of nice. Like the royal wedding, but in reverse."
Bella smiled. "You're sweet." Her expression turned pensive, though, as the conversation of the last half hour began to run in her mind.
What this what she thought it was?
"It sounds like we're talking about getting married."
"It sounds that way, doesn't it?"
That was unhelpful. Bella would have to prod him some more.
"What do you think about wedding and marriage?"
"I agree with you, for the most part. A marriage is as good, or as bad, as the attitude of the people in it. And the way you describe the reception, friends and family gathering to celebrate a wonderful relationship that will last for the rest of our lives, that's the way I feel about weddings. There's just one thing."
"I want a church wedding. It's very important to me."
"Okay," Bella agreed immediately, even though she found the request a bit strange. Edward, though he came from a religious family, was not overtly religious in his daily life. "Is it because of your grand-father?" she asked, referring to the father of Edward's father, who was an Anglican pastor.
"Not really. Well, in a way, since he influenced my father. Dad wasn't as strict as Grandpa was with him, praying for half an hour every night, helping with all the services, every Sunday. But he did teach me to give thanks for the good things in my life. And that's what I want. It's like a church wedding is the only proper way to give thanks to God for you, because you're the best thing that happened to me."
The sweetness, the heartfelt sincerity of the statement, was too much for Bella. She just had to kiss him again.
"So," she asked when she came up for air. "We're getting married."
"We're getting married," Edward confirmed. "Soon."
Bella hesitated. "How about soon-ish?"
The hesitation made Edward nervous."Why?"
"It's the last year of my master's, and it's a crazy busy time for me. Plus, you're just starting you internship and you have almost no time to yourself, let alone the time to plan a wedding and take a honeymoon. I mean, we are taking a honeymoon, right? We haven't talked about it, but, you know, I kind of assumed..."
The rush of words tumbling out of Bella's mouth reassured him. She wasn't trying to back off, or to let him down easy. She really wanted this, as much as he did.
"I assumed the same thing. A honeymoon is a must. Did you have anything in mind?"
"Well, I have no idea what out budget is. I only have a general idea. You know, like, I would prefer a cottage in the mountains to a tropical beach resort."
"Really. Why, do you want a tropical beach resort?"
"No, but I figured you would. You love being out in the sun."
"I do. Unfortunately, the sun doesn't love me back. With this skin," she added, holding up one alabaster hand, "I would end up writhing in pain from the terrible sunburns. Not my idea of a good time. Plus, a cottage in the woods seems romantic."
Edward grabbed her hand and peppered it with little kisses. "All right. A cottage in the woods it is."
Edward's lips eventually reached the spot just over the knuckle, on her ring finger.
"Hey, that reminds, me," Bella exclaimed. "Do you have a ring?"
"No. It's your ring, why would I buy it without you? What if you don't like it? What if it doesn't fit you? Then you have to get it resized, and it's awkward. We'll go shopping tomorrow, if you want."
"I want," Bella answered, and they leaned toward each other until their lips met.
"At the risk of bringing more torture to myself," Edward eventually asked, "we've missed a lot of the movie. Do you want me do rewind it?"
"Nah, just leave it be. The best part was the Tiffany's proposal, anyway."
Edward laughed at this. "Well, I might as well turn it off, then."
"No, leave it on. I need to background noise to think. We have a wedding to plan."
"That's the second time you've said that in five minutes. Aren't we doing a small, intimate wedding? How much planning can be involved?"
"I'm not sure, but I think a lot. We're also planning a huge reception, and that is a lot of details. Besides, the more solid our wedding plans are, the better armed we'll be when we face our mothers."
"Oh, our mothers."
"You know they'll beg to let them plan everything, and then turn the whole thing into a circus."
"It's almost enough to make you want to elope."
"Don't you dare, Edward Cullen!" She slapped him across the shoulder, to let him know exactly how not funny she found his joke. "Eloping would be uncool."
"Don't worry, Bella Swan-soon-to-be-Cullen. I said almost. And I'm pretty sure our mothers won't be that bad. As long as we involve them in the process a little."
"All right," Bella said, slightly mollified. "About that soon-to-be-Cullen thing, I don't know how big of a deal it is to you, but I was thinking of hyphenating my name."
"The future Mrs Bella Swan-Cullen? I don't mind. It's not like we'd squish the names together, like Swullen or something."
"You're kidding me! People do that?"
"Some people. Not us, please."
They spent the rest of the evening planning and dreaming and kissing, with the movie long forgotten playing in the background.