All things Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyer; I just like to play with her characters.

No copyright infringement is intended.


Just a warning – this is no Actorward and I'm not sure this even measures up to that story but this was in my head long before that story came about. There's a much different tenor to these characters and I hope you like it.


Never Let Go


Chapter One


Forks, Washington - the kind of town where everyone knew everyone else and there were no secrets. Gossip was traded like playing cards in a game of Go-Fish at the local diner over coffee. My parents separated when I was ten years old. I'm sure there was a lot of talk when my mother packed us up and left – fed up with the monotonous life that Forks had to offer.

I was a daddy's girl from the get go. There was never a moment in my life that I don't recall my dad being there. Charlie was a quiet man, but he was no nonsense when it came to business and he always had a smile for me.

I was heartbroken when we left. I came home from school one day to find my room completely void of all my worldly possessions and my parents having a heated conversation behind closed doors. I watched as we pulled away from the house – my hand pressed against the window. My dad pressed his hand against the other side and I watched as tears fell down his face.

"Everything will be fine, Bella," My mom promised as we drove north on the one-oh-one.

I didn't even have a chance to tell Edward goodbye. He was my best friend and he'd be so hurt.

My friend, who I played hours on end with, as we grew up. Sometimes in his tree house, sometimes in his room or mine, it just depended whose house we were at. Star Wars, Voltron, He-Man and She-Ra – we loved them all and Edward kept the girl figures just for me. On warm, summer days, we'd run down to the corner store for a cold Coca-Cola and a pack of candy cigarettes. We'd sit under the umbrella of the huge oak tree in his parent's backyard suckling on honeysuckle blossoms in the warm, summer rain. Each and every one of those memories meant something to me – he meant something to me, and I couldn't leave without seeing him one more time.

"Mom! Edward! I have to say goodbye to Edward!"

"Honey … we need to get on the road. I want to get a few miles behind us before we stop for the night."

"Please, Mom? He's my best friend."

We pulled in to the long driveway that led us to the majestic white house that Edward and his parents lived in. Edward was outside playing with his black lab, Rocket, when we pulled up. Esme sat on the porch swing watching them play, sitting with her legs tucked under her laughing at her son and his dog.

"Bella!" Edward yelled as we pulled up.

Rocket jumped around us yipping – he was just as excited to see me as Edward was.

"Mom! Can Bella and I go play in the tree house?"

"Sure honey, but be careful. Don't let Bella get hurt."

My mom joined Esme and they followed the porch around the house to sit in the Adirondack chairs on the back stoop – always keeping their eyes on us as we climbed up the ladder to the tree house.

"Edward?" I said softly.

"Huh?"

"I didn't come over to play," I said sadly.

Edward took in the sad look on my face.

"What's wrong, Bella?"

"My mom and I are leaving."

"Why? You just got here."

"We're not going to live with my daddy anymore. I won't be going to school anymore. My mom is taking me with her."

"Where are you going?"

I couldn't answer him because I honestly didn't have an answer to give.

"When you have an address, write me and I'll write you back … all the time, Bella. You're my best friend, and I'll never ever forget you," Edward promised.

"I will," I whispered as I climbed back into my mom's car.

Esme wrapped her arm around Edward's shoulders and I watched as both of them wiped away their tears and waved as we made our way down the drive.

Days later, we arrived in Carmel, California. It was a little seaside community that reminded me of La Push without the Quileute influence. The ocean and landscape were beautiful and relaxing.

"What do you think, Bella? Think you'd like to live near the ocean?"

"We lived near the ocean in Forks, Mom."

She laughed.

"Honey … we could get a house here and you could walk to the beach. Wouldn't that be nice?"

"I miss Daddy."

"I know, Sweetie, but you'll see Daddy over the summer."

My mom enrolled me in school and we found a small cottage for rent not far from the beach. Not long after I started school, she started substitute teaching at the same school I attended. It was early April and I didn't find the weather to be much different than Forks. Maybe it didn't rain as much which meant that I couldn't wear my favorite pink polka dot raincoat and boots to school, but it was foggy and chilly and usually the sun didn't make an appearance until after noon.

