Asunder - People always cry at her future in tatters and her relationship with Edward strained, Bella can't seem to stop. E/B. AH
For ol2bob and chierian9el who generously donated to FGB, gave me a challenging prompt and were kind and patient about it taking so long.
There's going to be six chapters to this, so expect daily updates for the next few days.
Un-beta'd so please forgive any mistakes. Also, there's a few mentions of colleges, applications etc in this story. They're probably not accurate so let's just let that slide. Thanks!
"She was afraid of these things that made her suddenly wonder who she was, and what she was going to be in the world, and why she was standing at that minute, seeing a light, or listening, or staring up into the sky: alone." - The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
I drove to Olympia with a bucket of fried chicken on the passenger seat, the country and western station on the radio and mascara tears streaked all down my face. Attending Edward's brother's wedding was basically the last thing in the world I wanted to do (hibernating under my Snuggie being the first thing I wanted to do) and I was already worried about how I would get through the weekend. I told myself that seeing Edward's face and feeling his arms around me would make all the difference and I would suddenly feel better about not being accepted into the grad school programme that was just perfect for me.
I hadn't told him yet. I hadn't told anyone about receiving the rejection email. I wished it had been a letter. I could have casually left it around until someone read it and been saved from saying the words. Or I could have torn it up in one of those pointless yet cathartic fits of rage. All I had was a stupid, taunting email and I couldn't very well go smashing up a phone or a computer. Sending it to the trash bin wasn't exactly satisfying.
The road to Edward's parents house was long and flanked by perfectly manicured lawns. The first time I came here, I felt like I was stepping onto a movie set. Several years and many visits later, I was still a little awed by the obvious affluence all around. I parked my noisy truck in front of the house, wiped my hands and face with a dried up pack of Wet Ones and sent a text to Edward to let him know I was outside.
I wasn't always so shy around here but I wanted to break the bad news to him alone. I imagined he'd take one look at me and know I was upset and tell me that it didn't matter if we weren't so near each other after college, we'd still make the relationship work.
There was a knock on my window and to my extreme disappointment, it wasn't Edward but some stranger in an orange vest. I struggled to wind down the window and this guy's face got stonier by the second.
"You can't park here," he said.
"Catering staff need to leave their cars out back, behind the barn."
"I'm not here to work," I explained, cheeks burning. "I'm a guest."
"My mistake," the man said. At least he had the decency to look sheepish. My phone rang and he scuttled away.
"Edward!" I answered, a little breathless.
"What's taking you so long?" He sounded irritated.
"I'm outside. Will you come out to me?"
"You're here? Come in, then."
"I kind of wanted to see you on your own for a minute first."
"I'm helping Em with something. Just come in. We're in the kitchen." He disconnected before I could say anything else so I had no choice but to gather up my stuff and struggle into the house by myself.
No matter how many times I entered the Cullen's marble foyer, the opulence still stunned me a little bit. I shuffled over flooring worth more than my college education, the dusty ends of my frayed jeans trailing behind me.
The kitchen was a flurry of activity. Esme was on the phone, furiously flipping through a clipboard. There were catering staff in the corner, polishing glasses. Emmett and Edward were by the island, putting together some sort of picture frame. I stood by the archway, a little awkward that no-one had seen me yet and not knowing how to catch their attention.
I cleared my throat and Edward finally looked up. His hurried over to me and my heart lifted just a little.
"Hey," he said, in that casual way of his, and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. He lingered, smelling my hair and I leaned into him. "You kind of smell like grease."
It stung; the flippancy of his remark and I pulled away .
"You know how musty the truck can get," I mumbled, bringing my hair to my nose to confirm what he said. He wasn't wrong but that's what happens when you work in a low budget restaurant (and drive for hours with only a bucket of chicken for company.) I wanted to snap at him for wounding my ego like that but Esme and Emmett came over to greet me and Edward drifted back to whatever he was working on.
"How are you, Bella? You don't look too well?" Esme asked, full of her typical motherly concern.
"Just tired from the drive," I lied, internally pleading for Edward to ask me. How could he not notice what a wreck I was?
"It's a shame you couldn't come down with Edward. I always find it much easier to be a passenger."
"My manager wouldn't let me off until today," I explained. In fact, I had to beg and plead and work double shifts all week for him to let me off at all.
"We're just glad you're here now. It's such a wonderful time for the family. With Emmett's wedding and Edward's acceptance into Columbia, we've been on cloud nine all week. Did you hear back from NYU, yet?"
