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Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight. No copyright infringement is intended.

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Chapter 30: Letter

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Mid-morning Sunday, before most teenagers would be awake, I'm on my back in my bed, Edward's warm body leaning over mine. My dad took Emmett and Jasper to the lake before the sun came up. Edward was invited, but he chose not to go, stating he had too many important things to accomplish today. One of those things seems to be discovering every square inch of my neck with his mouth. I love the fact that he's willing to wake up before the sun to be with me.

It feels nice to be this close, this alone, but my mind keeps drifting somewhere else, to the envelope that's taken residence on my dresser that mocks me from beneath the notebook I had slide over it. It takes up so much more space than its actual size.

Edward's mouth moves behind my ear, and I'm coherent enough to tilt my head to the side. I'm guilt-ridden as he tries to entice me, awaken my body in the way his already is. I grip his hips and close my eyes as his body shifts against mine. He tries to kiss me, but I'm too many beats behind.

When Edward speaks, I don't comprehend what he's said.

"What?" I ask, snapping out of my daze and looking him in the eye for probably the first time today.

He falls to his side between me and the wall. His hair is ruffled, and his black t-shirt is wrinkled. He cups the back of my neck and stops me when I try to apologize. "It's not going to go away unless you deal with it," he says.

I groan and bite my tongue to stop myself from saying that the same words could apply to him. He's miserable without Jasper, but he's still avoiding his calls. The box of Jasper's stuff is now sealed with several layers of tape, but the box hasn't left his room. I think he's waiting for Jasper to come for it, for Jasper to just show up and make Edward talk to him. Even though Edward is resisting, Jasper hasn't stopped trying. He calls Edward almost every day. He tries to stop him in the halls, but Edward keeps walking. Edward's not mad about Jasper's constant attempts to talk to him, though, and he doesn't seem annoyed. There's still hope for them. Edward's just not ready. He's avoiding Jasper, not straight up telling him to go away. As long as Jasper doesn't give up, eventually he'll wear him down and they'll figure it out.

I've brought it up a few times, but he just shrugs it off. No big deal, he always lies. But right now, this is about me and my issues. If I don't face the things I don't want to deal with, how can I ask Edward to?

"I've tried," I say. I haven't, but I've thought about trying. That's as far as I've gotten. "I need more time, but I'll get to it. It's not going anywhere. It's just paper. No big deal."

He gives me a look—a parental look—like he doesn't believe me. It's a fight I don't want to have. As flimsy and light as paper should be, this paper is a huge weight on me. I've dealt with this internal crisis long enough, and now that the internal struggles can't be contained, now that it's affecting my day to day, I have to do this.

Lifting up on my elbows and swinging my legs over the side of the bed to sit up, I say, "Fine. I'm ready. I just need to get this over with, but I need help."

"Okay," he says, taking my hand. "I'm right here."

I look at my dresser, the bright white corner of the envelope still poking out from under the book I placed on top of it. It shouldn't be so white, so clean. It should be tarnished and frayed. It should be torn into tiny pieces and burned.

I gasp at my thoughts, at the strong desire to destroy the letter and never have to know what it says. "Can you just read it to me?" I ask.

He lets out a heavy breath. "I don't know if that's a good idea. It seems like a big deal. You should read it yourself."

I feel like my feet have melted into the floor. There's no way I'm reading it, not today or any other. "No, I don't think so. I'll just rip it up."

He quirks up his brow, but his voice is soft. "Are you sure?"

"Positive," I say without a doubt. I don't see this happening any other way.

He grabs the envelope from its not-so-hidden hiding spot and tears it open, paying no mind to being careful. I don't care about the envelope, but the rush grates my nerves. What's in that envelope could change my life forever or the contents could be as insignificant as the simple envelope that holds them.

His weight shifts the bed as he sits down. "There's a picture of—"

I clap my hands over my eyes. "Please, don't show me."

"Okay, do you want me to just read it?"

"No, um…what's the greeting?" I ask, hoping to ease into what it says, figure out the tone before I decide if I can go through with it.

"There isn't one."

"No Dear Bella or anything like that?"

He checks the front and back of both pieces of paper in his hands. "No."

That's strange, I decide, already suspicious of the intent and trying to find any reason to change my mind about reading it. "Okay, what's the date?"

He gives me a small smile. "No date."

"Just read the first sentence then. Nothing else."

"Right." He chuckles, but it's humorless.

I'm acting crazy. I wonder what he thinks of me now, but he's still here, so I've yet to scare him off.

"Where do I begin?" he asks and pushes a hand through his hair, looking at the letter, but not reading it to me.

"Just the beginning," I say. "Just the first line if it's not a sentence. There is a first line, isn't there? She didn't skip that too?"

"That is the first sentence. 'Where do I begin?'"

"Oh." I nod, understanding. "Well, I guess I could hear another sentence then."

"'After so many years, what can I say?'"

I scoff. "Okay, never mind this. It's a pointless letter. I'm over it." I push my hands out in front of me. "Just…put it away."

"Bella?" He takes my hand and kisses my fingertips. "You're kidding, right?"

I breathe in and out. I wasn't kidding, but when I calm down, I ask, "Can you just give me the gist of it? Maybe I'll read it later if I kinda know what it says."

"Okay," he says as he lets go of my hand. He reads in his head, and the longer he reads without saying anything, the more I worry.

