This is a re-post. If you have read the story before I hope you enjoy it again... if you haven't... welcome! It's one of my earlier fanfics, so I apologise for the quality in advance.
Thank you to Dooba for her beta work on this and to GreeneyedItalian who pre-read for me too. x
I sat on the sofa watching Jasper over the top of the book I had been reading for the last hour. He was making a good show of being engrossed in the baseball game on TV, but I watched as his eyes stayed still not tracking the action on the screen. My legs were stretched across his lap, and every now and again he would absentmindedly rub my shin or massage one of my feet.
This had been our Sunday night routine ever since we'd moved to Seattle from our childhood home of Forks to attend college. I'd bring home take out from the Deli where I worked on the weekends, and we'd sprawl on the sofa for the evening. Jasper liked to watch the game and I liked to read.
I gave up trying to read. I'd been watching him for over half an hour, marvelling at the contented smile that would creep across his face every time his eyes glazed over before it would disappear again as his attention momentarily returned to the game.
"What's it like being in love Jazz?" I asked, slipping my bookmark into the right page and laying the book on my lap.
"What?" His eyes never left the screen and he might have fooled anyone else that he was too engrossed in the game to have heard the question properly but I knew him better than that.
I dug my heel into his thigh and nudged him "You heard."
He turned and gave me that look I loved, his lovely blue eyes slightly darkened by annoyance and his lips set in a thin line of exasperation. "It's great, now can I watch the game?"
I sat up straight and tucked my legs in beneath me resting my elbows on my knees. "You're not even watching the game. Your mind keeps drifting to her, I can tell by that cute little smile that keeps creeping across your face. Come on Jazz, tell me what it's like."
I had known him for eight years and still couldn't label what we had. He was more than a brother or a best friend to me, and though those definitions were sadly lacking in terms of defining our relationship, they were the closest things I could think of.
I had lived next door to Jasper in Forks with my parents till I was two, but after their divorce my mother took me to live in Phoenix. I spent eleven miserable years with her until Charlie finally rescued me and brought me back to Forks.
After the divorce my mother had a breakdown but since we'd moved to a different state where no one knew us, her behaviour was accepted because people had nothing previous to compare it to. She hid it well for the most part, I was home schooled, she shopped at night. In fact church was the only place we ever went during the day.
When I was thirteen we went to live on a commune, I hated it, everyone in that place was exactly like my mother; unhinged. It took me six months of pretending to go along with everything – no mean feat for a young girl – before they finally trusted me and I was allowed to go on one of the few necessary outings to get supplies. It was my one chance at freedom – and I took it.
Charlie brought me back to Forks. Thankfully my mother didn't follow. She sent me one letter that angered Charlie so much, he wouldn't let me read it. Seeing the effect it had on him, I never wanted to. He eventually burned it. We never heard from her again, and for all I know she still lives on that commune.
When I first arrived back in Forks I felt like I had been transported to Mars. My mother had kept me away from televisions, books, newspapers and even music. I was so naive I was like a newborn child all over again. Charlie enrolled me into school in Forks, and I still have nightmares to this day of them frog marching me across the parking lot in front of the other kids while I cried for my father.
It was open season on me after that, and I was bullied relentlessly until Jasper stepped in. We shared some classes, and he took to walking me to each one. Nobody said a wrong word to me when I was with Jasper and eventually I blended into the background – just the way I liked it.
Though our friendship was born of his pity towards me, it soon grew into a genuine and wonderful friendship that grew stronger every year.
He shifted on the sofa beside me, propelling back into the present. "I just want to know what it's like." I pleaded.
He groaned, but his eyes were light and playful. "This isn't going to turn into one of your bizarre "show me what it's like" requests is it? I'm only just getting over your antics at my Aunt Louise's wedding."
"That wasn't my fault. It was that glass of champagne you pilfered for me that caused it." I protested, blushing furiously at the memory.
