A birthday story for our incomparable beta, Chayasara
Told in alternating points of view by bornonhalloween and shellshock81


To Chaya, our warm, wonderful partner in words:

You coax out our stories with sweet verbal caresses and majestic inspirations from the masters;
once the words appear, you scrub them meticulously with wisdom, patience, and kindness.

We love you for all of it!


APPLICATION (The Good Doctor)

This is fucked up. Don't do it. Scotch on the rocks wouldn't normally be my idea of the angel on my shoulder, but tonight, I'm pretty sure it's the alcohol giving me the better advice—the sane advice. Of course, who am I to judge, now that most of the scotch has already made its way inside my system?

Don't be a pussy. Push the damn button. My finger hovers over the mouse; the arrow points dangerously inside the blue "Submit" rectangle. How many times are you going to let her slip through your fingers? Just click, reasons the devil.

"You'll come home. You'll start over." Dad's words reached across the country and comforted me like the remembered scent of logs burning in the fireplace. I reminded myself that Seattle Grace was one of the country's best infectious disease units in the world. There was nothing about this that should be considered "settling," and yet it felt embarrassing to return to Washington at the ripe old age of thirty-six with my tail between my legs.

Even with my failed marriage, I can't regret my career choices. I was born to be a doctor. Mr. Banner saw it in me from the first day of biology, though why he cursed my adolescent hormones with Bella Swan as a lab partner, I will never understand. Maybe I'll ask him one day, I chuckle darkly. I wasn't equipped to handle a girl like her back then, as my pathetic near misses evidenced time and time again.

I did better once I got to college and found Bree—top of our class at NYU, breezed through Columbia P & S, specialized in Pediatrics, then got picked up by Mount Sinai. We were good for each other back then, two lost ships bobbing along together on a stormy sea of long hours and sobering doubts. It wasn't until we actually were both finished with our residencies and things calmed down a bit that we realized we weren't really making each other happy. Not that divorce was a picnic, but at least things were amicable, and we hadn't brought children into the world.

Lifting the drink to my mouth, I down the remainder and let the ice cubes rest against my upper lip until it burns. The irony does not escape me; clicking "submit" on the Doctors Without Borders website—committing to treating highly contagious patients in a South American war zone—had caused less trepidation than finalizing the application to hire Bella Swan as my "personal writing coach."

Why do you want to improve your writing? If I'm truthful, I don't need the large, empty rectangle or two hundred words to answer; ten will do: I want another chance with the girl who got away.

I can't write that, though, so I let the scotch answer for me, something grandiose and poetic about turning the romantic tables, making my main character fall in love with the reader, for a change. I'm an ass, but at least I'm an ass with the decency to have second thoughts. In fact, I've had an entire hour's worth. I've paced, I've pretended to read, and I've wrestled with my demons.

Who am I kidding?

I'm a creature of habit. I come back to Forks, I get a little juiced, I get Bella Swan on the brain.

How lucky for me that this time, something besides her LinkedIn profile comes up when I Google her. Looking for a writing coach? Isabella Swan can help.

Difference is, this time, I'm not married. And I'm not leaving. Bella doesn't know either of those little tidbits. She doesn't even know I'm back, which is why I'm about to click submit under an assumed name—Masen Edwards. Just in case Bella Swan is happily "otherwise engaged" with a guy smart enough to not let her get away. Just in case I need to slink away from all this unnoticed.

Attaboy! the devil gloats, while the angel drops his face into his hands.


2 ASSIGNMENT (The Coach)

Sitting back in my chair, I stretch my arms over my head and tilt my head to one side and then the other to pop my neck. Even as I'm doing it, I know my chiropractor would kill me if he saw me, but when the crack resonates in my ear and the tension built up from bending over my desk for the past two hours eases out of my neck, I can't bring myself to care.

I only have two papers left to grade before I can call it a night. I've been pleasantly surprised so far, grading only three essays that made me want to gouge my eyes out from all of the comma splices and fragmented sentences. I know this is ninth-grade English, but surely someone has told these students not to start a sentence with "and" by now! Still, all in all, it's not bad for the first paper of the semester, and I really shouldn't complain.

