Hi there! Sorry! I know. I know! But summer school has been tougher than I thought (trying to get my degree!).
Well, I will have more time. Chapter 22 is almost on its way to the beta.
Speaking of which, thank you SunflowerFran3759 for your awesome beta skills. If there are any mistakes, they're mine for adding things after her review.
He chuckles. "Nothing."
"I call bullshit."
"You were always good at that."
"I was? Cullen, I am."
"Oh, hush. Remember that one time you spent the whole day mad at me because you thought I had popped all of our firework stash without you? And I was just hiding them?"
She giggles at their former selves, the sound making Edward grin painfully. He hadn't realized how much he had missed it. Not until this moment had he realized how he missed the pain in his cheeks and the racing of his heart. "I gave you so much shit for it and you never budged. I have to give you credit for that one, Cullen."
"It was worth it. Seeing you jump when I popped that firecracker at your feet…"
She playfully and softly punches his upper arm. "Jerk," she says, but the toothy grin on her face sends him on a high he cannot bring himself to come down from right now.
They laugh at some kids running around with sparklers in their hands, lighting the dark night. They've been sitting on the back of her pickup truck, enjoying the party and the environment. They had cried their eyes out for what seemed like hours, back at that staircase where they breathed each other in for the first time in almost six years. It was as if the simple touch of familiar skin to familiar skin sent them to a whirlwind of sobbing. They held onto each other, digging their nails into backs and arms and shoulders. They held on tightly, as tears splashed and hands left prints behind.
After a few minutes, Tommy sniffled herself back to some calmness and made a bad joke, just the way she always used to do when the situation got too tense.
She wiped her face with her hands and pulled him back outside to 'get some air,' and beer, without saying another word about 'hellos' and without any questions about the past.
It's late and most people have returned home, but Tommy and Edward stayed behind, enjoying the late partiers.
They haven't said much to each other. Mostly jokes and comments about the night they have been sharing. It's as if no time has passed; she still feels like…like Tommy. He mentally slaps himself for ever thinking it would be different. She had always been true to herself. Although her dark past did leave a dent, she had always just been warm and beautiful with a shadow of sadness and hopelessness creeping into her mind. He spent the last years wishing he would have chased them away and saved her, but he understands it now. She needed to save herself.
But she looks different that's for sure.
Her face is leaner and those dark circles under her eyes he once remembered are gone. The Texan sun has been kind to her once pale skin. Her freckled shoulders peak from her loose-fitting blouse, and her long, smooth-looking legs end with cowboy boots covering her feet.
Each time the weak summer breeze blows, her scent fills his lungs and he has to hold himself together. He still can't believe it's her.
"I could get used to it," she says, blushing a little under the streetlight.
He shakes his head as if that will help him get a hold of himself.
"Used to what?"
"You staring at me like this. I don't know. You're looking at me like I'm made of gold," she says with a smirk.
"You are," he says, smiling at her reaction. She's not used to honest Edward, but she will be. He'll make damn sure of it. "I just can't believe it's you. I've dreamt of this moment…I've gone mad thinking it would never happen and then here we are. Sitting on the back of an old pickup truck you assure me is yours. I'm trying to make sure I haven't already lost my mind the way Alice says I have. Or have I always been crazy?"
Tommy smiles and cups his cheek. "It's really me. You're not crazy. You never were."
He stands in front of her, trying to ignore the way her hands move their way up his arms and over his chest. "Your hair is so long," he says, gently pulling at one of her strands.
She smiles. "This is new," she says, stroking his rough, stubbly cheek. "I love it. It makes you look older."
"Manly?" He asks, puffing out his chest.
She laughs, both of her hands now holding onto both of his cheeks, pulling him down, closer to him. She caresses his face with her thumbs, studying his eyes and lips.
"This is also new," she whispers caressing some of the lines of his face.
"I'm an old man."
"Shut up," she giggles. "Just a few battle scars. It's just…Every time I think of you, I think of that eighteen year old boy who meant everything to me. You're all grown up now. A man." She sighs, burying her left hand in his hair and letting the other one run along his jaw and up his forehead as if trying to reacquaint herself with him. She does this for a few seconds, tracing the outline of his face.
