Friend Boy

Perfect Catch Teeny Tiny Twilight "Edward!" someone yelled. I turned; hands ready to catch the football. The out come of playing Quarterback for the last three years. I caught it perfectly and almost as soon as it landed in my hands I was running, fast and agile I danced through the grabbing hands. I caught a pretty girl looking at me through the corner of my eye. A smile pulled at my lips, and I started to run faster, weaving lither through the large bodies until I caught the white chalk line panted in the grass. Once I passed it, I stopped, turning around to smile smugly at my friends. Emmett laughed, "Save the fancy stuff for the game man!" I laughed too, throwing the ball at him and then turned, looking for the pretty girl. I caught her, finally standing just beyond the out of bounds line, her black hair stood in direct contrast with her delicate skin, she had large blue eyes and a petite frame. "Hey Alice, come to watch the pro play?" Emmett called over my shoulder; I caught him flexing his arms. She rolled her eyes, smiling. I tried to catch my grimace. I usually had a rule; do not date friend's sisters. Never ends well. Then again, she was good looking, maybe I could make an exception since Emmett was dating my sister. I quickly weighed the pros against the cons, and made my choice. There were no other girls here that would catch my interest. None that I could see were exceedingly pretty, or that had all the hints of being easy. No high pitched giggled caught my attention, nor were there any girls that were exceedingly touchy or teasing to the boys they were with. There was only one other girl there and she wasn't looking my way, though I caught the long natural brown hair put up in a ponytail, not died, or highlighted, she had her arms crossed as she talked to some of the guys, though I couldn't hear her, and she had a good posture, obviously nothing weighing her down in front. I sighed, all those girls were used up, pregnant, or I had already been with them. Being a senior sucks. I reached Alice and smiled, extending my hand, "Edward Cullen." She smiled back politely, "Alice McCarthy. I'm watching my brother practice." Don't remind me. "Really?" I smiled, bringing her hand up to my lips to kiss. "Oh," she mouthed, and then she forced a smile, her eyes flickering to the left uncomfortably. I knew that look. It was the universal scream of get me out of here! She had a boyfriend. I dropped her hand, suppressing a growl of irritation. The only decent girl I have seen today and she just has to have a boy friend. Moreover, on a Friday that's bad luck. Her awkward expression melted immediately into a natural smile, "Bella!" she called in relief. I turned to see a girl walking towards us, smiling at Alice. Her long brown ponytail swayed behind her as she jogged over to us. She didn't even seem to see me as she greeted Alice from a little ways away.

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Nevertheless, I saw her. Had this been the girl I had so easily disregarded? Her eyes were wide and a warm brown colour, her body well toned. Not overly so as to fall into the guess the gender game, but enough to know she was active, naturally thin, and though athletic, obviously had a beautiful body. There were no cosmetics to be found on her face, just the natural pink of her cheeks, highlighting the delicacy of her skin. "Hey Alice, is Emmett finished practice already?" she asked. Her voice was strangely musical. Not like bells, as her name would suggest, but a light female voice with the slightest undertone of silver chimes. "No, but I wanted to go home early anyways." Her eyes flickered to me. I held my breath, counting backwards in my head from ten to one. If the once stunning Alice-now absurdly plain standing next to Bella-gave her the wrong impression of me... I let that though trail off. Her eyes flickered to me for the first time, as if she had not noticed me before. I didn't mind that much as long as she hadn't noticed my staring. I grinned at her, my hands digging into my pockets, "Hey." She grinned back tightly, "Hi," and with that, she turned, walking away with Alice beside her. Unthinkingly I followed. There was no way I was letting this girl out of my sight. "Did you see that Bella?" Alice asked lowly, giggling. "He tried something with me, then not two seconds later, he hit on you." She laughed again. "Yea," she agreed dryly, "Real piece of work. I though Rose was exaggerating." Rose? As in Rosalie my sister? So I had put blue Kool-Aid into her shampoo and made her think it was real hair dye, did that mean she had to ruin my reputation? It was a joke for crying out loud. "I wouldn't believe everything Rosalie says." I growled. Alice stopped and turned around, shocked that I had been with in earshot. Bella didn't stop walking, "And he really respects personal boundaries too, I would never expect him to eaves drop." Alice laughed again, and turned to catch up with her. I felt my cheeks heat, "I wasn't eaves dropping, I just happened to be going this way." I snapped embarrassed. She turned suddenly, her eyebrow raised, "Well then, by all means you first miss." She opened the girl's locker room door. I thought quickly of a lie, the only decent one would be, I was waiting for my girlfriend. "My Girl-" She cut me off before I could speak, her eyes narrowed dangerously, "Don't lie, and say your girlfriends in here. You were just flirting with Alice with people watching. Word would get around like that." -she snapped her fingers-"And you know it." My eyes narrowed at her. I was done with the attitude, "You know what?"

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"No, but I'm sure you'll tell me." She sighed, leaning her weight on one leg, eyes rolled to the ceiling. "I think your jealous"-I taunted with a smug smile-"I think you're jealous that I was flirting with Alice instead of you." "Green with envy." Her voice was dripping with sarcasm as she turned into the change room. "Okay, I think we got off on the wrong foot." -I held my hand out-"Hello, I'm Edward Cullen." She took my hand, shaking it, "I'm not interested." She turned back into the locker room. My stomach churned with the though of her leaving, "Wait!" She heaved a sigh, shoulders slumping with exhaustion, "Yes?" "What were you doing on the field today anyways? Watching you're boyfriend play?" the last part came out more sullen then I had intended it too. I hopped she would not hear. To my surprise, she turned around angrily pulling at her shirt. It startled me to see she wore a jersey. SWAN 09, "I just came back from basket ball practice. And don't think that just because I'm single I'm head over heals for you." I opened my mouth. "Shut up and listen." -I shut my mouth-"There are three categories that guys fall into, if their good looking they are jerks, if they are good looking and great guys then they are gay, if they are good looking, great guys, and straight, then their taken. You fall into the first category." She disappeared into the locker room. I stood stunned for a minute, looking at the faux wood patterns. After a second though, I collected myself, "Can I have your number?" I yelled though the door. "Screw you!"

Chap 2 Bella P.O.V. I hurried out of my room, bagel in my mouth, gym bag over the shoulder and fumbling with my keys to get the damn door to lock. Some time during the night, my alarm clock plug had come out of the wall and I had put my alarm to the wrong time. So, because of that, I was going to be late, hungry, sweaty, and stressed at seven O'clock in the morning. The one upside to this was I was going to basketball practice. That would help me get my mood in order. Another upside was I would be done practice at about nine thirty and I could spend the rest of my Saturday and the entire Sunday hanging out with my friends. I just had to tell Rosalie who I met yesterday.

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A door clicked softly shut down the hall from me. I turned to the sound, and groaned. Edward Cullen, the biggest jerk to ever have been dropped on his head as a child, was just sneaking out of Millie's room. I had been sure that the two of them had broken up almost two weeks ago. He turned to me, surprise then excitement flickering across his face. He waved at me. I looked away quickly, and glared at the lock, fighting the key desperately into the key hole. It finally gave in and clicked its lock into place. I heaved a sigh of relief and turned to get on the elevator at the end of the hall. This elevator was one of the only things I liked about boarding school so far. "Hey," a soft voice whispered, "What are you doing up this early?" "Basket Ball practice." I muttered back lowly. The only thing that kept me from ignoring him and running as far from this place as possible was politeness. "They have basket ball practice at five?" he asked surprised, "And I thought football practice was early." I rolled my eyes, "It's seven o'clock, see?" I held up my wristwatch to him. I didn't have time for this, I was going to be late, and now that I had started my morning talking to him I doubted even basket ball would put my mood in order. "No, it's five o'clock, see?" he took my wrist, showing me my own time. 5:06. "Five?" I stared at my watched for a second, and then sighed, "Perfect, just a perfect way to start the week end. Hey, maybe I'll get hit by a truck this week end too!" I added in a bogusly cheery voice. Edward looked like he was trying to keep from laughing, "So what are you doing up this early in the morning?" my voice was a little sharper then I had intended it to be. That'll show him not to tell me what time it is. "Maria snores when she sleeps." He made a face towards the end of the hall. "I thought that you and Millie broke up." I started walking. "We did," he answered, completely oblivious to my correction, and matched my pace, "We just got back together for a few hours last night, and I left her a note saying we broke up again." I lost my appetite. "So where are you going then?" I asked flatly. I wondered if I could find an alternate route to the one, he was taking. I did have two hours; I could go all the way around the campus if I needed to. He shrugged, "Where ever you're going I guess." He grinned at me. I stopped, "Edward look!" I gasped, "A super model!" I pointed to the end of the empty hallway. As expected, his head snapped towards the way I had pointed. I took off running for the elevators, the shining metal doors promised salvation. I pushed the down button frantically, "Come on!" "It doesn't matter how many times you press the button, the elevator won't come any faster." He was beside me, looking down with an amused expression.

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I tried to glare at him, but his face was closer to mine then I was used to. I took a breath, and ended up inhaling him. His scent was distinctly masculine, with the barest hint of sunshine and something sweet. I swallowed, taking an uncomfortable step back from him. On one level I could understand how the girls at this school could lose their heads so completely around him, it was a shallow understanding but an understanding all the same. He was beautiful-heartbreakingly so with his pure green eyes, no other colour mixed with it, not even a hint of brown or blue, just an endless expanse of green, like a jade forest. Then there was the strong jaw, the perfect nose, the full lips that were usually pulled into an easy crooked smile, and on top of it all, there was the head of messy red-brown hair. However, that was the only level that I was attracted to him. In my personal opinion the cons out weighed the pros with Edward. The elevator doors dinged open, startling me from my thoughts. I walked on and –to my great displeasure-he followed. There were stairs just to the right of the elevator, if I timed myself perfectly I could jump out in time for the doors to close Edward in, and then I could take the stairs down and waste some time before practice. I hesitated though, as I watched the intimidating thick metal doors come together, and then it was too late.

Edward was whistling cheerfully beside me, rocking on his heals as he waited for the doors to open. His cheery mood did nothing to help mine. "You're jersey doesn't look like the other girls'" he mused, looking down at the end of my blue jersey half falling out of my bag. I pushed it back in, "I don't play on the girls' basket ball team." I said in a normal volume, smiling smugly from old habit. To my surprise, he snorted, "Then what team do you play on? The boys?" he chuckled, as if he could never imagine a universe where a woman did something other then fawn over the perfect colour of shirt to match their eyes and their shoes. I narrowed my eyes at him, "Yes." I had been playing on a boy's basketball team at the other school I had been at. I played well enough to be able to take on the best of the best there, and from what I had already seen; I could take these guys too. Though I had just started here not two weeks ago, I had settled in here better then I thought I would. Alice had been in my first period class the first day, and we had been inseparable ever since. Edward's annoyingly loud laughter pulled me from my pleasant reverie. "You?" he choked through his laughter, "Itsy bitsy little you? Do they have a name plate for you on the bench, or have you actually stepped out onto the floor?" "I bet I could own you in basket ball, and I could probably hold my own in football too." I snapped. He stepped closer to my 5 feet 4 inches. He was a good ten inched taller then me. He grinned down while I had to crane my neck just to see his face, "Would you like a ladder?" he asked smiling. I gritted my teeth, "That's it Cullen, you and me. One-on-one on the court now." I saw him hesitate before the

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amused smile was back, "That is of course, unless you're scared of being beaten by a girl." I added slyly. "Fine, you and me. Just don't be disappointed when you find out who is a better player. You are only a girl after all." He shrugged, his smile taunting. The doors dinged open and I stomped out towards the outside court. The sky was still relatively dark but there was more then enough light to see. The asphalt was still wet from the morning's dew. I grabbed one of the discarded balls on the side of the court, and put my gym bag down on the grass. I threw the half-eaten bagel into the trash and turned to see Edward grinning at me cockily. I threw him the ball roughly, taking my position opposite to him. He laughed, bouncing the ball back to me, "I think it's only fair that you should get the ball first with your handicap." His eyes were condescending, like he was only humouring me.

"Fine," I took a step back and threw the ball over his head. He turned in time to see it swish effortlessly into the basket from the centre court. His jaw dropped. I walked over smugly to the ball, bouncing under the net, feeling his eyes on my back the whole time, and threw the ball back to him, "Maybe you should take the ball first, with your handicap and all." I threw him the ball. He caught it, glaring at me now. I winked. We took our positions again; he dribbled the ball and tried to go around me. I snatched the ball from him, ducking under his arm and made another basket. Smiling I threw him the ball again, "Nice try, you almost got two feet that time." He snorted as he caught the ball rolling his eyes. His easy smile was gone now, replaced instead by frustration, "First to ten, were only starting." I smiled brightly at him, "Of course we are." By the end of the game, it was one to ten. There had been one time he had fouled, walking the entire way to the net with the ball held high above his head where I could not reach it, and made a basket. I let him have the point. I stood in front of him, dribbling the ball at an easy pace, grinning smugly as he glared at me, arms crossed. "Fine." He snapped, "So you can throw a ball into a hop, big achievement. Foot ball takes way more skill and thought then this." He scoffed at the ball in my hands. I glared at him, "You're just jealous because you can't play worth jack." "One more try, the first to make a basket is the champ." He took his position at centre court. I followed, taking my place across from him. He glared at me and I glared back. "And no cheep half court shots." He added. I stopped, "How is that cheep?" "It just is." He growled. I heaved a sigh, shaking my head at his childishness. Then I took my stance. I made to

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go around him, but he spread his arms, stopping me. I turned my back on him, ready to spin and catch him off guard. He was towering over me, suffocating me with his body. Then unexpectedly, his arms came around my waist and took hold, lifting me off the ground. I lost my hold on the ball and it bounced out of reach, "That's cheating! Put me down, you fowled out!" "Ha! Now what are you going to do?" he laughed. I struggled until he put me down, then I turned to accuse him with my eyes. He shrugged, smiling, "Oh, I guess we don't have a winner. We're tied." I growled at him, and stalked over to grab my gym bag from the grass and walked off the court, "Stupid, childish..." I muttered. The sky was getting brighter and I was sure it was close enough to seven to be able to go to the gym. I checked my watch, and found it was only six fifteen. Whatever, I'd hang out at the gym for the last forty-five minutes, warm up or something. I could distinctly hear someone following close behind me. I gritted my teeth, ignoring him. He walked beside me in silence for a while. I revelled in it, hoping I had damaged his ego enough that he would keep his comments to himself. Maybe, if I was really lucky, he would just leave me alone for good. "Do you mind if I watch you practice?" he asked softly after a few minutes. His eyes were rueful, his smile gentle. "I don't know. Are you done being an idiot?" "Yes." "Fine." I sighed, still not looking at him. I turned to catch him smiling brilliantly at me. I rolled my eyes, and then pulled my ponytail out, choosing instead to pull it into a messy bun for practice. Not that I though anyone would take a handful of my hair to get the advantage, but accidents did happen. As I walked into the empty gym, I had the strongest sense of déjà vu. It was like the first time I had walked into this gym, I had had to prove myself to my fellow teammates, since apparently playing with a girl was beneath them. It didn't take long for them to accept me, and then to see me as an equal. The coach, though supportive enough, still gave me the feeling he was embarrassed to have a girl seen on his team. Mike was already there, shooting baskets from different positions, dodging imaginary arms and making the baskets...most of the time. "Hey, Mike." I called, waving, "I didn't think anyone was here yet." Mike turned around and smiled, waving back at me. He frowned when he caught Edward standing behind me, "Try outs ended last week." "He's not here to try out, he's just here to watch." I said, heading for the boys change room. The girls' was on the other side of the building. It didn't bug me to change with them anymore anyways. I always had a tank top underneath my jersey. When I came back, Edward and Mike were playing together. Edward maneuvered around Mike and made the basket.

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I laughed, "How you guys doing?" Edward grinned at me happily, "Mike actually lets me touch the ball for more then five seconds." Mike looked at him, shocked, "You played Bella? How did you do?"

Edward grimaced, but didn't answer. Mike started to laugh, "Yea I know what you mean." -he turned to me-"how about a little two on one Bells?" "Sure," I said easily, stealing the ball from Edward, "just don't get your hopes up."

Chap 3 When coach came in, he made Edward go sit down, giving him a dark look. He was grumpier then usual through out the whole practice, extra suicides, ball running, constant rebounds, then finally at the end of the practice he had uneven gaming. The entire team against our best players, Tyler, and me. I didn't mind especially since it kept my eyes away from the bench. We only lost by a slim margin. Tyler was quiet, disappointed, and angry that he had lost. He might as well have been stomping around the court cursing for all his body language said. I tried to ignore him as I congratulated our opposition, "Nice Mike," I winked, "You almost got that ball around me once." Mike sighed dramatically, shaking my hand, "Almost, but nothing gets past you huh?" I let mock surprise colour my face, "What are you talking about? Any thing higher then this"-I jumped up in the air, arms high-"gets past me." A deep resonating voice laughed from beside me, "I can fix that." Jared picked me up and set me down on his shoulder's "Hey look guys! We'll be able to see Bella now!" Alex, a quick boy with long legs, threw me the basket Ball. I caught it, and Jared ran us to the net to I could make a slam-dunk. I grabbed onto the hoop, dangling in the air, "My first slam dunk!" I cried, happily, grinning at all the guys who were halfway hysterical with laughter. "Um,"-I dangled-"Can someone get me down now?" "Hang in there Bella!" I turned surprised to hear Alice. She was there, and beside her were a tall blonde-haired person with dark eyes, and a burly boy that I knew from pictures to be Alice's brother. Rose was beside Edward, hissing something at him with an exasperated expression. Edward did not look like he was listening. My fingers slipped off the hoop. I fell, bending my knees instinctively from my other sport. Trampoline gymnastics, but those did not start until the spring, so I had could comfortably focus on my schooling and basketball. Apparently, I did not have to worry though, because Emmett had gotten up from Alice's side to catch me. I grinned at him, thankful. He grinned back, his childlike brown eyes crinkled from how big he was smiling back at me, "Edward told us all about you." My smile lessened and I glared at Edward, "Really?"

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Edward frowned, looking confused at my anger. Emmett nodded, oblivious to my subject of scrutiny, "Yea, says your one hell of a ball player. He also said you promised to play a game of football with him after practice."

"Really?" I internally kicked myself for the football comment on the elevator. I should have known he would have twisted my words. Emmett put me down, "Yea and I wanted to know if I could play with you guys, unless it's a date or something, then never mind." "It's not a date, don't worry. I'd love for you to play with us." I smiled to myself; he would not be able to deny my beating him when there were witnesses. "Awesome! Hey Jasper, she says I can play!" I stopped, taking another look at the blond boy who was waving back at Emmett, his expression amused. Was that Jasper? As in Alice's Jasper? Jasper Whitlock? Alice had not told me that Jasper was spending the weekend with her. Knowing Alice, she would have been bouncing off the walls all week chattering non-stop about it. "Swan!" coach called me over; he was regarding Tyler's sulking with especially unhappy eyes. "Yes coach?" I asked, wincing as I turned away from the bench. It was technically still practice time, and he did not like us socializing during his time. "Nice playing today, I'll be at a teachers workshop on Monday afternoon, so I won't be here for practice." "Oh, so are you cancelling it, or will we just get up before class Monday?" I hopped desperately that I would not have to get up at five thirty to go to practice, just to come home and shower before rushing to my classes. "No, same time, I just want you to be conducting them while I'm gone. Mrs. Springett will be supervising, and I'll be back here for Thursday's practice." "O-okay." I stuttered confused but comfortable with the arrangement. Coach asked some people to watch the team if he had to do little things, like print forms, or copy schedules, but never before an entire class. "Have a nice weekend Bella," he sighed, his usual dismissal. "You too," I called, running back to the guys. "Coach let us off for the night, he wants us back here Monday afternoon same as always." Alex must have caught something on my face, because he frowned, "What did he say to you?" I smirked, "Wants me to try and beat some sense into you"-I sighed dramatically, shaking my head-"I told him it was a doomed effort but he just wouldn't listen." Jared laughed, pulling my ponytail out of my hair, "Don't get too cocky there shorty, you still can't dunk like the pro." He pointed both thumbs inward.

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I laughed, jumping for my hair band. Mike eventually stole it back from him and gave it to me. I grinned at him before I hurried to the change room to change. The guys kept on playing together. I knew they were trying to make me more comfortable by letting me change alone. When I came out in my old jeans and a dark brown shirt Jared whistled teasingly at me. I struck a pose and flipped my tangled unwashed hair over my shoulder. That just set them off again. I went over to the bench smiling kindly at Jasper, my cheeks still flushed from practice, "Hi, I'm Bella." I politely offered my hand. I was not going to embarrass Alice by letting on that I already knew who he was. "Jasper Whitlock, I'm Alice's boyfriend. Sorry to drop by so suddenly, I still thought that Alice was alone in her room." "Don't worry about it, I don't move in until Monday anyways." Something over my shoulder caught his attention, and he grinned, amused. Edward was behind me, his face twisted like he had tasted something bad. I raised an eyebrow at him. "I think I just ate my words. They don't taste good the second time around." He grinned at me. I scoffed, "Is that the only apology I'm getting for your little stunt this morning?" Rosalie came up to lean on his shoulder, "Be happy he even apologized at all, he usually just pretends not to notice that his sister is right!" she growled the last part. Edward was still smiling, ignoring Rose, "So you ready for that game?" I crossed my arms, "Depends, you ready to eat dirt?" He patted my head affectionately, "There, there don't worry, we won't play tackle football." I slapped his hand away from me, "Why not? That's the funest way to play." "Most fun," Emmett corrected teasingly, "And I agree with Bella, tackle is way more fun then some sissy touch game." Edward flicked Emmett in the head, "Dude, we'll crush her." "Hey, I'm going into this knowing that football is a tough sport, I know that, and I don't care. Anyways, you can't tackle what you can't catch." I smirked. Edward and Emmett started at me for a minute, then Emmett smacked Edward's shoulder, "Hey! I like this one!" He held up his giant fisted hand to mine, I pounded my comparatively tiny one against his. I turned to Jasper and the girls, "You want to play too?"

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Jasper grinned, shaking his head, "No Alice and I are just going to watch, catch up." He murmured smiling as he looked softly at Alice. Alice was almost glowing as she took his hand and led him onto the path that leads to the big playing field at the bottom of the hill. I looked at Rose, questioningly. She shook her head, "No Emmett and I will sit out the first couple games. I want to see who wins this." She walked out after Alice and Jasper. Emmett followed her, whining the whole way. I situated my gym bag a little more comfortably on my shoulder before calling a farewell to the guys and walking out the door. I sighed as I pulled my hair back up into a messy bun, looking forward to a nice hot shower when I got home. Edward shortened his strides to walk next to me, his smile was confident. I raised an eyebrow at him. He chuckled, "I'll admit your good at basketball, but football is mine." He stepped in front of me. I stopped, crossing my arms. His crooked smile aggravated me, "I'm just worried about crushing you. I'd hate to see you cry." I let my hand flutter over my heart, "Oh, that's so sweet of you. You must be a sensitive guy, worrying about hurting women. I'm glad you've kept chivalry alive all these years." He smiled, nodding his head in agreement. I pushed past him, walking towards the field. I shook my head, wondering how men like him existed in a world like this. He caught up with me quickly, walking backwards so he could watch my face as he spoke, "That was sarcasm." "You're a quick one." "Is there a reason why you don't like me? Other then my sister exaggerations." He rolled his eyes at that. I smiled kindly at him, "I don't do long distance relationships." His eyebrows came together. I waved at him, "See you next fall." He still did not understand until the back of the bench hit the back of his legs and he went over it, landing with a painful sounding thump on the black asphalt. His pained groan was like a sweet melody to my ears. I smiled to myself, skipping onto the field. "Edward's head over heals." Emmett laughed. Alice was doubled over with laughter, while Jasper politely turned away to try and hid his amusement. "Shut up." Edward snapped, brushing himself off. Little pieces of black top plinked onto the asphalt in a tiny shower of black sand.

I watched, pursing my lips to keep from laughing. He looked like a little boy as he walked onto the field, dignity shattered on the ground underneath the bench. I smiled as he came to stand in front of me, obviously trying to intimidate me with his size. I picked a piece of earth that was stuck stubbornly to his shoulder. "You look good in the dirt, it suits you."

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He scowled at me, and went to grab a football from underneath the bleacher's first row. Rose whispered something to Alice, and they both turned to look at me, giggling. Once they caught my gaze, they looked away, suddenly interested in the chalk outlines in the grass. I let that slip, just one of the many thoughts that I pushed from my mind. Little grains of sand slipping between my fingers. I didn't doubt what Edward had said, he was a good player, but I also knew that there was no way in hell I was going to go down without a good fight. I promised myself he would eat dirt at least once this game. He talked enough of it. My stomach flipped with nervousness as I took my position opposite to him. He handed me the ball solemnly. This time there was no confident smirk, no condescending glance. I swallowed convulsively as I looked past him at the touch down line behind him. It seemed so far away. I let that grain of sand fall all too willingly from my mind. "Three, two-" "Wait!" I called out to Emmett; as he counted down to start us off. "Chickening out?" Edward asked, raising an eyebrow as if he figured as much. I pulled the ponytail out of my hair and put it onto my wrist, and then I shook out my hair so it cascaded over my shoulder in long dark curtains, "You wish. I just wanted to make it as apparent as I possibly can that you're going to get your ass kicked by a girl." I smiled. "Don't break a nail," he mocked. I fluttered my eyelashes back at him, sarcastic smile pulling at my lips. "Three, two, one," my body curled, adrenalin pumping through my veins, like blood it seemed to flow so thickly. "Hut!" The spring uncoiled and my body shot forward. I ducked under him, too close to his body for him to get a proper grasp on me, and then, as I went to push off, I pushed my heel into the back of his knee, collapsing his leg and giving me a head start. There was a gasp of surprise from behind me, and then a curse. I was not focusing so much on the touch down line, the ribbon of white sewn into the grass, but on any kind of movement in my peripheral vision. I knew, roughly, where he was, could somehow hear his breathing over my gasps and the pounding of my feet.

Finally, I caught what I was looking for. I spun to the right just in time for his reaching fingers to glide against the bare skin of my arm, gentle as a soft wind and then it passed just as quickly as he could not find purchase. I made it. I made it! I screamed my victory as I flew over the grass, over the little white blotches, the wind created from my own movement flew behind me, and the freedom was exhilarating. I moved so swiftly that I hardly felt the ground under my feet as I passed the last line. "Touch down!" I held my prize over my head, turning around, euphoric at my triumph. Alice and Rose were screaming, Emmett hooted, pounding his fist in the air, Jasper's laughter rang out and he clapped. I saved the best for last. Edward got up off the ground, picking pieces of grass out of his mouth. He spat,

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making a face at the taste. "Hey Edward!" I called, waving the ball in the air, "I didn't even break a nail!" Edward growled, "Give me the ball." I pranced over to him, grinning like a fool and handed him the ball. We took our positions again; he held the ball to the ground, burning holes into my head. His glare fierce. "Three, two, one" I watched his hand carefully, the tips of his finger's were relaxed, no weight was on them. I smiled to myself. He was going to run. "Hut!" As I had predicted, he did not jump, but instead set off for a full run. His legs were longer then mine and if I let him out of my reach, I would never catch him. I laced my arm through his, stealing the ball from him, and then I took off running again. This time I was at a disadvantage though. I had no head start and I could feel him coming up behind me. I closed my eyes tightly, cradling the football against my chest. Then a wall of flesh and muscle hit me very hard, very fast, and when he landed on top of me, he was very heavy. A collection of our speed and his weight made us slid against the grass, grinding me into the earth. I had, managed to twist my body so I could protect my face. When we stopped moving I was gasping for air, his weight on top of me made it impossible to drag in a breath. I still had the ball clutched tightly into my breast and I grinned, pleased with myself. The screaming of my lungs was nothing compared to the thumping of my heart, pulverizing my rips. Edward moved to look at me then, his eyes horror struck, "Oh God Bella! I am so sorry, I wasn't even thinking. Can you move? Did I break anything?" I snorted, trying to push his mass off of me, "I'm proud of you Edward"-I patted his head-"I didn't think you'd actually tackle me, I thought you'd wimp out at the last second." He blinked. "I...What?" I was struggling to get him off me now; he rolled off me and extended his hand to help me up. I took it, still a little winded. I looked at the scar we had left in the once smooth green grass, the dark earth bleeding through the thick green.

Edward was looking too. He rubbed the back of his neck, a guilty look on his face. I moved to make a line in the grass, "This is the scrimmage line, my ball." "Bella are you sure you're not hurt? I have to be at least twice your weight." Alice had her hand over her mouth, concern etched into her forehead. Jasper patted her back, whispering assurances in her ear. I rolled my eyes at Edward's comment, "You're not that good. Besides"-I smirked at him over my shoulder as I went to take my position, "I'm tough." The air left his lungs in a whooshing sound, and he grinned stupidly. I sighed, shaking my head. Men. Through out the rest of the game I only scored one other touch down, while Edward got three. The score was 2:3 and I was pleased to find that he did not hold back now, no longer afraid of hurting me. I had a swell of

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pride making me forget my exhaustion as I saw that he was panting just as hard as I was. We were lined up, my ball. I could not quite put my finger on why but I felt a trill of fear flash down my spine as I looked back into Edward's eyes. "Hut!" I missed what happened, it moved too fast. One minute I was facing Edward, the next I was completely horizontal in the air, and then a weight pushed me down and I hit the earth so hard that I was sure I should have broken through the soft grass and earth, and fallen all the way through to the bedrock. The air left my lungs in a painful whooshing that burned my throat, and I struggled to pull air back in. Edward was standing over me grinning, the football tucked under his arm. That hit would have left someone even as big as Emmett on the ground for a few minutes at least. I forced my limp limbs to move, to push myself up off the ground, still out of breath. I braced myself against my knees, gasping for breath. "Come on Bella, I thought you were tough." He teased, punching my shoulder playfully. It upset my delicate balance though, and I stumbled to the side and fell down again. I closed my eyes, concentrating on each painful breath, trying to get enough strength to get up and kick his ass. He leaned over me, concerned, "Bella? You okay?" I opened my eyes, a surge of rage replenishing my energy, "You're dead." He gulped. I jumped up. From the side I heard Rosalie and the others cheering me on. We took out positions again, he held the ball with one hand, and the other was braced against the grass. I prepared myself to throw all my weight at him, bracing my legs. "Hut!"

As I expected him to, he went to run past me. I twisted my leg around his, setting him off balance before I threw my whole 110 pounds at him. He went down, not nearly as hard as I had, but I felt pride lift my features. Rose was going wild, Alice was standing on the bleachers shouting cheers and screaming my name. I smiled hugely at them; my fist punched the air in victory. Instead of gloating, I probably should have been paying attention. Edward jumped on me, knocking me down, but his arms created a brace around my body, protecting me from most of the fall. "Hey!" I cried, once I had gotten my bearings back, "You can't tackle me; I'm not even holding the ball!" "Oops," he chuckled, "My bad." His pocket buzzed against my thigh. He sighed, rolling off me and taking his phone out of his pocket. I lay where I was, eyes closed. I was ready to call it a day, I could probably fall asleep on the grass it was so soft. Somewhere between the extra hard practice today, sleep deprivation, and football with Edward, I had burned

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up all my energy. "Millie?" Edward asked, sounding confused for a minute. "Your Girlfriend." I whispered. "Oh, Hey Millie...Yes." He nodded listening, looking board, "Yea, we're over...no, I don't think it's going to work out." He sighed, rolling his eyes, "No I don't have a girlfriend, I just don't think it's working....Friends? I don't know, we never really see each other anyways.... 'Kay, bye." He snapped his phone shut, slipping it back into his pocket. I got up, feeling suddenly dirty. "Where are you going?" he asked, propping himself up on his elbows. I grabbed my bag from the bottom of the bleacher, saying goodbye to my friends and Jasper. "Hey!" he called grabbing onto my wrist. I ripped my wrist from his and slapped him as hard as I could, "Don't touch me." I spat, the words coming out distorted from between my clenched teeth. "What?" He snapped, "What now?" "You're the most disgusting, most pathetic excuse for a man that I have ever met, and I've met some real low lives. You go off and use your ex girlfriend like she's some..." I spluttered, trying to find the right word. "Whore? Slut? Skank? Take your pick, she fits each description." He growled.

"I'm surprised you don't always have dirt all up the front of your shirt you snake. No that's not even the right term; at least a snake has a backbone." I hissed, each word rang strong and true in my anger. As the shock passed, it made room for a vulnerability, and then anger. I pushed past him heatedly, and stomped the entire way to my room irate, ignoring the elevator. I could not believe I had wasted even the smallest sliver of my weekend with him. When I got into my room, I threw my bag down onto the floor of the kitchen and went to get my shower ready. I muttered curses, roughly grabbing my clothes and a towel, and then shoving them on the toilet seat for myself when I got out. I ran the water until the mirrors fogged up and only when I stepped into the steaming spray, the anger, and revolt trickling off my skin in hot little streams was I able to calm down. "Don't worry about him," I muttered to myself, "I'll never have to see him again." I sighed, as the filth from today was washed from my skin and swirling in tight little circles down the drain. Never again, my thoughts whispered. I smiled.

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Chap 4 I hated Edward Cullen. I mean I really hate Edward Cullen. I glared at the wall across from me, knowing I had sticky ice cream dried somewhere on my face but not caring enough to go get a face cloth and wipe it off. Millie had knocked on my door not twenty minutes after I had finished my shower. It had taken me off guard that she would come to me for comfort, her eyes red and puffy with the stinging salty tears that left wet marks on her cheeks. I did not know her well at all, other then knowing she had been dating Cullen, and that she lived next to me, I really did not know anything about her. I had of course let her in, feeling an undeserved bout of guilt as she confessed that she had been utterly convinced that if she had just given him what she knew he wanted, and then he would have realized that he really did love her. My guilt stemmed from the fact that the girl who had sat down on the couch next to me, crying, watching the few chick flicks that I owned, and eating an entire tub of ice cream, would shave her head, pull her teeth, and give her body up for even break-up sex if it meant that she could spend just a little more time with Edward. I had selfishly spent my morning with him, and hated every minute of it. Seeing her blond hair pulled up into a messy bun with her make up running down her face, panda circles around her eyes, sweat pants hanging loosely on her perfectly curved hips; it really put it into perspective for me. Never was I ever going to have a boyfriend. I would join a convent or something. I had, at one point, wanted to ask her why she was here instead of with her friends, but I didn't want to make her feel like I was trying to get rid of her, or to let her see just how uncomfortable I was at the moment. She had, in her own sweet time, gotten to that point. "Sorry," she had sniffed, apologizing yet again for steeling my ice cream, and crying on my shoulder. I had meant to pack Saturday, having procrastinated packing all my things into boxes until the last second. "Don't worry about it." I tried to comfort her by rubbing her back. It felt awkward. I had never been that good with crying. Something I got from my dad. I had rarely had a breakdown, I wasn't one for fits or off the wall tantrums, and I was healthy enough with my emotions to not bottle them in until I freaked out on some unsuspecting casher because I didn't have the right change. Break-ups...? There had never been anything to break-up, so I could not quite empathise with her. I would have been more then willing to join in with her on some Edward bashing, but all she seemed to want to talk about was how wonderful he was and how much she loved him. I wanted to shake her, slap her, dunk her head in the toilet, something to get that thought of her head. Phh, Wonderful. "Sorry," she had whispered weakly, the thirty-second time in only one hour. "I really don't mean to barge in on you, but...well, all my friends...they like Edward, and even though I'm sure they would eat ice cream with me," she grinned down into the nearly empty chocolate ice cream bucket, "They would be more excited to hear that Edward was single, and then they would be sympathetic that I just had my heart stomped on." She laughed suddenly, slightly hysterical, before lapsing back into sobs. "That sounds so melodramatic." At three o'clock in the morning, she finally left, apologizing before she slipped out the door. I had a feeling she would be back for round two, so I hurriedly put all my belongings into my suitcase for when I would have to drag it over to Alice's place after school, before running for Basketball practice. The room I was staying in right now was supposed to be for the new arrivals who were still looking for a more comfortable place to stay. You could of course, have a room to your self at this boarding school, but it was more expensive that way. Renee and Charlie and pooled their resources together to get me into this school. It helped that since Charlie

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was a cop, small town or not, the school had been more willing to let me in. The reason why I was in this school was because just across the lake that sparkled clear and sapphire in the sun, was one of the most prestigious, esteemed universities in the whole of the Americas. Attending this high school was an almost guaranteed shot to get into East-Coast University. Likewise, doing that was almost guaranteed to get you anywhere you wanted in either health care, psychiatrics, or law. I had finished more quickly then I had expected to, having hardly unpacked anything since I got here other then clothes, and some toiletries. I went into the bathroom to wipe the sticky spot of brown off the tip of my nose and my chin. This only reminded me of Millie, and the feeling of sympathy that over washed me as I remember her tears. Who knew that feeling bad for someone could make you feel such a hot feeling of anger towards the cause of his or her pain? I certainly had not. I did not feel close to Millie, it was rare for me to feel close to people with the exception of Rose, and Alice. From what I had seen of Emmett and Jasper, I was sure I liked them too. It was not that I did not like Millie either, but I didn't quite know what to do around her. She was pretty and girly, had long manicured nails and she had a beautiful laugh that caught every man's attention. I honestly couldn't say I was jealous, at the age of 18 it was obvious to me that my curves wouldn't get more defined, that I wouldn't grow another cup size, and so it was pretty useless to feel self conscious about something I couldn't change. I had come to terms with myself a long time ago. There was a knock at the door. sighing I went to see it with one despairing glance out the window to see the sun just peeking over the white puffs of clouds in the sky, painting them shades of purple and orange with little streaks of pink through the tops. The first thing Millie said as she looked at me through teary eyes, the same sweatpants as yesterday was, "I'm sorry." And so it began. -When the sun rose up in the sky on Monday morning and Millie said goodbye until another time, I had dark circles under my eyes, I had not gotten any sleep since Friday night. I groaned as I looked at the clock, fixing the time on my alarm clock so I could sleep for the next half an hour before school started and I had to go to the office to get my new schedule. I had applied to German class as a third language, but two days into the course, I knew I was drowning. I had to switch that class for Spanish instead. I bit of a disappointment; I had really been looking forward to the class. The secretary had warned me that since the school was so full, I would probably have my schedule so mixed up, I might not even have one the same classes as before. So that was a not so comforting thought to pull at the corners of my mind, distracting me from much needed sleep. Just as my lids, feeling like lead, drooped over my eyes, there was a nasally buzzing sound by my head. I whimpered, turning my alarm clock off and crawling unwillingly from my cocoon of blankets. I threw all my books into my back, hopped into the shower that helped wake me a little, and then ran to get dressed, choke down some form of nutrition, and pack my bag.