I missed my bike that my daddy bought me – it was shiny blue metallic and had a white banana seat with little yellow daisies on it. The best part was that it had a bell with Donald Duck on it. Mom said there wasn't enough room to take it with us so I had to leave it behind with daddy and he promised that he'd keep it safe for me and I could ride it as much as I wanted when I came to visit him. I couldn't wait for summer.

I wrote Edward letters every day. I missed him and my dad so much it made my heart hurt. I told him as much in every letter I wrote to him. Usually I just saved up my letters and mailed them once a week. Edward wrote me back and told me that he didn't care as long as I continued to write them. He did the same to me, writing a letter every day after school and then saving them up and mailing them once a week. We even mailed them on the same day so we'd know to expect them a few days later and we could pretend that we were reading them at the same time.

My mom allowed me to talk to Edward on the phone once every two weeks and that phone call was like a lifeline. It was the only thing that kept me going.

We only stayed in Carmel for a couple of years. My mom decided that she didn't like the weather. She didn't care to drive in the fog and she said it reminded her too much of Forks. So again, at the age of twelve, I found myself helping my mother pack up our car and we were on our way.

"Pick a place, baby. Somewhere that sounds … interesting," my mother said, handing me a map.

"Forks is interesting. Can we go there?"

My mother frowned.

"Bella, we've been over this, baby. Forks has nothing for us. I know you miss your daddy, sweetie, but you see him as often as you can. Doesn't that make the time you have with him more special?"

We ended up in Las Vegas, Nevada. Thankfully it was the beginning of June and we'd moved just after school ended. The weather was hot and dry – nothing like the weather I was used to – at all. At first, we just stayed in a little motel that let us rent by the week. Mom got a job as a waitress in one of the casinos. Dad and Edward both hated that I was alone while Mom was working, but the lady who ran the hotel was a nice older lady and she promised Mom she'd watch over me and Mom was quick to reassure both Dad and Edward of that. When we could afford it, we moved into a nice little apartment complex close to a school with a good reputation.

School was about the only thing I actually looked forward to since we'd left Washington. I really loved school, especially English and History. When I began middle school, I'd even taken an interest in Choir. We had a piano in our house when I was younger because my mom used to play. For some strange reason she decided to rearrange the furniture and while she loved the arrangement, she decided the piano didn't fit so she put an ad in the paper and sold our beautiful, upright cherry piano for one hundred dollars.

I felt so hurt when she did that – I'd wanted for so long to learn to play but every time I even went near the keys my mom would yell.

"Don't touch that piano!"

So when I started school in Las Vegas, I was quick to enroll in choir. I'd always loved to sing. I'd sing in the shower and when I was in my room listening to music I'd sing along. My voice always made Edward smile. He always told me my voice was sweet like an angel. Rosalie on the other hand said it was like nails on a chalkboard.

When I walked into the music room that very first day – I was shocked to learn that we actually had to audition. I knew nothing about reading music, sight singing, scales or warm-ups. The teacher was an older gentleman with a warm smile. He introduced himself as Mr. C.

"Don't look so frightened, dear. Just follow along with the rest of the class."

A girl I'd recognized from my English and Spanish classes waved me over to stand by her. I did my best to sing along with the rest of the class. When it was my turn to step up to the piano my stomach fell to my toes.

"Take a deep breath, close your eyes. Listen to the notes. Hear the notes and try to mimic the sound of the piano with your voice. Understand?"

I nodded.

The notes began and I softly began to sing the notes I heard being played for me.

"Very good. Now can you sing "My Country Tis of Thee?"

I nodded again and Mr. C played a single note and indicated that would be the pitch I would start on.

I had no idea what pitch was but I memorized the sound of it in my head and that's the tone I started with. I nervously made my way through the song, feeling very much out of breath by the time I'd finished.

"Beautiful, Isabella. You'll be in the Alto section for now."

When I got home from school that afternoon, I let myself into our apartment and I couldn't wait to call Edward. I was hoping that I'd be able to call him before Mom got home, but I knew it would take him a little longer to get home, so all I could do was sit and wait. I decided to work on some of my homework but before I could even get my book out of my bag, the phone rang.

Edward.

"I was just going to call you!" I said excitedly after we'd gotten our hellos out of the way.

"You were?"

"Yes! I wanted to tell you about school today."

