So Easy: A Hard to Love Outtake. Summary: This is Bella's POV from Hard to Love. Just how much did she hear? What exactly did she see while in that coma? How does Bella see her life with Edward? Rated M. Canon Couples. Edward/Bella. AH.

A/N… Hey guys… Couple of things. This is the outtake I wrote for Fandome4Oklahoma charity. It's completely in Bella's POV. There's a touch of sci-fi to it, because in reality, we wouldn't really know what's happening inside her head. Also – and this is just a suggestion – you might want to skim the story again…just to refresh your memory. This follows Edward's side of things from start to finish. However, you get to see a completely different take on a few parts, not to mention new memories.

There may be parts that will require a tissue warning. Just beware. But you know Edward's story wasn't an easy one in this fic.

I'll let you get to it. See me at the bottom.


Bella's POV

"Stay with me, Bells," I heard echo in my head.

I knew the voice, but I couldn't answer.

"This is Chief Swan. I need an ambulance out on the 101. Now!"

It was my dad, and he sounded scared. He never sounded scared. My dad could fix anything. The lights were bright, the air cold. I felt both numb and debilitating pain, all at the same time. And the lights were fading, blurring into darkness.


I sat up quickly, looking around. It was a strange sensation. I could hear voices that sounded panicked and almost angry, but the only thing around me was white – blinding, stark white. I could feel hands on me, hear machines beeping, and my stomach flip-flopped when it felt like I was being lifted and then dropped.

Another familiar voice uttered words like "contusion, concussion, MRI." Frowning, I sat up completely and looked around. To my right, the light was brighter, warmer, inviting. To my left, I saw a duller light, with blurry images racing back and forth.

A searing pain shot through me, and the lights all dimmed again.


The room I was in was scary, like a padded cell without the pads...or a door. Finally pushing myself up the wall behind me, I stood completely. Frowning at the beeps coming from my left, the soft murmurs I couldn't quite hear, I suddenly felt alone. Totally alone. Turning toward the warm light, the room seemed to stretch and bend, making it look like a long hallway. It called, beckoned me.

"Don't you dare leave me now, Princess, you hear me? You've put up with me this long... I was hoping you wanted the job permanently."

Edward. I closed my eyes, fighting tears. I'd know that voice anywhere. A feeling of safety and security fell over me, and I turned back to the left. My Edward sounded scared, almost to the point of panic, and I hated when he sounded that way. It'd been so long since he'd sounded that scared. I couldn't remember the last time he'd had a panic attack – maybe when we were kids?

I walked closer to the blurry visions. I couldn't touch, I couldn't move to him, but he needed me. He always needed me when he sounded like that.

"Edward," I called out, but nothing but beeps sounded from the scene in front of me.

"Bella, I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere."

I sat down next to the wall, thinking if Edward was there, then everything was okay. A calm sensation wrapped around me, and I turned back to the long, bright hallway, tilting my head when it shrank back in on itself, leaving me boxed in. This whole thing felt like a dream. I'd had weird dreams before – dreams of showing up to school naked or falling off a cliff, only to wake up before hitting ground or water. I'd had dreams where I couldn't run away or get to where I needed to be quickly enough, but this was different. I could usually wake myself up, manipulate my dreams in some way, but here, I could only see the blurry scene in front of me. Even squinting, I couldn't tell what it was, but I could feel Edward's presence.

Curling into the corner of the room, I leaned as close as I could to the voice that meant everything.

"I remember the first time I held your hand, Princess. It was the first day we met, remember?" he asked so very softly.

"Yes." I giggled, shaking my head and wrapping my arms around my knees.

I closed my eyes, biting down on my bottom lip through a sharp pain that shot through my head. The bright room dimmed, and Edward's voice faded. When I opened my eyes again, my second grade classroom was right in front of me.


Small desks were lined up throughout the room, rows of storage cubbies were built into the wall along the back, and my friends piled into the room. I glanced down at myself, rolling my eyes at all the pink I was wearing. Dresses were a pain back then, but my mom had insisted, considering it was my birthday. My dream was too real, making me feel like myself, yet I also felt like I was right back in the second grade again.

However, my eyes were drawn to the last person to step into the room, along with Miss Peterson, our teacher.

God, I'd forgotten just how unbelievably sad Edward had looked that first day. He looked terrified and angry, with enormous green eyes that swept the room, but then hid behind the hood of his too-big, faded black sweatshirt. Miss Peterson gently pulled his hood down, smiling at him and revealing a riot of hair that stuck up everywhere.

"Class, we have a new student. This is Edward Masen. He's just moved here from Chicago," she said. Immediately, the whispers, giggles, and pointing started.

The teacher guided Edward to the empty desk a few up from mine, but in the next row over. His hair was dark, but not quite brown like my own. Another round of giggles met my ears, and I narrowed my eyes at Lauren and Jessica. They didn't like me, and from the look of it, they didn't like the new boy, either.

Grimacing, I faced the front. With every laugh that sounded through the room, with every question Miss Peterson asked him, and every book she set on his desk, the poor boy kept shrinking in on himself. It was like that sweatshirt was growing bigger.

Mike and Tyler lost interest immediately when class started, punching and kicking each other across the aisle. Jessica and Lauren whispered back and forth about what Edward looked like, the clothes he was wearing, and his old sneakers.

Angela leaned up from behind me. "Whatcha get for your birfday?" she asked.

"My mom promised me cupcakes for when I get home," I told her, amazed at how my voice was even different, but my eyes were quickly drawn back to Edward.

I was curious. I remembered being curious to the point of madness back then. Why was he so quiet? Why did he look so scared? And his hair was pretty to me. It was so different than all the other boys. Short on the sides and back, yes, but longer on top – just different. And it didn't help that he grabbed at it, gripped it.

"They're so mean," Angela whispered, frowning at Lauren and Jessica. "He's just a boy..."

I nodded in agreement, but glanced back at Edward. He was more than just a boy. He looked so lost, like a stray puppy. The adult part of me want to go over and wrap that little boy up and smother him in kisses, telling him that he would be fine, that he grew up to be the best thing that ever happened to me, to Forks, and that the little girl that was sitting in that classroom merely wanted to hear his voice. It was my birthday and I wanted him to smile, but the scene faded.


The blurry picture was back, but Edward's voice was soothing, sweet as he told me my dad was there.

"I'm going to leave you with Charlie, Bella. I'm not far, I swear. Come back to me, Princess," he begged.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked around. "I don't know how, Edward. Don't leave me," I whispered, but my chest felt empty and the room felt cold, so I knew he was gone.

A sob ripped from me, but then the scent of Old Spice, gun oil, and peppermint gum wafted around me. I closed my eyes, letting it wrap around me like a hug. It was a combination that never changed and would forever represent one single person.

"Dad," I sighed in relief.

"Oh, Bells," he groaned. "What were you doin'?" He sighed deeply. "You gotta get better now, you hear me? I don't think you understand, baby girl. The whole world would fall apart...for so many people. Your mother...she's on her way. Edward," he groaned. "He's calling Emmett and Alice now." He sighed again. "I haven't seen that boy this scared since the first time I found bruises on him."

Frowning, I wrapped my arms around my knees.

"C'mon, Bells. You can't have lightning..."

"Without the thunder," I whispered under my breath along with him, tearing up and smiling a little at the same time. I reached out a hand, placing it on the wall in front of me, which sent a wretched spike of pain through my head. The room darkened again, taking with it the scent of my dad.


"Isabella Marie," I heard, bringing me back into the lighted box I seemed to be trapped in. "I know you can hear me, sweetheart."


"You just have to be strong, baby. Let your body heal," she ordered, but I could hear the grief and worry and knew there were tears in her eyes. "But don't you dare leave us. We aren't ready to give you up, okay?"

