Gif #: 43

Title: Saving Up

Pairing: Bella/Edward

Rating: M

Summary: Four years is a long time to date someone. Unless it's Edward. Gorgeous, charming, intelligent Edward. Then again, he's so cheap he steals toilet paper. No one's perfect, that's for sure.

Warnings (if necessary): NA


I sit on the end of the bed and slip on my shoes. Edward's even breathing acts as my morning soundtrack. I used to put my workout clothes on in the living room so I wouldn't wake him, but since he cancelled our cable because it was a "waste of money," I figure there's no point being out there all alone. I kind of like the presence of another person, be it a CNN news anchor or a sleeping man in my bed.

I rub my eyes as I shuffle into the tiny bathroom. I don't know how Rosalie ever convinced me to wake up this early on a regular basis, but I've grown to like it. Sort of.

I met Rose when my evening yoga teacher was out sick. She subbed but refused to teach "sissy stretches" and proceeded to force the whole class into an hour long kickboxing routine. We were not best friends right away, not like Alice, who was in my freshman English 101 class at NYU. But I did have a fondness for her fierceness. Still do.

And it doesn't hurt that she introduced me to Edward. He taught cycling at the time; that job only lasted a year. It was too regimented for him to stay on. Even so, he was there long enough that he and I met after one of my sessions with my trainer and newish friend – Rose. The rest is history or whatever.

I flip the switch and squint into the bright light. The sink and surrounding area is covered in Edward's whiskers. They stick in the crumbling grout of the orange countertop tiles. He shaved for me last night before coming to bed. I thought it was sweet at the time. His beard is scratchy, but this is just gross.

I sigh and turn the lever, swishing my hand under the flow of water to rinse out the hair. A little courtesy would be nice.

I brush my teeth and leave the bathroom, throwing a headband on. I lean over Edward to kiss him goodbye, but he blinks and stretches before I can.

"What time?" he says, voice thick with sleep.

"Almost six."

"All right, crazy girl. Have fun."

"Okay," I say, smoothing my hand over his brow and giving him a quick kiss.

"Or stay," he says, pulling me into bed with him, nuzzling my neck. "Right here is good. On top."

I squirm and push at his chest. "Rose and Alice would kill me. Besides I have to work off those wings and ranch from last night."

"Good wings," he mumbles, eyes closed, already half asleep.

"Bye, Edward," I whisper before closing our bedroom door and heading into the narrow hallway.

I gather my things from the breakfast nook/kitchen, sidestepping Edward's precious BMX. That boy and his bikes. I swear they'll be the end of us. I nearly tip it as I reach for my keys but steady myself on the handlebars so it doesn't topple over.

Our place is small for us, let alone Edward's bikes – he has a few – but it's ours. Well, we pay rent. And we've done the best we can with the tight space. I do think the pale blue wall color Edward picked is a good choice. He said it reminded him of dusk in Chicago, his childhood home. He also said, "You'd look nice naked against that color." I couldn't refuse him after that. Plus, it makes the space feel bigger and warmer; we need both of those things.


My back's flat on my yoga mat, and I struggle to find the right flow to my breathing. The jumpy mash-up of songs Rose chose gives me a headache. Why can't we just do floor exercises in peace and quiet? Isn't it bad enough she already made us kick the crap out of a massive bag hanging from a hook on the wall?

"Eight more, then knees up," Rose says, and I obey because that's what Rose expects. And I've never been able to do otherwise. Though, on occasion I do distract her from being in control of everything. In fact, I'm trying right now by chatting instead of just grunting through our ab set.

"Edward's driving me crazy," I say, trying to pique their interest and get these irritants off my chest.

"How so?" Alice asks.

"He's just being annoying."

"What else is new?" Rose chimes.

"Well, it's worse. I mean, he's stealing toilet paper," I say, crunching to keep up, "from fast food joints."

"Wha—" Rose asks, hardly getting the word out because she's laughing so hard. Good. She's happy. Maybe then she'll spare us those leg lifts I hate so much.

"Really. We were out, and I sent him to pick some up. He came back with that chintzy, rough on your butt crap that they use at Chang's downstairs."

"Well, what did he say when you asked him about it?" Alice asks.

Rose changes position, dropping her head and lifting her legs. I hate this exercise, but I follow her motions anyway. This is so hard.

"What he's been saying for the last three months: I'm saving for my bike. I could kill Jasper." I lower my voice, doing my best impersonation of Jasper: "You need a good racing bike, then we can kill it in triathlons." I make a pfft noise. "I hate boys. They're stupid."

"So stupid," Rose agrees, barely breaking a sweat. Why is this so difficult for me? I need to eat better. Dumb Edward, and his dumb food cravings I indulge.

"Am I asking too much? I mean, am I ridiculous for wanting store bought toilet paper? I knew he was quirky going into this, but I'm just—this is just—what if I'm done? What if I can't stand this anymore?"

"What!" Alice and Rose yell simultaneously and sit up, staring at me.

"I got offered a job."

"Volturi Investments came through? That's—" Rose starts, but I interrupt her.

"In Boston."

"But you love New York!" Alice protests.

"Better salary. Better position."

"Better friends," Rose says, sarcasm complete with scowl. Why does she have to do that? Personalize everything? I can't take it right now; I'm stressed, so I snap.

"It's not all about you, Rose."

"What does Edward say about the job?" she asks. Of course she'd throw this in my face. She knows I tend to hold things back, and she never does. Then again, she and Emmett are perfect for each other. But that just means he never questions her and lets her get her way. At least, that's how I see it.

I don't say anything. Instead, I look toward the ceiling tiles of the gym. I halt my ab exercises and let the well-worn mat cushion me. It's not much, but it's something. And I need some comfort right now.

"That's what I thought. You have to tell him: about the job and how you feel. Stop bottling all of this up. You always do that. Don't just say why did you steal toilet paper. Say, Edward, I want soft toilet paper for my butt, and if you don't get it, you don't get it."

"That ain't gonna work," Alice mumbles. These girls have been privy to too many tales about my sex life with Edward, which is not too shabby. Not at all. The rest of our relationship . . . I don't know. Lately, I've just been questioning myself, wondering why I'm with him.

We all go our separate ways quietly since Rose is pissed, not that it's any of her business how I'm feeling or what my plans are now that I've graduated. Except, of course, that she cares. I can't fault her for that, but still. She doesn't have to be so mean about it.


There's no breeze today, and it makes me miss my cool hometown of Forks, Washington. The stale New York air is stifling and doesn't help my mood. It also doesn't help that I'm out during rush hour, where everyone is late for work or meetings, and I'm just another faceless body in the crowd.

