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.
A/N: I know, I know. You're probably asking yourself, 'what the hell is she doing starting another story?' right about now and I wish I had an answer that didn't involve some garbled explanation that probably throws 'blame the muses' in there a few times.
I imagine you've all been waiting for a chapter for ISDP and I'm trying my damnedest to get it out there, but my brain and my wrist are working against me. I got about four full lengths on the go - including a crossover that I am absolutely DESPERATE to start publishing- , a couple of one shots and a half-dozen drabbles thrown in for there for good measure and I'm unable to keep up with the demands my constantly shifting muse is putting on me. Because I have to limit my writing time, I have to pick and choose what and when I write now and it's not always geared towards the story that I WANT it to be...
Take this story for example.
On the upside, this particular story is on the short side, both in word count and chapters and it's pretty much complete, aside from me sprucing it up.
As much as I hate to become predictable, I've tweaked a few details as usual, but I figured you guys must be used to it by now. :)
Am I making the right decision? Bella thought morosely, staring down at the naked ring finger of her left hand – the same finger that would soon be holding an engagement ring if she said yes to Edward.
When he had presented her with the box yesterday, she had hesitated, the question, Is this the right choice, standing out starkly in a sea of jumbled thoughts. The fact that it had been at the forefront of her mind – along with the hesitation – made her wonder if an eternity with Edward was what she truly wanted.
Up until this point, she had thought so.
She was certain that, from the moment she had first met him, she was destined to be his and he hers. It would certainly explain why she'd put up with as much as she had – neglecting her friends, her family, her mental well being, hell, her entire safety – just to be with him.
So why the hesitation? Why had she looked at that box and felt the walls close in around her, overwhelmed with such a powerful feeling of panic that she was relieved Jasper wasn't around to feel it?
She dropped her limp hand and turned her gaze towards the school books scattered over the scuffed surface of her desk. She had never been the type to doodle romantic nonsense – thinking that the girls that decorated their margins with flowy 'such and such 4eva!' were a sad breed – but if you grabbed one of those notebooks at random, she was ashamed to admit that you'd probably find a stray heart with Bella & Edward scribbled within.
She grimaced, almost embarrassed at the sudden 180 she had made in the space of a little over a year. Not that she was necessarily a cynic beforehand when it came to love, but going from loathing the type of girl who lost themselves completely in a guy – who let a relationship define them – to becoming one? Where had it all gone wrong?
Bella had attempted to justify the changes in the beginning, telling herself that she was in love for the first time... or at least she thought she was.
Everything had started and progressed so quickly, that it was beginning to dawn on her that she had never really sat down and asked herself if this is what she truly wanted. Her. Bella. The girl she'd been before, not the dazzled girl that was mesmerized when she first met Edward. The girl who actually used to look forward to waking up in the morning, the same one who enjoyed nothing more than to get lost in a book for an afternoon. Not the pensive one that hadn't picked up a book in months and was gripped with panic attacks daily, wondering if Edward was going to change his mind and leave again.
She couldn't even remember the last time she had gotten a decent sleep.
"Give me some time to think about it," she had told him before he had even had a chance to snap open the small velvet box, worried that the mere sight of the ring lying within – tangible proof that this really was happening – would cause her to cause to cave and say yes without nary a though. Like she usually did when Edward was involved.
And she couldn't do that. Not with doubt lingering in her heart. It wouldn't be fair to either of them.
Renee had told her once that she had agreed to marry Charlie even though she was having second thoughts right up to the minute they'd exchanged their 'I do's'... and look how that had turned out. Now they could barely stand to be in the same room together, their interactions teetering the line between forced civility and open hostility.
If there was any truth to the belief that they children were doomed to repeat their parent's mistakes – the apple didn't fall very far from the tree after all – than that didn't bode well for her future. Imagine an eternity of simply putting up with one another for the sake of propriety.
She frowned. Assuming Edward would ever get over his adamant refusal to change her.
Which brought to mind the vow: 'Til death do us part.
