Gif #: nine

Title: The Girl Who Jumped

Word count: 12,453

Pairing: Bella/Edward

Rating: M

Summary: His fingertips trail along my collarbone, strong but gentle. They linger on my scar, on skin that's not quite numb. I feel like I did then, when I was standing in that tree, brave and stupid enough to jump.

I have always been Seth's Bella, even when I was engaged to someone else. Both times. I'm not a cheater. It was never like that. He was my best friend. I was oblivious. Until there was no longer a ring on my finger, we kissed the way that friends don't kiss, and I had to wonder why it had never occurred to me before.

I'm outspoken, but not the most forthcoming. I'm stupid brave and a complete coward. I'm not the strongest or the smartest or the one who always does the right thing. I'm not the prettiest or the tallest or the sexiest. I'm just Seth's Bella.

We drive over the bridge that now separates us from most of our friends. The water is choppy beneath us, the unforgiving wind whipping over it, forcing it white.

Our friends have been slowly moving out of the city for a while. They're getting married, having babies and now we have to cross a bridge just to visit them. We either need to move out too or start making new friends.

Seth would love nothing more than to move to the suburbs. To buy a house and make a bunch of babies. But I think his perfect is disgusting. Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I've been waiting my whole life to be a mother. He knows this, but he also thinks I'll change my mind. It's one of the things we've stopped discussing since he put a ring on my finger.

We're all meeting at my parents' house for an informal engagement dinner. My mother insisted on it, my father goes along with whatever she wants, and our friends simply want to see the ring.

Seth and I have known each other since we were five. Since we still picked our noses and ate paste. I wear his grandmother's ring on my left hand and the expectations are so heavy that sometimes when I'm alone I slip it into my pocket just to take a break.

He's not the first man to ask me to be his forever. It's not the first ring. I had another before it and a different one before that. I returned both before I let things get too far. But I guess a ring is too far.

I am not good at being alone. I am even worse at being with someone.

I can't help but want what everyone has. I see the way Rose looks at Emmett and the way Jasper looks at Alice. And I see the way Seth looks at me. I see it all over his face. How much he loves me. I see it and I want it and I hate it just a little bit.

Rose, Alice, Seth and I grew up together. We've drifted and found each other again and again over the years. The four of us became the six of us.

My mother has adored Seth since we were small. My father thinks he's a brown-noser. They agree on very little.

Seth taps my knee with his fingertips as he drives. "You're a million miles away, Bella."

"I'm right here." It's almost true.

The drive seems like it takes forever. Like we might grow old and die in this car.

We stand hand in hand on my parents' front porch. Seth kisses my temple.

We're the last ones here. Alice is as big as a house. I'm relieved to see that Rose and Em left their two toddlers with a babysitter. They always try to climb into my lap, their little hands all over every inch of me.

My mother kisses Seth's cheek and you'd think it was the first time I brought a boy home with the way she looks at us. My father still calls me his baby girl and while it should annoy me, it doesn't. He is the one person in my life who has a free pass on pretty much anything.

Dinner is long and awkward, my dad barely acknowledging Seth at all.

We sit around the living room, legs up, bellies stuffed. Seth helps my mother with the dishes. Because that's the kind of man he is. Thoughtful. Kind. It's sweet, most of the time. And when it's not, it's nauseating.

Jasper covers Alice's ever expanding belly with his hand. "You're next, Bella."

"Not going to happen," I answer back immediately.

"Don't be so sure," Alice grins.

"I use eight hundred different kinds of birth control. I'm sure."

They all laugh and I pray that someone changes the subject. Alice flicks me in the elbow. "I want to see the diamond again." Not the ring, the diamond. Because it's just that ridiculous.

I slide it off my finger, dropping it into Alice's palm. I watch her roll the band between her fingertips as she admires the diamond. "That boy has been in love with you forever."

The idea of me, maybe. I smile and hope that my cheeks go rosy with the veiled compliment.

"I will always remember the look on his face when you called it off with Sam in college. It was like he'd just won the lottery. And then you showed up to poker night with a different ring, I thought he was going to pass out."

"Alice, you're neglecting the part of the story where there was three years in between."

"Poor Seth was just trying to get up the nerve to make his move," her eyebrows waggling as she speaks.

Poor Seth.

"Someone should have told me back then," I accuse all of them.

"We weren't aware that you were blind, Bella." Fucking Emmett. He's been calling me the Runaway Bride since I called it off with Sebastian, who he lovingly refers to as Number Two.

Seth walks up behind me and places his large hands on my shoulders, rubbing gently. It feels good and not.

I pull away, moving to stand, "I'm going to go use the bathroom."

And the way everyone looks at me, it's like they know. They know that I don't know what I'm doing and they're sure I'm about to ruin the best thing ever.

I stand in front of the sink, with both palms pressed flat against the mirror. It's all right there in my face. I am too much of some things and not enough of others.

Seth loves the little girl who would hang upside down on the monkey bars. The one who told off our second grade teacher for embarrassing him in front of the whole class. The one who dove out of the climbing tree when we were eleven.

I pull my hands away from the mirror, running them over my face, looking for that girl. Fingertips over my lips, she's still in there. Except I don't think Seth necessarily appreciates those same qualities in me anymore. It was cute when we were kids. But he wants me to grow up now and stop being obstinate. He used to call me spicy, now he calls me stubborn.

You're supposed to marry your best friend. Doing what I'm supposed to do doesn't feel the way I thought it would feel. I wish he could just love me like this instead of expecting me to be an adult version of myself that doesn't even exist.

My fingers trail over the angry scar on my collarbone. I was proud of it for years. I'm still a little proud.

I can hear voices on the other side of the bathroom door. "You could at least be a little more welcoming. He's her fiancé." My mother. Her tone when she talks to my father is so consistently condescending that I don't think she hears it anymore.

I don't expect my dad to even answer her, but his voice is steady and firm. "I've learned that a ring means very little when it comes to my daughter. I'll wait until she's in a white dress, walking down an aisle with her arm tucked in mine before I get attached to some guy she is calling her fiancé."

His words sting all over. The truth of them.

We leave soon after. My father hugs me tight on the porch. "You don't have to be who anyone else wants you to be. You know that, right?" He looks like he might cry.

"I know." I wish it was true.

.

.

"Bella, you look fine. We're going to be late."

I pull my shirt off. Seth is obsessed with being on time. I could be wearing a garbage bag and he would tell me I look fine as long as it will get us to wherever we are going at the agreed upon time.

I've changed my clothes four times. Nothing feels right. While I throw yet another shirt on the floor, Seth goes on and on about next week's election. Election for what, I don't even know. But I wish he'd stop talking.

I don't know what my problem is. We're just having dinner with his parents. His parents who I've seen a thousand times since we were five. This is the first time that they will see me with the diamond.