"I don't think I'm going anywhere," I muttered, frowning at the four walls of my prison as I stayed curled up in the corner.

"The hard times were supposed to be over for you. You and Edward are supposed to have that happily ever after that you read about your whole life," she whispered. The blurry scene in front of me swirled and shifted. "You're so strong, my sweet Bella. You always have been."

Suddenly, I missed Edward's presence with an all-consuming ache. He wasn't there – his voice was missing. Tears welled up in my eyes. I didn't know how I was going to get out, but I knew I had to do something. Edward was hurting somewhere. He wouldn't leave me, wouldn't give up. He just wouldn't. It wasn't in his nature. My Edward was loyal to me almost to a fault.

I pushed myself up, glaring at the walls. I was instantly angry. I wanted out. I needed out. Edward needed me. For some reason, I was trapped in this hellish nightmare and couldn't get out. I slammed my fist at the wall behind me. Pushed at the wall next to me. When I walked across the small room to kick the wall opposite me, it suddenly disappeared and I stepped into my parents' living room.


"Just pick a movie, cuz," Emmett ordered, holding out about four DVDs.

I smiled at my awkward preteen cousin. He was built like Pugsly from the "Addams Family" – kinda chunky, but not fat, buzzed hair, and a smile that made me giggle at the best and worst of times. Before I'd met Edward in the second grade two years prior, I would've considered Emmett as my best friend, though I rarely saw him when he wasn't staying with his grandmother across the street.

"Where's Edward?" I asked, looking down at myself. Again, I was me, but then...not. I was nine again, with grass stains on my jeans, grubby sneakers, and tangled hair pulled up into a ponytail.

Emmett looked at me for a moment, but then shrugged. "I think he's upstairs with Carlisle. Did he fall down or somethin'? I heard them say he's hurt."

I shook my head and walked through the living room to just outside the kitchen door. Peeking around the corner, I saw my mom and her best friend, Esme, sitting at the table. Both were crying.

"I don't understand it, Nee," Esme whispered. "He's such a sweet, polite...beautiful child. Who? Who could do such a thing? He's just a little boy."

"Charlie thinks it's the boyfriend," my mom whispered back. "Alone, Edward's mother just simply ignores him. When she's with that man..." She stopped, shaking her head slowly. "Apparently, he just got out of jail. Drugs."

"Well, someone needs to get him out of that house!" Esme gushed, looking angry.

"Who are they talkin' 'bout?" Emmett asked in my ear.

"Roger," I whispered back, tugging on his hand. "C'mon."

"Who's Roger?" he asked.

"Edward's mom's boyfriend," I said with a sneer. "He punishes Edward for everything."

Emmett frowned. "Your friend..." He pointed up the stairs. "That kid? Someone beats him? That's so not cool. That's child abuse. They told us what to look for in class last year. You know, if someone grabs you, hurts you, touches you in your naughty places..."

Confused, I shook my head and ran up the stairs. "Edward, where are you?" I called out, opening the spare bedroom door. "There you..."

Tears welled up in my eyes. The adult part of me saw what his bruises really were – fist and handprints. They were all over his body. Edward was shirtless, completely riddled with violence. Around his too-thin arms were perfect grownup-sized handprints. There were several large round bruises on his chest, so detailed that I could count four individual knuckles with each punch. And his eyes looked scared and wide as he told me Roger was back.

"Not if I can help it," my dad said, and he was as mad as I'd ever seen him.

Not even when I broke the remote control to the TV by stepping on it was he that mad. And I hadn't even gotten in trouble or anything. Edward had broken a glass on accident, and he... I looked back to my best friend, who was pulling his shirts on as my dad and Carlisle left the room.

"Mom will be mad that Charlie knows. She'll want to move again."

"My dad'll fix it."

"Ya think?"

"I swear." I crossed my heart because that's what best friends did when they made a promise and because my dad could fix anything.

"I don't wanna move, Bella," he whispered, taking my hand as I started to lead him into the hallway. "I like it here," he said, pointing to the floor.

"I wish you could live with us," I whispered in secret, tugging him down the stairs. "I hate it when you go home."

"Me, too," he admitted softly.

"If you lived here, I could make sure no one hurt you," I vowed with a single nod.

"Hey, Thunder and Lightning...come pick out your movie snacks!" my mom called from down the stairs.

"Okay, Mom!" I hollered, tugging Edward's hand. "C'mon, Edward. Do you want popcorn or cookies?"

"Can't we have both?" he asked, grinning as we ran into the kitchen.


"No, no, no," I heard faintly, and I gazed around. My parents' house was gone and the white box was back, but my heart hurt.

"Edward?" I called out. I recognized the sound of his nightmares from a mile away. "Edward, it's okay, baby. It's just a dream."

I kicked at the blurry image in front of me, wanting nothing more than to hold him. I hated when he had nightmares; they only happened now when he was completely stressed out.

"I didn't mean it. I didn't do it on purpose," he whimpered.

"Edward!" I called, but nothing changed, which caused tears to well up in my eyes. "I want out of here!" I screamed, clawing at the wall in front of me. Edward was on the other side; I just knew it.

"I'm okay, Princess," he finally said to me. "Just a dream. I didn't mean to scare you."

Sliding down the wall, I shattered into tears, burying my face in my knees. I hated it in that room. I wanted out. I wanted Edward. I missed his strong arms holding me, his amazing kisses on my lips, and his sweet, loving eyes. They were always so damn green, like the woods in the spring after a heavy rain. I missed his hand in mine, something that I hadn't been without since I was seven years old. Most people got bikes and video games for their birthday, but I was given the best birthday present ever that year: I was given Edward.

Banging my forehead to the wall next to me, I swiped at my tears, but my vision blurred and the room went dark as pain streaked through my head.


I came back to the room to find myself pressed as close into the corner as I could get. Edward's voice was a soothing tone, though it was laced with sadness. I rubbed my face, frowning at the topic he'd chosen.

I closed my eyes to just listen. The fact that he was there, that his voice wrapped around me was comforting, but the fact that he was talking about the day my dad had finally removed him from his mother's home was disturbing. He never talked about that day. We were eleven years old and about halfway through our sixth grade year. My dad had found him walking down the street, his face bloody and beaten.

Squeezing my eyes closed, tears leaked out anyway at the memory.

"That was a strange day," he ended. "Though the fact that you told our whole sixth grade class the next Monday that I got those bruises fighting a bear was awesome! And I swear Carlisle and Esme were saints back then. I had to have been like bringing home a feral cat..."

A small laugh escaped me. "Not feral, baby," I sighed, shaking my head. "Just a sad, broken little boy."

Though, in reality, he wasn't far from the truth. He'd gone from having no rules, no real supervision, and a house where no one cared, to a home that was disciplined and structured. And Carlisle and Esme truly cared. They'd loved Edward the minute they'd set eyes on him, which was way before they'd taken him into their home. Edward had taken quite a while to adjust to such a big change.

"I'll be back, Princess. Maybe I'll find our moms while I'm gone and bring them back with me. Hmm? Would you like that?"

My head spun to face the wall toward his voice. My chest constricted, and I tried to answer. Yes, I wanted my mother, but I didn't want him to leave. I'd grown accustomed to his presence. And now that he was leaving, I felt trapped in that damn room.

"That's my girl. I won't be long."

My breathing hitched as I placed a hand on the wall. His girl. I'd been his girl since we were sixteen, but if I really gave it some thought, I'd been his girl my whole life.

I knew when he was gone; the feeling of emptiness descended down on me like a cold blanket. Pushing myself up, I started to pace...and pace...and pace some more, until the pain in my head took over.