We were seventeen when he took me to his aunt's wedding. At the reception he managed to acquire two glasses of champagne, which we gulped down in the hallway outside the kitchens. Later, I had sat in awe watching the bride and groom share a kiss during their first dance. In my inebriated state, I had begged Jasper to give me my first kiss since he'd already had his. He'd refused of course, and then I'd thrown up all over his suit. He's teased me about it ever since.
He nudged my arm with his fist "Stop blushing Swan, it was five years ago." He chuckled.
"And I still Haven't had my first kiss." I groused sticking my tongue out at him for good measure. "I'm not asking you to kiss me, Jazz. I just want to know what it's like to be in love, to share that connection with someone. You're so lucky to have Alice, she's amazing."
"She is." He agreed misty eyed.
"I wish I had her confidence." I mused.
Alice was exactly the type of person I would love to be: funny, confident, smart and most of all comfortable in her own skin. She didn't seem to have any insecurities at all, which was a good thing because all of Jasper's previous girlfriends had found it too difficult to handle the fact that his best friend was female. Alice was so sure of herself, and Jasper, that it really didn't bother her at all.
"You're not the only person out there who's a little shy Bella," he said softly.
That was the understatement of the year. I was painfully shy and found it very difficult to trust anyone.
"I don't think I'll ever find someone." I sighed throwing myself back on the arm rest dramatically.
"You will." He smiled, pulling my right foot into his lap and massaging it gently.
"Sure, where am I going to find a guy who can put up with my particular brand of crazy?"
"Don't say that. You're not crazy."
"Yeah? Tell that to Mike Newton." I huffed, remembering my one disastrous attempt at a date.
In senior year Jasper was desperate to go on a date with Jessica Stanley, but she would only agree if it was a double date. None of Jasper's friends had anyone to go out with, so he somehow managed to talk me into a date with Mike Newton.
What a fiasco that turned out to be. I spent the evening alternating between being offended by him and embarrassed that I just didn't get his jokes. At the end of the night when he tried to kiss me I completely freaked out and slapped him.
"I just don't get guys Jasper, I never have. You're the only one I've ever been able to even speak to without spazzing out."
"You've come a long way since then." He squeezed my ankle. "There's someone out there for you, I promise."
I couldn't see it. I wanted to believe it but I was just too uptight, I always had been. Jasper was the only person I ever really let in. He was always so patient with me and never judged me. It was easy to trust him. For a little while I had wished that we could fall in love, romantic love but it just wasn't like that between us.
His hands stilled on my foot and he swallowed. There was a sudden change in the atmosphere and I could tell he wanted to say something and, judging by the solemn look on his face, I wasn't going to like it.
"I..um.. have something I need to tell you." He didn't look at me. "Alice and I were going to tell you together tomorrow, but since we're sort of on the subject already..." He hesitated and stole a sideways glance at me. "I'm going to move in with Alice."
His words sunk in. I waited for the shock or disappointment or even grief to hit me, but it didn't. It was like somehow I had already known, like somewhere under the surface I had been expecting it. I scooted closer to him, and cupped his jaw in my hand turning his head to face me. "I'm really happy for you." I smiled.
His brow creased in confusion. "You're not upset?"
"I can see how happy she makes you and you practically live over at her place as it is. So no, I'm not upset at all."
"I won't leave until we find you a new roommate."
That erased the smile from my face. I hadn't thought of that. "Oh no, I don't want to live with a stranger, it'll be horrible. I'll end up with some girl who has tons of friends and wants to throw wild parties every weekend."
He swivelled my legs off his lap, pulling me to him. "Maybe it's what you need, Bella. You need to stand on your own two feet some time."
I sighed. "I know but I like living with you. I'll miss you."
"I'll be living a couple of blocks away, and you'll see me every day in college."
I forced down my apprehension and tried to smile. He deserved to be happy, and I didn't want to be the blot on his landscape.
The following morning I overslept and woke to the sound of Alice's voice drifting in from the living room. I quickly got dressed and opened the door to go and greet them.
"No way Alice, it's not a good idea at all. You know how sensitive she is, he's just all wrong."