I look down at my hand, remembering that I took the ring off this morning. His eyes must follow mine because a second after I see my naked hand he wants to know where my ring is. His voice is almost panicked. As if I lost it.

I pull it from the pocket of my jeans and hold it out to him without thinking. He looks momentarily relieved, but it's short lived. "Why was it in your pocket?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know? We are meeting up with my parents in half an hour and you don't know?"

"Don't speak to me like I'm a child, Seth."

"Don't act like one," he sneers.

"I put it there! I put it there, alright?"

He looks at me like he doesn't know me. "What's going on with you, Bella?"

I want to tell him that I can't be the mother of his children, the love of his life. That I can't be his wife.

"When did you know you wanted to marry me, Seth?"

"What?" He runs his hands through his hair, grabbing it in tight fists. "When we were eleven. When you jumped from that tree and I thought you were going to die. Is that what you want to hear?"

"It took you twenty years to get up the nerve to kiss me."

"I don't understand what that has to do with anything," he spits at me.

"It has to do with everything. Don't you see?"

He covers his eyes with his palms. Like he doesn't want to see.

"You had twenty years of building me up in your mind. Twenty years of loving me and never telling me. And now I'm wearing this ring that is older than the both of us combined and I don't even know what you want it to mean."

"It's an engagement ring. It means you're going to marry me."

"I know what an engagement ring is," I snap at him.

"It's too soon." He closes his eyes and shakes his head.

"That's not what I'm saying."

"Then explain to me why the ring was in your pocket instead of on your finger."

I exhale. "I needed a break from everything that it means." This is happening.

"You needed a break." He is eerily calm, but the way he is repeating my words back to me makes me want to stomp my feet and show him just how childlike I can be.

"Yes."

"What are you saying, Bella?"

"I don't know."

His lips press into a firm line and he nods without looking at me. "I'm going to make it really easy for you. I'll be in the car. I'm leaving in ten minutes to go to my parents'. You can either come with me or stay here. You can put the ring back on your finger or leave it off. You can marry me or you can not."

I don't speak as he sets the ring down on the nightstand. I stare at it, refusing to look at his face.

.

.

I take the most expensive cab ride of my life across the bridge and into the suburbs.

Alice swears she can see the future. It's annoying and ridiculous and absurd.

"Everything is going to be fine," she promises me. "Just start from the beginning. We can fix this."

"He's a Republican, Alice!"

"So what? He's been a Republican forever. You know this. I'm a Republican, Bella."

"Exactly!"

She glares at me. "You are speaking crazy. I need a translator."

"I can't spend the rest of my life hearing about the fact that he's a Republican. I can't fucking do it."

She blinks twice. Three times. And it's like Morse code for you are insane. And I might be. I might be fucking insane.

"It's cold feet, Bella. It's nothing but cold feet."

"It's not."

"Then what is it? And if you tell me he's a Republican, I can't help you."

"He's my friend," I tell her, like I'm pleading for my life. I need her to see and understand what I can't put into the kind of words that make any sort of sense.

She is nothing but eyebrows, staring back at me. "I always thought Seth would be a stud in the bedroom. I mean, that body, those hands, Bella. But if the sex isn't good, if he doesn't know what he's doing..."

I want to scream.

"He knows what he's doing, okay?"

"Oh. Then what's the problem?"

I cover my face. "I am the problem. I am the fucking problem."

We go around and around like this. She doesn't understand and I don't know how to explain it. I had convinced myself that Seth was the reason that my previous two relationships had fallen apart. But he wasn't the reason at all. If I am capable of marrying anyone, sharing my life with anyone, it is supposed to be him. And I can't do it.

It's late by the time I'm all talked out. I pull my phone from my bag to find one missed text from Seth from an hour ago. Where are you?

I type out a quick response. I'm staying at J and A's tonight. I'll call you tomorrow. He doesn't answer back.

I barely sleep, tossing and turning in their guest room that smells like oranges.

The morning brings no measure of clarity to my thoughts. All I know is that I can't wear that ring. I decide to tell him I'm going to stay with Jasper and Alice for a couple of days to clear my head. He'll understand.

Alice drives with me into the city to pack my bag. I'm nervous the entire drive over. Nervous for what he's going to say to me and how he's going to look at me.

I knock before using my key. It's Sunday. I expect him to be home watching football but the apartment is completely silent.

I walk to our bedroom, the sound of each one of my footsteps on the wood floors echoing in my ears. He's not here. I'm anxious and relieved.

I pull a duffle bag out from under our bed and grab some clothes from my dresser. I hastily open the closet to grab a coat. It takes me a few seconds to register what's right in front of me.

His side of the closet is empty. Completely fucking empty. The whole room spins before everything slowly comes into sharp focus.

Everything that belongs to him is gone. And everything that belonged to the two of us remains. Every photograph. Every memory.

He's gone. He left. He made it easy for me.

I crawl onto the unmade bed and curl up in the comforter. It smells like us.

My chest aches and pinches even though this was my doing, my choice. He's my best friend. He was.

My phone vibrates in my pocket. I answer without even looking at the screen, my heart like a runaway train. "Hello?"

"You said you'd be just a minute, I've already circled the block fourteen times." Alice.

I don't know what to say to her.

"Bella? Hello?"

"He's gone."

.

.

It's been a month and everyone is still taking turns babysitting me. Rose doesn't even call. She just shows up with takeout and a pile of movies. If I had known that breaking up with Seth is all it would take to get my friends into the city, I would have done it sooner. The selfishness in that one thought makes me want to throw up.

I wonder whose turn it is to babysit Seth tonight. Emmett is probably with the kids and Alice is too pregnant to want to do anything. I try to picture Jasper and Seth sitting on a couch with takeout and a movie.

Maybe Seth doesn't need babysitting. Maybe he just hates me and the hate is all the company he wants.

Everyone keeps talking about time and how it will make everything better. I wish we could just go back to how things were. I know how these things work. Only one of us will be able to keep our friends. He should be the one.

Rose looks at me with that face that only mothers have. "I think it's time you get out of the city."

"Not enough hearts to break in the suburbs, Rose."

She rolls her eyes but her expression is sad and filled with pity. I hate her pity. She can keep it.

She puts her hands on my crossed knees and waits for my full attention. "In your whole life you've had sex with exactly three men, and you ended up engaged to each one of them."

I don't like where this is going. "What's your point?"

"My point is that maybe you need to just date. Like a normal person."

Like a normal person.

"You met Sam in college, Sebastian through work and Seth, well, in kindergarten. They were all just there and they couldn't help but fall for your crazy. They pursued you. You relented. That's not how two people fall in love. It's just not."

"So, you want me to be a whore."

"No. I want you to be happy. You're not."

.

.

