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Saturday, October 3, 2009
The sky is still dark by the time I leave work.
I pull my phone out of my pocket and turn it on as I walk down the hill to where I always park. For a split second, panic washes over me when I don't see my car in the parking lot. And then I spot Bella's truck and realize I'm an idiot.
I climb into the cab and start the engine, letting it run as I check my text messages.
All three are from Jasper.
Alice hates me the world hates me i hate me
wuts that taco place we ate at last week
txtmeback or i'll piss in ur bed
I can't find the energy to question what the hell he's going on about, but if he pissed in my bed, I'm putting an ad out for a new roommate. One that doesn't listen to DMB or wear fanny packs.
I toss my phone beside me on the seat, then drum my fingers on the steering wheel as I decide what to do now.
I could go home. Sleep. But I have Bella's truck, which I'm sure she'll need at some point today. And if I'm being honest, the skeptical—maybe even a little jealous—side of me wants to make sure she's where she said she'd be.
I drive to Angela's in a daze. I park along the curb in front of her house and jump out of the truck, not surprised to see the yard is a wreck. There are empty beer cans littering the grass and a garden hose lying in the driveway. The garage is open, and as I walk closer, I can see someone's sleeping on the pool table.
The front door is locked when I try to open it. I knock until some girl, who I'm pretty sure is one of Angela's roommates, answers the door.
"Fucking what?" she asks, eyes half open.
I should apologize for dropping by so early, but I don't.
"Is Bella here?"
She yawns. "Who?"
This is pointless. "Can I come in?" I ask.
She lets me in, shutting the door behind me before shuffling down the hall. She leaves me standing here, no questions asked.
I head into the living room, careful not to step on the people sleeping on the floor. One guy's sitting up against the wall, head dropped and eyes closed. And Bella's lying on the couch on her stomach, the side of her face pressed into a pillow. She's not covered by a blanket. Her dress is kind of bunched up around her waist, and I can see the curve of her ass. I'm torn between covering her and staring a little longer.
I sit on the end of couch, next to Bella's feet. I gently grab her calf, running my hand up the back of her thigh. My thumb grazes just below her ass. She shifts when I pull her dress down a little, but doesn't wake up.
"Bella," I whisper, giving her a small shake.
She release a soft groan. I lightly run my fingers up and down her back until she opens her eyes.
Her voice is hoarse when she asks, "What are you doing here?"
"I figured you'd need your truck."
"Oh yeah. Thanks." With a yawn, she moves to lie on her back. Her eyes close, and she reaches blindly until she finds my arm, tugging on my sleeve. "I'm going to die if I don't go to sleep."
"Me too." I tangle my fingers in her hair, rubbing small circles against her temple with my thumb. "Come home with me."
"Okay. Carry me."
My laugh is weak. "Bella."
"I'm so tired," she whines as I move to stand.
"You're tired? I haven't even slept yet."
She slowly sits up. Her hair is a fucking mess and the strap of her dress is hanging off her sunburned shoulder. I grin at her sleepy face.
"You're a wreck," I say, grabbing her boots from the floor and handing them to her. She pulls them on with a scowl.
"Rude," she croaks.
The sun's starting to rise as I drive to my place. She's lying back against the bench seat, her boots on the floorboard and her feet in my lap. I keep glancing over, expecting to find her asleep. But her eyes are always open, either staring at the ceiling or watching me.
"I listened to the show for a bit. Good job on the traffic reports," she teases.
"You listened?" My hours are so shitty, it's always weird hearing that people I know sometimes hear me on the radio.
"Angela turned on the radio around three. She tried calling in, but kept dialing the number wrong. She wanted you to play Taylor Swift."
I keep one hand on the wheel, the other on her foot. She squirms under my touch. I smile at her, then look back at the road.
"How was the rest of the night?"
"It was good," she says vaguely.
I want to ask her more. Like if she hung out with Ben. If they won beer pong. If he kissed her. Made her laugh. But I'm too tired, so I keep my mouth shut.
I glance in the rearview mirror as I merge onto the highway.
Her foot taps against my hand. "Let's go to my place instead."
"I want to sleep in a real bed, as opposed to your shitty mattress on the floor."