In his desire to keep her human, would he really be content in watching her grow old and die while he and his family stayed young and beautiful? Would he really be willing to put up with the stares and whispers if they went out in public holding hands when she could easily pass for his grandmother?
He'd be used to that by now anyways, she thought darkly. All the stares he and his family got on a regular basis...how could he not?
But would she be okay with that?
Tears prickled her eyes when she realized that he had never bothered asking her that. In fact, it seemed like he rarely asked for her opinion, instead making what he considered the best choice for her. Time and time again.
She laughed bitterly and swiped at her face. Why had it taken a proposal to rip the blinders off and shine a light on their obviously dysfunctional relationship?
Edward's reaction hadn't exactly been encouraging either. His beautiful face had remained placid, his shoulders tensing only slightly before he sighed and nodded, placing the ring back in his pocket.
Was he asking because he really wanted too? She had wondered at the time. Or because he felt like he had too?
"It'll still be here when you decide," he replied in a poor attempt at casual humor.
Not: "Do you want to talk about this?"
Not: "Is everything all right?"
She could tell by the sound of his voice that he fully expected her to say yes. It was the same tone he'd used when he assured her that she'd be better off without him before he left. The same tone that made her want to scream just like she had then.
Bella had never been more grateful that he couldn't read her thoughts because, even as she accepted the kiss he bestowed on her lips, a part of her had never hated him more.
"I need to go home," she blurted the second he had pulled back.
From the frown on his face, she realized he expected her to stay and continue with their plans (to watch a movie) and almost exploded and screamed, "Seriously?!" in his stupid sanctimonious face. After putting the brakes on his marriage proposal, he really expected her to sit and watch some stilted period piece that she could barely even pretend to enjoy on her good days?
Though not able to read her mind, he must have seen something on her face, because he nodded and graciously offered her a ride home. Glad that she had enough foresight to drive here (and even if she didn't, at this point she'd sooner walk home than suffer through ten minutes of awkward silence) she shook her head in the negative and began to gather her things.
Upon walking downstairs, she wryly noted that she hadn't been the only one to hear the proposal. The Cullen's were gathered in the living room, doing a poor job of looking interested in whatever program was on the television, and alternately shooting her quick glances, shades of disappointment in most of their eyes.
There was frustration mixed in with Alice's disappointment – probably angry that her dream of immediately dragging Bella to the nearest Bridal boutique to pick out a dress had been denied – along with the barest hints of befuddlement, like she couldn't believe that Bella had said no.
Bella wondered if she saw something. She'd never ask though. This was one decision she wanted full control over, without any outside interference.
Emmett alternated between disappointment and understanding, as if his hopes that she'd finally be his little sister now lay shattered at his feet.
I'll always be your little sis, she promised him silently, even if a part of her was unsure if it would happen now that she was second guessing her relationship with Edward – something that, at times, she felt was her only real tie to this family.
Thinly veiled curiosity (but shockingly not surprise) glinted in Jasper's hooded gaze. She swore she saw him nod minutely, as if he approved of her decision to rebuff Edward for the time being. Rose, as usual, seemed indifferent to Bella's plight.
It was Esme and Carlisle's gaze that had been the hardest to meet; the raw heartache (strangely more tangible than Edward) caused her to avert her eyes. As much as she loved them, she couldn't say yes to Edward just to be a part of the family she'd always wished she'd had.
She mumbled a hasty goodbye and did her best to leave the house without looking like she was running away.
Even if she was.
She'd figured she'd earned the right to be the one who walked away this time.
And now here she was. At home, sitting cross-legged on her bed and no closer to an answer than she had been five hours ago.
She had attempted to write up a pro/con list, but when she had put a question mark next to the, 'I love him', in the PRO list, she began to realize that maybe their problems ran a little deeper than she originally thought. If she couldn't say that with confidence, what did it say about their relationship? She knew people married without love all the time, but she refused to be one of them.
Now the tattered remains of the ripped up list lay scattered around her like confetti.