Forks Middle School was torture. Everything changed once we left the sixth grade. We switched classes, we were expected to study more, and we had a lot more homework – and we were supposed to do all this while our bodies were going through all sorts of changes.

It was a crazy time. Suddenly, girls were looking at boys differently. Instead of cartoons posted in our lockers, it was actors and boy bands. Girls would chatter on and on about this TV show or that movie. Guys, though, were oblivious. They preferred to look, to make rude gestures, talk about sex as if they knew what the hell they were going on about. They didn't. None of us did.

Glancing down at myself, I groaned at my awkward twelve-year-old body. I was short, clumsy, and straight as a board. From the signs posted in the hallway, I could see it was just about the end of the year, because a boy/girl mixer was coming up.

"Bella," I heard beside me as I made my way to the locker. "Are you going to the mixer?"

I looked at Angela like she had three heads.

"What?" she asked, pushing up her glasses. "I just figured you and know?"

Snorting, I shook my head.

"Mike just asked Lauren, and Tyler just asked Jessica," she stated, shrugging a shoulder, but her eyes caught sight of Ben down the hall, which caused her cheeks to bloom out into color.

I sighed. "Perfect couples, if you ask me. Especially since I turned down Mike first," I told her, smiling when she laughed, but her eyes grew wide as they locked onto something behind me.

Edward was walking down the hallway toward us. He brushed off Kimberly Winters, who'd been crushing on him forever. She looked heartbroken, but scurried off to her locker around the corner. I knew Edward better than anyone, and he probably didn't even know what he'd just done to her, much less done it intentionally. He was simply deep in his own thoughts. His mother was supposed to visit today but had called to cancel. He'd only been living with the Cullens for a little over a year. Things like girls and dances weren't exactly on his mind.

When I turned back to Angela, she glanced at me and said, "What? Aw, come on, Bella! You can't tell me you don't think he's cute..."

Grinning, I shrugged. I found him to be extremely cute. But I knew him. We were the best of friends. But I'd heard it all over the last year from the girls in our class and the girls in the eighth grade, too. Edward had shot up a couple of inches over last summer. Living with Carlisle and Esme now allowed him to dress in new clothes, get haircuts on a regular basis, though it still stuck up every which way. But his attitude, his cold demeanor to just about everyone around him – aside from me – made him a bad boy in the eyes of the girls in our school. All of that combined into super crushes from afar. And Edward paid attention to none of it.

"Do you ever wonder what it'd be like to kiss him?" Angela asked with a cheesy grin.

My head spun to give her a glare. "No," I stated, but the truth was different.

I'd been keeping secrets for Edward and about Edward for so long that to confide in anyone but him was alien to me. He was going to be turning thirteen in a few months, but he had grownup problems in a grownup world, so I protected him, even if it was from stupid stuff like the curiosity of what it would be like to kiss.

"Just curious," she said with a giggle, waving as she walked away.

Edward met me at my locker, dropping his backpack to his feet and leaning on the locker next to mine. My eyes narrowed on him. He looked angry and guilty at the same time.

"What?" I asked him.

"I got detention," he grumbled, his fists balling up at his sides.


"What? Newton pissed me off, Bella!" he growled, pointing down the hallway. "You don't know what he was saying."

"About what? And this better be good, 'cause you know you'll be grounded now," I told him, poking his chest. "So much for our movie marathon weekend."

"You," he muttered, frowning at his sneakers.

My nostrils flared and I shook my head, waiting for him to explain, but he stayed deliberately silent.

"You gonna tell me why?"


"That bad?"


Grinning, I rolled my eyes, slammed my locker, and held out my hand. "C'mon," I sighed, tugging him down the hallway after he'd shouldered his backpack again. "Let's see if I can't beg you out of trouble with the Cullens," I whispered, thinking I could blame it on his stupid mother for hurting him...again. "You know, you should just teach me to fight, and then you wouldn't have to do it for me."

He grinned and it was beautiful. His whole face always lit up when he smiled. "Aim for the balls, Princess. I'll show you when we get to my house."

His hand in mine caused glares from the girls we passed, and what used to be normal suddenly made my stomach do flip-flops. But neither of us let go.


My eyes opened to see the wall in front of me a little clearer. But the voice I was hearing wasn't who I was expecting. Edward was absent, but in his place was his father.

"You're doing better, sweetheart. That's good. You keep that up," he said encouragingly. "Edward'll be back soon. I promise."

The still-blurry vision kind of looked like a hospital room, but it was the form that was milling around the blob in the middle that my eyes locked on. Carlisle's voice continued to calm and soothe.

I heard words like "swelling, brain stem, accident, and antibiotics." Frowning, I finally realized where I was. It was me in the hospital. It was me in the bed. But I didn't know why. I didn't remember being hurt. Was I trapped in my own mind? Or was this whole thing a dream – a dream I couldn't escape?

"Carlisle!" I called, pounding on the wall in front of me. "I'm here."

"Easy," he soothed again. "There's someone here to see you, Bella," he told me. "I think Angela is waiting outside for you."

My brow furrowed, but I sat down in my usual corner. "I want Edward," I murmured, feeling like a pouting child, but it was the truth. Edward's voice brought the comfort of home, the feeling of being completely taken care of and loved.

The form I'd figured out was Carlisle sat down next to the bed. He leaned over, and I rubbed the spot in the middle of my forehead where I felt his kiss press to it.

"I've always been in awe of you, Bella," he admitted softly. "I don't know how you did it. I don't know where you found the patience, the determination, the...unconditional love you have for my son. All I know is that without you, I'm not sure he'd be the man he is today. So I'm begging you, sweetheart. Fight for him one more time. We've had this conversation before, and I'm sorry to ask it of you again, but you must fight. I'm afraid he won't survive the loss of you. Not now. Not when you both have come so damn far."

Tears streamed down my face, and my breathing was hitched as I cried. The conversation he was talking about was the hardest thing I'd ever gone through when it came to Edward. Had it not been for the man that was speaking right at that moment, I would've given up ever having Edward in my life.

A machine beeped from inside the foggy room, pain shot through my head, and my eyes closed.


"Edward! Wait up!" I called, racing through the parking lot of the high school to catch up with him.

His legs were way longer than mine now. He was fourteen, with long limbs and even bigger hands and feet. He'd even started shaving, though it wasn't very often.

I splashed awkwardly through a few shallow puddles to catch up with him.

Dark, stormy green eyes locked onto me, but he waited like I'd asked. "It's gonna pour, Bella. Can't you hurry?"

Frowning at him, I nodded and practically busted my ass to keep up with him. "Yeah, yeah...let's go."

We walked in silence for a moment, but I looked up at him. He was hurting. It was all in the way he carried himself. He tugged his hood up over his head, hiding his face from me.

"Hey," I said, nudging him. "You okay?"

"Such bullshit," he muttered, sighing deeply. "Everyone will know now. This name change thing was a fucking mistake."

Grimacing, I went quiet again. The Cullens had waited until we changed from Forks Middle School to Forks High before changing Edward's name from Masen to Cullen. It was ridiculous to even think it would help. The waiting hadn't done anything to stave off the curious questions that came from it. Especially when just about every teacher in every class called role the first day of ninth grade.

Mike and Tyler had gone as far as asking Edward if he'd gotten married, though Lauren was quick to remind them both that if Edward had gotten married, his last name would've been Swan. That had almost been the end of Newton. It had taken all I had to stop Edward from annihilating him.

"Hey," I said, coming to a stop and tugging his sleeve to stop with me. "They don't know...anything, Edward. They've made stuff up, passed around rumors, but they don't know the whole story. Some of those dumbasses can barely remember their own name, much less how long you've been living with Carlisle and Esme. And they definitely don't know why."

"You do," he stated, glancing down at his sneakers.

When his eyes met mine, I crossed my heart, silently vowing that his secret was safe.

