Author's Chapter Notes:
Hello and thank you for choosing to read this story. It's going to be great-I promise.
The song for this chapter is Pepper by Butthole Surfers.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
When Bella discovers her old best friend is moving back to town, she grows nostalgic for a time that has long since passed and begins to wonder what might have been.
Without further adieu. . . .
The first time I laid eyes on Edward Cullen, I was eleven years old. I watched from my bedroom window as he and his brother carried boxes out of a large U-Haul. His perfect family moved next door to my imperfect family the summer after fifth grade, and life was never the same.
The first time I met Edward Cullen, was at my older brother's high school football game. Emmett, his older brother, had joined the Varsity team shortly after moving in. During their home games, Edward and I were shoved together simply because the grown-ups didn't know what else to do with us.
Pittance from our parents came in the form of dollars and change. Edward and I would meet under the bleachers, pool our respective hauls, and hit the concession stand. Over grape slushes, music, and two very severe cases of youngest child syndrome, Edward and I formed a bond as we wandered through life in the wake of our older sibling's accomplishments.
Our circumstantial beginning grew into real friendship, and we spent nearly every day of the next six years being best friends. It was easier and more comfortable to be around Edward than it was any of the girls I knew, but aside from a few isolated kissing experiments in ninth grade-no tongue-things between us were never sexual.
Throughout middle school and high school, Edward and I didn't belong anywhere in particular which was fine with me. We fit in with each other; the two of us were merely interested in making it through each grade alive. Over the years, I got to know what life was like as the highly overshadowed youngest member of a family that hailed from a long line of college football stars. Edward trusted me with his thoughts, his dreams, and his darkest secrets. Our souls were clones.
Until senior year, when I finally learned the wonders of mascara, I was plain as they come; not the type to be in the running for Spring Queen by any means. But Edward had a way of making me feel like it was okay to be me-like it was good to be me-no matter what. Although I wasn't pretty or popular, I was unremarkable enough to remain under the radar and escape public humiliation of any kind. That wasn't the case for Edward. He was often picked on for being quiet, skinny, and smarter than everyone else.
Despite what anyone said, it was easy for me to see the potential he had. Under all the layers of floppy hair and tattered flannel shirts, Edward was handsome. His good looks, intelligence, and humor were natural, and I knew someday the girls would flock to him in droves.
Edward was always there for me: when his brother picked on me, when my brother's success kept my mom from noticing me, and even when Nick Delany tried going to third base without my permission on graduation night.
I remember it clearly. The party was winding down, and Nick and I were making out against the hood of his mom's station wagon. His virgin hands became eager for more and were trying to find their way down the front of my pants. I tried pushing him away, but he wouldn't relent. Edward came out of nowhere and tackled Nick to the ground with fists flying.
As he wailed and flailed and beat Nick to a bloody pulp, I fell head-over-heels in love with Edward Cullen-an emotion I buried that night and carried with me for the next twelve years. Still, he knew me like no one else did, and I was never alone when he was around.
Eventually, all good things come to an end. Life happens and circumstances change. When my acceptance letter from Princeton never came, I knew it was the end of an era. Edward's family had been attending Princeton for over a hundred years. While his brother, Emmett, was the resident football star, Edward still had to go. And he wanted to go. Princeton was an incredible opportunity for him. We'd planned on attending together, but I didn't have the SAT scores Edward did, and my mom didn't have the financial pull of the Cullen family. Not that they needed it for him. Edward was a genius.
At first, he was pissed; he refused to go without me. I told him he was being ridiculous. He had an opportunity to live out our dream and move across the continent. It was necessary, I informed him, that he experienced true freedom for the both of us. As the last summer we would spend together slipped through our fingers, Edward grew anxious and more excited to leave.
I consider every moment up to the point where Edward left for college to be my childhood. That being said, on the last night of my childhood, as Edward and I said goodbye, he promised it wasn't the end. Christmas was only a few months away, and he'd be home to visit and tell me all about life on the East Coast.
That night, we sat on the roof of his dad's tool shed, like so many summer nights before, in a farewell of silence. I held back my tears and tried to be encouraging, but neither of us could look the other in the eye. It was after midnight when Edward was finally summoned by his mother, and we walked slowly through the gap that separated our houses. I was surprised when he wrapped me in a tight hug, but I didn't hesitate to lock my arms around his back and bury my face against his shoulder.
Just as I turned to head home, Edward pulled me close, grabbed my face, and kissed me. I mean, really kissed me. I didn't even have time to register that my dreams were coming true before he pulled away, gave me a dazed, crooked grin, and took off for his house.
When he left the next day and I realized I wouldn't see him again until the holidays, my world grew a little darker. Two weeks later, it shattered completely. I sat in the middle of our cul-de-sac, crying like a child as the moving van drove out of sight. Dr. Cullen, Edward's father, had accepted the position of lead surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He was moving his family to Illinois, and I would never see Edward again.
I don't know how long I sat there on the hard concrete before my mom pulled me off my ass with a stern but worried look. After all, I hadn't even acted that crazy when Edward himself left. But she didn't understand. Edward left with the promise of a return. And in my mind, the kiss we shared was also the promise of something more for us. Instead, the Cullens had taken those promises, packed them into brown boxes, and moved them 2,063 miles away from Seattle, taking the last shred of my childhood with them.
"Swan! I need those damage reports emailed within the hour. Evans rescheduled the meeting, and I'm in a world of shit."
I nod at my boss with half a bagel sticking out of my mouth and go to work on his request. He merely rolls his eyes in contempt before moving on.