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I was too tired to dig through my bag to get out new clothes for school today, choosing instead the jeans I had worn the day before, they were not really dirty, though they could have been caked in mud and I would have worn them anyways. I grabbed some money from my bedside table and shoved it into my pocket. Little pieces of torn paper rustled as I did so. To show her appreciation last night, Millie had stopped every few minutes to rip a piece of paper off, write down some boy's name and number and give it to me because I 'deserved a good man to keep me company'. In all truth, I was not interested in dating. All my friends since the second grade had been boys for the most part and I just did not see any difference between dating someone and being friends. Other then the physical part of course, but I did not want to hurt her feelings so I took them and shoved them into my pockets with my best gracious smile. I sighed, sometime during the day I would empty my pockets into the recycling somewhere safe, where Millie would not see the little shreds of paper. I was out the door and to the school in time to pick up my new course sheet. I sighed. Nothing was the same as the petite woman behind the desk huge black desk with fluorescent pink and green flyers tapped to the front had predicted, and so that meant I didn't had Alice in my first period. I trudged off to my first class as the secretary called a cheerful "Have a good day!" after me. Go fifty something hours with out sleep, then wish me good day. It won't be nearly as cheerful. It might not be fair to say that to her, but it was defiantly tempting. I walked into first, repeating my first day by handing over the little yellow slip of paper, and then I walked to the seat the teacher pointed to. After a minute, the girl I was sitting next to smiled shyly and whispered a polite hello to me. "Umm." She fidgeted nervously, with the light blond hair in a neat ponytail. "Your shirt is inside out." She murmured shyly in an apologetic whisper. I looked down, a little more sober now that I had something to concentrate on, "Oh." I turned then, to smiled at her again, looking like a lunatic I'm sure as I extended my hand, shadows under my eyes, shirt inside out, my hair wet and uncombed. "I'm Bella." "Angela," she whispered back, looking kindly at me before looking up to where the teacher was starting his lecture on the war in 1918. I sighed, concentrating with all my will power not to just let my head fall on the desk, instead I wrote careful notes, concentrating on staying conscious. It had not been as hard as I thought it would be to stay awake, and as I heard the bell ring for my next class, I was slightly more alert then before. Maybe there was hope for me to make it through my day, and then practice later on. Heck, maybe I could even convince Alice to help me move all my things into her place. I had Spanish next; I was concentrating on the numbers on the pages, and the numbers on the doors, waiting for them to match. Someone slung their arm over my shoulder, I shook it off groggily. Looking up to see who it was.

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Alex had a faux tragedy look on his face, hand over his heart, "I'm hurt Bella. Here I am, trying to say hi to you, and you give me the cold shoulder." He winked playfully. I blinked at him a couple of times before I realised he was being funny. I laughed, "Hey Alex, sorry." I shook my head, trying to wake up a little more, "What's up?" He shrugged, eyeing the shadows under my eyes, "Nothing much. Jez Bells, you look like crap. Didn't you get any sleep last night?" "Nope." I replied cheerfully. Alex laughed, shaking his head, "'Kay, well I guess I'll see you after school! Oh!" he added turning around, "And your shirt is inside out." He called, disappearing into his class. I blushed fire truck red as people turned to give me funny looks. There was a girl's washroom right across the hall. I hurried in quickly and righted my shirt, not wanting the be late for Spanish. I made it into the class just as the bell rang. I walked up to the teacher and handed him the slip. Mrs. Springett smiled at me. She had been my first period teacher for Spanish, "Oh Miss. Swan, what a surprise! What brings you to my class second period?" I grinned sheepishly, "I switched my German class for Spanish. I guess all the classes were too full for me to keep the same schedule." I shrugged, forcing a smile. She smiled brightly back at me, but then her smile faded as she looked to the back of the class, "Well Mr. Cullen, it seems like I have no choice but to put someone beside you. I do not want my class interrupted again by your chatter though." Her voice was firm. My breath caught. I turned slowly to see Edward Cullen sitting next to the only empty desk in the class. Its days like these where I really just wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Edward didn't look happy either. The tension between us was so thick that the teacher noticed. She looked at me questioningly when I stood where I was, "Do you and Mr. Cullen Get along?" "Not especially." I ground out through clenched teeth. "Wonderful!" she cried enthusiastically, "Then neither of you will talk." she waited for me to move and when I didn't her tone was no longer amused, "Please take your seat." I hesitated a moment longer, before forcing my feet forward. I heard some whispers as I walked to my new seat. I must have brutally murdered unsuspecting, innocent baby faced children heartlessly in my past life to deserve this." As I unwillingly took my seat next to him, he muttered sarcastically, looking forwards, "Careful Bella, I'm contagious." "Oh God I hope not. I do not think I could l stand more then one of you. His teeth snapped together. The rest of the class was just peachy.

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When the Bell rang to go, he was out of his seat, and out the door. I glared after him, and then got ready for English. Here was there in English too, and biology after that. We stayed silent through out each class, until the lunch bell rang. Famished, I dug into my pocket for my lunch money. As I pulled the five-dollar bill out, a few of the phone numbers fell out of my pocket and onto the floor by Edward's feet. Impulsively, he reached down to pick them up for me, he froze though as he examined it. His eyes darkened, as he looked at it, and then at all the other numbers that either had fluttered to the floor as well, or were sticking out of my pockets. He bent down to collect the rest of the numbers, stealing the couple that were visible from my pockets and pilling them on the table in front of him. His smile was amused but his eyes were still dark, "You've been busy." he chuckled I sighed, making to grab them back and throw them in the garbage. He wasn't having that. "Ah, ah, ah," he waved his finger in front of my face like a misbehaving child, "I'm just weeding out the ones you don't want to waste your time on." I sighed, sitting back down, glaring grumpily at the front of the empty room. I was hungry, frustrated, and tired, and because I was tired, I was cold. I was not in a good mood. Edward was not helping that. He spread all the numbers out on the desk. I reached down, taking the remaining numbers out of my pocket. Why not? Edward had one eyebrow raised, as he looked at all the numbers finally spread out in front of us. I gaped at the black desk, now dusted with little pieces of white paper. Had there really been that many? How many men had Millie dated? Kissed? Slept with? I did not really want to know. My stomach snarled threateningly. Edward didn't seem threatened, he picked up some numbers in his hand, "He's a jerk," he threw the number into the 'not keeping' pile, "He's a moron."-toss-"lazy"-toss-"asshole,"-toss. About five minutes later the 'not keeping' pile had not only become the so big that I had to wonder if Edward was really reading these names and actually knew these people, or if he was just trying to get back at me for calling him a selfish, spineless, snake. And for deflating his ego a good four feet. Just when my stomach was starting to gnaw on the desk, he put the last number in the pile. I looked at all the little pieces of paper that were destined to go into the trash. Bravo Cullen, you just made what I was going to do in 10-seconds into a 10-minute chore. I laid my head down on the desk, hoping, however vainly, that Edward would leave me alone long enough for me to get a few minutes of sleep.

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A piece of paper ripped by my head. I groaned, sitting up. My eyelids might as well have been coated in lead. He scrawled something quickly on the paper and handed it to me. I took it, standing up and going out into the hall for lunch. It wasn't until I got into the hallway that I look at it. Edward Cullen, Call me Underneath there was a seven-digit number. I turned to face Edward calmly; I was not in the mood for a big screaming match. "I heard about this guy," I told Edward as he slowed his strides to match mine, "apparently, he tricked his Ex into sleeping with him by convincing her that they were getting back together." He opened his mouth to say something, but I cut him off, "And that's not even the best part! He was too much of a coward to tell her face to face that he was using her, so he leaves a note for her to wake up too, then when she calls him to ask what the hell, he acts like a completely self-centred-" He grabbed my wrist spinning me around to face him. I just barley managed to keep my books from turning into hazardous flying objects I forgot what I was about to say. His vivid green eyes burned with anger, "How can you judge me when you don't even know what happened?" I did not say anything, and he took it as an invitation to defend himself. "She called me Friday night, and asked me to come over, said she wanted to talk. I said sure, went over to her place, and found her sitting on the couch nearly nude, waiting for me. What was I supposed to do? Walk out?" "That's not what Millie told me happened." I finally muttered, after making sure he was done his little rant. I looked away from him to rearrange my thoughts. We were standing just outside an on campus café; some people looked at us as they passed. Another fun thing about boarding school, we had our own little community, small little coffee shops, and one or two restaurants. Had we really walked this far from the school? This defiantly was not what I was expecting, had I been expecting anything, but I still did not agree. If he did not want to be with her, he should have just walked out. He snorted, "I'm sure. But please, go on, tell me how it happened." I mumbled quickly through the story, feeling like an idiot, "You came over and promised to get back together with her, so she slept with you, and then you left." I watched my shoes as I shifted my weight. To my surprise, he laughed quietly. I looked up startled, his eyes were still dark, irritated, but he was smiling. "No wonder you don't like me, you've been hearing all the wrong stories." "Yea, that's it." I rolled my eyes. I was relieved he was not angry with me anymore. I could smell the coffee from where I was standing. I had never really been one for it, it usually tasted bad, and I had a low tolerance for caffeine anyways. Today though, I could break my regular habit of getting a piece of pizza in the cafeteria and get a coffee instead. I needed to be awake today. I walked into the dark little coffee shop, watching the people nursing their cups and reading newspapers or

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talking to each other quietly. I felt a little self-conscious being here. "What's that supposed to mean?" he asked quietly, following me to the cash where I was getting a French vanilla. If I had to drink the coffee, I was not getting the taste that went with it. "I'm saying that my first impression of you was not the best. ' Do you have a name plate on the bench or have you actually stepped onto the floor'" I quoted sourly in a deep voice. "Large black for me please," he told the woman before turning to me, "I'll admit that was stupid, but you just don't look like you can take on a team of guys." He saw the look I was giving him and put his hands up in surrender, "I know that now, but then I didn't think you could." I burnt my tongue taking a drink of coffee. "Okay, that doesn't mean I forgive you. You're still a jerk." "Thanks." I smiled brightly at him, checking the clock on the side of the wall. We only had half an hour left before lunch ended. I could not say I was having fun, but it was interesting to talk to him at least. The sleepless nights must be getting to me. I sighed taking another scalding drink. He was watching me curiously, as he drank his own coffee. It was making me feel uncomfortable, "How can you drink that?" I asked, motioning to the cup in his hand to distract him. I walked over to one of the tables and sat down, putting my bag on the floor. He looked down at his cup, shrugging a smile playing at his lips, "What?" I made a face, "Black coffee. Doesn't it taste bad to you?" "No, I don't know how you can drink that, much too sweet." He teased. "Oh, God forbid anything sweet touch your lips." I laughed, letting him know I was teasing. I was starting to feel bad for what I had said earlier, if I had falsely accused him of something. He had a look of mock hurt on his face, "I can be sweet if I want to. You just won't give me the chance." "What team do you play on? The boys?" I laughed stupidly. A poor imitation of him. He grimaced. Taking another drink of his coffee, he looked away. I sighed, getting my book bag organized. I was feeling more awake. "Where are you going?" he asked, shifting back in his chair. I hesitated before answering. He pursed his lips, taking in my expression, "I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess you're not going to call me?" "You're a mind reader." I muttered, grinning a little to soften the sharpness of my voice. I felt a prick of guilt. He had not done anything too aggravating today. And then what if his story was true and

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I had been judging him too harshly? Not that has was in the right either way, and he was a jerk either way, but I had not been there to see what had really happened. "I guess I'll probably see you in class then." He muttered intent on the miniscule ripples in the coffee. I took a deep breath, closing my eyes. A wave of sympathy over whelmed me. I was going to kick myself for this later, "I'm moving out tonight, moving in with Alice. I was wondering if you wanted to come over, and help me move. You don't have too if you have something else." I bit my lip, hoping more for the later. I took a breath, waiting. He smirked up at me, "You grind me into the dirt, and then expect me to help you?" I shrugged letting out my breath, grinning, "I thought it was funny. You should have seen you're face when little ol'me took you down." He laughed, smiling now, "I hate to admit it, but you're pretty good...for a girl." I shook my head in exasperation, as he stood up. "If I behave, do I get a rematch?" he asked, walking beside me as we headed for the school. I tapped my chin, pretending to think, "Maybe. But on two conditions." I raised an eyebrow setting the bait. He shot a wearily look at me, "Okay, lets hear them." "One, you have to make up for all the derogatory things you've said." He thought for a long second. Someone walking too close bumped my shoulder. I apologized quietly by automatically, moving a little closer to Edward. I was still waiting for his tribute to me. Finally, I scowled at him, "It can't be that hard to find a complement." "No, no. that's not it, I'm just trying to narrow them down. You're too amazing." I felt the heat in my cheeks. He finally seemed to find something, "I would say you're beautiful, but that's not making up for the things I've said, since I have never claimed other wise." I narrowed my eyes; sure, he was teasing me now. He was not getting any closer to my good side, doing that. "So instead, I'll tell you this. You are a better then the majority of the guys on my football team. I'm not even going to get started on basket ball." He rolled his eyes. I smiled. He grinned back at me, "And the second condition?" I grimaced, "That last hit you did. Ouch. No more of those." He laughed loudly. "Deal"

Chap 5 Today had been...interesting. The highest point in my day probably would have been that my last class was gym so I did not have to run half way across the school to get to practice on time. It wouldn't be good to be

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late when I was acting as coach. They might notice my absence. Edward happened to be in gym too. He thought very highly of himself right now. He nearly floated into the change room; a smug gloating smile lighting up his face. I probably should have told him that I suck at soccer. The only decent position I could play was goalie. It was just too ingrained in me to catch the ball with my hands instead of kicking it. I did not tell Edward though; let him walk away with at least some pride at the end of the day. Some of the girls who had seen his brilliant smile-having though I'm sure it was directed at them-smiled back just as brightly, eyes a little unfocused. I shook my head, grinning. It was actually somewhat funny to watch all of this from a distance, no wonder Edward liked to flirt so much. All the reactions were hilarious. It picked at something in the back of my mind. I wanted to put myself between the girls and him, as if I wanted to protect him. I tried to shake the thought away. I had spent too much time away from Renee; I was looking to someone to take care of now. How pathetic. Then again, if the girls rallied together, they could probably form quite a mob. Then he might need some protection. Thinking of Renee had made me sad. I missed my mother dearly, and though Charlie and I had never been very close, I missed my time with him now. I would not even get to see him during the summers any more. Boarding school sucked. It would have made sense if I had done something so horrid that my parents had wanted to send me away. Never have to deal with the troublemaker anymore, but it was not like that. I was behaved, I did what I was told, and I loved my parents. Not a bad daughter. Not the best, but not bad. It probably would have made sense too if I was exceptionally smart or gifted or something along those lines, but I was plain, normal, average. Nothing to stand out about me, except maybe basket ball, but that was not where I wanted my life to take me anyways, only a fun past time. "Helloooo? Bella? Earth to Bella. You in there?" Alex asked, tapping his fist lightly against my skull. "Echo, echo, echo." I laughed, smacking his hand away. "Sorry, what's up?" He laughed, his head tilting to Seth, "The boy needs some help." "The boy has a name," I muttered under my breath as I walked past him. Seth was taking shots from the corner, none of them going into the basket. I cocked my head to the side a little, watching how he placed his legs, the way he shot the ball, and found the problem immediately. I smiled walking over, "Hey," I said happily, grabbing a ball as I made my way over to him. He nodded back, his usual smile a little off with annoyance in his inability to make one good shot. I liked Seth, he was fun and light, and he did not get down too easily. I did not say anything else as I started to take shots with him. After a few seconds of my baskets making it, and his arcing too far, he started to watch me, how I bent my legs, how I curled my wrist. I watched him set himself up out of the corner of my eye, and then he took his shot. He gapped in amazement as the ball made a satisfying swish and made the basket. I smiled at him, and went to go help Jared with his three pointers.

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"Bella!" Tyler yelled, nearly snarling at me. I sighed. Temper, temper... Tyler was trying for a three pointer shot too, but he did not have as much tolerance for his lack of success, especially when other people were improving. I walked over; forcing a smile that made me feel like my face would crack. What I really wanted to do was snarl right back at him. Edward-despite what I had recommended-had stayed to watch practice again. He looked just as put out as I felt about Tyler. Neither of us said anything, and for that, I was thankful. Tyler tried to make another shot, but Seth's ball-that would have surly gone in with out Tyler's interference-knocked it out of the way. Tyler barked a remark about Seth's mother. I froze. Maybe it was the sleepless night, or maybe Seth was growing on my like he had on everyone else, but I lost it. "Sit down!" I snarled at him. My voice echoed around the suddenly quiet gym. I was too angry to be embarrassed. Tyler snorted, taking another shot. Ignoring me. I could feel the heat rise in my cheeks, and my teeth gritted together. "Tyler, sit down now. I don't think you should be playing if-" I did not even get to finish my sentence. Tyler was in my face, towering over me. "You have no authority over me. You're just a little girl who thinks she's better then everyone else because she can throw a damn ball. You shouldn't even be on the team! Unless of course you have a certain part of your anatomy that we should know about." He turned me around, patting my bottom as he did, "Go off, paint your nails or something." That did it. "Sit down now. If you did not learn not to take temper tantrums in kindergarten, then you're going to learn now. What happens when you get frustrated when were playing Tyler? You gonna throw a punch? Start yelling like a fool? Part of being a good team player is a good attitude. You could learn something from Seth." the team had stopped playing and were starting to watch us. My nostrils were flared and I glared defiantly at Tyler, daring him to speak. "Man, she's right, just listen to her." Mike spoke softly from behind me. "Though you were gay, Mike." Tyler sneered. Mike answered coldly, he raised his chin defensivly. "I am," "So if that's the case, then why you trying to get something with Bella? We all know it would be easy any way, but you're boyfriend might not like it." Jared took one-step forward. Tyler had crossed the line, his temper had gotten him into trouble, and I for one, did not feel sorry for that. I hopped it hurt. I hoped it hurt a lot. The second that thought passed through my mind, I was extremely guilty. Horrified. How was I any better then Tyler? How callous was I?

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I put my hand on Jared's chest, stopping him. His body shivered at my touch, obviously uncomfortable. I took my hand away quickly. "Tyler go sit down. When-" I started, my voice softer then before, but I was interrupted. "C'mere you little..." Edward grabbed the top of Tyler's arm, dragging him back to the bench with him. Tyler, for once, did the right thing. He did not fight back, not even making a snide remark. Edward was a good half a head taller then him, his muscle more defined. Tyler would not have a prayer in a fight with Edward. I felt a sudden relief to have Edward here. The first time to really feel that way. It was odd. Comforting, but odd. I sighed. Well this was just great. Apparently, I couldn't even handle a group of boys for a couple hours. Coach was going to be thrilled. I focused myself on helping everyone with their individual needs. Trying to make up for thoughtlessness before. Tyler eventually came back onto the floor, silently. I caught a few harsh glares from him through out the rest of the practice, but I would gladly take that rather then have him attacking the others. I sighed with relief when the practice ended. I realised, a little late, that Mrs. Springett had not come to supervise us. I shook my head indulgently, from what I already knew of her, she was a little air headed. She reminded me of my mother in that way. I smiled as I made my way to the locker room. "Bella?" I turned to Jared, my hand on the change room door. He looked a little nervous. I frowned, concerned, "Hey, what's up?" He shrugged, "N'much" he mumbled, then a little more clearly, "Just wondering what you were doing tonight." His eyes flickered to Edward suspiciously. "I...Moving, I guess." I stuttered, taken off guard. "Oh, that's cool," he muttered. "See you Thursday then." He waved, jogging back to the court. I looked after him for a second, still frowning; then I went into the change room. I was still trying to decipher Jared's odd curiosity when Tyler walked in. I sighed, pulling my jeans on. He scowled at me. "Coach is going to be pissed with you." He said, as he pulled his shirt off. I sighed nodding my head. I already knew that my temper had gotten me into trouble. His eyes narrowed farther, "He won't like you flirting with his boys." I could hear how he purposely said boys to snub me, but I was so taken off guard that I could not even focus on it. "Flirt?" I squeaked. Then Jared's conversation and mine came back to me. Had he been going to ask me out? I worried my lip as I thought about how I was going to handle that, if that had been what Jared was asking. "Coach is going to kick you off if you keep that up. Not that I would mind, just say'n" I turned my eyes away as Tyler stripped for the shower. I walked quickly out of the change room, a little miffed that he could not

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have waited a few more seconds to finish our conversation before doing that. When I walked over to where Edward was waiting on the bench, I forgot about Tyler. Who cared anyways? He was an idiot if he thought I was flirting. I could not flirt to save my life. I would explain to Coach that Tyler must have been mistaken. We had in fact, only been talking. "You ready?" I asked Edward. He nodded, looking deep in thought as he grabbed his books. I called a farewell to the guys before we walked out the door. "So, that Tyler kids a nice piece of work." Edward muttered sarcastically, sending a glare back towards the gym doors. I shrugged, "I try not to let him bug me too much." I grimaced. "Coach Clap is going to be pissed that I lost my patience with him." I groaned quietly as I imagined his face Thursday. "I think you did a great job. I would have taken a swing at him though." He threw a few mock punches. I laughed, shaking my head. "So," I sighed as my building came into view, "You ready to help me move, or have you decided yet?" I desperately hopped Edward would help. I was exhausted. I wanted to go home and get a good 16 hours of sleep before I did anything. God help anyone who wakes me. Edward smiled, opening the door for me, "Love too." I unlocked my room door after stepping off the elevator. Edward held that door open for me too. I raised an eyebrow at him. Where did all the chivalry come from? He grinned, "Ladies first?" I indicated that he proceed, "Age before beauty." I joked. He chuckled, pushing my gently through the door. "Bella?" a soft female voice called from down the hall. Edward froze. I turned quickly to see Millie staring at Edward. I shifted uncomfortably. "Hey Millie." "Hey, I was just about to ask where you've been." Her voice was distant. She had not taken her eyes off Edward yet though she was talking to me. I swallowed, "I was at basket ball practice." Silence. "Edward was just coming to help my move." Silence. I bit my lip, twining and untwining my hands. I don't think Edward was breathing. Once I had heard somewhere-probably on the discovery channel-that you were supposed to move as little as possible when confronted with a predator. I wondered idly if that's what Edward was doing, hoping that Millie would not see him if he kept still enough.

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"I'll, uh, get started with the boxes." I murmured quietly, trying to make my escape. Edward didn't move. I did not go get my suitcase right away, as I probably should have done. Instead, I stalled in my room, more then a little nervous about going back into the hallway. "Why didn't you call me?" I heard Millie say to Edward. I sat down on the couch, just out of view from the door, while still able to hear their conversation through the still open door. It is not that I meant to eaves drop, I just wanted to know when it was safe to leave my room. Or that's what I told myself. In truth, I was curious to find out who was telling the truth. Was Edward really in the right, or had he lied about Millie calling him? "Because we broke up. You were the one to give me the booty call. Not the other way around." He murmured in a soft voice that contradicted the accusation of his words. I listened intently to her answer. "Didn't you have fun?" she asked. So, Edward had been telling the truth. I should have given him more credit. "Yes, it was great. I enjoyed myself, but that doesn't mean anything Millie. It was sex." "So," Millie said quietly after a small pause, "do you have a girlfriend? I wouldn't mind you staying over again." I could feel my heart tearing for Millie. She really did like Edward, apparently though, she liked him in the wrong way. I couldn't believe she was setting herself up again. I closed my eyes, waiting For Edward's answer. "No. Thanks, but no." his voice was hesitant, as if he was still wavering on his decision. My eyes fluttered open. "What?" Millie mirrored my surprise. "No. I don't think so." Edward's voice was surer now. "You already have a girlfriend?" I could hear her hurt. I swallowed, biting my lip. "No... but I have someone in mind." He hesitated a second, and when he spoke again it was more to himself. "She doesn't know yet. At least, I don't think she does." "Oh...Good luck then. Any girl would be lucky to have you. And if you ever change your mind..." Edward chuckled darkly, "I'll be sure to tell you. I better see what Bella is up too." I scrambled from the couch trying to be fast and silent as I moved to a less conspicuous hiding place. I knelt down in front of my suitcase, pretending to finish packing it. He walked into the room, smiling at me as he leaned against the doorjamb. "Hey, you two okay?" I tried to sound casual. He chuckled, not convinced, "Don't you know it's rude to eavesdrop?"

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He took my suitcase, leaving me red-faced behind him.

Chap 6 One monster suitcase, two boxes of books, twelve hours of sleep and then eight hours of school later Edward and I were cross legged on the floor in front of math homework in my new home. Alice was out in the kitchen talking to Jasper about something that had her excited squeals echoing into the living room where we sat. "Arg!" I cried, falling back onto the floor. "It hurts! It hurts! I can't stand it anymore!" "Bella stop. Math isn't that hard." "IT HURTS!" Edward was sitting cross-legged in front of me, one finger on the math problem in the book that I could not figure out. Alice had been doing just fine teaching me how to translate math into English, but the phone had interrupted out study session and she had skipped off to answer it. I grabbed a pillow from off the couch and pretended to suffocate myself. "You are a horrible teacher. Why did I think you could help me?" He sighed, "Because you saw that all my math homework was done. Look, just try one more time? Please?" I peeked my head out from under the pillow. Edward smiled encouragingly at me. "Fine," I muttered, throwing the pillow at him. He caught it easily. "But I'm kicking you out once all the X's and Y's start to look alike." He snorted, "You were the one to ask me to help you." I threw another pillow, "Yes, because you literally forced your way into Alice's and my home, and since you wouldn't just listen to me and leave you are supposed to be helping me. Which you aren't." He rolled his eyes and muttered something unintelligible under his breath. I stuck my tongue out childishly. "Okay," he sighed, pointing to the question again, "Jim and Cathy invest 40,000 dollars into two different accounts. Part at 8 per annum, the other at 12 per annum. The two investments earned equal amounts of interest. How much was invested at each rate?" My eye twitched. "Bella, you still with me? What are we going to let X represent?" he asked gently, seeing that I was on the edge of a psychotic break down. "Come on Bella. You can choose, it is either going to be 8 or 12. Which one do you want?" I snatched a pillow back from where I had thrown it and screamed into it, "IT HURTS!" Edward heaved a sigh.

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Alice skipped back into the room, her face glowing. I stopped attempting to force the pillow down my throat. "So what's going on with Jasper tonight?" It was obvious from how her bright blue eyes danced that she was going to see him tonight. "Jasper's friend is throwing a party and Jasper invited all of us to go!" she squealed excitedly. She jumped onto the couch and started jumping on it, "I'm seeing Jasper. I'm seeing Jasper. I'm seeing Jasper." She sang as she bounced. Edward was watching, amused. I was already used to Alice, none of her exuberant behaviour surprised me these days. "Alice, who is 'all of us'?" I asked. I would have though it was just going to be a girl's night out. Maybe Rosalie would come too. "You,"-bounce-"Me,"-bounce-"Rose,"-bounce-"Emmett,"-bounce-"and Edward." -bounce. "Edward? Why is Edward coming? You hate Edward almost as much as I do." I remembered a little late that Edward was still sitting across from me, no longer looking amused. "No offence." I said quickly. "None taken." He muttered dryly. I pursed my lips to keep from laughing. Alice jumped off the couch, landing in front of me. "Because you need a date. I can't have you sitting in the corner all night." I jumped up quickly, grabbed her arm, and dragged her into the kitchen. Was she joking? I would rather sit at home and watch crappy sit-coms all night. "What are you doing?" I hissed. She did not look as regretful as I thought she should have. "I'm honestly worried about you Bella. You don't go out with anyone, other then practice, and you know I haven't even seen you look at a man since I met you?" "I'm not interested in any of the guys here, why make myself miserable with someone when I could be happy alone?" "Please Bella? I'm just trying to help you." "Then why are you inflicting Edward on me?" I growled. "I can hear you!" Alice and I both stopped to look at the open kitchen door. 'Oops.' Alice mouthed at me. I pouted at her. "Please? Please let me stay home? Or at least let me bring my own date? You have no idea how annoying Edward is, especially when he gets all cocky." "Hello? I can hear you!" I sighed, walking back into the living room. He had his arms and legs crossed now. Surrounded by all our

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schoolbooks he looked like the monarchy of math. I took my place across from him again. I did feel rotten for saying all of this even though it was true; after all, he had tried to help me on my math. Unsuccessfully, albeit, but he did try. "Sorry Alice, but it's just not happening. Edward likes someone else. Why not bring her and I can stay at home. She will be more fun then me any ways. I'll get caught up on the laundry or read a book or something while you guys are out." Alice looked at Edward who was looking back at her, and then slowly, they both turned to look at me. I was having a flashback of playing Football. That smile that had sent a shiver down my spine that had made my heart race and my hands sweat. There was going to be pain. "You'll never take me alive!" I yelled, jumping up and racing out the door. "Sick her!" I heard Alice shout. I was strongly aware of someone coming after me, so I ignored the elevator, and instead took the stairs down three at a time. I risked a glance over my shoulder once I had hit the ground floor. Edward was just hitting the first floor landing, looking frustrated, and excited all at the same time. What did he expect? I had helped Alice lug all her shopping bags up these stairs in the dark. The school turned the Elevators off at night to try to encourage us to respect the curfews they put in order. I must have looked half crazed as I took off out the doors, almost hitting a junior as they tried to get in. I was laughing a breathless, excited laugh while I ran at the sheer insanity of it all. Edward was catching up. Damn his longer legs. I tried to think logically through this. Where would I-small with stubby legs-have the advantage over someone like Edward, tall and annoyingly fast. The forest that infringed on the side of the school where the avid hiker could experience the outdoors came into my view. "Run, run as fast as you can." Edward sang from behind me. I laughed again at the old nursery rhyme, "You'll never catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!" I could hear his laughter behind me, which abruptly cut off when I took a sharp left towards the forests. The hard pavement that pounded securely under my feet changed into soft forest floors with low hanging branches, set deliberately there to try and knock me off balance. Just when I started to think that maybe this hadn't been the best idea, and started to plan a way to loop back to a more open space, a think branch came with in arm's reach. I jumped for it, swinging my body into the branches. I climbed as high as I was comfortable with before I looked down to see Edward sprint past where I hid. Unawares of my hiding place, he stopped, trying to look for some indication of which way I had gone. Shoving the heel of my hand into my mouth to keep my laughter contained, I looked around my leafy hide-out for a stick that was not connected to the tree. I found it leaning against a dead arm of it's mother. It was perfect, not big enough that it would hinder my tossing abilities, but not too small to be of no use. I picked it up cautiously, trying to make no sound. I looked for a space in the tree, and then I threw the stick

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into the trees as far as I could. I lost my visual of it after only a short second, but I heard it snap against a tree a little ways away. Edward did too, his head snapped in that direction, and then a wicked crooked smile pulled at his lips. I took a breath, and clenched my teeth, trying to keep from laughing at him. It was really, really, hard not to. He looked so proud of his 'discovery'. I wanted to see his face when he did not find anything other then an inconspicuous broken stick. A giggle burst through my pursed lips. Edward's head abruptly turned towards me. I clapped a hand over my mouth too late. He chuckled and grabbed the branch I had used to hoist myself up. "Wait, wait. I'll make you a deal." I cried, all the while looking for another means of escape. He stopped, raising an eyebrow. To my relief he dropped his hold on the branch and took a step away. "Alright then. Let's here it." I took a deep breath, "I'll go out tonight, but you have to protect me from Alice." He considered that for a moment, and then shook his head smiling. "Not good enough." He grabbed onto the branch again and with a grunt, heaved himself up. "I'll help you get that girl." I said quickly as he reached for my leg. I quickly pulled it out of his reach. His head cocked to the side. "Who says I need any help? I can have any girl that I want." I sniffed. "I do. You are an arrogant jerk. If this girl has any sense she will turn you down. Actually she'll slap you, then turn you down." He thought about that for a second, and then nodded. Pulling himself up to the branch I was sitting on. "Okay, point taken." I gapped at him, "You're agreeing with me?" He shrugged, "You're right. She's smart. Smart enough to stay away from me." "But that's not going to stop you." It really wasn't a question. He grinned. "Nope. I'll try until she either kills me or I move on." It was an interesting thought, "Who is she? I'd like to help her with the first part." A look of panic crossed his face and I laughed, "Don't worry, I won't tell her. Your secret is safe with me." He laughed, "It wouldn't matter; you don't know her anyways." I took a deep breath and leaned back against the trunk of the tree, letting the wind play in my hair, feel what

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sunshine seeped through the trees warm my skin. "So do we have a deal? I'll go to the party, and help you gain some kind of redeeming quality, but you have to protect me." "So what exactly does that comprise?" he asked, leaning back as I did to let the sun warm his face. The sunlight filtered through his eyes like it glowed warmly through the leaves on the trees. "It means you need to make sure Alice and Rosalie don't go over board." I shuddered with the memory of eyebrow tweezers. His eyes narrowed, "So you're asking me that in return for not dragging you back to Alice, I have to protect you? And under impossible circumstances too. I think I should get more then one lesson on virtuous behaviour." I snorted, "Edward there is absolutely nothing virtuous about you; don't even try it. What I'll try to do is make you at least acceptable to the poor girl I'm going to unleash you onto." I shook my head, "Talk about impossible circumstances." I muttered to myself. "Thanks. You do wonders for the self-esteem Bella. By next week I'll be curled in a ball under my bed." I shrugged, biting my tongue. I hoped I could help him at least a little. You never know, Edward might pass as decent someday...maybe. "So do we have a deal or not?" I finally asked him, bracing my hands against the branch for a quick get away if he did not agree to my terms. He sighed. "I'll do what I can, but I can almost guarantee that you won't get out of the house without at least a little eyeliner." I sighed too. I would take that any day over the tortures Alice had in store for me. I wondered if Alice would listen if I told her I couldn't wear heels. "I'll take what I can get." I held my hand out, an old tradition with my mother. If you make a promis you shake on it. Edward raised an eyebrow at me. "You don't trust me?" "No." He chuckled darkly, "You will." Then he sprang down from the tree, catching his self on a branch and then dropping lightly to the ground. "Of course I will." I mocked. He had not shaken my hand. I didn't like it, and no mater what he predicted, I would doubted I would trust him. Maybe I was taking on the childish qualities of my mother. Who shook on a deal anymore? Why didn't I just ask him to pinkie promise? Or even better, we could skip the party and play Ring around the Rosie until nap time. I followed Edward, catching myself on the same branch, and then took off after him. First thing I was going to

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need to teach him: Patience. When I finally fought my way out of the grabbing branches and protruding roots, Edward was waiting. He might be taking the guard thing a little too seriously. He stayed within touching distance, acting more like a bodyguard then an Alice guard. Or maybe I was underestimating Rosalie. I did not like his stance. It felt as if he was preparing for a bear attack, or a sniper hanging out the window, or a rockslide. Every sound started to sound menacing to me. Was Rosalie this bad? She did not seem like the Aliceie type, maybe a little too into her bedroom mirror, but other then that she seemed normal enough. Edward gasped suddenly, spinning towards the forest edge. At first, I thought he had noticed how jumpy I was being and only teasing me. Then I heard it too. I guess I was not too far off on the bear attack theory. Emmett charged out of the forest, his huge arms out to catch us. Edward looked like he was about to step in front of me, but then he smiled and to my great horror, stepped to the side. "Traitor!" I screamed at him as Emmett gripped me in his huge anaconda arms, crushing the air from my lungs. Edward only laughed, "Don't worry Bella, Emmett likes you too much to turn you into the girls." I glared. "And why am I a separate entity from the 'girls'?" Edward smirked. "That's because, there is nothing female about you. You're just...Bella. You don't fit into any categories." I grimaced, "Thanks." I already knew that though. I wasn't like the other girls. Maybe there was some kind of glitch in my brain but what ever it was, I was a freak. Not distinctly female, and defiantly not male. Emmett laughed. A booming sound that echoed off the forest and rattled the bones in my spine where he crushed me to his chest. "Shut up Edward, Bella's cool." He grinned hugely at me. I grinned back at him, glad to have a supporter. "And since Edward scared you off before I could play with you guys, I want a game now, before the party. Rosie would kill me if I got you all muddy after she dressed you up in that little yellow-oops, I wasn't supposed to say anything about that." I looked at him blankly, "Say what? I didn't hear anything. Did you Edward?" Edward laughed, shaking his head, "Nope, went right over my head." Emmett smiled broadly, "See man! She's awesome!" I struggled out of Emmett's arms, desperately needing air. "Okay," I grinned at Emmett, "Play ball!" "NO!" two voiced shrieked. I cringed, and then slowly turned around. Alice was glaring at me, her little pixie ears releasing great pillars of furious smoke. I gulped; Rose was giving me a look that you gave to someone on death row.