Suddenly I launched into telling him everything about my first day at school.

"You auditioned for the choir? That's awesome. I'm so proud of you."

"Really?"

"Definitely. I wish I could have been there though. I miss hearing you sing," Edward said sadly.

"I just miss you. How was your day at school?"

"Good. There's a new girl – her name is Alice Brandon. I think Jazz has a crush on her already."

I giggled.

"I bet that went over really well with Rosalie. What did she think of her?"

"Rosalie thinks she's creepy. She didn't even talk to her, but you know Rosalie."

"Mmmhmm. And what did you think of her Eddie?"

"Stop, Bella. She's nice. She's in my music class. She plays the flute."

A pang of jealousy washed over me because this new girl got to share a class with Edward and I didn't. It had been almost a year since I'd last seen him. I'd gone home to Forks for a couple weeks with my Dad but Edward unfortunately was in Chicago visiting his grandparents and we'd missed each other. I begged to stay longer, but my mom wouldn't hear of it because I needed to get ready to start school. Dad promised me that I could come back the day school got out for winter break and stay until it was time to go back to school.

"I hate that we missed each other over the summer," Edward said quietly.

"Me too. But I'll be there for Christmas."

"I know. My mom and I saw Charlie at the store the other day. They talked about it. We were supposed to go to Chicago again but my mom thinks it would be better to stay here. I think they're planning on everyone getting together for Christmas. That would be nice – especially with you here."

The time between that first day of school and Christmas break dragged by – painfully so. True to his word, Charlie booked me a ticket out of Las Vegas leaving a few hours after school got out for the holidays. I didn't have to be back to school until the second week in January and I couldn't wait to get to Washington.

Charlie met me at the airport and I couldn't help my excitement as I climbed into the cab of his truck.

"Excited to be home, Bells?"

"I am, Daddy. I miss it here. I miss you and I miss Edward."

"I know, baby girl. We miss you too."

I felt a sense of calm wash over me as I climbed into my old bed that night. My room was just as it was when my mom and I had left.

The next morning, I padded down the stairs to find my dad in the kitchen stirring milk into some oatmeal.

"It's really cold out there this morning and we're supposed to have some bad weather coming through tonight. I have to go into work for a few hours, but Esme promised that she'd be by to pick you up. We're having dinner with the Cullen's tonight."

"Okay." I smiled.

Esme called a little bit later to let me know she'd pick me up around eleven. I promised I'd be ready for her.

I was so anxious to see Edward I thought I'd pace a hole in the floor. When Esme's car pulled into the driveway a few minutes before eleven, I couldn't put on my coat and scarf quick enough. My heart fell when I realized that Edward wasn't with Esme, but she assured me that he was doing his chores and should be done by the time we got to their house.

I helped Esme carry in the groceries that she'd picked up that morning and I'd just finished setting the last bag on the counter when Edward walked into the kitchen.

"Bella!"

Even at thirteen and how awkward it was with boys there was never any awkwardness with Edward. He was taller than I remembered but he'd always been taller than me. I took one look at his happy face and immediately stepped toward him to pull him into a hug. He quickly wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tightly before stepping back to look at me once again.

"You look so … different, but still the same. How can that happen?" He chuckled.

My hair was longer and I had bangs now whereas I didn't the last time I'd seen Edward. I'd also gotten my period and thankfully my breasts were starting to fill out. I wasn't the skinny flat chested little girl I once was. Edward's eyes took in everything.

Edward hooked his pinky with mine – something we'd done ever since we were little and led me downstairs to the family room in their basement.

"Want to play Mario?" He asked.

"Super Mario 3?"

"Yeah." He smiled.

"I haven't played it yet, but I heard it's great."

"It's awesome. I have the cheat book … come on let's play."

I don't know how long Edward and I sat and played video games. We chatted back and forth as we played – falling back into our old routine of being with each other so easily. Esme brought us down some sandwiches and Kool-Aid. We played until we heard the sounds of our father's walking through the front door.

"Did you have a good time this afternoon, Bella?"

"Mmmhmm. Edward and I just played video games and talked. I miss that. I don't get to do stuff like that when I'm with Mom. She won't let me have friends over unless she's home which is only in the evenings, Saturday for most of the day and all day Sunday. I'm not allowed to have friends over on school nights unless I'm working on a project, and Sunday is our day together."