She knew she wouldn't be able to put him off for very long – for someone who had nothing but time on his hands, he was surprisingly impatient – but she was determined to give herself at least a week to really think things over. She shifted her head to gaze at the calendar tacked on her wall. It was Sunday now, so that gave her six days... six days to decide a lifetime.
No pressure or anything, she thought with an eye roll.
In a brief moment of hysterical madness, she considered breaking her ring finger in order to have a viable excuse to postpone the date even further.
That should be my answer right there, she thought with grim amusement. The fact that I'm willing to commit bodily harm to myself just to say no to Edward should be enough proof that I'm not ready to marry him... She could still feel the lingering unease left over from his proposal. And maybe... maybe I might never be.
Her eyes were drawn to the bed and she picked up one of the torn pieces of paper. Flipping it over, she could make out the words, I love him. The question mark had been ripped off. She traced the loops of her words with a fingernail, focusing her attention on one word specifically.
"You never forget your first love," her mother had sighed wistfully one night. Even she could reminisce fondly about the man that had come years before Charlie, regardless of the fact that in the same breath she admitted that he turned out to be a bit of a sleaze, stealing money from her and running off with her best friend in the process.
So was that what this was? The allure of the first love – the dazzle of it?
Edward himself had confessed that vampires were designed to lure humans it – to incite awe and desire – so would she still be drawn to him if she were no longer human? Would she still be obsessed with him?
That wasn't normally a word she'd apply to her and Edward's relationship, but she'd overheard Charlie use it during her dark period. The word had been haunting her since.
Perhaps he was right. Her whole world revolved around Edward from he minute she'd bumped into him in the cafeteria and questions like, 'what do I want to do?' and 'what do I think?' were swiftly replaced with, 'what would Edward like me to do?' and 'what would Edward think?'
Even worse, she had contemplated killing herself – had tried to kill herself – over a guy. A girl at her old school had done that years ago and she had been baffled and strangely angry. Though she only knew her in passing, she couldn't comprehend why a teenage girl, with her whole life ahead of her, would snuff out her life because her boyfriend told her he didn't want to be with her anymore.
That's all it took. A simple, "I want to break up," had lead to a pill bottle in one hand and a hastily written suicide note in the other, which, according to gossip, mirrored exactly what was written on the scrap in her hand.
I love him.
I came so close to becoming her. She shuddered and dropped the small slip of paper, raising her hands to rub at the sudden dirty feeling that crawled up her arms. Could she marry someone who had brought her that close to the edge – literally? Could she trust him not to break her as easily as he'd done in the past?
She leaned back on the bed and turned her eyes skyward.
She'd never been the praying type, but she could admit that she was in desperate need of some guidance. She really had no one to talk to outside of the Cullen's. During those dark months, she had pretty much burned bridges with the few friends she had made at Forks High and, although they eventually forgave her, they still kept her at an emotional distance. The one real friend she still had, Jake, was a lost cause as well. Thanks to his vehement dislike of Edward, it wasn't hard to guess what his answer would be (a firm and resounding, 'don't do it') and, while her and Charlie were definitely a lot closer than they'd been in years previous, she didn't exactly feel like they were to the point where she could share such intimate details.
Knowing that, she poured her heart out to the ceiling, keeping her one sided conversation strictly mental so she didn't wake Charlie up and make him wonder why she was talking to herself.
When she finally finished, she felt a little lighter – glad that she had finally got her thoughts out in the open (even if it was to the ceiling) – and a little silly at the same time.
What was I expecting exactly? A voice to boom, "Don't marry him, Bella!"?
She chuckled wryly when a part of her admitted that yeah, she kind of was hoping it'd be that easy.
So what now? she wondered as her exhaustion made itself known. Fluttering her eyes closed, she ignored the uncomfortable sensation of her jeans chaffing against her legs as she twisted onto her side and allowed sleep to pull her under. Her last conscious thought was that, come the end of the week, hopefully all her questions would be answered.