Title: My One and Only
Pairing: Bella & Edward
Summary: When you meet that guy—the only one you'll ever want—at age ten, no one expects it to last. We proved them all wrong.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended.
My One and Only
"You ready, honey?" My dad's moustache twitches as I look at him. In my heels we're almost eye-to-eye.
I nod absently, craning my neck, looking for Edward. There are too many people in the way, but I catch a flash of unruly rust-colored hair, which reminds me of the first time I ever noticed it, just a flash of color blurring past me on my first day of fourth grade. I remember wishing my hair was that color, instead of the boring brown my mom wouldn't let me dye until I was fourteen.
It was my first day at Forks Elementary. I hadn't wanted to move here. I loved Phoenix. I loved the heat and I loved the warm browns and reds of the landscape. Maybe that's why I noticed his hair, a tiny flash of not-green and not-grey and not-black in this dull, rainy town where people seemed to have their hoods up permanently.
In class, Mrs. Cope sat us in alphabetical order, going on our first names, and because there were no Evanglines or Francescas or Gregorys or Harrys in the fourth grade, Isabella came right after Edward. Jacob Black sat on the other side of me.
It's funny to think of that—that Jacob could just have easily been my Edward if I'd been the odd numbered person in the row instead of the even. Mrs. Cope asked us to work in pairs to solve a math problem, and I had to work with Edward.
Jake'd probably laugh at that, too. Well, if he had time to listen to me he might. He and Leah have twelve-month-old triplets and they usually have that incredibly harried look in their faces—the one that tells you they're one sleepless night away from curling up fetal-style and bawling louder than Rachel, Rebecca and Seth combined.
I take a few steps toward Edward. I can see Jasper whispering in his ear.
As Edward enlarges in my vision, I can see his smile, and it's blinding. It hurts to look at him. Right in the center of my chest, like someone's hand is planted there, like they're trying to press me back while I keep moving forward. I'm not close enough yet to see those eyes I once told him looked like cucumber slices—the green is darker around the outside—but I know they're full of tears. That boy has never been afraid of me seeing him cry.
That first day, sitting there next to me in Mrs. Cope's class, he came in from lunch with a grazed knee and tears sliding down his cheeks. I gave him the hanky my Dad forced on me that morning. I asked if he wanted me to take him to the nurse. He shook his head and said his knee didn't hurt too bad.
I tipped my head to the side, touched the ends of my ponytail, and asked what the matter was, then.
He looked at me, snotty-nosed and dirt-and-tear-stained and told me that some of the boys were calling him names at lunchtime and they made him feel really sad. I asked who they were and offered to punch them on the nose.
"That won't help," he said, his voice quiet, his eyes on his desk. "If a girl hit them for me, they'd tease me more."
"What's wrong with being a girl?"
He shrugged. "Nothing."
I asked my dad about it at dinner that night, and he and mom did that thing where they looked at each other like I wasn't there and talked with their eyes and their eyebrows. Dad sighed, placing his hand on mine. "Sometimes, some boys are taught that they're, well, not better than girls, but stronger. Some people say things like crying is for girls, or that boys shouldn't get hurt by nasty words—that they should be tougher than that."
I thought about that for a while. "Do you ever cry, Dad?"
"Sure," he said. "I cried when you were born."
I was offended by that, and my mom looked at the ceiling and then shook her head at him. "Baby," she said, "sometimes people cry when they're really happy, too. That's why Daddy cried when you were born. But he also cries sometimes when he's sad—like when Uncle Harry died."
She looked at me like I should be able to remember that, but I was only four when Uncle Harry's heart stopped working.
"The important thing is," my dad said, "that it's perfectly okay to feel sad and cry. Just like it's okay to laugh when something is funny, or say 'ouch' when you stub your toe."
"You don't say 'ouch,' Dad. You say 'sh–'"
Mom's eyes went really wide as Dad put his hand over my mouth. "I shouldn't say that," he said. "And neither should you."
The next day, I asked Edward if he wanted to climb on the jungle gym with me at lunch time. He said yes.