I scoot back up to my desk, determined to finish the last two before climbing in bed to fall asleep to Friends reruns. Just as I'm picking up my trusty red pen, my computer chimes, indicating I have a new email. I barely contemplate not seeing who it's from until I finish my work before grabbing my mouse and clicking on the Outlook tab. I can actually feel my eyes widen in shock when I see it's an automated email from my blog telling me I have a potential client.

Forgetting about the essays, I click the link in the email and wait impatiently for the page to load. I decided to start a side business over the summer to make some extra cash and help save for the trip to Boston I've been hoping to take for a while. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of people in the market for a writing coach, and I've yet to attract a single client.

When the page finally opens, I skim the application and briefly wonder if Masen Edwards is single when I see he's a doctor who lives in the area. I push the thought away as quickly as it enters my brain—the last thing I need to do is scare away my first client. I fight not to roll my eyes as I read through the corny lines he's written about why he wants to improve his writing. All eye rolling stops, though, when he describes the idea for his plot.

Immediately, my mind goes into overdrive working out the details of how a book's main character could fall in love with its reader. As a lover of words, the idea is enthralling, and I want nothing more than to help make this happen, but the more I think about it, the more complications arise. With a huff, I sit back in my chair in defeat.

It's nearly impossible—especially for a novice writer.

Glancing down I see the final two essays I have to read through and inspiration strikes.

To: Masen Edwards
From: Bella Swan
Subject: First Assignment
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Mr. Edwards:

I would be happy to help you achieve your writing goals however I can. I have to admit, I've already fallen in love with your proposed plot. It's quite ambitious, but it almost seems impossible. Why don't you write about a time you, or your character, felt inspired by something in 500 words or less? That will give me a quick glimpse at your writing style, and we can revisit your idea a little further down the road.


Bella Swan

I read over the reply once before nodding to myself and clicking "send".


INSPIRATION (The Good Doctor)

I've already fallen in love with your proposed plot...

I'm an idiot for opening her response in line at Starbuck's this morning. What was I planning to do, sit there all dreamy-eyed in the window seat until the feeling went away—which it still hasn't, twelve hours later?

That was actually my best-case scenario, because she could've so easily rejected my sorry ass, my insane story proposal, and my fake name. She didn't do any of those things. One thing is clear from her reply: Bella Swan is the genuine article. Sweet, honest, open-minded, and demanding, dammit! Five hundred words to show her my writing style?

I'm an idiot.

Somewhere along the way, in the morass of lofty plans about winning her over through this writing-coaching process, it failed to enter my consciousness that I'd actually have to write something. The old panic sets in, just as it did back in high school, and I seriously consider folding up my tent before I've actually spent a single night outdoors—or something. Dear metaphors, I remember why I hated you.

I'm an idiot. The deception has begun, and it's already too late to tell her who I really am without revealing myself as the coward I've always been where she's concerned. I have no choice but to move forward with this ill-conceived plot. Oh yes, plot—another reason I've always hated writing. I'm supposed to know ahead of time how things will work out? Never been my strong suit.

You asked for it, Masen, now suck it up!

One thing I do know, and that's my characters: a shy science nerd with an unrequited two-ton crush on the quiet beauty who spends her free time lost in a book. I know my "inspiration," too. It happened once, and it happened violently. I pour myself a glass of amber courage, swish the ice around, take a couple sips, and flex my fingers over the keyboard.


Jasper Hale always knew he was not destined for the stage, or even the recording studio. He happened to have a lot of pent up passion in him and the piano was his outlet. The problem was, Jasper was good and stuck on the song which he had been trying to compose all summer. He felt like the Hoover Dam with 2000 MW of power pushing up against his chest. And when a young virile guy has that much raw energy knocking at his door, something's gotta give. Trust me.

When the first day of ninth grade came around, Jasper packed up his composition notebook along with his pencils and calculator and peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He didn't really have all that much hope of moving forward on his piece...he just knew he didn't want to miss it if inspiration struck. That day was a giant pain in the ass (is that okay?) and Jasper could not wait to get to the practice room at lunch time to unwind with his PB&J. On the way, he passed by the library and happened to glance inside. Everything changed...

His senses came alive! He could smell fresh chocolate chip cookies baking in the cafeteria. Basketballs bounced into a rhythm in his head. Even the stupid dull gray lockers turned neon pink because...