He swallowed nervously and nodded. When fat drops of rain started to splatter down on us, he scowled. "I knew you'd get me caught in this shit..."

"Quit snapping at me, Edward!" I said through gritted teeth. "You're not made of sugar. Trust me. You won't melt!"

"Sorry," he shot back.

He grabbed my hand and tugged me up the sidewalk, quickly letting us into his house before the sky opened up. We walked into the house, kicking off our sneakers at the front door. I shot Esme a wave, but Edward ignored her altogether, trudging up the stairs. He slammed his bedroom door, turned on the stereo, and dropped himself down onto his bed.

I turned the music down, kicking his sock-covered foot. "You're still mad at them?" I asked him.

"They're making me see a shrink, Princess. Like I'm fucking crazy or somethin'!" He sat up, glaring at me.

"Is it that bad?"

"The guy's an asshole."

I studied his face for a moment, but let it go. It had been this way all summer. Edward would get cranky, snap at everyone, and then back away. He'd apologize, but would do it all over again a week or two later. I was tired of fighting with him. It hurt when he snapped at me, especially when all I wanted was to see my friend happy. It didn't help that when he was sweet, I wanted so much more than friendship.

I'd overheard my mom and Esme talking just after the adoption had gone through. Edward was miserable. His mother had simply signed the papers and left him. Esme told my mom that Edward most likely had been calling her bluff, using the threat of adoption to get Elizabeth Masen away from Roger. It had blown up in his face. She'd signed, taken the payment Carlisle offered, and walked out the door. His mother had chosen that monster over her son.

"Okay," I sighed in surrender, grabbing up our backpacks. "Well, we need to start that history paper, so come on. Let's get started."

"I'll do it later," he grumbled, waving a hand at me as he fell back onto his bed.

"Edward, it's due tomorrow."

"I said later!" he snapped, sitting back up. "Jesus, think you could leave me alone for five seconds?!"

Slamming his bag into his lap and making him grunt, I finally lost my patience. "Yeah, Edward, I can. You want to be an ass? You're on your own. I haven't done anything wrong to you, but you keep taking this shit out on me. I can't do it anymore!"

I hoisted my backpack onto my shoulder, half-expecting him to call out for me, but he didn't. I made it down the stairs and out the front doors before the tears started, and they were as heavy as the rain falling down outside.

A warm hand landed on my shoulder, and I glanced up to see Carlisle standing there, handing me my sneakers. "Let me take you home, sweetheart. You shouldn't walk in this. You'll catch cold."

Sniffling, I nodded and allowed him to drive me home. When he pulled into my driveway, Carlisle put the car in park and cupped my chin, turning me to face him.

"He doesn't mean it," he stated sadly, wiping my tears away.

"I know...but it hurts."

"It's not you, it's—"

"It's her. I know, Carlisle. I understand, but..." I shrugged a shoulder, looking down as my hands twisted together around my backpack strap.

He cupped my chin again. "I know this is hard, but it's only going to get worse before it gets better, Bella. He' angry. He feels abandoned by his own mother, he's fighting everything inside himself right now, and he's been kicked so often that he feels it's coming from everyone." He took a deep breath and shook his head. "He's testing us. He's pushing us away to see who'll still be there when he's ready to come back. Does that make sense?"

I hiccuped a sob and nodded. "I just want my friend back. He promised me," I rambled, but my voice trailed off.

"Eventually, he'll remember that promise, Bella. You have to be strong. You have to fight for your friendship. But sweetheart, you're right...he shouldn't talk to you that way. And of all of us, you may be the one that brings him around. He needs you, whether he's willing to accept that right now or not. One day, he'll see it."

Nodding, I thanked him for the ride home.

I'd made it all the way up to my room before the tears started again, and I'd wondered at the time how long I'd have to wait, how long I had to hold on for Edward.

For the longest time, I'd thought Edward would come to me, climb the tree outside my window, and apologize for his behavior, for the mean things he'd said, but he'd stayed away. He'd closed off himself to just about everyone. He rarely spoke those days, but I'd felt his eyes on me all the time.

I'd still watched him, protected him, loved him, but it was from a distance. And he probably never knew it. I'd watched him through tears that Angela and my mother soothed away, because not only had I loved him, but I'd simply missed my friend. I'd guarded over him at school while looking over the tops of books about parents with addiction problems, which had been given to me in secret by Esme. And every once in a while, I'd see Carlisle, who kept chanting the mantra, "Stay strong. Fight, sweetheart. He misses you, but he's not ready." I'd watched Edward with a breaking heart as he'd trudged through almost a year of school alone. Completely and utterly alone.

His parents' worst fear was that he'd start taking drugs or drinking, maybe even start fooling around with girls, but Edward just...was. He'd go to school and then go home. It wasn't until Elizabeth died that I'd finally bridged the gap that he'd put between us, and Carlisle had been so right. When it was all said and done, Edward had finally found out who was there for him when he needed us. His parents and mine, Emmett, and myself – we'd all stood up to Roger that day.

But when he'd pulled himself through my window the night of his mother's funeral, unleashing all the hurt he'd ever felt, I knew he'd changed. In some ways, Elizabeth's death had set him free. I'd seen it on his face as he fell asleep in my beanbag, when I'd draped a blanket over him and watched him sleep. I didn't know what had made me happier...that Elizabeth's hold over him was gone, or that I had my friend back.


I came up out of that dream with tears still coursing down my face. I sighed in complete and utter relief when Edward's voice sounded around me. Glancing up, I could barely make out his form, but I could see the stark white of the walls and the dark blue of his jeans. I leaned in closer, wishing we were home and cuddled together on our couch as he talked about our first kiss.

"You know what the best part was, Princess? It was that nothing only got better. And we got really good at kissing. Though, the first time we kissed in the school parking lot caused just about the entire student body to explode in shock."

I giggled when he laughed to himself. It was a beautiful sound, and I didn't realized how much I'd missed it. I smirked toward the foggy wall, shaking my head.

"That was the very best decision I ever made...kissing you, I mean."

"We did more than just kiss after that, Edward Cullen," I muttered under my breath. "You used to set my soul on fire. You still do..."

Reaching up, I pushed on the wall, wishing like all hell I could just break it down to get to him. Much to my utter amazement, it gave a little, but it held fast, staying cruelly between Edward and me. I pushed harder, but the pain in my head made my tiny prison cell swirl.


Observing my surroundings, I recognized the World History class instantly. From the maps on the wall, to the globe in the far corner, to the poster of Abraham Lincoln, it was definitely Mr. Kessler's class. Spinning my head to the left, I knew I'd find Edward sitting right next to me. Tenth grade. We were sixteen. And I was so over-the-moon for him that it was ridiculous.

We'd both been awkward and fidgety that morning when he picked me up for school, which was silly, because we'd spent the entire weekend together after Liquid Lauren's party. But we'd been busted by my mother as we kissed in the hallway, which had led to the longest, most embarrassing conversation I'd ever sat through in my entire life. They'd scared the ever-loving shit out of us, talking about diseases, pregnancy, and birth control. And my God, the new rules we had to abide by now.

My eyes slid to my backpack, where a packet of the pills already resided. Apparently, having a doctor as a close friend paid off for my parents.

Just thinking about kissing Edward made my face heat up and gaze around the room. It felt like a neon sign on my forehead. I wanted to do it again. I wanted it more than I was even able to think about, but this change in our relationship was strange.

Edward shifted, and even though I knew this was a dream, he was driving me crazy. I knew I was living with the man next to me, but to see his hand wrapped around a pencil taking notes, to see his thighs flex as he sank lower in his desk, and to see his long eyelashes that framed sweet green eyes, I felt every bit of my teenage hormones crash into me. My eyes followed his left hand as it grasped at his hair, only to fall right back down onto the desk. It was the same head of hair I'd finally been able to sink my fingers into; I already missed the feel of it.