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No one was getting out of this alive. I waved sheepishly, "Hey, do you girls want to play too? It will be fun." My attempt to persuade them was half hearted. I had a good idea what their answer was going to be. Rose looked about to say something, to scream something. Then-thank ever God, deity, and holy thing ever put into existence-Emmett turned on the puppy dog eyes. "Please Rosie?" -his lip trembled and my heart broke-"I want to play with Bella bear and you." "Bella bear?" Edward asked quietly from beside me. I motioned my bewilderment back to him. "No! Rose, don't do it! You're being sucked into the dark side!" Alice pleaded shrilly, nearly hanging off her arm. "Alice, my love, please calm down. We don't want to hurt Rosalie, now do we?" Alice gasped, spinning to face her Blond haired angel. Or that's how she described him to me. His face lit up when he saw her too and he held his arms out to her as she jumped into them. I smiled; maybe this could be twisted to my advantage. "Hey Jasper." I smiled waving. He smiled and nodded to me, but he did not take his eyes off Alice. "We were just about to play some high contact foot ball,"-I made sure to make the last words stand out-"and I was just worried about Alice's well being against someone like Emmett. We all know Emmett would never try to hurt his sister, but you know how accidents happen." Edward shot me a questioning look. I ignored him, focused more on the horror struck expression on Jasper's face, and an oblivious Alice who just missed the whole conversation, too busy nuzzling into Jasper's side. His next words caught her attention though, "I'm playing with you." He shot another protective glance at Alice before kissing her complaint away. Edward turned his hand ever so slightly for a discrete high five. I grinned back at him, slapping his hand lightly so as not to bring to much attention to us. "Woo!" Emmett crowed, racing down to the field to play, I followed him with Edward by my side, again taking his role as guard a little too seriously. The danger was put off though until after the game, so he could drop the façade. I moved away from him to grab the football under the bench. "Who's on who's team?" I asked, throwing the ball in the air, catching it, throwing it.... "Bella's on my team!" Edward and Emmett yelled simultaneously. "That's not fair. If Bella and you are on the same team then the other side is going to lose!" Emmett whined. Throw. Catch. Throw. "Why don't we play boys against girls?" I asked, catching the ball, and then tossing it lightly to Alice who caught it with two hands. Jasper shifted uncomfortably seeing the ball in her hands, probably imagining what it would look like for his precious little Alice to be bulldozed by Edward. I shuddered too. Edward held his tongue. Smart man, he must have learned his lesson last time. He did look doubtful when he looked at Alice though. I didn't blame him. I was going to keep a careful eye on her, take a few hits if that's

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what it took to make sure she was fine at the end of the game. Jasper looked on edge of having a nervous breakdown. "No, absolutely not. Alice come with me, we'll watch." He went to take her hand. Alice stepped away from Jasper, cradling the ball against her chest, her lip out in a pout. "Why? I want to play." She complained now that she was having the choice taken away from her. Typical Alice. It was scary to watch Jasper and Alice together. Not because they were so in love it almost hurt to watch, or because Jasper had this aura that just seemed to intimidate, not even because of their physical differences. There was something that was just so opposite about them, so opposite it made me nervous to watch, though I knew Jasper would never lay a cruel finger on Alice. Alice was just so petite, fragile looking and gentle, if you weren't attacking-or running from-her fashion sense. Jasper on the other hand used to be in the army. He was part of the black watch before he met Alice. I didn't want to ever learn what he did there, and not even Alice would broach the subject with me. The only thing she told me was that he learned to do really horrible things to people, and after a year, he had seen too much. Jasper let out a fatigued breath, still smiling. "I know you do sweetheart, I just worry about you." He touched her face gently. She closed her eyes and leaned her face into his hand, "I know. I love you, but I want to play with Bella. She isn't much bigger then me and she could take some pretty good hits." I blushed. Jasper gave me a hard look, "Thanks so much Bella." "Maybe you and Jasper should sit out Alice. I don't want you to get hurt because of me." My eyes flickered back to Jasper who looked pleased with this assessment. I let out a small breath, glad he wasn't giving me the 'I can break you neck with my pinkie' look. Alice gave me one long look and then turned pleading eyes on Jasper. "Please? I just want to play." Her liquid blue eyes were huge, persuasive, with just the right hint of 'love me'. Jasper didn't stand a chance. Jasper kissed her cheek. "Okay, why don't you go get changed into something else though? I wouldn't want you to ruin that beautiful outfit." Alice flashed a billboard smile, and then skipped over to the bench to bench to grab her bag. No doubt she had at least seven different outfits in there for emergencies. What kind of emergencies? I never asked. The three hour long discussion sure to follow was not something I cared to sit through. Jasper turned to the boys. Emmett had drifted over to hover next to Rosalie, while Edward was spinning the football that Alice had dropped on his finger absently. "If any of you 'accidentally' hurt her, I'll 'accidentally' twist you into a pretzel." Jasper said, deadly serious. Edward understood and nodded. Emmett...not so much.

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Emmett laughed, "Sure man. Alice can take a few good hits, trust me." He winked at Jasper. "Careful, Em." Edward muttered, elbowing Emmett in the ribs. Emmett shrugged unperturbed. Jasper stiffened, glaring at Emmett in a way that made me nervous. I tried to make the act seem casual as I put myself between the two. An angry Jasper was scary, an angry Jasper feeling the need to protect the love of his life from harm was beyond teffifying. "Jasper, Emmett is Alice's brother," I murmured slowly, trying to remind him, "Alice would be very upset if you hurt him. Wouldn't she?" Jasper pursed his lips, but didn't say anything. I took that as a yes. Edward let out a breath from behind me. I turned a questioning glance on him. He shrugged in one flowing movement, and the grinned. "Since the girls are so much better then the guys, I think we should get first ball." I smirked, "If you think that will help, then by all means, go ahead." Maybe there was some sort of deficiency in Edward's brain that stopped him from seeing the obvious. Maybe it was similar to the genetic quirk I had that kept me from being normal. What ever is was though, I liked it. I liked it a lot. "Hut!" Jasper called, and then to Edward's great surprise and my great enjoyment, threw the ball right into Alice's waiting arms. It was hilarious to watch Edward stand helpless, unable to touch Alice without Jasper breaking his hand, as Alice ran through the touch down line. I waved at Edward who was giving Jasper a betrayed look. Then so casually it didn't look like anything more then me walking over to congratulate Alice, I walked by Edward and murmured, "You want to be on the girl's team when you're playing couples." Edward growled something under his breath. I smiled. Emmett was entrusted with the ball next. I couldn't actually predict what Emmett would do. He was much more flamboyant in everything he did, especially when it came to Rosalie, but I could take an educated guess, and say that he was highly competitive. Rose looked confident though, so I didn't prepare to block Emmett. I doubted it would do little even if I did. "Hut." Jasper said his voice its usual resigned gentle flow, laced with an inexplicable calm that always conflicted with Alice's constant hyper state. Emmett took off down the field. I groaned in defeat as Edward cheered. I had just started to scour the ground for something to throw at him when he yelled furiously. I looked up to see that Rose had some how managed to steal the ball from Emmett. She was running back up the field with Emmett behind her. To me, it looked like he was purposely lagging, watching her run. Edward must have seen the same thing I had, because he looked like he was getting ready to tackle Emmett rather then Rosalie. "Run Rose!" I screamed, jumping onto Edward, foolishly thinking my weight was enough to take him down. It wasn't. What did end up happening was I got to ride piggy back down the field. My weight slowed him down enough that Rose made the touch down line, just in time for Emmett to take on a sudden burst of speed

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and wrap his arms around her waist. Rose made a sound somewhere between a shriek and a giggle as Emmett spun her around. I laughed as Edward shook me off. He was obviously irritated, which only made this so much funnier. I let my hold on him slip off and, stumbling backwards, fell onto the grass and grinned at the sky. It shone down on my skin, warming me. It reminded me of how Renee and I had lazed in the grass while she had been trying to practice yoga. A shadow scared away the sun's warmth. I opened my eyes to scowl at Edward. What gave him the right to chase away my happy day dreams? "Get up." he growled, stalking off to his side of the field. Apparently he could no longer trust any of his team mates with the ball. He took his position; I faced him, smiling hugely. Jasper had sufficiently distracted Alice with another foot ball, and were playing their own side game. I watched them for a second, feeling a pang of isolation. It was a silly feeling. I was only seventeen, soon to be eighteen in only four days. Still too young to be looking for a soul mate. Not every one was as lucky as Alice and Jasper. At the thought of my birthday though, I was giving Alice a panicky glance. Alice had sworn she hadn't seen anything when I had caught her reading over my shoulder. It had been an e-mail from my mom. My technologically challenged mother had worried that e-mail would be similar to snail mail, so she sent the e-mail early. "Hut!" Edward called, about to take off. He startled me from my train of thought, and I acted impulsively. There was a ball in my opposition's hands, so I knocked it out of them. In basket ball this would be acceptable. In foot ball...no so much. Edward gave me a tired look. "You're supposed to wait five seconds Bella." "Oops?" I blushed. Edward lost the angry look quickly, instead grinning at the rush of blood under my skin. He chuckled, "That's adorable." He cooed, touched my cheek with the back of his hand gently, feeling the heat from my embarrassment. "Go away." I muttered, slapping his hand away, my blush deepening. He laughed, throwing me the ball. I glared, taking it. I was faintly aware of Rosalie throwing glances between Edward and I. I ignored her. "Hut!" Edward called again. I slipped past him and started running for the touch down line. "Hey!" I heard someone cry from behind me. I turned to see Rosalie sitting on top of Edward's shoulders. I smiled, only Rose would know how to take Edward down like that. "That was for putting cool-aid in my shampoo." She snarled at him. "It was a joke." He growled back, crossing his arms under his chin as he waited impatiently for her to get off of him. I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, and gasped in horror. Then I took off like a bullet. I could take Edward's tackles any day; I could probably even take Jasper's since he would only try to knock my down and not purposely hurt me. But Emmett's? I wasn't sticking around to find out. Maybe I was having a really off day, or maybe the fates just decided to have a little fun with me, but what ever

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the reason, I lost my balance, having tripped over my own feet, at the exact time Emmett went to grab me. Our legs became tangled, and somewhere in the fall, he managed to some how twist his body to that all his weight landed on me. I gasped, before the air was knocked out of my lungs. The edges of my consciousness shimmered, and then the world blanked out. It didn't seem like anymore then a second before I opened my eyes again. I looked around quickly to see if anyone had noticed. I was just about to ask Emmett to get off of me, but it wasn't necessary. He wasn't where I thought he would be. I wasn't where I thought I would be. Emmett was kneeling in of me, murmuring apologies, his head hung in shame while Alice continued her torrent on him. Jasper hovered over her protectively, his eyes occasionally flickering to Rose who was sitting in the background; her expression to my surprise was surprisingly unfriendly. I looked up next; aware enough now to know someone was holding me, cradling me against their chest. All I knew was they were male at first. Edward sighed with relief, "You okay?" he asked quietly. I was taken of guard by the concern. Wasn't he supposed to punch my shoulder, tease me on passing out, tell me to toughen up? What happened to Edward? Where was the jerk that had followed me home today against my wishes? Literally shouldering his way into Alice's home. I "Yeah, I'm fine." I said, the surprise was just as obvious in my voice as it was in my thoughts. This must be Edward's way of making up for being a jerk. Or, maybe, Edward was really interested in being my friend. That would explain his constant pursuit. In a twisted kind of way it did make sense. I could see all the girls, the way they looked at him now that Millie's story had gotten around. Everyone knew he was single, and because Millie absolutely refused to make Edward sound bad, he was just the poor ex boyfriend who got confused, sufficiently letting Edward off the hook. Now that Edward spent the majority of his time with me, the girls were more hesitant to approach. They wouldn't want to chance rejection if there was something going on between Edward and me. Well, if he wanted to take advantage of the situation, then I wished him the best, but he was going to have to be a lot less annoying if he was going to shadow me all day. No one else had noticed that I had come to yet. I went to get up, but Edward tightened his arms on me. "If you played this up, you might be able to skip the party tonight." He murmured low in my ear. I smiled, intriguing thought. I would have taken him up on the offer if it weren't for Emmett still being chastised for hurting me, when in actuality, he hadn't. I was an easy fainter; all I needed was a little blood, or a sudden deprivation air. I reached out and patted Emmett's head. His dark curls gave way to a face of shock. "Oh Bella! I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you, I just tripped and you tripped and then you fell and-" I laughed, "Emmett, relax. It takes a lot more then that to hurt me. Though I have to admit, it was a pretty good hit, knocking me out like that. Real pro-footballish." Emmett gapped at me as I tried to disentangle myself from Edward's arms. The second I was under my own

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weight again, I was cradled against another chest, a massive one with thick arms that crushed me more thoroughly then any anaconda could. "I love this girl! She's awesome!" Emmett cried spinning me around. "Gak, love you too," I choked, trying to free myself. When he put me down again I patted his huge arm, "You're like the bear I never had." I teased. "Oh, oh. What am I Bella?" Alice asked bouncing giddily. I laughed, "My sister." Alice squealed with joy, and then wrapped her arms around me. "You're my sister too!" she sobbed with joy. I smiled, hugging her back tightly. "OH! What about Jasper and Rose and Edward?" she asked bouncing in place. "Does Jasper have brother potential?" she asked. I smiled, "Sure." Rose got up to come stand behind me, "Well, what about me?" she asked with mock severity. "You're part of the family too." I grinned. She looked happier, but something was smouldering under the surface. I was about to ask her, but everyone was silent, waiting for Edward's place. I turned to smirk at a fidgeting Edward. I pretended to think about my answer for a moment. "Brothers are usually annoying, right?" I asked. Rose and Alice bother nodded vigorously, adding their own comments to it. I pursed my lips to keep from smiling. "Well then, I guess Edward is that annoying little brother who follows me everywhere." He grinned apologetically. "But I like you. You're fun, and funny, and truthfully, deep down in that geek little body of yours. After you dig past the four boxes of books from the 1950s, and your superiority complex."-I threw a stick at him. He laughed dogging it easily-"Well, under all that, you're a little cool." I gawked at him, "A little cool? You say all that and all I get is a little cool?" Did I have a superiority complex? Emmett laughed, "Run Edward run! She'll get you." Edward saluted to me, and took off across the field towards where I assumed his building was. That or he was taking the long way around to mine. Alice grabbed my arm and started dragging my away, Rose on my other side. "Make sure he's presentable for nine o'clock." Alice called after Emmett as he took off after Edward. Jasper looked torn. Obviously we were dividing our selves into gender groups, but Jasper didn't want to leave Alice's side. 'Go' she mouthed to him. He turned after one more unwilling glance, and then he jogged across to where the other boys had gone. Alice and Rose watched them go. I sighed; apparently Edward wasn't going to fulfill his side of the bargain. I was going out to night with clothes, make-up, and hair gel whether I wanted to or not. The clothes weren't bad, just the opposite, they were too pretty for me. I was used to sweat pants and jeans. Rosalie turned to me in synchronization with Alice. "We need to talk." They both said at the same time. Rose looked at Alice questioningly. Alice shrugged. "Bella, I don't want you to take this the wrong way. I really like you, just...don't date my brother."

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"What?" Alice shrieked, "Bella, you and Edward are perfect for each other. I can see it!" she cried. "And what about when Edward dumps her? She'll hate him and then she won't come near me because of him. I like Bella. I don't want my idiot brother to screw another friendship over." I might have taken that last part too literally. "But he won't dump her! Don't you see? They are perfect, only Bella can kick Edward's-" "Hey! Whoa! Slow down. Shouldn't this be my decision? I don't even like Edward like that. He's the most arrogant, self-centred, pig I have ever met."-Rose nodded her approval-"But," I continued, "He's also kind of fun, when he isn't being a jerk. I don't mind him, but I don't like him. Not like that. He's....He's a friend boy." Alice and Rose looked at me weird. "Friend boy?" Rosalie asked, raising one perfect eyebrow. I nodded, blushing. "He's a friend that's a boy. If I say boy friend then people get the wrong idea and it's really troublesome explaining it to people, and then hunting down the rumours..." I trailed off. I was feeling really stupid right now. It was another Renee thing. "Oh, no Bella, he's a friend boy." Alice rolled the word over, "Friend...boy. Friend boy. I like it." She smiled hugely at me. I smiled back relieved that she didn't look at me like I had leprosy. It was a promising start. Rosalie snorted. "Good. Edward is bad news," she thought for a second, but then sighed, "I guess he can be fun sometimes, and if you're his sister or a really good friend, he's loyal as hell. He got into a fight with Emmett when we first met, and Emmett teased me on my hair colour." She blushed suddenly. I didn't want to hear the remark that would have made her blush like that. "But other then that, I wouldn't waste my time on him." Alice made a face. "Eww, Rose. That's my brother you're thinking about. Emmett is bad news if he doesn't love you." She sighed, "But since he does, I guess I won't say anything." Rose gasped, "Emmett said he loved me?" Alice clapped a hand over her mouth, "Oops!" "Oh my God! Alice! Why didn't you tell me?" Rose screamed her eyes excited and angry all at the same time. "Because he made me promise not to!" she sighed, "Too late now I guess." She muttered. "Just act surprised, okay?" Rose gasped again, "When is he going to tell me?" She cried. "No! Lalalalalala I can't hear yoouuuuu." Alice sang, hands held tightly over her ears. She ran back to the our building, still singing loudly with her hands over her ears. Rose was screaming after her, arms waving wildly as she scampered after her. I smiled, following at my own pace. I was normal among the freaks, that was comforting. When I got through the door Alice and Rose had dropped their shenanigans and were down to business.

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Apparently a lot had gone on while I had been out, though I had only been out for about fifteen minutes. Edward had in fact followed through with our little deal. He must really want this girl if he was willing to threaten Rosalie with childhood photos. Everyone knows that's a two way street that was going to lop around to bite him in the ass. Edward had come to a compromise with Rose and Alice that I could live with. No make up, my hair is mine to do with what I wish, but they chose my clothes. No mini skirts or low v necks. I was surprised Edward would know all of this. Or maybe it was to be expected, I was after all an open book to the most extreme form of the words. "Oh please Rose? Just a little lip gloss?" Alice begged. Rose shook her head, looking sadly at my naked face. I couldn't quite wipe the smile of victory off my face. I don't care what kind of deal Edward and I made. He was getting every fringing lesson on women he needed to get this girl. Alice made an annoyed sound, "What is so bad about it Rose? We all have our embarrassing moments." I would have nodded in agreement, but I was all for the 'Bella's fine just the way she is' plan. Rosalie glared, "Don't make me use the bubble gum lip gloss Alice. It won't end well for you." I smiled to myself and grabbed the clothes they had worked literally hours on picking out. I think they spent so much time on the clothes because of the other restrictions. I looked at the v-neck yellow top. It wasn't that bad and the jeans that went with it weren't tight enough to cut off blood flow to my legs. I moved, feeling how the material moved with me easily, comfortably. I smiled down at myself. I liked this. I surprised myself by giggling and doing a little pirouette, feeling how the shirt swirled simply, with me. I walked out of the room I had moved into. It felt rude to claim it as my own right away, especially since the school had a problem with the moving truck crew. They got the wrong date on the moving day. I wasn't getting my bed or my dresser until next Monday. Alice didn't seem to mind my sharing the bed with her, and in that way, she felt like my sister. Everything was comfortable with her, we even joked about it around the house. I was about to thank Rose for picking out the clothes, and Alice for supplying the forty outfits Rose had to chose from. Alice's form of revenge. I was going to be wearing all the extras weather I wanted to or not. Then I caught sight of Alice, shimmering in a dreamlike silver cocktail dress. Rosalie was even more stunning, a backless red shirt with a mini black skirt that made her legs look longer, more elegant. If that was even possible. My 'Thank you' stuck in my throat. "Wow." I whispered. Looking at the two of them made me feel like I had walked into a top rate modeling agency and I was the uncoordinated accountant that mumbled ever word. Alice and Rosalie both smirked at me, "We clean up nice, hmm? If you let us put some make-up on you..." Rosalie said, glancing at the clock to see if she had enough time for them to pretty me up. I found myself. "No thank you." I said as politely as I could, trying not to offend them. Alice sighed longingly. A knock at the door sent them both into a flurry of prepping and primping, catching the miniscule flaws that I

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couldn't see on themselves and the other. "Oh! Stray hair. Got it." "You have a little piece of-yep you got it." "Lip stick off your tooth!" I sighed, ignoring them as I went to get the door. "No!" They both hissed as my hand touched the door handle. I pulled my hand back, startled. "Why?" I hissed back, my gaze flickering to the door where the boys were waiting. I wondered what Jasper and Emmett's faces would look like when they saw the girls. I wonder if drool will do anything to Alice's expensive carpet. "Because we have to make them wait. Anticipation, you know?" I shook my head. Rose rolled her eyes, "Is she even a girl?" Ouch. I made a face at them and opened the door. "Hello." I smiled, listening to Alice slap her forehead and Rose mutter a low groan under her breath. I think she threw in a few low words but I ignored them. My juvenile revenge to cover up how deep Rosalie's words had cut me. Was there something wrong with me? Was I even categorized as female in any of the boy's minds? Not that I cared so much now, but eventually I wanted that special person to walk into my life. Would he see me as a boy too? Emmett was the first person I saw, hulking in the door way he was impossible to miss. Jasper was behind him, a quiet kind anxiety exuding from him as he tried to look past Emmett's massive shoulder to see his diminutive Goddess, glittering like a soft rain against a window pane. He didn't seem able to be away from Alice for more then a few hours with out at least calling her. When she did catch his eye though, I had to turn my eyes away. This moment far too intensely loved that not even a distracted Emmett could dilute the moment. The last person to catch my eye was Edward; he was leaning calmly against the wall, his crooked smile in place. I smiled shyly at him. I didn't feel like myself, like I could tackle the football team's quarterback, or defend my net from men twice my size when I wasn't wearing my rough, scruffy clothes. Or maybe I was personifying too much. The out fit didn't make the person. Right? Edward's head cocked to the side, giving me the impression that this was the first time we had met, seeing me anew. I didn't blame him, I hardly recognised myself in these clothes. I felt silly now that I was back in the real world. I shouldn't be wearing these clothes, I should be Bella, the basketball player who changed with the boys and didn't fawn over their bodies as some of the other girls admitted they would, the girl who wasn't intimidated by size or the physicality's of people. I wasn't Bella when I was dressed like this. "Hey," I mumbled when he didn't stop staring at me, trying to figure out what happened to the boy Bella. "You look..." he trailed off looking for the word. I laughed, "Yea I know, I look weird. This is why I don't go out." He frowned, and I wondered if he thought he had put the idea in my mind that I didn't look good tonight, and then he grinned again, "That's not what I was going to say. You look...nice."

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I raised an eyebrow at him, then dropped it. What was the point in discussing it with him? "If you think I look nice, you should see Alice and Rose." Edward gave me a look that said, 'why do I care what my sister is wearing' before looking past me. I supposed, had I been looking on as a third party observer when I had first seen Alice and then Rose, I would have the same expression. Then he was instantly furious. Storming past me he accidentally knocked me back into the wall with his shoulder before roughly grabbing Rosalie's wrist and nearly throwing her back into Alice's room. Then he shut the door and leaned against it, glaring at the opposite wall. "Change you clothes." He snarled at the wall. "No," Rose snapped through the door, "I can wear this if I want... dad." Edward rolled his eyes, "Dad would be having a heart attack if he could see you right now. I don't want to see guys mentally undressing my sister all night. Change your clothes." "Open the door!" Rose shrieked, pounding on the door. Edward didn't move, just continued to glare at the wall. The thumping stopped. Everyone was looking at the scene, not quite sure of what to do. The only thing I was sure of-be it the clothes or not-I wasn't going to cross Edward when he looked so absolutely venomous. "Fine." Rose said a second later. Edward let out a breath, his looking lightening, "You want to use family history against me, I'll use it against you." Edward's eyes narrowed and he was glaring at the wall again. "Do you really want to do that Rose? I can stay here all night and you can miss the par-" "Edward has a chromosome disorder!" she sang through the door. Edward's eyes popped wide and he gaped at the wall in horror. Then he shot me one panicked look before closing his eyes and clenching his teeth. When Rose spoke next she seemed disappointed by his lack of response. She of course, couldn't see his reaction. "He can't grow pubic hair. No chest hair, no armpit hair, he can't even grow a beard. Not even peach fuzz on his lip. You haven't gone through puberty yet Edward; you're still a little boy. Stop acting like DAD!" "Change your clothes Rose." Edward whispered. "Edward wet the bed until he was twelve." Rose continued to sing. Edward's eyes flashed, and then he opened the door and slipped in so fast I would have missed the movement had I turned to see anyone's reaction to either of Rosalie's admissions. "That was not wetting the bed it's called a wet dream and it's a sign of puberty. I. Have. Gone. Through. Puberty!" "Touchy." Rose made the word into two. Then she screamed and there was the sound of a scuffle. Edward walked out of the room a moment later towing Rose out. She had changed from her short black mini into a longer skirt that was a startling shade of green. "I can't wear this!" she cried, tugging uselessly on Edward's furious hold. "Too bad. You should have changed when I told you too." He growled back, literally throwing her into Emmett.

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Emmett caught her, stunned. Rose turned and made a sound of outrage before stomping back into Alice's room. She came out a moment later in a pair of jeans. She stopped in front of Edward who was back into his earlier position against the wall, smiling smugly at Rose. This only seemed to infuriate her more, "I am so happy I told Bella to avoid you." She hissed in his face. Edward's smile disappeared and he turned an unnatural shade of white as Rose stomped down the hall. "How many girls have you told to stay away from me?" He cried, running after her. "Every one I could!" I looked back from the sibling rivalry. Everyone seemed to be frozen in the same shock but for Alice, she must know Roseand Edward very well to have seen that comming. I looked between her and Emmett, "Are you two..." I trailed off, gesturing off to where Edward and Rosalie had gone. That snapped Emmett out of his daze, "Rosie? Rosie come back, you look beautiful!" he called running down the hall after her. Alice shook her head, answering my question. "No, the only reason why Edward and Rose fight so much is because they are so alike. If you told them that though they would rip your throat out." She shuddered delicately. Jasper wrapped a protective arm around her, still looking a little dazed. Aware, but dazed as he led her out the door. "These are the people you spend your time with?" he asked her on the way out. I snickered to myself as I shut off all the lights and locked the door. With all the noise Edward and Rose had made, we were definitely going to get caught for being out after curfew. When I got down to where the groups had formed everyone was in the cars. I say cars because Edward was in one, a nice silver one, though I couldn't see it very well in the dark. It hinted at a subtle flair. So maybe all the rumours of him being rich were true if he had a car in a place were everything was in walking distance. Rose was in another car. It didn't seem odd to me that it matched her clothes. It was a sleek red one with a black top that I guessed could be taken down when she wanted. It was all silly to me, though I guess we would have needed more then one car anyways to fit all of us, especially with Emmett's immense body that counted as two people. I sighed opening Edward's car door. "Are we choosing sides here? Because if that's the case I'm neutral." Edward shrugged, then leaned away from me towards the passenger door and pushed it open for me. "Get in." "Sir yes sir." I muttered coming around the front of the car. The second I got into the car Alice was leaning her head on the shoulder of Edward's seat from her position in the back seat with Jasper. "We're going to 4486 Tallymen drive." She instructed happily. Edward nodded, and then hit the accelerator. Rose had to wait for Edward to pull out in front of her. She apparently needed to follow us since she didn't know where she was going. I couldn't imagine that she was happy about that. I kept waiting for the jolt that would be Rosalie ramming us from behind.

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I looked out into the darkness outside my window, rather then the rapidly disappearing yellow lines painted onto the road, glowing like predatory eyes from the dark asphalt. I sighed leaning back, enjoying the feeling of the seats. Just when I was starting to get a little too fond of the expensive leather Edward pulled into a drive. He hadn't said anything to me since I had first met him at the door. Nothing in his normal buoyant humour at least. I didn't like the silence, as much as his words sometimes annoyed me. I didn't like him not being happy; it was something that seemed so out of place with him. I hesitated, deciding what to say, or if I should even say anything at all when he turned bitter eyes on me. It froze me though I was faintly aware of Alice and Jasper getting out of the parked car. "I'm surprised you haven't said anything." He turned his pungent look towards the dark windshield, lighted a token amount by the lights of the party inside. "W-what?" I stuttered, taken off guard yet again by the acidity. "No sarcastic comments on my masculinity? I know you're thinking them, you would love that." I wanted to snap back at him that he didn't know anything. Instead I took a deep breath, and then gently placed my hand on his arm. "Don't worry about it Edward. You're among friends here." I grinned at him, trying to substantiate my words. "I'm a little gender confused too if you haven't noticed. At least you know what's wrong with you. I'm just a freak." I laughed a little at the last part, trying to lighten his mood a little. He cocked his head to the side a little, and then smiled, "Really?" I smiled, nodding, "You're a freak among freaks." I frowned down at his arm, "Are you cold?" His eyebrows came together and he looked down too. "No." "oh," I muttered, "You have goose bumps." The party was so loud we could feel the beats where we sat in the car. I took a deep breath, "Ready?" I asked my voice an octave too high. Edward laughed darkly and stepped out of the car. I followed his lead. Letting my breath out I stepped through the door to the house party after hesitating on the door step for a moment, looking at the door and shifting uncomfortably. Was I supposed to knock? Curtsy warred with not wanting to draw attention to myself. Edward seemed completely at ease where he was, so I let him be. I looked around for a dark corner to stand in; out of the way for the next few hours, when a light caught my attention, so arresting that it stood out from all the other red's and yellows from the house party. This light was a soft blue that glowed through the sliding doors. I walked out onto the patio where the pool was. The party hadn't stopped out here, but it was a little more placid then the one inside. It had been the lights from the pool that had caught my attention. I took a deep lung full of the sweat free air, unbearable sweet now that I was outside. I went out to lie on the grass where there weren't so many people. I tried to watch the starts through the film of light the party created. I wondered for a second who else was watching these stars, if my mom was, or maybe

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even Charlie-if the clouds cleared enough to allow him to. A clear night sky in Forks must be pretty with out all the blinding city lights, but I would rather the rush and constant movement of the city compared to the sleepy, dull, sunless town of Forks. I could just feel the last ruminants of the day's warmth on my skin. A gentle reminder of my insecure paradise. The school was further north then Renee had told me. Something so trivial to her ended up nearly giving me a heart attack. We were in-gulp-Canada. Short of the North Pole, this was the coldest place on the face of the earth, or it seemed that way to me when I first arrived. So far Canadian summers weren't too bad, no snow at least and so far I hadn't run into any polar bears. The big problem with all of it though was it was going to get cold. Really cold. I didn't even have a winter jacket since I had lived in Phoenix all my life except for the occasional visit to Charlie in Forks, but even those stopped a couple years back. Alice had assured me that she would buy all the winter clothes I needed, apparently she and Emmett had actually lived in Alaska for a year-and here I was complaining about Ontario. It was hard to imagine big burly Emmett trying to climb through a little hole in the snow into an igloo, even harder to imagine little Alice dancing across the barren snow fields. All of this though wasn't what I had a problem with. I was very thankful to Alice who had promised to buy me some warm (and stylish) clothes for winter. Rose had also promised to help out with my wardrobe too-after a little prodding from Alice. No, I wasn't worried so much about how I would fare during the winter anymore; I had a new panic now. How was I ever going to pay them back for it? Alice told me not to worry, she loved to shop, and Rose said the same. It didn't stop me from worrying over how to make it up to her though. At the very least, I wouldn't have to bug Renee into buying winter clothes for me. There was a low groan as someone lay down beside me. I hadn't realised that in my mediation I had closed my eyes, but they opened and flickered to my left. Edward of course. He had his arms crossed behind his head, looking up at the stars as I had. I sighed, closing my eyes again. He didn't need to be here, I liked being alone, it saved me from the awkward conversations that I really wasn't apart of. I was just about to tell him to enjoy the party when he spoke. "Do you like the stars?" he asked softly. I opened my eyes again to look at him, but his eyes were still focused on the sky. "Uh, Yea" I stuttered, taken of guard by his question. What muddled me was his voice sounded sad, and I wondered if he was still hung up about what Rose had said. He laughed a little, turning to face me, "Just curious." He assured me. I nodded back at him, and turned to try and pick out a star. Edward did the same. "How about you?" I asked after a couple of minutes. Some of the party goers had started up a drinking game on the other side of the pool. Edward shot me a questioning glance. "The starts I mean. Do you like them?" I explained quickly. He re-positioned his arms, trying to get more comfortable on the grass. "I don't know. I grew up in Chicago; my mom home schooled me there until grade seven. You don't see the stars much in the city." I nodded in understanding. "But," he continued, hesitating slightly, "My mother," he smiled when he said her name, "She used to tell Rose and me to wish on a star when we did see them." He laughed a little ruefully, looking at me, waiting for me to tease him.

