Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yule-tide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away
Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more
Someday soon, we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, well have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
Here We Are, As In Olden Days
December 2003 - Age 18
She heard the music change downstairs. Another Christmas song was turned up way too loud. Even still, a smile spread wide on her face. Muffled voices shouted their approval of the song choice and she heard it get louder. Ms Ella Fitzgerald at her best.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Let your heart be light…
Bella adjusted her position on the cold, wooden floor of the attic in her house. Her back was pressed against stacked boxes filled with her childhood. Across the room, most of the boxes had been cleared for Charlie's abandoned attic-improvement project. Unused, wooded beams and nails were strewed across the floor. She smiled to herself as she imagined her father up here banging hammers and cursing. Charlie was definitely a man's man, but a carpenter he was not.
The light shining through the arched, paned window was a steely gray, as it always was this time of year in Forks. Outside, the blanket of fresh snow was a blinding white, but the forecast of heavy rain was going to wash it away in a matter of hours.
A muted buzzing made her jump and she quickly pulled her phone out of her back pocket. She had a new text.
Where are you?
Bella smiled and typed her response. Attic. Bring sustenance.
She heard his duck feet clomping down the hallway below in a matter of moments. The familiar creaking sound of the stairs being pulled from the ceiling made her shift her position so she could see out of her hiding place to where he would be crawling through the floor.
Two hands reached through the opening first, and set two red, plastic cups down before the rest of him followed. Edward Cullen's mop of bronze hair was especially messy today. Bella smiled at the sight of her oldest friend. Her best friend. He lifted the glasses from the floor and looked around, eyes squinted in the semi darkness.
"Bells?" he asked softly. His voice was always soft. Even when he was just a kid.
"I'm here," she answered, craning her neck so he could see her around the boxes.
He smirked and walked over, gesturing to the mess on the other side of the room. "What he hell was your dad doing up here?"
She shrugged and took the drink he offered her. "Building his man-cave."
Edward laughed and leaned against the boxes to slide down next to her. Something inside one of them clattered and sounded broken. He shot her an apologetic grimace before sinking the rest of the way to the floor.
That seemed very ungraceful for a Cullen.
"All right. How much bourbon did Emmett put in the eggnog?" She sniffed her cup tentatively.
Edward grinned widely at her and now that he was close she could see the flush in his cheeks. "Lots."
They both laughed and she shifted closer to him so their arms were touching. This wasn't the first time they'd hidden in the attic together. In fact he'd probably known she was up here all along. There wasn't anywhere else to hide in her dad's old house.
"What are you doing up here?" he asked, taking a long sip of his drink. She knew he would ask. He always asked.
She always answered. Eventually. "Hiding."
"Right. I thought maybe you were setting up the shadow puppet show or something."
That earned a laugh. "We haven't done that since like 1996!"
Edward shrugged this time. "It's never too late for a reunion tour." He prodded her with his elbow. "Bella, what's going on?"
She let out a big sigh. They'd been apart since the start of the school year and yet he still knew how to crack her. "I know this is the fifth Christmas without her but sometimes it just hits me. I feel like I owe it to Mom to step away and think about her."
His arm was up and over her head before she was done speaking. It settled comfortably around her small frame and she let her head rest against the crook of his shoulder. His voice was a familiar rumble in her ear. "I think it's good that you do that. Step away. You should." Her mother, Renee, had passed away nearly six years ago but sometimes Christmas brought on more memories than she could handle. Edward knew this and he'd been there to comfort her for all five years.
"Did anyone notice?" she asked, eyeing her untouched cup of eggnog and discarding it on the floor beside her.
Edward took another drink. "Alice was setting up a game or something. They seemed kind of busy."
She smiled and leaned into his arm. "How long have our families been doing this?"
He chuckled. "The Cullen-Swan Christmas Shindig? Jesus, I don't know. Nine, ten years?"
"Something like that."
"Remember when we were all kids and your mom would put out a plate of cookies to keep us busy?" Edward asked with a laugh.
Bella snorted. "Yeah and your parents would nearly have coronaries because they were store-bought and chock full of preservatives and crap."
"And then we'd be running around hyper all night like minions."
"Until my dad would put on Rudolph or something."
They sighed in tandem and he pulled her more firmly against him. "Good Christmas memories."
"Yeah," she agreed. Suddenly the eggnog was needed and she pulled away to reach for it. Edward released her from his embrace and settled back against the boxes of their hideaway.
He was right. There was LOTS of bourbon. "Holy crap," Bella hissed, swallowing thickly and setting the cup back down. "You weren't kidding."
Edward looked over at her and laughed, before offering his arm to her.
He pointed at his own upper lip. "You've got shit on your face."
Bella rolled her eyes and made a show of wiping her face all over the worn, flannel of Edward's shirt. Eventually she stopped and kept her face pressed to his arm, inhaling the scent over her favorite person deep into her lungs. She missed him when he was gone.
"Flannel shirt, Edward? Really?" she teased when she pulled away. "I'd expect something more formal from a Harvard student."