The bell rang, signaling the end of the day and causing me to just about jump clean out of my own skin. I dropped my book back into my bag and slung my backpack over my shoulder. Mike and Tyler tossed a football over the heads of those of us walking down the hallway, yet Edward stayed quiet. I noted Jessica's hungry stare at him, but Lauren still looked pissed off.

We stopped at our lockers, and I leaned on the one next to Edward's. "Liquid Lauren's mad at you, I think."

He grinned, giving me a quick glance as he rummaged in his messy locker. "Well, I'm pretty sure she's never been told no before."

"Oh, I know she's never been told no before," I said with a laugh, shaking my head. "She tried to convince a locker room full of girls today that you're gay."

Edward snorted, rolling his eyes, and slammed his locker, guiding me out of the hall. "That must've gone over like a lead balloon with you..."

I shrugged, smirking up at him. "No one believed her, and Angela and I merely laughed at her, which only pissed her off more."

"Does Angela know?"

I nodded, looking down at my sneakers. "Yeah, I told her we kissed."

"Is that all she knows?" he asked with a chuckle once we made it to his car.

My face heated when I glared up at him, leaning on the passenger side door. "No, I may have mentioned something," I rambled, my speech tapering off at the end. My eyes drifted away from him a little over the parking lot, because I couldn't quite look at him.

"I really want that, Princess," he whispered. "Don't you?"

Nodding fervently, I stayed quiet. He'd always called me Princess, even when we were kids. He'd started it teasingly when I kept reading stories about heroes and castles and happily ever afters. Now he said it with a different tone to it.

When I finally looked him in the eye, I saw that sweet boy I'd always known, the one that was scared and nervous. Never mind that he was taller, more muscular, already showing a five o'clock shadow. He was still my best friend, and I knew I could tell him anything.

"I really want that, too, Edward," I admitted softly. "And I want to kiss you again."

His smile was only for me. In fact, I'd forgotten where we were – the middle of the school parking lot – so the banging of car doors, the squeals, laughter, and chatter, they all melted away when his lips met mine. And I felt those lips everywhere. They made my heart sputter, my knees weak, and my hands grip the front of his T-shirt to tug him closer, if only to keep myself from falling.

When he pulled away, both of us were breathing heavy. His eyes were still closed as he murmured, "I've wanted that forever."

"How long?"

He grinned and shrugged, his cheeks turning a little pink as his forehead rested against mine. "The first time?" he asked, and I nodded vehemently. "The day of my mom's your room that night..."

My brow furrowed, but I pulled his lips back to mine. I hummed against his lips, savoring him, but a loud laugh from my cousin across the parking lot broke us apart. I was pretty sure he bellowed something close to, "It's about damn time."

I smiled, but my eyes spied the area around us. The whole school seemed to have come to a standstill. I couldn't imagine what they were thinking, because Edward and I defended our friendship almost on a daily basis, but now it was really obvious that there was more.

"We should go," I giggled, nudging him. "We have homework...and you have an appointment first."

He grimaced, but nodded, reaching for my hand. He hated his therapy sessions, but he tolerated them. Honestly, they were helping, but I'd never tell him that.

As he opened the car door for me, I had to fight my laugh, because we were being stared down by a great many people. The most shocked was Liquid Lauren, along with Jessica. As usual, Edward paid them no attention.

Once we were in the privacy of his Volvo, he turned to me. "Come with me to my appointment. We'll tell them we're stopping at the library on the way back."

Giggling, I cupped his face. "We'd be breaking rules, Edward," I reminded him.

His smile was wicked and evil, something that looked really good on him. "They never said anything about my car, Princess..."

Biting my bottom lip, I nodded and smiled, but I closed my eyes when he kissed me one more time.


Opening my eyes again, I saw I was standing in the middle of my white prison cell once again. Tears welled up in my eyes. I hurried across the room to the wall that was just a touch clearer. I couldn't feel Edward's presence, but my mother's voice carried through. It was like looking at something underwater. I could tell what things were, where people were, but it was distorted.

My mother was quiet, except for the song she was humming. It was the song she'd hum to calm me when I was a baby. It was the same song she'd hum to Edward when he was young and had woken up at our house from a nightmare. He told me once that he liked it because she'd hold him, rock him until he fell back asleep. Back then, he'd been starved for affection.

Time was strange. I waited and waited for Edward to return, but he didn't. I paced, I sat, I paced again. I felt lost without him there. As much as my mother's voice and presence in the room was fine, I wanted him there. I pushed on what seemed to be a window into another room, but it simply bowed and snapped right back. I kicked it, punched it, finally calling out for him.

Beeps resounded from the other side of the smoky glass, and I felt my mother's kiss on my forehead.

"I'm here, baby, and Edward's coming. He needed some rest. We kinda ganged up on him," she whispered, and I could feel her lips on my skin. "He loves you too much, I think. He'd waste away waiting for you."

Frowning, I backed away from the wall, tears blurring my sight. "Oh, Edward...I'm sorry," I whispered to the empty room. My back met the opposite wall, and I slid down to the floor. I couldn't imagine how bad he was if our parents had gotten together. Did he have a panic attack? Was I that sick? Was he giving up on me? What did I miss when I left the confines of this godforsaken room?

As if my mother knew what I was thinking, she soothingly said, "Don't you worry, baby. It won't be long now, okay?"

"'Kay," I answered her uselessly.

"We love you both, so we have to watch over the two of you," she said with a smile to her tone.

I cracked a small smile, closing my eyes for a moment. I don't know how long I sat that way. My mother's soft snores filled the room, and in a weird way, it kept me from going crazy. I'd glance up at the frosted window, see nothing had changed, and close my eyes again. I grew tired, but restless.

By the time I opened them once more, I smiled, scrambling up from my spot on the floor to rush to the window. Not only was the scene in front of me clearer, but I could even make out that Edward was sitting next to me. His voice was soft and reverent as he spoke. His crazy hair was sticking up in several directions, making me want to rake my fingers through it to try to tame it. His lean body was bent over me, his elbows resting on the bed. But I could feel the kisses to my fingers as he talked.

"I love you, Princess," he said so sweetly.

"I love you, too, Edward. So much," I breathed against the glass, pushing on it, but it fought against me.

"Did you know that you were the first person I ever uttered those words to? They were so easy to say to you because I honestly think you were the first person to show me what they meant. You'd been showing me our whole lives, so by the time I'd completely handed you my heart, I never doubted a thing."

Reaching up, I traced his beautiful, strong profile with my finger over the glass. "Yeah, baby, I knew that," I whispered, swallowing the lump in my throat. "You never had to tell me...I just knew."

I sank to my knees when he started talking about the first time we'd said we loved each other, the first time we'd made love. He spoke with such awe and reverence and respect that it took my breath away. My forehead thumped to the foggy glass in front of me.

He was right. We'd held off on the one big thing for the longest time. It was partly me, but the other part was him. We couldn't find the courage to take that next step...until that night. There were always parents around, or one of us wasn't ready, or something. But the very second he told me he loved me back, I knew I couldn't hold back any longer. And it had been beautiful and sweet and awkward. It had been

"My dad said that when you wake up, it's possible you won't remember some things. I hope he's wrong, Princess. I hope you never forget that it was you that taught me what love is. I'm not sure I ever thanked you for that, either."

I pushed hard on the frosted glass in front of me, wanting so badly to hold him, kiss him, crawl into his lap and wrap myself around him. He never saw himself the right way. I blamed his mother for filling his head with nonsense and bullshit about how he was hard to love. He was so easy to love. He was loyal and kind, sweet and funny, and so very honest. And that didn't even cover how handsome he was, with a smile that could melt my heart and my underwear, soulful green eyes that saw through to my very soul, and strong arms that could hug away the worst days or hold me as he made love to me.