"Hello, I'm Edward Cullen," he whispers, playfully. "Do you remember me?"
She gulps and nods. "Yes. Of course. I always remember you. I always think of you," she says with a shaky voice and a smile. But too soon her smile breaks, her eyes fill with tears and her chin quivers. She buries her face into his neck and begins to sob.
"Hey," he hums, tightly wrapping his arms around her small body. "I thought we were done crying." He can feel his own eyes beginning to burn again.
She cries and cries. He can feel her tears soaking his shirt, but he doesn't dare pull away.
"How's life?" She sniffs and pulls her head back to look into his eyes. "What are you doing here? Aren't you big and successful? Aren't you filthy rich and important? Don't you have a blonde wife, two beautiful kids and a swimming pool in the backyard?" She asks, still allowing large tears to escape her eyes.
"No," he mutters, shaking his head. "I'm just a man. A lost man."
"Lost? I imagined you so happy, Edward."
"I am happy. I was lost without you, Swan. So damn lost. But I've found you and now I'm so fucking happy," he says, not bothering to wipe away the tears falling from his own eyes.
She cries again and buries her face back into his neck.
The sun's rays blast through the cheap curtains warming Edward's face until he snaps open his eyes. The strange patterns of his pillowcase remind him that he is not home…or the place he's been calling home.
He sits up and takes in his surroundings, willing his mind to wake up. His jeans are uncomfortable and digging into his skin. He must've slept a little crazy. He twists them back into place and slowly stands on his bare feet.
It's a tiny hole of an apartment, but she managed to make it her own. He wonders how long she has been staying here. If the mess on her floor, and over her tiny kitchen table are any indication, it seems she has been living here for years, but none of the things spread across the place are meant for home décor.
He rubs his face and runs a hand through his thick hair as he walks around. He hears the water in her bathroom and guesses she decided to clean up for a new day.
He takes the opportunity to snoop around. He chuckles at some of her items and touristy t-shirts from different states. New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Louisiana and many more are represented by small items scattered all over her room.
"Who goes to Vermont?" He asks himself, a smile still dancing on his lips.
He plays with a snow globe from her collection and runs his hands over the journals stacked on top of her rickety dresser. When his eyes look up and catch the map of the United States crookedly stapled on the wall above him, the warmth leaves him, and a sudden burst of regret fills him.
He should have known.
The old door to her bathroom opens slowly, and out comes Tommy wearing a fresh pair of jeans and a sleeveless, raggedy t-shirt. Her hair is dark and wavy, the water from her shower leaving water stains where her hair meets the cloth. She smiles when she catches him looking at her in wonder.
"Good mornin'!" She says in a bad, fake Texan twang.
He chuckles and tips his imaginary cowboy hat. "How long have you been in Texas?" He asks, pointing at her map.
"Oh, about a month."
"You sure do know how to make yourself at home," he says with a smirk.
"Hey! Don't make fun of my mess. I just have a lot of shit. I don't have a permanent place so I have to make each place I crash feel like a home. Minus the bullshit of family."
Edward doesn't know why, but he is suddenly taken over by the urge to look down and away from Tommy's deep brown eyes. That sadness and guilt that never left him raises its head with a staggering vengeance.
"Hey, stop that," she whispers, gently wrapping her hands over his bicep. "I'm over that. I promise. I'm better now. I was just joking. It was obviously bad. You were always the comedian out of the two of us."
"That's a damn lie."
She grins. "Yeah, you're right. I'm fuckin hilarious and you're too serious."
He chuckles but takes a deep breath at the thoughts running through his head. "What have you been up to, Tommy?"
"Showering, because you slept like the dead and took too long to wake up and keep me company. You old man, couldn't handle the late partying last night."
"That's not what I meant."
She sighs and let's go of his arm. "Why don't we have breakfast and talk about whatever you want?"
"It's one o'clock in the afternoon."
"Who cares? Come on; just step over shit if it's in the way."