"Hey," I scold. "That's only because Jasper was jumping on my bed and broke the frame. I refuse to buy a new one until he gives me the money for it."
She scoffs. "You know that's never going to happen."
We fall into a comfortable silence for the rest of the drive.
I park the truck, then groggily following her into the apartment. It's quiet and dark inside. Her roommate, Rose, spends most of her time at her boyfriend's place. I don't know why we don't hang out here more. It's nicer, doesn't smell like stale beer, and Jasper's never here.
I follow her into her room. She keeps the light off as she strips out of her clothes, only pulling on a tiny pair of boyshorts, no shirt. I stare at her chest as I unbutton my jeans and pull my shirt over my head, pinching her side before she disappears into the bathroom.
I climb under her blanket and wait for her. She slides in next to me. I roll onto my side so we're facing each other. We both yawn at the same time, which makes us laugh.
My arm rests over her hip. She scoots closer, her tits pressed against my chest and her head tucked beneath my chin. It's easy and comfortable and still so new, but feels familiar.
I like being with her like this.
"Are you still mad at me?" I mumble.
"You wouldn't be here right now if I were," she whispers back.
I fall asleep then, and don't wake up until Bella forces me out of bed because she's hungry. She's already dressed and ready to go, so I don't have a chance to convince her to stay in bed, which I'm not too happy about.
We stop by my place first so I can take a quick shower and change clothes. Jasper's not home, which I'm thankful for. I don't feel like listening to his shit right now.
We take my car to Mugshots and sit in our usual booth. We order a pitcher of PBR, and the two dollar cheeseburgers. They're not that good, but they're cheap. We eat fast so we can make the Grizzly Bear show at one.
Bella sits back against the booth and complains, "I'm too full. Don't let me put anything else in my mouth."
"I'm going to refrain from making any obvious jokes," I say, stealing her fries. "Too easy."
"How kind of you," she laughs, tearing apart her napkin. "Things got kind of out of control last night at Angela's."
I chew slowly. "I thought you were over that."
"What?" Her eyebrows raise. "Oh. I'm not talking about our fight," she laughs. "I meant the party. The cops showed up after you left."
"Yeah. Angela's not really doing a big thing today. I think just a few of us are going over after the festival to wind down, if you want to hang out before you go to work."
"Will Ben be there again?" I have to ask.
"I doubt it."
"Will it be weird if he is?"
"I don't know." I watch as she nervously fidgets with the strap of her bra, tucking it under the material of her tank top. "But I want to hang out with you."
I smirk at her. "I always want to hang out with you. Ready to go?" I ask, pulling out my wallet and tossing a few bills on the table. She gives me a look. "What?"
"It's my turn to pay," she points out.
I reach for my money before she can grab it, and secure half of it under my plate. "It's not a big deal. Seriously. The check wasn't even twenty bucks."
"I'll buy beer at ACL," she mutters, sipping her water as I stand up, stretching.
I look around the bar. There are more people here than usual, especially for this hour. A couple stumble out of the photo booth, grabbing their strip of photos before walking away.
"Hey. You wanna go take a few pictures?" I ask, nodding toward the booth.
"What?" Her nose scrunches, but she's smiling. "No. You hate that thing."
I scoff. "I never said that."
"Edward. You say that like, every time we're here."
"Stop being difficult. You're always trying to get me to go in there. "
She rolls her eyes as I grab her hand, pulling her behind me as we walk across the bar.
"This is stupid," she insists.
"No it's not. You love it."
I push the curtain aside, sitting my ass down on the hard seat. There's not room for both of us, so I pull her into my lap.
"How does my hair look?" I joke.
She turns her head toward me, laughing. Her breath is on my face and her fingers are in my hair as she messes it up. I don't have to lean in too far to press my lips to hers. And then we're kissing. It's too quick, though, with her ending the kiss as I try to deepen it. And I don't know how she does that. I don't think I could be the first one to willingly pull away from her mid-kiss.
"So, it takes four photos," she reads off. "We need a dollar."
"Shit. My wallet. I'm sitting on it," I realize.
"No, no, no. Here." She reaches over and pulls her wallet out of her bag, slipping quarters into the slot.
"Ready?" I ask, giving her a small shake.
Our image appears on the screen in front of us.