There...sitting in a fat chair in the library, was the MOST BEAUTIFUL girl Jasper had ever seen. Her long skinny legs were folded up into the seat with her and a book rested in her lap. Jasper could not see what she was reading from the doorway but he could tell she was enthralled...just like he was. She had long brown hair and he wished he could come up behind her and bury his nose in her hair, but not in a scary way.

Feeling like he had roller skates under his feet, Jasper flew to the practice room and whipped out his pencil and notebook. His heart danced all over the keys as Jasper pictured the mystery girl looking up from her book and smiling at him. He closed his eyes while he played because he could see her much clearer in his mind. The room around him was blank and empty, but in his heart...where she would now live...he could see her as plain as day, and he knew inspiration.


By the time I'm finished typing and rereading for the fourth time, it's after midnight and I have another early day tomorrow. Enough with the self-doubts. I have just enough scotch in my veins to hit "Send."


Chapter 4 SWOON (The Coach)

To: Bella Swan
From: Masen Edwards
Subject: Re: First Assignment
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Ms. Swan-

As you can see, there is plenty of room for improvement! Be gentle, don't.

Yes, do.


I'm more than surprised when I have Masen's first submission less than forty-eight hours later. I only have time to skim it before heading to school for the day, but at first glance, it's not too bad. While it's littered with so many grammatical errors I think he'd benefit from a lesson with some of my students, the story itself is intriguing and leaves me wanting more.

Did Jasper ever confront the girl?

Did she know she inspired him to compose?

And of course, did Jasper get the girl?

I finish grading papers as quickly as possible after school so I can give Masen my full attention. I love teaching and truly do find pleasure in connecting with my students, but I have to admit, there's something really refreshing about working with an adult—someone who really wants to learn.

I open his document and read it through in its entirety before beginning my line-by-line analysis. He seems to have forgotten how to use a comma, and he clearly has a fondness for the ellipses, but I can't help but laugh every time I reach the sentence where he asks if it's okay to use the word "ass"—it's endearing. After three full reads of his piece—which is three more than I give my students if you include the one I did this morning—I finally sit back, satisfied I've helped him as much as I can without stifling his own voice. Taking a quick glance at the document, I grimace as I look at the column of blue that fills up the right-hand side of my screen.

That's a lot of blue. I stick to my guns and assure myself he won't fire me for giving my honest opinion. Besides, it is pretty good beneath all of the technical errors!

I save the document and pull up Outlook, attaching the Word document before typing out my response. I read through his submission once more to make sure I didn't miss anything and click "send" with a huge smile on my face.

To: Masen Edwards
From: Bella Swan
Subject: Inspiring!
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Mr. Edwards:

First off, I have to admit I was fairly surprised to see you turn this assignment around so quickly! I'm thrilled you're so excited about working on your writing.

Your submission was really good! Please don't be scared when you open the attachment and see all of the corrections. Most of my corrections are grammatical and things that are easily learned or will come back to you with practice. Jasper's inspiration from a young girl reading a book really speaks to my heart! I absolutely loved this idea, and I have to wonder if she's reading a book where the main character falls in love with the reader. *wink*

Your submission actually reminded me of a time when I was in high school and overheard a beautiful melody coming from our music room. While I've always enjoyed listening to music, I wouldn't call myself an aficionado by any means, but for some reason, this particular piece spoke to me, and I plopped myself down right in the school hallway and listened until it was complete. There's not much I wouldn't have given to have been the inspiration for that melody. Your Jasper's heroine is quite the lucky girl!

Please review the comments in the attachment and send your thoughts back along with another short piece about a major disappointment your character experiences. I look forward to hearing from you, and please don't hesitate to write me back with any comments or concerns. That's what I'm here for, after all!


Bella Swan


CORRECTIONS (The Good Doctor)

Please don't be scared when you open the attachment and see all of the corrections.

Just what I was hoping to hear. She clearly thinks I'm a dope. What the hell was I thinking, leading with my biggest weakness right into her strength? Jesus, who gets the girl this way? Nobody, that's who, you big, dumb—




Did she actually come and plop herself down and listen to me play? What my fifteen-year-old self wouldn't have given to have known that! God, what sweet torture not knowing for sure if she was really drawn to my music that day. I close my eyes and watch the fantasy play out, rewriting the lonely past into something so much more...