As I get closer to him, I can see Edward fiddling with the cuffs of his shirt, which I know will be secured with the mother-of-pearl and platinum cufflinks his grandfather gave him on his twenty-first birthday. He laughed so hard when he realized I didn't know what they were.
"Look at these," he said, poking me in the ribs with the faded black velvet box.
"Wow," I said. "They're … pretty."
I could see the box shake with the laughter Edward was suppressing. He knew I had no idea what they were. "Cufflinks," he whispered.
I nodded like I knew what that meant. The silly things were almost rattling around in their box with Edward's hand shaking so much.
He bent his head, lips by my ear. "On some dress shirts, there are holes in the cuffs. Instead of buttons."
"Oh." I kissed his cheek, grateful he'd saved me from being embarrassed in front of his parents.
"You can wear them, Edward," his grandfather said, his voice as creaky as his joints, "the day you marry Isabella."
Edward was looking at me, so he didn't see the look that passed between Carlisle and Esme. The look that was half-amused and half-concerned. The look I'd seen them sharing for as long as I could remember.
Because the thing is, when you meet that guy—the only one you'll ever want—at age ten, no one expects it to last. In fact, they'll not only tell you that it probably won't last, they'll also tell you it shouldn't. They'll say it's unhealthy, that you're flirting with some kind of codependency—particularly if one of you is carrying a diagnosis of mental illness.
When we were nineteen and starting college, Edward had a rough time. He'd always been a little more sensitive, a little more prone to self-doubt, and a little more likely to suffer from black moods than most of our friends. But when we moved away to college, all the changes he was dealing with caused him a lot of stress. He became withdrawn and even more moody. He would disappear into his bedroom in the place we shared with Rosalie and Jasper and not emerge for a few days. Sometimes I'd find him just staring at the wall, his face sticky with tears.
When he was diagnosed with depression, it was both heartbreaking and a load lightened.
While he hated the label and the stigma and misunderstanding that came with it, it did mean that he could take steps to manage it. He took up Pilates and started running every morning. He started on some medication that made a real difference almost immediately. And he started going to therapy—and that made all the difference.
His parents, and some of our friends, continued to question the healthiness of our relationship, even once Edward's mental health had improved rapidly with the combination of routine, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and medication. No one ever said it, but it was always there in that flat tone his parents adopted when talking about us as a couple—they thought his depression was linked to the protracted nature of our relationship. The seemed to think his life being tied to mine for so long meant he'd never been able to figure out who he was, apart from me.
It was a little hypocritical, in my opinion. Carlisle and Esme had been together since they were seventeen. Twenty-five years of marriage. At that point, Edward and I had only been "together" for nine. Or seven, if you counted, as we did, from when I asked Edward if he would be my boyfriend in the summer between seventh and eighth grade.
Edward had been seeing Dr. Banner for about six months when, one morning, he looked up from the cereal he was pushing around his bowl. He started picking at the orange paint flaking off the breakfast table. I'd found it at a yard sale a month earlier and I'd been meaning to repaint it. "Babe, is it okay – I mean, would you be okay with me talking about our relationship with the doc?"
"I assumed you would've already." I frowned. "Not that I think – I mean, just because I would've expected you'd been talking to him about every aspect–" I shook my head, tugging my fingers through my hair. "You can talk about anything with him. You don't need my permission. Whatever you need to talk about …"
He smiled and nodded. He knew what I meant. "'Kay. And–" he pulled his hands into his sleeves "–would you … I mean, if he thinks it'll help—would you come in one time?"
I got off my stool and walked around to him. He swiveled so I could stand between his knees. I kissed his cheek and touched my hand to his chest. "You know I would."
He kissed me back, hard—and ended up ten minutes late for his appointment.
I did go see Dr. Banner with him. Three or four times, I think. He talked to us about our identities and how we saw ourselves, and asked us a lot of questions about our relationship—everything from how we divided up the chores at home, to our sex life, to how often we argued and over what.
He didn't tell us anything we didn't already know. We weren't perfect. We fought. We acted selfishly at times. We said stupid, hurtful things in the heat of the moment. But we were healthy.