A pretty woman on a cell phone carrying a Gucci bag slams her shoulder into mine and flips me off for being in the way. It makes me think about common decency and how some people just don't have it. Or basic courtesy either. Like Edward, unfortunately.

As I walk the rest of the way home, trying to be cognizant of others and not bump into them, I mull over our differences – mine and Edward's. Truthfully, we aren't compatible. He sleeps in; I'm up early to exercise. He pulled all nighters and got fabulous grades while I studied constantly, earning the highest marks I could. He's a bike messenger, and as an aspiring writer gets freelance gigs, working when he wants and saving his money. I've been employed at Mercer Bank since the moment I started college, working as many hours as I could to pay for classes. Which, incidentally, he never had to pay for since he had a scholarship. Lucky him.

I don't even know what initially attracted me to him. His looks? Charm, maybe? I try to remember when we met. Maybe it'll help me think more positively of him.

"Hey, Rose," he said, smirking at me while I tried to look anywhere but at his tight cycling getup. He was tall – probably over six feet – with broad shoulders, messy brown hair, bright green eyes, and a dangerous smile. "Who's your cute friend?"

Cute? He thought I was cute? All five feet, four inches of me drowning in mousy brown hair? Really?

"Off limits," Rose snapped.

"What?" I said, outraged. The adrenaline was still pumping through me from my good work out.

Edward chuckled and reached out to shake my hand. "I'm Edward Cullen."

"Bella Swan," I took his offered hand and glared at Rose, "and I barely know her. We just met a few weeks ago, so not off limits."

She harrumphed and left us to get her gym bag from the employee lockers.

"Do you ride?" he asked, and for a second I thought he was referring to something other than cycling. I blushed as he slowly thrust a thumb over his shoulder pointing to the room full of stationary bikes to clue me in.

"No, I try not to."

"You should try it. Or I could take you out and ride you around on my handlebars."

"Sounds like a date," I said, enjoying our flirting.

"Mmm," he said, which sounded like he was agreeing, so I smiled. He smiled too. This was going well.

Rose found us where she left us and grumbled, "Still?"

"We're just talking. I'll meet you outside in a minute." I was much braver back then when it came to Rose.

She rolled her eyes at me, glared at Edward, and left.

"She's so sweet. I can see why you two are besties."

"Um, not really—"

"I'm teasing." He ran a hand through his sweaty hair and set his jaw before speaking again. "What are you doing today?"

And in the next hour, he showed up in my psych class and read next to me while I tried to take notes. Tried being the operative word.

So yeah, I guess looks and charm, but it worked. And we worked. But not so much anymore.

He's become complacent in our near four year relationship, lazing about in his boxers, belching, wearing dirty shirts. It's disgusting, really. I'm neat and tidy when I have the time to be. But he's rather slovenly and constantly losing everything—

"Hey, you seen my keys?" Edward asks, patting his pockets like they could be there. Maybe, as he wore those jeans the night before.

"No," I say, pulling my own from the door. He snags them from my hand and leans in for a kiss. Yuck! "Hot wings? It's not even eight yet."

"I know. No one left me waffles." He pouts and knocks his thigh with his fist.

"We were out of mix. Will you pick some up?"

"Yeah, I'll get some. Gotta go, late for a meeting." He's in street clothes; where could he be going? All of the meetings he's had with publishing houses and newspapers have been at swank restaurants, and he's been in his suit.

"Really?" I ask, not knowing what else to say.

"Really. It's a casual thing. Couple of guys from the Trib wanna scope me out before they actually offer me the job. Cool, huh?"

"Cool," I mimic. "Wait, when will you be back? I have work, and my keys . . ."

"I'll be home before you. And wear something fancy." He uses jazz hands to set off the word. "And by fancy, I mean the black underwear with the blue lace. I have a feeling we'll be celebrating tonight."

"Okay." I turn around but don't get far: he yanks me by my arm and pulls me into him, placing a searing kiss on my lips.

"I love you," he says, voice low.

"Love you, too," I say, shaking my head. "Don't forget Little Boy Blue." I hate that stupid bike, always getting oil on our tile. At least his mountain bike is contained, even though it's mounted in my bedroom.

"Of course not," Edward says, popping the wheel up on his BMX before hauling it out the door. "This boy's what made me a writer. He has to come along. It would be rude of me not to give him credit. Without my paper route, I'd never have started reading the news, and then I'd never have come to school here and met a beautiful girl and—"


"Hmm?" He looks up, eyes wide, innocent, like a little boy's.

"Go. And good luck."

He jumps on his BMX and hops down the flight of stairs, whooping as he goes. He's so silly, but I love it. It's one thing I do love about our relationship. He keeps things spontaneous. And he never fails to tell me how much he loves me, how lucky he is to have me. This is a plus. Something I must remember, and something Alice is constantly reminding me of since Jasper tends to be tight-lipped about his feelings and took over a year to tell Alice that he loved her. I need to be more grateful, I guess.


Dressed in my steel gray business suit, I head to work. The walk is short, but the new construction crew between my apartment and Mercer Bank makes the trip a bit unpleasant.

A tan, tall man with bulging biceps and a bright orange vest wolf whistles as I pass. I keep my head down and continue walking. A few years ago I would've said something. I think I've gotten sensitive or soft. I don't know. But nowadays, I just barrel on. What's the point? Why should I waste my energy on him and his negative attention? I shouldn't, so I don't. I just stay focused ahead – focused on my goal: getting to work without being ruffled before showing up.

As I pass my favorite muffin and coffee shop, Alice calls.

"I'm so sorry," she blurts instead of greeting me.

"For what?" I ask, sighing. She's always doing this. Always calling after we've been together to apologize for this or that or clarify something she said to make sure I wasn't offended. I'm dating Edward. I'm like un-offendable.

"I should have said you love Edward."

"Okay," I draw the word out, unsure of what she's talking about.

"I said but you love New York when I should have said but you love Edward. You do, right? Love him still?"

"Yes," I say, stopping at a light, waiting for the crosswalk. There are so many people here, and most just cross when they want. But I'm a small town girl, so I always wait.

"You guys are so great together. I just think . . . maybe Rose is right. You do tend to hold it in. If you're feeling done but you're not done, then you need to talk to him. I'm sure you can work it out."

"I don't know, Alice. It's just . . . lately, all he does is sit around the apartment while I clean under his feet. Literally. I don't think I can do that the rest of my life."

"Yeah, but that didn't bother you before, so something's changed. Do you want him to pay you again?"

"No, of course not," I say, giggling at the memory.

When Edward and I first moved in together it became clear right away that he did not clean. Like, at all. After two months of doing everything, I blew up.