Foolishly romantic, that's what. You're starting to get sucked into your own fiction, Cullen. Next thing you know, you're gonna be posing with Fabio for the damn cover!

But still...I can't help imagining the girl in the library turning her head to the sound of the lullaby I was writing in real time just for her, sliding her bookmark into the crease, gently closing her book and setting it aside to follow the music. The fantasy grafts itself over the sad memory, changing it irrevocably. If only it could be true...

Half-floating on that cloud, I open the file and my stomach flips over at all my mistakes.

You aced your medical boards, and you get headhunter calls three times a week. So you overuse the ellipsis...does that make you less of a man?

I go through the document and make all the corrections, adding some comments and humorous notes of my own, just so she can see I'm taking it like a man, and I send the file back with an email that feels like a conversation with that girl I once knew.

To: Bella Swan
From: Masen Edwards
Subject: Corrected Piece
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Ms. Swan,

After that blood bath of blue down the side of my composition, feel free to call me Masen. *wink*

Your question about the girl's book makes me wonder again what she was reading that day. She went to the library exactly as I went to my practice room, and I think I'd really like to know what book she chose as her escape. I bet the main character WAS in love with the reader, if he had any taste at all.

Thanks for your (many) comments...ahem...oops, sorry about the ellipses. Old habits...Crap! Did it again! I hope my second draft is better. Thank you for reminding me about all those things I never learned properly the first time. I'll get right to work on my biggest disappointment...this should be cheery!


Not really expecting an answer soon, I immediately open a file for the new assignment. I've barely tapped out the title when an email notification startles me.

To: Masen Edwards
From: Bella Swan
Subject: Re: Corrected Piece
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —


Thank you and please call me Bella. It'll be a nice change from the Ms. Swan I hear all day, every day!

Excellent job on the corrections! I really can't tell you enough how nice it is to offer feedback and have it taken so well. I don't get this type of interaction with my students at school, and I'm finding I quite enjoy it!

As for your next cheery assignment, don't forget what Theodore Parker said: "Disappointment is the salt of life." Tell me what your character learns from his disappointment if you want it to remain upbeat.

Looking forward to reading more.


PS… If your main character is anything like his author, I imagine he'll be charming the pants off his readers!

Inspirational quotes she sends me! Not to mention the chance to redeem my "character" for his miserable failure to act. Determined not to over-ellipsize this time, I put my head back into that place of my lamest display of manhood ever, the day that cost me my last best chance to be with Bella Swan.

My Biggest Disappointment
by Masen Edwards



Masen's use of Jasper as the main character again makes me wonder if this isn't, at least partially, autobiographical. Though Masen doesn't specify whether or not Alice is the same girl that inspired Jasper's music, I suspect she must be from the pure infatuation Jasper has with this character. If it weren't so heartbreaking, it would be endearing because one thing is for sure, Masen was right about this disappointment being depressing.

Jasper's intense distress at overhearing his secret crush, Alice, accept James' invitation to prom after finally building up the nerve to ask her himself is downright painful. The worst part of the whole thing is he hasn't written anything beyond that moment to indicate whether or not he eventually got the girl or moved on to someone else.

I do my best to tuck away my personal feelings and read through his work several times to make grammatical edits, and when I finish, I can't help but feel a touch of pride when I notice there are far fewer blue marks in the right side column. It's clear Masen took my first comments to heart and made a concerted effort to improve his writing.

To: Masen Edwards
From: Bella Swan
Subject: Feedback on Disappointment Essay
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —


Look at you go! I hope you're as pleased as I was when you open the document and see how much you've improved! Not an ellipsis in sight!

This piece was beautifully written and my heart went out to poor Jasper. You didn't specify, so I have to ask … is Alice the same girl who inspired Jasper's song? While this certainly fulfills your assignment, I can't help but ask if I could push you for more. Does Jasper ever find the nerve to ask her out, or does he move on to someone else? Have you thought to venture into Alice's head? What if she was just as smitten with Jasper as he was with her and now, she'll never know!

I must confess (which I seem to do a lot with you, now that I think about it!) there was once a boy I had a crush on in high school. I always hoped he'd ask me to prom, but to no avail. Perhaps I should've worked up the gumption to ask him myself instead of agreeing to go with the first person who did ask me. Hindsight is 20/20 though; wouldn't you agree? What teenage girl wants to be the only girl not at her prom, after all?