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I didn't tease him. I looked wonderingly up at the stars, "My mom didn't wish on stars. She said she had everything she wanted already. I've never wished on a star as far as I can remember." I was musing to myself more then really talking to him. It surprised me, wishing on stars was something that was just so Renee. Not me though, not the responsible one. Wishing on a ball of burning hydrogen didn't seem like something worth doing. What's the harm? A voice asked a wish never hurt anyone. And you never know... I sighed; I had defiantly been away from Renee for too long. I was creating manifestations in my mind to recreate her. Edward was ready and willing to push the argument of my persona induced by insanity, "You've never wished on a star?" he asked, looking at me wonderingly. I shook my head, "But it's essential to childhood! Every kid does it." Edward rolled his eyes at the look I was giving him, "Not essential but you should wish for something. Look there is one right there." He pointed at the sky and sure enough one bright star shone bravely through the light pollution. I debated it for a moment before taking a deep breath and closing my eyes. Star light star bright, first star I see to night, I wish I may I wish I might...what? I blanked. What did I want? Was I supposed to wish for something realistic to heighten my chances of the wish coming true? "What do I wish for?" I muttered my eyes still closed. "Anything. Everything. Whatever you want. It's a wish." Edward murmured quietly back even though I was sure there was no one in hearing distance anyways. Star light star bright, first star I see to night, I wish I may I wish I might...meet someone. That didn't seem specific enough, but to wish for anything more felt like setting myself up for disappointment. Oh what the hell, like Edward said, it's a wish. I pulled everything from my very being into the wish, so much so, I started to sweat a little. Every pore of my body was completely centred on this person, where ever he was, and on the wish itself. I want to meet someone that I love more then life itself. I wish that I could be happy with them. I want to be able to look at him when I'm old and wrinkled and see the man I fell in love with and I want him to see me in all the same ways. I want...I want him to be able to make my toes curl with just a look, I want him to be fun and smart and good-looking. I want him to be romantic so I know that he loves me every day of forever. And lastly...I never want to live even one day without him, so I wish that I might die one day before he does. I opened my eyes. Edward had his eyes closed tightly, his lips moving minutely as he himself wished. I'm sure his wish was much more realistic then mine was. I felt silly now, expending all that energy into nothing. How was it supposed to work anyways? Did I have to wait until my wished reached the star or was it something instantaneous? And if I did have to wait for the wish to get to the star, how long would I have to wait? Days? Months? Years? Would I die before it came true, or did wishes travel faster then the speed of light? My head was spinning trying to pull something logical out of something so specious. I pushed the wish out of my mind. It was an attractive thought though, to wish for something and Puff! Tada! It was there for you. Edward sighed, opening his eyes, grinning at the sky. I doubted even the stars could find me someone to love. Maybe Edward should have wished for someone. He would be much easier to please. Edward turned to me, still smiling. "Do you want me to get you something to drink?"

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"Non-alcoholic?" I checked. "Sure." I nodded. Looking back up at my wishing star, musing about the speed of wish. Had I been paying more attention I would have noticed that the spray from someone jumping into the pool was going to soak me, and I would have jumped up and out of the way. I did jump up though, after the shock of the wet. The water didn't stop though, and I realized that it hadn't been water from the pool. It wasn't even water. I looked up surprised into narrowed fishy blue eyes framed by blond corn silk hair. That wasn't what was surprising me though. The taller blond girl was currently emptying her drink on my shirt, shaking the empty cup to get the last drops of some kind of alcoholic drink out of the cup. I stared at her, trying to understand why she, a stranger, would antagonize me. I kept waiting for the drunken haze in her eyes to sober with shock, and then apologize for mistaking me for someone else. She didn't. She continued to glare at me, a small smirk pulling up the side of her painted lips. Finally after staring at the girl like a moron, I grasp that a group of partier's had gather around us, waiting with anticipation for a cat fight to ensue. I didn't know what to do or say, the only think I could fully wrap my head around at the moment was that I wasn't angry as I should have been. The girl was definitely drunk, she must not behave like this normally and in all actuality, she had most likely mistaken me for someone else. She must have finally recognized that I wasn't reacting in the way she wanted. "You," her words slurred and she wobbled a little on the insanely high stiletto strap ons. I knew from experience that if I wore heels, I fell down stairs. "You have to stay away from Edward." she slurred, poking me in the chest. One of the girls behind her-her friend I guessed-steadied her, giving me an apologetic look. I blinked incredulously at her. "Who?" I asked stupidly."You mean Edward Cullen?" The girl nodded, and the action upset her balance. I caught her before she fell into the pool. "You don't need to worry about it, really. We're only friends; he's all yours if you want." I said, gently steadying her again. I really was feeling bad for her, she was so drunk that she could hardly stand up let alone judge a relationship at a distance. She was going to have a wicked hang over tomorrow. My answer confused her, "What? You...Don' want...Edwa'd?" she seemed to be struggling with the sentence as if wondering if words could be put into a sentence that way. What a shocker, the girl who wishes on a star for Mr. Right is the same one who can't find him in Edward. AKA, Mr. Wrong. I looked around the circle for him, wondering if he had come back with our drinks yet. Maybe he could explain our awkward little truce. Not that I didn't like him, he was an easy person to be around, good friend material if I could just over look his occasional jerk moments. That or he was to suddenly have an epiphany and realise how to act around me at the very least. The blond girl's eyes were suddenly furious. She pitched forward and for a moment I thought she was falling again. I readied myself to catch her. Her seemingly light frame hit me with more force then I was expecting and I stumbled to the side and over the lip of the pool. The pool water was much colder then I had thought it would be. I came up sputtering and saw the blond girl's

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friend steady her. The she smirked at me. Oh. Oh. She hadn't fallen at all, she'd pushed me. I finally glared at the girl, silently wishing that the other girl, the blond girl's friend I assumed, hadn't come out to steady her. Actually I wished that she too had fallen into the pool. The thing that made me angriest of all was that everyone knew whether I was lying or not. It was just so obvious, even to the fishy eyed girl leering at me from the side of the pool. I gritted my teeth back at her, I hoped her hang over was bad. The crowd was murmuring among themselves, most were laughing at the scene, at me in the pool and the drunken blond who was teetering precariously on the edge. I was soaked and cold. Would Edward make me walk home, or would he let me get into his car as sodden as I was? I really didn't want to walk home. Maybe I'd bargain some more girly lessons if he would let me in the car, or at the very least in the trunk. "CANNON BALL!" Some one yelled from the crowd. The voice was all too familiar by now. The crowd turned, and then parted for Edward who dashed through the crowd. When he reached the pool he used his arm to sling shot the blond into the pool, and then quickly followed after her, curling into a ball as he crashed into the water. I gasped as a wave of water hit me, and then Edward came rose out of the shimmering pool, shadows from the light under the water flickered across his excited face. He grinned at me and I smirked back. "So how about that drink?" I asked after a moment. Edward threw his head back and laughed, I splashed him. I was just taking a deep breath to take refuge under the water when we both turned to watch a sobbing blond girl haul herself out of the water. Her make-up ran and her shirt looked designer, expensive. She had lost one of her strapy heels in the pool. She sobbed that he mother was going to kill her; the out fit had been expensive. I looked around through the water quickly to see if I could find her stray shoe, but Edward splashed me before I could do much looking. I laughed, diving under the water to escape him. I'd see it as karma then. My shoes were going to be soaked tomorrow. The some of the people who had been standing around the pool started to jump and push each other into the pool now. I came up for air as did Edward. He smiled at me, "Look, you've started a trend." He said chuckling. I grinned back at him before climbing out of the pool to dry off a little before I had to get back into Edward's car to go home. Alice and the others had seen everything from a distance, so they understood why I was wet, shivering, and wanting to go home. None of them complained except for Rosalie who grumble about Edward smelling like wet dog.

Chap 7 Allergies (Edward's P.O.V)

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Teeny Tiny Twilight. Desolation finally took over when I scanned the very last place that I thought she would be. I smiled grimly at a large dark haired man who manned the counter behind the booming fast food restaurant on campus. The school was busy with people coming and going to grab lunch. My stomach growled, empty. I hadn't stopped to eat; I wouldn't until I found that damn escape artist. She was there, right by my side and we were carrying on a conversation about how different this place was compared to her previous home. All part of my carefully constructed plan to make her fall head over heals for me. It wasn't going well. She should have thrown herself at me two days ago. Actually I should have gotten her number the very first day. Not going well at all. She had been so close to my side, so close that I could feel the heat of her body and then someone bumped her and then...well she was gone. I searched that hall twice before trying my luck somewhere with food. There had to be something normal about her, she had to at the very least need food to sustain her, or was that going to be one more thing that I didn't have in common with her? I had created a character traits list in my head of her so far. The good things: Loyal: I had seen her when she had been playing basket ball with her friends-boys, other men who actually got the excuse to rub up against her.-She had stood up for her friends. No mater that it could have gone either way, the others could have taken that wretch Tyler's side. Brave: She was not only willing to stand up to me, taller and stronger then she could ever hope to be, but she held her head high when she stood for something she believed in. Even when it was someone larger then her and hostile I didn't see even the barest hint of cowardice in her. Passionate: When she talked about her home, her mother, she sounded like she was talking about her daughter instead of the other way around. She was fiercely protective of her friends and family, even the place where she lived and nothing I could do or say would ever change that. The main part of my plan was making her see that she could be home here, with me. I was already starting to see her as my home. Fun: She wasn't like the other girls; she actually acted normal around me, like one would act around a good friend. She wasn't attention grabbing or touching more then really necessary. It was comfortable to be with her, easier then breathing. I was her friend. A friend who I hopped was well on his way to being her good friend. She liked to play sports and didn't play Barbie when she got hit; she took all the hits and laughed them off, unless of course I was being intentionally rough with her, then she gave it right back. Interesting: When we did things that would usually bore me, like talking about her, I enjoyed it. I don't think I could do that with another girl now that I knew how absolutely fascinating Bella was. When she was looking for a word, or was becoming passionate about what we were talking about, she would talk with her hands, pulling words out of the air and painting a picture for me. I found myself becoming more and more involved with her, like I was a man, gasping for air above a churning sea. I fell gladly into oblivion. Beautiful: She was beautiful, so beautiful that with just one look, just one smile my whole idea of beauty was so deftly trounced that nothing would ever look the same to me again. Blond hair seemed so plain now to all the colours of Bella's hair. To just say it was brown would be of the greatest insult. It was like looking at a white light. Yes, it was beautiful in its own way until it was shone through a crystal. That was when all the colours came out, dancing and shimmering. Her hair even seemed to glisten in the right light, like bronzed mercury. So beautiful it drove men insane. Her body was thin, not especially curvy, but her body was perfect, it was fit and soft, a contradiction like herself. How could something be so beautiful, so absolutely perfect that

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everyone was blinded by it? They were so scared that they pretended not to see it, turning their cowardice onto false angles, airbrushed to perfection. Intelligent: Ask her anything and she will know. Even her eyes, when she smiles you had that peculiar sensation that you were missing some secret that twirled and danced before your eyes but remained unseen to everyone but her. She can dissect the world and leave you with a complete understanding of anything and everything. Everything but math. Caring: The way that she looked at people, even blond skanks that were so drunk they couldn't see that throwing her drink on a girl so above her it was so comical it was criminal. The only time she lost her temper was about ten minutes after I would have thrown her into the pool, taking great a delight in drowning her. I would have chewed Lauren out but the simple fact that Bella would have taken pity on the drunk even after all Lauren had done to her made me keep it light. If I did see her again though...well that was a different story. And the list went on. The bad things: Nada, zilch, zero, nil, nothing. It was pathetic, every time I was sure I had found something about her I didn't like, or something that took away from her I would calm down and realise that the 'fault' I was so caught up on was nothing more then a cleaver cover for another on of her merits. Like her quick anger-usually directed at me-but that only supported her passion, her decentness to stand up for what she knew was right. I growled under my breath as I mistook a short brunet with long hair for the object of my obsessionoops-affection. It just didn't make sense! How could I have lost her? She was so absolutely unique and noticeable. Odd since she was so short, but I could pick her out from a crowd of thousands nonetheless. And yet right now, literally in a crowd of thousands, I couldn't find her. Oh the irony. I turned the corner of the small plaza in the middle of our grounds where all the shops and restaurants were horded. I had my hands stuffed into my pockets, purposely stepping on the cracks in the walk as I carried on in my petulant way, mourning my loss of company. It had been such a good day too; she had only threatened to toss me into the lake once. I blew a weighted breath out as I leaned against a wall. I watched the cool breeze off the lake make the autumn leaves shiver as the sun lightened the yellow leaves a regal gold and the red and orange ones glowed like jewels. I wanted to share this with her, the way the afternoon sun shimmered off the lake. Would she find them beautiful or would they be too alien from her home in the Valley of the sun? I wonder if I would reach the few inches to touch her hand gently if she had been standing here. Probably not. Someone tapped softly on my shoulder. The touch reminded me of that of a child. When I turned around and saw a short dark haired girl I nearly had a stroke. "Hey, Alice." I meant to greet cheerfully. It came out sounding like a sullen mutter. I looked back towards the lake, not seeing anything because there was nothing worth looking at. I caught Alice nod at me from the corner of my eye before she leaned against the wall beside me. We were

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both silent caught in our own meditations. After a few minutes it was starting to feel ridiculous. Why the hell shouldn't I be able to enjoy my day without her, she was just a girl. Had anyone, whether they were 5 foot or 8 foot said that Bella, my Bella was just a girl, I would have hit them so hard they would feel it next week. "So," I said casually, smiling down, down, down at Alice, "The trees are pretty." "I know where she is you know." I looked back to the lake, "Who? I don't know who you're talking about." Like hell I didn't. My nerve endings were jumping at just the thought of her. "Okay," She shrugged, turning to leave. I had caught the sly look she threw me over her shoulder. I debated for about three seconds before calling her back, wincing as I did so. The temptation to see Bella now instead of half an hour from now was too tempting. "Where is she?" Alice spun around so fast that she blurred. "I knew it!" she squealed excitedly, "You love her. Bella and Edward sitting in a tree-" I clapped my hand over her mouth, taking her hostage. "Would you shut-up? People are staring." I snapped angrily. I thought I had been subtle about my crush too. How disappointing. I let go of Alice hesitantly, keeping a ready hand to silence her again if needed. She gasped, "You didn't deny it." She said slowly after a second of awed silence. I winced, that probably would have been a good idea. After dissecting my expression more carefully she smiled smugly, "She likes you, you know." My heart stopped, and then went into overtime. It felt like a 10,000 volt light bulb had gone off inside me. I could feel my glowing expression from the inside and with the light came the heat. I could feel the warmth from the tip of my nose to my littlest toe. She liked me too? Did she like me as much as I loved her? Oh God. I loved her. No, not love; it was some odd combination of lust, admiration, and infatuation so skilfully blended together that it just felt like love. It felt a lot like love. But maybe, she was in a similar boat as me. Did she feel even close to the way I felt for her? All I needed was for her to feel a tenth of what I felt for her and it would be enough for forever. Alice watched the expressions with humour, it looked like, but then again it was so hard to concentrate on anything other then the tingling sensation that was spreading through my body. It was similar to the after shock of touching her for the first time. "Yup. She said that you make a decent friend." Alice stated proudly, watching my face with an intensity that would have had me suspicious if I hadn't been so distracted with our conversation. "Decent...friend?" I asked after I had taken a moment to get over the feeling of having acid shot into my veins. My face must have been as easy to read as Bella's-that thought made the weight in my chest disappear-because she smiled at my reaction, pleased. I felt a sudden aversion to the little black haired girl I thought I had grown to like after the last couple of days. She was evil, pure evil. Who would inflict something so... raw, so heart-rending, and then have the nerve to smile? I glared at her before stalking away like a petulant child. "Go ruin someone else's day." I muttered as she

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skipped after me. Her soft steps made the anger flare sickeningly. How was something so small so annoying? Actually, better question. How did Jasper put up with her? I would have given her the boot a long time ago. I voiced my thoughts, "Amazing, how can something so tiny can be so annoying." Alice gave me a dark look, and for a moment I thought-happily-that I had offended her, "Too bad you didn't figure that out earlier." She grumbled angrily. She mumbled something else so low I could hardly catch it, though I thought it sounded like, "would have made it so much easier." I glanced at her from the corner of my eye, curious despite myself, "What?" Alice gave me a hard look, "If you hadn't been hitting on me and had entirely focused yourself on Bella, she wouldn't be regarding you as...well...scum. True as it may be, it sucks." What hurt most about what she said was it was true. There was absolutely no way I could deny something so obvious, and then to have it confirmed though I had known in some part of my mind that Bella saw me as scum, too low to even want to get caught on her shoe. Stupid Alice, might as well just knock me over the back of the head with a cinder block repeatedly, it would hurt a whole hell of a lot less. That was what made my voice sharp while when I answered, "Why do you care?" I sulked, looking at my shoes. Suddenly the sunny autumn day wasn't so lovely anymore. I would gladly crawl into a hole and die right about now. "Because you are obviously too stupid to understand subtle messages, I'll spell it out for you," she turned to look me head on. I made a face at her. I was achieving high 80's right now in advanced classes. I was a lot of horrible disgusting things and stupid, wasn't one of them. "I want Bella to be happy, and I think that she will be happiest with you. Don't know why, but I just know. I want Bella to start getting out more; she has a bit of a self esteem problem as I'm sure even you can notice. I want her to get out more, be active and really love someone." She started walking again. Alice was on my side? Well, that just brought her up a few thousand notches in my book. She can trash me anytime she wants. Alice kicked her feet though a small pile of leaves sending them fluttering across the yard. My thoughts were just as scattered and not nearly as easily reconciled. "Do you know Bella has never even kissed a man? I couldn't get much out of her, but my guess is she never had a boyfriend before either, maybe she's never even hugged a boy." Alice looked horror struck. I could only hope. I gave her a disbelieving look, though I would have lived happily to know that no man had ever really touched her. I saw some of the boys she played with hug her so that last part was obviously false. "I think she's hugged people Alice, she didn't grow up in a monastery." Though that would explain her surprisingly virtuous behaviour sometimes. Or maybe-surprise, surprise- Bella was just good. "Yeah, I guess." Alice said, looking distant. I sighed too as we lapsed into silence. I was itching to push Alice for more information on Bella, but I didn't want to give her anymore to go on. If she wanted me to be with Bella, then I would work diligently with her to make that happen. Showing just how obsessed I was with Bella would not help. I watched a small group of people run by, their ponytails swaying, a few boys were thrown in too. I saw one of the boys on Bella's team running. Seth was among them. I liked Seth, he was a cheerful kind of person and from first impressions alone I liked him very much. I was suddenly and almost violently thrust back into one of my memories of Bella playing basket ball. How she had walked over, not commenting on Seth's lack of aim, and lead by example, not wanting to embarrass him or make him feel lower then her. I saw another one of the restaurants clustered in the centre square, one of the first ones I had gone to looking for Bella. An idea struck me and I turned sharply to catch the door to the restaurant, nearly clothes-lining a

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young boy in the process. Alice turned too, ducking under someone. I held the door for her, and then followed after her to get in line to order something. If I had any luck at all Bella, was going in to be a doctor, she wouldn't be squeamish of blood like so many other girls were. She was stronger then that. My stomach twisted violently as the full realization of what I was doing sunk in. This could either work really well, or it would really screw me over. Rose used to tease me when I was younger because of my violent allergic reactions to mushrooms. I would be physically sick for days, anyone looking in from the out side would think I was dying of the Spanish flu, and then, like magic I would be well again. Perfect. My father even joked about feeding me mushrooms every year rather then get the flu shot. It prepared me just as well. What was the old saying? What didn't kill you only made you stronger. I loaded mushrooms onto my plate, filling it to the top. Please, oh please let Bella want to be a doctor. Chap 8 Oh...Crap (Bella's P.O.V.) Teeny Tiny Twilight The smell of books was all around me. I sat cross-legged on the floor looking up at a huge shelf of books, trying to pick one out. I was going to be staying in a lot anyways and there were only so many times you could read the same book before it lost its 'wow' factor. Speaking of factors, factoring, and then math geeks. I'm surprised Edward hadn't come looking for me yet; we were in the middle of a conversation before I got sucked into the library by the books. I had thought that maybe he would have been angry at me for not riding home with him last night, but I wanted to make it clear that I wasn't choosing sides in Edward and Rose's fight, so I rode home with Rosalie. I had been especially nervous when he hadn't met me at my door in the morning to walk Alice and me to school, though it is only a short ten minute walk. My fears were apparently unnecessary because before I even walked through the doors to the school I was engulfed in a huge hug and a million apologies. In short, he was sorry for potentially driving a wedge between Rosie and me. I also had the feeling he thought he had driven a wedge in our friendship. I could confidently call Edward my friend after what he did for me last night. Though I was wondering what he had told or done to make Alice so leery last night. She gone into a full barrage of questions, interrogating me on everything from how many boys I had kissed how many boyfriends I'd had, all the way to where I wanted my honeymoon to be. My answers were, "none", "go away Alice!", and "Somewhere warm." I had to pretend to pass out for her to finally stop. I had been a little more then nervous this morning incase she restarted the tirade. She seemed to be on a mission though so I let it be. "Have you eaten yet?" A velvet voice whispered near my ear. I jumped and dropped the book I had been looking at. "Yesh Edward! Scare the crap out of me why don't you." I grinned at him. For a moment he looked angry, and then the hard look on his face disappeared, his lips twitching up into a smile.

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"You haven't answered my question." He folded himself on the ground next to me, glancing sideways at the book I had dropped. "No, I haven't eaten yet, I'll get something later." I went back to reading my book. I stopped, my eyes narrowing at the pages. Something was off, I couldn't put my finger on it, but Edward didn't seem right. I peered up over the pages of the first chapter. I didn't even know what the first sentence said yet. "Have you eaten?" I asked him. He didn't look good. He chuckled darkly, "Yes, I have." I could feel my face pull into a frown. I put my hand against his forehead, feeling it. His eyes closed. "You don't look so good Edward. You feel kind of warm." As I watched, something that almost looked like guilt flashed through his eyes before he looked down. I still had my hand pressed against his forehead. I let it fall numbly into my lap. "Your hands are cold." He murmured quietly, looking up again. He had his smile back on. The smile at least helped calm my worries a token amount. I touched my hand against my forehead, feeling that my hands were cold. "Oh, sorry." He shrugged easily, but one hand moved across his stomach unconsciously. Did his stomach hurt? Had he gotten food poisoning? He was starting to look a little green around the gills. "Maybe you should go back home and lay down. I'll tell Mrs. Dwight where you are." Edward was shaking his head before I had even finished my sentence. "I'm fine, Doctor." He grinned. I smiled back at him, "I wish. I'm going in to be a lawyer." Edward looked horrified for a second, and then he cast his eyes to the ceiling as if he had expected as much. I didn't understand why my career choice would bother him. He chuckled suddenly, "Do you want to hear a lawyer joke?" he asked looking back down at me. Distracting me. "Sure." "A doctor and a lawyer are at a cocktail party when the doctor was approached by a man who asked advice on how to handle his ulcer." Edward laughed a little to himself. "Go on." I said, getting more comfortable. This was going to be good. "So the doctor mumbles some medical advice, then turned to the lawyer and asks, 'How do you handle the situation when you are asked for advice during a social function?' and the lawyer says 'Just send a bill for such advice' well on the next morning the doctor arrived at his surgery and gave the man with an ulcer a $50 bill. That same afternoon he gets a $100 bill from the lawyer." Edward shot me a glance from the corner of his eye, making sure he hadn't offended me. He hadn't. I was laughing so hard I had one hand curled around my waist while the other was necessarily supporting me so I didn't topple over. "Nice," I laughed, wiping the moisture from my eyes. Edward still wasn't looking well. I touched his forehead again, pressing my other hand against my forehead to compare the difference. Well either we were both sick and had high fevers, or we were both well and my hands were cold. I went with the later. Sighing I dropped my hand from his forehead. "I don't think you have a fever." I said slowly, "You sure you don't want to lie

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down?" "Nope I'm good for a little while. We only have a couple hours of school left anyways." He got up, wobbling a little as he did. I jumped up steadying him. He laughed, "I think I got up too quickly, relax." His voice was nonchalant, but his eyes danced with pleasure. I think he enjoyed the attention, especially since I usually didn't give him much. He pulled me towards the door of the library; I still had my book in my hand. I pulled away from him to check it out, and then followed him to class after he grabbed his books and my own. I unsuccessfully tried to steal my books back from him but he grinned, keeping them out of my reach. "Jerk." I muttered. He chuckled, "I thought girls liked it when boys carried their books." He saw the look I gave him and he rolled his eyes, "I'm being nice, try it sometime." I made another grab for them ignoring his last comment, "We only want boys to carry our books when we actually want them too. Some of us ask." I snapped. I gave up and ignored him all the way to class. I think I was starting to understand why Edward wanted my attention now. He was like a child, take away something he wants and he'll do what he can to get it, I doubted that he could control his coming down with a bug though. He opened the door for me, amazingly managing to balance his and my books with one hand at the same time, not to mention giving me an adorable crooked smile that made the previous anger dissipate. I wrinkled my nose at him in return, at which he laughed heartedly. I made my way to my desk, uncomfortable at not having my books in my hands and at how everyone's eyes caught that Edward was holding them. I sat down, my hand pushing one cheek up so that when I blinked I could feel my eye lashed brush against my skin. It was a queer feeling. Edward poked my side. I jumped, then slapped his hand away. "Okay Edward, this is very important so listen." I said as seriously as I could. Edward sobered, his skin was paler then usual but that was probably due to the bug he had. "You're popping my bubble." Edward's eye brow raised until it disappeared under his hair. "My personal space bubble. Is it not enough that you stalk me? Can't you have a little restraint when it comes to touching?" "Two things." He held up two fingers. I rolled my eyes but listened. "I don't stalk you-" I cut him off, slapping myself in the forehead-a little harder then I meant to. Ouch-"Of course, my mistake. What's the word for someone who follows you around against you will, chases you into woods, and doesn't get the hint. Oh right. A stalker." I don't think I had ever been that rude to anyone before. Edward definitely brought out the worst in me. Alice though it was an interesting improvement. Spunky. I couldn't really be sure, but I thought I saw Edward's face go paler, "What do you mean I don't get the hint?" he asked. I put a hand to his head again. He waved it away so I sighed, answering him. "That you need to back off. Stalker." I grinned the last part so I didn't upset him too much. As much as I wined and complained he was kind of funny, and he actually listened to what I said instead of constantly interjecting with his own stories. Definitely a refreshing improvement to the Y chromosome.

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He caught my grin and interpreted it easily. Another good thing about him, he actually saw things. Probably had to learn quickly to be able to differentiate between all the different girls and then match names and birthdays to them all. Wow he was actually pretty talented. Even if he did have a little trouble with the names sometimes. "You love my company, admit it, I bring little fluttering, singing birds into your life." He twittered his fingers and I laughed. "Too true, and singing mice too." I added that last part remembering Cinderella and other Disney movies from so long ago curled up on the couch in my warm home with Renee. She cried sometimes. She also hammered it in every time a girl walked down the isles that a girl doesn't need to marry to be happy and that women could get through life on their own thank you very much. Probably where I got my attitude from. "Oh, and I'll give you your first lesson tonight. Can you tell me anything about Miss. X?" I asked. For a second he grimaced and I couldn't figure out why. He was the one that wanted the lessons, or was his bug worse then he let on? I could feel my eyebrows inch together. Then something humoured him, "Miss. X?" he asked, arching an eyebrow again, grinning at me. I smiled too. It was kind of funny, but only a little. "I don't like thinking of her as just her. A non-entity. If you aren't going to give me her name, I'll give her a name." I could feel my chin jutting out stubbornly and I knew I looked like an idiot but it was hard to care around Edward. I didn't judge Edward outwardly and so I didn't feel the need to reciprocate the action upon myself. I was just so comfortable around Edward too, like I didn't need to impress him like I needed to with other people. Like the boys on my team, Rose and Alice's boyfriends-because God knows I'd make a fool of myself if I didn't try not to-and even Alice and Rose too sometimes. Everyone and everything in my life right now was feeling too good to be true, I was sure to screw something up eventually. Edward cocked his head, regarding me curiously. "Hmm." He murmured. The teacher walked in then and I gladly let him try to capture my attention. It was after all, math. AN HOUR AND A HALF LATER "Get into bed. Now." I was actually snarling at him, my lip curled up over my teeth like an animal. Edward didn't even have enough strength to make a witty comment, he hardly even complained. There was one week sound that sounded like "No." before he collapsed onto the couch. I had to get us both out of gym to get him home in time before he collapsed on someone. Someone likely being me, and he was heavier then he looked. Stupid moron. He should have just said he wasn't feeling well. He was pale as a corps, sweating profusely even though the Canadian weather was less then generous with the sun today. I had brought him to my house, half afraid he would pass out before I dragged him to his and then I would have had to drag him all the way back to mine anyways since I didn't know where he lived. I went and got a thermometer and came back. He didn't complain when I put it under his arm. He groaned, "You might want to get a bucket." He rasped. Oh...Crap. I took off down the hall and grabbed the garbage can in my still bed less room. And brought it back just as quickly. I put it beside the couch and took a step back. Edward had wrapped himself up in some blankets.

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When I had said 'bed' I had used the word pretty loosely. Because I still wasn't going to get my bed until Monday and I didn't want to contaminate Alice's bed with what ever Edward had, I had no other choice then to put him on the couch. I felt like a horrible host. I took the thermometer out from under his arm cautiously and read it. Fever, he unquestionably had a fever. I moved Edward's feet, sat down at the end of the couch, then took his feet back into my lap. "Please get some sleep?" I asked hopelessly. He muttered something incoherent. To say I was scared was a horrible understatement. I was terrified, how could he have gotten so bad in such a short amount of time? He had seemed almost normal before, now he looked like he was well on his way to his death bed. I shuddered. "Go do something; you don't need to watch me." He muttered, his words were so slurred that I almost thought he was speaking another language. It took my mind a slow second to interpret it. "What if I put on a movie? Then I'll be doing something." He moved his feet off his lap so I could get up. I took it he was saying, 'Sure. Knock yourself out.' I grabbed a movie and popped it in, not really seeing what it was; I turned the sound down too far to hear it anyways. I just wanted him to sleep. Sleep and get well again. I sat back down and Edward replaced his feet on my legs, I saw him grin at me for a second. I smiled back. He was out in seconds. Apparently, so was I. When I woke up the blue from the TV screen was the only thing lighting the dark room. My legs we numb and it took me a second to figure out why. It took me another second to understand why Edward's head was in my lap. I could have sworn it had been his feet there last time I was conscious. I looked to the empty-but wet-bucket by his head, and then the glass of water on the floor. Oh, he'd gone to wash his mouth out, and he had used the bucket obviously. I ran my hands through his hair, giving him a pitying look. I remembered how my mother was always there to make me feel better when I was sick, that's the only thing that made it bearable for me. Edward had been here for years according to Alice, he hadn't had his mom or dad here to comfort him like I had. I touched his forehead again and then gasped, pulling my hand away. Holy crap he was hot! I touched him again and then sighed, shifting him to the couch to wet a face cloth for him, a damp compress for his forehead. My stomach growled. I quickly munched on a granola bar, and then got the face cloth from the sheet closet in the hallway. We used it for sheets, blankets, towels, pillows and little face cloths. I grabbed one and wet it. I went back into the living room, but as I passed Alice's room with her empty bed, something occurred to me. Where was she? There was a groan from the living room that pushed the thought out of my head and had me scurrying for the living room. I folded the cool face cloth and put it on his forehead. Edward's eyes opened. At first they looked unfocused, blurry, and then he focused on me. "Bella?" he croaked.

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I wanted to run my hand through his soft locks again, to sooth the ache he was suffering. But I was more then a little afraid he would take it in the wrong way and reject me. Silly as it sounded, because of course I didn't want Edward in that way, I still didn't want to be rejected. "I'm here; I'll go make a bed up on the floor if you like. Right here if you need me." He muttered something incoherent. All I caught was 'bed' and a few other consonants. "You want to sleep in a bed?" I asked, biting my lip. Of course I wanted to make him as comfortable as possible, but that was Alice's bed, not mine. I didn't think she would appreciate it if I brought a sick puking Edward into it. "No," he groaned impatiently, his voice a little clearer. "Bella, go to bed." He trailed off and then he was asleep again. I sighed, going back to the closet to get two blankets and two pillows. I made my bed, and then lifted Edward's head ever so gently so as not to wake him and slipped the pillow underneath. He muttered something that resembled a garbled thank you. I smiled a little then climbed into my make shift bed on the floor, ignoring Edward's previous request of me sleeping in a bed. I wanted to keep an eye on him tonight. He was starting to worry me. I closed my eyes, though knowing that sleep was hopeless. I had slept through the afternoon. I wouldn't be tired for a while. I got up and rummaged through my school bag until I found the library book I had checked out, and then I gladly submerged myself into a world of classics where fate and destiny weren't silly and true love conquered all. Edward's soft breathing was the only sound in the room.

Chap 9 (Alice's P.O.V.) Moron I touched his face, feeling the smoothness, the utter perfection of his features, of his tanned skin. Gently I ran my hand over the scar on his shoulder. It was a scar from when he had been in the army. He didn't like to talk about it and neither did I. His blue eyes framed by a thick fringe of dark lashes fluttered open. "Don't go." He murmured quietly. I was visiting his dorm room as I often did when I could see him. I needed to see him today, especially after talking to Edward and seeing how lucky I was to have Jasper. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't have him. Die probably. I would gladly go without shopping for the rest of my life if it meant I could keep Jasper. I could be happy with just him. The more I thought about this afternoon the more it made sense what Edward was doing. It was moronic and stupid and just plain wrong. But it is nothing compared to what I would do to be with Jasper. If Jasper was only my friend, if Jasper didn't see me or want me as anything more then a friend, I would do anything and everything in my power to get his attention. Because I knew, somewhere in my heart, I knew that when Jasper found his special someone, I wouldn't interrupt. I loved him too much to take away his happiness. But then I would be alone. So yes, what Edward was doing was stupid and I wanted to hit him repeatedly for what he was about to do, but I could understand it. Grudgingly, immorally, dissolutely, but still I could understand it.

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"I'm sorry." I smiled back at him. "I'll see you this weekend though." My voice though meant as a command-there was no room for compromise-still came out soft. We had some...special plans on the weekend. I would have to tell Bella about them eventually. I hope she wouldn't mind sleeping on the couch while we were in the bedroom. We wouldn't be too loud and the walls were thick anyways. "Have you told Bella about this weekend?" Jasper asked, on exactly the same page as me. I grinned at his uncanny way of being inside me. Not just my head but my body too (not in that way, but he was amazing at that too). He knew what I was feeling when I sometimes couldn't even put a name to it, let alone a face. He especially picked up on how I felt about Bella. I could see her so clearly, she was absolutely beautiful. On the inside especially. She deserved her own Jasper, or her own Emmett. She deserved Edward. I made a face, and then looked up from under my own thick eye lashes. Blue onto blue. Two flowing rivers entwined into one. Not one person could separate us, make us individual again, no more then they could undo time. It was there, and if you didn't like it...tough. Jasper's breath caught at my look. Even after all the time in the army I could undo his unshakeable composure. "Getting on it." I breathed. I held back a smug grin. I could get away with murder around Jasper, I just needed to learn how to look at him, how to talk, when to cross my legs and so and so forth. Of course he had the same advantages over me so I didn't use his weakness against him too often. I let my fingers walk up his arm, across his bare chest-his shirt was still on the floor beside the couch-and then slowly, so slowly I dragged my fingers down his chest. Jasper swallowed thickly. "Take your time." he said in a voice an octave too high. I couldn't stop my smile this time. I leaned in closer, letting my lips brush across the scar on his shoulder, a silent promise that I accepted him fully-past and all-and then trailed my lips up his throat, along his jaw. I paused to take his earlobe into my mouth, nibbling it teasingly. He groaned beside me. I pulled away for a second to look into his eyes again, watching as I always did the vision that replays in my mind each time I am with my Jasper. Like a movie it played behind my lids. Me, walking down the aisle-dressed in white-towards him, his father beside him and the minister behind them both. I didn't even care about what I was wearing; I could be wearing one Gucci shoe and one Parada shoe. It wouldn't matter, only what was waiting for me would matter. Then I kissed him. It was just a short kiss, much to my dismay. He and I both knew I had to go, we both had school tomorrow. I smiled as I pulled away. "Well if you really don't want me to leave we could run away and elope." Jasper laughed, kissed the end of my nose and then got up. "I wish." He muttered putting his shirt back on. My heart hammered in my chest. He ran his hands through my short hair. I knew he liked how soft it was but our hair was the same length. If that ever bothered him, he never showed it. Quiet the opposite actually.

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I started to feel the usual pressure in my stomach, the need to march my blond hair angel, literally my other half, right back into his bedroom and start undressing him. I didn't have to leave right now; Bella was fine on her own for a few more hours. Unless Edward was there. Stupid, moron, Jerk, taking away my time with Jasper. Jasper's eyes were suddenly on the same level as mine. Quiet a feat since I was almost literally half his size. "Don't worry about them Ali." He was doing it again. I was worried. All I know is that Edward was allergic to mushrooms. What if it was really bad? What if it scared Bella? What if she didn't know what to do? Jasper gave up on the verbal approach on calming me down, instead tried to distract me. "So what do you want to do on Saturday?" I gasped, and started to bounce excitedly in place. "If Edward is feeling better I want to play football again. It was fun. And then I want to have a bit of alone time with you. Other then that, I'll do what you want to do." Jasper touched his nose to mine. "I want to do whatever makes you happy." I giggled, rubbing his nose with mine. "I'm happy when you're happy. But since my being happy is what makes you happy and you make me happy..." I sighed, "Well I guess you'll just never get to leave. You'll be my prisoner." Jasper grinned and my stomach flipped. "Promise?" I scrunched my nose a little, and then kissed his cheek. "I'll see you Saturday!" I called as I skipped out the door and through the parking lot to my car. I looked at the clouds, the sun throwing splashed of orange and pink through them. I looked away from the sunset to the opposite facing point in the sky. The sky was dark. I worried a little as I got into my little Toyota. Mom didn't want me to bring my Porsche incase something happened to it. This was a boarding school after all. I ignored the elevator; stupid student council had probably turned it off by now. When I climbed the stairs, counting them in my head as I went in the dark. I really hoped someone fell down these stairs in the dark and got hurt, maybe then they would take the curfew off. Or they'd hide the body in the closet. I dug into my bag when I reached my door, still not used to having the door unlocked from my roommate. The thought made me giddy again and I skipped through the open door joyously. I nearly screamed when I found a dark hulking figure looming over Bella who was splayed out on the floor. I couldn't see his face in the dark but I could see Bella's in the light from the TV. An adrenalin rush made my hands shake, the room was clearer and with one mighty war screech I threw myself at Bella's attacker. I pulled on his hair and bit his shoulder hard enough to draw blood. Bella's attacker didn't even cry out.

