Thanks for stopping by once again for this. :-) The next chapters will be shorter, just in case. This was originally supposed to be a OS, lol.
Now let's see what happens.
Many thanks to my beta Songster for her help. Any mistake is mine, because I change things like crazy.
I don't own Twilight.
'Lesson Two: Dating'
"Ok, I'm out of here," I say to Garrett, gathering my books.
"Ok, man. I'll see you tonight at the party, right? Vicky has been asking about you." He wiggles his eyebrows.
"Yeah, I'll be there." Although, I'm not planning to hook up with Victoria.
I head out of the library and walk the ten blocks to get to the coffee shop where I work. It's a nice place, usually filled with students, which makes for a fun place, full of noise and laughter. I can't study on my breaks though, so I try to stay at the library as much as possible. This second semester of freshmen year is killing me already.
Today, I'm taking my first Friday afternoon shift. One of my coworkers, Mike, asked me to switch places with him since he was meeting his girlfriend's parents tonight. Poor guy, he was sweating like a pig when he mentioned this.
He'll be dehydrated by the time they get to the appetizers.
Five blocks into my walk, I pass the dance studio that I found the first time I took this route. I've never gone inside, but the music coming from the open windows always makes me smile and reminds me of last year.
The year of my dance lessons with Bella.
After she left me that last day at the studio, I felt both hopeful and sad about us. She seemed to be feeling the same way about me, but for a reason she didn't want to discuss at the time, our time together had to stop. We stopped before even starting.
I often think about that time, and wonder what really happened. What could've been so big that she needed to leave immediately, without an answer? I just hope that wherever she is, she's okay and happy.
A few weeks after that day, I left for college with the hope that someday I'd see her again. I had her email address and after much thought, I wrote to her.
She didn't respond.
I wrote to her again, just one more time, trying to gauge if maybe she was really busy or for some reason hadn't gotten my first email.
She didn't answer that one either.
I stopped writing to her after that. She obviously didn't want any contact with me and the realization of that was even more painful than watching her step out of my life that Saturday morning. I was sad and crushed and suddenly, things became real. Until then, there had been at least a slight glimmer of hope.
She extinguished that hope with her silence.
It's bittersweet to think back to the days we spent together in that dance studio: they make me smile, remembering her movements and how she felt under my hands. They also make me feel sick that I won't have a chance to see where things might've ended up for us.
Still, Bella Swan was the best part of those months.
I hear the music coming from the open and windows and I smirk at their choice: Salsa. Those lessons had been fun last year: Bella moving her hips to the music, her eyes closed and her smiling face. All I wanted to do was leave my hands on her hips and follow the swaying movement with my palms. Everything about her drove me crazy.
I look at the entrance of the studio and notice the people carrying their bags to start a new class. My eyes start searching and for a second, I get this expectant feeling in my chest, as if I'll actually see her.
I sigh tiredly; I really have to let this go.
Just as I'm about to start walking again, I freeze when I catch a familiar flash of brown hair. I'd often thought I'd seen it, in clubs, at the coffee shop, in class, but it was never her of course. This time, though, it's not only the color that makes my heart speed up, but also a feeling rapidly spreading in my chest, something that I thought I had lost when it came to Bella: hope.
Not caring about potentially being late to work, I cross the street and enter the studio. I run down the main hall and check the classes taking place, there are two classes at the moment, and one is only for kids. That leaves only one other option.
People are already on the dance floor, some changing their shoes and talking, others practicing some moves. I look for her among them, not that there are many students, but my nervousness makes me do double takes at everyone.
I run a hand through my hair, frustrated. I can't find her, this girl who might or not be Bella. Once again my imagination is playing tricks on me; it must have been the sight of this studio that is making me see things. But that feeling in my chest is still there, I can't be that wrong, right?
I might have to change my route next time.
With a big sigh, I turn, ready to leave and feeling foolish for getting this crazy about it.