I miss him. The best friend part. He thinks that leaving him was selfish, but I know in my heart that marrying him would have been the most selfish thing I've ever done. We've talked a handful of times. It was awkward and all wrong. Two months later and he no longer answers my calls.

I've never lived alone and it's simultaneously liberating and petrifying.

"I have the perfect guy for you," Em grins as he punches my shoulder.

"I'm sure you do."

"You haven't even heard the best part."

"Do tell."

"He's my brother."

"No. Emmett, no."

"What do you mean, no?"

"Exactly what it sounds like."

"He's gorgeous, and no girl is good enough for him."

"He sounds like an asshole. And he sounds gay. And while we're at it, so do you for calling your brother gorgeous."

He ignores the jab. "An asshole, maybe. Gay? No."

I am not going out with Em's brother. He was too busy gallivanting around Europe to even show up at Em and Rose's wedding. I change the subject. "I'm going out tonight." It's a lie but it will get him off my back.

"The Bella I know or stranger-danger Bella?"

"I don't even know what that means."

He shakes his head at me. "You know exactly what I'm talking about. The reason you end up with guys who don't know you."

"You think Seth doesn't know me?"

"I think he knows the part that you gave him." I hate it when he does this. When he starts talking like a fucking girl.

"And you think you know me?" He has always been so fucking arrogant.

"I don't think you even know who you are, Bella." It is so true that I want to smack him for saying it out loud.

"You should probably go. I have to get ready."

He narrows his eyes at me. "Who are you going out with?"

"Friends."

He follows me into the bathroom while I attempt to put on some makeup. He knows I'm full of shit, but he nods and leaves me with a kiss on my cheek.

The way he looks at me in the mirror as he walks out of the bathroom makes me want to prove him wrong. I continue the charade and finish getting ready. Maybe I need to get out of this apartment. I don't bother changing out of my jeans. I slip on the only pair of heels I own because they make me feel tall and like somebody I'm not.

There is a dive bar a few blocks away. I click-clack down the sidewalk and I don't trip. It's cold and windy, and even though it's a short walk, I feel completely windblown by the time I get there. I pat down my hair and find a lone, empty bar stool.

Dark and crowded, this bar is the perfect place to disappear, get shitfaced and walk home. The first night Seth and I had sex started off here. I needed to be good and drunk to finally get naked with him. He's always been fit, good looking. His skin is perfect and sun kissed. But I was so used to seeing him as my best friend that none of it ever registered. Our first time together was sloppy, rough and fast. It almost didn't seem real, because I was Seth's Bella and we didn't do that.

The bartender recognizes me, but doesn't know me by name. We've come here enough that he looks over my shoulder, surprised to see that I'm here alone.

I tap the shiny wood with my fingertips, impatient for my vodka soda.

"You look like you've just been properly fucked," a vaguely familiar voice says loud enough that only I can hear.

I turn to my left, half expecting it to be someone I know but it's not. "Excuse me?"

The asshole only smiles in response, all sparkling teeth. By the look on his face, he is one of those guys who knows exactly how good looking he is. One of those guys who spends hours getting ready so that it looks like he doesn't care about his looks. Messy hair, day old scruff that's too calculated. Even his clothes are trying to convince that he doesn't give a fuck. But his jeans look too expensive and his black t-shirt is too perfectly faded.

"What's your name?" I don't even know why I ask. I don't care.

"Sean."

Of course it is. Sam, Sebastian, Seth, Sean. Of course it is. I turn away from him without a word.

"Matt."

"What?"

"Joe."

And now I'm glaring at his cocky, perfect face. "Tell me something true, Joe."

"I like blondes," he smirks.

But he's lying. Tall, leggy and blonde sits to his left and I am the one he is talking to.

I stare for a moment too long before I go back to my drink, which is somehow empty. The bartender is good to me. I down another two drinks before the room starts to get softer and bend at the edges.

At some point SeanMattJoe gets tired of my cold shoulder and walks away.

I order one more drink and it goes down so smooth I know it's time to call it a night. I close out my tab and scrounge around in my purse for some cash for a tip.

"Don't go." The words startle me, so close to my ear. I don't turn around, but I swear I can feel him all over me. Like he's painted on my skin.

"I'm thirty six, I've had a long fucking day, and I want to take you home. Three things that are true," he whispers, his lips brushing against my hair. "Your turn." My skin is covered in his voice.

I turn in my seat and he's right there, close enough to slap or kiss. I can barely get the words out. "My turn for what?" I stutter.

I watch his lips. "Something true." The way he looks at me is almost predatory.

My tongue is too big for my mouth.

I've been engaged three times.

I'm not sure that I've ever been in love.

I broke my best friend's heart.

"I broke my collarbone when I was eleven." I don't know why I say it. Maybe to sound tough and brave because I feel neither. Maybe to remind myself of the day Seth fell in love with me.

He smiles wide, his eyes mischievous yet soft. "Say you'll come home with me."

There is a part of me that wants to go home with a complete stranger. A part of me that is desperate to know what it feels like to fuck a man who doesn't know my name and refuses to tell me his.

I look him up and down wondering how it's possible that I can almost feel him pressed to my skin when he isn't even touching me. If I could even survive the way he would feel inside of me.

"I have to go."

I throw some ones on the bar and pull on my coat without looking at him.

.

.

Rose, Em and the kids are on their way over for dinner. They're half an hour late, which is fine. That means less time for the kids to destroy my apartment.

I can hear Em shouting at one of them out in the hallway before they even ring the bell.

I unlock the deadbolt and take a deep breath. I can do this. For a few hours.

A small child, I'm not even sure which one, is squeezing through the doorway before I can even get it open. I try to grab hold of her before she gets too far, scooping her up like a football, her little arms swinging all around.

I pull the door the rest of the way open to find a frazzled Rose. "I don't know how you live here, Bella. It took us twenty minutes just to find parking."

My eyes fly to the man by her side. A man who isn't Em, but who has that same arrogant smirk. Say you'll come home with me. He is here, at my apartment. I stop breathing.

Em is walking up the hallway with kid number two in his arms. "B, this is my brother, Edward."

Edward. No wonder he wouldn't tell me his name.

Rose gives me a look. A look that says she's sorry that her husband insisted on bringing his asshole brother without telling me.

He stands there all day-old-scruff, with his hand out and there is absolutely no recognition in his face. Maybe he doesn't remember me.

"Thanks for having me." But his voice is like butter and danger and sex.

I stare at his hand, almost afraid to touch it. Reaching out slowly, I don't break eye contact. He closes the gap, taking my hand in his, and it's the first time he's touched me aside from his lips against my hair at the bar. His skin is smooth, his grip strong.

"Nice to meet you, Edward." I try to pull my hand away, but he holds it tight, squeezing my fingers just enough that I need to take a breath. He smiles and it's almost wicked.

He definitely remembers me.