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One arm reached back, took hold of my arm, and then sent me sprawling into the couch. Luckily it was covered with blankets I assumed Bella had put out to wait for me to come home. I knocked my shin off the arm of the couch and I hissed in pain before preparing myself for another attack. "What the hell is your problem?" The shrouded figure growled lowly, leaning in towards me with fists curled tightly in anger. I squinted my eyes in the dark. "Edward? Is that you?" "No, I'm the fucking boogie man." He reached back to touch his shoulder. Then, after a short pause; "You bit me." His voice was surprised. I got down from the couch, hands on my hips. "What was I supposed to do? I thought you were a rapist or something. I don't take well to being surprised." I pouted, looking away. Edward snorted, sitting down hard on the couch next to me. "I see that." Gingerly he put his head in his hands. "I think I did something really stupid." I rolled my eyes. "Breaking and entering is defiantly stupid, especially when you break into my place. Bella will kick you ass if she waked up and finds you here." "Actually, Bella brought me here. I was just about to take her into your room but I don't think I can." He sighed. "So...if breaking and entering wasn't your stupid stunt..." I trailed off, impatiently waiting for him to continue. Adrenalin still pumped through my veins. The feeling was intoxicating. He looked up at me, and though I wouldn't see his face, hidden in shadows as it was, I was sure he was giving me what Bella called a 'Duh' look. "Getting sick to get Bella's attention. I didn't realize how childish it was until Bella started to act like an adult. She put me to bed, she took my temperature, and she even tucked me in. I feel like a moron." "Good, because you are one. I told you in the car that Bella was a good person. She cares about people. If she thought you were sick then she'll take care of you. Right now you're her first priority." He sighed. I sighed too, "So I'm confused as to what really happens when you eat mushrooms. All I know is from what Rose says." Edward shrugged and it reminded me of the way Jasper shrugged when he didn't want to talk about something. Too damn bad Edward, he going to spill his guts. I narrowed my eyes dangerously. He got the hint. "I throw up a bit, you know get the mushrooms out, I get a fever, sleep a lot. Looks like I have the flu...just looks much more serious. I'll sleep most of the next day and that usually scares people. I guess I look kind of...sick."-it sounded to me like he changed his sentence at the last minute. My eyes narrowed.-"and then I'm better. Just like that." He shrugged easily again, trying to pass it off as nothing. "You're going to scare Bella." I sighed, looking at Bella. She was asleep on the floor; blue light flickered across her skin and the open pages of her book. She must have fallen asleep reading. She didn't look like she

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got far. I smiled a little at her. She was my sister just as much as Emmett was my brother. I just knew we would be the very best of friends when she sat in the desk beside me the very first day. "If you changed your mind about helping me...I would understand." He looked at Bella too. Just from the light of the TV I saw Edward's face for the first time. His face was pained but the emotion in his face was so real that I could feel it squeeze my heart. It reminded me of how Jasper looks at me sometimes when I have to leave, or he had to leave me. This face though, this face was much more severe, more heart wrenching. "Do you love her?" I asked in awe. Bella sighed softly in her sleep and I could feel my throat tighten. I wish Jasper was here to pick apart my emotion. Love for Bella, Joy for Bella, and something else I couldn't identify. Edward turned to look at me and for one moment the answer was clear in his face, then he turned away quickly. "Love...It's infatuation. It takes at least six months for people to get past the passion, the obsession before you start to think and feel rationally-" "Edward. Do you love her?" My hands were shaking, but my voice was steady. Steady and firm. He was silent for a long time, looking at Bella sleep on the floor. Her tine frame rose with each small breath. Then her lips pulled up in a smile. I saw Edward's lips mirror hers. "Edward..." Bella murmured suddenly. Edward nearly jumped out of his skin. I grinned; I was used to Bella's sleep talking. She usually just talked about her day a little, said some names. She said my name a lot. Bella sighed rolling over, "Edward, get...well." And then her soft breathing picked up again. Edward got down on his knees swiftly-decisively it seemed to me-and scooped Bella up in his arms-blankets and all-and took her into my bed. He seemed a little unsteady so I prepared myself to jump forward and catch Bella if he dropped her. Edward rolled his eyes at me, "She's lighter then my back pack, I won't drop her." He muttered something else under his breath. I'm thought it was a profanity about pixies. I stuck my tongue out at him. He laid her in the bed gently before standing back up. He wobbled again, and then leaned back. I raised an eye brow at him. "You don't look good. Can you make it back to the couch?" I could understand now how worried Bella must have been this afternoon. "I'm good. I deserve this and more anyways." He shook his head slowly, looking at Bella again. "I never knew how much of an ass I was-am-until I met her." I nodded too. "I try not to compare myself to her." I lied. I did a lot of things I know I shouldn't. That didn't stop me from essentially being a good person. It was only on rare occasions anyways. If I have lied to Bella it was only a singular act, and I took no enjoyment out of it. I felt retched for even keeping something trivial from her. This, keeping what Edward felt away from Bella was hard. Not as hard as I thought it would be, but still hard. A possible reason for why it wasn't so hard to keep this from her may have been due to the fact that this was going to work out for the better for her. And I knew it would. If I was graced with Jasper and Rose with Emmett then why shouldn't someone like Bella get to have her special someone? And now that I looked at Edward, really looked at him, it was easy to see there was something just as vital to him missing just as it was with Bella. At the very least Edward knew what he wanted. Bella was still in the dark.

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Ignorance is bliss. "You haven't answered my question." I told him, accusing him with my eyes. Edward ignored me, mumbling something about lying down and then pushed past me. I followed him, not quite sure why since all I wanted to do right now-other then Jasper-was to curl up into bed and sleep off today. The worry, the anxiety, the anger. All of it. Edward got under the blankets on the couch. I sat down, leaning my back against the couch as I replayed the movie Bella or Edward had put on earlier. It was quiet; the sound turned down so low it might as well have been muted. I rolled my eyes. Bella's work no doubt, probably reading while Edward watched the movie. "I think..." I looked up at the sound of Edward's voice. His eyes were closed and he looked close to sleep. "I think I do. Love her, I mean." His voice was starting to fade out. He mumbled something about a list and then he was out. I grinned; glad to have finally gotten what I wanted out of him. The compulsion to stay with him had ceased so I flicked the TV off and climbed into bed with Bella. I whispered in Bella's ear as I slipped under the warm covers, and found yet another bonus to having a roommate. Pre-warmed beds. "Nighty night, don't let the love bug bite." (BELLA'S P.O.V.) 1,000,000 days in an hour Tap. Tap, tap, tap, tap. Smack, smack, pop, smack, smack, pop, smack, smack. Tick, tick, tick, tick....tick....tick........t...ick.... GAH! The clocks were slowing down, I would swear upon my very life they were. Some kid across from me was tapping his pencil non stop and the little red head by his side smacking her gum were driving me insane. I glared at the board so menacingly that not even the teacher would try to make eye contact with me. My lack of patience today was probably due to the fact that the seat beside me was empty because a certain bronze haired, pale faced, green eyed, pretty boy was dying on my couch and I was stuck in school rather then there with him. I looked desperately at the clock again. I was going home right after school. I knew they were putting up who was or was not on the team tonight but seriously, would looking at the list a day after everyone else change whether I made it or not? No. and I was pretty sure I made it, let's face it. I kick ass. Not to be arrogant or anything. "Mrs. Swan?" the teacher drawled. Apparently he wasn't as scared as I had previously assumed. "What?" I snapped. I wasn't in the mood for explaining to my math teacher who I already didn't like, that I

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wasn't paying attention to his class because he was just as boring as the subject he taught. Actually I did want to tell him that, I just knew I shouldn't. "Answer the question Mrs. Swan or I'll have to sent you home." He seemed in just as bad a mood as I was. I gapped at him for a second, before a half crazy kind of smile started to pull at my lips, "Really?" I whispered. The teacher didn't look like he was comfortable being within proximity of someone who wasn't completely stable. Then the professional teacher face returned. "Mrs. Swan, being sent home isn't a favour, it is a punishment. I understand that because of your recent move to our school, you might not understand this chastisement so I'll make it clearer for you. All privileges are taken away, you are not to be out of your room other then to eat, and a staff member will accompany you for that, no visitors, and no sports for at least one week." He raised his head in a way that said, I win. And indeed he had. I looked at him in horror. No basket ball? No freedom? And by the look of it, this would be one of those things that went on your record. Defeated I looked down at my desk. What about Edward though? What if he needed me? What of he was in pain? I took a deep breath and look up again, "Sir? My friend, he is sick." I nodded to the desk beside me, "I was wondering, please, if I could take whatever work we have today and bring it home." This didn't seem enough though. I blushed, looking down, "I'm worried about him." I whispered. After a long silence the burning in my cheeks hadn't faded. I looked up to try and guess what the teacher's answer would be, and if the answer was no, then I also wanted to be prepared for another argument. Stupid Edward, getting sick. Making my worry about him. I sighed, I definitely needed my mom. I was going out of my way to find someone to take care of. My teacher turned around and started looking through the paper neatly stacked on his desk. My hopes rose. He held out the paper to me, his look firm, "I will not be making allowances in the future for this. Understood?" I nodded, quickly, "Thank you." I mumbled, my cheeks keeping a trace of their heat as I scurried from my math teacher blues. I was hurrying down the hall when I heard my name being called. I spun around too quickly, my math book that had been clutched to my chest flew out of my arms and scattered out all my papers, across the hall way. "Shoot." I hissed quietly. "Oh, sorry." Jared said, jogging down the hall to help me pick up my fleeing notes. He chuckled, bending down to help me scoop my homework up. I shrugged and grabbed my papers. "Don't worry about it. Stuff happens."-and then more quietly-"mostly to me." I looked up to grin at him. I remembered that one time out side the boys change room. Had Jared been trying to ask me on a date? once I thought about it I realized how silly it was. Jared looked back at me with his big blue eyes, his hair a dark colour, matching his darker skin. I blushed and looked down. "So, was there a reason for all this?" I asked, gesturing to the paper that we had gathered into a neat little pile. I stuffed all the papers back into my book, and found my problem immediately. I had forgotten to close the rings of my binder. Figures.

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Jared's eyes lit up. "Yeah, have you seen the basket ball-" I rolled my eyes cutting him off. "No, but I kind of figured I made it." I gave him a questioning glance, "It's no surprise you made it either." "No, no. I know that it's just that..." he trailed off looking at me oddly, a sense of awe. I felt uncomfortable, my shoulders hunched and I lurched unsteadily to my feet. "Jared, I really would love to stay and talk but I need to get home." I cradled my books against my chest securely and made my way as quickly down the hall as I could without breaking into a run. "'Kay...see yea." He called lamely after me. I waved once before I pushed the doors open and went home. It seemed that one that once last look I had given him, that his features had changed from the Jared, my friend, changed into someone else. Still friendly and kind, still my friend, but more determined. Resolute. I shook my head. It had been from a distance after all, and my eyes made mistakes all the time. I couldn't think any more on it though because I saw my house coming into a clearer focus, and with that my mind centred on its primary focus these days. Edward. Chap 10 Mrs. X When I came in, Edward was on the couch, asleep. The stiff feeling I hadn't even notice in my chest disappeared. It was good to be able to breathe again after the feeling of worry had vanished. I let Alice's door click softly closed, trying to be as quiet as possible as I tiptoed past the couch and over to my room. I leaned against the door, my hand between the hard rough wood of the door and the cool metal slip of the door jamb. I dithered over whether to keep the door open so I could hear Edward if he needed me, or closing it out of habit. Not a hard decision to make. I stepped away and pulled the door open. I could hear the couch creak as Edward shifted. I paused, holding my breath to see if he had woken up. His soft breaths were the only thing I could hear. I grinned and crossed to Alice's room throwing my math book onto her bed. It wasn't until I actually opened my binder that I realized all my notes were out of order. Lovely. I scowled at a piece of crumpled paper before relenting, organizing the chaos. What would have taken forty-five minutes, took me a little over an hour. Some of it had to do with having to reorganize my notes. Most of it had to do with me missing lessons. When I finally closed my book-finished-I rolled onto my back, enjoying the sudden (false) sense of freedom. The movement though rolled me off the bed. I gasped, clutching at the comforter as the bed disappeared from under me. I managed to bring my heavy math books down too. I threw one arm over me to protect my face. The textbook glanced off my arm and thumped onto the floor. "Ow," I muttered, rubbing my arm. I shot my math book a dirty look. It didn't return my antagonism.

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There was a heavy sigh from the living room. I froze, remembering my guest. I listened for a moment before Edward called out. "Hey Bella." I let my head fall against the hard floor, "Hey Edward." I greeted back tonelessly. I could hear his laughter from the living room. I laughed quietly to myself too before picking myself up off the floor. I hesitantly made my way into the living room. "How was your day?" he asked me when I came into view, looking at me upside down from the couch. His smile looked like a frown from his position. I made a face. "I missed you. You would be surprised at how attached you can get to all your antics. How was yours?" Edward frowned, and righted himself on the couch to look at me better. "Lonely. I got attached too." I sighed, and folded myself on the floor in front of the couch. "How are you feeling?" I asked, resisting the urge to touch his forehead. He rolled his eyes, "I feel fine Bella, stop worrying. You are going to go prematurely grey." I didn't believe him, but I didn't push it either. "So, while I have you cornered here, why don't to tell me a little about Mrs. X." He groaned, falling back onto the couch. "I've changed my mind. I feel traumatically ill. I don't even think I can talk." He gave a fake cough. I narrowed my eyes at him. He wasn't intimidated. He actually smiled at my expression. I changed tactics quickly; I widened my eyes and pouted. "Please?" I leaned my head on the couch near his. I wasn't all that worried about getting sick. I had already been exposed to whatever he had. My pleas actually looked like they were affecting him. I leaned closer, fluttering my eyelashes stupidly, "Please?" I breathed. I being apparently oblivious to what Edward was-a man-stupidly though he would see through my obvious joking flirting. Edward's breath caught and I fought against the need to roll my eyes. He was such a guy. A woman flirts-ineptly-and he gets tongue tied. "Does she have any classes with you?" I asked. I hoped that I could narrow it down; I did have almost all his classes. He caught his lower lip between his teeth; biting down harshly. "I can't tell you that." He sighed, having regained his composure. "It'll give too much away." "Oh come on Edward! Do you really expect me to say anything? To track her down and convince her to stay away from you?" I pleaded uselessly. "Yes." "Thanks." He grinned apologetically at me. I sighed, "What does she look like?"

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Edward thought about that for a long moment, and then he spoke, "She has long brown hair. All the way down to the small of her back. Full lips, very big expressive eyes." "What colour?" I asked. I was thinking along the lines of blue, maybe green. "I can't tell you that." I wanted to groan. "Fine then tell me what you can." The words came out in an annoyed huff. He grinned. He was thinking again, "She's short, fair skin. Absolutely beautiful." "Sounds like it." I agreed, though I was surprised. I expected Edward to go for tall blond or tall dark haired women, the kinds that were only found on the front cover of magazines. "She's smart, kind, caring, brave, compassionate, understanding..." he grinned suddenly, remembering something, "And feisty." "Of course." I rolled my eyes, but I was distracted. How many women walked around like that with out me noticing? She sounded like she should stand out in the crowd, someone even I would have met in my short time here. Or maybe that's just the way she seemed to Edward. "Weren't you supposed to teach me my first lesson yesterday?" he asked suddenly. I had the feeling he was trying to distract me. I snorted, thoroughly distracted, "And the reason for cancelling the lesson is all my fault. Right?" I asked glaring playfully at him. "Yes," he sniffed, "It is." I giggled and he smiled widely. Leaning my head back against the couch, and thinking about exactly what I wanted him to know, I felt him touch my hair. I jumped, startled. "Sorry," Edward murmured, but he didn't take his hands out of my hair. He started to run his hands though it, playing absentmindedly with the strands. I sighed, thinking again about what Edward needed to know. "Patience." "Hmm?" he asked. I turned my head a little to see his face. He was twisting a piece of my hair around his finger, trying to unsuccessfully curl it. He looked amused when he dropped the piece and it fell just as flat as before. "I think it would be good to start with patience. I don't think you are going to be up for anything more then that." He opened his mouth, frowning. I was sure he was about to object when Alice exploded into the room, her shirt hanging off her shoulder, her hair messier then its usual spiky style. I jumped up, rushing to her. "Oh my God! Alice what happened to you?" I asked, righting her shirt. "Hmm?" she asked, sounding unfocused. "Nothing. Jasper just gave me a...ride home." She smiled innocently at me. I raised an eyebrow at her. Usually, I don't interfere with Alice's sex life. That's her thing. But I felt like something was up.

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"Do you have any plans for Jasper to be coming over soon? Say this weekend maybe?" I watched her face closely for her reaction. She nodded, and then looked at me apologetically. "I'm sorry. I was going to tell you. Honestly I was. I just didn't know how you would handle sleeping on the couch." She looked down at her shoes that were probably worth more than my entire outfit. Knowing deep in my bones that Alice wasn't sorry at all, I smiled at her. "Alice don't worry about it. This is your house after all. And don't worry about me sleeping on the couch, I'll give you guys your privacy." I had to think for a second before I kicked myself out of Alice's house for the weekend. "Maybe I'll stay at Rose's place." I thought hopefully. Alice smiled again, and then said in a low murmur, "I don't think I'm the only one with plans this weekend." There was a strange choking sound from behind me. I spun around; worried that Edward had gone through some kind of a relapse and was choking on his tongue. Edward's face went from deathly pale to bright red. "He's doing what to my sister?" his words were distorted as they came out of clenched teeth. Wow, the McCarthy's started fast. I guess that goes for the Cullens too. Alice wasn't fazed by Edward's out burst. "Get over it Edward. Rose isn't as innocent as you think." Edward just stared at Alice like she had spoken Latin. "My baby sister?" he finally murmured, though it sounded like he was talking to himself, the words were broken, sad. I felt my heart pull for him. That's the same expression I had seen on Charlie's face before he had sent me back off to live with my mother again after every summer. Edward was, to some extent, Rose's negotiable father. He was there when she needed him. Hadn't she said so herself on the football field? Alice snorted, rolling her eyes to the ceiling. "Well look what kind of a big brother she's had to look up too." She pranced lithely out of the room, muttering something like 'sounds like Emmett' before she disappeared into the kitchen to where she had her laptop. I went to Edward, patting his head awkwardly. "There, there." Edward made a face at me, seeming to have regained some sense of normality. "Whatever, I'll knock some sense back into her when I can stand again." I rolled my eyes. "Edward, she's a big girl, if she wants to be with Emmett then she should be able to make that choice on her own." Edward looked at me with unfathomable eyes for a long moment. "You don't have any siblings." I shrugged, trying to conceal my surprise. Was it really that obvious? "So what? Does that mean I can't voice my opinion on someone's maturity?" "Of course it doesn't. It just means that your opinions on my sister's innocence won't be as informed as my opinion." He said calmly. I wrinkled my nose at him, "But your opinion would be biased because she is your sister." He went to make another argument when Alice skipped back into the room. "Will you two shut up on opinions? Rose can screw whom ever she wants as long as it's not Jasper and it's within legal boundaries.

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Look at the e-mail Jasper sent me." She smiled grandly, her huge blue eyes shining. I sighed, settling against the couch again. I could feel Edward's hands in my hair again. I smiled, letting him. It reminded me of when I went to the hair salon with Renee, how the hair dresser massaged my scalp. Soothing and relieving. Alice turned her laptop around so Edward and I could read the letter. After a few lines I grinned up at Alice, "That's sweet Alice, but I think it's a chain letter." She rolled her eyes, "Of course it is. Do you think I would show you the private letters Jasper sends me?" "No, I guess not." I mumbled, blushing. I took the laptop into my lap to read the first part again. Statement of Love: 1. Kiss on the hand I adore you 2. Kiss on the cheek I just want to be friends 3. Kiss on the neck I want you 4. Kiss on the lips I love you 5. Kiss on the ears I am just playing 6. Kiss anywhere else Lets not get carried away

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7. Look in your eyes Kiss me 8. Hand on your waist I love you to much to let you go 9. Playing with your hair I can't live without you Edward stopped playing with my hair when he hit the parting line. I felt a wave of disappointment at the loss of contact. Sighing, I rolled my eyes, "Edward, it's a chain letter. Nothing in this is true." I turned to smile at him. He grinned back at me, taking a lock of hair in his hands. "So," he murmured, looking up at me with mischievous eyes, "If I kiss your hand"-he took my hand and brushed his lips to the skin of my knuckle softer then a moth's wing. "That doesn't mean I adore you?" I rolled my eyes. "Piss off Edward." He smiled against my skin. I almost breathed a sigh of relief when he pulled away. Immediately that breath was sucked back in when he moved the hair off my shoulder, exposing my neck. He brought his lips down to whispered against my neck so I could feel his breath caress the skin, feel his lips graze the sensitive skin, sending goose bumps down my spine and across my arms. "So if I kiss your neck, that doesn't mean I want you?" Alice's voice startled me back to reality, "The three laws. Girls, if a boy gets fresh with you, slap him." I turned to Edward grinning wickedly. His eyes widened with recognition of what I was about to do. "No Bella, don't-" the sound of my hand connecting with his face was a hard, sharp sound. "Ow." He muttered flatly. I grinned. I could see the distinct impression of a red hand print starting on his cheek. Alice was talking again though, so I turned to pay attention, hoping she would offer me some more great tips. "Guys, if a girl slaps you, her intentions are still good. Don't give up." I gasped at the traitor. I thought she was on my side! She was all pissy this morning with Edward. I had thought she had come back from the dark side. "Oh, look! The second commandment to love. Thou shalt not ask for a kiss, but take one." She looked up to grin at us. Edward winked at me, the slap mark not yet faded. I narrowed my eyes dangerously in return. "I didn't give

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you my number the first day for a reason. You're still a creep. And I won't help you get Mrs. X if I know you aren't serious about it. I won't arm you, and then unleash you onto a world of unsuspecting women." He grinned at me darkly, "You'll go back on your promise?" he asked in a way that made me think he suspected I wouldn't. I didn't want to lie, he'd know then, seeing through my lies was not the most difficult thing in the world, but telling the truth would just give him initiative. Instead I went with a safe bet, distraction and revenge. I pointed at Alice grinning, "Why don't you kiss Alice? I'd bet she's a better kisser then me, and you flirted with her first anyways." I shrugged still grinning, "It only makes sense." "Oh look at the time!" Alice exclaimed looking at an imaginary watch on her wrist, "I have to be away from here doing that thing!" she was out of the room before I could enforce the second half of my plan which was-funny enough-to escape. Edward chuckled, sitting up on the couch and moving onto the floor cross-legged in front of me. "So we were at the 'patience' lesson. I have lots of patience by the way; I think we should just skip this." I shook my head at him sadly, "Edward, you just contradicted yourself." He sighed, "Fine. Patience. Fun." I laughed, and we looked at each other for a long time. "So...how do we practice patience?" he finally asked in a low, silky voice. "I got nothing." I sighed. Then an idea occurred to me. "This. We do this, you have to sit patiently, silently with me. We don't do anything. It's good if Mrs. X is especially talkative. Also good practice for when she just wants to sit with you, not do anything other then just be with you." Edward cocked his head, thinking. Looking for a loop hole. "Do you get to sit on my lap? That's probably where she would be if we were just enjoying us." "No Edward." Long pause. "Do I get to sit on yours?" "Edward!" He chuckled, "Relax, I was kidding." He saw the stern look I was giving him. His grin widened. "Gez Bella, have some patience." I took a deep cleansing breath. Patience, have patience. You know that Edward can grate on your nerves, deal with it. We sat like that for almost an hour straight when I decided I needed a bathroom break. Edward was much more patient then I had ever given him credit for. He seemed content to just sit there and look at me. Every once and a while he would smiled at a thought but he never even moved to shift his position though my legs had gotten pins and needles after a half hour in the same position.

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"Alice," I called. She came in, half a granola bar shoved into her mouth. My lips twitched up into a smile. "Edward and I are practicing patience and I need to go pee. Can you watch him, just make sure he doesn't talk, or do anything in general really." "Harsh." Alice grinned, "But I think it's a good punishment." I grinned back at her, then went to the bathroom. When I was done I looked at the shower. I went through a short battle of indecision before I grabbed a towel from the hallway closet and started the water. "I'm having a shower Alice." I called over the spray of the water. "Don't leave me here with him!" she cried dramatically. "Why does everyone hate me?" I heard Edward ask himself. "Shut-up. You're on parole for hardly flirting in three days." I giggled. Alice was one of those special people who mediated between the dark and light sides of every conflict. She was the ying yang in my life. I undressed quickly and stepped into the shower, letting the hot water soak my body, warming up all the parts of my body that were cool from poor circulation. I would need to make Edward walk a little to get his blood pumping again I realized. I stood in the shower until the water started to cool. Then I rushed to get dressed, quickly towelling off my hair, letting it hang damp down my back. When I came back into the living room Alice and Edward looked annoyed. Edward was fidgeting impatiently, switching his positions ever few seconds, sighing heavily, glaring at the ceiling. He had reached his patience quota. Alice was looking at his constant fidgeting heatedly, obviously exasperated by him. The impetuosity was contagious. Alice looked just as eager to do something-anything else-as Edward was. When Edward saw me he smiled. It was like watching the sunrise set the clouds on fire. I couldn't help but smile back at him. "Go on Alice. Sorry I took so long." Alice glared up at me with such fierceness it took me of guard. "What were you doing? Swimming a marathon?" she growled, walking back into her room. She slammed the door behind her. I grimaced. I would try to make it up to her. I sat down, taking Alice's place, seeing how long it would take Edward to just snap and run out the door, screaming as he went. But Edward was back to his never ending patience, sitting contently with me. I sighed. I needed a new lesson. Chap 11 Special occasion - Part One Teeny Tiny Twilight

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Edward passed out after our little 'lesson'. Through my annoyance at him from this afternoon, I could see a difference in him. I think he was actually starting to respect me. A little. It was so much easier to be around him when he wasn't constantly making moves, or being an idiot. I did think though, that the largest part of his change was owed to Mrs. X. I smirked at Edward, sleeping on the couch. The smile slowly melted into worry. He was getting paler, his forehead covered in perspiration. I didn't like it, it made me edgy. I felt an unnatural pull towards him. I, gently so as not to wake him, placed my palm on his forehead. Gasping, I ripped my hand away from his overheated flesh. He was burning up. "Alice?" I called nervously, her name come out distorted in dread. I knew Alice was going in to be a doctor, hopefully she would know what to do. Or at least give me an idea of what had happened. Edward went from fine enough to flirt, to joke, and to laugh all the way to passing out, burning up on the couch while I sat here helplessly. She skidded into the living room, sliding on the hard wood floors. "What? What's wrong?" she asked, her panicked eyes flickered uneasily around the room. "Edward." I saw the second that I had said his name I had lost her. Her beautiful, wise, playful eyes went flat with irritation. I pressed on regardless, "I think there is seriously something wrong with him. He just passed out and then his forehead is burning..." I trailed off feeling the helplessness worsen, bearing down on me. "Is he going to die?" I whispered. Alice snorted, "Don't be stupid Bella. He's sick, this is just how his body fights with this virus...but if you wanted to help him fight it."-she seemed to think about it for a moment before shaking her head-"Never mind, you'll never agree with it." I jumped on her, grabbing her collar, shaking her relentlessly. That was so unfair. I knew she was playing me, it was so obvious, but I couldn't refuse the opportunity to help him. "What Alice?" Her eyes were shrewd, "Lay on him." I felt my hands drop from her shirt. "Pardon? What did you say?" "He has a fever, right?" she asked slowly. I nodded, eyes narrowed. "Then help warm him up so his body doesn't have to work so hard. Get some blankets and go lay on him." That didn't sound right for some reason I couldn't quite pin point, but this was Alice. She was smart; she knew what she was talking about. "Okay," I said slowly, "I'm only doing this because you have to be one of the smartest people I know, and I trust you." Then I smiled at her as I passed to get the blankets. I paused to squeeze her shoulder affectionately, "Thank you." It seemed to me, that as I passed, her eyes had tightened in guilt. But when I turned around to look again she was smiling, "Go on." She laughed, waving me down the hall. I grabbed the thickest blankets we had and hurried back to the living room, nearly tripping twice on the trailing fabric. I threw the blankets over him, and then looked hesitantly at Alice. I had a feeling that when Edward woke up, he might take our position in the wrong way. I shrugged that last thought off. I would just explain to him why I was doing it, if he had any complaints,

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which I doubted he would, he could take that up with Alice. I looked apprehensively at the couch for a long minute. It would be too easy to convince myself that there wasn't enough room for me, to just lay down on the floor and put some more blankets on him. Finally I gave up, wedging myself into nonexistent space. He made a sound in his throat, and then shifted. He had turned on his side to make more room for me, but his weight was still pulling down in the couch. I rolled back, thumping against his chest, my face inches from his. His eyes were still closed, still asleep, his lips parted and a rush of sweet air washed over my face. Cue swoon. Unthinkingly, I leaned in, still inhaling his sweet breath. I felt my lips brush, ever so slightly against his lips. So warm, so soft. I jerked away, feeling disgusted with myself. What was wrong with me? He was sleeping. He had offered a kiss earlier, hadn't he? I had turned him down then for the same reason I turned away from him now. He wasn't meant for me. He belonged to a short girl with long brown hair, with wide beautiful green, maybe blue eyes and full lips. She was gorgeous, she was smart, she was caring, and she had substance. She was perfect. Shouldn't someone that perfect get Edward? Maybe not the Edward the rest of the world was common with, but this Edward. The innocent Edward that slept without the mocking pull of his lips, the sarcastic tightening of his eyes. This Edward was just as perfect as her. The nameless one. Girls like me, girls that wished on stars for perfect men very rarely ever got them. I had Jared, who was, and always would be a friend. He didn't have something-I couldn't put my finger on it-but I knew he didn't have it. That mysterious pull I couldn't put a name to. Then there was Edward. No one changed overnight, and my guess was Edward had been a flirt, a ladies' man for far too long to drop it in a heartbeat, but you could see the changes. He had that way about him of someone who, besides the shallow flirting, was committed. That's probably why he was only limiting himself to flirting with me, and every so often Alice. We were unattainable. Alice was in love. And I was in the know. Even now, when all I wanted to do was touch my lips to his, in just one quick kiss, had Edward woken up and offered again, I would say no. I could feel something between Edward and I, it was something special. I didn't want to throw away such potential for a caring friend because his lips are soft. That was stupid. But tempting. And stupid. Case closed. I did lean my head down near his. I watched the way his lips parted slightly to let his air out, how his eyelids fluttered when he dreamed. I had to close my eyes eventually when my eyes lingered for too long on his lips. I really hoped I wasn't turning into one of those girls. The girls who turned down the men who chased them, but wanted the ones who were impossible to attain. Because right now, Edward wasn't chasing me. But I was really wanting. I leaned my hand lightly against Edward's forehead again. Maybe I was helping, he didn't feel as hot. Or I was warming up too. It was, to my great disappointment, more likely the later. I let my hand drop. Edward's eyebrows moved over his eyes in a way that suggested disappointment. I leaned my forehead against Edward's. The lines in his brow softened at my touch, and I wondered who he was dreaming about. I could feel my eyes slipping closed, sleepy despite the time of day. Edward's breathing was just so relaxing,

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the blankets so warm. And I would just as soon admit it to him as I would dedicate myself to cloistered life. "Bella?" Alice asked softly. Nudging my shoulder gently. "You awake?" I turned to smile at her. Edward grunted something in his sleep, throwing one arm over my waist and pulling me into his chest possessively. Apparently Edward didn't even like to share in his sleep. Alice giggled quietly at the gesture. Then she thrust a book at me. I took it, and recognized it as the book I had rented at the library, only on the thirty fourth page. "Thought you might want something to do. I know you get antsy sitting still for too long." She grinned quickly, then pecked me on the cheek and disappeared back into the hall way. Her concern was touching. I flipped my book open, turning around so I was more comfortable. He breathed out a sharp breath. My head snapped around to check the movement wasn't too abrupt. His eyes still closed under annoyed arches and lines in his forehead. I sighed, shaking my head, and went back to reading. I spent the next few hours finishing my book, but it was distracting. I was so used to moving when I read. I got so stiff sitting in one position for too long, but I always worried that I would wake Edward. He needed to sleep this off. I could live with a few sore muscles tomorrow. Finally I finished the last page, and threw the book onto the floor to pick up tomorrow morning. What a crappy ending. Lovers are supposed to end up happy together, not dead in a swamp holding each other in 'eternal love'. I glared at the book cover. And I started to analyze, to distract myself from the compulsion to get up and wander, to run a mile, to crush some poor boy's ego in Basketball. Maybe, when Edward was better, I would play him again. As I analyzed I eventually fell asleep. In my dream I was at school, wearing a ridiculous dress right out of the 1800s. Nobody gave me strange looks though, and many of the other girls around me, the pretty ones, girls who should be on magazine adds, were dressed similarly. My dream self wasn't surprised, and, in fact, I knew I was waiting for something, just as all the other girls were. Then Edward appeared, out of nowhere and on a grand white horse. He too was dressed in olden clothes, his hair pulled back neatly though strays stubbornly escaped the hold of the pomade, or whatever it was that he wore, falling into his eyes. He steered the horse expertly towards me, so that he could grab my hand and pull me up onto the horse with him. He pulled me in front of him, so I too could hold the reigns, so that he wasn't talking all my control away from me. He gave the horse a command and we rode away. The dream startled me awake. It had been so real. Well, it had felt real. I could even feel the heat of Edward's body pressed against mine. I paused, I still could. I jumped again, looking at Edward lying on the couch beside me. His eyes were opened, watching me with amusement, his arm still draped over me. "Nice dream?" he asked, grinning. Shock jolted through me, my toes curled. "Uhh..." I looked around me for a moment checking what time it was. The sky was dark as pitch, and all the

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lights were turned off. I guessed it was late, "Yea, kind of. What are you doing up? Shouldn't you be dreaming?" I asked, turning around so I could see him better. "I am dreaming." He said surprised. "I distinctly remember making a remark about waking up next to you, and you answering 'in your dreams'." He grinned and I rolled my eyes. I otherwise ignored that, "I think I figured something out." I told him. "About us." My dream had a message, dreams like that usually did with me. He looked wary. "What did you figure out?" he asked. I grinned, "I've realized how very alike Mrs. X and I are." Edward looked like he was choking. I laughed at his expression, not in any hurry to put him out of his misery. I'm sure he'd just love for me to try and convince him that it was me he loved. No wonder he was scared. "I realized that you don't actually like me, Edward. Not like that, I just remind you of her, so you think you like me. We are just personifying what we want into the other because they are in close reach." I grinned proud of my analysis. What else could my dream of Edward being prince charming had meant? I was looking for all the traits I had wished for at the party. I want to meet someone that I love more than life itself. I wish that I could be happy with them. I want to be able to look at him when I'm old and wrinkled and see the man I fell in love with and I want him to see me in all the same ways. I want...I want him to be able to make my toes curl with just a look, I want him to be fun and smart and good-looking. I want him to be romantic so I know that he loves me every day of forever. It still sounded silly, even now. What had triggered Edward being my star man, the man I had wished for, was seeing the very love that I wanted between Edward and his Mrs. X. That was all. Edward thought that over for a long moment, and then he grinned suddenly, "So you do like me." He smirked causing that annoyingly beautiful crooked smile to appear. "Nu-uh." I disagreed. "But you said 'We are just personifying what we want into the other' that means you too." He smirked, wrapping his arm securely around my waist and pulling me into his chest. "I knew it. No girl can resist my charm for long." I glared at him, "You are missing my point Edward." I growled. His eyes grin widened. "You didn't deny it." I could feel my blush raging its way across my face. "You Edward Cullen, are an arrogant-" He cut me off with his hand, his eyes far away. "Just let me enjoy my moment of victory." He murmured. I sighed, annoyed. Edward was far too annoying to be anything but the best friend. "I don't like you. I like the...the way...I can't describe it. Doesn't matter, all that does matter is I. Do. Not. Like. You." I finally managed to get out after fighting his hand off my face. He was thinking again, and then his eyes glowed in the darkness. "You're right." He whispered finally, "You are a lot like her. So then you can help me with something." He grinned. "It will be kind of like a test, like a first date, but you will conduct me on what I should and shouldn't do to make you happy. Think of it as another lesson."