So, Masen, can you give me more?

Waiting on pins and needles,


I read over what I've written several times to make sure I don't come off too demanding. It's hard to take myself out of the equation when his disappointment relates so closely to mine. I could have easily been Alice in his scenario. Unfortunately, Edward Cullen never pined after me the way Jasper does Alice, and my less-than-charming prom date turned into a lackluster two-month relationship that ended as soon as summer began.

I shake my head, none too pleased about revisiting my own disappointment over the 'one that got away' and wondering whatever became of Edward Cullen. I'd lost track of him once I'd learned he'd gotten married and settled on the east coast. Pushing Edward out of my mind, I wrack my brain for Masen's next writing assignment.


HONESTY (The Good Doctor)

I always hoped he'd ask me to prom, but to no avail.

It's enough to send my heart into overdrive once more, and this time, I don't apply the brakes. Who else could she have wanted? Oh, Edward Cullen, why did you have to be such a timid fool back then?

Bella hasn't yet divulged where things stand now; she could be happily married with four kids, for all I know. Nevertheless, I know what I have to do. She deserves it, and frankly, so do I. It's time to step out from behind the alias and fear, once and for all.

To: Bella Swan
From: Masen Edwards
Subject: Pushed for more
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —


Yes, it was nice to see some white on the page this time! Go, me! Since you asked so nicely, I have given you much more (see attached).

I really do appreciate the review notes, especially your personal reflections. It makes it easier for me to "bare my soul" when you've shared your own regrets.

I suspect you already know that Jasper is not only the same character as before, but he is also me. (I am he?) After giving this much thought, I've rewritten my piece in first person. I'm sorry I can't step into Alice's shoes. I don't have the luxury of knowing whether she was smitten, but I honestly hope I'll find out some day.

Give me your worst,


Attch: My Biggest Disappointment . docx

«» best friend Emmett—captain of the football, soccer, and lacrosse teams— had finally threatened to crush my nuts with his own two hands if I didn't "man up and ask her already." Popping the question to my fantasy girl was terrifying, but Emmett McCarty's nut-crushing bare hands were scarier. (What took Emmett so damn long, I will never know!)

I had so much adrenaline coursing through my system as I stepped out of the men's room after third period, I was sure everyone could see my heart beating right through my shirt. I wiped my clammy hands on my jeans one last time and swiped a bone-dry tongue over even drier lips.

Rehearsing my words one final time—Isabella Swan, would you do me the extraordinary honor of going to prom with me?—I made my final approach to her locker. My heart literally stopped cold as I spied not the sweet smile of the brown-haired beauty I was finally prepared to ask out, but instead, the broad muscular back—ugly pony tail and all—of Jacob Black. I'll never forget the possessive way his fingers wrapped around the top of her locker door or the way he leaned in far too close, smelling that soft, clean Bella scent that made me dizzy with want. Burning with rage and self-loathing, I turned in place and ran...



Umm … what?

I read the attachment again, thinking I must have imagined him describing my one and only invitation to the prom—imposed my memories into his words somehow—but nope, he definitely detailed it right down to Jake's nasty rat tail. My heart speeds up, and I foolishly glance toward my front window as if I would find someone peering inside. Taking a deep breath, I turn back to the computer and try to figure out where to go from here.

Clearly, Masen isn't who he claims. Our graduating class was so small I remember every name, even if I wasn't friends with most of them. I pull up all of our previous correspondence to see if I can place him through his words. Unfortunately, he hasn't revealed nearly as much about his personal life as I have about mine, and I come up empty-handed—until I reread his latest message.

I was so excited about reading his revised assignment I didn't even notice his signature on the email.

Give me your worst,

Edward. There was only one Edward in my graduating class, and if I'm not mistaken, the entire school. To be honest, his name was one of the first things about him that caught my attention. It was just so old-fashioned; it sounded like he belonged in nineteenth-century literature with the likes of Mr. Darcy. I was always too busy reading in the library to notice much of anything in high school, and even though his best friend was the most popular guy in school, Edward had a tendency to stay in the shadows like me. I first developed my crush on him when we were paired together in Biology lab, but once the semester was over, he rarely gave me more than a friendly hello.