Everyone looked at me expectantly and I shook my head. "Not yet."
"Any day now, dear." Esme patted my hand and I willed the ground to open and swallow me whole.
"Where should I leave my bags?" I asked, desperate to change the topic.
"You're in Edward's room this time, dear. I know we usually don't have you two sharing but we're at maximum occupancy so we'll make an exception. Tanya's here, you see, and we've had to put her in your usual guest room room and Carlisle's aunt has come over from London and she can't manage stairs too well. But we're trusting you two to respect-"
"Mom." Edward interjected, firmly, despite the circles of pink on his cheeks. "I think you're wanted out by the marquee."
Esme floated off, perfectly ironed pleats swishing around her legs, and Edward took my bags to show me upstairs.
His room had been the scene of many the late night rendezvous. I knew the way.
The navy duvet and baseball pendants that were so him never failed to bring a smile to my lips. He closed the door behind him and I stood on my tiptoes for a kiss. He returned it in that careful way of his, lips gentle against mine.
"Hey," I whispered, inclining my head to the side. I wanted to get a good look at him, something that was ordinarily guaranteed to cheer me up.
"Hey,yourself," He replied, taking my hands in his.
"Glad to see my grease-smell didn't put you off."
His face dropped. "I didn't mean anything by that."
"I know, but did you have to say it? It's hardly a nice greeting to give your girlfriend."
"C'mon, Bella. You're not the kind of girl who cares about that kind of thing. "
"I'm the kind of girl who wants to be told she smells like a deep fat fryer?"
"I'm sorry," he said, letting go of my hands. "I didn't mean to be rude."
"It's a good thing you're so easy to forgive." I said, pressing my body against his and pulling his face next to mine of another kiss.
Since I wasn't ready or able to deal with my problems, I decided the next best thing was to forget them. If I couldn't have Edward's re-assurance, I wanted his closeness and the security I felt in his arms.
I did everything we always did. I held him close, one hand at his neck and the other tangled in his hair. His lips were as soft as ever and the familiar scent of the aftershave i had gotten him for Christmas floated all around me. He kissed me back, just the right pressure, but his body was still. I was the one who couldn't get comfortable; I wanted my body to fit better to his. When my breathing quickened and my mouth went to his neck, Edward gently pulled away.
"I think this is the kind of thing my mom doesn't want us to do in here."
"Kissing?" I raised my eyebrows. Esme was old-fashioned, not a total prude. " She'll never know."
I took a step closer. He took one back.
"I know you, Bella Swan. And you just gave me the kind of kiss that wouldn't stay kissing for long." He was right. I was looking for a little bit of comfort and with a boyfriend as irresistible as Edward, it was hardly unreasonable to think I would want to be with him. "Besides, we don't have long before the rehearsal dinner and Emmett still needs help with his collage. You should probably start getting ready; it's a pretty fancy restaurant."
"Are you insinuating that I look rough?" I asked, half-joking to hide the pain of being rebuffed.
"Oh, Bella," he said from the doorway. "You always look lovely to me."
All I heard was his lack of denial.
A glance in the mirror confirmed it, though. I looked a mess. My ponytail was matted, my face was smeared with worn-off make-up, my clothes were wrinkled and Mount Vesuvius was about to erupt on my chin. It wasn't any wonder Edward didn't want to be with me like that, I thought, staring mournfully at my reflection.
I peeled off my clothes and stepped into his fancy shower. The hot water eased my tension and washed away the dirt of the day and I wondered if I'd ever find the right time to tell Edward about my rejection. I couldn't do it now; it would put a total dampener on the whole wedding. His family were so proud of him. Edward would be going to the school his father had dreamed of, the school he had pushed Edward towards and put aside his hard-earned money his whole life to pay for.
Everyone was so excited for his future; this new chapter of his life about to start under the bright lights of New York City. I was meant to be there too, at his side in a crummy apartment and drinking wine on our days off. But the road was suddenly closed for me and my life was going to be as it always was – working hard for no reward and struggling just to get by.
How would I ever find the words that would send all our plans tumbling down? I felt like if I didn't tell Edward, he might not even notice I was being left behind and that was most frightening thing of all.
Thank you for reading! Next chapter will be up roughly the same time tomorrow.
For anyone who may be interested, I posted a one-shot yesterday - An AU fic called Days of Lead. I'd love for you to check it out.