I stopped in the doorway listening to them. They were obviously talking about a potential roommate for me and I was glad that Jasper was putting her straight. I didn't want to live with a man.
"Look, I know how Edward might seem to you, Jasper, but he wants to get away from all that. That's why I suggested this place to him–"
"You already pitched this to him?" Jasper interjected, his voice filled with tension. I hoped they wouldn't fight.
"You said you wanted to move in as soon as possible. Edward is looking for a place to live where he can study without all the distractions he has to endure at Emmett's place. I thought it was the perfect solution."
"Yeah, well it's not perfect for Bella."
Alice groaned. "I sort of already told him he could come over and see the place today. That's why I came over early to give Bella plenty notice."
I stepped out of the room and the two of them turned to look at me. "Who are you talking about?" I asked.
Alice opened her mouth to speak but Jasper managed to get in first.
"Alice's cousin is looking for a room to rent and she suggested mine." His words were rushed "I told her it's not a good idea."
I looked at Alice's frown knowing that she couldn't begin to understand just how big a deal this was for me. She stepped forward and her frown lifted into a determined smile.
"Maybe Bella and I should have a little chat," she suggested, looping her arm in mine and leading me back into my bedroom. She perched on the bed while I reluctantly sat down beside her.
"I don't mean to seem pushy, Bella, but Edward really needs a place and you really need a roommate. It just seemed like the perfect solution to me."
"I don't think I could live with a guy," I said quietly.
"You already do." Alice chuckled, but seeing my discomfort she patted my hand. "Look, I know you have issues that I can't even begin to understand, but you are a wonderful girl with a great personality. Maybe it's time for you to find who you really are."
"I know who I am. I'm the girl with one friend who can barely speak to anyone else." I said sarcastically.
"Don't put yourself down, Bella," Alice chided gently. "You just need to get out of your comfort zone a bit, start meeting new people. Jasper will still be your best friend, but maybe it's time to make some more."
I looked at her then, taking in every aspect of her appearance; her glossy purple nails which matched her lipstick perfectly, her black spiky hair, her elegant clothes, and most of all her assured demeanour. She was the exact opposite of me with my long brown dowdy hair, faded jeans and worn baseball boots. It wasn't really the physical differences that made me feel lacking, it was more about the differences in our personalities.
I would love to be confident and uninhibited like Alice. I couldn't help but envy the love she and Jasper shared and how natural and easy it seemed. I wanted to be able to share myself like that with someone too. Maybe she was right; maybe I did need to get out of my comfort zone, and shake off the inhibitions my mother had saddled me with.
I smiled weakly at her. I still wasn't sure about living with another guy, but I had to at least consider her suggestion. "What's your cousin like?"
"Edward is great." She smiled back. "This is the final year of his medical degree. He's looking for somewhere quiet to live, away from his friends, so he can really concentrate on his work."
I liked the sound of that, but I remembered Jasper's concerns earlier. "But he has a reputation?"
She sighed. "Yes, but mostly from people who don't know him. Edward runs deeper than most people realise, and he really is very kind and sweet underneath." She took my hands in hers. "Give it a chance, Bella. It'll do you good, and he'll be studying most of the time anyway. I wouldn't be suggesting this if I thought he was going to be dragging his buddies over for wild parties, would I?"
"I guess not," I conceded, and thinking of the need to get out of my comfort zone, I forced a smile. "Okay, he can come and see the room but if I don't like him–"
"Of course," she said, cutting me off. "I'm just glad you're giving this a chance."
We emerged from my room to find Jasper making coffee in the kitchen.
"You better tidy your room," Alice said to him with a triumphant grin.
His eyebrows rose in surprise and his eyes met mine. "Are you sure?"
I nodded biting my lip. "Yeah, I'm 21 years old. Maybe it's time to cut the apron strings."
My weak attempt at humour did nothing to alleviate the tension on his face. It was clear he didn't think this was a good idea, but Alice was right; I needed to stand alone. His eyes flicked to Alice.