We were close, yes. Soul mates, maybe. But I've always been able to separate "me" from "us," and so has Edward. Not Edward's Bella and Bella's Edward, just Edward and Bella. We didn't need each other, but we wanted each other. We'd chosen each other, and every day we kept making that choice.
I'd been so busy looking at Edward that I didn't realize just how many people are here. I feel a flutter of nerves as I look around, and I falter a little, walking in my sky-high heels. But then my eyes find Edward again and I've never been steadier.
When I was twelve, I told my Dad that I was going to marry Edward. His moustache twitched and he tugged the end of my braid and told me to make sure Edward always treated me with respect. I asked him what that meant, and he said that he better always speak politely to me, and about me, and if Edward ever wanted to do anything with me that I didn't like the sound of, then I should tell him "no," and if Edward was a man worth marrying, then he'd listen.
It took me until the next summer when Edward kissed me behind the old beach shack to figure out what Dad meant. He probably would've been better giving that advice to Edward. Edward might have initiated that first kiss, but when he did, he struck a match inside me, and after that it was always me who was begging him for more and more and more.
I really liked kissing Edward. It was a bit awkward at first, especially when I got brave enough to put my tongue in his mouth, the way I'd seen movie stars kiss. But I liked the way we'd forget to breathe and the way our breath sounded when we remembered, all heavy and shaky. I liked the way he'd make these groans and grunts when I rubbed against him when we were kissing on my bed, and the way his hands would fumble across my skin, wanting to touch but not knowing if he should.
On the night of his fifteenth birthday, I grabbed his hand and shoved it under my shirt. He said "fuck," and I liked that.
Six months later, I put my hand inside his boxers and said, "show me how." He said "oh, fuck, oh, Bella, fuck, fuck" and I really liked that.
When he got brave a few weeks after that and slipped his hand inside my panties and said, "now you show me," I didn't say "fuck," but I did make a lot of noises that would've been embarrassing if I'd been with anyone but Edward.
Not long after that, I asked Mom to make me a doctor's appointment. I'd decided I was ready to have sex with Edward, and I needed the doctor to put me on the pill.
Mom just sighed. "Are you sure, honey? You're only sixteen."
I told her I was positive. She asked me, of course, if Edward was pressuring me, and I laughed and told her that it was definitely the other way around. She frowned then, and told me to be careful with him. I scowled at her and swallowed back a few words that I knew would get me in trouble. I didn't need her to tell me how to love Edward—I'd been doing it for years, even when no one else knew there was something not quite right.
In the end, she conceded pretty easily. "Well," she said, "I guess it's probably better your first time is with someone like Edward. Someone you've known forever and you trust. Even when you guys aren't together, you'll be able to look back on that fondly, you know? Rather than with regret."
She didn't get it. Edward was never my "for now." He'd always been my "forever."
Mom wasn't the only one who didn't understand us, though.
At the start of ninth grade, just before my birthday—somewhere between his hand going up my shirt and my hand going down his pants—we broke up.
It was over something ridiculous. Edward might have insulted my t-shirt on the wrong day.
It only lasted less than two weeks, but it sucked.
Alice rolled her eyes as I watched him walk past me in the cafeteria, shoulders hunched, hood pulled down low. "Get over it, Bella. You dumped him, and come on, it was totally about time. You guys have basically been together for like, five years. You haven't even kissed anyone else. You're almost fifteen. That's seriously weird, you know?"
I just shrugged. I didn't tell her that I didn't want to kiss anyone else. She would've laughed. Edward and I might have been "seriously weird," but I liked what we had—and I missed it.
Alice was pretty pissed off when, a week later, she found me sitting in Edward's lap at Rosalie Hale's pool party. One hand on her hip, the other corkscrewing at her temple, she made it pretty clear she didn't approve. She didn't really like Edward because she couldn't understand him. Most people couldn't, and to be honest, Edward didn't understand Edward for a long time.
We've broke up one and a half times since then.
The half is because Edward once tried to break up with me and I refused to let him.
It was towards the end of our junior year of college.