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I wasn't sure how I felt about that. "I...Edward just because we're similar doesn't mean we are the same."-the look he was giving said he was about to argue, so I relented-"Okay. But it isn't a real date. Just remember that." I warned him. Now that I knew why I thought his lips felt soft, and why I liked the way my body felt pressed against his. It was easier to push away the feelings, to fight them off with logic. I could have my friend back. I put my hand against his forehead again. It felt normal. "How are you feeling?" I asked, hoping I hadn't contracted anything from him. "Perfect," he grinned, "Fit as a fiddle." I sighed happily, resting my head on his shoulder. The late hour was starting to wear on me. "Good, I'm glad. I don't think I could have sanely gone through my classes again tomorrow knowing you were half dead on my couch." He ran his hand softly through my hair, personifying again. "Sleep now Bella. I'll tease you on your crush tomorrow." I could hear the smile in his soft voice. I rolled my eyes behind my lids, and then slipped off into more sane dreams. ------------------- ---------------------------------- ---------------------------- --------------------------- -----I opened bleary eyes to another bright morning. The room was so cool though. My arm that was dangling out of the warm blankets was covered in goose bumps. The clock on the wall said a half hour before mine and Alice's alarm clocks were supposed to go off. I stretched, then very carefully turned around, just in case Edward was still asleep. As I turned around, I lost my balance. I shot one hand out to steady myself. That hand ended up on Edward's forearm. He grunted in pain, opening his eyes. "Oops, sorry." I whispered, moving my weight off his arm quickly. He gave a long sigh, "Morning." He muttered, his eyes slipping closed again. "There is only a half an hour before you need to get up Edward. And we'll have to race Alice to the bathroom before seven o'clock if you ever want to get a shower in this morning." Edward's eyes didn't open, "She takes an hour to shower?" he grumbled. I grinned, "You were a poet and you didn't even know it." He made a face at me so I surmised it was too early for humour. "She takes forever to shower, then another eternity to do her hair and makeup on Fridays." I rolled my eyes at her. "She doesn't have any hair." He groaned, stretching. I realized that he'd had to curl himself around me last night to make room. The couch is a horrible place to sleep, add another person and it was just torture. His feet hung off the end off the couch, while his arms stretched over the arm of the couch in the opposite direction. I laughed at him, "How did you fit on the couch? You're huge!" He peeked one eye open to look at me, grinning, "Are you calling me fat?" I flashed my teeth in a grin, "Yep. Totally obese."

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He laughed, and then threw the covers off us. I gasped, "Its freezing!" "It's Canada. I guess summer is coming to an end." "No," I moaned. "Bring summer back." I got up though, my arms crossed over my chest. I had slept in the clothes I had on last night, bra and all. I could feel the welt on my back starting from the clasp digging into me throughout the night. "I'll bring summer back if you bring night back." He got up too, stretching again. I stifled a laugh, biting my tongue. Edward's hair was all over the place, his shirt wrinkled. He hadn't changed clothes, since the day I'd brought him here. I looked him over, still smiling a little, "You might want to run home and grab some new clothes. And a toothbrush." He ran a hand through his messy hair, pursing his lips, "I'll do that." He ran his tongue over his teeth then winced, "Ew, they have sweaters." I laughed. I wish I had a sweater. "See you at school." I waved as he walked out my door. "See ya." He yawned, and then closed the door. I raised an eyebrow, waiting a long moment. He knocked quietly on the door. "Forgot my books." He called through sheepishly. I giggled, brining him his bag. When I opened the door his head was resting against the door jamb sleepily. "You okay to go to school?" I asked, feeling the familiar stirrings of anxiety starting. He nodded, "I just need to shower. Blech, I feel disgusting." He raised two vivid green eyes to grin at me. And he did look better. I could feel my chest swell with relief, a balloon rising in my chest. I found I was in a much better mood, smiling, as I watched him dragged himself down the hall and disappeared through the elevator doors. Then hurried back in to take my shower and get ready for school. Alice got up after I had taken my shower and started my breakfast. I was kind of regretting finishing my book now that I had nothing to do for an hour other then try to carry a conversation with Alice through the door. I didn't think that would be possible, even if she had been willing. I picked the book off the rug anyways and stuffed it into my bag. Alice finally managed to drag herself away from the bathroom. Amazing, since she was seeing Jasper tonight. I usually had to drag her out of the bathroom on Fridays. In the middle of that thought, part way to school I stopped dead. Then smacked myself in the forehead. Alice stopped mid-sentence to turn and look at me, one perfect eyebrow raised. "I forgot last night to phone and see if I could stay with someone tonight. Darn." Alice giggled, "That's fine Bella. What about one of the boys on your basket ball team? Or Edward...maybe you could ask Jared, or Edward, or Alex. Or you know who comes to mind?" "Edward?" I asked flatly and started walking again. "I thought I had convinced you that match making was bad Alice. And, before you say what I think you're going to say-" "I can't meddle if you don't have a life to meddle in. And Edward is perfect!" she interrupted, finishing the

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forbidden sentence. I gave her a long look. "Okay, so he's a work in progress, but he will be perfect." She insisted stubbornly. She had that knowing, intense look in her sparkling blue eyes that always meant things were going to go her way whether they wanted to or not. She couldn't control this though. "The why don't you date him? Or give him what he wants?" I said, rolling my eyes at that last part, "You and I both know that's his main objective with girls." "You don't really believe that." I sighed, she'd caught me. Maybe it was because I was a hopeless romantic at heart, but I always had this idea that once you had experienced true love, you became a good person. Because there was nothing to hurt people for, nothing that you wanted that badly because you had found everything you needed in that other person. "No," I agreed slowly, "But maybe I should." "Ewww. Edward Cullen." A warm, heavy arm was slung over my shoulders. I hadn't realized it was that cold until I felt my skin burning under his warm touch, "I would stay away from that guy if I were you. I've given my sister the same advice." Jared said, making a face. I laughed, "Finally, someone agrees with me. And where did you come from? You constantly sneak up on me." I playfully shook his arm off. He shrugged, not offended by the mild rejection. "It's not my fault you're deaf." He dodged my swing at him easily, grinning happily. "I just wanted to congratulate you again." I frowned at him, confused, "Huh? Congratulate me? For what?" "You don't know?" Jared asked, stunned. I looked at Alice; she shrugged, shaking her head. "No?" I said, looking back at Jared. He grinned suddenly, taking my cold hand in his large warm one, and then started pulling me across the yard to the gym. I was trying my hardest to keep up with his pace, but I ended up stumbling a lot. I nearly took him down once, to which we both started laughing. Alice was running after us, crying shrilly about waiting up for her. Finally we reached the gym, out of breath and laughing. "Okay, what?" I gasped, trying to breathe through my laughter. He pointed to a white sheet on the window, breathing hard. Alice caught up to us as I made a face at Jared. "I know I made the team. That's nothing worth congratulating." "Yes it is, and that's not what I'm talking about." He pointed again to the sheet, this time I followed his finger. Coach Clapp's Boys Basket Ball team. Captain------------------------ Bella Swan First string---------------------Tyler Crowley

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---------------------Jared Hull ---------------------Alex Smyth ----------------------Seth Atera That was as far as I got. I stared at the list dumbfounded. So that was why coach was being so moody before. It must seem a little embarrassing to have a girl leading his boys' team. And he was probably pissed that after giving me that position, I had skipped practice yesterday. I winced, turning to Jared, "How mad is coach?" Jared shrugged, "He wasn't happy, but I told him that you had to take care of your friend. Is she feeling better today?" he asked, concerned. I didn't know if I should tell him that it was Edward I had been taking care of yesterday. Especially after his very obvious dislike of him. For me it was annoyance. For him, I could tell he really didn't like Edward. "Uhh..." I hesitated. "Oh, Edward is feeling much better today. You should have seen him last night though." Alice shook her head sadly, "I'm just worried that Bella's going to catch whatever he had. She even crawled into bed with him, trying to warm him up. Apparently it worked." She sighed dreamily, as if watching true love unfold before her eyes. Jared had turned his back on me to stare at her with wide, betrayed eyes. I was frantically cutting a finger across my throat trying to get her to shut up. "You slept with Edward?" He asked, slowly turning back to me. I dropped my hand down to my side quickly. "No. Well, not in the way you said it." "But what she said..." Jared trailed off, keeping my eye. "Yes...But it's not what you think. He needs some help getting this girl..." my voice faltered as I watch Jared go from betrayed to livid. "And you're helping Him?" he hissed between his teeth. His usually warm blue eyes were suddenly barren of warmth. I shivered. "I-Yes, but it's not like that. He really likes this girl, loves her even." I pleaded with him to understand. Didn't everyone deserve their happy ending? Even Edward? Especially Edward. "And what if it is like that? Then what?" he didn't give me time to answer his questions, "You'll just help him get in some other girl's pants, help him use another girl like...like..." he was sputtering. I looked down at me shoes. "Do you even know who this girl is?" he asked. "No," I murmured quietly. "So it could be my sister then. It could be my friend or yours." I looked up at him, to tell him it wasn't...but how could I claim that? He looked down at me with so much disgust I wanted to be sick. I was sickened with myself. He shook his head at me. Perhaps too angry to even speak now, and turned away, toward his first class.

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I looked down at my hands again. They were shaking. I could feel my eyes watering. Jared was right. I was stupid, this wasn't a romance novel. Things didn't work out like that; people didn't change overnight because they fell in love. Alice touched my arm softly, "I'm sorry Bella. I didn't mean...I was just a little miffed about how he had been talking..." she trailed off again. I shrugged her hand off, "S'not your fault." I mumbled, digging the toe of my shoe into the dirt. "It's mine. I can't believe I was so stupid!" I growled. She went to comfort me again, but I shrugged out from under her hand, "I got to go to class Alice. See you later." Chap 12 First date Teeny Tiny Twilight I made my way quickly to my first class, way too early. I put my books on my desk, dropping my head onto my crossed arms, trying to fight off the self pity as I glared at the board. I wasn't the only one early to class. Angela came in, trying to balance her massive pile of books. I jumped up quickly and caught the top half of the precarious arrangement as it started to slide to the left. She smiled at me thankfully, her head tilted at an angle that made me think she was embarrassed by all the books that she had. My eyes flickered down to the novel on top, Pride and prejudice. I smiled a little at her, "Good book." I put it along with the rest of the small pile on her desk, beside mine. She nodded, tucking a stray piece of hair behind her ear. "It's one of my favourites." She said in a soft muted voice, smiling shyly. "Same." I laughed a little embarrassed, my cheeks heating, "I must have read it six of seven times already." She smiled kindly at me, resting the rest of the books on the desk beside me. "Are you okay?" she asked in the same muted voice. I looked into her eyes and finally saw the concern that was etched there. I realized that she must have seen something wrong all along. I grimaced at how easy to read I was. Why couldn't I lie like Edward? "Kind of." I muttered, sitting down in my seat. "Want to talk about it?" I smiled wearily at her, "Thanks..." I was about to finish with 'but no thank you' but I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to get an opinion from the outside. I hesitated, and then decided that it was probably better if I didn't. It was after all, my fault. But before I could speak, she guessed right, "Boy troubles?" she smiled in a knowing way. "Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt." She apologized immediately after.

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"No, your right." I forced a laugh. "But I brought it all on myself, so I shouldn't complain." She sat down too, waiting patiently for me to continue. I bit my lip, "I thought I was helping a...friend boy of mine," I smiled a little at that name again. "And apparently, I wasn't helping him at all, and then my other friend found out and he got angry at me." Angela was trying to control the confusion on her face. I gave up. "Edward Cullen. He likes this girl, and I wanted to help him, because I thought that he really likes her. But then my other friend, Jared, on the basket ball team. He found out and got angry, because, well I guess you know Edward's reputation. I just thought...you know." I sighed giving up on trying to defend myself. Angela looked at me a second, her wide brown eyes wise. "Does he love her?" I hesitated. The bell saved me from having to answer the question, and then the students started to file in. I paid them no notice, too caught up in what Angela had said. That was the whole problem though, wasn't it? If I knew the truth, then I would be able to be sure in my decision to help Edward. I paid little attention in class, thinking about what I was going to do. I didn't see any other way around it. I would have to confront Edward on it, and then decide from his answer if what he said was true, or if I was just being used. The clock on the wall was moving faster then it should have been. When the bell rang for first dismissal I still hadn't figured out what I would say to Edward. I hurried to Spanish, hoping to beat Edward there. But of course when I got there Edward was already in his seat, watching the door as I came in. His welcoming smile lasted about three seconds before he registered my expression. I dropped my books a little harder then necessary on the desk. I looked at Edward, fighting with myself. Seeing him in person made me question my previous doubts. I realized I trusted Edward, everything he said. If he told me that he loved her, Mrs. X, then I would believe him. This wasn't going to work. Edward shrunk down into himself as I watched him. I tried to feel my expression from the inside. And I realized, as I towered over his sitting form, that I was glaring at him dangerously. I took my seat finally, glaring at the board instead. Edward hesitated, and then moved his chair a little ways from me, guessing I needed my space. All through out the lesson I could feel his eyes on me. "Edward?" Mrs. Springett asked. "Cuál es tan interesante sobre Ms. Swan?" she asked. Edward's head snapped to the front, "C'est rien." He answered. I raised an eye brow at him. That was French, not Spanish. He shook his head, trying to clear it, "No es nada, continúa por favor." She seemed impressed with his slip up. I wish I could slip up like that. He shot a glance at me out of the corner of his eye, questioning. I looked away again. Not ten minutes later Mrs. Springett was talking to him again, this time in English. "Edward Cullen. Move to the front of the class please, you can sit beside my desk. Maybe then you'll be able to keep your eyes of Miss. Swan." The class giggled lowly. Edward grimaced, but he gathered his books under one arm, taking his chair with the other. A girl with long blond hair turned around to look-no, to glare-at me. I had a startling moment of Déjà vu. The mean blond from the party. Oh, wonderful. How could I not have recognized her? She pouted at Edward as he went by.

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"What's so interesting about her? Is she growing a moustache on the side of her face?" she asked innocently when the teacher had gone out into the hall. Edward stopped, and then slowly turned to face her. She saw his expression before I did, and she wasn't stupid. She immediately dropped her gaze, looking at her work sheet. Edward answered her anyways, "No, she's just worth looking at." He hissed at her in icy tones. Mrs. Springett, who had stepped out to grab a desk for Edward for the rest of the period, came in then. "Really Edward?" she asked. He took one look at her, and then sighed walking back to put his chair back beside me wordlessly while Mrs. Springett signed a blue note on her desk. She handed it to him, "We'll try again tomorrow, hmm?" she asked. Edward grinned at her wearily, "That's fine, Mr. Greenie has probably missed me anyways." He winked at her then disappeared through the door. Mrs. Springett blushed a little, before clearing her throat and returning to the lesson. Unbelievable. Outside the door of our English class Edward was waiting, smiling calmly at me. I squared my shoulders for what I new was coming next. Slowly his smile faded as I came closer. I recognized, a little late, that I was supposed to smile back. "I'm sorry." He said immediately when I was in ear shot. "You don't even know what my problem is." I said, surprised. I tried to inch past him into class. He wasn't having that. Edward stepped in front of me, blocking my path, "I know, I've just learned that it's better to apologize with girls." I was a little agitated that he actually thought that would work. "That doesn't work with me." I told him sharply, looking past him into the class room. He sighed, "Nothing ever does. So what's wrong?" he asked in a contradictory soft tone. Both my hands were busy holding my books and there was a piece of hair that was falling into my eyes. I blew it out of my face twice, stalling. He reached over and tucked it behind my ear. I grimaced as my heart reacted accordingly. "Do you really like her?" I asked, looking down. He hesitated, "Yes." He knew who we were talking about with out my having to tell him. I looked up into his eyes, I could feel the intensity emanating out of mine, trying to force the truth out of him. I knew he was hiding something, not lying, but not telling the whole truth. "Do you love her?" I question with precise slowness, searching his face. He seemed captured by my gaze, locked in my stare. "Yes." He whispered, "More then you could ever know, Bella." I relaxed, he was telling the truth, I would swear on my life. If Jared doubted that, then that was his problem. I sighed, smiling in relief, "Good. And sorry you got in trouble." He shrugged, "What were you thinking that got you down like that?" he grinned.

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It was my turn to shrug, "A friend of mine...questioned your motives." His eyes narrowed. "Really? May I know the name?" I ducked around him, into class, he followed, "No," I said, taking my seat. "Hmm." He said curtly, taking his seat too. I could see he was weighting whether it was a boy or a girl, and which was trying to knock him down through me. The teacher walked in then, smiling. I was started to get worried. Teachers only smiled like that when they had a 'fun' assignment planned. I could feel my lips twisting into a grimace. "So to kick off our creative writing unit, I thought we should start with something fun. You are all to draw a mythical creature, and then give them a story, a legend, and this is supposed to be creative so I don't want to see a Dracula bio. Understood? This creature can have a religious background, like an angel, a devil, a god, or a deity. It can also be based on a different legend, like nessie, a unique vampire or werewolf, witches and wizards are acceptable." I made a face. Fun. Edward was making a face too, "When is it due?" he asked. "Next Friday, you have all week to work on it. You'll get four in class days next week, all period. If you can't make the due date, please come to me two days in advance. I will not take excuses the day of." He told us. Then took his place behind his desk, letting us get started. We all went up to the front of the class to get the rubric for the project, along with the paper we were supposed to use to draw on for our good copy, and a couple of smaller blank sheets for our rough copies. Edward got back to his desk before I did. When I sat down he watched me curiously. "What are you thinking of doing yours on?" he asked, stalling. He rested his pencil on his desk, leaning back in his chair. "I'm not exactly sure yet, but I think I'll be doing it on something supernatural. Or natural. Defiantly not religious though, I'd be too afraid of offending people." I was more thinking out loud, but Edward was still attentive. "What about you?" we weren't the only ones talking. People had moved desks to talk to their friends; Mr. Banner allowed this, probably thinking that we would be planning out ideas together. I doubted it, but I didn't speak up. He sighed, "Not a clue." I grinned at him. "Good luck." I turned back to my work, chewing on the end of my pencil while I thought. I started to mark down thoughts. I decided it would be a mix between something supernatural and natural. As I wrote out ideas Edward, very slowly and deliberately leaned across his desk to see what I was writing. My lips twitched up into an amused smile. I turned my paper so he could read it. He grinned up at me, and then bent his head over my page. "Aren't you worried I will copy your work?" he asked playfully, still reading. "Nope." I said, leaning my head against my hand as I watched him read. He nodded, looking thoughtful after he had read my ideas. "That's a good idea. Do you want to help me now?" he asked hopefully.

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I laughed at him, "Sure. As soon as you learn how to teach me math." I smiled, "I sense you and me think on completely different wave lengths." He nodded sadly. I patted his arm affectionately, "There, there. It's not as hard as you think. I bet you're making it harder then it needs to be. Just look, look anywhere, for inspiration." I gestured grandly around the room. He huffed, turning to look out the window. I squeezed his arm, "Edward, I'm serious. Just look and you'll find something that inspires you." I was kind of hopping he would get my hint and think about Mrs. X. Maybe let me see who it was. Was she in the class right now with us? Instead, he turned to look at me curiously, and then slowly, the slight down turn of his lips turned into a smile. He made a square with his fingers, and then with squinted eyes framed my face with them. I laughed, shaking my head, then returned to my work. After I had sketched the sad excuse for a dog, I looked over to see how Edward was doing. He was sketching on the rough paper; I was only able to catch the top of the page. There were clouds with a break in them for what I imagined sunlight to filter through. I didn't want to disturb him, but I was curious to see what he was doing for his project. I craned my neck, trying to see over the way he had positioned his arm, blocking my line of sight. I hadn't thought this was deliberate until he looked up to see me trying to peek at his page. He gave an apologetic look before sliding the picture away from me. "Oh," I tried to push the hurt from my face. It was replaced by a brilliant blush that heated from my hair line to my neck. "Sorry." "Nothing personal. It's just really stupid." He assured me. "I won't judge, show me." I leaned in, trying to peek again. And again he moved the page out of my sight, "That's what scares me." He murmured quietly. I looked up, shocked by the vulnerability of his voice. I looked up to see it again in his face. So I wasn't the only one that put too much trust in people. He smiled then, hiding the look away from my shocked eyes. "It's stupid." He repeated more happily now. "I'll probably fail the whole assignment." He laughed. It sounded a little forced to me. "Or not. You could pass with flying colours like I'm starting to suspect you always do." I narrowed my eyes playfully, "And maybe it isn't stupid. Maybe it's deep and brilliant." I didn't lean forward this time, already suspecting the way he would fold the paper, still unseen by me, and hide it in his bag. I shrugged, pretending not to be hurt by his show of distrust. I realized with a jolt that this wasn't the first act. He wouldn't trust me with Mrs. X either. "Why don't you trust me?" I asked, trying to make the words sound natural. The words instead, came out laden with hurt. The bell rang just as he opened his mouth to answer. He got up, waiting for me with a torn expression. I got up, stuffing my work in my binder. I tucked my books under my arm and pushed in my chair, all the while watching as he formed words in his head, trying to find a way to explain.

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"I do trust you." He muttered so quietly I had thought I might have mistaken what he said. Very plausible since he said it just as we stepped out into the crowded hallway with other confusing conversations interrupting ours. "What?" He smiled down at me, "I trust you by coming to you for advice for her. Mrs. X." he rolled his eyes at the name. Despite the constant way he always made a face when ever he said it, I had a feeling he liked the name. "If you trust me, then tell me who she is." I didn't have much hope that he would. He shook his head. "Fine," I sighed. He spun, stepping in front to face me while he started to walk backwards. "I'm sorry, Bella, but you have to understand that I'm already putting myself out there to be hurt by one person. Do I really need to make that two?" I narrowed my eyes at him, "Edward, everyone is going to hurt you sooner or later. You just have to decide who's worth the pain." I pushed past him, walking faster. He let me by. I sighed aggravated when I felt him walking beside me again. His long strides had made up the distance, I had tried to make between us, easily. Then, he surprised me by gently brushing the back of his hand against mine, before shyly taking it in his. I looked up at him with unconcealed shock. He wasn't looking at me; instead his face was smooth, looking ahead. It took me a moment before I recognized this face. He was preparing himself for the constant rejection I gave him. If I was being honest with myself, I liked the way my hand felt in his. Warm and small but very safe. I squeezed his hand. His eyes flickered down to mine hopefully. I grinned at him, "See? I'm not as much as a harpy as you think. I have a heart." He snickered, "Rock hard and cold as ice, but its there." He squeezed my hand back. I made a face at him, shaking his hand off. He was still grinning hugely. "There, now that you know how to take a chance, why not ask Mrs. X on a date?" Even though this was more of my retribution I back peddled when I saw the panic in his eyes, "Just a small one." I assured him. "A walk in the park, a star lit dinner." I was only guessing on these dates from all the romantic comedies I had watched before. "What are you doing spending all your time with me when you should be trying to be with her?" He sighed, "I'm working on it." We walked into biology together. The whole rest of the day passed slowly until the end of gym when I saw Jared. He walked up to me, glaring daggers at Edward who stood beside me. "Maybe you should go." I murmured quietly to Edward as Jared stalked over. "Is that who was on your case about me?" he asked quietly back, ignoring my request entirely. His expression made me think he thought it was comical. Funny how he was able to make that leap. Never mind that Jared had always been cool towards Edward.

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"Yes. Now skat, get out of here." I hissed, bumping him roughly with my shoulder. In response, he quickly picked me up and threw me over his shoulder. "Hey!" I cried, struggling to get down. "You stupid dummy! Let me down!" Edward snorted, "Stupid dummy? What merciless words play havoc on my tender heart?" I thumped my fists as hard as I could on his back. The sound they made was hollow. Probably similar to the sound my fists would make on his hollow head. "You're a horrible Shakespeare." I couldn't see Jared because Edward was facing him. This meant that he was getting a lovely view of the seat of my jeans. I could hear him though, "Can I please have Bella for a moment? I need to talk to her." Jared asked in a restrained polite tone. "No." Edward answered coldly, making no answering pretence. "She's mine." "Like hell I am!" "Oh, you're angry now. You actually said a bad word." He teased, bouncing me on his shoulder. He spun me around, making me dizzy, while also making me laugh. Mostly nervous laughter since I was absolutely positive his grip would slip and I would go splat against the wall. Edward would get his way then. The only way Jared would be able to talk to me is if he found a spatula to scrape me off the wall with. Jared heaved an impatient sigh. "Put Bella down." "Umm..." Edward pretended to think through Jared's request. "No." I sighed heavily, "Edward, I know you're a little peeved, but this is just childish. Put me down." Jared sounded really annoyed now. "Whatever. I just came to tell you that Tyler is trying to get the coach to kick you off the team. Just wanted to give you the heads up." "What!" Edward snarled, dropping me back on my feet. "Why? Where the hell is he?" I stumbled over to Jared, a little dizzy with the sudden drop and the spinning. "Why is he so angry?" Edward had already asked my first questions. Minus the curse. Jared crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes still unhappy, "Because he wanted to be captain, for one. And you weren't even at the practice yesterday." "Your captain?" Edward asked, voice awed instead of the surprise I was expecting. I ignored him, "Let's go talk to coach. I'll explain what happened to both Coach Clapp and Tyler." I saw Jared's eyes drift over to Edward. They narrowed. "I hope you're happy." He growled at Edward. "It is your fault that she's in trouble now. She made history yesterday. She was the first girl captain of a boy's team in the history of this school. Now she's going to lose that." After his fierce-and unfair-accusation he took my hand, leading me out of the gym. I had to jog to keep up with his furious pace. "Jared, I'm sorry. Edward can be a bit of a douche bag sometimes. He really is a good guy though." This didn't seem to be enough. He still looked livid. "I talked to

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him about the girl. I swear to you Jared, he loves her." "Really?" he asked angrily, "I couldn't tell with the way he was flirting with you. It looks to me like he has a wandering eye." I could see his eyes softening despite his tone. He trusted my judgement almost as much as I trusted Edward's. "That's just Edward. He thinks he's funny." I rolled my eyes to show him I didn't think so. He caught the topic of our discussion suddenly walking beside me, "I am funny. You just don't know it." Jared stopped, instinctively spinning me behind him in a defensive position. "Go away. Seriously, you've done enough." "I'm here to explain. And to kick Tyler's ass. But that's beside the point." Jared stood up straighter, "Tyler is mine, and if what Bella says is true, and you actually have one decent bone in your body, then you would get lost. I actually like Bella." I stiffened. Jared turned around to look at me, his hands shoved nervously into his pockets. "I really like you Bella. I see things this joker doesn't." Edward rolled his eyes, leaning his weight on one leg to wait out Jared's speech. "I know that you're smart, and caring. I know that you're brave and that you stand up for your friends"-he shot a dark look at Edward-"No matter how nauseating they are." His eyes were soft, understanding. He hesitated, like he wanted to confess something I was positive I didn't want to hear. I held my breath as I caught the murderous look Edward was giving Jared. I was saved from crushing my friend's heart, however by a deep grumpy voice, "Bella Swan. Where were you yesterday?" I turned towards coach, feeling my stomach turn nervously. "I-" "She was helping me. I was sick yesterday, and she was kind enough to let me stay at her dorm when I wasn't able to get back to my own. She wouldn't have missed practice if it wasn't for me sir." Edward told my coach, respectfully pleading. I blinked at Edward, surprised. So this is what Rose was talking about when she said Edward was loyal. Coach Clapp pursed his lips unhappily, "After giving you such a high spot on the team, Bella, I expected more of you. You're lucky I do understand why you couldn't make it yesterday. I want to make this clear though. You are not to miss another practice. I don't need to give anyone anymore reason to try and take you off the team. You're a good kid." He grumbled something along the lines of 'other then distracting the boys.' Before he walked off. I gave a relieved sigh. Then I saw Tyler walking out of the coach's office. He glowered at me darkly before walking off in the opposite direction. Both Jared and Edward went to follow him. "Hey." I said, grabbing both of their shirts. "Neither of you are to hurt him unless I give specific instruction to do so. I can take care of myself anyways." Jared stepped closer, then, hesitantly wrapped his arms around me in a hug. "'Kay. Sorry about yelling at you this morning. And I hope you don't mind my saying what I did...before. I just wanted to let you know that I'll always be there for you. Even when I'm angry. I'll always be you friend...maybe more, if you want." He didn't let go, and I guessed he was nervous about my reaction. "Jared...I don't think-" I started but Edward separated us, keeping one hand on Jared's shoulder.

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"That reminds me." Edward said pleasantly. He pulled his fist back, and then let it snap forward into Jared's Jaw. Jared staggered backwards, shocked. "HEY!" I cried, putting myself between the two of them. "Stop that!" I glared at Edward. I waited until he stepped back, disengaging himself. He shrugged easily, not troubled by my furious expression. Stupid guys and their stupid Y-chromosome. Jared eyed him harshly. Rubbing his jaw. His eyes flickered to me quickly, then away. I hadn't needed to finish my sentence. He already knew what was coming. I didn't think that would stop him for long though, and if he was taking hints from Edward's in with me, he was going to try for annoyingly persistent. Edward took my hand, pulling me with him as he left. "Bye bye Dick wad." He called joyously, waving goodbye to Jared. Jared huffed angrily, glaring daggers into Edward's back before waving goodbye to me. I tried to wave back but Edward was pretty much dragging me down the hallway. When we rounded the corner, I ripped my hand out of Edward's, crossing my arms angrily. "Jerk. What's wrong with you?" He shrugged, smiling. "I'll call you later. I have to do something." He went to walk away, but I grabbed his arm. "No hitting anyone else, understood?" I glared at him still angry, and wanting him to understand what I was saying. He put his hand over his heart, "Promise. I'm going to get some courage and ask her on a date. Hopefully." He didn't look sure when he meet my eye. I pursed my lips, letting my arms fall to my side. "Good luck then. Oh, here." I snatched a pen out of my bag, writing my number down on a scrap piece of paper from an old test. "Just so that you don't have to run over to tell me what happened." And so that I can have a break from you for tonight so they don't find you savagely murdered in the morning. He grinned hugely, "HA! YES! I have Bella Swan's number!" he cried, punching his fist into the air victoriously. "SHH!" I hissed, slapping his arm. Too late. I would probably only get twenty years for that though...right? They didn't have the death penalty in Canada. He grinned at me, "Talk to you later Bella." he waved goodbye, still chuckling. I couldn't help but grin as I watched him go. Stupid, annoying, testosterone fuelled man. But you had to love him. I didn't know how I got myself into this. Playing truth or dare with Alice was like offering yourself up to the gods of embarrassment as a sacrifice. "My turn!" she squealed. Apparently this is what sisters were supposed to do, and since she had never had a sister she would settle for me. I was sure she got this off of crappy sitcoms. "Truth or dare?" she asked excitedly. This was the hard part. Do something outrageous, or admit something outrageous. What made it worse was that I couldn't even cheat in truth. I was too horrible a liar. "Dare." I muttered, wincing.

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"Okay...hmm. I dare you too..." The phone ringing cut her off. She made a face, as I went to get it. I tried to drag my feet, to make my pace look sad that I had to interrupt the game. Truthfully I was so happy I wanted to kiss who ever had called. "Hello?" I asked in to the receiver. My voice came out reverenced. "Hey, this is Edward. Is Bella there?" "Speaking. How did it go?" I asked, sitting down on the couch, ready to drag this out as long as possible. "Horrible. I chickened out." He groaned. I looked at the clock on the wall. Jasper was supposed to be here in less then half an hour. Alice was still trying to convince me to stay and play truth or dare with them. It was either going to get nasty or awkward. "Hey, Edward, I hate to ask you this, but Jasper is coming over soon. I"-I hesitated-"I wanted to know if I could crash on your couch?" There was a long silence. I grimaced. "Bella, as much as I would love for you to spend the night with me...there are two guys that live here. It's not exactly clean." I rolled my eyes, "I don't care. I change with guys in a smelly, dirty locker room with stories on who bagged who on the weekend. Not-exactly-clean is the story of my life." There was a sigh on the other side of the phone, "I'll come by and show you where I am. See you soon. Oh, and I need to ask you something when I come." There was a click on the other side. "Bye." I muttered into the dead receiver before placing it back in its cradle. Alice was already sitting on the arm of the couch, smiling happily. "What does he want to ask you?" she asked her eyes shrewd. I shrugged, narrowing my eyes at her. "You shouldn't eaves drop on peoples conversations." I could now see the other cordless phone cradled-half hidden-in her lap. She smiled, "That's what my mother told me. Back to our game. Your dare is you have to agree with whatever Edward asks you." I groaned. "Alice! The game stopped. And what if he asks me to do something horrible? Like rob a bank with him. Or maybe he'll ask me if he thinks Mrs. X is too good for him. I'll crush his little heart." Alice shrugged, still smiling widely, "I have a good feeling about this Bella." "Yea, right." I muttered, but her and I both knew it was an admission. She helped me pack my bags, throwing in silly things like an uncooked bag of pop-corn, a blanket-not so silly since I didn't know what was safe to touch in Edward's room-and a deck of cards. I didn't stop her, instead I threw in all the clothes that she didn't make a horrified face at into the over night bag. There was a knock at the front door. "Come in!" I yelled from my room. "Ow! That was my ear, Bella. I needed that." She muttered.

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"Oops." I mouthed. Edward knocked on the door again. I impatiently blew a piece of hair out of my face. "Fine, fine, Edward. I'll open the door" I mumbled. I hurried down to the front door; overnight bag zipped up and tossed over my shoulder. The second I opened the door I had a bouquet of flowers thrust into my face. "Will you go out on a date with me?" he asked hopefully as I took the flowers from him. I looked at Edward surprised, "Huh?" Edward shifted uncomfortably, "Technically they're for Mrs. X, but I chickened out. And I thought that, maybe, you could show me how to act on a date with her. So..." he took a deep breath, "What are your plans for tonight?" There was a scream of delight, and then Alice all but jumped on my back, "Yes! She wants to go on a date with you!" She was so happy she was shaking with pleasure. I vibrated under her. She leaned around my shoulder to get a whiff of the flowers, and then her eyes rolled back into her head in absolute ecstasy. "Alice," I tried to calm her down, "It's not a real date." "Doesn't matter." She sang. I sighed, "Sure Romeo. A date." Edward grinned relieved. "Thanks. I was actually expecting you to slap me." I rolled my eyes, closing the door after waving goodbye to Alice. "Oh right. I forgot, you expected that because I'm cold hearted." I smirked. "No. It's because you always slap me." I opened my mouth to defend myself but he held up a hand, "I know, I know. I deserve it most of the time." "I'm sorry I hit you so much then." I held up the flowers. "Thank you for the flowers by the way. I don't understand why you didn't give them to her though." They smelt wonderful. I inhaled deeply, enjoying the stolen token more then I should. "Because I was absolutely petrified. By the time I was outside her door I wanted to run away screaming." He shrugged, stuffing his hands into his pockets. "I was so close to telling her too. Every time it seems like the perfect moment to say something, to tell her how I feel..." he shook his head. Then he turned to me, smiling a little, "I feel like a girl talking about all this." My first instinct was to slap his arm, but I held back. "Girls like men who are sensitive. Now don't get that confused with boys who are sensitive. You need to be mature about it." I watched the bronzed leaves get scattered across the grass by the wind as we pushed out of the doors of our building and into full blown fall weather. Thinking about what I had said he touched the back of his hand to mine again, like he had in the hallway. I thought briefly about feigning cold and putting my hand in my pocket. "I have another idea for a lesson." I said instead. He pulled his hand away, and I felt a tug of guilt for rejecting him. I had to make my position clear. I was his friend. That was all.