"I see your boss is in another one of his glorious moods," Alice muses with wry. "Honestly, Bella, why do you put up with it?"
Ah, Alice. She has it made in the shade with her young, fun boss and a company-paid Mustang at her disposal. Alice Brandon is well on her way to being the operations manager of our company's PR department, and all it took was brains, moxy, and a healthy respect for brown-nosing.
Any time I look at her and feel a pang of envy, I think of all the ass-kissing that has to be done in order to receive the perks. No thanks; my dignity and I are just fine being the rug underneath the ladder of success. I'm the administrative assistant to the CFO's right hand man at Voss Butler, a large financial corporation. When my boss says jump, my usual response is, "How high, sir?"
Alice's eyebrows have almost made it to her hairline, waiting for me to answer.
"What am I supposed to say to him? Run your own damn reports? I'm his assistant, Alice. It's my job to do his job," I say and toss the rest of my breakfast in the trash.
Alice gives me the eyebrow; she's not impressed. "Whatever. You could easily be sitting in his chair, doing the job ten times better than he ever could. The man wouldn't be able to function without you, and he's taking credit for your hard work, Bella."
"Can we not do this today? Now, either tell me about what happened with Big Shiny last night, or go back to your own department. Do I have to put my ear buds in and ignore you altogether?" I ask, knowing the mention of Alice's busy love-life will be diversion enough to take her mind off my career shortcomings and 'lack of drive'.
It works like a charm, and I'm able to concentrate on my work while Alice babbles on about the incredibly sexy, slightly dense model she is currently sleeping with. Our nickname for the poor bastard, Big Shiny, is ridiculous, I know. But that's how Alice described his junk after their first night together, and it just stuck. His real name is Lucas ... or is it Logan? Either way, it doesn't matter. She's off my back, and I'll be able to get my work done and go home on time for once.
I can hear my cell phone going crazy in my purse, but my arms are too overloaded with groceries to do anything about it. Dear old mom will just have to converse with my voicemail this time. As I struggle to balance everything and get my key in the lock, I hear the house phone begin to ring. I finally manage to open the door just as the answering machine picks up.
"Hey, Bella. It's me, Edward. I've tried calling your cell but can't seem to get you. You know I hate talking to machines so call me back when-"
"Wait!" I yell, dropping my bags to the floor in the middle of the foyer and diving for the phone. I catch him just as he's ending his message. "Edward Cullen, you've called me precisely four times a year for the last ten years. To what do I owe the great pleasure of this random, middle of June phone call?" I'm grinning from ear-to-ear.
Edward's laugh is deep and boyish, just as I remember it. He really does hate answering machines, and I can tell he's embarrassed to have been interrupted mid-message. "You're screening my calls now? Is that what our friendship has come to?" he asks, and I can almost hear his grin through the phone.
"Sorry, you caught me just getting in the door. How've you been?" I ask, cradling the phone against my ear as I pick up groceries off the floor.
"Well, pretty great, actually. So much has been happening, and I guess I'll just spit it out. I've accepted a job at Dean & Crater. I'm leaving Chicago."
His news is certainly a surprise, but in my haste to get to the phone, several eggs tumbled out of their carton, and I'm mopping up the mess with a kitchen towel before the cat beats me to it. "Really? Wow, that's huge. Where are you going?" I ask, tossing the goop-coated dishrag into the trash.
"It all happened so fast; I might be leaving as soon as this weekend. And, Bella ... Dean & Crater is the largest architecture firm in Seattle. We're going to be neighbors again." With egg running down my arm, I freeze like an idiot in the middle of the kitchen, too stunned to speak. Edward doesn't skip a beat. "I can't wait to see you again. God, I can't believe it's been twelve years. That's crazy to me! Is it crazy to you?"
"Crazy," I repeat, stupefied with shock. Our irregular stream of emails has made the space between us seem less grand, but he's right; twelve years is a long time. I've only even seen Edward in a handful of pictures over the last decade.
"Bella, you're being awfully quiet."
I smack my forehead, effectively clearing the fog. "I'm stunned! Edward, this is great news! Congratulations. I had no idea you were even looking for a new job."
Now that I've yanked my jaw off the floor and can speak again, the conversation returns to normal ... well, normal with a giant edge of excitement. Edward gives me the details about his decision to leave the firm he's been at for the last three years when Dean & Crater offered him a position. He was noticed by the architectural mega-house because of his incredible reputation with skyscrapers. Edward will resume his life in Seattle as head of their board of advisors, and I couldn't be more proud.
We talk and reminisce late into the evening before finally saying goodnight. As I lay in bed and stare at the glowing numbers on my alarm clock, I think only about Edward. Time has stolen the better of our friendship, and we have so much to relearn about each other. The prospect of living in the same city again fills me with excitement, nerves, and most surprising of all, immense hope.
Between the phone calls and emails, or after a particularly heinous date, I would think a lot about Edward. I've often wondered what would've become of us if fate hadn't stepped in all those years ago. And I will never forget how his eighteen-year-old lips felt against mine the night we said goodbye.
I finally doze off, thinking about grape slushes, long summer nights, and my first real love.
Chapter End Notes:
Squee! Edward's coming back into the picture, and everything is going to be perfect ... right? I hope you'll stick around to find out. Thanks for reading everyone, and please leave me a review.
Thank you, Alice's White Rabbit, for giving this chapter a good polishing, and to Discordia for taking the time to pre-read. You ladies are the best!
I'll see you all next time, and don't forget to leave me your thoughts!