"I am not your maid!" I yelled.

And he said, "You could be," smiled, and slipped a twenty in the waistband of my underwear.

I laughed so hard it didn't matter that I was sweeping up his crumbs and doing his laundry. As we lay in bed later that night, he ran his fingers delicately over my body while whispering thanks against my skin for everything I did for him on a daily basis. It was the hottest foreplay ever.

And I bought some pretty underwear with my twenty.

He paid me on four other occasions, but it was because he liked me buying pretty things for him. It was fun while it lasted. But maybe that was something great in the past. Maybe I'm over that. Maybe he's not funny anymore. And I can't even remember the last time he said thank you. So I'm not sure what's changed, but I know I'm not feeling very happy lately.

"Bella, I really don't want to see you go without trying. I'd miss you. Rose. The guys, too. We all love you. And I know you don't care about the higher income. You'd be leaving for a fresh start. And if that's what you want, I'll support you. But I don't want you to run away because you're afraid to talk to Edward to work things out. Okay?"

"Okay," I say quietly. "So how's the flower shop? Carmen give you a date yet when she'll give it up?"

"No, I keep thinking she's going to, and then she just doesn't. I need to be more assertive with her. Business is hard. Makes me want to go back to class. Wanna go with me? Go back to the days when we were taking our gen eds together?"

"Oh, geez. I don't think you could pay me to suffer through that chem lab again."

Alice laughs. "Okay, maybe not. Well, I've gotta go. I'm close to my stop."

"Thanks, Alice."


"Hey, sweetheart," Mr. Berty says, patting my hip and "accidently" swiping his hand across my butt. He's a tired old man with halitosis, wandering eyes and hands, and he's my boss. Another reason to leave this town, even if he did give me a huge increase when I graduated. Then again, he could have given me that promotion I deserved. That would've been better. Just. "How'd that loan go?"

"Good. Everything was in order. They were a sweet couple. About to have their first kid. The guy looked a bit nervous." I pour my coffee and lean back on the employee lounge counter so he can't grab at me anymore. My elbow chafes on the cheap countertop. I sniff at my coffee so I don't have to smell the commercial soap behind me. I wish I would've sat down in the plastic and metal chairs. Then at least he'd be sitting across from me instead of standing in front of me, trapping me.

Too late now. I wish I wasn't so afraid of spilling drinks on my nice desk or I would just stay there. But there's nowhere else to go as the whole bank is filled with dark cherry wood and antique chairs, and I'm a spiller. So I come here, and Mr. Berty found me. He always finds me.

"Yep, having kids will scare the beejebus out of a guy. Getting married, too. But we all gotta do it some time."

"Do we?"

"What? A sweet, pretty, smart thing like you doesn't want to get married? That's preposterous. In fact, I'm surprised that messy fella of yours hasn't gotten on one knee yet."

"I can't quite imagine him doing that," I say, and as I say it I know it's a lie because I've imagined it so much over the past four years. Edward in front of my old dorm. Edward in a fancy hotel room. Edward in Central Park. Edward in our bedroom. In all scenarios he's on his knee, ring in hand, but it never happens. It will never happen. Because he's a kid. And kids don't get married. Me, I'm an adult. Well, I'm trying to be. I want to be. Which is why I have to move on.

"Aw, well, you'll find your special someone." He wraps his arm around me in a fatherly way but slides his hand down, grazing my breast. This is seriously grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit. I could hire Rose. She's a hard-assed attorney. But he's not a bad guy. He's a good boss, great mentor, taught me everything I know. More than my expensive education anyway.

"Thanks, Mr. Berty. I'm going to head back to my desk." But I don't. Instead, I stop in the ladies' room to stare in the mirror and apply my lip gloss slowly.

As I put away my stuff, my phone buzzes.


Here we go.

"Hi," I say, trying to be cheerful. It's best to start out that way with her, especially when she's recently been in lecture mode.

"You're meeting me for lunch in forty-five. Call Alice."

"Our place?"

"Is there another place?"

"Okay, you don't have to be so—" The line goes dead. Maybe she's right. Maybe Boston would provide me with better friends.


I amble along the busy streets, sidestepping sleeping bums and workaholics who can't even stop texting as they walk.

Our place, Poco de Pollo, isn't far from Mercer Bank. It boasts a "new wave Mexican menu," though they've been serving the same delicious chimis since I've been coming here. And their vegetarian enchiladas are to die for according to Alice. But I wouldn't know. I'm a girl that needs her meat. And cheese, lots of cheese.

I pass the hole-in-the-wall Pizza Joint, and a smile spreads across my face. It's where Edward took me on our first date after he spent the whole day following me around campus. It's also the location of our very first kiss.

"You know, I take it back. You're not very cute."

"I'm not?" I said, turning to face him and batting my eyelashes.

We were sitting on the curb, scarfing down what Edward claimed was the best Chicago deep dish pizza out there. Only we were in New York, so . . . but what did I know? I wasn't from Chicago like Edward, so I believed him. I wanted to believe a lot of things. Like we would fall madly in love, get married, and make babies while I climbed the corporate ladder of the financial world. Sounded good to me.

"Nah, not really. Too bad, too. I wasted my whole day on you. I could've been down at the jump park with my boy, Jasper. Or working out at the gym, checking out short shorts."

I elbowed him playfully, and he corrected himself.

"Or working studiously on my latest assignment for the school newspaper: Sophomores and the Existential Crisis." He furrowed his brow and struck a Thinker pose. He was so cute, and I was smitten already. "But instead, I wasted my last five dollar bill on a plain girl in jeans and Converse. Heh. I guess it's all right but not a great night to top all great nights."

"And what could do that?" I asked, playing along as he stared at my lips.

"Maybe if you were a great lay." All nonchalance.

"You did not just—" I said as I swatted at him.

"Okay, okay. You're cute and not plain at all. The Cons are hot. I take it back. All of it." He grabbed at my hands and, holding both, tucked them in close to his chest, stroking my fingers. "I got you now."

"I think so," I whispered, leaning in ready for our first kiss. But it didn't come.

Edward dropped my hands and stood, stretching and yawning. "You know your way from here, right?" He gazed at me, all innocent, then smirked before throwing our trash away.

I stood, swiping at my jeans to dust them off. I watched him as he stood there, hands in back pockets, looking smug, just knowing I was going to go to him.

"You know, it's all right if you don't think I'm cute."

"Yeah?" he said, cocking his head to the side, his messy hair flopping into his right eye.

"It wouldn't have worked out anyway."

"And why's that?"

"You're too tall. You can't even have a good kiss, let alone a great lay, if your heights are too off."