Never in a million years would I have thought he was interested in me.

The question now is … why's he bringing this up twenty years after the fact? And why did he hire me to be his writing coach under an assumed name? The biggest frustration of all—why couldn't he have asked me to prom before Jake?

There are too many variables and too many questions for me to make sense of anything, so I decide to do something I wish I'd done almost twenty years ago and lay it all on the line.

To: Masen Edwards
From: Bella Swan
Subject: Re: Pushed for More
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —


As in Edward Cullen, I'm guessing? There were no other Edwards in our class, and it's too much of a coincidence for it to actually be a coincidence. (Does that even make sense? You have me so discombobulated I'm not even sure anymore.)

You certainly rose to the occasion. Any chance we can meet in person? Maybe over coffee—or perhaps drinks would be better if you're a crazy stalker? (I'm kidding ... a little. I've felt like someone was peeking in my window since I read my name in your story!)

I'm thinking it would be best to have this conversation face-to-face.

Let me know,


I read over my email again. I don't want to give too much away until I know for sure it's him, but I don't want him to be too worried either—after all, he put a lot on the line when he used my real name, considering he lied about his identity.

I bury my face in my hands for a moment to steel my nerves. It's now or never, Swan. Reaching out to grab the mouse, I blindly push "send."


FACE-TO-FACE (The Good Doctor)

Could this be real? Might I actually have an actual date with Bella Swan after all this time?

It's so tempting to spill the rest of my guts out all over the email, but Bella's right—it is best to have the conversation face-to-face. I've done quite enough standing in shadows where she's concerned, and I am done hiding.

What's the worst that can happen? asks that devil who's been pushing along this whole process with utter glee.

Oh, how about complete rejection and utter humiliation? answers the angel who's done such a great job protecting me from pain that I've never ventured after what I've really wanted...all this damn time. The thing is, though, I never truly escaped the pain.

Looking the so-called angel straight in the eye, I answer, Enough! If she rejects me, so be it. At least, I'll know I tried.

To: Bella Swan
From: Edward Cullen
Subject: Face-to-face
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —


I'm not actually a crazy stalker, though I do admit to looking you up on line the other night. When I saw the chance to reconnect with you, I couldn't resist. Please forgive the pen name...I'll explain when we meet.

And Bella, I want to thank you for being open-minded about meeting in person. I've learned a lot through this writing process and I'd really like the chance to tell you about that too.

Imagining your schedule and knowing mine, I'm guessing an evening is best—which means drinks would work better than coffee! Meet me at Buzz tomorrow at 6? If you remember me at all from high school, you will have no trouble recognizing me!

The one who let you get away,

Edward (Cullen)

Please don't make me sweat it out, Bella.

While I'm waiting, I make about fifteen different deals with Anyone Who Might Be Listening. I need every base covered this time, not taking any chances. When my incoming email chimes, and my heart skips a beat.

To: Edward Cullen
From: Bella Swan
Subject: Re: Face-to-face
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —


That sounds perfect. I'm really looking forward to seeing you again. :)


All right then.

The following day at work, I tick off my patients one by one; each appointment concluded gets me closer to my reunion with Bella. While barreling down the hallway toward the elevator, I have a near miss with a gurney inconveniently parked against the wall. My chest feels tight, and a flash of insight identifies the feeling as the very same one I wrote about: I've become the boy rounding the corner (only this time it's a city block), my eyes barely registering the garish halls around me (the storefronts and people lining the busy streets), so focused am I on reaching Bella's locker (the bar where she and my destiny await).

The place is hopping already, but it's not even a challenge to find Bella. My attention is drawn to the brown-haired beauty who's been swimming in my head in one form or another since our first biology lab. She flexes her elbow and lifts her beer bottle halfway to her lips before pausing and turning her eyes toward the door. From the slow roll of expressions crossing her face, I imagine her emotions mirror mine—instant recognition, apprehension, attraction, more apprehension, and finally—hope.

My feet practically spring from the oak planks, but I restrain my pace to a cool saunter. Her eyes are glued to me now, as mine are to her. I pray there are no obstacles to trip over, because I'm totally helpless. My heartbeat rushes in my ears, and all the restaurant clamor and too-loud music and too-eager happy-hour patrons fade into the background. As I round the far corner of the rectangular bar, my pulse quickens, half-expecting a pony-tail-wielding scumbag to step between us.