My heart threatens to beat out of my chest as I yank my hand away, holding it safe against me. I almost forget that I'm carrying a small child under my other arm until she starts to wiggle her way free. Rose takes her from me, as Em and Edward make themselves comfortable on my couch.

"Don't mind Em's brother. He's a tool."

"Oh?" I attempt to sound indifferent but I can't help but be curious. I want to know.

She follows me into the kitchen and I try to act normal.

"He's living here now. I guess he's taking a break from partying his way around the world. And we're all just thrilled about it," her voice dripping with sarcasm.

She peeks through the doorway into the living room and I follow her eyes. The two of them have some game on TV and Em seems practically giddy to have a guy around. The kids are crawling all over Edward like he's a climbing gym. He doesn't seem to even care.

Rose helps me prepare the salad and it takes all of my self-control not to press her for information on Em's brother.

We sit around my little table, elbow to elbow, children in laps. Edward sits to my right. He stares at me throughout dinner. He doesn't even look away when I catch him. I don't know if he's just arrogant or if he sees something that I don't see.

"So, Edward, what do you do?"

His eyes glisten when he smiles. "I'm a used car salesman."

Em busts up laughing and punches his brother in the shoulder.

"He's a liar," Rose says casually. "Edward chooses not to work." The way her lips curl up, I can tell exactly how she feels about it. Must be nice to have that kind of money. That kind of life.

One of the little ones crawls off of Rose's lap and onto mine. My body tenses and Edward sees it, I can tell. I wish he'd stop looking at me, but part of me doesn't want him to ever stop.

Em clears his throat. "We have some news." He looks back and forth between Edward and me, before Rose chimes in, "We're pregnant."

This apartment just got a little bit smaller. I try my best to smile and mean it. "Congratulations. I can't believe it." Three kids.

Em and Rose are both grinning and oblivious to my lack of enthusiasm. Em covers Rose's stomach with his flat palm and they are looking at each other like it's their wedding day and the rest of their life together is going to be just like this. Maybe for them it will be.

"Alice and Jasper are so excited. They said they want to start trying for a second right away," Rose gushes.

This is the first I'm hearing of this. Their first baby still looks like an alien. I don't know why I suddenly want to cry. What's one more baby?

I catch Edward's eyes. He's been completely silent this whole time and he is looking at me like he can read my fucking mind. Like he knows exactly what I'm thinking. There is no hint of that Cullen arrogance on his face. He looks different and I wish he'd say something instead of staring at me with those eyes.

The kid that sits in my lap starts crying. And then there is the most disgusting sound I have ever heard in my entire life as she vomits all down the front of me.

It takes everything I have not to pluck her from my lap and drop her to the ground. Edward, of all people, is taking her from my arms as Rose stares, in shock at the sight of me covered in her child's dinner.

"Bella, I am so sorry." She almost wants to laugh but she doesn't. Edward hands the barfer to Rose and grabs some towels from the kitchen. I stand there helpless, watching him clean up the floor.

I stomp straight into my bathroom before I say something I can't take back.

Peeling the vomit clothes off of me, I set them in the sink. There is puke in my hair. I take the longest shower of my entire fucking life. Even after washing my hair three times, I swear I can still smell it.

I allow myself one minute to cry. One minute to wallow in the fact that my friends are having more babies, and the person who wanted to give me that kind of life doesn't want to speak to me. One minute and that's it.

In my white robe, I sit against the bathroom door until I realize how eerily quiet it is. Maybe I've been in here so long that they've all left.

I peek out into the hall and everything is still. I can hear the faint sound of running water. I tiptoe into the kitchen and there he is with his back to me. Edward Cullen, say you'll come home with me, is cleaning my kitchen.

"What are you doing?" I accuse him.

He turns around, holding a dish towel. "They decided to get the kids home before there was any more puking. I thought I'd clean up."

"Why?" Seth would do the dishes because it was polite. Edward is not polite. I want to know why he is in my kitchen, washing dishes.

He is suddenly very close to me. Close enough to touch. And I'm momentarily angry that Rose and Em left a strange man in my house while I was showering. But this is Em's brother and I'm sure he's harmless. I'm almost sure. But my heartbeat is erratic and my fingers twitch at the sight of him. I don't know if my body's response is one of fear or lust.

And the smirk is back, like he knows exactly what he's doing to me. "I'll leave if you want me to." His face morphs too quickly from teasing to serious. When he's not smiling, he looks like an entirely different person. He looks as lost as I feel.

I should tell him to leave, but my lips won't form the words. Probably because my body wants him to stay. To strip him naked in the kitchen. To forget about the fact that my friends are trying to singlehandedly populate the earth and I am destined to be alone.

I hold the knot of my robe in both hands. I am so afraid of myself right now. So afraid of what I want and what I'm about to do.

He only stares. At my eyes. His are light and dark and have the potential to destroy me.

I pull the knot of my robe loose and let the fabric fall open. I don't know what I'm doing. I know exactly what I am fucking doing. And this is the reason he was washing the dishes.

I feel like I might hyperventilate, his eyes roaming over my exposed skin. He watches me as he kicks off his shoes and pulls his shirt up and over his head.

He is all lean, smooth lines that I want to touch. Not scrawny, not too buff, just a real man's body. He stands so strong and arrogant. Em was right. He's fucking gorgeous. Until now, I've never stood in front of man and felt like I might scream if he doesn't touch me.

For a while, neither one of us moves. We just stand there, staring at each other without speaking and I wonder if it's even possible for him to want me as much as I want him.

He reaches a hand out tentatively, but instead of undressing me, he touches my face, holding my jaw in his palm. It is cold against my flushed skin, burning me. His eyes smile at the edges and it's like I'm his prey.

I want to laugh and cry and tell him things that I've never told anyone. It's almost as if he knows.

He holds my face in both hands and leans down so that we're eye to eye. "Tell me you want this."

I want to ask him if it even matters at this point, but I can't fucking speak. I pull my robe from my shoulders and let it fall to the floor. It's the best I can do. To stand naked in front of him.

He only smirks in response. And I don't know how I went from practically running from him in the bar to throwing myself at him in my apartment.

My hair is cold and wet against my shoulders. His fingertips trail along my collarbone, strong but gentle. They linger on my scar, on skin that's not quite numb, and I have to remind myself to breathe. I feel like I did then, when I was standing in that tree, brave and stupid enough to jump.

His fingers are replaced by his lips, hot and wet against my skin stretched over bone. I let my mouth fall open and my eyes flutter closed.

And I feel like I've never been touched, never belonged to anyone, never been this version of myself.

"Don't ever ask me to marry you," I whisper.

"What?" he laughs into my neck.

"I said, don't ever ask me to marry you."

His lips press and suck against my pulse, turning me inside out. He doesn't stop, even as he speaks the words into my skin. "I promise."

"I'm serious."