"Bella." Edward dumped his messenger bag on the partially-sanded-back breakfast table, and walked over to where I was sitting on the couch. He picked up the remote and turned the television screen black. "We need to talk."
"Shoot." I offered him some of my twizzlers and he shook his head. His mouth was set in a tight line, his eyes already burning red in the corners.
"I think we should break up."
He might as well have slapped me.
I shook my head, "No." I shook it harder, faster. "No."
He took my hands, his long, warm fingers wrapping around my perpetually frigid ones. "Yes."
"Why?" The word was an exhalation, chased by a sob.
He sighed, looking at his hands closed around mine. He spoke like he'd rehearsed it, which he probably had. I could imagine him saying it over and over to himself as he drove home from class, until he believed it was true. "This illness I'm dealing with, Bella—it sucks. It's a heavy burden, and it's not going to go away. I don't want that for you. I don't want your life to be about caring for me, about walking on eggshells around me because you're scared that I might break. I want you to be with someone who is whole, who can love you the way you deserve to be loved."
He looked at me then, confused. It occurred to me that he thought he was giving me an out. He expected me to agree. He genuinely believed that I would jump at the chance to break up with him. That I was staying with him not in spite of his illness, but because of it. Because I wouldn't have want to upset him by dumping him.
"What about what I want? Does that not matter to you?"
"Then why are you trying to break up with me, when I want to be with you?"
He let go of my hands and moved to stand by the window. "Bel–"
"No." I followed, making him look at me. "Is there someone else?"
His eyes grew wide. "No. God, no. Bella, no. Never." He reached for me but then snatched his hands away.
"Okay." I nodded. I reached out and squeezed his forearm, just for a second, so he knew I believed him. "Then, do you not love me anymore?"
"You know I do." The words came out strangled, like they were painful to say.
I laughed, a bitter scoffing sound. "Okay. So you love me, only me. And you want what's best for me."
He nodded, wiping his cheeks with the cuff of his hoodie.
"So you know what's best for me, do you?"
He had no answer for that. His mouth opened and closed and he scrubbed his hands over his face.
"I know what you're doing," I said, trying to make my tone gentle. "And I'm not going to let you. And that might be hypocritical because right now I'm so–" I lost the battle with my voice "–fucking pissed off with you for thinking you could decide what's best for me. And I'm going to do exactly what I'm angry with you for doing but I don't care. I love you, and if you love me then that's that. You're not breaking up with me."
Later that night we made love with a kind of frantic relief that I can still taste.
The next time Edward broke up with me, I let him.
We'd talked, a few times, about getting married and we'd agreed that it was something we'd do eventually, but at twenty, we weren't exactly in a hurry. We'd been together for so long that the idea we could be "more official" seemed ludicrous.
The thing we hadn't talked about, though, was having children. And when Edward made a comment about pregnant bodies being beautiful, and I laughed and told him he'd never have to feed me that bullshit, our worlds kind of tilted on their axes. We looked at each other and it was like we were seeing each other for the first time.
We shook our heads.
"I thought I told you I didn't want kids."
He sighed, rubbing a hand across his face. "You were sixteen when you told me that. I assumed–"
"You assumed—what? That it was just a phase I was going through?"
He collapsed into an armchair, looking at the ceiling. "Bella … at sixteen I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. And play college baseball. And yet, I'm studying to be a science teacher. I–"
"Don't you dare say 'grew up.' Don't you dare."
He shrugged. He might as well have said it.
As angry as I was, and as completely wrong as it was for him to assume that not wanting to be a mother was something decided in immaturity, a phase that I should've outgrown, I said some things that night that I regret. Awful, spiteful things.
How on earth could you be a father, Edward?
You barely manage to care for yourself some days. How could you care for a child? Or would that be my job, being the woman and all?
Things that were untrue, things I didn't for a second believe. Things I'm not sure I'll ever be able to forgive myself for saying.
We broke up that night. I was furious. Edward was heartbroken.
When the rage fizzled out, and logic and rationality returned, which took a good month, I was forced to admit Edward wasn't totally at fault. He was wrong, but maybe, so was I.