The window bowed out in a large arc. I wanted – no, needed – to tell him that every time we made love, it felt just like the first time, that it was more than sex. It was everything to me, because he made me feel beautiful and so very loved. Always. The window snapped cruelly back at me, bringing a pain through my head that made the room fade away.


My bedroom at my parents' house was a little girl's pink dream but it never changed, even when I was too old for pink. It also was a shrine to my long friendship with Edward, which had morphed into more. There were movie and concert stubs, pictures, clothes of his that I'd stolen, dried corsages from prom and homecoming, even small love notes he'd left for me in my room, my notebooks, and my locker.

I found myself sitting on my full-sized bed, and the acceptance letter in my lap screamed how old I was. The logo for the University of Washington was a blatant reminder that it was the last year of high school. It had been a rather loud discussion about colleges. Edward and I had insisted on applying to the same schools, but our parents were worried. I saw their point; they thought our relationship wouldn't last, that it would fade over time, that being together for everything wasn't healthy. As an adult, I knew they had a point, but it just wasn't how Edward and I worked.

The house was quiet, except for the radio that played softly on my nightstand. Dad was working the graveyard shift to cover for one of his officers. My mom was visiting her sister.

A faint scratching, a whispered curse, and the soft screech of my window being opened made me roll my eyes, but I smirked when Edward's tall, lean body unfolded itself through my window.

"Home alone, baby," I sang, shaking my head. "You coulda used the door."

He chuckled, looking so good in a heather gray T-shirt and dark blue jeans as he walked across my room to sit down in front of me. "I wasn't sure, and I kinda snuck out."

My gaze shot to his face. He looked tired, yet a little proud.

"What happened?" I asked, setting my stuff aside and scooting forward.

He sniffed and shrugged one shoulder. "Panic attack."

"Oh, Edward. Why?" I asked, holding his face in my hands.

He reached into his back pocket and pulled out an envelope, tossing it down on top of mine. They matched. We'd both been accepted to UW. We locked gazes for a moment, but my heart was in my throat.

"I thought... I mean..." I frowned, glancing between our envelopes and his nervous face. "Isn't this what we wanted?" My voice was barely a whisper, but he heard me.

"Yes!" he suddenly gushed, getting up and starting to pace. "Hell, yes, Princess! But then... my parents started talking about other schools and options. They absolutely refuse to let us live together. And then, they asked what if you and I don't last...and I couldn't... I didn't want to hear it, Bella. They don't get it!"

"Edward, sit, please," I told him calmly. The last thing I needed was to have him panic again. I patted the bed in front of me, and he did as I asked. "My parents basically said the same thing. I don't think they're exactly against us going to college together; I think they're just trying to save us from what they think will happen."

"They think we'll break up...grow apart and meet other people," he mumbled, looking pained at the prospect.


The room was eerily silent, aside from my stereo, which I leaned over and turned off. I gazed back to Edward. He was toying with a string of my pajama pants, twisting it around his long finger.

Deep, sea green eyes locked with mine, framed by long eyelashes that made me jealous most days. "Why does the thought of that happening hurt so damn much?" he asked softly, his brow wrinkling. "I don't want that, Bella."

"Me, either."

"I get it, Princess," he sighed with disdain, his face contorting into an adorable grimace. "I'm not stupid. I know what they're saying. I suppose that one day, it's possible for you to—"

"Don't you dare," I interrupted him, shaking my head. "The same could be said for you, Edward." I frowned.

He looked at me like I was crazy. "Baby, I don't even like it when Tracy at the diner flirts with me. It makes me uncomfortable."

Grinning, I shook my head. "That may not always be the case. Okay, maybe not Tracy, but another girl one day..." He scoffed, but otherwise stayed quiet when I took a deep breath and let it out. I held up the letters proudly. "We got what we wanted," I declared with a smile. "We can pull the 'we're adults now' card on our parents, stating that we can make our own decisions. Or...we can what we've always done."

"Which is?" he prompted, wearing a sexy smirk.

"Which is... Stick together, tough it out. They'll have their rules, guidelines, restrictions. I've already heard them being discussed. We'll live, Edward," I told him, shrugging a shoulder. "But we'll be together. For as long as we want to be. And don't let my parents fool you," I scolded, shaking a finger at him. "They met their first year of college and have been together ever since. They can't really say much."

Edward grinned, breaking out into an adorable chuckle. He grabbed my finger and kissed the tip of it. "I know," he sighed, still smiling. "I just...I know it's not what everyone is doing. And I know we're...different, but...I don't want to be without you. I love you."

"I love you, too, baby," I whispered, leaning in to kiss him, but then tugged and pulled at him until he pressed me back into my pillow. The weight of him settling between my legs was comforting and grounded me like nothing else. I felt protected and cherished, especially when he gazed down at me the way he was right then. "Besides," I whispered, leaning up to brush my lips across his, "rules were made to be broken, Edward Cullen. We're breaking them right now."

"Oh, yeah," he sang sexily as he leaned into kiss my neck, though I could feel his smile against my skin. "Are we really alone?" he asked, placing random kisses to the spot behind my ear that made my breathing falter.


"Can I have you?"

"Please," I begged, grasping at the hem of his shirt, suddenly desperate to feel his skin on mine.

Clothes were quickly discarded, kisses dropped to each newly revealed section of skin. We'd been making love for well over a year, but it never, ever got old. Edward knew exactly where to touch me, kiss me, to make my toes curl and my eyes roll back. He loved every inch of me. Some things we'd discovered on our own; some things he'd admitted to seeing through Emmett's porn collection that he'd inherited when my cousin joined the Army.

He brought me to the brink of insanity with just his mouth, something that had made me nervous at first, but he was so good at it that I usually came seeing stars. And this time was no different. He crawled back up my body, staring down at me, just barely inside me.

"I mean it, Princess," he whispered, nuzzling my nose with his own, only to brush a soft kiss on my lips. "I don't want to lose this, us, anything. The thought scares me."

"Me, too, but I love you," I breathed, tears welling up in my eyes at his sweet, perfect honesty. "I'm certain that won't ever change."

He kissed me hard, deep, almost possessively, as we became one. Pressing his forehead to mine, he said, "Love you, Bella."


My lighted prison cell zoomed back into focus, and I gasped a heavy breath, shaking my head to clear it. Every inch of my skin felt like it was on fire, but that last memory had felt all too real. I rubbed my face, glancing up to find that the window into my hospital room was crystal clear...and I was alone.

Standing up from my spot on the far wall, I walked over to take in the whole scene. My brow furrowed at how still I was. There was a clear plastic tube wrapped beneath my nose, an IV taped to my inner arm, and the soft beeps coming from beside me matched the pounding of my heart. I didn't look hurt. I didn't look sick. I simply looked to be asleep.

A smile curled the corners of my mouth when a tall, lean, handsome thing walked into the room like he owned it. His clothes were a little wrinkled, his hair was sticking up in every direction, and his jeans were drooping just enough that the waistband of his boxer-briefs were peeking up, but he bent over me and gave my forehead a long, slow kiss.

"Hey, Princess. Guess who's here," he whispered, almost like he was revealing a secret, but his eyes looked so damn tired.

"You. That's all that matters," I mumbled belligerently, poking at the window in front of me. Instead of the harsh glass that I'd become used to, it was soft, pliant, like plastic wrap. I pushed, poked, and shoved at it again, but despite its softer feel, it was just as tenacious as ever.

When the clear window settled right back into its original place, I noticed who Edward had brought into the room with him. Alice...and Jasper, the latter hanging just on the outskirts of the room. I couldn't imagine how they'd gotten there. They'd been in Paris the last time we'd talked on the phone.