"I would have never taken you for a snow globe collector. Kinda lame," he jokes.
"Shut up! Snow globes are awesome…and pretty."
He rolls his eyes and helps her cook a feast of eggs and bacon. He notices she doesn't have much in her fridge or in her cabinets.
"Are you gonna answer my question?" He asks, after swallowing his last mouthful of egg.
"Let me show you a little of the town, and then we can talk."
He calls Jasper and tells him he's taking a few days off and will spend them away from him and Maria so they can work their shit out. Jasper sounds a little worried for him but doesn't question him.
Tommy is excited that he's agreed to spend a few days with her. She refuses to let him sleep on the couch and he doesn't feel like fighting over it with her.
She takes him to the diner where she is 'temporarily' employed. He meets the people she works with and notices how much her co-workers love her. They call her Bella, but he doesn't question it. She doesn't correct him when he calls her Tommy.
They tell her they miss her, although it's only been two days since she last worked and make him promise that he'll eat there soon.
"I call my dad once in a while. I check on him and I check…I check on my mom. But I never talk to her. I never ask to talk to her."
"Why?" He knows why, but he wants her to tell him. He doesn't tell her that he knows. He knows the reason for her dismay and her broken beginnings.
"I just…I just can't."
He doesn't push.
"So you try and have a normal relationship with your dad?"
"Yeah. It's awkward because we never really talked very much and he was never 'daddy', but I don't want to die tomorrow without trying to stay in touch with him. He wasn't the best of dads, but I know he wanted to try in the end. I wanted him to stop feeling guilty, so one day I called my house, hoping like hell he would answer instead of my mom. Thankfully he did. He cried and cried when I told him it was me. It had been a few years since I had left. He thought I had died. I found out he was leaving my mom and he gave me his new number and I promised to call him if he promised not to tell anyone. I call him a few times here and then."
"He really does love you."
"I remember him telling me you had stopped by, but he didn't know where you were going after you left."
"Yeah, I went to him to ask if he had heard from you. I overheard him talking to you, but I walked in too late. You had already disconnected."
They walk some more. "Do you ever want to settle down, Tommy? You know…Live a normal life, maybe have kids?"
She smiles. "I don't know about kids and 'normal,' but settling down? I don't think so. I love not knowing what's gonna happen tomorrow. Call me crazy."
"Crazy….crazy like me."
"Did you finish college?"
"That's awesome! I'm so proud of you."
"It's soulless. I thought you would hate it," he chuckles.
"Not for you. I bet you look handsome in ties. I always did like a man in a tie."
"Is that so?"
"How about you, Tommy? Jobs, career?"
"I told you once that school ain't for everybody. I've worked so many odd jobs that I've lost count. I never stay anywhere more than three months."
They walk around the little shops in town. Tommy holds his hand and he doesn't dare pull it away, although it's hot and their hands are sweaty.
It seems everyone knows her. They all call her Bella, which he doesn't like at all. He doesn't like it that they all have spent time with her and that she's managed to live happily without him. He's jealous.
He's pissed, but mostly jealous.
"Why does everyone call you Bella?"
She shrugs. "You do know my real name is Isabella?"
He chuckles. "Yes, but you always went by Tommy."
She smiles, squeezing his hand. "I don't know. I had a job in Kentucky and the manager there refused to call me Tommy. Conservative asshole who thought I shouldn't use a male name. Anyway, he would call me Isabella and my co-workers started calling me Bella. I moved around with a friend I met there a few times and she would call be Bella, too, and I just got used to it. I was like I had finally left Tommy behind."
"Do you want me to start calling you Bella?'
"No!" She screeches. She smirks and tugs his arm. "I like it when you call me Tommy. It means nothing has changed between us. I'm still your Tommy."
He tries to hide the smile on his face so he won't look like a foolish schoolboy, but he fails. "Okay, I'll call you Tommy. If you promise to tell me what you've been up to."
"What have I been up to?"
"Where have you been? Where did you go? Why did you go?"
"Cullen, you have a lot of questions."
"Well, you gave me almost six years to come up with them and many more."