"So am I," he counters.

But it's not as comforting as I expect it to be.

My hands find his jeans and he doesn't stop me from unbuttoning them. Not that I thought he would. Say you'll come home with me.

I wonder if this is his life. The way he lives it. I wonder how many random women he's slept with. I push the thought away.

His pants fall from his hips, and he watches me pull his boxers down. He kicks his clothes away and this is it. Sex with someone who's practically a stranger and practically family.

I don't think this is what Rose meant by date like a normal person. I don't care.

I let myself look at all of him. Feel all of him. He closes his eyes and hums as my hands roam his softest skin.

His own hands slide down my back, leaving a trail of fire in their wake, as he walks backwards towards the couch, pulling me with him.

Before I can think about it, I'm straddling his lap, rubbing up against him, and it's my voice that fills the room. The slickness between us and the groans from deep down in my belly.

"Tell me what you want, Bella," his own voice husky against my neck.

The question is too big, too loaded. I don't know what I want. I want his body. I know I want that much.

"Tell me you want this, Bella."

If he would just stop saying my name. I can only nod, taking him in my hand and guiding him to me. Up on my knees, It's the only yes I can give him.

I search out his eyes as I sink down slowly, letting him fill me as I try to hang on to that feeling that this moment could fix me.

And it's been too long since I've had someone inside of me. Or maybe it's never been like this. Like the best kind of falling. Like my bones no longer fit in my skin.

We stay motionless for a few seconds, as my body adjusts to him.

He kisses along my collarbone, but this time I feel his teeth dragging against my skin, against that angry scar. His mouth vacillates between rough and gentle. All-consuming and forgiving.

He keeps searching out my eyes and I'm too lost to evade them. "Tell me this story," he murmurs against my shoulder as his fingertips run over my scar.

"I thought I could fly. Nobody believed me."

I can feel his smile.

His lips don't stop. They match the rhythm of my hips.

He doesn't kiss my mouth. Not once. It's all I can focus on, the fact that I don't know what his tongue feels like against my own.

I let my own fingers drag over his arms, stretching them out along the back of the couch, forcing him to stop touching me. His hands finding mine when I can't reach any farther.

He is strong enough to break me in half, but the way he caresses my skin, it's like I'm too valuable to risk breaking. He's not what I expected and I kind of hate that.

My hips roll against him and I feel entirely in control, entirely reckless. We smell like sex and bad choices.

I lean my head back as his tongue finds my chest and doesn't leave. As he sucks and nips and kisses it better.

The pressure inside of me is so blinding, I'm afraid to open my eyes.

Our rhythm turns erratic. I don't want this to be over. I want to slow us down, but I can't.

I grip his shoulders as his hands find my ass and hold me tight and firm against him. I feel like the walls of my apartment are closing in, but maybe it's just time catching up to us.

"Tell me you want this," he breathes against my ear. "Tell me."

I don't know why I'm so resistant to give him this one thing, or if I just don't want to admit to myself that this is happening.

My voice is practically unrecognizable. "I want you." And hearing it out loud, from my own mouth is almost enough to push me over.

He groans at my words, quickening our pace. His hands know exactly where to touch me, until I'm right there, ready to jump. And it really does feel like I could fall to my death and it would be worth it.

There is that split second where it seems like I really can fly. I am so close and all I have to do is close my eyes and let the wind take me with it. His hands continue to guide and grip as I shatter around him, as I fall from the sky, the ground nowhere in sight. Like I'm made of a thousand beating bird wings.

My voice fills the room and I wish he would swallow my sounds with his mouth. He doesn't.

I rest my lips on his neck, my body feeling limp as a rag doll as he chases his own release, pushing impossibly deeper inside of me. Once. Twice. Three times.

And then it's like a switch has been flipped and this is him fucking a stranger.

He holds me to him, turning us effortlessly, like we're one person, until I'm flat on my back. His thrusts are long and deep. And it's like his body knows me and needs me. I want him to devour me. He does.

"Fuck." The word falls from his lips and it sounds so right and so wrong and so much better than that word has ever sounded.

"Tell me to pull out," he groans as he thrusts erratically.

I should. But I can't bear the thought of being alone in my skin right now. I bite down on my lip because I don't trust any of the words that threaten to come out of my mouth. I keep my eyes on his and shake my head. Don't you dare fucking leave me.

And my name is the only other word from his lips as he finds his release inside of me.

Our hips rock together slowly, trying to hold on.

His hands hold me strong and close. I have never felt so naked. The weight of his body on top of mine feels like the only thing I'll ever need. It's terrifying.

"I think you should go," I say into his skin. Even though that is the last thing I want.

I stare at his shoulder instead of his face. He doesn't answer or move. I peek at his eyes and there is a split second of vulnerability before he's smirking and nodding.

"What's his name?" he asks, bold and cocky.

"Fuck you."

His voice calm and even, "I'm pretty sure you just did."

"Get out."

He's still inside of me and I hate him so much that I'm shaking.

I wince as I roll out from under him, as we become two separate people. I grab for my robe, covering myself up and retreat to my room. I just had unprotected sex with Em's brother. And Em is right. I have no idea who the fuck I am.

I wait for the soft click of the front door.

I hate this feeling and I wish he'd come back.

.

.

I avoid all of my friends' calls for the next week. I don't know what I'm afraid of. Probably that they can hear the sex in my voice and they'll want to know how it got there.

I vacillate between never wanting to see Edward again and wanting him so much that it's physically painful.

I could get his number from Em but I refuse. For a million reasons. He doesn't try to get ahold of me either. And he knows where I live. I'm sure I'm just another girl to him.

I go out on Saturday. Tuesday. Thursday. I know exactly what I'm doing. I'm losing my fucking mind.

Friday.

The bartender is starting to look at me with worried eyes. He tries to strike up a conversation more than once but I don't want to talk.

I sit at the same bar stool from that night, and I wonder how many women Edward has fucked since last week. I wonder why I care.

And then he's right there next to me. His smell and his mouth and his voice.

He pulls the hair from my face, his lips resting right behind my ear. "Come home with me."

I would probably have sex with him right here in this dirty bar if he asked me to. I don't even pretend to say no.

He wraps me up in my coat and leads the way. His hands are all over me as we walk. I'm about to ask him how much farther, when he pulls me up some stone steps, his body perfectly flush against mine, his lips against the hollow of my throat. "I thought you'd say no."

I don't answer him because I don't know what to say. The last time I saw him I told him to get out of my apartment, and now I'm dry humping him in the street.

Once we're inside his apartment, there isn't even a moment to look around. There is no talking. There is only naked, naked, naked. Against the wall. In the shower. I will feel him for days and it's all I want.

I stay the night. In Edward Cullen's bed. Tangled up in the softest sheets. And in the morning he wakes me up with his scruff between my thighs.