We stare at it, unsure of what to do. I watch her on the screen as she talks.
"Wait, what face should we make?" she asks.
Before she can finish her sentence, it takes our photo.
"Oh, shit," I laugh, caught off guard.
Her arm wraps around my neck, and she faces me, laughing.
It takes our photo again.
I lean in to kiss her.
"One more," she breathes out. "Make a funny face."
I grin at her as she sticks out her tongue.
The last photo is taken.
I give her thigh a light slap, and she pushes the curtain out of the way as she steps out.
"Wasn't that fun?" she asks, looking up at me as we wait for our photos to print.
I shrug, playing it off. "Eh."
"Oh, shut up. It was your idea!"
I chuckle, pulling her against my side.
The strip of photos dispense. We laugh at the first photo of us both staring blankly at the camera.
"We look like morons," I comment.
"You're not even making a funny face," she says, pointing to the last picture. "And I'm just sitting there looking like an idiot."
My eyes focus on our black and white faces. Her head is tilted to the side, eyes slightly crossed as she sticks out her tongue.
And I'm just sitting there staring at her.
I park my car at Angela's, but we don't bother going inside. I really want to smoke, especially since I'm saving the one joint I brought with us for Ghostland Observatory later. But if we go in, then we might be stuck with whoever is in there for the rest of the day, and I'm selfish. I like when it's just Bella and me.
We walk to the festival, and it's just after noon when we're finally inside the park. The line to get in doesn't take nearly as long today, especially without Jasper and his fanny pack.
I shake my head when Bella pays for our beer, but for whatever reason, it's a thing to her now. So I don't stop her. I kiss her shoulder instead and thank her.
We head over to the stage to wait for Grizzly Bear to play. The sun isn't as intense today, which is nice. We don't walk past the area where people are lounging in chairs. We find a spot and sit in the grass, too lazy to fight our way through the crowd.
Bella lies back against the grass, bending her knees. I stare at her legs. Those tiny shorts. The way her back slightly arches when she yawns. I stifle a groan. Her head lolls to the side, eyes hidden behind glasses. But I know she's looking at me.
"What?" she asks.
I shake my head, drinking my beer instead of answering her. She doesn't need to know the affect she has on me.
"We should see Bon Iver later," she suggests, moving to sit up.
"They're overrated," I reply, bored. "The worship Justin Vernon receives from Pitchfork and other hipster music blogs is ridiculous."
"You don't understand his music. Admit it. It's okay, Edward."
"What's there to understand? His songs are an incoherent mess." I don't really care either way for Bon Iver, but I like seeing Bella get worked up. It's cute and entertaining the way she breathes through her nose, shoves her glasses on top of her head, and narrows her eyes at me.
"He's a genius. His music evokes emotion in me that I didn't realize I possessed."
I grin. "That's deep. Are you drunk?"
She flips me off. Which means she's drunk.
We end up seeing Bon Iver, anyway. Because Bella wants to.
More beer is consumed. We catch the last twenty minutes of The Decemberists, then grab some food before heading over to Ghostland, whose show is by far one of the best performances I've seen live. We smoke the joint, not sharing with anyone around us this time. We kiss a few times, too, and don't get interrupted by Jasper.
We lazily walk back to Angela's when the festival ends. It's almost ten by the time we're heading into the house. There aren't many people here, which is a good thing. And there's no mention of Ben coming around, which is an even better thing.
Jasper and Garrett show up about twenty minutes later. Jasper has tears in his eyes as he recalls the DMB experience he had tonight. I hide in the kitchen so I won't have to endure listening to him, and Bella and Angela follow me.
A few minutes later some guy I don't know walks into the kitchen. He has dark blonde hair and a tattoo on his forearm. He doesn't acknowledge me as he sits at the table with us, in the empty chair next to Bella. She's caught up in a conversation with Angela, not noticing his presence. I sip my beer, anger flaring inside of me as he brushes Bella's knee with his finger, catching her attention.
I clear my throat as she turns, smile slightly faltering when she faces him.
"Ben." She pauses. "Hey."
His smile is too wide, and he leans closer to her. "I woke up this morning and you were gone."