"Bella, are you really alone that often?" Esme asked quietly.

"Not really. Mom works while I'm at school. I usually get home from school around three-thirty and she gets home around five-thirty. By the time she's home, I'm mostly done with my homework – we make dinner and then hang out until it's time for bed. The only nights she works are Friday and Saturday – because that's when she gets the most tips. Our friend Carlie usually stays with me while Mom's at work on Friday and Saturday."

I'd even taken an interest in playing volleyball just to give me something to do a couple days a week. I really enjoyed playing and I learned that I was pretty good at it. Mom never missed a single game and she always picked me up from practice. She even made a point to be at every choir function I had. We'd had a Christmas concert a few days before winter break and I'd insisted that she bring our old video camera and record it so I could bring it home and show Dad. I knew he'd love it. I assured them that my mom wasn't being neglectful – she really wasn't. She just did what she had to do to provide for us both. As I spoke about her I watched my Dad's mouth set into a grim line. I could tell that he'd be calling to have a chat with Mom soon.

When dinner was over, I announced I had a surprise for them. I grabbed my bag from where I'd set it by the front door and pulled out the tape of my winter concert. Edward's smile at the thought of seeing it warmed the room. I handed him the tape and he put it in the VCR before joining me on the couch – hooking his pinky finger in mine.

"You had a solo?" Edward gasped.

I nodded sheepishly.

"Bella, sweetheart – you have the voice of an angel. I never knew you sang," Esme said quietly.

Edward bumped his shoulder against mine.

"See? I told you." He grinned.

"Bella … baby girl, I'm speechless. That was wonderful. I'm so …" Dad started, emotion catching in his throat. "I'm so very sorry I missed it, baby. Next time you have a solo, you call me and I'll be there."

The next few days, Edward and I managed to see each other every day. A storm had indeed come through dumping a ton of snow on our sleepy little town but we made the best of it. We had plastic sleds and saucers and we spent a lot of time throwing snowballs at each other. Jasper and Alice hung out with us one afternoon and I could tell by the shy looks they kept shooting one another that they liked each other, but neither one of them had enough courage to do anything about it.

"Are they always like this?" I asked Edward as we hid behind a bush gathering up our snowy ammunition.

"You mean do they always pretend not to like each other?" Edward chuckled.

"Yes," I giggled.

"Yeah, pretty much. They'll figure it out one day."

Edward shot me a knowing look.

A look that told me he'd been fighting the same thing I had since that very first day of kindergarten.

"Do you remember our first day of kindergarten?"

Exactly.

"Of course I do. Bobby Parsons mother safety pinned his underwear to his skin and the teacher made us all leave the room so she could unfasten him. Holly Jones fell asleep during nap time and missed the bus home."

"That's not what I meant, Bella and you know it."

He linked his glove covered pinky with mine.

"I'll never forget that, Edward," I whispered.

"Friends first?" He asked, his emerald green eyes boring into my chocolate ones.

"Always."

Spending Christmas with my dad was by far the highlight of my year. I missed my mom, but I knew that she had taken extra shifts over the holidays because the pay was really good. She had hoped that we could go somewhere fun over spring break. I'd have been happy to come back to Forks.

On Christmas Eve, Dad and I went to church. Services were short and sweet and the choir sang carols at the end of the evening. Afterward, we made our way to the Cullen's where Esme had a lovely dinner waiting for us.

My dad and Carlisle got wrapped up in a conversation about local politics while Esme cleaned up the dinner dishes with Edward's and my help.

"Bella, sweetheart … I'm so glad you're home even if it's only for a little while. We miss you so much around here."

Tears began to bubble up in my eyes. I'd always gotten along well with Esme and she was always nice to me when I came over to play with Edward, but she'd never indicated she was glad to see me or that she missed me. Edward told me she did but it was nice to hear it from Esme directly.

"I miss you too, Esme," I said as I hugged her. I really did miss her. She was the calm voice of reason on the rare occasion that I butted heads with my own mom.

There were a couple times when I called Edward in tears because my mom wouldn't let me do something I wanted to do and of course Edward – bless his heart; he didn't know what to do or how to help me so he'd put Esme on the phone and she would calm me down. Neither one of them knew how much those moments meant to me.