Edward's face looked heartbroken when a sob escaped our friend. I had to smile at that. Edward's patience with Alice was usually pretty limited, and it was all due to how Alice and I hadn't gotten along in the beginning. I was fiercely protective of him, and he of me, and Alice didn't understand it. She didn't understand Edward's and my friendship, our almost two-year relationship, and she saw what she wanted to see in how Edward treated me. When she saw us spend most of our free time together, she saw ugly possessiveness. When he would watch over me in public, she saw a demanding, controlling boyfriend. Edward wasn't those things. He hadn't been...ever.

But what Edward didn't know was that Alice had left that type of boyfriend behind in Mississippi. I'd been sworn to secrecy ages ago. It embarrassed Alice that she compared Royce to Edward, when it was so obvious that they were completely and totally different men.

Edward stepped out of the room, taking Jasper with him, and Alice rushed forward to sit on the edge of my bed.

"Jesus, B, what happened?" she asked softly. "I'm sorry it took us so long. The weather, and then Chicago and snow... Jasper tried, but we couldn't drive out we...waited. You have to get better. You just have to come back soon." She sniffled, speaking in the rapid pace she always did.

I shook my head, sitting down in the corner to watch her. It always took me a bit to get used to her frantic ways. She was a hyper thing, talking so fast, asking rapid-fire questions that I could barely answer.

"You're my best friend," she sniffled, shaking her head slowly. "I don't... I can't... I'm not sure I can deal if something happens to you."

My head gave a dull throb, but I squeezed my eyes closed. My prison cell held on, though it swayed a little in my vision. I glanced up when Alice left the room, but her spot was taken by Jasper, which made me smile. He was always so sweet, so calm, and had become an amazing friend to Edward.

I felt his gentle kiss on my forehead.

"Hey, darlin'," he sighed softly. "I need you to come back now, you hear me? I'm pretty sure Ed needs you too much. You two are halves of the same whole. Soulmates. I never believed in that shit until I met the two of you...and then Alice. So if you can hear me, Bella, then you open up those pretty eyes soon. Don't do it for me, or Alice...or even Edward. Do it for you. You're not done here."

"Jazz, I don't know how!" I cried through gritted teeth, punching at the window in front of me. It stretched again, only to snap right back.

He stood up and left the room.

Moments later, I giggled and sniffled a bit when Emmett's large form loomed over me.

"Aw,'re gonna kick my ass, but I don't have a choice. I gotta pay the boys...and the delivery guy. Pray I don't fuck up."

Grinning, I shook my head, but the dull throb that had started slowly sharpened into something so harsh that everything around me went black.


"I don't wanna go in," I whined, licking, kissing, and nipping at Edward's lips. I giggled when he smiled against my mouth. "I don't."

"It's your room, Princess," he whispered, pressing his forehead to mine. "Believe me, I wish we could live together, but we've just got to get through this last year."

I pouted, which earned me another deep, sweet, toe-curling kiss. "I know."

I glanced up the hallway of my dorm, sighing in frustration. Edward and I had spent most of the weekend together. And Jasper had remained absent out of their shared room since we'd finally introduced him to Alice the past Friday night, which was a good thing, considering Edward kept me in a constant state of undressed most of the time. It was now Monday night, and classes resumed again the next day. I just wasn't ready to face Alice again.

Soulful, comforting green eyes locked gazes with me. "Tell her, baby. I really don't mind. Maybe it'll explain a few things. I don't know," he suggested, but he shrugged one shoulder. "Maybe it'll at least tone down the...animosity between you. You have to get along for at least the rest of the year."

"It feels wrong," I grumped, but nodded. "But...okay. If you say so..."

"It's not a betrayal if I'm saying it's okay, Bella." He chuckled softly, dropping a kiss to my forehead. "It's my life. It's a part of me. I've had to come to grips with that."

I wanted to tell him it was a part of me too, but I kept it to myself. Maybe telling Alice about Edward's past would help, but it felt wrong to expose him like that, especially since I'd been keeping it a secret our whole lives. It was private and personal, and I felt a little possessive of it.

Edward took a deep breath and smiled softly, sweetly. "Try, Princess. If not, just...I don't know. Ignore her from this point on."

I nodded again and kissed his lips, saying, "Love you."

"Love you, too, baby."

With one last kiss, I turned and entered my dorm room, closing the door behind me. The room was quiet, but not empty. Alice was perched on her bed, notes and books scattered around her. Despite her party-minded personality, she did actually have to study occasionally.

"Hey," I murmured, walking to my own side of the room.


She remained pretty quiet as I put my things away, changed clothes, and pulled out my own books to work on the paper that was due soon. When I fell down in my desk chair, she shifted a little.

"Hey, Bella...I..." She huffed, frowning down at the pen in her hand. "I wanted to thank you...for Friday night. You didn't have to put up with..." She paused, shaking her head, but went on. "Look, I owe you an apology."

My eyes shot across the room to glare at her, but she seemed sincere...and nervous.

"Jasper," she said, snorting once. "He was...well, he was right."

"About what?"

She smirked, locking gazes with me. "Almost everything he said in here."

My eyebrows shot up, but I stayed quiet.

"My parents own a huge farm in Mississippi," she started, grimacing a little. "The closest neighbor is five miles away, but they own another really large farm. I've been told since I was thirteen that I'm marrying the neighbor's son." She looked up at me. "Royce is – was – my boyfriend. I did what my parents told me. I dated him, figuring that it was the way things were, the way they had to be. He's possessive and rude, pompous and cruel. He cheated on me many times throughout high school. He put a boy in the hospital for working on a science project with me." She spoke quietly, but her eyes were sad. "When I started applying for college, everyone told me to stay in the South, to pick something close, or don't go at all. I applied everywhere I could – from here to California, to New York and Maine. When I was accepted here, I took it, hiding the rest of my acceptance letters."

She smiled evilly when I snorted.

Alice set her books aside and got up to pace. "Royce flipped out, threatened me about coming here, but I came anyway, so it was over. My parents...well, my dad... He wanted me to go, so he overrode my mother and allowed me to come here. I talk to him a little, but my mother won't speak to me."

Grimacing, I gazed up at her.

"I'm sorry," she said firmly. "You and're not like that. I see it now. Jasper made me watch the two of you all Friday night, and... I see it. And I saw shit all wrong. I saw Royce, when I should've seen Edward." Tears welled up in her eyes.

I took a deep breath, deciding to follow Edward's advice and tell her about him. So I did. I told her about meeting him at seven, about his mother, Roger, and the bruises. I told her about my dad, that Edward hadn't been exaggerating when he'd explained that my father had saved his life. I believed that he had. Wholeheartedly. I even told her about Carlisle and Esme and how they'd stepped in as the best parents Edward could've asked for. And when I told her about Elizabeth, her face turned dark and angry.

"And here I was accusing him of being abusive?" Alice squeaked in shock, sobbing when I nodded slowly.

"Edward is far from abusive, Alice. If anything, he absolutely tries his damnedest to be the opposite of his mother. He refuses to even drink," I explained.

"Oh fuck...oh Jesus, Bella... You can't tell him. Please don't tell him. I'm sorry! I didn't mean it. I wasn't..." Her words rushed out of her just as quickly as her legs carried her to my side. "Please, Bella... You're the only one I've ever told."

I wanted to demand that she apologize to Edward, but I merely nodded, seeing the desperation on her face. Knowing how Edward used to feel about people knowing his past, his homelife with his mother, I understood how Alice didn't want people to know about Royce, who sounded like a real asshole.

Alice stepped into the bathroom and blew her nose, coming back into the room looking the worse for wear. But she took a deep breath and let it out. "Jasper was right about something else, too," she admitted softly.