"Good point," he said, nodding seriously.

I grabbed my Coke and took a sip, just waiting to see how this would play out. I hadn't had this much fun on a date in ages.

"Although," he started, cleared his throat, then locked eyes with me. "You could always be on top."


"Well, I'm an interesting kind of guy."

"But what about kissing? I mean, I can't just sleep with you if I don't even know what kind of kisser you are. And every girl knows if a man is an amazing kisser, he's even better in bed."

"You'll be happy to know I've never had one complaint about my kissing."

"Not a one?"


"You're so proud of that fact."

"Wouldn't you be?"

"Hmm, if I was a braggart like you. Maybe."

Forgetting this coy game we were playing, he lost his cool for a moment, throwing his head back and laughing. His broad shoulders wiggled with his chortle. "Or maybe you're just trying to dissuade me because you're embarrassed that you're a bad kisser."

"I am not," I said affronted, taking a few steps toward him, closer to the grafittied trashcan and the should-have-been-torn-down street lamp behind him.

"That was very convincing."

"You want me to prove it?"

"Be my guest." He gave me this show-me-what-ya-got look.

Oh, I will.

I set my soda down and walked smoothly toward him, exaggerating the sway of my hips for effect but stopping just short. "This isn't gonna work, Edward." I sighed and sagged my head, all melodrama.

"Why not?" he said, and for a second I heard a hint of nerves and sincerity in his tone.

I peeked up, giving him my best shy smile. "Because . . . you're too tall." He hummed, like he was trying to figure this out with me. "But maybe if I just . . ." I took two short steps, making no apologizes as I stepped onto his shoes and placed my hands on his jaw before kissing him.

He dipped his head to the side, kissing me gently and placing his hands atop my own. Gradually, I moved my hands into his hair, and his ran down my arms and over my shoulders, ending on my lower back.

We kissed for several minutes beneath the old, blinking light that mere seconds ago I thought was hideous. Now it ensconced us in a romantic glow or something.

He ended the kiss first and rested his forehead on mine. "Wow," he said, nodding slightly. "You're really forward."

I laughed and kissed him again to shut him up. When I was done, I stepped down and gathered my drink and small bag, slinging it around my torso. I held my hand out to him. "C'mon."

He nearly ran to me, reaching forward to snatch my hand up, like if he got there too late, it'd be gone. "Where're we going?"

"Well, if my theory about a man's ability to kiss is true, I'm in for one hell of a night."

"Really?" he asked, shocked, yet his face blazed with hopefulness.

"No way, you perv, I just met you. But I may let you get to second base."

"Woo-woo, Second Base Swan," he sing-songed as he swayed our hands back and forth between us. When we approached the stoplight where we needed to cross, he leaned down and kissed me on the cheek.

"What's that for?" I asked.

"For being the cutest girl I've met in a really long time."

"Aw," I cooed, ruffling his hair.

The light turned green as he said, "And for letting me get to second base on our first date!" He fist pumped the air the whole way across the street. I was already in love.

"How long does it take to walk three blocks, Bella, I gotta get back to work!" Rose scolded as I marched up to her. Alice smiled and waved from behind Rose where she was cowering. We were both afraid of Rose at times.

After being seated and ordering, Rose set to work. "Okay, we need to figure this out. What's wrong with Edward? Why don't you like him anymore?"

Alice's voice was stronger than I thought it'd be since Rose was already on a rampage. "Rose, she still loves him. He's just being a little ungrateful and—"

"Coddling helps no one, Alice. And I'm assuming this job offer has a time limit, so you need to figure this out. Either you stay here to be with Edward or you don't. It's simple. So, let's dissect this thing." She was such an amazing lawyer. Not that I've ever seen her work any other case but my own. And Alice's from time to time.

So we sat and had a working lunch. One where I poured out my fears about what a life with Edward would look like, complete with scratching, belching kids, an overgrown yard, and Edward drinking beer on the couch, typing away on his laptop in order to make a last minute deadline while demanding I make him a sandwich. It was a dismal scene, to say the least.

Alice, who usually had positive things to say, kept quiet. It was Rose, to my surprise, who advocated for Edward. "I'm surprised at you."

"At me? Why?"

"This is not like you. You've always loved Edward. Always. Even when he cleaned his bike in the middle of the kitchen while you were trying to cook for Alice's twenty-first birthday. Even when he forgot your birthday and conned our resident florist here," she pointed a finger accusingly at Alice, like she had sinned by helping him, "into filling your entire apartment with sterling roses to say he was sorry. You always find the good in him. So. What. Is. Going. On?"

I don't think he'll ever commit, I want to say but don't. Instead, I shrug and say, "I don't know. It's just different. We're different."

"He hasn't changed," she said emphatically. "You have. Or, at least, you think you have. So the only question is: is it worth it? Do you feel happier knowing you'll be leaving him soon? Or does the thought make you miserable?"

I swipe the tears from my eyes, and Alice squeezes my shoulder. "I have to go back to work." I stand, and Alice hands me my purse. "Thanks for lunch, girls."

Rosalie flings her hand out and wraps it tight around my wrist. "He loves you, Bella. Unconditionally. Don't forget that."

It's true, but I don't know why. I'm average looking with average interests. Sure, I'm intelligent and motivated, but that's not unique to New York women. So I'm nothing special. What have I done to deserve his unconditional love? His devotion?

Something inside me snaps at that idea. He's not devoted. He'd never be devoted because he'd never be mine. Not legally anyway, because we'd never be married.

He's said it before. Probably a year ago now - that marriage is not a necessity. That he's seen couples married and not that are equally happy or miserable. He could never see the difference and, therefore, never see the point. The fact that his happily married parents were a pristine example of why I'd want such a thing didn't seem to register to him. Then again, I hadn't said that I'd wanted it that bad. And now I'm kind of stuck.

I nod without looking at her, like a coward, and return to Mercer Bank to hide my sorrows in a stack of paperwork that requires lots of number crunching. It does not make me feel better, nor does it help me to figure out a plan for the rest of my life. Sometimes numbers are useless.


By two in the afternoon I'm tired, ready to go home. I sit at my desk rubbing the balls of my feet. They ache from being in these heels, and I just want to relax on the couch and watch bad reality TV with Edward's silly laugh in my ear.

I wasn't thinking so seriously about all of this yesterday; last night things were simpler.

Edward could not stop laughing after Patty Pink Boobs kicked Marry Me's newest bachelor, Hank O'Dessa, in the crotch for trying to touch her breasts. Every day since she moved into that mansion she's put her girls on display in her pink bra, flaunting them about, yet when he tried to touch her, she went and hit him where it counts.