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"Let me guess, something about maturity." He grinned at me. I could see the tiniest hint of embarrassment in his eyes. Again the feeling tugged at my heart. "No you're plenty mature." I assured to make up for hurting him. "This lesson is about touching. It seems a good a time as any seeing as we're practicing for a date." I put an emphasis on 'practicing'. He scowled at the trees. "Fine, how do I touch? Since I, apparently, don't do it right." "You're fine Edward, really. Just...think of subtle ways to touch, ways that say I love you without making her uncomfortable. Can I drop my stuff off at your house first?" "Sure, this is my building." We both looked up to the nearly identical towering brick buildings all lined in a row. There was an abnormally large crack, I saw in mine and Alice's building compared to all the other nearly perfect towering structures. Ours must be the oldest in the row. Edward's looked much newer. "Spiffy." I said, walking towards the towering double door entrance. Edward pulled my bag off my shoulder, setting me off balance. I stumbled into his side. "Hey!" He righted me easily, hitching my bag up on his shoulder. "What?" he asked, opening the door for me. I stood outside in the wind, staring at him. What was all this? He raised an eyebrow at me, "We're practicing small gestures that say 'I love you' right?" I huffed a piece of hair out of my face, walking hesitantly through the doors, almost expecting him to let them slam shut on me with a 'gotcha!' His lips turned up into a crooked smile as he read my expression. "Bella?" I turned, waiting, "Yeah?" He closed the doors, walking after me. "You're beautiful." And then he just walked by me, my bag still up on his shoulder his gait smooth, his shoulders relaxed. He turned when he reached the bottom of the stairs, "You coming?" I blinked off my shock, trying to figure if he had actually said anything. "Yes, just....Yeah." I hurried to catch up, shaking my head. He laughed, "You look like I insulted you." He told me, climbing the stars awkwardly. Trying to balance my bag, talk to me, and dig his keys out of his pants while he climbed the stairs. "Just took me off guard." I muttered. His hair was messier then usual because of the wind. I hated to think what mine looked like now that I was painfully conscious of what I looked like. He finally managed to dig his keys out of his pocket. He looked distracted, looking through the individual keys for the one for his room. "Don't people tell you you're beautiful?" "No. Well, my mom, but that's different." We were standing out side what I guessed was his room. He looked frustrated, trying to find the right key. When he did find it, he shoved it smoothly into the lock, "Huh," he said, he looked like he wanted to say more

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but couldn't. He dropped my things on the floor by the door, and threw the flowers on top, then closed it quickly, before I saw what his place looked like. I rolled my eyes, "Edward, seriously. I don't care about what it looks like, I'm just happy I have somewhere to sleep." He shrugged, taking my hand. "C'mon. We'll get dinner and then I'll show you something even you'll love about Canada." He smirked. He dragged me to one of the restaurants on campus. It wasn't fancy, or expensive, for which I was grateful. I already felt awkward about the flowers. The waitress taking our orders acted as I expected. Overfriendly to Edward, coolly polite to me. "Can I get you anything?" She asked Edward, dropping her pen. "Oops," she giggled in embarrassment, and then leaned down, picking it up. I watched the way her shirt revealed her chest and grimaced, looking away. If the waitress had been younger, I would have been convinced it had been on purpose. I'm pretty sure this time it was because her hands were shaking. Edward sighed, and when I looked back at him, he had his head leaning on his hand, facing away from the waitress. I bit my lip to keep from laughing at his aggravated expression. "Burger and fries." He muttered. "And a coke, or Pepsi. Whatever you have." He was blushing. I smiled warmly at the waitress now, enjoying the pre-dinner entertainment. "I'll have the same please." Once she let I let the laughs I had been choking on go. Edward glared at me menacingly, "Don't look at your date like that." I chided through my laughter, "But you defiantly pass the no-flirting-with-other-women test." I snickered again. "She was older then my mother Bella." he shuddered. "I bet you could hardly contain yourself." I snickered. A girl at another table turned to give us a look. Obviously we were being too loud. 'Sorry' I mouthed apologetically, waving gleefully. He rolled his eyes; "Was it that obvious?" his sarcasm was just that much funnier with the melancholy tone. Then he grinned darkly, "Were you jealous?" he winked, "its okay Bella, you can admit your undying love for me. I'll understand." I reached across the table, stifling a grin, and took his hands in mine. "I actually do have a confession to make Edward." he sobered immediately, squeezing my hands to continue, though I was sure I saw his lips twitch and I knew he was in on my plan. Due, no doubt, to my poor acting. I changed what I was going to say for truth, "As annoying, as pig headed, as absolutely intolerable you can be most of the time,"-I squeezed his hands-"I think you have to be my best friend." "Aww." Both our heads snapped around to see the waitress from before, holding her note pad to her heart, smiling at us. Once she saw us looking her cheeks flushed, "And here are your drinks." She said briskly, and then hurried off. Edward got up and switched sides of the table so he was beside me, then he wrapped me in a hug. "I'm so excited! Maybe we can make each other friendship bracelets later. Oh, BFFs!" his voice was high, and

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insultingly female. "You're a jerk Edward, I don't like you anymore." I tried to push him away but he laughed holding me tighter. "I'm kidding Bella. That means a lot to me, thanks. I'd reciprocate the feeling, but Emmett would come at you with a pick axe." I giggled, "For stealing his friendship bracelet?" He chuckled, letting me go. "I love you, Bella." He blurted out. There was a long awkward silence. He stared at me, looking like he wanted to kick himself, set himself on fire, and jump off a cliff into a pointy things convention. "Like...friend love?" My voice sounded more confused then surprised. I wasn't sure, but it looked like he bit his tongue. "Mhmm." He agreed, moving back to his original spot opposite of me. "Then I love you too...I wouldn't do this on your first date with Mrs. X, just a heads up." He pursed his lips, nodding, "Thanks." There was another long uncomfortable silence. I shifted in my seat, looking at the other people eating, talking, and not wanting to run out of the restaurant screaming. "So...I'm sorry for scaring you. That's not what I initially intended to do." I smiled, holding in laughter. "What was you initial intention then?" I asked, leaning forward. He laughed uncomfortably, "Actually, I was going to say that I liked your shirt, but then I thought that was kind of stupid." "So you said you loved me instead?" He buried his head in his hands. "Yeah. That happened to be stupider." I grinned, "Oh well. It's a memorable at least. This will be the story I'll tell my children one day. We'll all ridicule you then." He chuckled, "Oh well then, if all I'll get is decades of humiliation..." He shrugged. The waitress came back, "Here you kids go." She smiled warmly at him again, sparing me a kind glance, then wandered off to another table. "If you ordered what I ordered, does that mean you eat like a man?" he asked, pointing his fork at my meal before spearing a French fry. "If your eating what I'm eating, does that mean you eat like a woman? And who eats French fries with a fork? They are the international finger food." He made a face, putting his fork down. I grinned, picking up a French fry with my fingers. The rest of the evening was mostly jabs at each other's eating habits. He couldn't find much with mine other then I ate French fries with my fingers. Apparently that made me barbaric or something.

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After dinner Edward led me down to the lake. He made me lay down in the grass bellow a towering maple tree, the leaves all the colours of fall that I never got to see in phoenix. Reds, oranges, yellows and some rich browns all set alight from the dazzling sunset. "See? Pretty right?" he asked, smug as I watched the reds in his hair catch fire from the last of the sun's light. I sighed contently, leaning back in the grass. "Yeah. I never got to see this when I visited Charlie in the summers." I murmured. He raised an eyebrow at me, and I realized belatedly that he didn't know much about my parents. It surprised me, mostly because I felt like I had known him for much longer then a week. Huh, a week today actually. "Happy one week." I said grinning, holding up my hand for a high five. He made a week with out getting thrown into a lake. He pulled his hand out from behind his head to high five me. "Like an anniversary? And you're distracting me," his eyes narrowed suspiciously, "Is Charlie your boyfriend?" He made a face, and I could see all the instant prejudices he had against him in that one look. Probably all accusations would be based on his name until he got more information. "Yes, like an anniversary...kind of. And ew, no. Charlie is my dad. My parents got divorced when I was really young, so I used to visit Charlie in the summers, in Forks. I think Washington weather is similar to Canadian weather...just wetter." "I'm sorry." He told me. I could see his hand reaching for mine, to squeeze it comfortingly, though in all truth I didn't need to be comforted, but he stopped. "Aren't you supposed to be teaching me right now?" he asked. "Oh! Right." I stood up, waiting for Edward. He looked up and me, then sighed, standing up. "Please bear with me for this one. I'm not much of a touchy feely person...and I've never had a boyfriend to try this with." I mumbled the last part nearly incoherently. "And you've...what?" "Never had a...guy to practice this on." I shrugged, looking away. What would the all dating Edward think of that? The man who oozed sex when all he did was smile. I expected him to laugh. And he did. "What? Seriously?" he barked another laugh. "Just to let you know, you sound like a drowning bear when you laugh." I snapped, embarrassed. "Anyways, I don't need a man to define who I am." I sniffed. He grinned hugely at me. It was really starting to get dark, but even so I could still see with vivid clarity the exact shade of Edward's eyes, like he glowed. A brilliant light that shone from inside him. A deeper emanating beauty. Like he needed that. "Good for you. Never let a guy make you feel like you need to be defined. And if any of them try, call me. I'll deal with them." He winked, cracking his knuckles. Just for that I was going to go after the biggest, scariest body builder I could find, just to scare the hell out of Edward when I called him. Crack your knuckled then tough guy. "Focus Edward. Touching. This could be like in the halls at school...or where ever you walking past her. Go to walk past me." I started to walk towards him, feeling a little self-conscious. I didn't really know what I was talking about. I really hoped it didn't show.

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He chuckled as I reached out for his arm, "This feels more like a dance then-" he stopped talking as I passed, gently running my fingers down the inside of his arm, over his wrist, the pads of his palms until I touched his fingers. Then I held on with a loose grip-like I was trying to keep him with me, but knew I couldn't-and let my fingers slip off. I turned around quickly, to see his reaction. His hand was shaking. He stared at me, eyes huge. I couldn't see much else on his face too know if this was a look of awe, or a sarcastic look. The light was too poor. "Did that seem stupid?" I asked, biting my lip. "No. That was shockingly...intimate. That defiantly says I love you." He saw my disbelieving expression and chuckled sheepishly, showing me his hand, "It's tingling. That's a good thing." I finally smiled back; relieved I wasn't going to get fired from my job as 'teacher'. "Good. Because that's all I've got." His eyes narrowed in shrewd speculation, "Can I try?" "Sure." I shrugged, walking towards him again. This time his fingers traced down the sensitive flesh of my inner arm, setting them aflame with heated pinpricks. It seemed like-for a fraction of a second-he was going to take my hand, until he continued over my palm, then held unwillingly released his grip on my fingers. To finish it off, he glanced down at me from the corner of one luminescent jewel like eye to give me a soft look. Everything about it said I love you. I had to swallow hard before I could collect myself enough to turn around to face him. You're projecting Bella, personifying, I told myself sternly. I grinned at him, "Nice. That was perfect." Edward captured me in his arms after a brief smile. I shivered in his arms, embarrassingly because I wasn't cold. Despite the chill this morning it was a warm evening. Eventually I had to push him away. All my muscles were relaxing, letting me melt into him. I had the most absurd thought, that if we stayed here long enough, we would blend into one being. Skin onto skin, bone onto bone. He didn't look all that put out from my rebuff, he was more focused on his accomplishment, "Really?" I smiled grandly, "Really." Then I sighed laying down on the grass, watching all the points of light in the sky. When he lay down beside me he sighed contently. "Sure that's all you're ideas on touching? No other thoughts?" he asked, looking at the sky as I did. His eyes flickering between the stars. "Sorry," I mumbled, "When I come up with more I'll tell you." "Kay." There was a long silence. I could here the crickets chirping in our silence, some of the frog calls from the swamp a ways from where we lay drifted over the water to us. I closed my eyes, listening to the sounds of night. "So I have a question." Edward said after the peaceful silence, "What if I want to kiss her on the first date?" I pursed my lips, thinking. I tried to think about that, would I want to be kissed on the first night? If it was my Edward? Yes, probably, but at the same time, I didn't think so. "I don't know. I wouldn't recommend it, but I

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won't say not to either." I saw him nod thoughtfully out of the corner of my eye. "Okay, so if I can't kiss her-"he saw I was about to object and rephrased, "-okay if I shouldn't kiss her, then what can I do to? Intimacy wise?" I grinned evilly, "I hope you can endure celibacy Edward, because you're going to have to wait a long time. Unless she's not a virgin, and she wants to." "She is a virgin." He responded immediately, defensively. I got up on my elbows, "I didn't mean anything by it Edward. It's fine if she's not." His eyes flickered open to see me, then slowly they closed again, it reminded me of the lazy, trusting stare of a cat falling asleep in your lap. "She's a virgin. And if she wants to anyways?" he asked, absolutely confident. I wrinkled my nose at him. "I would still give it a lot of time. Mostly because of your reputation. If you move too fast, even if she wants to, it would be too easy for someone to convince her that she's only a play thing." I'd seen that happen before. It was a complicated mess to get out of, especially if old girlfriends holding vendettas got involved. His eyes opened again to give me a hard look, "I would never give her any reason to doubt me. She's is a goddess, and will be respectively treated like one." I nodded, satisfied with his answer. Also a little afraid. I sighed, loving the cool feel of the night air, saturated with water blown off the lake by the warm winds. It had gotten so dark too fast. That didn't seem fair, that my night with Edward was coming to a close. He groaned, "Bella, I need to touch her. Even if it's just simple, like what you showed me before." My lips twisted to the side as I thought. Then I leaned over him, still balancing my weight on my forearms. "Then tuck her hair behind her ear." I couldn't actually put Edward's hair behind his ears; it was a little too short for that. That didn't stop me from tracing my fingers over the hollow behind his ear, then down the line of his jaw to his lips. I couldn't help myself, last night on the couch, when I had felt how soft his lips were was flashing back into my mind with violent force. I ran my thumb over his lower lip gently. I snatched my hand away once I realized that I might have crossed some line I wasn't supposed to. Edward didn't look troubled though as he raised himself to touch my shoulder, trying to make me lay down under him. I did as he wanted, and he repeated the gesture back to me, even running his warm thumb over my lower lip. My heart thudded painfully in my chest and my lips burned. It was wonderful. My heart had finally settled down when Edward looked playfully over at me, "Want to go for a swim?" "No." "Okay," he said easily, and then stood, pulling me up with him. The second I started to struggle he threw me over his shoulder. "No! Edward put me down, my shirt is white!" I continued to struggle, getting more desperate the closer he

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got to the end of the dock. "Please Edward." I begged as we stood at the end of the dock. I had stopped struggling. "What colour is your bra?" he asked me. His voice was easy, like he was asking for the whether forecast. "What?" I gasped; trying to sit up do I should see his face. He moved us closer to the end of the dock. "Green! It's green." "Is the material thin?" he asked, moving us closer to the water while I tried to remember exactly what it had looked like when I had put it on this morning. I hadn't actually been paying attention to trivial things like this, and suddenly they were important. "I don't remember." I started to struggle, my heart pounding in my ears. He was going to throw me in, that's why he wanted to know, to see if my bra would go see-through. "I guess we'll be finding out then." He laughed darkly. I couldn't hear the soft chirping of the crickets anymore, and I wondered if it was because we were making too much noise, or if my heart was pounding too loud in my ears to hear them. I made an abrupt decision. If I was going in, I was taking him with me. He pulled me of his shoulder, about to toss me into the water as if I were a rag doll. Instead, I stiffened and twisted my body at the same time. He lost his hold on me, just slightly, but it was enough so that my feet touched the ground. I planted myself firmly, and then swung my bodyweight around so he was set off balance. Pushing him in was too easy. There was a cry of shock, and then a splash. Water sprinkled my skin. I waited until his head came out of the water, then I knelt as the edge of the dock. It was all too funny; his hair was black in the wet and the night, treading ink black water as he stared at me in shock. "How do you do that?" he asked, partly in shock, partly frustrated. "I can bench press your weight." I smiled innocently, "What colour is you bra Edward? I hope it's not thin." I giggled at his furious expression. My laughing stopped short when he smirked, then disappeared under the water. "Uh oh." I mumbled, taking a step away from the edge of the dock. After almost a full minute of him not resurfacing I started to panic. "Edward?" I asked to the dark water. It was smooth, dark. I couldn't see him, "Edward!" I threw my shirt off, kicking my shoes off and dove into the water. I searched in vain through the dark water until my lungs screamed for air. I surfaced, splashing around the cold water. "Edward!"I gasped, spinning around, hoping for something, anything. When I saw him, my eyes pricked with tears. I was pissed. "How long have you been there?" I cried at his dripping figure on the dock. "I didn't even see you get out of the water." "I got out over there." He pointed to the miniature beach like area a good ten feet from the dock. His voice was staggered. "I was about to push you in but you jumped." I glared at him, trying to ignore the relief saturating my every breath. "I called your name twice before I jumped. Why didn't you answer?"

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"Because that would have given me away." He grinned, slipping down into the water with me. I swam over to him, my legs and arms pricked with the cold. "Scared the crap out of me. I thought you were drowning." He smiled innocently, wrapping two surprisingly warm arms around me. "Shocked the hell out of me. I was about to push you, and then you stripped and jumped into the water. I thought you had seen me for a second until you started to freak out." I stopped. "Oh...my shirt." I said flatly. He hugged me tighter, "I only saw your back. No worries." He sighed into my hair, not letting go of me. I didn't mind, I was warm. I grinned, pulling away from him, "I finally made good on my promise. I threw you into the lake." He barked a laugh, but it sounded like I had pulled him away from another train of thought. "Penny for your thoughts?" I asked, swimming blithely on my back as I watched the sky again. Once you were in the water, it wasn't so cold. Well once your arms and legs went numb and you lost all feeling it wasn't so cold. Kind of refreshing. "Just wondering how we're getting you out of the water." He told me, his voice still far off. My eyes had adjusted enough to see more then just the green of his eyes. I could make out the outlines of expressions. "Why can't you just turn around while I go up the beach?" I asked, stopping to look at him. He was grimacing, "Because I recently discovered some people smashed beer bottled on the beach. I almost stepped on a piece of glass. I was wondering if you could pull your self up onto the dock instead." "I'll try." I said eyeing the dock doubtfully. The dock was built a good two feet above the water, I didn't know if my arms were strong enough to pull my whole body up. Edward made an irritated noise in the back of his throat. "Sure, you have the muscle to push me into the water, but not to pull yourself out." He shook his head in mock disappointment. I made a face. This was going to get interesting. The look Edward was giving me said he was thinking the same thing. Chap 13 Movie Night Teeny Tiny Twilight Getting out was...awkward. What sense did it make to take my shirt off before jumping in? Obviously so I wouldn't be dragged down by the weight of my water logged clothes, but I was beginning to think that would have been better then this awkward dance of trying to get out of the water now. We had put this off for as long as we could, but soon my

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lips started to turn an odd purple colour. "Okay, you ready Bella? I'm going to push you up and you are going to grab the dock." Edward repeated for the fourth time in ten minutes. "I know!" I snapped back, aggravated. "This is your fault; if you hadn't been drowning I wouldn't have stripped." The whole situation had gotten past ridiculous. I was beginning to wonder if I shouldn't just give up and let him see. It's more coverage then some bikinis I had seen Millie wear around the pool. "Will I get in trouble for saying I enjoyed it?" "Yes." "Hated it. I will be forever scarred by this act of undress that I did not enjoy in the least." I turned to smile at him, "Thank you Edward. That means a lot to me." He grinned, and then looked up at the dock again. Getting ready to toss me up. "Wait!" I called as he took a firm grip on my waist. "What?" he pulling back from me to see what the problem was now. "Can I try on my own first? Then, if that doesn't work we'll try your way." I watched him think that through before sighing, grudgingly agreeing as he watched me wearily getting reading to spring out of the water. "Careful." He warned. I rolled my eyes, and then kicked as hard as I could out of the water. The second the solid wood touched my hands, I latched on for dear life. I struggled trying to gain some leverage to pull myself up with. "You okay?" Edward asked I could hear him swimming closer to me. "I need a push." I mumbled, flushing. The blood burned against my chilled skin. This was one of those dates you never wanted to go on again. Something you laughed about later with that person, awkwardly, then secret the event away for another twenty years. "...okay." I could feel his hands hesitating about where was not only safe to touch, but would actually help me up and out of the water. I rolled my eyes, frustrated. My frozen muscles were screaming against the strain. "Just grab whatever you want and push!" I was already expecting him to take advantage of that, but I squealed anyways when he roughly grabbed the seat of my soaked jeans and pushed up. I managed to hook my leg over the dock though, and finally pull myself out. I couldn't see my shirt on the dock, and Edward was already jumping. He struggled, trying to gain leverage with cold muscles, just as I had. I grabbed onto one of the posts sticking out of the dock, and then offered Edward my hand. He took it gratefully, and I pulled him up, fighting against the cold and his weight. Stupid Canadian weather. If it was warm in the afternoon it should still be warm at night. Edward nearly fell on top of me. He looked me in the eye for about a second before he cleared his throat, looking ahead into the trees. "Where is your shirt?" his voice was husky. "I don't know. I thought you might have seen where I threw it." I pushed him off me. Getting to my feet. I

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crossed my arms over my chest, shivering. "Do you really like that shirt?" he asked, looking around. "Not especially. Why?" He grinned, pulling his own shirt off and offering it to me, "Because I think it's going to spend the night here. We'll come back tomorrow or something." I pulled his shirt on, immediately freezing even though it had been pressed against his skin. The shirt was just as wet as my jeans and socks were, but it covered me. "Thank you. And forget the shirt. It's too cool in Canada for something like that. I was going to pitch it anyways." I lied. Edward nodded, crossing his arms over his own chest now. His lips were starting to change shades too. "Let's go home. No more swimming until summer." He grinned, and we started to jog home. "Race you." I challenged him. He raised an eyebrow, and then very obviously eyed my stumpy legs. I flashed a smile. "Unless you're scared of course. I can understand, after crushing you poor ego in basket ball, then again in foot ball, you might want some recovery time." He took off running before I had even finished my sentence, "Try to keep up! Wouldn't want a poor, defenceless, female alone at night with out a man to protect her." he called back at me, taunting. "Run boy run!" I called, laughing as I too took off in a sprint to catch up. Needless to say in this situation size did matter, and Edward had much larger legs then I did. I gave him a good run for his money though. My limbs were cold and the run wasn't nearly as pleasant as it had been on other occasions around the campus. When we ran through his door, gasping and panting, Edward suddenly dropped to his carpet with a painful sounding thump. Since I was about half a millimeter away from him-he was defiantly letting me get that close-I feel on top of him. Of course neither of us remembered where he had thrown my bag earlier. I rolled off him, he met my eyes for a second, and then he had to hide his face as we both burst out laughing again. "Okay, we need to get my stuff out of the way." I managed. He rolled off my bag. It must have been quite a sight for anyone in the hallway, two protruding feet and ridiculous manic laughter. I rolled over to make room for him. "It would make one hell of a burglar alarm." He chuckled. I grinned, and then got up. He stood too, brushing himself off. I picked my bag up off the ground, looking around Edward's place. It wasn't so bad. There were a few pieces of dirty laundry and what I thought had perhaps once been a book was starting to crawl out of one of the rooms. I wanted to think it was Emmett's. I really hoped Edward didn't treat his books like that. Edward caught my stare and chuckled embarrassed. "I told you it wasn't exactly clean. That's Emmett's room by the way. My room's the one that you can breathe in-and wonder of all wonders-see the floor!" He seemed quite proud of this so I clapped. "You can put your stuff in my room. I'll be sleeping on the couch so you can get the bed." He gestured to his

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bed, which was large enough for more then two people to sleep. The covers were dark, black with silver pillows. I guessed that Rose, his mom, or maybe even one of his girlfriends had picked out the style. Edward didn't seem like the kind of guy who cared about interior decorating, or maybe he liked his bed. "Edward, I'll sleep on the couch. It's your bed." He opened his mouth to argue to I put up a realistic defence, "I don't know what happened in that bed Edward, it makes me uncomfortable. I'll sleep on the couch." I could really care less what he did in there. His life, his business. I had gotten as involved in his sex life as I was going to get by trying to make him gentlemanly. He pursed his lips sceptically, "Funny how you don't mention you comfort on that subject until now." I shrugged. "Slipped my mind." "I'm sure." He muttered, but dropped the subject. He watched as I started to root through my bag, throwing the popcorn bag Alice had packed at him. I now saw the wisdom of her choice. I had swam and shivered tonight's dinner off. "What's this?" he asked catching the bag. "This revolutionary new invention Edward. They take corn, and pop it. They call it 'pop corn'. Cool huh?" I asked. Grinning teasingly at him. He scowled, "I know what pop corn is...what are you looking for?" he tried to peer around my shoulder. "Clothes. You'll need some too. We're both soaked." I finally found my comfy pair of pyjama pants and my tank top. The pants were new for Canada, while the tank top was sent a wave of home sickness through me. Edward saw my face twist in pain as I looked at the shirt, remembering when Renee and I had also sat down to home movies together where I had, perhaps, worn this same shirt. "You okay Bella?" he took a hesitant step forward. I nodded, hugging the shirt into my chest, smiling sheepishly. "Yes. Sorry, just a little home sick. This is one of my Phoenix shirts." Edward nodded, hesitating. I smiled again, a real one, a happy one. "I'm fine Edward, really. Go get out of your wet clothes." He pursed his lips, and then quickly dug something out of his drawer and disappeared closing the door behind him. I swallowed thickly, feeling the home sickness increase when he wasn't there with me. I realized I was already starting to make another home for me here, in this alien country. Edward was beginning to feel like home. I got dressed in warm dry clothes, and then balled my wet clothes up in a ball, watching them drip through my fingers until I found a plastic bag to put them in. I wandered out into the living room-holding my breath as I passed Emmett's room-and found Edward already on the couch with a bowl of pop corn. When he saw me he leaned over to put the popcorn on a small table in front of one large white couch. To the right of the large white couch was a smaller black love seat. The ceramic bowl clinked softly against the glass on the table, and then he opened his arms to me, his face solemn. I went to him, hesitating a second, not sure what to do. Surely he didn't want me to sit in his lap? But as I hesitated before him, he did pull me into his lap, holding me against his chest as he softly ran his hand

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through my hair. My eyes closed contently. Home sweet home. He chuckled suddenly, and I smiled at whatever he was laughing at. He grinned sheepishly. "I'm the biggest coward you are ever going to find Bella." he chuckled again, leaning back to look at the ceiling. I cocked my head though he couldn't see. "That's not true. I've met Tyler." I joked, trying to lighten his mood. He didn't laugh, just kept looking at the ceiling. "What's wrong Edward?" I didn't like this expression, like he was warring with himself. I was all too used to Edward's happy smiles. "I just realized that if it was Mrs. X sitting here, I wouldn't tell her that I loved her. If this had been a real date, I couldn't tell her how I felt." He made a disgusted sound in his throat. The words shocked me until I remembered that I reminded Edward of Mrs. X. Something picked at me in the back of my head. I rested my head on his shoulder, trying to find a way to salvage our previous mood. I couldn't help but feel my home sickness had brought this on, like this had stirred something he wanted to tell me. Something that gave him the ridiculous idea that he was a coward. "C'mon Edward. You are very brave; you actually held your own in a sport against me." I winked when he looked at me, his lips twitching up into a smile. "Besides," I shrugged, sliding off his lap, "We all have our faults. No one is perfect." The couch was surprisingly comfortable. I was going to sleep like a baby tonight on this. His carpet was probably soft enough to sleep on comfortably too. Edward sighed, "I wish." "No you don't. I don't at least. You would be so boring if you were perfect. You're the closest that humanity can sanely achieve." His eye brows shot up and his smile was suddenly dark, "What was that?" I shook my head, biting my tongue. Wonderful, I just gave the walking ego a boost. "Nothing, I didn't say anything. You're imagining things." He wouldn't be able to fit his egotistical head through the door if I opened my mouth again. He chuckled, having regained his previous light mood. "So, since everyone has their faults, what's yours?" I swallowed, and then forced a smile, "Nothing. I'm perfect. Only a woman can achieve such a high level of perfection. I guess that's why-" "You're babbling." He said surprised. At my look of shock he explained. "You babble when you're nervous. What's bothering you?" How did he know that? I didn't even know it was my tell until he pointed it out. I didn't want to tell him, afraid it would put him back into his previous dejection. It seemed every time I was upset about something it affected him ten times as strongly. But he was waiting for me to say something. I tried to keep it light, "Oh c'mon Edward. Guess, what do you think are my faults?" "That's dangerous territory." "Damn right."

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He tried to subdue his infectious grin, unsuccessfully. "I wasn't even aware you had one." I grinned back, feeling all warm and fuzzy from his compliment. "Flattery will get you no where mister." I sniffed with an over the top aristocratic demeanour. He chuckled, "Okay. Then I would have to say you're only fault would have to be your dating fashion." I made a face at him, already anticipating where this was going. "You know you've spent too much time with Alice when..." He laughed, poking me in the stomach. "Really Bella. Green? How is green supposed to be a romantic colour? What about red, or black or something?" I giggled, slapping his hands away as he tried to pin me. He wasn't really trying. I would have been pinned by now if he had. "Well you weren't actually supposed to see it. No one was, my underwear is just that. Worn under and thusly unseen." "Well Isaw it tonight." He finally managed to push me down, and then rested his chin on my stomach, looking up at me grinning. "Okay, so tell me what you think your fault is." Oh God, where to start? "You seriously haven't noticed I'm a guy?" Edward's face went from gleeful amusement to absolute horror. "Besides the anatomy." I added quickly. I didn't really want to be informing Edward of this if he hadn't noticed on his own, especially since I was starting to think that Edward was more then projected love. I think I liked him liked him. I especially liked the way he wasn't intimidated by me, not by what I wanted to be, or the sports I played or even the guys I spent some of my time with (With one outstanding exception). Edward was fun to be around, he played rough and didn't treat me like I was made of glass, unless of course Emmett falls on me, then he gets a little worried. "Why, because you're good at sports? Isn't that kind of sexist Bella? I'm especially surprised to hear this coming from you." I flushed, "Well...yeah, but...I don't like to shop, and I listen to hard core rock. I like it. And then I would rather hang out with guys then kiss them, and I watch football with my dad." I was running out of reasons to prove my point. I went from trying to make sure he didn't see, to trying to convince him. I was baffled by Edward's obliviousness. "Well, since we're stereotyping, do you drink beer and spill chips all over your shirt?" he asked, trying to keep from smiling. "No." "Then you're not a guy. And just to let you know, you are officially my fantasy. If I didn't have Mrs. X of course." He finished quickly. "Every guy wants a fun girl like that who doesn't prance around like a bimbo." I rolled my eyes at him, snatching a handful of pop corn. "Yeah. I have the guys lining up out side my door. Oh! Wait!" I smacked my forehead, "Those aren't for me, and those are for Alice. Duh!" "One. If you ever hit yourself again I'll restrain your hands and two, only the smart ones go after the girls who they know they want to spend their time with. Most of us just get the nervous jitters at the thought of wanting

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to stay with a girl, because we love them. Of course some of us are just in it for the sex." He sounded so serine, like we were discussing something outside of himself and his gender. I sighed, "Like you." His green eyes widened, hurt. I bit my tongue, but the words were already out. "That's not true. And for the record, I can count the number of girls I've slept with on one hand." He did a quick count in his head. "Never mind. Two hands, but just barely!" I leaned back into the soft cushions, waiting for the number. He held up seven fingers. I don't think he knew how this looked to me. In my eyes he was only seventeen. How young must he have started, or had his relationships been short and too the point? In response I held up one fisted hand, "none." He shrugged. "I'm not ashamed. I think of it as practice for the one who counts. I'll know what to do, and I'll know how to make it the best night of her life. I would rather have a past reputation and give her that, rather then be completely naïve and awkward when it counts." I thought about that, and then nodded grudgingly. "I guess that makes sense, but admit it, that's not what you were thinking when you were actually doing it." "Nope. It just felt really really good." He sighed, leaning back. There was a long awkward silence while Edward revelled in his past conquests. "Well then, are you suggesting that it would only be fair that I be experienced to properly pleasure my man? I'm not trying to say anything, so don't offer." Edward laughed. "I like how you say that. My man. You already own him. Poor guy." He didn't look like he pitied my hopeful future love, and we lapsed into silence as Edward thought through what I had said. "I guess I see your point. But I think it's kind of different for a girl." I decided I didn't want to talk about this any more. Something in the back of my mind that had been acting up lately was stubbornly trying to push the conversation away. Sometimes the way Edward would say something, the way he would look or touch me would make this uncomfortable stirring in the back of my mind. It was like I had a sponge that was sucking up all of the words, but kept them all soaked up, unwilling to relinquish the knowledge they kept. As much as I wanted to understand sometimes, I was also scared of why my mind was hiding it all away. My mental forte was suppressing anything that might potentially drive me off the brink of sanity. That's probably the only way I was able to stand Edward in the beginning. "Let's do something. Watch a movie or whatever you want." I said quickly, wanting to distract us both. Edward shrugged, snaring a handful of popcorn. "I was actually waiting for you to pick something. Then you distracted me." I raised an eye brow and then decided to ignore him. I looked through all his DVDs, thinking of some kind of petty form of revenge. I found it in the shape of an obviously sappy chick flick that Rose-the brave woman that she is-must have found a way to slip in with all of Edward's and Emmett's car-casing-womanizing-explosions-everywhere-you-look movies.

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I proudly raised the movie. It was a new movie; I had even seen some commercials for it a few weeks ago between Alice's fashion shows and some decent sitcoms. It had a girl lying down with a guy propped up behind her. "Why don't we watch P.S. I love you?" He shrugged, splayed out on the couch like an over grown cat. He did look surprised to see the movie part of his Manish collection. "I thought you said you were a guy. Other then the obvious." He said, handing me the remote for the right gadget. I shrugged, "I have to have some female qualities. Besides, I'm a sucker for a good romance." He chuckled. When I had gotten everything ready I sat down in the middle of the couch, a respectable distance from where Edward sat propped up on the arm of the couch. He moved closer, grinning slyly. I moved an equal distance away, grinning too. It soon turned into a game where I was slowly losing my piece of the couch. Finally when my leg bumped the opposite arm of the couch, I tried to push him away, laughing. "Edward! I'm running out of couch!" I shrieked as he continued to push. He laughed a deep baritone sound that I was beginning to love. It always marked something ridiculously entertaining about to start. "What's wrong Bella? Am I too close?" he crushed me up against the end of the couch while I squealed. He chuckled, and then quickly moved away while in the same instant pulling my legs so I was horizontal on the couch. He hovered over me in the next instant, his smile devilish. "Oh no. Edward don't-" Too late. He tickled my stomach relentlessly. I squirmed, bucking under him. He laughed harder, pinning my shoulder's down with his body while his hands kept up their relentless torture. Finally he stopped tickling me, looking at the screen instead. I lay gasping under him, my lungs trying furiously to pull in enough air. "Movie's starting." He told me, grinning down at me darkly. "Lucky for you. I could have gone all night." I breathed a sigh of relief, ignoring the suggestion in his words. "I couldn't have." I sighed sitting up when he let me, then moved over close beside him, leaning my head on his shoulder for a short moment. Silent gesture of love. As the movie really started Edward leaned over to whisper, like he would have had we been in a movie theatre. "Are you going to cry?" I shrugged, "Maybe." He chuckled, wrapping an arm around me and pulling me against him. "You mean I may actually find a weakness in the mighty Bella?" when I ignored him. He grabbed the pop corn, putting it on his lap. Easy reach for both of us. Finally we came to the part of the movie that was unavoidable in a sappy movie. I cried. Edward took great amusement in this, choosing to watch me rather then the movie. I wiped my eyes quickly, embarrassed. He chuckled, reaching over to wipe his thumb under my eye. I blushed deeply, feeling odd. I realized I felt very feminine here beside Edward. Weird. I decided I liked it.