She bites her bottom lip, looking anywhere but at his eyes. "I wish I could tell you that I have loads of money and have the best, fuckin life ever, but that ain't the case. I've had so many great moments and I'm exactly where I wanted to be since I was a kid. I've travelled around and seen so many new places. Yeah, I've had days where I didn't have enough money for food and I cried myself to sleep many times after I left Forks. But I have never regretted it."
"No regrets at all?" He asks sternly. "Not even the fact that you…that you didn't even tell me you were going? And please don't tell me we were just kids, because I know that shit was deeper than that, and you know it. You have to."
Her eyes fall alongside the grip on his hand. "I missed you, Edward. After that day at the cliff, I thought of you all the time. Fuck, I missed your stupid face and that laugh you make when you think I'm being an idiot. I missed that knowing smirk you get when you know you 'got me.' I missed my best friend. I missed him very much."
"Well, it doesn't show. You seem to have moved on perfectly," he says bitterly and walks ahead of her.
"Edward, wake up! You're having a bad dream..."
He can hear her from a distance, but he's too lost in his nightmare.
"I know we went to bed mad…" she mutters by his ear, "But please forgive me and wake up."
He snaps his eyes open and violently pulls away from her.
She's startled by it, but quickly realizes that he's still fighting whatever he was fighting in his dreams.
"Shh," she says, caressing his face. "You still have nightmares?"
He sighs, rubbing his face. "Not as much as before…"
"Well, I'm here," she whispers and kisses his forehead after smoothing the worried lines there. She places his head on her lap and runs her hands through his hair, massaging his scalp. "Just like when we were kids. You don't have to be scared. I'm here…"
He shakes his head, not understanding the sudden anger he was feeling. He jumps to his feet, ignoring that it's 3 AM and that he's tired as hell. "Why did you leave?"
"It's late, Edward. Let's not talk about this now."
"No! I've waited six years and I need to talk to you. I need to fight. I looked for you. I looked for you everywhere. I need answers! I called so many places while I was in college, asking for you. Places I thought you'd be. I even travelled a little during spring breaks and holidays instead of going home…All because I wanted to find you. Because it hurt like hell that you didn't want to be with me. I fucking wanted to confront you and fight with you like we always did. I've never told anybody this. Nobody knew I had gone crazy. And after a while, I just shut down. I became angry with you. I pretended like we weren't friends. I told everyone that lie. Anybody that asked me about you…I pretended like I didn't know every single thing about you, because I was so angry," he shouts.
She gets up and stands in front of him with a worried look in her eyes. "You were angry with me for leaving?" She asks.
"Yes, before I went back."
"Back? To Forks?"
"Yes. I spoke to everyone that ever knew you. Through them, I saw the side of you that you always hid so well. That side of you that I didn't care to see as a stupid kid."
"What did you see?"
"Everything and nothing. I saw the girl I had come to depend on so much for every breath I took, and then you were gone. You weren't there. I felt hopeless, because, like my mother, I hadn't managed to let go of you. I held onto your name and your memories with such a deadly grip that I began to sink down into that icy water you had pulled me from that day at the cliff. It also made me realize I was still angry with my mother, and that you had tried to talk about her, but I wouldn't allow it. It all just came to me and I couldn't stand being there. I couldn't be still. So I left. I left Forks and then I left Chicago and the good job I had there."
"And you came to Texas?"
"I went to so many places looking for you. I looked everywhere. In places I doubted you'd be, but just to make sure. In places I thought for sure you'd love. I just wandered and searched. Wandered and searched for you."
Tears fill Tommy's eyes and a sob escapes her chest. She takes a few steps away from him, covering her mouth and the whimpers that have no mercy on her.
"Me?" She asks, brokenly. "But I'm nothing, nobody…I imagined you married and with kids. I imagined you with a great career and lots of money. I would cry about it like an idiot, but I thought you would find a way to get out of Forks and away from you mother's ghost. It's what you deserved."
"Don't you see, Tommy? The ghosts of you both followed me to college. They haunted me. I believed to have failed you both. I still do."