"So?" I ask.

He glances at me and then back to the pages. "She lives in Arizona now," he says then reads some more to himself. "She's getting married. Things are good, but she misses you." He turns the first page over and reads. "She wants you to go there. They have an extra room. 'It's already yours,'" he says, reading from the letter now. "'I picked this house because of the window seat in the bedroom. What little girl wouldn't want a window seat? I sit in there sometimes and think about you, and I think, I'm not the one who should be sitting here. It should be you.'"

"That's enough," I say before he can read anymore. "I don't care about window seats. Who would?"

He reads the rest and folds the letter. "That's basically the end. She repeats herself a lot and talks about their wedding plans. She asks one more time for you to come out there." He leaves the letter on the bed and pulls me to him. "Are you okay?"

I shake my head against his shoulder. "She doesn't get to get married and play mom. I grew up, and she doesn't even know that."

Reading the letter should be closure. I should be relieved that I know what it says instead of it creating more problems to deal with.

Edward takes a lock of my hair between his fingers and runs his hand along the length of it. "Do you want to see her?"

"I don't know." I shrug against him, wishing the answer were a straight no. "I can't even comprehend that it's an option. You know, I know it's crazy, but when I was younger, I used to pretend she died, that I was in mourning, and that's why people around town looked at me the way they did. I knew she didn't, and it's horrible, but somehow I thought it would be easier to accept.

"When she randomly sends me postcards or this letter, it ruins that. It's a reminder that she did this on purpose, that she could have come back whenever she wanted to, but she never wanted to. Even with this letter, she still doesn't want to come back for me." I feel everything breaking down around me, like the dream with unsteady walls. I'm not outwardly crying; I manage to hold that all in. I knew this would happen with the letter, the letter that should have never been read.

"Maybe she's tried. Maybe there's more to it all than what she wrote," Edward says, his fingers moving along the hem of my sleeve.

"It doesn't matter because she's not here, and I don't think she ever really was."

He puts the letter back under the book like he knows how its presence affects me, even more so now that I know some of what it says. "So what's next?" he asks. "Do you want to go somewhere?"

"No." I lick my lips and look up at him. "I want to go back to ten minutes ago. Do you think we can make that happen?"

His face scrunches in confusion before realization dawns. He leans toward me, and after a nip to my neck, he says, "I think so."

I pull my shirt off and unclasp my bra behind me. Edward doesn't question me when I yank his shirt up. He just takes it off and lies beside me when I pull him down. With our chests pressed together, our skin rubbing, I relish the closeness. It's more about our connection than sexuality even as we kiss, his hands moving all over me. It's a buzz that I can't imagine exists anywhere else but with friction of our skin.

Even when things are hard, my life is good. I kiss his lips and press my forehead against his. I want this closeness and more—as close as we can physically get—maybe not today, but soon.

His fingers brush along the small of my back. As I look at my safety net, emotions fill my heart, but words catch in my throat. Someday they might come easier, fall out with nothing to hold them back, but not today, when they are tainted by unfulfilling words from my mother that I wish I'd never heard.

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Late at night, long after everyone else is asleep, I grab the letter off my dresser and sneak into the bathroom, locking the door behind me. I don't know why I came in here, but even though it's closer to my dad's and Emmett's rooms, it feels more private. Maybe it's just less personal than my bedroom.

I don't turn on the light. I use the light from my phone to read my mom's handwriting.

Where do I begin? After so many years, what can I say?

I glare at the words Edward already read to me and mentally give her an answer. Where letters should start: Dear Bella and the date.

I turn it over the second page to check how she signed it, expecting it to have gone unsigned. It's not, though. Her signature is there, big and loopy.

Thinking of you always, Mom.

"Lies," I say out loud, but under my breath.

Although I find the letter and everything it says repulsive, even though I could go on and on about how little the letter means to me, I turn it over, adjust the pages, and I read every last word.

She rambles and doesn't complete thoughts, but as I read the letter, I learn more about my mother than all of my few memories and postcards combined. All this time I thought my mother left because one day she changed her mind, but the way she bounces around in her writing, all I can think is, my mother is a flake.

I look at the picture of her and her fiancé. His facial hair isn't much different than my dad's. Even though this guy is slender and looks at least ten years younger than my dad, I don't know what my mom sees in him. This guy has nothing on my dad. I look at my mother's face, but I don't study it long. She's pure happiness, not an ounce of regret in her eyes. I don't know what I expected or what I hoped to see, but this isn't the face of a mother who misses me.

I know I won't be writing her back. As I stand, annoyance turns to anger, and I open the drawer under the sink and grab a book of matches, only to find it empty save for the torn stubs of where they used to be.

I curse the fact that no one in this house smokes and that Emmett isn't a pyro before I go back to my room. The silence of the house is the same as when I left my room in the first place, but this time I'm not careful. I'm not sneaking around anymore.

I fling the letter and photo under my bed with the rest of the pit of ten years of vague communication, the rest still in a neatly bound book. From now on, anything I get will be scattered under there, and I'm never taking it out again.

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A/N

Thanks so much for continuing to read. Your reviews make me smile.

So much thanks to dazzled eyes22 and Teresa for pre-reading and to EdwardsMate4ever and ElleCC for their beta work.

I love to hear from you. Please review.

~Melissa