I'd never thought to ask him if he wanted to be a dad. I'd assumed he'd just go along with what I wanted. After all, it was my body, and I was in charge of what lived inside it, what fed from it.
But I'd never considered what that would mean for Edward. I hadn't even mentioned my choice—not since we were sixteen—and there was some truth in what Edward had said, we'd both changed a lot since then. I shouldn't have expected him to know my mind, I should've told him. He probably wouldn't have been able to change my mind, but we should have had that conversation.
We were apart for six months after that. Edward moved back in with his parents to a loudly unspoken, "we told you so."
I struggled, but I kept moving forward. I missed him, but life didn't end. We occasionally bumped into each other at mutual friends' parties, exchanging polite nods and keeping to opposite sides of the room.
And then one night Edward turned up at my front door at two in the morning, still in his pajamas, his arms wrapped around him as he shivered in the rain.
"I love you. And if you don't want to have kids, then I don't want to have kids. I mean – I don't – I shouldn't have assumed." He was almost vibrating with shivers as he continued to pour his heart out on my doormat. "Having kids, it has no appeal to me if they're not your – our kids. And I know it took me too long to figure it out, and I know you might've moved on, but I couldn't wait – I needed – I had to tell you, and I had to say that I'm sorry and I love you."
I pulled him inside and wrapped him in the comforter from the spare bed. We talked all night, perched at the table I'd never got around to painting. The bitter taste of the harshest words I'd ever said still there in the back of my throat, I told him true things. I couldn't promise him I'd "think about" it, but I gave him the words that had haunted me for weeks now.
You'd be a wonderful dad, Edward.
And I asked the question that had been building in me since I opened the front door.
Are you sure I'm worth that sacrifice?
When the sky started to brighten the next morning, we were asleep on the couch, my head in Edward's lap. The first thing I heard when I woke up that day was Edward's whispered, "I love you."
I'm close now. I want to sprint into his arms, but that's probably a terrible idea in these shoes and this dress.
And so I just keep watching him as he gets closer—as I get closer to him.
His eyes on me, his lips part and he mouths, "I love you."
I mouth it back.
I don't remember the first time Edward told me he loved me, and neither does he. I also don't remember the first time I said the words to him. I think it was probably when we were in the eighth grade, though Edward is convinced it was while we were still in elementary school. He might be right. While all our friends were breaking up and making up by notes passed in class, we weren't "going out" and we rarely even held hands and we might not have been "in love" but we loved each other.
I do, however, remember the first time hearing those three words made my breath catch and my heart beat double-time.
It was in our junior year.
It wasn't a big deal, there were no hearts and flowers. There were no public declarations, no grand gestures.
We were walking on First Beach—and we might have been cutting class. It wasn't so much disobedience that had us occasionally skipping school; it was more Edward dealing with his depression before we knew what it was. He self-medicated by grabbing my hand in the hallway as we moved between classes and pulling me to his car, and then driving us out to the beach. Sometimes we'd walk, sometimes we'd just sit on the huge pieces of driftwood the sea hurled onshore, and sometimes we'd make out until we were covered in sand and our lips were throbbing.
That day, we were walking, our fingers linked. Our hair was blowing wild in the strong wind racing in off the ocean. Against the bruise-dark skies, Edward's hair seemed bright red. The wind had made it hard to carry on a conversation, spiriting away our words as soon as they left our mouths, so we'd lapsed into a comfortable silence.
Edward stopped to pick up a piece of shell, furry and grotesque on the outside, iridescent and smooth underneath. He handed it to me, a little smile on his lips. I could hardly hear him, but I knew the way his mouth shaped those words. "I love you."
My tummy rolled over and my heart might not have skipped a beat, but it definitely thumped hard enough that I remembered it was there.
I mouthed the words back and grabbed his shirt collar and kissed him until I had to pull away, gasping for breath.
He chuckled and pushed a hand through his hair, linked his fingers with mine again, and we kept walking.
Dad's sniffle pulls me back to the present. "Almost there," he murmurs. "Still time to change your mind."
I smile. "Not gonna happen."
