A/N: Yes, my secret is out; I love Tracy Chapman. I know she hardly writes Goth music but seriously, she's amazing. Also, I will warn you that I cried when I wrote this, but to be fair, I was on my period at the time.
"May I sit here?"
The girl looked up and my breath hitched. Her eyes were the richest brown I had ever seen, her lips glistening and the lower one plump, with a slight indentation where she had bitten it. She flushed red when she caught me staring and smiled sheepishly, picking up her schoolbag from where it rested on the seat of the bus.
"Sure." Her voice was soft and sweet. I lowered myself into the seat and smiled nervously.
She turned to look at me, pale face lit with a crimson blush. "Bella."
"Hey, Bella." I hooked the leg of the seat beside her with my foot and pulled it out, setting my tray on the table beside hers. She turned and looked up at me, a smile spreading across her face.
I took the empty seat and glanced at her. The curtain of her hair separated us. I could smell the strawberry shampoo she used.
"Do you want to come to my house on Saturday?"
Her head shot up and she bit that pink lower lip for the umpteenth time since I met her. After a moment, she said, "sure," once again, before returning to her sandwich.
"Well, this is it." Bella dropped her bag in the corner of the large kitchen and turned a full circle, looking intently at every detail.
I snorted. "If you say so." I kicked off my shoes and signalled for her to do the same. "I'll show you my room."
I led her up the stairs and through the door at the end of the first floor's hallway. She gasped. "Alice, this is amazing."
The walls were crimson and littered with posters I had bought and sketches I had done. My drawings were hardly impressive, but there were quite a lot of them. My bed was large and the duvet black with a vine detail on it in white. My wardrobe was huge.
She did a running jump and leapt onto my bed, giggling like a child as she bounced off the mattress. I couldn't help my smile. Bella was shy, but she could be so lively at times.
However, she wasn't laughing any more. She had seen a sketch I had done of a flower and was tracing the grey lines with one slender finger, as white as the paper I had drawn on.
I shrugged and sat beside her. "A little. I'm not very good."
She turned to look at me with those brown eyes. "Draw me."
"Stay very still."
Bella nodded very slightly and I grinned. "That's not keeping still."
She broke into fits of giggles. I sighed theatrically, but my smile remained. When she calmed down, I said, "let's try this again."
This time she stayed completely still, and I began to sketch. I realised that I had never noticed the way her hair curled in places, or how large her eyes were, or how much thicker her bottom lip was in comparison to the top. I thought how my brothers would say these things were flaws. To me, they were not. They made her Bella. They made her my Bella.
When I told her I was finished she leapt to her feet and scurried over to where I was sitting, looking at the sketch pad on my knee. She gasped. "I look so... beautiful."
I couldn't stop myself. My hand went up to cup her cheek as I whispered, "You always look beautiful."
Her eyes did not widen as I had expected. She did not pull away. Instead, she leaned down and, so gently that I barely felt it, pressed her lips to mine.
"Happy birthday, Bella!"
She blushed furiously and I grinned. Making Bella blush had become my new favourite pastime – well, after kissing her.
"Don't remind me."
"You're only sixteen," I laughed. "I thought you weren't supposed to get worried about age until you're twenty-nine?"
She looked away, but I knew she was smiling. "You're so mean, Alice."
"Well, I brought you a present, but if you're going to be like that I'll just take it back." I teased. She looked back at me, her eyes lighting up.
"You brought me a present? What is it?" She smiled widely, like an excited child on Christmas morning. "Can I have it?"
"On one condition."
"Kiss me," I whispered, and she quickly obeyed.
"What are you going to do after school?"
I shrugged with one shoulder, Bella's head resting on the other. "I think I'll go to Sixth Form, and then probably University. What about you?"
"I have no idea," she admitted. "I'd really like to study English."
"You could come to the same University as me. I was thinking about doing graphic design."
"Hmm," she smiled. "And we could share a flat, and never, ever have to worry about our dads again."
I stroked her cheek. "We'll always be together, then?"
She opened her eyes and looked up at me. "Always."
"Shh," I murmured, placing my arm around Bella's shaking shoulders. "It's alright."
"It's not!" She wailed into my shirt. "It's not alright! She's gone, Alice!"
"I know," I soothed, stroking her brown hair. "I know, sweet girl." I had come to Bella's house to see why she wasn't in school, only to find that her grandmother had passed away the previous night and I hadn't been there for her because I was doing Geography homework. I felt like the worst person alive.