"Edward, sweetheart, why don't you play a few Christmas songs on the piano and maybe we could convince Bella to serenade us?"

I blushed fiercely and Edward nudged my shoulder.

"Come on, please?" Edward asked, his emerald green eyes boring into mine.

"Okay …" I agreed. "But only if I can sit next to you on the piano bench."

Edward played and I sang a few songs. Our parents got up to pour their after dinner drinks and Edward and I slipped downstairs to play video games.

"I think we're coming over to your house tomorrow," Edward said after a while.

"Yeah?" I asked, surprised.

"I'm pretty sure, yeah. Mom said something about your dad thinking that you'd want to spend Christmas day at home so we're coming over in the afternoon."

I smiled at the thought of getting to see Edward on Christmas.

While we were passing the time playing video games, snow had begun to fall outside and my father drove ever so carefully as we made our way home. Dad and I snuggled up on the couch and he read 'The Night Before Christmas' just like he'd done for as long as I could remember.

"Don't forget to put out cookies for Santa, Bells."

"Dad … I know about Santa but if you want a plate of cookies, I'll be happy to get you some."

My dad laughed.

"I can't help it, Bells. You'll always be my baby girl. Even when you're thirty and have kids of your own."

"I love you, Daddy," I whispered as I handed him a plate of cookies and wished him goodnight.

The next morning, I woke and dull light and happy voices outside filtered through the windows. I went to the window to find Edward, Carlisle and my dad outside throwing snow at each other and attempting to build a snowman. It was quite a sight.

Downstairs, I found Esme in the kitchen – the smells of cinnamon and nutmeg in the air as she pulled a French toast casserole out of the oven.

"Good morning, sweetheart, would you like a cup of cocoa?" Esme asked sweetly.

"Please," I nodded with a smile.

"I suppose you saw those silly men outside?"

"Yeah … although I heard them before I saw them."

Esme and I both giggled as she sat my cocoa in front of me.

A few minutes later, we heard the door open and heard six feet stomping in the entryway.

We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast before we gathered around the beautiful tree my dad had put up in the living room. The Cullen's had brought all of their gifts over to exchange and when we were done opening them the living room looked like a tornado had swept through. There was paper and tissue and bows everywhere.

My dad bought me a video game system that Edward and I were eager to try out. Edward had the same system at home and he got a couple new games for it. Edward gave me a sterling silver I.D. Bracelet that read 'Best Friend' in elegant script bordered by two little daisies. It was perfect.

The days following Christmas, I spent with Charlie. We went ice skating in Port Angeles and window shopped as we sipped hot chocolate. Neither one of us were big shoppers but we were happy to have the time together.

"Bells …" Dad began. "You know you can always come home and live with me if you get too lonely being at mom's by yourself right?"

"Huh?"

"Bella … it's just that … after what you told us at dinner the other night I've been really worried. Your mom works so much and has to leave you in the care of other people when you could be here in my care."

"Dad … I'm okay. I'm only by myself for a couple hours a few days a week. When Mom works nights, I stay with Carlie."

"Bells … you're thirteen years old, honey. You shouldn't be alone at all."

"Did you talk to Mom?"

"Yup."

"And?"

"She hung up on me."

I sighed.

"Why do you guys fight all the time?"

I didn't expect an answer and I didn't get one.

New Year's Eve we spent at the local pizza parlor. Sue and Harry Clearwater had planned a big shindig that kids and adults alike could enjoy. I sat quietly next to Esme as I watched Edward talk to Jasper, Alice and some new kid named Emmett. The latter of which turned his head as Edward nodded toward me and winked at me with a huge dimply grin.

"Having fun?" Edward asked as he nudged my shoulder.

I shrugged and he linked his pinky with mine.

A/N: Do you remember your first day of Kindergarten? I think some things, I'll never forget ;)

Bobby Parsons** … yeah true story. His first day of school sucked. Js.

I really did have a metallic blue Schwinn with a banana seat that was white with daisies on it and it had a bell with Donald Duck on it – my cousin brought it all the way from Holland and gave it to me.

Thoughts?

** Names have been changed.