"Ok class. Take your positions and let's start the lesson." I stop when I'm about to cross the threshold. That voice.
I close my eyes and slowly turn to that voice. My imagination can't be that good.
When I open them, I see on the other side of the room, with her back to me, a girl setting the music to start the class.
She turns and walks happily to her students, most of them already starting to dance.
And I see her.
And I smile.
And I stop breathing.
I can't take my eyes off of her; she looks even more beautiful than before. Her dress accentuates more of her curves, and her hair is longer than last year, falling down her back. She even looks a little tanned.
Months and months of wondering what she might be doing, where she might be living, simply fly away. She's here, here in Chicago. Right in front of me, within reach.
When she turns to my direction, after giving instructions to a couple, she sees me. Her eyes widening for a second, surprised at seeing me here, but then they turn warm and a big smile appears on her full, red lips.
I smile back and then we're both walking toward each other. Without giving it much thought, we envelop each other in a hug when we meet in the middle. God, I've missed her so much, and holding her like this, I forget all about these past months and the hurt of her cutting ties with me.
Right now, I don't care. I don't give a fuck. She feels the same, I feel the same: warmth running all over my body, electricity jolting me and making me hold her closer.
"Oh my God, you're here!" I can barely hear her over the music, but that doesn't matter, she could be reciting the recipe for macaroni and cheese, and I'd be happy just to hear her voice once again.
"Bella," I say against her hair.
So many feelings crash over me all at once, feeling her like this. I feel happy that I'm reuniting with an old friend once again. I'm excited for what could happen now and I feel relief at holding her body close to mine after all this time, seeing her safe; but most importantly, I feel just as connected to her, if not more, than the last time we saw each other.
We break the hug and I look at her, really look at her, still not believing that she's here.
"How are you here, Bella?" That's the first thing I can think about, a thousand more piling up behind it.
Her smile is now sad and when she opens her mouth to say something, a woman taps on her shoulder. It is at that moment that we realize that we're in a room full of people. All with wide open eyes staring at us through our exchange.
"Bella? Are we going to start the class?" She doesn't look annoyed, more apologetic at interrupting us instead.
"Oh, of course, Kate, sorry." Turning her attention to the rest of the class. "Just give me a second, guys. In the meantime, start warming up a bit, ok? I'll be right back."
Bella tugs at my elbow and leads me out of the room, closing the door behind her. The hall is much quieter.
"I'm sorry, but I have to give this class." Now she looks apologetic. "But I want to talk to you, Edward. I have so much to say. Can we meet afterwards?" She sounds hesitant, afraid that I might say no.
As if I would.
"Of course, Bella. I need to head to work anyway. We can meet there after my shift. 9 ok?" I don't really want to leave but we both have responsibilities to attend to.
She nods and even though we just agreed to a meeting, I'm scared that she might not show up.
I tell her where I work and, barely believing she's here, I leave.
For the rest of the day, I'm a disaster. I mess up the orders. I forget others. I don't know how my boss doesn't fire me on the spot. I just can't help but think about Bella and keep checking the front door, even when it's nowhere near 9 pm.
I clock out, and I think my boss actually sighs in relief. I sit at one of the tables and wait for Bella to show up. I'm surrounded by coffee all day long, so usually the mere thought of coffee makes me gag, but now I desperately need one.
When I hear the bell chime at the door, I see her. I can't keep my eyes away from Bella as her own eyes scan the room. Not only do I feel like I can breathe easier seeing that she actually came, but a huge relief fills me, knowing that I wasn't imagining things earlier in the day when I saw her.
Shit, she's really here.
When she finds me, a small smile appears on her lips and slowly, she walks up to my table. The entire time, I can't stop looking at her.
"Hi," she greets shyly when she's in front of me, clutching her bag close to her body.
"Hi." I say and stand up. I don't know what to do. Kiss her cheek? Give her a handshake? Bella seems nervous and maybe debating the same thing, so instead of just standing here wondering what to do, I go for an easy question.