One night turns into an entire weekend. I don't know what this is. I don't care.

His apartment is not what I expected. There is barely any furniture, but a state of the art, remodeled kitchen. He has nothing on the walls, nothing that says he lives here, and the softest sheets I have ever slept on in my entire life.

"Tell me something true," he whispers against my scar.

"That's my line, you thief."

He bites down on my skin.

The slight pain makes me laugh. "I'm not afraid of you."

"I don't believe you."

"I don't care what you believe, Edward. What do you want to know?"

"Anything."

"Fine. I like coffee."

He smirks at the response. I don't know what he wants from me.

"So you like coffee, you broke your collarbone when you were eleven and you have commitment issues."

The last one hurts.

"You don't know anything."

"Which is exactly why I'm asking."

"I don't have commitment issues, I've just written off marriage."

"Fair enough."

"What about you? Why aren't you married?"

"Nobody has ever asked me," he deadpans. We might be the two most evasive people on earth.

His lips curl up in a brilliant smile. "I've never met anyone worth keeping around. I've never met anyone I would be heartbroken to let go." I want to tell him he's an arrogant little fuck, but something holds me back.

"So you just plan on being alone forever?"

He turns to face me, his eyes boring into mine, smile gone. "I'm not alone right now."

My skin pricks with goose bumps and I have the urgent need to get out of his bed. But there is something tying me to him and I want to understand it.

"You don't want to find that person who gets you and stands by you no matter what?" I ask.

He's serious, brow furrowed as he thinks about the answer. "My father is the only person in my life who has supported me no matter what. Even when I didn't deserve it."

"He's a good man, your father."

"He's the best kind of man. I wish I was more like him."

We talk about our dads and it's weird because he knows so little about my life and yet I'm surprisingly comfortable telling him about someone who is so important to me.

I run my fingertips over his naked chest. "Tell me about the places you've seen."

"What do you want to know?"

"What was it like living all over the world?"

He's quiet for a minute before he answers. "Lonely."

We lie in bed for another hour, not fucking, not sleeping, not talking. His lips to my hair and my ear to his chest, we just lie there. It's weird and new and perfect and scary.

The silence feels good and when I try to move away from him he holds me tight.

"Stay."

"Some of us have jobs, Edward."

That's all it takes. He rolls away from me and I watch his naked ass disappear into the bathroom.

I wait for the shower to turn on and instead of joining him, I get dressed and go home.

It's not like he was going to kiss me goodbye. We don't kiss.

I take a cab even though it's really not too far to walk.

It's strange going back to my apartment. Like I haven't been here in weeks even though it's only been two days. I stand in the small, quiet space that is still decorated the same way it was when Seth and I lived here as roommates and when we lived here as a couple.

The rent is starting to catch up with me. I'll have to move out soon.

I have this weird ache in my bones, and it's almost like I miss him. Edward. Which is ridiculous. And wrong. And true.

My phone lights up with a number I don't know.

I'd rather be alone than have someone by my side who I can't be silent with.

.

.

Rose and Em are having a boy this time.

We sit on the floor of the nursery going through a stack of teeny tiny baby clothes that Alice's little boy has already outgrown.

Rose is a good mom. She's patient and attentive and loves her kids the way a parent should.

"Seth met someone," she blurts out of nowhere, her cheeks pink and her eyes wide.

I blink. "Oh."

I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel, but my lungs feel numb.

"What's she like? I mean, have you met her?"

"Umm, yeah. A couple of times. She's sweet. She seems really nice." Nice.

"What does she look like?"

"Bella..."

"What? I want to know."

"She's cute. Petite. Brown hair."

What a bitch.

"I just felt like I had to tell you. I hate having secrets between us."

Edward and I have been doing whatever it is we are doing for a while now. I haven't told Rose and I don't know if it's because I don't know what to tell her or because I know she won't approve. Secrets are easier.

Sometimes I show up on Edward's doorstep and sometimes he shows up on mine. Sometimes I stay the night and sometimes it's just a quick fuck and I leave before I tell him everything and ruin it.

"Oh, before I forget, I have to make the guest room up. Edward's coming over for dinner and I told him he could stay the night."

My heart beats in an entirely different way at the sound of his name.

"He met someone too, apparently," she mentions nonchalantly. "In a bar."

What?

"I know, right?" she responds, even though I'm pretty sure I didn't say anything. "He's fallen in lust with some girl. Em was trying to get all of the sordid details. I'm sure it won't last. Edward has never been in a long term relationship. I don't think he's capable. I can't believe Em wanted to set the two of you up. What a train wreck that would have been."

.

.

I have been walking around with a stupid grin on my face for the entire day because of a text from Edward. Meet me for coffee? We've never met for coffee. It's too date-like.

He's waiting for me when I get there, all crooked smile and messy hair.

We sit at the small table in the corner, his ankles tangled around mine. Even his ankles are fucking sexy.

"How was work?"

"Fine." The truth is, I hate my job. It is meaningless and a worthless waste of my time.

"Are you lying?"

"Maybe."

"Why don't you quit?"

"Not all of us can be independently wealthy, Edward. Some of us have to work to support ourselves."

He plays with my fingers and ignores my words.

"Come home with me, Bella."

"No."

He smiles at my response. He knows I will. He knows too much.

"Come home with me."

I shake my head and this time he almost looks wounded.

His antagonistic smirk is back and I want to kiss it. "What's his name, Bella?"

"Shut up, Edward." And this is why we don't meet for coffee.

"I want to know."

"You don't," I insist.

"What's his name?"

"Which one?"

He bristles at my response. "That depends," he counters, his lips so close to mine. And even though my blood is boiling, I want to steal a kiss.

"Depends on what?"

"On how many of them count."

"They don't."

"I don't believe you."

"I don't care what you believe."

He looks at me then, all fire and hands that hold me tight. "Noted, Bella."

I see my opportunity and take it. "Rose said you met someone. She says it will never last."

He looks down at his hand tangled up in mine, his voice a muted whisper. "Come home with me, Bella."

"No."

He releases me and he's gone.

I don't pick up when he calls the next day. I don't listen to his voicemail. I don't go back to the bar, or the coffee shop or show up at his apartment. I leave my phone off for days. And when I turn it back on there are no messages.

.

.

One of Rose and Em's kids is having a birthday party. The older one, I think. Edward will probably be there and so will Seth and the girl.

I'm pretending to be fine.

Seth deserves to be happy and Edward, I don't know what Edward deserves.

I'm an hour late. It's ridiculously hot and I would do anything not to be here right now. Rose and Em have one of those jumpy house things in the backyard, and I can see it from the street. I can hear screaming children from a block away. Everything about this day is going to be a shit show.

I let myself in and find Alice in the kitchen. She has her baby in a front pack. He's sleeping and I'm so grateful because this means she won't ask if I want to hold him.