There is only Bella. She and I. (Her and me?)



"Edward," I say, a bit too breathlessly.

He looks good. He looks really good.

"Hey, Bella," he says, sliding into the booth opposite me. "Have you been here long?"

He's looking at the bottle in my hand and I shake my head. "Just a few minutes. I finished grading papers sooner than expected so I just came early. I, uh, ordered us an appetizer, too. I hope that's okay." My eyes are dancing around everywhere, the peanuts sitting between us, the waitress with the too-short skirt eyeing Edward, my fingers as they nervously peel at the label on my bottle, the group of guys playing darts in the corner … anywhere but Edward's perfect face.

When I finally gather the courage to glance at him, he's looking at me intently, and I relax a little as his cheeks tinge pink from being caught staring. He clears his throat, then says, "Of course; I should've thought to suggest dinner. Did you come here straight from school?"

"Yes, but I ordered the sampler. I wasn't sure what you'd like, but it should be plenty."

Our waitress approaches the table and slides a small, square napkin in front of Edward. "What can I get you to drink?" she asks.

"Scotch. Neat," Edward replies, glancing up at her.

"Sure thing," she says before sauntering away.

Edward's focus returns to me and he gives me an appreciative smile. "You look really nice, by the way. I probably should've opened with that, huh?"

I feel my own cheeks heat up as I look down at my bottle. I selected my wardrobe this morning carefully, choosing a black and white, V-neck, sleeveless dress that cinches at my waist and falls to my calves. I'd been forced to wear a sweater while I was at school, but it was worth it for his reaction now.

"Thanks. You look pretty good, too. I thought maybe you'd be in scrubs, Dr. Cullen," I tease.

He laughs and shakes his head. "No, I'm not that kind of doctor. It's a suit and tie for me every day."

"Hmm … well, it suits you," I tell him with a wink.

Edward actually throws his head back and laughs as the waitress places his drink down.

"Listen, can we just get the awkward part out of the way first?"

"Sure," I reply, startled by his abruptness.

"I'm really sorry I lied to you. It's just … the last few years of my life have just felt like one huge disappointment. Even though my divorce was mutual and fairly amicable, it still felt like a huge failure on my part. I was floundering and trying to figure out how I'd missed the mark so badly that I'd married someone I knew I was settling for. When I moved back and saw you were still in the area … I just wanted a chance to see how you were doing, but if you were happily married with three kids, two cats, and a dog, I thought it would be best if I just left you alone." Edward pauses, swirling his tumbler of scotch. I get the feeling he's not quite done, so I wait. Finally his eyes meet mine again, and he says, "And to be perfectly honest, I was being a little bit of a chicken shit. Scared you'd turn me down again. I guess not much has changed since high school after all."

Well, I definitely wasn't expecting that. Everything he's just said is swirling around inside my head, but I can't help but point out the obvious.

"I actually never turned you down, you know. You never gave me the chance."

"Right. Well, that too," he says, now frowning into his drink.

Tentatively I slide my fingers across the table and nudge his. "Hey. I'm sorry. I was just teasing; though I promise I never would've turned you down if you'd asked me. I had a pretty big crush on you, too. You were the guy I was talking about in my email."

"Really?" His eyes snap back up to my face. "You're fucking kidding me! You wanted me to ask you to prom?"

"Prom. Dinner. Movie … whatever. Once we were out of Banner's class, though, you hardly spoke to me, so I just figured you weren't interested."

Edward chuffs and reaches one long finger out to rub against mine. "Interested doesn't even come close to what I was in high school—I wrote a song for you, Bella! I just never worked up the nerve to ask you out, and when I finally did it was too late."

"So, where does that leave us now?" I ask.

"I guess I should make sure you definitely are single first."

"Definitely." I smile.

"Well then, here goes nothing," he says before scooting out of his side and sliding in next to me. Edward grabs my hand, looks me directly in the eye, and takes a deep breath. "Isabella Swan, would you do me the extraordinary honor of going out with me, please?"

He tacks on a smile, and I can't stop the laughter that bubbles out of my chest. "Was that you learning from your biggest disappointment?" I ask, recognizing the line from his written submission.