"Coffee? Tea? A muffin?" I motion to the counter, ready to get her anything she wants. She nods, looking relieved and sits down.
"Yeah, sure, a tea?" As I wait for our orders, I take a few deep breaths. She's here and hopefully, I'll have the answers that I've needed for the last few months.
It doesn't mean is easy, though, as we later sit in uncomfortable silence staring at our cups.
"So, how have you been?" I just have to break the damn silence.
"Good." She doesn't even look at me.
"I'm sorry." We say at the same time.
"I'm just nervous. It was such a surprise seeing you there." She finally looks up and I'm met with those beautiful green eyes once again, although there is something else behind them as well: they look tired and so, so sad.
"I know, I'm surprised too, but glad I saw you." She nods a little and smiles. For a second, the sadness in her eyes is not there and she looks like the Bella I met last year. However, before anything else, I need to know something. "Bella, how are you here?"
She sighs and looks out the window. She doesn't say anything for a few moments, just looks at the people passing by. I give her that time to sort her thoughts, even though, inside, I'm dying to get answers.
"My Dad, he-" She takes a big breath. "He got sick last year. I found out the week before our last lesson." She looks at me sadly. "You see, my Dad lives alone, he has no one, except for Alice and me, and Alice is far away living her life. I just couldn't leave him like that, alone and facing this with no one to hold his hand and take care of him.
"I talked to Mom and she said we might be able to hire someone, but I knew it would be a strain on everyone. Financially, I mean. The only solution was using my college fund to pay for everything."
Her dad got sick?
"Mom and Dad fought me on this tremendously, but it was the only way, Edward. So, I decided to give that to him and help him get better, take care of him. I moved in with him here in Chicago, for this experimental treatment that seems to be working." She smiles.
Fuck, I don't know what to say to this. Her dad was sick and she pretty much sacrificed her education to help him? And she's been here this entire time? Why didn't she contact me?
The second that last thought crosses my mind, it starts growing. Why didn't she contact me? Why didn't she simply say something, anything, right before leaving? I thought we were friends, yet she kept to herself a large part of her life.
I shut my eyes close, feeling angry at her, at her situation; but also like an ass for making this about how I feel. She had her reasons for doing it, but it doesn't make it hurt any less.
I take a few breaths, trying to calm myself.
"I'm so sorry about your Dad, Bella. I wished I had known; I would've been there in a second." I open my eyes and, pushing these thoughts aside for the moment, I hope she sees I'm being honest. Slowly, I move one of my hands on top of hers; she doesn't move it away and even squeezes it softly. That small action calms me instantly and the anger starts to dissipate.
"Thanks." She nods and looks at me right in the eyes. I'm sure she saw my earlier reaction, but for the moment, she doesn't ask about it. "He's getting better now, and Alice comes whenever she can." She smiles sadly. Now I understand the look in her eyes: she is sad and tired from all of this.
"I work at the dance studio to help with some of the bills. I really love it there; I already have my favorite students." The smile she gives me this time is actually genuine.
"I'm glad." I nod and have no idea what else to say without turning this into a big conversation about her life. I have so many questions, though. How is she, really? Why didn't she say something? Why didn't Alice mention something, the few times we've emailed?
However, from the look on Bella's face, I think it best to keep the questions for another time. Talking about her Dad being sick was hard, I don't want to overwhelm her with more things, but I will ask them.
"And you?" She clears her throat. "How have you been?" Changing topic and taking a sip of her tea, I know I was right. The big conversation will have to take place another time.
"Studying and working. That's all." I shrug, still not letting go of her hand. It seems like nothing compared to what she's been doing.
"Come on, there must be more than that." Her tone is teasing, but when I look at her eyes, it's like she's begging me to play along, to tell her about my life.
So I do.