"Well look who it is," she teases.

"What does that mean?"

"It means you've been MIA for weeks, Bella." I know she's right.

"Well I'm here now."

"You nervous?"

"For what?"

"Bella..."

"Don't look at me like that, Alice. I'm fine."

I help her carry a tray of cupcakes out to the backyard. I try to look for him without looking. Edward, not Seth. I don't know what that means.

And then I see both of them, beers in hand, helping Em with the barbeque. Joking around about something, they almost look like they could be friends.

Em gives me a wave and Seth and Edward simultaneously turn to look. They both stand there and do nothing. The same.

But they're not the same at all. Seth would be horrified to learn that Edward doesn't hold a steady job. Where Seth is reliable, Edward is spontaneous. Where Seth is polite, Edward is blunt.

I go back inside on the guise of using the bathroom. Rose is changing a diaper. I wonder how many diapers she will change in her lifetime.

"I'm glad you came, Bella."

"Me too. So, where is she?"

"Who?" She looks up at me like she really doesn't know.

"The girlfriend."

"He didn't bring her."

"Why?"

"Out of respect for you, probably."

"That's bullshit."

"No, Bella, it's Seth."

And I know she's right. She disappears from the room to do one of the things that mothers do.

Instead of joining the party, I watch from the window. Just for a minute.

Seth looks different. Happier maybe. I thought being in the same place with him would bring up old feelings, but I just want to watch him from afar and make sure he's okay. For the first time since I was small, I feel like I don't belong to him anymore. It's not as scary as I thought it would be.

I can feel Edward's presence behind me. Almost like he's crawling into my veins. He doesn't say anything.

"How are you?" I ask him without turning around.

"I don't know how to answer that, Bella." I love and hate the way he says my name.

I spin around, facing him. "The truth?"

His tongue presses flat against his upper lip. He's not going to tell me anything true.

"I've been better." He reaches for my wrist and holds it tight, his thumb rubbing over my skin. I don't know what he's playing.

"What are you even doing here, Edward?"

"I was invited."

"This is so fucked up."

"Why, because you want me?" he goads.

"I don't even know you."

"Whose fault is that, Bella?"

It's his fault and my fault.

If I'm being honest with myself it's not the fact that he's here that bothers me. It's the fact that he's here and I want to hold his hand and kiss his lips and have his presence ground me, but I can't because that's not who we are.

This is what happens when you start sleeping with someone who's almost a stranger and almost family.

"I'm not leaving," he whisper shouts.

"I never asked you to."

"You didn't have to ask for me to see that's exactly what you want, Bella."

"Stop pretending like you know what I want."

He shakes his head and it looks like he's going to say something but he doesn't.

"It's not like you and your brother are all that close. I don't know why you are even here."

"Do you even hear yourself right now, Bella?"

Rose's voice startles us both. "You two are worse than an old married couple."

"What?" we both shout in unison as Edward releases my arm.

I'm about to hyperventilate. "We've never even kissed," I blurt out. It feels like the most deceitful lie even though it is true.

Edward's posture stiffens and his expression is almost one of shock. Like he thought I couldn't possibly have noticed that his lips have never been on mine.

Rose looks back and forth between the two of us before she settles on me. "I was joking. Oh my god, are you sleeping with him?"

I ignore Rose and glare at him.

"You have got to be fucking kidding me," she screeches. "Are you stupid? Both of you?"

.

.

I beat my fist against Edward's door until it opens. It's one in the morning. He's shirtless and half asleep. He rubs his eyes as he says my name.

I shift from foot to foot. "Can I come in?"

He hesitates for a fraction of a second before stepping aside.

I pace back and forth in his living room. I don't have any idea what the fuck I am even doing here.

He doesn't ask me what's wrong. He just stands there, half naked.

"It's been six months and he's already engaged to some girl he got pregnant!" I scream at him.

He doesn't say anything. He watches me pace.

"Say something."

"Alright, but you're not going to like it."

"Say it anyway."

"I think you want what they have."

"I told you, I don't want to get married."

"Somebody who doesn't want to get married doesn't accept three proposals."

"Shut up. You think just because Em tells you things about me that you know me."

"I don't think I know you at all, Bella. You won't let me," he says. "And for the record, I think you want kids too."

"I don't."

"I think you're lying."

"I didn't ask you what you think," I sneer at him.

"I've heard it's different when they're your own."

"I've heard you fucked half of Europe while you were away."

"So I'm not the only one asking questions. You should know better than to trust Rose's opinion of me."

I look around for a place to sit down. It's only now that I realize that his apartment is even more empty than usual.

"What happened to your couch?"

He looks at me like I'm crazy. "I sold it."

"Why?"

"I don't think I'll need it in South America."

"You're leaving?" I immediately hate all of South America.

"It's not like there is anything keeping me here."

"I guess not. I should probably go. I don't know what I'm even doing here."

"Bella..." He walks toward me slowly like I'm a wounded animal. His hands hold my arms, so strong and so much.

"Edward, don't. Go live your perfect, easy life where you do whatever the fuck you want."

His face is inches from mine, his eyes too tired and honest. "You are wrong about so many things, I don't even know where to start. Money doesn't fix everything, Bella. Just because you hate your job, doesn't mean everyone else should be forced to spend every day doing something they hate. You think you know me. You don't.

"My mother died when I was a baby. I bet Em never told you that. He wouldn't. He's not that kind of man. Esme always treated me like a son, but if you think for one second that I would choose this money over a chance to know my mother, you're wrong."

"But I thought..."

"Well, you thought wrong. I made some good investments with money that never belonged to me. I was lucky. So I spend my time seeing places I want to see. I could die tomorrow and I'm not going to get a mindless job because that would make me normal in the eyes of everyone else."

He lets go of me then. My mind filled with his words, his something true.

"I'm meeting my father for breakfast in the morning, so if you'll excuse me, I have to get some sleep."

He turns from the room, leaving me speechless. I watch his bare back as he walks to his bedroom. He doesn't bother closing the door. I watch him crawl into bed and pull the white sheet over him, his foot sticking out on the side.

I stand there like a fool. I want to crawl in next to him. I want to kiss everything better and tell him how I really see him. What he means to me. Who I am.

But he's leaving. And the thought is so painful that I can't let myself stay.

.

.

My phone won't shut up. I try to blink the sleep away. It's early, too early for anyone to be calling.

Two missed calls from Rose, one from Alice. I hold the phone to my ear and listen to my voicemail.

Bella, it's Rose. Emmett's father passed away last night. We're all still in a bit of shock. The service will be in a couple of days. It would really mean a lot if you could be there. I'll keep you posted on the details.

I drop the phone to the bed, my hands covering my mouth. My thoughts immediately go to Edward and the grief is so crushing I don't even feel like I can move.