"These girls have no class. No class at all. But then no one has class like my girl, huh?" he asked.

"If you say so," I said.

"I know so." He quirked his brow. "Don't you know how sophisticated you are? How proper and well groomed? And how much I love your cute little sweater sets?" He laughed at his own silliness then kissed my neck and inhaled. "Mmm, and how good you smell. How good you feel." He kissed me and rubbed his cleanly shaven face over my chest, snuggling into my girls. He fell asleep before Hank handed out his cactus to the loser of the evening, who incidentally was Patty Pink Boobs. Go figure. Apparently, if you want to get married, you shouldn't be kicking your supposed future fiancé in his baby maker.

You should probably also be dating someone who values the institution of marriage and doesn't scoff at it. But maybe that's just me.

I lay my head on top of my arms, staring out the small window. I close my eyes and blink back tears as my mind swims in beautiful memories of Edward. Our trip to the Hamptons where we went skinny dipping. His twenty-second birthday, which we spent on a boat, the whole time calling him Captain E. The first time we made love, which was marred by my recently dumped roommate sniffling in the living room while watching a sad movie. And night after night when we'd just talk, lying in bed, and he'd make me giggle. Or tickle me into submission, into some new crazy sex act he wanted to try that I'd be shy about but then love.

It was all about love. It's still all about love. And I do love him. I do.

My phone vibrates in my purse in my desk drawer. I pull it out to see Edward's mother is calling. When Edward's parents first moved to New York a year and a half ago, I was nervous about how that would affect my relationship with him. But I had no idea how much I would love his mother, and she, me. We just clicked for some reason, and she quickly became someone I'd call a good friend.

"Esme, hi," I say cordially.

"Hi, dear. I was just calling to see when you two'd like to come eat dinner this week. We could do tonight even. Edward said money was tight, and I thought you'd come last week, but then you didn't."

"When were we going to come? Last week, I mean."

"Last Thursday."

Last Thursday we ate dinner at Alice's. I thought our friends had invited us over. Did Edward arrange that? Are we beggars now?

This stupid road bike he's saving for is making me look like such a loser. Why can't he just buy something cheap? Saving thousands of dollars takes time, and in the process I seem moronic. One, for putting up with it, and two, for being so broke. Which I'm not. Not really.

"You don't have to feed us. We're fine. We have plenty of money, and we—"

"Oh, I know. I know Edward's been saving up. But I like that he's being responsible and not just using his charge cards like other silly kids his age. Edward's always had a shrewd business mind. Gets it from me." I imagine her sweet smile – so reminiscent of Edward's – over the phone.

"Well." I sigh, feeling depressed about – well, everything – before continuing on, "Edward was at a meeting this morning. He thinks he's going to get that job. If he does, we're going to head out to a restaurant. So, I guess I'm not sure if we need – not that we need dinner – but, well, you know. I'm sorry. I mean, let's just reschedule for Sunday maybe? How's that sound?"

"Sounds great, Bella. Oh, how's the job front? Heard from anyone else?"

"Nope, not really. Still waiting on a call from Volturi Investments."

"Oh, well, you've worked so hard, dear, I'm sure you'll get snapped up. New York can't give you up any more than my son can. They both love you so much."

Her enthusiasm's sweet, but I'm just not feeling it today. "Thanks," I manage, and my phone vibrates again. It's Edward.

Call me, his text reads.

I get off the phone with Esme and dial him right away, but I'd rather not. I'm worried I might blow a gasket or start crying. One or the other. Because it's that kind of day.

"Hey, guess what I scored at Alice's today?"

"What's that?" I ask, sorting through papers, trying to get back to work. I've spent too much time thinking today instead of doing.

"Some waffle mix. She put it in a pretty little container and everything for us. Isn't that great? First, I was . . ."

I pull the phone away from my ear and scream silently at it, strangling it with my hand. What is wrong with this man!

". . . But you know how Rose is. A little stingy and bitchy, and I'd rather just buy the stuff. But it's so freaking expensive, and I just can't afford it right—"

"Yes, yes, I know. Your precious bike," I blurt, feeling pissy and rude and wanting to throttle him.

"You'll love it. I can't wait to bring it home to you and show it off."

"I'm sure it will be the stuff of dreams."

Edward chuckles, and I tap my fingers against my desk. Is he done talking yet?

"Guess what else I scored today? I bet you can't guess."


"Come on. Guess."

"Edward, I don't have time for this, and I can't get behind because then I have to explain myself to Mr. Berty, which means I have to get close to him, and then he'll fondle me, and then—"

"Fondle you? Who the hell is Berty?"

"My boss. You met him. Bill."

"Bill? Bill's fondling you? Are you serious, Bella? Because I will kick his ass."

"He's in his sixties."

"I don't care. I'll kick some flabby ass if I have to. No one messes with my girl."

The way he says it makes me feel safe, protected, loved, and I remember for an instant so many things I adore about Edward. They're trumping the things I don't like about him right now and ruining everything.

"I just need to talk to HR."

"Are you going to?"

"Yes," I say, sighing. If I stay here, I think.

"Really? Because you tend to not say what you want, and—"

Tears come to my eyes, and I sniffle.

"Hey, you okay? You need me to come by? Sounds like you're having a bad day."

"I'm okay," I croak.

"You sure? I can be there in ten minutes."

"No, I'll be done soon."

"Yeah, and then it's just you and me, okay?"

"Okay." The thought sounds like just what I need. He's just what I need.

"And you know what we'll be doing?"

"What's that? Eating, I presume?"

"I love your sweet, sweet sarcasm. Food for my scratchy soul," he says, and I laugh for what feels like the first time today. "We will be celebrating. BecauseIgotthejob! I start in two weeks, and I'm making the big bucks!"

"Oh, wow. That's so great. I'm so proud of you!" I am. He's an amazing writer. Just because his methods drive me crazy doesn't mean he's not talented. Any publishing house or newspaper would be lucky to have him. I know, because I'm lucky to have him.

"I love you, Bella. I'll see you at home in a few hours."

"Love you, too."


An hour and a half later, I take an unscheduled break in the employee lounge. I've been stuck in my head too much today, so I thought a walk and a quick snack would clear my head.

I spoon vanilla yogurt into my mouth and flip through an old copy of Vogue someone abandoned a few months ago. There's a hideous picture of a skinny woman in a baggy dress with heels higher than the Empire State Building. I cackle without meaning to and immediately reach for my phone. This is the type of thing I'd normally share with Edward, but today . . . I just can't.

I close the magazine and stare at the old cork board that's covered in lame rental flyers and sales reps quotas for the past few months. Some parts of corporate America I just hate. I can't wait to get out of here and join a private firm like Volturi Investments or Boston Financial.