For the next hour I tell her about my life in college. I try to make her laugh with stupid stories about me and my friends, and she looks happy when she talks about dancing and her life here. The only black spot is her Dad's illness, which she doesn't explain further and I don't push.
"It's late, I really have to go now." She gets up and gathers her things.
"Right. Do you live close by? I could walk you home." It's past ten, after all.
"Yes, just a few blocks from here, but you don't have to walk me home. You must be exhausted."
She's lived close to me all this time?
"But I want to." No way she's leaving alone.
The walk is silent, but after talking for the past hour, the air between us is actually comfortable. I think we're both processing the fact that we found each other again.
"Here it is. This is me." She motions to the entrance of a small building.
I nod and look up. I've seen this building on my walks from work. Little did I know that she had been so close to me all along.
"Thank you for the tea, it was great seeing you, Edward. I'm glad you're okay." She touches my hand and gives it a soft squeeze.
"You too, Bella. I'm glad things are getting better for you and your Dad."
It was great seeing her again, but standing awkwardly in front of her building, I think back to her unanswered emails. She never contacted me, and even though now I know she had far bigger things to worry about in her life at the time, the hurt and anger at her not trusting me once again seeps in.
She seemed happy about our encounter, but perhaps she doesn't want to see me again, like she hadn't since that Saturday morning. After all, had it not been because I followed her to the studio, we might've never seen each other again.
Still, the next words are out of my mouth before I can even process them.
"Maybe we can meet again?" I close my eyes. I'm such a masochist and an idiot.
When I open them, I see her simply looking at me, her eyes reading my face for something. It makes me fidget a little bit; she still has those incredibly expressive eyes and now that they're focused solely on me, it's hard not to feel nervous and at the same time, I can't look away.
She finally leans forward and whispers to my ear.
I can't move.
"You know where to find me." And then she heads inside, a small smile on her lips.
I watch her walk away and disappear behin the door to her building. I have so many questions, which I'll ask, but for that to happen, I can't let her run away from me again.
On my way to a friend's house I go back to the dance studio the next day, Saturday, and sign up for her Saturday morning classes. Happily enough, they are similar to those we took last year.
Today is my first class with her. I haven't seen her in a week. Classes and work are kicking my ass. It's also given me time to think of all the questions I want to ask her and to keep playing her words over and over for some clue as to why didn't she tell me anything about her dad. I came up empty.
Today I show up early, hoping to see her before class. When I enter the room, she's there getting ready.
"Hey," I greet her, and she turns her face to me. She looks surprised, but then smiles.
"Hey, stranger. Long time no see."
"Well, you'll be seeing me at least once a week now, since I am taking this class. I hope you go easy on me." I wink and she smiles, surprised.
"Really? This class?" She giggles a little, excited.
I really have missed that giggle.
"Oh, I don't know." She teases, shaking her head. "You might suck at dancing and might hold my class back. We'll have to wait and see."
"Well, I did have a dancing partner one time. She kinda sucked; I had to lead her all the time," I say, faking exasperation.
"Is that so? Well, if you're as good as you say you are, she might've been a better partner than you think. Maybe she let you think you were leading, you know, to not bruise your ego and all." Crossing her arms, she waits for my answer.
"Oh, that male ego. It's a bitch for finding dancing partners." I shake my head.
The laughter of other students interrupts her answer, and then she's in teacher's mode. It's quite amusing to see her command the room the way she does.
Right there I see the flaw in my plan to come here: Bella won't be my partner. It really sucks, and I can't believe how much of an idiot I am, but at least I'll get to see her.
However, Bella has a better idea. All throughout the class she uses me as her dancing partner to show the positions. It works since there are an odd number of people in class. When she makes the rounds I stand to the side and watch her work. She's the same Bella that I met before: patient with the students, firm when they make mistakes but not mean to them, always encouraging them to try again.
When she gives me a mischievous smile on her way to the stereo, I know what she'll play. Doris.