Bella's eyes flick in my direction, then back to Ben. "Yeah, sorry. I didn't want to wake you," she explains.
She fucking lied.
She text me last night saying she was going to stay here, at Angela's. And she was here this morning when I stopped by, but where was she before that? Obviously with this douche, who still uses mousse or some shit to style his hair.
I shouldn't care that Bella lied to me. It shouldn't matter to me that she actually likes this guy, with hair that looks both shiny and crunchy. But it does matter. And I do care.
I'd told myself we were just friends and it wasn't a big deal that we fucked, but the feeling in my chest makes me think that maybe it is a big deal.
I decide I have to get out of here before I say or do something stupid.
I'm about to stand from the table just as Ben says, "It's cool. I was worried when I saw the couch was empty." He rubs a hand over the back of his neck. "I have no idea how I slept sitting up. My neck isn't too happy with me today."
I'm an idiot.
Now that I think about it, I do remember seeing a guy sitting up against the wall, sleeping. So Bella wasn't with him. Not really.
Angela laughs. "You didn't have to sleep sitting up. I offered y'all my bed."
"Bella was pretty drunk," he laughs with Angela. "I tried waking her up, but she was already passed out on the couch."
Bella's eyes cut to mine. I hope she can't read my expression. I hope it's not obvious I want to deck this fucker, even though he hasn't done anything wrong. That's the fucked up part about this. Bella's the one lying to him. She had sex with me, hung out with me all day, and he's none the wiser. But I still have this irrational urge to punch him. Especially when he starts rubbing his hand up and down her thigh.
"Where'd you go, anyway?" he asks her.
Bella keeps her eyes on me as she speaks. "My friend Edward borrowed my truck last night so he could go home before work, then brought it back early this morning. And, yeah…" she trails off.
He follows her gaze, turning to look at me. I stare him down. No one speaks for a good ten seconds, this awkward tension suddenly present. And maybe he isn't that stupid after all.
"Ben, this is Edward," Bella awkwardly introduces. "We've been friends since sophomore year in high school."
He nods his head at me before reaching out a hand. "Hey, man. Sup?"
What a dick.
I shake his hand because I don't want to be rude. His grip isn't as hard as mine. I smile smugly.
Recognition flickers across his face. "Oh. You're the friend who works for Kiss FM, right?" he questions.
I chug the rest of my beer. "Yep," I answer flippantly. I can feel Bella's eyes on me, but I refuse to look at her.
He fights a smile. "Isn't that a Top-40 station?"
I stare blankly. "Yeah, it is. Good job."
"I don't care what anyone says," Angela interrupts. "I fucking love me some Top-40 music. It's popular for a reason: it's catchy and makes people feel good."
"Have I heard you on-air before?" Ben asks, leaning back and resting his arm along the back of Bella's chair.
"I have no idea," I reply dryly. How the hell would I know? "I'm on-air between two and six in the morning, so probably not."
"I didn't realize people still listened to the radio," he chuckles, and I hate everything about this asshole. "Nah, I'm kidding, man."
I force a laugh to match his. "Right. Good one."
Angela stands. "Anyone wanna go smoke before we play Jenga?"
"I shouldn't. Gotta work later," I mutter.
"I'm good," Bella replies.
"More for us," Ben laughs, following behind Angela.
It's silent between Bella and me until they're gone.
"Hey," she whispers. "Sorry. That was… weird."
I snort. "That guy? Really, Bella?"
"He's not that bad, I swear."
"He's a dick."
She averts her gaze and focuses on the table, then grabs our empty bottles. I sigh, and when she stands from her chair, I reach over and grab her wrist before she can walk away.
She looks down at me, pulling a face.
I gently pull her to stand between my knees. I take the empty bottles from her hands and set them back on the table.
"What?" she asks again, quieter this time. "You're always saying my name and looking at me like that, but you never say anything."
One corner of my mouth lifts. "Let's get out of here," I suggest, rubbing my hands up and down the back of her thighs. "Unless you'd rather stay here with Ben?"
She doesn't say anything, just stares down at me. I grab her waist, making her sit in my lap.
"If I don't say anything it's because I don't know what to say," I murmur against her neck, kissing the spot below her ear. "What should I say to get you to come with me?"
She shudders, leaning into my touch.