I throw my yogurt cup away, appetite gone, and head back to my desk. I check my phone, which blinks. There's a message from Alice. With Alice, it's always urgent and has to do with feelings, so I just call her.

The phone rings, and she picks up immediately.

"Hey, I didn't listen to your message. Just decided to call. What's up?"

"Rose was harsh today. I'm sorry about that."

"It's not your fault."

"No, but that doesn't mean I don't feel bad. She didn't have to be so mean about everything. It's up to you what you decide to do about Edward, the job. It's all up to you, but Bella . . ."

"What?" I prod. She doesn't say anything, so I give her a minute, waiting for a response, but none comes. "You can tell me, Alice. You can tell me anything."

"I feel like . . . like there's more to this. Rose said that he hasn't changed and she's right, but something's obviously bugging you. And Edward's been a slob from birth, so . . . do you want . . . you can tell me anything, too, you know."


She is so intuitive sometimes, it's creepy.

"We were out at Roma's for a nice dessert a few weeks ago. I wanted to do dinner, but he's saving up. Whatever. Anyway, there was a couple there that got engaged. Right there in front of us. Guy got down on one knee, girl ugly cried, the whole thing."

I shift the phone to my other ear and keep silent for a moment, reining in my emotions.

"I smiled, and I clapped with everyone else. It was so sweet. But Edward. He just laughed and shook his head. Like the guy was a chump. Like it was the stupidest thing ever. And I just . . . you know what happened the last time I brought up marriage."

"That was so long ago. People change. Look at Jasper. He's so different now."

"I know, but this is consistent. This is . . . this is just Edward. He doesn't want to get married. He doesn't want to be someone's husband. I'm with that guy, and that's fine. People live together all the time and never get married, but I just don't think I can. I think I'd always wonder: what's so wrong with me that he doesn't want me to be his wife? I want forever, Alice, and he's not going to give it to me. There's nothing I can do but walk away. I have to walk away."

Alice is quiet on the other end of the line, giving me a moment.

"You should talk to him. If you just walk away and never say anything, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. But maybe . . . maybe if you're not brave enough to do that, then maybe it's not meant to be anyway."

"Maybe," I say quietly.

"Can I say something, and you promise not to be sad about it?"

"Sure," I say. She's so, so different from Rose. Which is good. It's smart to be surrounded by differences of opinion and attitude.

"You want him to do this for you despite his feelings about it, right? To propose, become your husband because it's something that you need. Something you want. And there's nothing wrong with that. But did you ever think about what he wants? What he needs? Maybe he needs to not be married as much as you need to be married."

"This is so hard," I say, dropping my head, chin to chest, trying not to cry at work.

"You'll get through it. If you need anything you just let me know, okay? Even if it's waffle mix." I hear the smile in her voice and chuckle.

"It's so exasperating. If this whole bike thing wasn't Jasper's fault I'd be so embarrassed."

"It's fine. Anything we can do to support you two, we'll do."

"You're the best."

"I try," she says shyly. "Hey, and forgive Rose. She's just trying to be smart about this."

"I know. Good intentions. Thank you. For everything."

"You're welcome. I'll talk to you later."


I hate this feeling of limbo. Will I or won't I stay? With him? In New York? It's not healthy at all; I must figure out what I want. I have to, and I will. Today.

The rest of my day passes relatively smoothly, though I spend it in my head still, taking inventory of my relationship with Edward from it's origin until now. It's a good thing too, because before I pack up my things to head home, I've made my decision. Two decisions, actually. About Edward and about the job in Boston.

I dial and bring my phone to my ear, tapping my fingers on my desk, waiting for someone to answer.

"Boston Financial, can I help you?" the receptionist says.

"Yes, this is Bella Swan calling for Mr. Clearwater. I have an answer for him about the position I was offered . . ."


When I leave the tall, cherry wood double doors of Mercer Bank, the evening air is warm but comforting. Summer's right around the corner. It seems strange that just a little while ago Edward and I were enjoying our spring break, making love constantly, and eating room service in a quaint hotel in Vermont with a beautiful flower garden. We were carefree and fun loving before my mind started thinking long term twenty-four seven. Why did I have to think long term? It was ruining everything.

I blame my mother, sadly. From the time she divorced my father when I was twelve, all I ever heard was that I needed to think about the big picture, the long haul. "Go to college, get a good job, support yourself because you cannot count on a man." And I've followed that advice, found it to be helpful. But also found something else. Something I didn't expect: Edward. And he changed everything.

I walk past Book Nook and wave at Mrs. Cope, who runs the indie shop. She's a sweet lady who wears knitted hats even in the summer and has a penchant for attracting stray cats. She stops me to speak about a new produce place that opened on the corner by some "Russian scoundrel who charges five dollars for a head of lettuce." When I'm finished listening to her story, I say goodbye and squeal as I get snatched up from behind. I know the feel of those hands on my hips so I don't panic, and Mrs. Cope's resounding smile to the man behind me makes me shake my head.

"Hi," he whispers, kissing my neck.

I close my eyes and think about the way he strokes my fingertips when he talks to me. I'm so in love with this man. I open my eyes and swivel my head to find Edward straddling his BMX, keeping it upright with his legs.

"Hey, what are you doing here?" I can't help the smile that spreads across my face. His happy-go-lucky attitude is contagious.

"I'm picking up my girl like old times. Have a seat." He sits back and grins, waiting for me.

I secure my bag to my chest and sit on the handlebars. He whisks us away down the street, sort of hovering over me as he rides. "Faster?" he asks, and I scream playfully, answering him.

He takes off, weaving through people and then once we're on the road – traffic. He knows these streets well. Any bike messenger would, I guess, but Edward finds hideaway spots and back alleys I don't think anyone else knows exist. It makes his free way of living seem romantic, and I wish I could be more like him. Maybe I will be someday.

He brings us home, depositing me on the steps and laughing. He's so much fun. I stand, breathless and grinning, then take the steps two at a time.

He tugs on my elbow before I open the gate, so I turn to see what he wants. "You wanna just do something easy tonight? Comfortable?"

"That sounds perfect."

He reaches forward, yanking on my hand to jerk me down to him. "I'm glad you're home. I missed you today."

"I missed you, too," I say. I truly did.

We head inside, and I change while he does whatever he does while he's waiting for me. Not cleaning, I know that much.

I reach the living room when he says, "You look good." His eyes sweep over my NYU tee and jeans.

"Just for you," I say, going to him and getting on tip toes to kiss him. "Thanks for picking me up. It's just what I needed today."