I follow her and, face to face, I place one hand on her waist and the other one holds hers. Everything is so familiar; it almost doesn't feel like we've been apart at all. It's like we've spent every Saturday together like this for the past months.
We start dancing to the familiar tune and the rest of the people do the same, all free to dance as they wish to the song. It's the perfect ending to the lesson.
We keep moving and, much like before, it's like our bodies just know what to do: left to right, back and forth. We never take our eyes off each other and I find myself getting closer to her as the song plays. However, when we get to the end of it, we pull back, not ready to tease each other with those three little words anymore.
We stay behind after everyone leaves and I invite her to have a coffee or tea with me. At the coffee shop, we talk some more and slowly things start to feel more like before.
For the next few weeks, we fall into an easy routine: I go to class all week, work some shifts at the coffee shop and on Saturdays we dance for an hour. After her class, we have coffee and talk about our week.
At some point, I can't take it anymore; I have to know what the hell happened to her. I love our routine, but things are starting to feel too easy, like we can forget about last year and move on like nothing happened. I can't do that. The anger and hurt are growing again and I'm sure, pretty soon, I'll start to resent her.
I can't do that.
So, one Saturday, I finally confront her.
"Bella, why the hell didn't you tell me about your Dad? About your decision to not go to college like you planned to? We talked about that, you told me all those dreams you had for the future and I told you mine." I see her hurt face, but I have to keep going.
"I thought we were friends, at least I considered you my friend." My tone is harsh. "Wasn't I enough? Was I a bad friend?"
A sob escapes her and she covers her mouth with her hand.
"Oh God, Edward." Her voice is muffled and she shakes her head.
"I'm so sorry, so, so sorry." She repeats over and over. I move to her side of the table and hug her.
"Is that what you've been thinking all this time? That it was something you did?" Her voice cracks.
"Well, yeah. What else was I supposed to think? You left without explanation. I thought maybe we were not friends after all. I mean, you dismissed me pretty easily."
"Oh God." She pulls away from my arms and moves to cup my cheeks.
"Don't ever think that, Edward. Ever. It was never you; this was absolutely my doing and nothing on your part. There was so much going on that week, I just couldn't handle things, I needed to focus solely on my Dad and not on what I was giving up."
I take her hands on mine and look at her.
"I just couldn't tell you that I was leaving, Edward. Leaving my Mom, putting my future on hold, leaving you." She looks so young saying this, like the 18 year-old she is.
"My Dad was, is, my main concern. I can go to college in the future. It'll just take longer, but I can't lose him, knowing there was something I could've done for him."
"Bella, I could've been there for you, just to talk or whatever you wanted," I say, irritated. Did she not think that I would be there for her?
"I know, Edward, believe me, I know. But I didn't want that for you, I wanted you to go to college and fulfill your dreams, unlike me. You needed to focus on that, not consoling a friend that you met and knew for just a few months." She hiccups, tears rolling down her cheeks.
Is that what she really thought? That she was just a friend, like any other that I would forget after leaving for college?
"I thought this would be better, to just walk away and have the memories of those months forever. But, I never thought you'd feel like your friendship wasn't enough, like we weren't even friends.
"I made such a mess of things. I made the decision for you and left you thinking something that could never be true, because Edward-" She looks at me, so serious and stern. "Your friendship was everything to me."
I have to close my eyes when she stops talking. This is so much information.
Her decision to not tell me anything was in part because she needed to focus on her Dad, and I absolutely understand that. Sometimes we need to leave the things we care about aside in order to face the challenges of our lives; but at the same time, we also need support, friends and family, and she willingly let that go. She was a 17 year-old girl making huge, life-altering decisions.
However, what makes me angry is that she's right: she made the decision for me, she didn't give me the change to be there for her or not. She thought she was deciding for my own good, but instead she made it worse.
"Fuck, Bella," I hiss.