He rolled his eyes and ran a hand through his messy hair. "Yeah, yeah."
"Your hair's a mess too. Are you sure you live in a dorm and not the back alley?"
He looked over at her and smirked. "You know, not all of us can look beautiful on a moments notice."
That made her heart stutter. Why did he say things like that? Moments like these blurred the delicate line their friendship had endured for most of their lives.
He was wrong, anyway. Edward was always beautiful.
"Um," he mumbled, then took another drink of his eggnog. "You know what I mean."
No, she didn't, but whatever. She was happy he was here, that's all she knew. She didn't realize how much she missed him all year until he came home for stuff like this. He was all the way across the country exercising his brain cells, and she was slowly finding her way through junior college trying to figure things out.
He never judged her though, and he never would. That much she was sure of.
"You're thinking about stuff again," he said, and she looked up from the floorboards to meet his familiar green eyes. The dimple at the corner of his mouth caught her eye. "We gatta get you out of your head, Bells," he said, tugging on a long strand of her hair that had fallen over her shoulder.
"It's Christmas and I'm here. Let's talk about some stuff."
Now it was her turn to smirk. "So Alice brought Jasper, where's yours?"
"Your whoever. Weren't you seeing someone?"
He groaned. "Not really."
"But there was someone?"
He looked at his empty glass grumpily and she handed him her half empty one.
"There was, wasn't there?" she asked again, grinning as he downed her eggnog.
"I thought this was supposed to get you out of your head not into mine."
She raised her eyebrows.
"Yes, fine. Jesus. Her name was Tanya. It wasn't anything serious though."
Bella snorted indignantly. That was a lie. Edward always did serious. He was too polite not to.
"So why isn't she here?"
"We're not seeing each other anymore, obviously." He sounded agitated.
"Well she's an idiot," Bella said, before she could stop herself.
Edward's eyes flashed to hers. "She called me an idiot."
He laughed through his nose and shook his head. "She saw the last email I sent you."
Bella thought back. That email had made her day but it wasn't anything unusual, for them. "What's wrong with that email?"
He was still smiling a secret smile. "Nothing, I guess. Anyway whatever. New subject."
They heard the music downstairs shift again. This time it was Mariah Carrey and they both groaned together. Alice's shrill, squeals of happiness followed the song change.
"Your parents are probably dancing right now," Bella said with a giggle.
"They're probably being disgusting under the mistletoe somewhere," he countered.
"We don't have mistletoe."
He looked back at her with that secret smile again. "That's a lie."
"No it's not. I've never seen an ounce of that stuff in this house."
Edward reached into his pocket and pulled out a shiny, plastic spring of mistletoe. "You're wrong."
Bella's eyes widened and she snatched it out of his hands. "Hey! This is from that candle thing my mom used to put out in the entryway. I can't believe you pulled this off of it!"
He snatched it back. "I can put it back."
"Wait, why do you even have it?"
Edward reached up and placed the stolen, plastic branch on the edge of one of the boxes between them. It balanced precariously on the edge, over their heads.
Her eyes widened. "What?"
Bella's eyebrows shot up to her hairline. "What do you mean, no?"
"You're not thinking about this. I already thought about this. A lot. Just hold still."
Thought about what? She lifted her hands to push him away but he caught them and held her fingers tightly within his own. "Bella, I swear to God if you don't stand still I'm not putting that branch back where I found it."
Her mouth dropped open but she was smiling. His hands were warm and familiar and…Edward's. What was happening?
"Now hold still," he repeated, leaning close. It was no secret that she'd spent plenty of time looking at his face in the eleven years they'd known each other. She'd had lots of thoughts about the fullness of his lips and the freckles on his cheeks. What kind of self-respecting female would she be if she hadn't?
This was different though. This time the thrill in the pit of her stomach made it feel like a good idea.
He was close. Really close. Warning bells were going off in her head but she wasn't sure if she should ignore them.
"This can be your Christmas present," he murmured, grinning.
She clucked her tongue in disapproval. "That's so rude."
He shushed her once before leaning forward and kissing her on the lips.
It was weird and all kinds of wrong for their friendship but it was perfect.
He was perfect. He always had been. But this was perfect in a new way – a way she hadn't expected. His lips had been perfect since they day they met, but now they were against hers and they were more amazing than she imagined. So soft, and warm, and gentle as he pulled away to kiss her top lip. Then her bottom. Then both again, harder this time.
Bella didn't let him pull away, and he didn't try. One of his hands slid over the skin on her cheek and she reached to do the same.
Suddenly she didn't mind if the line was blurred.
She wanted it to be blurred all afternoon.
Ho ho ho! Meeeeerry Christmas! I'm back! For the holidays!
As many of you may remember, Mistletoeward has been around a while ago, and I had promised to complete him. Over various writing fits through the year, I've managed to cobble up enough content to finally give him the fic he deserves just in time for the holidays. I hope you'll read through Bella and Mistletoeward's brief history with me. It'll be mostly fluff...but a little angst. Just a little.
So happy to see you!