Impishly, he shrugs his shoulder and offers his lopsided grin again. "Maybe. I've made a shit ton of mistakes in my life, Bella, but I try not to make the same mistake twice."

"I'd love to go out with you sometime," I answer.

"Would it be too forward of me to ask for a kiss?" His eyes are trained on my lips, and I see the barest hint of his tongue peeking out.

"Probably, but I'm thinking you should do it anyway."

Edward tugs on my hand, pulling me forward as he slowly leans down. His other hand moves up to cup my neck, and the anticipation of our first kiss is building faster than we're moving. When he's close enough that I can feel his breath against my lips, he stops and whispers. "Once I do this, you know I'm not going to let you get away again, right?"

"Counting on it," I breathe, barely containing my urge to grab his hair and close the distance between us.

Finally, finally, he tips forward and presses his soft lips against mine. It's a very innocent, very sweet kiss, but still, I can feel it all the way down to my toes. As the smile spreads across my face, our kiss is cut short. Edward squeezes my neck gently and leaves the tip of his nose touching mine.

"Are you laughing at me, Ms. Swan?" he asks.

I give in to the urge to tangle my fingers into his soft locks and shake my head, giving him Eskimo kisses in the process. "Not at all. Just insanely happy."



To: Bella Swan
From: Edward Cullen
Subject: Reverse Romance
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Dear Bella,

Thank you for giving me enough credit to assign the "virtually impossible" theme I proposed to you just two short months ago (feels like an entire lifetime). With your nurturing support and inspiration, my faith in my writing technique has grown to the point where I feel comfortable stretching myself to meet this challenge.

Of course, our "private sessions" have also done wonders for my confidence! *wink*

As always, I await your feedback with wild anticipation. (No pressure!)


PS- I'll be by around eight with Peking Ravioli and Kung Pao Chicken in hand. Be hungry!

Attch: Romance in Reverse . docx


"It's your third date," Emmett coached. "You should definitely expect a kiss—more than a kiss if you play your cards right."

Edward dropped his chin to his chest and shook it sadly side to side. "You don't understand. She's not like other girls."

Emmett huffed, "Of course not, dude. Your girl is different from all the rest, just like Rosie. That's what makes your heart pound just for her."

"Is that your advice as my cardiologist or my romance coach?"Edward looked across the industrial stainless steel cafeteria table at his well-meaning friend's brilliant smile. How could Edward ever hope to explain who Bella Swan was to him or what their "dates" entailed?

"Both," Emmett answered him confidently.

Edward rose from his plastic chair and squeezed Emmett's shoulder. "Thanks. I'll keep that in mind."

True to his promise, Edward still had Emmett's words ringing in his ears six hours later when he walked through the sliding glass doors of the Seattle Grace ER and headed to the staff parking lot. He wasn't exactly sure what time Bella would be online tonight, but he knew he'd be there waiting for her when she clicked open the document.

Edward's pulse quickened as he grasped the brushed nickel handle and pulled open the door. "Buzz" was an apt name for the place, he thought, all the sensory inputs melding together into a soft drone as he located her in the dense crowd. His feet carried him across the crowded restaurant, toward the brown-haired beauty waiting for him.

Edward felt the familiar shiver down his spine that accompanied the initial wake-up swirl of Bella's mouse and the soft tapping of her keyboard—Bella was online! He sensed the warmth of her deep chocolate eyes as the climactic scene played out before her. There was a smell...tomato. She was eating in front of her computer again. Enthralled by his story, she'd come straight home from school, reheated a quick bowl of soup, and she was now swirling her spoon in random patterns as her attention was consumed by the love story scrolling down her screen. He wished she'd take better care of herself, wished he could jump right out of her monitor and fix her a decent meal. There were so many things he wished he could do for Bella, but for now, he knew what she really needed was this story—their story, after all—so he carried on...

"Edward." His stomach tumbled. He could imagine no better greeting than simply hearing his name on her lips for the first time in eighteen years...

A/N: Chaya, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! We hope you enjoyed our tribute to your wonderfulness! The EPOVs were written by me, and Shellshock wrote the BPOVs. Those chapter dividers are meant to look like open books *shrugs*. We'd scream and jump up and down about how wonderful you are, but then other authors would just try to steal you away. So...for everyone else reading this, honestly? She's just meh. xxx ~BOH