"I'm going to miss her so much," she whispered hoarsely, and I felt her scalding tears soaking through my school shirt, making my chest damp. I wrapped my arms more tightly around her and kissed the top of her head.
"I'm always here for you, Bella," I reminded her softly. "Always."
"You look ridiculous."
Bella turned and stuck her tongue out at me. Her skirt was tinier than anything I had ever seen her wear before and her white school shirt was unbuttoned in most places, barely covering her chest. She wore a black bandanna with a skull and crossbones in her hair and a pair of knee-high striped socks.
It was our last day of Year Eleven and the theme for our fancy-dress was 'pirates'. I was the only girl in the year wearing trousers, which really wasn't that different to a usual day. As Bella and I planned to return to the school for Sixth Form we were trying not to get involved with the more dastardly schemes of the day, and we were staying away from anything involving eggs, cling film or water pistols filled with liquids other than water. However, both of us had three cans of Silly String and a banner saying 'Welcome to Neverland' to hang above the main entrance of the school.
"Be careful with that tongue," I warned. "You never know where it'll end up."
When she didn't take it back into her mouth I caught up with her, pinned her against a tree and sucked it into my own.
"To the summer holidays." I held up my shot glass and Bella tapped it with her own.
"To the summer holidays."
We downed both shots at the same time. Bella erupted into a coughing fit and I laughed.
"How do you drink this stuff?" She rasped. "I'm sticking to Vimto."
I shook my head as I poured another. "It's an acquired taste. I don't suppose you've had access to much of the stuff, with your dad being a policeman and everything."
She giggled. "He'd kill me if he knew what we were doing." She leaned forward and kissed me deeply, adding when she pulled away, "I guess it's just part of the fun."
"Alice, I need to study."
"No you don't," I murmured against her neck. She groaned. "Bella, exams aren't for weeks."
"But I'm terrible at this," she complained. "And Miss will kill me if I don't do the work."
"It's Sixth Form, not High school. It's not like she can give you a detention."
"But I like Miss! I don't want her to hate me."
I pulled back. "More than me?" I pouted, and she bit her lip.
"Well... She is Irish..."
"You little minx!" I cried, taking her lips with my own.
She pulled away for long enough to gasp, "you love it."
"I can't believe you still have that up," I said, nodding to the picture of her I had drawn nearly two years before. It was blue-tacked to the wall opposite the door.
"Why? It's a good picture." She stepped closer to me and grasped my hands. "Anyway, what are you doing here?"
"Can't I come and see my girlfriend?" I teased.
"It's not that. It's just, usually you invite me to your house, because of my dad and everything-"
"I couldn't wait to do this."
"Do what?" She giggled. "Alice, I'm confused."
"Well..." I looked down at my hands, suddenly very nervous. Earlier I had been positive that she would say yes, but for some reason I now began to doubt that. We had always been quite public with our relationship, but maybe this was just too far... "I was wondering if you wanted to go to prom with me."
There was a moment of terrible silence before Bella erupted into laughter. I looked up at her with hurt eyes and she stopped immediately.
"Of course I do, you silly girl." She wrapped me in her arms. "I'd go to the edge of the world with you."
"You look breathtaking."
That familiar crimson blush rose on Bella's cheeks and she looked down at the ground. The dress she wore was indigo and swept the floor, with one shoulder. Her shoes were flat and plain black. Her mahogany hair was loose and curled about her exposed, pale shoulders. I worried that she might be too cold, but the July air was warm with only a slight breeze. I wore a similar suit to most of the male sixth-formers; black trousers and jacket with a white shirt and no tie.
"You look amazing," she whispered, and I lifted her chin with one finger and kissed her glossed lips gently.
"I have a present for you." I reached into the pocket of my jacket and pulled out a gold chain with a single pendant; a swan. It was hardly the most expensive necklace on Earth but it had cost me enough, and it immediately made me think of her when I saw it. She turned so I could place it on her, and when she turned back I was shocked to see tears glistening in her eyes.
"I love you," she said hoarsely, and I wrapped my arms tightly around her and kissed her blushing cheek.
"I love you."
As the final song of the evening began, I took Bella's hand and tugged her from her seat. "Come on."
It was a slow song and the couples were dancing close together, so I pulled her closer and pecked her on the lips before beginning to sway with her.
"Can you believe that we're never coming back here?" I asked, looking around the hall. A few of the teachers were holding tissues to their eyes.