"Yeah, you seemed so glum on the phone." He scratches his neck and continues, "I thought you needed some Edward time to cheer you up."

"I think you're right," I say, my voice catching.

"Hey," he says, smoothing his thumb over my hand. "You okay?"

"Yeah." I wipe at my eyes, but I'm not crying. Yet. "It was just a rough day. I had a lot to think about, but that doesn't matter. It's time to celebrate. I'm really happy for you about the job. They'd be fools not to hire you."

"That's what I said." He kisses my nose and laughs when I wrinkle it after. "Let's go."

We leave Little Boy Blue, choosing to walk instead. I'm not too hungry yet, so we meander around the city, window shopping and people watching – one of my favorite things to do. And it's so easy as there are people everywhere, and they're all so different. I love that about New York.

". . . So they say I'll have a desk there onsite, but I don't actually have to use it. I can choose to work from home, which is always good because you know how much I love morning sex even though . . ."

"I know. I torture you by going to work out but not on Saturdays."

"Not on Saturdays," he echoes, grin wide. "And what's tomorrow?"

"Saturday," I say coyly and pull him to me by his belt loops. "Which makes today Friday, which is also a good day."

"Today's a great day. Gonna get greater too. Pizza! 'Round here," he says, dragging me by my arm.

We order our usuals at Pizza Joint and sit on the curb like we always do: me with my Coke, him with his Mr. Pibb.

"Do you have an assignment yet? At the Trib?" I ask.

"Mmm, we threw around some ideas, but nothing's solid. They really loved that piece I did on military families."

"Ooh, yeah, where you interviewed that ten-year-old girl. So heartbreaking. I can't imagine being a mom and away from my kids. I'd trust them with your parents, of course, but, just wow."

"Wow." He's staring at me, eyes blazing.

"What? Why are you looking at me like that?"

"I totally want you to have a bunch of my green-eyed babies."

I swat at him. "Be serious."

"I'm completely serious."

"I'm just saying that was a good article."

"I'm just saying you have great birthing hips."

I swat him again.

"Is that the wrong term?" he asks, like maybe he offended me. Please.

I shrug. "I don't know. I'm too young for babies."

"You were the one begging me—"

"I was not—"

He barrels on, ignoring me. "Begging me to get you pregnant last Christmas." I shake my head, and he says, "Uh huh."

"Fine. I was begging. But it's your fault. You dragged me to that homeless shelter and proceeded to pick up every baby there, looking so adorable and dad-like, and then you played Scrabble with that little girl who kept batting her eyelashes at you. And as if that wasn't enough, you danced with that elderly woman who ran the soup kitchen. My ovaries were, like, singing to me."

"You mean to me."

"Yes, they were singing to you. They wanted you. Bad. Like I want you. Bad."

"Must remember . . ." He taps his head lightly. "When Bella refuses motherhood, hold cute babies and dance with old ladies."

"That'll do it."

"Know what else will do it?"

I shake my head, but that doesn't stop him. He leans in and sucks on my neck and squeezes my waist, like we're the only people here. Like this is nothing. I squeal and push his hands away halfheartedly. I love this nonsensical affection. The silly way he loves me.

I pull his head up to kiss me and bite his lip playfully. "You said do it."

"Yeah, sure did. Let's do. Do it." We're like junior high kids with our lame jokes.

"Later," I say, and he squeezes my waist again and tickles me.


"Yes, later!" I shove his shoulder away, so we can focus on our pizza. That's why we're here anyway – to eat – not flirt like hormonal teenagers. Not that I mind.

We finish our meal in silence, though glance at each other occasionally. Edward gives me a dopey smile. I give him an eyeroll. And then we go back to our food. Soon, we're focused on watching the people around us, but we're still very aware of the other's presence. I'm always aware of Edward, at least.

I take my last bite and turn to face Edward. "I have to tell you something."


I take a sip, slurping the last bit of soda through my straw.

"Oh, wait, re-fill. Hold that thought," Edward says and hops up to fill my drink. Well, that was unexpected. He's being very sweet tonight.

I wrap my arms around my legs, pulling them in, and watch him talk animatedly to Anthony, the pizza guru. Edward's arms move around wildly as he speaks. It's adorable; it's always been adorable.

He comes back to the curb and places my soda next to me. I sip it, my eyes on him.

"What? No kiss to say thanks?" he asks, a mock look of disgust marring his features.

I pucker my lips, but he doesn't come to me. I stand, and he steps back, smirking. I follow him as he walks backward until the street lamp is behind him. He shoves his hands down in his pockets and stares at his feet. He's grinning.

"What are you doing?" I ask, laughing at his silliness.

He snaps his eyes up to mine and says, "This is where you first kissed me."

"Yeah, so. You wanted me to." I take a few mores steps so I'm just in front of him.

"I want you to do a lot things," he says quietly, then sinks low to the cement, dropping on one knee. He opens a light blue Tiffany's box and stares up at me with wide, loving eyes and a warm smile before adding, "Like say yes."

I've spent my whole day convinced this would never happen. Convinced Edward didn't care about me enough, and here he is – on his knee asking me this.


But it is real. And he does care.

And I know without a doubt what I have to say. What I've always imagined myself saying. But I haven't said anything yet.

Oh no. Poor Edward.

Slowly I come to my senses. I cover my mouth and shake my head while tears slip from my eyes.

"Yes," I whimper, nodding. Though I don't know if he can hear me since my hand is over my mouth.

"Will you marry me, Bella?"

"Yes! Yes!" I say, flinging myself toward him.

He stands and grips me in his arms, my feet dangling in mid-air. "Yes?" he asks.

"Yes," I say clearly, boldly, emphatically. There was never a doubt. Not really.

He lowers me slowly, my feet landing on his.

And then he kisses me.

And just like that, I'm engaged to Edward Cullen.


We walk home, hand in hand, swinging our arms back and forth. My engagement ring's delightfully heavy on my hand, and I can't stop smiling.

"You look happy," Edward says once we're inside our apartment.

"I am," I say, sitting and propping my feet up on our coffee table. I'm exhausted.

"You also seem a little shocked."

"Do I?"

"Yeah," he says, rubbing his stubble. He sits beside me but not so close that we can't speak comfortably to one another.

"I didn't expect it."

"Really? I wasn't too obvious with the whole 'I'm saving up for a bike thing.'"

And I start to cry, like really cry.

"What? B-Bella? What's wrong?" He rubs his hand over my hair and leaves it on my shoulder.

"I was so mad at you," I blurt. "I hated that stupid bike and all the food you were stealing and how cheap you were getting. I was—Edward, I was contemplating taking that job."

"What job, with Volturi?"

