I hate long A/Ns as much as the next guy but here goes:

Thanks to my mentor and lover sadtomato for all she does to encourage my writing, to my comma corrector and real life lifesaver MeteorMuse for being a friend AND a beta, and to the ever lovely friend Anntastic for asking all the right why questions when she preread this for me. ILY girls.

Thanks to Purelyamuse for making a banner for this story! You can find it on her blog purelyamuse dot blogspot dot com. The Saturday that she and whatsmynom recommended WAY on Twitter was awesome. Thank you ladies for supporting other authors. I'd say go read their stuff but I'm sure you already have.

Thanks to the Etched In Ink Fest for inspiring this story and to the Remember When This Was Fun contest for reminding me what we used to all be here for. FUN.

And to all the readers who read, reviewed with lovely insightful thoughts, recced on Twitter, talked about Edward on ADF, etc. This story was a source of stress relief and comfort for me when I wrote it, and I'm just glad that someone else loves it too.

Xox,

SingleStrand


"Isabella Marie Swan." The amplified voice bounces against the walls of the gym, but the words fade into the background as the people around me whoop and clap, cheering her across the stage.

I look at Rose and Emmett on my left and Bella's dad with his girl of the moment on my right, and I smile, glad that Bella has a small cheering section for graduation. She still needs the encouragement.

"Woo hoo!" I yell, hands cupped to my mouth, hoping she can pick my voice out from the others. She pauses as she receives her diploma and looks our way. I pull my phone out of my pocket with barely a second to spare and snap a shot. Damn, she looks good.

After the ceremony, I hustle toward her through the crowd, pulling her into a huge hug and swinging her around, our lips pressed together in an excited kiss.

"I'm so proud of you," I whisper, feeling her body slide down the length of my own as her feet find the floor again.

"Thank you, baby. I owe most of it to you." She grins and kisses me again, but I have to protest.

"No way. You did that all on your own. Very little help from me." We smile at each other cheesily, only breaking apart when we hear Charlie's trademark throat clearing.

"Proud of you, Bells," he mumbles and pulls her to his side. To my surprise, he even presses a peck to her forehead. That's the most affection I've seen from him to date.

"Thanks for coming, Dad." Bella's voice is hoarse, and I can tell she's about to cry.

"Let's go grab some food," I say and pull Bella toward the exit. "Meet you guys there!"

Twenty minutes later, we walk into the bar to balloons and streamers and only about ten people. I made sure Mandy wouldn't mind if we took up the whole place for the afternoon. It's a special day after all, but it turns out Bella doesn't have a ton of friends she wanted to invite.

We eat and talk, and eventually Charlie offers us a ride to the apartment. Normally, I'd shrug it off and keep my pride intact by taking the bus home. But Bella looks so fucking fuckable in that dress she's been wearing all day, I jump at the chance to get her alone a few minutes earlier.

As soon as the front door slams shut, I'm all over her, kissing her throat and neck and pulling her legs apart to straddle one of my own.

"You look so fucking hot in this dress. It's not fair," I growl as I rub my hands up her thighs. "Do you have any idea how sexy it is to see you holding a diploma, Miss Swan?"

She giggles and untucks my dress shirt from my pants. "Probably as sexy as it is to see you every single day. Bed. Please."

We kiss and stumble our way down the hall to the bedroom, unwilling to pull our tangle of bodies apart for even a few seconds, and when we finally get to the bed, she pushes me onto my back.

"Slow down, baby. We've got all night," she says, biting her bottom lip shyly before pulling her dress up and off over her head, letting the gauzy purple fabric slip to a puddle on the floor, and standing bare before me.

My eyes grow wider as I sit up and gulp. "You weren't wearing any ... I mean ... why don't you have any of those hot panties on underneath ... oh sweet Jesus, come here."

Bella steps back though, pouting. "What? I thought you'd like the homage to our first meeting. After all ... someone I know goes commando at leastonce a week."