"What time is he coming?"
"I said to come about five." She pulled him out of our tiny galley kitchen. "I'll help you clean up."
When five o'clock came around, it felt like my first day of school all over again. I was so nervous. I felt like a freak sitting on the sofa waiting to meet Edward, while Alice and Jasper finished cleaning up his room. Finally, there was a rhythmic rapping on the door and my breath hitched when Alice darted out of Jasper's room to answer it.
"Edward!" She almost sang his name as she flung the door open wide. "Did you have any problems finding your way here?"
I stood up nervously raking my fingers through my hair and feeling quite ridiculous since it was the apartment he was coming to appraise, not me. Alice took a couple of steps back to let him step into the room.
"No, your directions were good." His voice was velvet soft and slightly husky.
Alice closed the door behind him and he turned to face me. God, he was gorgeous! He lifted his hand and raked his long, slim fingers through his bronze hair. It stuck up in all directions but he made no attempt to smooth it down again. His mouth curved up gently into a smile. I swallowed hard as my eyes traced the outline of his full lips.
I couldn't stop myself from scanning every inch of his face. I found his strong, defined jaw fascinating and must've gazed at it for too long, judging by the way his sharp green eyes narrowed. I felt the warmth on my cheeks as he stared back at me. His eyes were piercing and fringed with the longest eyelashes I'd ever seen on a man. In fact, I'd never noticed a man's eyelashes before.
Alice brought him closer, and his lips stretched into a wide crooked smile as he continued to stare at me. I blushed to the roots of my hair, swallowing hard against the swell of nervous anticipating that was bubbling up from my chest. His lips looked so soft and full and just begged to be kissed. I shook that particular image out of my head, and tried to regain my equilibrium when Alice introduced us.
"Edward Cullen, this is Bella Swan," she trilled. "Bella, this is Edward."
"It's good to meet you," he said softly, holding out his hand.
All I could manage was a strange strangled grunt, as I shook his hand briefly before dropping it like it had burnt me. His eyebrow quirked briefly, but thankfully he let my strange behaviour pass without comment.
"Hey man, good to see you."
Jasper's greeting to Edward sounded a little forced to me, but I couldn't drag my eyes away from Edward to check if he was okay.
He spoke again. "You wanna come see the room? Alice made me clean it up especially."
"Sure," Edward said, finally releasing me from his unnerving gaze.
I watched him follow Jasper into the room.
"I was thinking," Alice said, startling me out of the moment. "Maybe we should ask him to stay for dinner. That way you can get to know him a little and see if you like him."
"Like him?" I gasped, blushing again.
"Not that way." Alice giggled. "I mean like him enough to let him have the room."
"Oh." I cringed. "I'll check what we have in and I'll get started on dinner."
"No, don't go to any trouble," she said, heading to the letter rack where we kept the take out menus. "We'll order in. My treat."
Edward came back out of Jasper's room, and his eyes immediately fell on mine again. It seemed I was cursed to blush my way through every moment of this visit. I felt foolish, but I simply had no control over my strange reaction to him. I'd never felt so affected by someone before... and I wasn't sure I liked it.
"Edward?" Alice said, and as his eyes flicked to her I realised she had been speaking. She shot a curious glance first at me then back to Edward. "I asked if you wanted to stay for dinner, we're ordering take out."
"Sure," he said, shrugging out of his jacket.
My eyes immediately roamed over the lean muscles evident through the thin material of his snug t-shirt. I admired they way they bunched and flexed as he moved.
Alice threw the menus down on the coffee table, and the noise diverted my attention from Edward at last. Jasper sat down beside Alice on the sofa, draping his arm across her shoulder while they flicked through the menus.
I remained standing feigning interest in them, when really I was racking my brains trying to figure out what it was about Edward Cullen that had me so painfully aware of him.
"What do you want, Edward?" Jasper asked without looking up from the menus.
Edward turned and looked at me, his eyes glittering mischievously.
"Italian." He grinned wickedly.