"No, in Boston."

"Boston Financial? You didn't, right?"

I shake my head, and his hand drops to my knee close to my left hand. "I called them today. Told them I couldn't accept it. Though, I don't have any other offers. I'm stuck at Mercer Bank."

"It's okay. I've got the Trib gig, and I paid cash for this baby. You have no idea how many extra e-zine articles I had to write to buy it. Had to be sneaky too." He strokes my ring with his thumb. "Rings are expensive," he adds. "But you're worth it. You've always been worth it."

All this time. He was doing extra work? How did I not know?

"I feel like such an idiot. You have no idea. I was—my mind was going bazonko today. I was just—"

"You were just, what?"

"You drive me crazy. You never clean; you laze about; you play with your bikes. We're so different, but I can't stop loving you. And none of that matters anyway. What matters is how we treat each other. And you're so attentive to my feelings."

"When you share them," he says, shrugging.

"I know. I know it's something I have to work on. I've always been that way. I'm motivated to get what I want, but if it involves relationships, I struggle."

"Hey, that's okay."

"It's not okay. Had I told you all of this from the beginning, we wouldn't even be here having this conversation. We wouldn't have to be slogging through this crap. We could just be happy that we're engaged."

"I don't mind slogging through crap, as long as I can do it with you."

"Why are you so good to me?" I'm serious. I want to know.

"Because I love you."

"While I love that you say that so often – and I do, I love it – I need you to be specific right now."

"Well, you put up with me and my messes. You take care of me, clean my clothes, make sure I charge my phone and laptop. You help me manage my time. I mean, without you reminding me about deadlines and finals, I probably would have flunked out of college or worse, never been given a chance as a writer. But you did that. You supported me. Even though it was hard on you and you were tired, you always nudged me to get it done. It's the sweetest thing ever. You're the sweetest thing ever."

My eyes burn with my tears, and I drop my head to his shoulder. He sees all of that? And what do I see in him? Dirty, grungy bike-riding boy that can't manage his time and gets lucky. I am a terrible girlfriend.

I turn my head to look into his pretty eyes. I see more, though, I do. I need to focus on that – what's good about Edward. I need to spend more time mentally saving up all of Edward's good traits, so that when I feel frustrated I can focus on them.

"I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, you have no idea," I say, contrite.

"There's nothing to be sorry for. You said yes. That's all I need from you."

"But you don't know what I was thinking all day."

"Bella, I don't really care. I know that you love me. I know that I'm hard to live with. I accept that. I also accept that we're different. And I love that. If anything, I'm sorry. You kept your feelings to yourself so you wouldn't hurt mine. You did it out of kindness. I just let all my faults out in the open, like I have no shame. I don't, really. But I should at least say thank you. It's the least I can do." He strokes my fingers with his and kisses me sweetly. Soft lips on mine, making me warm all over.

"Thank you," he says, voice solemn. "For everything. But mostly, for saying yes."

I respond with a kiss. I think we might be headed to our bedroom soon, but he starts tickling me.

"Enough mush. Let's just be happy. That's all I want. For you and me. Okay?"


"Do one thing for me, though."

"Anything." I'm resolved to do anything for this man.

"The next time you're even thinking of taking a job in Boston, let me know so I can look for one there, too."

"Deal." I kiss him quickly, and he grins. "You know . . . I don't understand why we work; I never have, but we do. I guess it helps that nothing fazes you." He smiles, so proud of my compliment. "And it seems as long as you're not being too irritating, we work." I nudge him in the ribs, cracking a smile.

"And I was being too irritating?" A small grin tugs the corners of his lips upward.

"You stole toilet paper from Chang's!" I shout, though I'm laughing through it.

"I didn't have any money. I was buying a diamond. A big one."

I cover my eyes and giggle. The cold metal of the ring against my nose is shocking. I like it.

"Why didn't you tell me how mad you were? Seriously."

"I don't know. I had kind of given up after you laughed at that couple at Roma's."

"The dork that asked a woman to marry him in a place where a million other men have asked women to marry them? It was lame, Bella, so lame."

"I thought you didn't want to get married." My hands flail around as if they help to explain my thoughts. They don't.

"I didn't want to get engaged in a dumb way. I had plans. Good plans." He nods, his lips looking stern.

"Yeah, you did."

"Did you like it?" He's nervous, but he shouldn't be. He knows I'm a sentimental sap.


"Was it good?"


"Will you have sex with me now?" He grins, like he just knows what I'll say.


"No?" he asks, swinging his eyes from me to the coffee table. "Why not? You just found out I'm not as schmucky as you thought I was. That's good. And I want to marry you. That's good too."

"You've told me I have to be more forthcoming, and so has Rose. I think you're both right."

He snaps his head back around to stare at me pointedly. This is so not what he was expecting. "I . . . listen, Rose is a jerk. She wouldn't give me any waffle mix even when she knew the reason behind it. She was mad at me for being a 'deceiving, immature slob.'"

"That explains a lot actually. Regardless, I cannot have sex with you if my butt is chafed."

"What?" he asks, his face screwed up in laughter, and we both lose it.

"I hate that toilet paper. Go buy me some real toilet paper."

"I don't have any money."

I reach into my purse and pull out a twenty.

"So I'm your errand boy now?"

I slip it into the elastic of his underwear and smile. "You could be."

"Bella, you can't just . . . and then I'm supposed to—"

"I can, and I just did. Now go."

"Are you mad?" he asks, voice a little nervous. He shouldn't be. This sharing my negative feelings is new to me. I'll be gentle about it. Ease him and myself into it.

"No. And for the record, I realized that it didn't matter what was going on with you and me. I wanted you, this, no matter what. Marriage or no, I wanted you."

There's a brief silence where we simply enjoy the schmaltziness of the moment by beaming at one another like fools.

"Good to know. You love me even when you hate me." He's so smug. He knows I love him too much to care about all the crap he pulls. He's right.

"I do. Though, I didn't hate you. Not really. You just bug me."

"Aw. Okay, I'll go get some toilet paper." He hops up and opens the door but doesn't step out just yet. "You be ready when I come back. I'm gettin' the good kind. Nothing but the best for my girl."

"Your fiancée."

"My fiancée," he says dreamily, then leans his forearm high on the doorjamb. "Do I really have to go?"

"Yes!" I all but yell while shaking my head in disbelief. I stand and fold my arms, proving how serious I am.

"Okay. All right." He stands there dumbly, not wanting to go, so I entice him.

"It's been one hell of a day, so hurry back," I say, losing my shirt right in front of him. I turn on my heel and head down the hall to our room where I'll be waiting just for him. Always for him. No matter what.