I know she's fucking with me now, but there's a part of me that's disappointed I didn't know all day long that she was naked under that dress. Until I stand in front of her and unzip my pants.

"I have no idea who you're talking about." I force myself to meet her gaze with a perfectly straight face and watch her expression as my pants fall to the floor and she realizes that, in fact, I've been without underwear all day as well. "Great minds think alike, I guess."

She snorts, and we collapse onto the bed naked, laughing and kissing.

Things heat up quickly. I lie on my back and pull her over me, giving her control like I know she likes. She doesn't waste much time, holding me in place as she slides down over me and throwing her head back when I'm fully inside her.

"Fuck," she whispers as she begins to move.

"I know, baby," I reply and hold onto her hips, using the leverage to pull myself up to a sitting position. "Make it good for you. I want to see you come." I bury my face in her breasts, concentrating on licking and sucking her nipples while she rides me slowly.

Eventually, I slide one hand in between us and find her clit, rubbing it as her pace quickens, and her breathing gets harder.

"Right there, baby. Yes. Don't stop. Shit. Gonna come." She starts making these little pulsing movements, and I know she's hit her climax, so I slow my movements a bit, letting her dictate how hard or soft we move.

As soon as she's gained her breath again, she's back to the fast bouncing, whispering dirty things in my ear about how bad she wants me to come and to fuck her harder. It doesn't take long before I lose it, coming inside of her and falling back onto the bed, spent and sated.

Bella cleans up in the bathroom before coming back to bed dressed in just the white undershirt I wore all day under my dress shirt. She curls up at my side, yawning.

"Baby, you can get a clean shirt," I tell her, smirking at her reply before she even speaks.

"But this one smells just like you." She does this all the time, and I always tell her that Ialso smell just like me, and she happens to be lying right beside me. But secretly, I love that she likes to wear my clothes. Even the day-old sweaty ones.

"Love you," Bella whispers, already drifting off. It's only eight o'clock, but she's had a big day, and I know I can wake her up in the middle of the night for round two, so I let her fall asleep.

My tee shirt is too big for her and falls off one shoulder, revealing her tattoo. Before settling in, I rub a finger over it gently. What used to read TRUST NO ONE now just says TRUSTwith a beautiful array of lilies underneath it. She surprised me with it on our anniversary last year, coming home late from class to show me that she'd had it covered up. I cried like a baby at what the change symbolized. Bella had finally found someone to trust in this life. Me.

We've made a thousand memories over the last four years-some of them have ended in tears, some in laughter, some in incredibly hot sex. School, work, friends, family, apartments-it hasn't always been easy, but we've faced it all together since the day I declared that I wanted to be her boyfriend.

I graduated last year, busting my ass to finish in time, to be ready for the job market in autumn. Because I was the first one in my family to get a real bonafide college degree, Uncle Carlisle came and threw a big party. Since I had very few friends to attend the shindig, he had plenty of time to get to know Bella and really connected with her. He and his wife have already been back to visit since then.

I got on teaching Literature at the same high school both Bella and I attended. The school system here remains in total disarray, and I'll have to move on to a different job soon if I want to support a family, but for now, I feel like I'm making a tiny bit of difference in my students' lives. Whatever difference I can make by showing that I care, that someone is invested in their future whether their family and friends are or not.

After much prodding and pushing, Bella got her basics out of the way at the community college I attended while living at home so she could save a bit of money. My girl wants to work with teenagers too, maybe as a counselor or therapist. She ended up transferring to the university for her junior and senior years, graduating today with a degree in psychology. I think she should go on and get a specialized degree while she works as a court youth advocate or a family services worker or something related to her field, but she can't decide. She works the bar with Mandy now that I don't anymore, and she still has time to figure it all out.

As I lie here thinking about all we've made it through, I can't help but get excited about what lies ahead. Maybe we'll move far away, join Carlisle and his wife in California. Maybe we'll stay right here, both getting tenured in the local school system and never having much money but always each other. Maybe we'll have kids, or maybe we won't. Who knows where the road will lead us. We are young, after all.