I throw on some clothes and go by his apartment but he's not there. I call his phone twice, but don't leave a message. I have no idea what to say to him.

The next couple of days are hazy. Rose and I talk frequently. I send my love and support to Em. Edward has been staying at their place since their father passed and she almost sounds worried about him.

"I know it's none of my business, but have you talked to him, Bella?"

"No." I don't think he wants to talk to me.

"I just thought... I don't know what I thought. He'll be fine. He's Edward."

I can't imagine losing my father. I can't imagine what Edward must be going through. I'm glad he's staying with Rose and Em. I'm glad he's not alone.

The funeral is the first one I've been to since I was a child. There are so many tears and stories and reasons to celebrate this man who loved his wife and his sons and his grandchildren. I feel sad for Rose and Em's unborn baby who will never meet his grandpa.

Seth is here. We share a quick hug and it really does feel like goodbye. He introduces me to his fiancée and there is no room to be petty on a day like today. She's pretty. She seems nice. And they look at each other the way that two people should.

Edward gets up to speak at the service. He talks about his father and the kind of man he was. He is stoic and charming. He tells stories from his childhood and shares his dad's endless words of wisdom. He finds me in the small crowd and it's the first time he's glanced at me. His eyes stay on mine when he speaks. "Just last week he told me, 'Be who you are. Love what you love. Don't do it alone.'" His face turned up to the sky, he promises, "I'll try my best, Dad."

His words sit on my chest. Everyone else in the small church melts away. I don't hear the rest of what is said. I can't focus on anything but the man who is trying not to be alone.

I ride with Alice and Jasper over to the cemetery to watch the casket get lowered into the ground. It's a small group of family and a few friends. I watch each person throw a handful of dirt into the gaping hole.

I can feel Edward standing next to me, so close and so far. Em and Rose stand hand in hand and it's the first time I've ever seen Emmett cry. It makes me want to cry too. And to say things I've never said.

Edward is an arm's reach away, his hands hanging limp at his sides. He doesn't cry. And I'm glad because I don't know what I would do.

Slowly, people start to get in their cars and drive away.

I don't know why I do it, or where I get the courage, but I reach out and take Edward's hand. He looks down at our joined hands before looking at my face. I wish there was something I could say or do that would take away his grief. I try to find some words that make sense but there aren't any.

We just stare at each other and when I turn to walk away, when I try to let go, he holds on.

We're holding hands, it's all that this is, but it seems like so much more.

We walk to his rental car and my hand stays in his the whole time. And even when we're forced to let go, he finds me again once we're in the car. We don't even talk on the drive over to the house. I just hold his hand and it seems like enough.

I meet countless Cullen family members. Nobody makes it awkward by asking who I am. They look down at our clasped hands and smile at Edward. Even Rose doesn't say anything.

And when it's time to say goodnight, he pulls me up the stairs.

I follow him into the spare bedroom and once the door is closed, his arms hold me tight. He's never been so silent and we've never been this honest.

"Stay with me. Please," he whispers against the top of my head.

I nod into his chest. We kick off our shoes and crawl under the covers, nearly fully clothed.

"I don't know what to do, Edward."

"Just be here with me."

"I can do that."

He scoots himself down in the bed until we're nose to nose. Eyes to eyes. Lips to lips. We stare at each other in the dark.

I want to kiss him. On the mouth. I want to kiss the sad and the hurt and the heartbreak.

I bring my lips to the corner of his mouth and let them rest there. I kiss him so light, I'm barely moving. He doesn't react. So I kiss him a little harder, the sound of my lips against his clean-shaven face echoing in the quiet room. I kiss along his chin, my hands finding their way into his hair.

He doesn't move. His chest heaves up and down and his eyes blink against my face.

He brings his lips right up to mine without actually touching me. It's one of those moments when there is no time. Where the entire world stops spinning.

And then his lips crash into me. His lips that I know so well but don't really know at all.

He is kissing me on the mouth. Lips on lips. The sound and the feeling make me want to cry or laugh or do anything to make sure it never stops.

And I don't know which one of us opens our mouths to the other. But I now know what his tongue feels like against mine.

It feels like getting everything I've ever wanted.

We kiss and kiss and kiss with all of our clothes on. We kiss late into the night and this is what it feels like to maybe love someone.

.

.

All of the stuff that belonged to Seth and me is gone. Every last piece of furniture. The apartment just needs to be cleaned and the keys turned in. And that will be it. Edward is on his way to pick me up. I'm early, but I couldn't be in that apartment a moment longer.

I sit on top of my bags on the curb. I should be petrified right now. I quit my job and I'm homeless. That's a lie. I will be living with Em, Rose and their soon to be three children until I figure out what I'm going to do. My mother sounded crushed when I told her I wasn't planning on moving back home, but I just can't do it. I'd rather live with small children than listen to the way she speaks to my father.

I'm not sure how much time has passed when Edward eventually pulls up to the curb. Things between us have been different. Difficult. Better.

He gets out to help me load everything up. I don't have much. It's amazing all of the things I realize I don't really need.

He tosses my last bag in the trunk and we both stand there on the sidewalk. I'm the one to fold myself into his arms. We stand pressed together on my last day in my city.

He runs his fingers into my hairline, holding my face in both hands like he did that first night in my kitchen. "Don't go stay with Emmett and Rose," he pleads. "Don't."

"I don't know what that means, Edward."

"Say you'll come home with me," he almost smiles.

I smile too, but it doesn't feel happy. "You don't have a home. You're leaving."

But it doesn't matter, because he's kissing me. On the lips. Warm and scratchy and soft. I need it and want it and love the way he feels.

We can't stay on the sidewalk forever though. He's leaving and even his lips can't fix that.

I pull away, hiding my face in his chest. He plays with my hair and I wish he'd never stop.

"What's his name? What's his name, Bella?" But he doesn't sound mad.

So, I tell him. Because there is only one person I am hiding from.

"Edward. His name is Edward."

His whole body is strong and firm against mine, his lips right to my ear. "Come with me, Bella."

"What?"

"Say you'll come with me. It will be an adventure."

I can't believe what he's asking. I can't believe the thoughts going through my mind right now. The images of the two of us in countries I've never seen.

He kisses my eyes, closing them up. "Don't think. Just say yes."

But my mind is spiraling out of control. "Tell me something true," I practically beg him.

He takes a step back, but doesn't let go of me. "Alright. I'm in love with this girl who jumped from a tree when she was eleven because she wanted to prove she could fly. I'm glad I didn't know her then, because I would have ruined it."

"What if I fuck it up?" I ask him, pulling him back to me, kissing along his jaw.

"We're both going to fuck it up." It's a promise. "Say you'll come with me anyway."

"Why? Tell me why."

"Because I don't want to let you go." His middle finger runs along my collarbone, pausing over my scar. "I want to know the girl who jumped."