Dad nods. "I know." He chuckles quietly. "I've known this day was coming since you were twelve years old and insisting he was the only one ever."
Edward and I got engaged the week of my twenty-second birthday.
He didn't ask me, not in the traditional sense. He might have broached the subject, as we sat eating French toast at the table I'd insisted on painting green, even though it clashed with the rest of our furniture, but there was no proposal, no ring, no Edward down on one knee. Just an agreement, a decision we took together. We agreed it was something we wanted to do, and so we were going to do it.
Edward's parents were not impressed. They congratulated us when we told them, but their disapproval was there, as loud and clear as if they'd just come out and said it. It was there in the way their lips pressed tight before they forced them into smiles, the glances and eye rolls they didn't think we caught, the shaking of their heads when our friends cheered and smiled and said "about time, huh?"
I tried not to take it personally. They didn't hate me, even if it sometimes felt that way. It was just that they hadn't expected Edward to marry so young, or to marry a girl who'd been super-glued to his side for over ten years. They thought I had clipped his wings, that we were holding each other back, settling for the familiar instead of taking risks and trying something new. It hurt, but I pushed that feeling aside and told myself that one day they'd see how right we were for each other. Hopefully.
Edward's friends slapped his back and shook his hand. They knew how much we loved each other. They'd seen us pull through every challenge the last decade had thrown at us and come out stronger for it.
My girlfriends, on the other hand, were divided.
A month before the wedding, they threw me a quasi-bachelorette party. In the noisy club, alcohol and perfume and the frenetic beat thickening the air, it was hot and humid. My girlfriends gathered around me, their giggles getting louder, and their tongues looser, with each drink.
"Bella." Rosalie sighed, like she felt sorry for me. "I can't believe you're gonna marry the only guy you've ever fucked." She punctuated her statement with a shot of tequila.
Tanya nodded, stirring her drink with her straw. The ice made a clink-clink sound against the glass. "Seriously. What if the sex is really bad and you just don't know it?" She snorted. "Oh my God, he could have a tiny dick and you'd have no comparison."
I thought about the three orgasms Edward had coaxed from me not six hours earlier. The first with his fingers, the second with his tongue, the third when he took me from behind. It had taken me forever to remember that my limbs had bones.
So the sex definitely wasn't bad. And maybe there were guys out there with bigger dicks, but Edward certainly knew how to use his. All those years of "practice," and a willingness to talk about absolutely anything meant we lived in that blissfully happy medium of knowing what the other liked, while still being eager to explore new things.
I sighed and threw back the rest of my mojito. "I'm pretty sure things are just fine in that department."
Lauren shook her head, eyes wide. "Just ignore them. I think it's romantic."
"Me, too," said Angela. She sighed. "You're so lucky. You found the guy you wanted when you were just a kid. You guys might not have had it easy, but you've never had to deal with the bullshit dating game. Never had to meet and fall for someone, only to have them meet someone they liked more."
"Yeah." Lauren rested her alcohol-heavy head on her hand. "I thought Jessie was the one." I squeezed her hand as her smile slid off her painted lips. Lauren had fallen hard and fast, only to find Jessica was more curious than committed.
"I think it's so sweet," Angela continued. She patted Lauren's head, her eyes unfocused. "He's like, the only guy you've ever been with, and the only guy you ever will be with."
Rose snorted. "You say sweet, I say boring."
When I got home two hours later, tipsy and needy, Edward very enthusiastically gave me a refresher course on just how not-boringthings between us still were.
No one could talk us out of it, or make us question how right this was.
And so here we are.
I'm standing in front of Edward, and his cheeks are wet and his eyes are bright, and I feel like my whole body lights up when he smiles at me.
I've almost forgotten my Dad is standing beside me when he places my hand in Edward's and kisses my cheek.
Edward's warm fingers close over mine. They're trembling slightly.
He raises his eyebrows, You ready?
I grin, You bet.
We don't look away from each other as the minister starts to speak.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today …"
Believey, thank you. You were honest with me when I needed to hear things, and you never stop telling me "yes, you can." That means everything to me. Shell x