"Hey, do you know if―"
Ben's voice fills the kitchen, his sentence abruptly ending when he sees Bella in my lap, my face buried in her neck.
Bella frantically stands.
"Oh," he says, eyes bouncing between the two of us. "What's going on?"
"Nothing," she says quickly, walking toward him. "I was just about to go grab Jenga. Help me find it?"
She ushers him out of the kitchen before another word is spoken. I stay put, dropping my head back and groaning in frustration.
I toss our bottles in the recycling with more force than necessary, then switch from beer to water, needing to sober up before work. I find Garrett, Jasper, Eric, and some girl sitting in the living room.
"Cullen, you pussy. We thought you left!" Garrett exclaims as I plop down next to him on the couch.
Angela walks in and dumps the container of Jenga blocks on the makeshift coffee table: a glass table top resting on cinder blocks.
I try not to question where Bella and Ben are.
"I got this," Jasper says, shooing Angela away as he stacks the blocks on top of one another, building a small tower.
Bella and Ben appear just as Jasper's finishing up. Bella's expression is calm, almost impassive. She sits on the floor, avoiding my gaze, and Ben sits in the chair opposite the couch.
Angela starts Jenga, pulling out a block near the bottom.
"So this is drunk Jenga," she explains. "You have to do what the block says. Some are truths, some are dares. This one says to take a shot…" She grabs the bottle of whiskey next to Eric, and takes a long gulp.
"This is stupid," Garrett complains.
"No, dude," Jasper disagrees. "It's the best game ever. Me next." He's too excited as he pulls out a block and the entire thing falls apart.
Everyone bursts into laughter. He scowls as he rebuilds it. Eric goes next. His block says to act out a sex position. I have no idea why, but Jasper offers to help him out. I nearly piss my pants when they act out reverse cowgirl, with Jasper on top. It's by far the most disturbing thing I've seen all day.
When it's my turn, I poke at a few blocks, finding one that's an easy target.
"Kill, fuck, or marry the person across from you," I read aloud.
I look up, locking eyes with Bella, who's the only one who could be considered sitting across from me.
"What's it gonna be, Cullen?" Garrett goads, laughing. "Kill, fuck, or marry Swan?"
The corner of my mouth lifts, then, "Well, I've already done one of those things with her, so…"
Garrett and Eric immediately burst into laughter. They probably think I'm joking.
"Wait. You guys fucked?" Jasper asks bluntly. "I thought y'all only made out?"
I don't say anything as Bella storms out the front door.
Angela stands, shooting me a glare. "Why would you say that?"
I want to say I don't know, but I do.
I know exactly why I said it.
I said it for the laughter that erupted from the guys.
I said it for the confused look on Ben's face.
And I said it because I'm an asshole. I'm a jealous asshole, and wanted to let Ben know that Bella's off limits.
"Wait," I say, looking at Angela. "Let me talk to her."
When I get outside, I see Bella walking down the street. I jog to catch up.
"Bella. Stop," I call out, just before I reach her.
She doesn't, though, arms crossed over her chest as she continues to walk.
"Hey. Talk to me." I move to stand in front of her, grabbing her by the shoulders.
She jerks out of my grip. "Why would I want to talk to you, Edward?"
With a frustrated sigh, I drop my hands. "Look. I wasn't trying to piss you off."
"You don't try to upset me, yet you do," she quips. "It's getting old."
"It was a joke. Come on."
"Right. This whole thing is a joke to you."
My eyebrows pull together. "What?"
"All of this." She gestures between the two of us. "You and me. What the fuck was I thinking letting this happen?"
"Admit it. The only reason you started showing any interest in me is because you were jealous of Ben. Which makes you an asshole. Which makes me an idiot." She pauses, then adds, "Which makes this whole situation fucked up."
I let her words sink in for a minute, because I had no idea she was thinking any of this. And how would I? She never mentioned anything until now.
"What the hell are you talking about? We hooked up over summer, before you met Ben. What does any of this have to do with him?"
"Exactly!" she yells, eyes wide. "We hooked up four months ago and nothing else happened after that night. Not until two nights ago, after I told you about Ben. Then you were suddenly interested in me."