"Not really," she admitted. "But I can't say I'll miss it." She nodded discretely towards a group of girls who were sneering at us. "Case in point."
"I agree," I murmured. "I'll do fine without this school."
"As long as I still have you," she murmured.
"Oh, Bella," I sighed happily, lifting her chin and kissing her gently in the middle of the room. "You'll always have me."
"I got in!" Bella cried, holding up the envelope. "I got in to UWE!"
"Congratulations, sweet girl!" I pulled her in for a kiss which she returned eagerly. "We're going to the same University!"
"We're going to be together forever," she reminded me. "We can get a flat for hardly anything a few miles away; I've been looking, and-"
"Should we get married?"
She froze. "What?"
"I mean, we could get a civil partnership when we both finish University, and-" I had to stop when her lips came down on mine.
"I want you to stay the night."
Bella shrugged. "Sure. I'll go get-"
I cut her off. "No. I don't mean I want you to sleep on my settee. I want you to stay the night. In my bed."
Her pink lips formed an 'o'. "Are you sure?"
I reached up to touch her cheek. "I've never been more sure of anything in my life." I kissed her lips briefly. "I need you tonight."
Shakily, she whispered, "okay."
I tugged at Bella's jumper and let out a sound close to a growl when I finally managed to pull it off, leaving her standing in her jeans and her tight white t-shirt. She raised her arms for me to take off the shirt and I pressed my lips to her neck hungrily, placing a series of open-mouthed kisses on her chest as I frantically fumbled to unhook her bra.
It seemed to take hours to get it off, but when I did I could hardly breathe for her beauty. My need turned to fascination and I stroked the area around her nipple with two fingers, making her shiver as goosebumps rose on her arms and the tiny pink nubs stiffened. I lowered my mouth to one and she gasped and moaned when I grazed it with my teeth.
I kissed her stomach and undid her jeans, letting them fall to the floor as I knelt in front of her. She braced her hands on my shoulders to step out of them and I drew a circle on her thigh with my tongue.
I practically tore off her knickers and we ended up on the floor as I kissed and licked and stroked every part of her body I could reach. When I awoke the next morning we were both slick with sweat and lying in my bed, our legs tangled together and our lips bruised and swollen.
"Are you staying tonight?"
Bella shook her head. "I can't. My dad wants to keep an eye on me this week so I need to be home for midnight." She downed her shot. In the time since we had first drank together she had grown fond of vodka, although it still only took a few shots to get her drunk. "Speaking of which, it's almost eleven."
I placed my hand on her arm. "You can stay a little longer, can't you?"
She bit her lip. "Fine," she conceded. "But only if we're quick."
"You're sure you'll be alright? It's raining pretty hard."
"I'll be fine," Bella smiled. "I didn't drink that much."
"I know, but-" She placed a finger on my lips.
"Alice, stop worrying. I'll be fine, honestly. I'll see you soon. I love you."
"I love you too." I kissed her on the cheek. "Always."
"Happy birthday, Bella," I murmured, placing the bouquet of blue and white flowers on the ground. "Twenty-one, key to the door and all that." I sighed and ran my hand over the rough headstone. "Do you remember your eighteenth birthday? We went out to that gay club in Manchester and that girl in the devil costume was flirting with you? Do you know how happy it made me when you grabbed onto me and kissed me in front of her?"
I glanced down at the waterlogged ground and winced. It had rained all of last night. I could hardly bear the rain any more. Ever since-
"Do you remember what I said to you, the night before-" I choked out a sob and tried again. "The night before you- left? I said I would always love you, and... And I meant it. It's been nearly three years, Bella, and I've never forgotten that."
A crack of thunder shook the darkening sky and the clouds slowly gathered. "Do you miss me?" I asked weakly. "Because I miss you. More than I ever thought a person could miss another person. That's not what it feels like. It's like- Like I've lost a lung. I can hardly breathe without you, and-"
The first raindrop landed on my nose and I barely felt it. "I dreamed about you last night. When I woke up and you weren't there I thought you'd just gone to the bathroom or something, and it took me nearly ten minutes to remember."
I whimpered. "I need to see you again. I can't- I refuse to believe that this is all I get with you. Two years? There has to be more than that. It just isn't fair!" My voice cracked and I winced. "So if you can hear me, Bella, I promise, I'll see you again. If you wait for me, I swear I will come to you one day. Just don't forget me, sweet girl, because I will never, ever forget you."
I sat in front of the headstone despite the mud, and when the tears began to stream down my face I told myself it was rain.