"Failed? How did you fail us?"
"I wasn't there when you needed me. I was selfish. I was too busy mourning my mother that I didn't notice how much you needed me to be an active, reliable friend. Instead, I used you to make myself feel better. You brought me so much comfort and warmth and I became an addict. I couldn't get enough of you. You made me feel like I could finally breathe and that my head was above water. But I still allowed the anger and guilt I felt over my mother's death to cloud me. You said it yourself the last time you were in my room. You said I was a coward."
"No!" She says, gasping for air through her tears. "I was just fucking high and drunk and angry that we were going to grow apart. I didn't mean it, Edward, I swear!" Tommy's tears run down her pretty face and hit the carpet. She breathes in and out, in desperate need for him to believe her. "I was filled with so much cloudiness of my own that I couldn't control it. But I swear I never thought of you as a coward or thought you weren't there for me. I was angry and sad for my own reasons. They were reasons I never shared with anybody. But you were everything to me. You were everything that was good in my life. You made my heart jump to life when I thought it was surely dead. I just couldn't be there anymore. I needed to clear my head. I needed to be strong on my own. I cared so much about you and the people close to me that I didn't allow myself to heal. I was no good to keep around. So I just told myself that I had to run. Run so fast, so I couldn't change my mind."
"I wish you had told me. I wish I could have helped you."
"I called…I called your house all the time, hoping you would be the one to pick up just so I could hear your voice."
"That…that was you?"
"Yes," she says with a watery smile. "You never did pick up. It was always your dad or Alice or Rosalie. I was glad to hear them, too, but when you finally came to the phone, I wanted to desperately answer and talk to you for hours about the stupid shit we always talked about when we were kids. I wanted to fight like we always fought. But I just froze. I couldn't say a word to you."
"You should have. I wanted that, too. But I wasn't good company either. I failed you, like I failed my mother. Her ghost never let me be. She killed herself. She killed herself, Tommy," he says, breaking down and covering his face with his hands. He cries, finally telling Tommy, although they both knew the truth already. Everybody did, but he had never said those words to her, because she had been his escape. But he realizes now, that he needs to admit and accept it with her because it was a way to close the wound.
He feels Tommy pulling his head down to her shoulder and he lets her. He cries into her skin, tightly wrapping his arms around her.
"I know, Edward, I know. She was sick and there was nothing you could have done, baby."
"I could have saved her. I could have swam to her and pulled her to shore…I could have…but I was always a bad swimmer and afraid of the water. You remember that? I was so useless. I let my mom die. She died because I didn't save her. I took her to that fucking forest and I didn't swim fast enough."
"It wasn't your fault! There was no way you could have saved her; you were just a kid. You couldn't protect her from the fall, the water, or from her own head, Edward."
He can't see her through his water-blurred eyes, but he can feel her hands squeezing his face, trying her best to convince him.
"I could have swam…I…don't even remember what happened after I jumped into the water. Do you know that? I don't even know if I made it far. I just remember waking up in the hospital to you. But I don't remember if I even fought hard to save her."
"Oh, Edward," Tommy whispers brokenly. "Oh, my beautiful Edward." She kisses his neck as she wraps her arms around his shoulders. "You did. You fought so hard."
"I would have saved her if that were true."
"Listen to me!" She shouts. She takes his face into her hands after wiping his tears. "She was already gone, Edward. You tried your hardest. You fought against those harsh waters and you pulled with all your might."
"What? But…" he struggles with his words. His wounded heart still aches. "How would you know that?"
"Because…Because I was there, Edward. I was there that day…I'm the one who pulled you out of the water."
Edward falls his to knees, not able to find his breath. Tommy falls with him, holding onto his face.
"Edward, please breathe. Please!"
"You were there?" He cries.
Tommy roughly nods her head. "I never told you because I didn't want you to torture yourself any more than you already did. I didn't want you to remember the things that played in my head. There hasn't been a day I don't think about what happened that morning." She takes a breath, ready to tell the truth.
Thoughts? Again, chapter 22 is almost on its way to the beta, so you may not have to wait another week :)
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