"What was that?" I asked, fighting my smile, because Jasper was one of the most interesting people I'd ever met.

"I don't have a lot of friends back home," she stated, swallowing thickly. "Royce saw to that, and I... I really wanted us as friends, Bella. It was why I kept inviting you out, trying to get you to go to parties with me."

"Alice," I groaned, shaking my head. "Edward doesn't drink, and neither do I...out of respect for him. So parties are kinda...a waste of time."

"I know, I know...I see that now," she gushed, nodding profusely. "Can we at least...try?"

I let out a long breath, studying her face. "Yeah, Alice, we can try."


I came back to my little white box slowly, the sound of Edward's voice so very clear. He sounded exhausted and heartbroken, but excited at the same time.

"...Bella, it's been the best year of our lives! I'm not sure I've ever felt as...whole as I have this past year. My job is great, the kids are amazing, and you've fucking flourished working for Emmett. And we get to go to bed together every night just like you wanted. I can't imagine our lives any other way, baby."

Tears spilled down my cheeks at the emotion that caused his voice to falter. "Oh, Edward," I sobbed, standing up and pressing as hard as I could on the window. The plastic feel of it seemed thinner, weaker.

"It's why I just...knew it was time to take us to the next level. I'm so ready, Bella, and I need you to wake up. I miss you so much..."

Suddenly, I couldn't take it any longer. I clawed, pushed, and wrestled with the window in front of me. My fingers finally grasped hold of the plastic, and it tore with a wretched sound and a gush of wind. Instead of stepping through to the room like I thought I would, I was sucked into a tunnel of lights, sounds, and memories. They flashed quickly before my eyes...


"Edward, you like cupcakes?" I asked the new boy, holding out my hand.

He nodded, licking his lips. His eyes were wide when he took my hand. It was warm, a little rough, but it fit in mine just right.

"Come on. I'll get you one. My mom made them for me."

"Does it hurt?"

"Not as bad as yesterday. Mom will be mad that Charlie knows. She'll want to move again."

"My dad'll fix it."

"Ya think?"

"I swear."

"Good!" I growled, giving Edward's mom a nasty look through the window of the Cullens' living room. "Now we know you're staying," I told him, holding out my hand. "And we have homework."

He blinked up at me, nodded, and took my hand, even though his was still shaking. "'Kay, Princess."

"You'll be okay, Edward. I promise," I swore, crossing my heart.

My eyes were wide when Edward suddenly shot up from his seat by his mother's grave, but when I saw who he was aiming for, I immediately followed.

Roger. He didn't look like the monster I remembered. He looked like a drunk. He looked sad and overweight and terrified as a very tall Edward shoved him. Hard.

Emmett followed right after me, and I couldn't help but glare at the man that had hurt my best friend for so long. He'd made him bleed and cry and feel sad. He'd taken away Edward's only family. And I hated him for it. But Edward, despite how angry he was, was shaking slightly beside me. So, gently, I slid my hand into his, hoping that I could give him something, some bit of strength.



"If I kissed you, would you knee me in the balls?"

I could only shake my head no. I had no words, and I knew he was testing me. But I'd wanted to kiss him for so long that to use my voice would've ruined everything. He smelled like his car and laundry soap and the cologne I'd given him for his birthday. But the feel of his lips on mine for the first time caused every thought to fade away in a puff of smoke. He was warm, sweet, and so very close...but not close enough.

"Are you nervous?"

"Yeah, a little. You?"

"We can't take it back."

"We love each other, Edward. We won't want to take it back."

I'd never felt as complete as I did once Edward and I were one. It was hard to tell where I ended and he began. And I was drowning in the smell of him, the feel of skin, and the overwhelming emotions that came with it all. He loved me, and at that moment, nothing else in the world mattered.

I dropped the final box onto the living room floor. Our new apartment was small, but it was ours. I spun to see Edward leaning in the doorway, wearing a small smirk on his face as his arms crossed over his chest.

"Finally," he said, grinning the sexiest, smuggest grin I'd ever seen him wear.

"We have our own place, Edward!" I squeaked excitedly. We'd waited for so long, put up with every rule our parents laid down, but the time had finally come. I rushed across the room, and he caught me quickly, spinning me around as I wrapped my arms and legs around him. "What do ya wanna do first?" I asked him, smothering his face in kisses.

"Love you. Right here...on the living room floor."

My head fell back with my laugh. "Okay..."

I checked the locks one more time, then the windows. I left the kitchen light on for Edward for later, and finally, I stepped into our bedroom. Sighing, I slipped into bed. Alone.

I rolled over, pulling Edward's pillow into my arms so I could at least have his smell, but my phone made me jump.


"Princess, I'm so sorry... I'll be home as soon as I can. Okay?"

"No, no, Edward. I get it. You're an intern, so you kinda get used..."

He sighed deeply. "Yeah. Did you check the windows? Lock the door?"

"Yeah, baby."

"Good. Okay. Love you."

"Love you, too."

"Oh, Edward, look," I said sadly, picking up the rough, scrawny kitten. "He's hurt, baby."

I heard a chuckle behind me. "He looks starved, Princess. Bring him in. We'll give him something."

I closed the front door, nuzzling the small cat. "See if that milk is still in there."

"Sure, yeah," he said, diving into the fridge.

I locked eyes with scared green ones, soothing the kitten that was now purring loudly. "We should keep you. Whoever you belonged to obviously didn't care..." I glanced up at Edward as he slid a small saucer of milk across the counter. "So...what do we name him?"

Edward grinned, shrugged one shoulder, and suggested, "Felix the cat, right?"

"Hey, how 'bout dinner at the Lodge tonight? We can meet here and drive together. We'll go when you're done at work."

"Yeah, definitely. I've got a final appointment for the Johnson wedding to show her pictures of the cake that Emmett's finishing up this morning. I'll come from there."

"Sounds good, Princess."

His lips were warm against mine in comparison to the temperature outside. I gave him one last wave from my car before I backed out first.

My headlights shone on the road, the wipers working furiously. I slowed down to take the curve, but the second I straightened back out, brown fur and glowing eyes were right in front of me.

I slammed on my brakes, the tires squealing in protest, and suddenly, everything was spinning...

My head throbbed as I squeezed my eyes closed. Noises were too loud, smells were too strong, but the feel of a warm hand in mine was what helped me open my eyes.

The first thing I saw was the speckled white ceiling tiles above me. But something on my face was bugging me, so I reached up to claw at it, only to find I was stopped. I saw movement in the room off to the side, but the only thing that mattered was the soft tone that made everything okay.

I didn't know where I was, how I'd gotten there, or what was happening, but I did know who was by my side.

Turning, I saw him, tears trailing down his handsome face. "Edward?"

"Yeah, Bella...I'm right here, Princess."

I took a deep breath and let it out. If Edward was there, then everything would be okay.


A/N… We know the rest of the story, but I thought it was good to see and hear what Bella went through. Not to mention get to show a few different memories from their past. I really, really couldn't resist that first kiss in the school parking lot, not to mention the conversation with Carlisle – both past and present.

I have a PDF version of this fic with the outtake. It'll go up sometime next week, probably midweek or so. It will have pictures to go with it just like the current one.

Hard to Love is now truly complete. There's still In Pursuit that's still posting over on Sarge's Girls. But after that, I don't have anything planned, so keep me on alert for something in the future. Jenny, however, wrote an amazing o/s for the F4O! Bring your tissues. It's beautiful and sweet and based on a sweet song. Go check hers out. It'll post sometime today.

I'll still be around, just taking a writing break. You can find me on FB and Twitter, though I'm mostly on FB these days. All links can be found on my profile. Until next time… Mooches, Deb.