"I'm so sorry, Edward." I open my eyes and on her face, I really see that she's sorry about this. It still doesn't erase it.
I take a breath and pull her closer to me. I'm not sure what the hell to do now; I just know that I want to feel her close. Even angry at the situation, her touch calms me and that's what I need right now. She cries into my shirt, repeating that she's sorry.
She did what she thought she needed to do, good or bad. It made sense to her, even though now she sees that there were better options. Maybe that makes her cry too: what she lost because she refused to see.
After that day, we don't contact each other for a week. I have so much to think about, but in the end, the main thing is that I want her in my life again. Yeah, what happened sucked and I hope she won't do it again. She said she wouldn't and I promise myself that I won't let her walk out.
The next time I see her, we just hug and relief is all I feel. We say nothing; we understand that this is our second chance.
However, the more I see of her for the next weeks, the more my feelings for her start to wake faster and faster. After she cut me out of her life, I had started to think that perhaps my feelings for her were just an infatuation on my part. I was only seventeen after all, but after finding her again I realize that I was just deluding myself thinking that.
They were real.
My feelings are different than last year, but good different. I'm now seeing more of the real Bella; she's finally letting me see her. The good and the bad: she can be selfless, not only giving up college to help her Dad; but she also took the weight of the world on her shoulders, not telling anyone how hard her life became.
Because of everything she has to still deal with her Dad, I decide that it's best to take things slow. It will give me time to get my act together, and it will not overwhelm her with everything she's been through. That is why one day I finally grow balls enough to invite her on a date during the week. She accepts, and the thought of seeing her on a weekday makes me ridiculously happy.
I'm finally doing things the way they were supposed to be.
When she greets me at her door, she's wearing a knee-length green dress that matches her eyes. That, added to her chocolate hair and fair skin makes me remember the first time I saw her and the combination of colors makes me think of Forks and its surrounding forests.
She makes me feel like I'm home.
I give her pink flowers and she introduces me to her Dad. From what Bella's told me, he's doing better and the treatment seems to be working. He even gives me the 'Dad talk.' It's scary; he is scary.
I take Bella to a small, cozy restaurant not too far from where she lives. I chose it in case she wanted to get back to her Dad if there was an emergency, but also, because I wanted us to walk there. The night is nice and this way I can see her face under the streetlights. She's as gorgeous as ever and not just physically, but now there is also an aura around her: lighter, freer.
When I leave her at the entrance of her building after the date is over, I can't help myself and I make the first move, pressing my lips to hers. I've been waiting for this ever since I first met her, but experiencing it is so much better that I forget about all those months apart.
Her lips are soft and warm, and there is a faint taste of the cheesecake we had for dessert. They move in tune with mine and just like all those times before at the studio, we know how the other one moves, what the other needs and they mold according to that. Kissing her feels like dancing.
"Was about damn time," she whispers against my lips, and I grin like an idiot. We're both trying to catch our breaths, and all think is that I want to do that over and over.
I think I do little dancing moves all the way to my place that night.
We continue like this for the next couple of months: dancing, talking, kissing. We even returned to finish our dances with those whispered 'Perhaps' words. Hearing them doesn't feel sad like when we found each other again. They now feel like the old us.
It's like heaven, but it will come to an end soon; for when the summer arrives, I'll be going back to Forks to help my Dad at the hospital. I made a commitment and can't ignore it. Bella will stay here in the city, taking care of her Dad and working.
Like before, we don't talk about what will happen to us yet. But this time I will bring it up; I won't leave without us talking first.
For the time being though, I enjoy this stage in our relationship, and I try to tell Bella my feelings in the only way I know how at the moment: through dancing and whispering lyrics only for her ears.
And even if I have to ask how she feels a million times, I will, because right now, her three little word answer keeps giving me hope, and that's all I need.
"Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps."
And there ya go, I can't keep them apart forever.
The next chapter will be up next Sunday and then the next one, the following Sunday.
Have a great day.