I shake my head, because she has it all wrong. "Nothing happened after the first time we had sex because you started acting weird, and—"
"I started acting weird because I like you, Edward. And you acted like nothing happened, so I acted like nothing happened. You made things weird, not me."
"What do you mean you like me?" I ask, narrowing my eyes in confusion.
"You're so stupid," she mumbles, shaking her head. "I like you. It's pretty simple to figure out."
I open and close my mouth a few times before I say anything. "Bella, I didn't know."
"How was it not obvious? Why do you think I was having sex with you?"
"I mean, I knew you liked that part, but… I didn't know."
It's true. I had no idea she had feelings for me. I feel like a fucking idiot for not realizing it on my own, but how was I supposed to know? I was under the impression she wanted to date Ben.
I'm about to tell her this, when a car drives down the street, its headlights shining brightly. I squint against the light, ushering Bella closer to the curb as it passes us.
"What did you think this was, Edward?" she asks quietly.
I search her face, so expectant. I try to think of something that won't piss her off, but I know no matter what I say, this conversation isn't going to be easy. So I go with the truth.
"I don't know what I thought this was. I mean, we're friends, and things just started two days ago. There wasn't really time to think about any of this, you know?"
Her laugh is humorless. "So, basically you thought I wanted to date Ben while having casual sex with you?"
"Honestly?" I hesitate, running a hand over my mouth. "Yeah. I guess so."
Her lips purse, then, "Okay. Well, I'm sorry I complicated things, seeing as how it's been just sex to you."
She turns to walk back to the house. I grab her by the elbow, stopping her.
"That's not what I'm saying. Jesus, Bella. Stop putting words into my mouth."
"Maybe if you said something, anything, I wouldn't have to!"
There are so many things I want to say to her right now, but I don't know where to start. She expects so much. She expects me to have answers to questions I didn't even know existed until a few minutes ago, which is so fucking unfair.
The only thing I do know is that she deserves so much. She puts up with so much of my shit, and she deserves so much better than me.
Her sniffles bring me out of my thoughts, and I watch her swipe a finger under her eye. "Perfect. I'm crying. I'm the girl who hooks up with her best friend she has feelings for, then cries because he doesn't feel the same way."
I fist my hair. "Shit. Bella, don't cry."
"What else am I supposed to do? You humiliated me in there." She shakes her head, her lips trembling. "And Ben walked in and saw us…" she trails off. "I feel like an idiot, and it was all for nothing, you know?"
I pull her against my chest, wrapping my arms around her tightly.
After a minute, I murmur into her hair, "I wasn't trying to humiliate you. I swear."
I would never purposely do that. I care about her more than she realizes.
Her face is hidden in my shirt as she mumbles, "Let me go."
I gently squeeze the back of her neck. "Bella, come on."
"No. I don't want to see you right now." She pulls away, wiping her eyes. "I need to talk to Ben. I feel like a bitch."
"Do you want me to wait for you? I can give you a ride home. Or you can come to my place, we can talk," I offer, not wanting to say bye just yet; not wanting to end things this way.
"No." She clears her throat. "I need to actually sleep tonight. I perform tomorrow, remember?"
Like I could forget.
"I remember," I tell her.
"You don't have to come. I know you'll be tired and stuff, and we play at eleven thirty, so―"
"Bella," I say, grabbing her by the shoulders, ducking my head to meet her eyes. "I'll be there."
"Okay." She looks past me. "Don't feel obligated."
"I don't… fuck," I breathe out. "I don't feel obligated when it comes to you. Don't you get that?"
She stares at me, searching my face. "I'll see you tomorrow."
I let her go, watching as she walks away.
"Bella!" I call out when she reaches the driveway. She stops in place, but doesn't turn around. "I'm sorry, okay?"
She wordlessly disappears into the house.
I stand here, unsure of how to fix this.
But I know that I need to. And more than that―I know that I want to.
I just don't know how.
If you're having girl problems I feel bad for you, son.
I got 99 problems but a―
I've been singing that song all morning. It felt appropriate to add it to the AN.
Thank you so much reading. Y'all are the best.
I couldn't do this without Kim and Vic. I just couldn't.
P.S. it hurt me to write that stuff about Bon Iver. my love for Justin Vernon is unreal.