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I was becoming antsy from sitting still so long with out moving, I was fidgeting in my seat tucking and un-tucking my legs from under me. I was so used to being in phoenix where I could go for a run at ten o'clock at night with out worrying about my eye lashes frosting over. It was an exaggeration I know, but I still wasn't going to get used to Canada in such a short amount of time. My gaze flickered around the room, taking in every detail of the place. I couldn't find anything living in Edward's and Emmett's place. I blamed that on either irresponsibility or maybe the stench from Emmett's room acting like a fatal disease, killing anything that needed fresh air. I knew my first move if I was locked in Emmett's room would be to jump out the window. The rugs were soft under my feet. I could even feel that through the material of my socks. I started to jingle my knee, looking around the room some more. The walls were bare of pictures as were the stands beside the couches. "Why don't you have any pictures?" I asked suddenly. I was still buzzing with energy. What did he put in the pop corn? He looked at me worriedly, and I guessed that I was making an extreme example of my jittery nature. "I...Uh...Never found anyone I wanted to keep up on my wall." "That's silly. Why don't you put your sister, or you, or even your family. I would accept I think Alice would probably think it was kind of awkward to see pictures of people she didn't know. I mean, it's more her house then mine anyways right?" Tap. Tap. Tap. The incessant tapping of my foot was beginning to drive me insane. Edward took me by the shoulders trying to keep me grounded for a second. He inspected my face carefully. "Are you stoned?" "No. I don't know. What did you do to the pop corn?" He looked at the bowl, "I put sugar in it. Emmett got me hooked on it a while back...are you okay? Are you having some kind of a reaction?" he looked at me worried. Did I have my health card on me? I checked quickly just incase. Edward saw me pull my health card out and immediately started to freak out. I tried my best to sooth him. I sat on my shaking hands, grinning easily at him, "No, I'm not having a reaction. It's just I'm not used to sitting still for so long, and then the sugar and the caffeine all mixed together makes me kind of...excited." Edward grinned happily, more relieved that I wasn't going to go into anaphylactic shock on his couch then anything. "Awesome. You want to go for another run? Kick my butt in basket ball? Our date doesn't have to end just yet." I grinned happily at him, "A run sounds fun." I realized I was probably coming off as a total spaz. "Sorry. I'm not usually like this." Duh. He's been around you before. I laughed nervously, feeling even stupider. He grinned, holding a hand out to help me up. Completely unnecessary since I was bouncing all over the couch. "Don't worry. A run would be fun. Its better then you lazing around the house. That's something I would have a hard time dealing with." I smirked, pulling the ever there hair elastic from around my wrist to pull my hair up. "Unless it's to watch the foot ball game or for the sake of girls, right?" I teased, already slipping my shoes on.

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Edward laughed. "I watch basket ball too. Does that raise me up in your book at all?" I rolled my eyes, opening the door and ready to run. "You're already at the top." Chap 14 The Choice Teeny Tiny Twilight Edward seemed more then happy to go for a run with me, but he insisted that I get a jacket. It was cold, as we had both felt earlier. I tried to make him understand it was only that cold because we had just gotten out of cool water, but he didn't relent until I finally explained my current clothes situation to him. I didn't have a winter jacket yet. I had expected Alice to have taken advantage of dressing me up by now, but there always seemed to be one thing or another that stopped her. This sounded stupid to me. The hounds of hell couldn't stop Alice from doing what she wanted. Only Jasper. And he very rarely abused his power over her. Edward finally forced his jacket upon me. It was about three sized too big and smelled like Edward. Not a bad thing, but while I was discreetly trying to inhale the smell I almost fell down the stairs. Edward nearly fell too he was laughing so hard. He started to look out at me from the corner of his eye every few minutes after that incident like he was wondering if I really was high. He took my hand, claiming that I needed the stability to get down the stairs. "Edward," I sighed, "I can get down the stairs without your help. I just had a moment of...uhh." I racked my brain for something to say. I chewed on my lip while I looked for a half truth that didn't make me look insane. It was already too embarrassing; I didn't need to give him any more fuel. He smirked at me, "Intoxication?" he asked with a cocky crooked smile. "Yes!" I cried, grasping quickly at the truth. Then bit my tongue wishing instantly that I hadn't. "So my jacket smelled that good?" The fuel I'd been trying to keep away from him burned hot in my cheeks. I stopped walking looking at him with mortification. He laughed and kept walking down the stairs. "What happened Bella? You were bouncing off the walls a minute ago." A minute ago I was the only one who knew I was a freak. I took a sudden interest in my footwear, continuing down the stairs. When I looked up again, Edward was grinning hugely, his already impossibly large ego inflated by my blunder. I wrinkled my nose at him, finally having found an angle to argue from. "A gentleman would never have said that." I sniffed. I felt a little better now that I had gotten my word in.

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"I never claimed to be a gentleman." He called after me, managing to get in the last word. I let the doors close on his voice. I started stretching outside. The cool, rough brick of the building wasn't the most ideal place to stretch but it would work. Edward was beside me again. "What do you think we have been practicing stupid?" I growled at him when he was in ear shot again. Apparently all of the lessons were a waste of time if he wasn't getting the gist of what I was trying to show him. Edward grinned ignoring my harsh question, stretching up against the building as I did. "A Lady would never speak like that Bella. Tsk Tsk." "Up yours." I muttered. Edward's laughed echoed around the quiet campus, and I had to cover his mouth to keep from waking the entire neighbourhood. "Shh!" I hissed, doing no better at subduing my laughter then he was. He chuckled through my hand, and then kissed my palm. Open mouthed. "Edward that's disgusting!" I cried, wiping Edward slobber off on my pants. He chuckled. "Okay, so where are we going?" he looked around through the dark. I could hardly see him in the faint light from the lop sided moon, missing a quarter of its whole. I knew it was going to take my eyes a while to get used to the unnerving darkness. As much as I hated to admit it, I was glad I had Edward incase the boogie man jumped out at me. "I was thinking the running track." I could see the faint ghostly outline of Edward's head nod in agreement. We started towards the track, talking in whispers even though our cover had, obviously, already been blown. "Do you think the grocery store would be open this late?" Edward murmured. "I doubt it. You've been here longer then I have." I eyed him with shrewd speculation. "You don't have any food in the house, do you?" He chuckled sheepishly. "You didn't give me much time to prepare for your visit. And Emmett already ate his quota of food for the week. Probably why Emmett went over to Rose's rather then her come over here." There was a menacing edge to his voice, and I knew he was thinking about exactly what Emmett was over at Rosalie's for. "But you've come to terms with it now, right? You won't kill him or anything?" I averted my eyes from a sole jogger who saw us walking together, gaping at us incredulously. I didn't like all the stares I had been getting for being around Edward. Some looked incredulous while others actually looked a little angry, like I was personally offending them by being his friend. Edward didn't notice the jogger. Instead he was knelt in front of something. I went over to see what he had found. There was an unremarkable red bud of a flower. He sat down in front of it, then gestured silently for me to do the same. I went and sat beside him, wondering what he was doing staring so intently at the little bud, but I didn't say anything. I watched with him.

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I gasped, rocking back on my heals, when suddenly the flower started to move. The pedals miraculously unfolded a brilliant red inside with streaks of white running through it. It was tiny but surprisingly beautiful despite its unremarkable outer skin. "Wow." I breathed, leaning closer to the startling little flower. Edward reached forward and for one terrifying second I thought he might pick it but he just gently caressed the bottom of the petals. "My mother has the same kind of flowers in her garden. They only bloom at night, then they die in the morning." I looked at him in shock. He was looking at the flower with a bored expression, contrary to the intensity he had been giving to it before. "You should meet my friend." He murmured quietly to the small flower. "I'll bet she could show you how to be pretty." His eyes flickered to my face, a small smile on it. I laughed, finally seeing what he had wanted with the flower. I rolled my eyes at him, and then started to run when he made a grab for me. He grabbed me around the waist before we made the track, hugging me to him. "You're coat slows me down." I complained lightly. He hummed a small tune by my ear, "I'm glad. You ready to run?" when I nodded he pulled his jacket off me, hanging it up on the fence. The cool night air felt nice now that I was warmed up. I sighed, looking at the empty track. This was something I loved about running at night. The world was yours. We sprinted around the track together until eventually Edward had to stop, he walked around the track behind me, his hands crossed behind his head as he tried to catch his breath. His eyes followed me around the track, wide with astonishment. I kept running even when it felt like my lungs were going to catch fire, even when my legs were turning rubbery, when I could feel the blood throbbing painfully through me. After half a circulation around the track as a catch-up Edward was running beside me again. "I don't think you're human Bella. No one has stamina like this." I shrugged, still running. I wanted to explain to him where it had come from, but I couldn't talk, too busy trying to get air into the blaze of my chest. I also knew that if I stopped now I wouldn't be able to find the energy to start running again. Edward ran beside me until I couldn't keep going. I slowed to a walk, hands behind me head like he was now. "I-I" I was panting too hard to speak. I gave Edward the one second sign, catching my breath. "I used to have to run like that, when I was at my old school. I had to work so much harder then any of the boys on the team just to play on the court. After a while, you get strong." I shrugged. "That's not right." He muttered. "Sure it is. They can't just let me on the team; I have to prove that I'm strong enough to keep up." He grimaced. "It's just not fair that you had to work so hard. I can't even do that kind of running and I have a bigger field to run." He shook his head. "Promise me that if anyone ever gives you any crap for playing boys basketball, you'll come to me. You have more then earned your place here." His beautiful face was solemn, his eyes smouldering with a new found purpose. I smiled at him. "Thanks Edward, but I seriously don't mind the extra work. Anything worth doing is hard. And look how far I've gotten! I've made a kind of history here." I could feel the pride glowing out of me. It

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was good to know I had a place somewhere where I belonged. Edward nodded, and then leaned his weight on his knees. "I'm beat Bella. Have you burned through all the sugar yet?" I shrugged, "I was actually hoping you wanted to have a game with me? Football or Basketball? Your choice." I instinctively walked closer when he wobbled a little in a disbelieving chuckle. Then Edward groaned, dropping his head on my shoulder when he realized I was serious. "How about we play 'pass out on the couch'? I know I told you that all your energy didn't bother me, and I swear it doesn't, but I need a second to catch up with you." I grinned, dancing out from under him, "I thought you could go all night?" I goaded. He raised an eyebrow at me. "Changed my mind. Let's go, football." I grinned at him, running to the bleachers and grabbing one the many balls that were always discarded there after practice. It always shocked me that no one stole them. I saw an abnormal lump in the perfectly level field when I turned back towards it. Edward was lying flat out in the middle of the field, stalling for some time to recharge. I skipped over, lying down next to him. He put his arm under my head, acting as a pillow. "C'mon Edward." I nudged him. "Edward died." He groaned grimacing up at the sky. "Let's play. Just one game?" I rested my head on his chest, doing my best pout and puppy eyes combination to raise him from the dead. He raised his head to look at me, and then dropped it back into the grass. "No! Bella that's cheating. Play fair. Besides, the ground is so comfortable." "You're lying on a rock." When he ignored me I tried again, "Please?" I breathed, trying to squirm further up into his arms. He groaned, shaking his head. "Please?" I breathed against his neck. I grinned when he got goosebumps, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. He hummed in contentment. It was progress. "Keep that up for another eight hours and I'll think about it." He murmured. I sighed. I went to get up, but Edward's groan made me stop. He had one arm thrown across his eyes. "I feel like a schmuck now." He muttered. I laughed, pulling him up. He stumbled, nearly falling on me. That only made me laugh harder, he grinned tiredly back. I poked him in the stomach, startled by how hard it was. "Don't feel bad just because you can't keep up with a girl." I teased. "You're not a girl." He mumbled, and I steeled my self for the next few words. 'You're some half thing.' "You're some sort of Goddess." He shook his head in wonder, starting back towards home. That stopped me. My breath came out in a whoosh of surprise. "Huh?" I repeated his words in my head, trying to see what I'd missed, because he couldn't have meant that the way I'd interpreted it.

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He grinned down at me, "That kind of stamina is god like. But since you're a girl it would be Goddess, right? Or are you some sort of higher being? I wouldn't be surprised." I couldn't smile back. "Why do you spend so much time with me? Haven't I driven you insane yet?" I asked, only half joking. He thought about that, "I don't know. Maybe it's your ass." "Edward!" He laughed. "I don't know Bella. You're fun to be with. And you don't mind that there won't be anything for breakfast tomorrow unless you want to boil the rug." "Mmm, boiled rug." He chuckled, "See? You're just an over all fun person to be with." We walked home after Edward had warmed his jacket up, then given it back to me. We climbed the now dark staircase up to his room, having to look through keys in the dark since neither of us had the insight to look for the key in the moonlight. He finally opened the door, holding it open as I walked through. "Thanks." I mumbled, grabbing my blanket from the bag in his room. I tossed the bag on the floor to give Edward room for his feet. "Are you sure you don't want the bed?" he asked without much hope. "Nope. I've taken a liking to you're couch anyways. It's comfortable." I smiled. I was impressed; maybe all the lessons were having some effect on him. He smiled wearily back, "Have a good night then." I heard him close his door softly after I had started for the living room. I turned the light off and climbed into my 'bed'. It wasn't much of a bed, just a blanket that Alice had given me thrown over the couch. I slept in the opposite direction I usually did, taking preference to the side Edward had sat to watch the movie. I wondered if I was taking on the qualities of a stalker as I inhaled his scent against the arm of the couch. I rolled over to look at the dark ceiling. I was tired enough to sleep, but my legs were restless, begging to wander. I didn't have too much energy-all those laps around the track had made sure of that-and I wasn't antsy to move. I rolled over on my side, trying to ignore the feeling. Instead I concentrated on how unbelievably soft the couch was under me. So comfortable... For a moment I really thought I was nodding off, until my leg jerked from under the covers, rousing me from my almost sleep. I groaned inwardly, and then sat up. What use was it to try and ignore my compulsions? I did my best to get up quietly, to not wake Edward as I wandered around his place, feeling more like a felon then a guest. Everything in Edward and Emmett's home was clean, all but for one outstanding exception. The floors were regularly vacuumed; no chips wedged into the couches, even the bathrooms were clean. I wondered whose sake all this was for. Alice or Rose I'm sure, Alice would freak if she dirtied her expensive jeans because someone dripped something on the couch. Lives would be lost. I started to get sleepy as I walked and I thought I might just fall asleep on my feet. It took me a long moment,

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in my drowsy state, to realize I had stopped walking. I sighed contently, sure that I could sleep now. But as I went to turn towards the couch, I saw exactly where I had stopped, and was thrust back into awareness with surprising intensity. I was standing in the dark hallway outside Edward's room. My heart sped up. I stared at the generic faux wood of his door that was the same as mine and Alice's doors back at her place. If I listened hard enough, I could almost hear his soft breathing inside. This was why I had stopped walking; I had stopped to listen to Edward breathe, to listen to him sleep. This was stupid; Edward would think I was some sort of freak if he didn't already. I should just go back to the couch, close my eyes and count sheep. If that didn't work, then I'd stay up all night trying to sleep. Better then getting a restraining order called on me. Edward's breath was such a peaceful melody, calling with soft sighs, and steady breaths. I touched the cool wood, pushing the door open. Edward's room was even darker then the hallway. I was instantly taken over by the subtle sweetness, along with a warm musky undertone. My eyes flickered back to the hallway. My already racing heart hammering in anxiety, what if he woke up with some dark figure standing in the doorway of his room? Take a baseball bat to me no doubt. I took a hesitant step forward, almost expecting to hear Edward ask me what I was doing. It wasn't too late to back out now, to campout outside the door where I could still be aware of him, while keeping a respectable amount of space between us. I took another hesitant step forward. Then another. Even as my mind was making excuses, finding alternatives and compromises, I continued my slow steady pace forward. Finally I was standing beside him. I could barley make him out amongst the folds and piles of blankets on the bed, all except for a piece of a bare shoulder and his head. His hair fell like a shimmering halo around his head, black in the dark. I reached forward tentatively, and then pulled back, undecided. This happened three or four times before Edward rolled over, his scorching shoulder brushing my outstretched hand. He hadn't noticed, but that contact was what had decided it for me. I pushed on his shoulder, knowing that if his skin was that warm, then my hand must feel like ice. He gave a sharp breath of surprise; waking up. "Bella?" his voice was groggy. My heart jumped and my hands shook. I should have taken my chance to escape back into the hallway before. "Hey," I murmured. My cheeks burned and I was suddenly grateful for the cover of the obscure darkness. He propped himself up on his forearm, yawning. "What's wrong?" "I couldn't sleep." I murmured embarrassed. I should have rehearsed this so I wouldn't have sounded like a four year old waking from a nightmare. Edward yawned again, rubbing his eyes. "Sorry." I whispered, "Go back to sleep. I'm just too used to Alice kicking me in the head at night." As I went to back away from the bed, deliciously scorching skin wrapped around my waist, pulling me into bed with him. "Come here." He sighed, it sounded like he was smiling. He enveloped me in warm blankets, and then wrapped his arms around me, holding me against him.

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"Thanks." I whispered, my eyes slipping closed contentedly. I could feel his warm breath saturating the sensitive hairs at the back of my neck as he chuckled lowly. I thought he murmured something, but it was lost on me. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There was a bright line of sunlight falling across my face that woke me up in the morning. My breath hitched in fear. I hadn't thought about this last night, but now I worried about how awkward this would be. When I knew I couldn't stall any longer I cracked one eye open. He was there, grinning at me propped up on one arm. He chuckled, "Wake up, the sun has come to see you!" I groaned, "Tell it I'll take a rain check." I muttered. I was distracted, more startled by his bare chest then I was by the brilliant sunlight streaming in the window just above his dark wood dresser. He sighed, lying on his back. He snaked one arm around my waist hugging me close to him. "Careful," he murmured, "I think I'm getting into the habit of waking up next to you." I rubbed my eyes, sitting up. He sat up too, and then grimaced, stretching his legs. I gave him a sympathetic look. "Stiff?" I had gotten used to the stiff legs so that I hardly even felt them anymore. Edward didn't seem to be at that stage yet. He smirked. "Yup." He threw his legs over the bed. I saw-a little too late not to see-that he was only wearing boxers. He saw me turn away quickly. "Could have been worse." He warned me darkly. I knew it could have been worse; I just tried not to think about it. I got out of the warm bed, my stomach growling. "I'm starving." Then I remembered that Edward didn't have any food for breakfast. I sighed, joy. "We will go grocery shopping first thing. Now scoot. I need to get dressed." He demanded with mock severity. He was rummaging through his pant drawer. I looked out the window; it was just high enough above his head that I could still see his expression without catching too much. "But you look so good in green, Mr. Romantic. And you were on me about my dating fashion." I teased, leaning against the door jamb, grinning in smug satisfaction. "How were you expecting to get any in green boxers?" I snickered, remembering our conversation from last night. Bella: 1,000,000,000 Edward: -20 "I could get laid in a purple jump suit. Now out-scoot, shoo." He waved me out with irritable amusement. His eyes out shone the sparkling sunlight. I grinned once more before darting out into the hall. I sighed, remembering that my bag of clothes were in Edward's room. I went to the couch, wrapping the blanket I had forsaken on the couch last night in favour of Edward around me. It dragged on the floor and I knew I looked ridiculous. I didn't mind, as long as I was warm. Who was going to see me? Just Edward. So far I had realized three important things about Canada. The water would always be cold, even if it summer,

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winter, fall or spring. Second, no one who valued the warmth of their bed should ever live in Canada. And finally, as much as I would rather have been lying on a warm beach with lots of palm trees, there was something surreal about the trees changing colours right before our eyes. I quickly went to the bathroom, brushing my teeth, washing my face. The cool water helped wake me up. I stepped out and saw Edward's door to his room standing open. I quickly snuck in and got changed myself. It was just a lazy jean and long shirt ensemble, not like we were going to be doing much today. I pulled my big blanket up around my shoulders again, looking for Edward. I found him in the kitchen; he was drinking a bottle of water from the fridge. I was about to make a sarcastic remark about all the water he had in the absence of food, but when his eyes flickered at the sound of my entrance his eyes popped open, and he spun towards the sink. He spit the water out, choking around his laughter. The kitchen, I noticed, was so much brighter, happier then Charlie's kitchen could ever be back in Forks. Even thought the kitchen was painted a darker blue, there were not sorrowful memories clinging to the bare walls. The stoves and fridge were stainless steal. "What?" I asked, looking down at myself self-consciously. Had I forgotten something? I looked down to find that, nope I was still fully dressed. Even more so with the blanket. "You're wearing the bed!" he laughed. He shook his head at me while I blushed; finally seeing what was so funny. "Will you make leg holes in my pillow cases next?" he snickered at the thought. I tightened the blanket around me and, with a head held high, marched over to the fridge. I opened it, showing him its vast emptiness other then five bottles of water. You could defiantly tell that they played sports. "I might wear the bed, but what are you going to eat?" I retorted, more annoyed that he had made me blush then his comment on my portable cocoon of warmth. He smiled darkly, "You." He chuckled at my shudder. "I'm sure you'd be a delectable feast." I laughed rolling my eyes. "Yum yum. Crème de Bella." He grinned a wide smile, showing his teeth. "Can we go grocery hunting? I don't want to find you gnawing on my arm." I muttered, shuddering again at his smile. He saluted me, "Yes M'am!" To my uttermost surprise Edward behaved himself all the way from the drive off campus to the grocery store until we reached the cooking oils. Edward had wanted me to make a list, claiming he would clear the grocery store out of junk food if I didn't keep him straight. I had conceded, though I felt like he was getting a private kind of enjoyment from my writing a grocery list. Or maybe he was just really happy that he would actually be eating food soon. All the students regularly had their fridges stalked once a week. If they ate through all that food, or wanted something different, they had to go get it themselves with their own money. Alice and I rarely had that problem, but sometime we used her car to go into town for some ice cream or pop corn. I could imagine that living with Emmett could get expensive. We had managed to find most of the things on the list when he stopped in front of the olive oil, his smile turning mischievous. I sighed, already knowing he was going to try and annoy me. If there was one thing Edward loved more then football, probably even more then food or air. It was to annoy me. The sponge in my

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mind soaked that information up. Hiding it from further inspections. "Girls are kind of like olive oil." He grinned holding two bottles, their labels facing away from me. I raised an eyebrow but otherwise said nothing. He wouldn't need any prompting from me to continue. He faced one of the bottle labels towards me. It was regular olive oil. "This is a girl." He turned the other bottle around. Virgin olive oil. "And this is a girl who hasn't has sex." I rolled my eyes at him, while he put both bottles back on the shelf, taking out one last one. "This, Bella, is you." He handed me the bottle. I sighed, humouring him by turning the bottle around the read the label. Extra virgin. "Ha, Ha. Very funny." I narrowed my eyes at him. "I'm a lot less innocent then you seem to think Edward." I sniffed, arms crossed over my chest. That was probably a lie, but I was tired of feeling like a thirteen year old around him. "Really?" He sounded interested and sceptical. "Have you ever even kissed someone? Boy or girl?" I opened my mouth to tell that, in fact, I had. I wasn't about to say it had been him, because that one time on the couch was more of a brush of lips then anything. He interrupted me anyways, "Parents don't count. Neither does Alice unless there was tongue." I made a face at that last thought. Not that Alice wasn't heart-breakingly beautiful, but I couldn't see her that way. So instead I threw the oil into the cart, and then moved so fast he didn't have time to react, I jumped up to quickly peck his cheek. "Ha!" I cried in victory. Edward's face was beyond shocked as he stumbled back against the shelf behind him, knocking different things off the shelf before slipping on one of the bottles of oil that had broken open against the dirt streaked tiles. I winced as he fell, biting my lip. Oops. He blinked surprised. He just looked up at me with unreadable eyes as he sat on the floor. One crossed under the other. For the first time since I had met him, his expression reminded me of a toddler. One that was beyond shocked that gravity actually worked against them. That they could be affected by a natural occurrence just like everyone else. I knelt down in front of him, pursing my lips in amusement. "Did I sweep you off your feet?" I enquired innocently. Edward stared at me like I was speaking a different language. My lips pull down at the corners, worried that he might have gone into shock. I extended my hand to help him up, watching to see if he was in pain. He just looked at my hand for a short second before finally snapping out of his daze, taking my hand. Relieved, I smiled. The moment he was upright and stable, he knocked my legs our from under me with his arm. I gasped as I plummeted towards the hard, dirt stained floor I could already see the head lines in the news papers. Tragedy Found in Isle Three. Young Girl Found Brutally Murdered. At the last moment when I curled into myself preparing for impact he swept his other arm to catch my shoulders, holding my bridal style in the grocery store, surrounded by bottles of spilt cooking oil. Only two or

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three glass oil bottles had broken, leaking its contents over the now deathly slick tiles. Others rolled harmlessly away from us. "Did I sweep you off your feet?" he quoted me grinning. I would have made a face at him if I hadn't been so terrified. "Edward, put me down. The floor is slippery, if you fall-." I didn't even get to finish worrying. Edward had-stupidly-taken a step away from the spillage, but our combined weight and his movement had set him off balance on the oily floor. We booth fell, the tiles reclaiming me as their victim. Edward just happened to be around the wrong person at the wrong time. I probably should have already warned him about the bad luck that followed me around, wreaking havoc everywhere I went. I bit my lip to keep from crying out. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to investigate. We landed painfully; I think Edward got the brunt of it since he had cushioned my fall. He groaned rolling me off him, "That wasn't supposed to happen." He muttered. He watched me get up, a little shaky, my heart still thrashing in my chest. "Well, you definitely swept me off my feet." I grumbled, but I grinned to show him I wasn't hurt. He sighed in relief, "How about you? Did I crush anything?" I gently poked around his ribs, seeing if there were any tender spots. He waved my hand away, rolling his eyes. "I'm fine. How about we get away from the scene of the crime?" Part of me wanted to get someone so some poor old lady didn't fall and break a hip, the other really didn't want to get in trouble. I nodded and we finished our escapade through the store before we destroyed anything else. We managed to get out in one piece. I fried some eggs while Edward showered all the 'girl' off him. He had to go to football practice later today, and he obviously didn't want to go covered in oil. His practice reminded me my of the big game coming up for the basketball players this Monday. I guessed he already knew about it, they had been selling tickets for the fans who wanted to join us on our trip. We were all going to be away for the whole rest of the week. It was and wasn't the most important time of the season for us. It wasn't because it was just the beginning of the season and there would be a lot of rookies there. It was, because it was where we would be sizing up our opposition for the finals if we even got that far. I thought we would despite Tyler's pessimism. Apparently having a girl on the team doomed them all. Most of the team didn't mind me, but I sometimes thought coach felt the same as Tyler. Not because I wasn't a good enough player, but because it would bring the gods of basketball down on him. He sometimes reminded me of the pirates on ships that freaked out if they found a girl on board their ship. Edward in haled breakfast, just as hungry as I was, then threw his big football bag over his shoulder. While we walked to the field he was half taking to me, half texting someone on his phone. The exchange lasted no more then three minutes with who ever he was conversing with, but he had an air of victory when he put his phone back into his pocket. I envied him the technological knowledge. I had a cell phone, but it was always either turned off or uncharged. I had no one to call and no one to call me. Besides, if someone really needed to reach me, they had mine and Alice's phone at our 'house'.

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I didn't want to seem nosey so I bit back my question on who he had been talking too. Edward walked slower then usual after that, checking over his shoulder every few seconds like he was expecting someone. I finally lost it, "What are you looking for?" I snapped. Edward shrugged, about to answer, and then something caught his attention from over my shoulder, "There you are." I was instantly blinded by a black cloth covering my eyes. "What? Hey!" I started to struggle before the soft gentle hands were replaced by larger, stronger, rougher hands. I didn't know whether I should kick them or not. Edward wouldn't let anything happen to me, would he? "Calm down Bella." I heard Alice chime impatiently. "We won't let anything hurt you, just let Jasper lead you." I gave a low sigh of relief. "Wow, you actually made it out of the house today." I smirked, touchy from being ambushed. I thought I should have noticed them coming. Jasper's hands stiffened around my wrists, offended by my teasing jab at Alice. Alice's tinkling laughter loosened his grip again. "Aren't you proud?" She asked in a happy little voice. "Come on now Bella or you'll miss it!" she half whined half squealed. "Miss what? I'm blind." I muttered, but allowed Jasper to lead me anyways. Jasper would never be able to get a job leading the blind. He failed to mention the stairs, the lift, and once he even tripped me with his own feet when he failed to mention we were turning a corner. He snickered when he let me walk into a wall. Alice's laughter at my embarrassed blush echoed like bells off the walls, I knew we were almost out on the field, just under the concrete arch where some of the bleachers crossed over on top for home games. I didn't think it was fair that, Edward, who was always cheering for me when I practiced, was having me blind folded for when he practiced. I wanted to cheer him on too. Jasper sat me gingerly down on a wooden bench, trying to make up for manhandling me earlier, and then the wood bowed under his weight slightly as he sat down too. Alice was too light for me to feel sit down. A few moments later I could hear some of the guys talking and joking on the field. And then they were doing drills. I could hear the whistle blowing, the pounding of feet on grass or the mashing of plastic gear against itself and the ground as they dropped, moving in synchronization. When they started practicing plays I could hear Alice sigh, bored. I was itching to see what was going on. I especially wanted to see Edward's playing now that it wasn't against me. To see how he fared. I had never concentrated on him before now, he had just been a name. An infamous name that always had one rumour or another circulating about him, but a name none the less. Now that I knew him, I was sure that most of those rumours had been derived from jealousy and retribution. In the middle of one of the games the coach blew the whistle, and I wondered who had gotten a touch down this time. Instead of a victory cheer or a groan of defeat there was an apology, a few teases and then the coach, "Go take a breather Cullen. Get that under order."

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My ears perked, and I found that after being blind for so long all my other senses had kicked into overdrive. I felt Jasper shift down on the bench after Alice had hissed something at him, and then the bowing of another weight was beside me. "So who's winning?" I instinctively knew it was Edward beside me now. I grinned in his general direction. "Us. I'm an unstoppable force of nature." He replied cockily. I rolled my eyes though he couldn't see. "Apparently not or else you wouldn't have been benched." "Almost unstoppable." The breeze blew towards me then, and I gasped. My head whirled and my stomach churned, it was easier to ignore then I thought in my state of panic. "Edward!" I cried, groping blindly for him. "What? What's wrong?" he asked worriedly, giving me his hand. My hands followed up his bare arm, across his bare shoulder-apparently he had taken his gear off so he wouldn't stain his jersey with the blood I could smell now. "What do you mean what's wrong? You're bleeding!" "I thought you made sure she couldn't see!" Edward snapped at someone, Jasper or Alice. Then he was speaking to me again. "Don't worry; it's just a nose bleed. I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing." Though he sounded sheepish, I thought I heard an accusation in his voice. Now that I was assured he wasn't really hurt, I moved away from him, the blood taking centre stage in my mind. He grabbed me, "Where are you going?" he asked, not letting go when I tried to shake his hand off. For some reason I couldn't comprehend, his voice was on the edge of panic. "The blood. I can smell it; it's making me feel queasy." I explained, still trying to make him let go of me. "Oh." His voice was surprised, he let my hand go and I shifted down the bench. After a second of thought, he wondered incredulously, "You can smell it? Humans can't smell blood." I heard the short laps in silence as he turned away from me to question Alice and Jasper, "Can either of you smell it or am I the freak here?" They both must have shaken their heads 'no' because I didn't hear anything. "Huh. So that's why you don't want to be a doctor." He seemed distracted, lost in another thought. Alice giggled, "No, Bella doesn't want to be a doctor because she would probably forget the knife inside the operative." She giggled again when I scowled in the general direction of her voice. Edward went back onto the field no more then five minutes later, and the games resumed. I complained to Alice about the blind fold until she threatened to gag me and bind my wrists. I shut up, but sulked the rest of the game, silently wallowing while Jasper tried to give me a play by plays. He was getting more out of the colour commentary then I was. Until Alice hit him to shut him up. I was secretly grateful to her. Another job Jasper could never do. Finally at the end of the practice I could hear a big fan fare going on across the field. I didn't know what it was about but I could hear a bunch of hooting and clapping. "Alice? What's going on?" I asked, my hand twitching up to pull the blind fold down for a peek.

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Her tiny hand stopped me from ruining whatever plan her and Edward had cooked up. I still couldn't understand why he would text her to come and blind fold me. "You'll see!" she sang happily. I pouted. Why was I the last to know? That wasn't fair. "Why so glum?" a voice purred by my ear, his thumb smoothed out my pout. I smiled, "Can I take the blind fold off now?" "Yep!" Alice chirped, the bench shivered as she bounced excitedly. I ripped the blind fold off, only to find Edward; his scintillating chest bear, shimmering with the sheen of sweat in the sun. Oh my Edward. It's god. Before my hungry eyes could take in all his hard muscled perfection, a blue shirt was thrust into my face. "Huh?"I asked, dazed. Wow, no wonder Alice had blind folded me. I might have jumped him. I shook my head to clear it, so what if Edward's chromosome disorder gave him the smooth, hairless chest like he had just came out of a photo shoot for the 'Perfectly made man' calendar? So what if he didn't even have the under arm hair or even a treasure trail that the other guys had? I had to remind myself not to drool. Didn't mater. I sternly told myself. He wasn't yours, he belonged to Mrs. X. I thought about the name a little. Maybe we should rename her to Miss. X. unless she was married, if that was the case Edward would a lot of explaining to do. "Bella?" Edward waved a hand in front of my face, "You still in there?" I reddened, "Yep." I took a better look at the shirt he had curtained between my eyes and his chest. It had his last name, and then above it, a capital 'C'. It took me a moment, and then I gasped. "You're captain!" I screeched, jumping on him. He laughed, spinning me around. "Cool, huh? Not as cool as making history, but it's a start for me." He grinned, tightening his hold around me. I snorted, "Who cares about history. You're captain!" I grinned slyly at him, "Want to play a little one on one? Captain to Captain?" He laughed, "Oh no! I'm not getting my butt kicked in front of my team. Why not do a little one on one with...Brady? Brady!" he called. An average looking guy came over. Not tall or short, his hair a dull brown even in the sun. "Sup Mr. Captain? Congrad's by the way." he slapped Edward on the back. Edward grinned back. "This you're girlfriend?" Brady looked at me confused, wondering why I was, one, hanging off his neck, and two, why I was so bellow his normal standards. I flushed; it was that same unnerving stare I couldn't get used too. Edward grinned, "I wish." He ducked out of the way, expecting my physical retribution for his little tease. "No, this is Bella." Brady looked at me like he had seen me before, but couldn't remember where. I extended my hand for him to

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shake, "Bella Swan. I play basketball with the boys." I smiled kindly, if not a little smugly from habit. His eyes flashed with comprehension. "Oh! The he-chick! Man, I knew I knew you!" he laughed, shaking my hand. My hand dropped, staring at him even though I knew he hadn't meant to offend me. The 'He-chick'? Was that what I was known as behind my back? "Nice to meet you." I mumbled, my eyes cast downwards. I tried to shake it off. I'd had worse nick names; it just felt like every new slur was a fresh cut. My flesh was already ravaged with them. What was one more? Alice was by my side in a moment, Jasper trailing after her, an invisible chain connecting them. I smiled at Alice, quickly shaking off my hurt. She squeezed my hand but didn't smile back; instead she looked wearily over my shoulder at Edward. I turned too, and saw that Brady had become frozen, watching the furry rage across Edward's face. I took a hesitant step towards him, remembering last night, how he had promised to protect me from this sort of scorn, the fire in his eyes when he had said it. I touched his arm. "Edward?" Nothing. He continued to glare with chilled fire at Brady, who had become unfrozen, slowly backing away. "Edward, I'm fine. He was just kidding." I shrugged to show him how little it bothered me now, but he didn't see. It was as if my words had made it worse rather then better. His lip curled back over his teeth slightly in a menacing way I'm not sure he was aware of. "Never call her that again." His voice was low, cold as the winter wind. The words, though seeming inconsequential held so much infuriation that it made my muscles lock down in fear when a shiver crawled down my spine. Brady nodded, apologized quickly, and then pretended someone was calling him from across the field. If he could have, he probably would have pretended he was being called from half way around the world to get out from under Edward's black anger. "I could have handled that." I finally managed after my muscles had thawed out and Edward didn't look so terrifying anymore. He turned to me for the first time, "Oh, I know." He told me, a smile pulled his lips up. It didn't reach his jewel like eyes, and for the first time since I had met him, his eyes really were like jewels. Hard and very cold. I swallowed nervously. I felt Alice shudder delicately beside me. I looked at her surprised, but she was looking at Jasper. His eyes were sympathetic to Edward's anger, and I remembered how very protective Jasper was of Alice. So protective she complained about it sometimes, but it was easy to see she really didn't mind. Edward's display of protective behaviour felt out of place. It wasn't meant for me. Edward sighed from beside me, one aggravated huff of breath as he ran his hands through his hair, messing it up more. I was beginning to recognize this gesture of agitation and nervousness. He did it a lot when we talked about Miss X. My voice was just bubble of air on my tongue, nothing but a whisper. I cleared my throat. "Maybe we should go back home. I'm sure you two are enjoying you're weekend alone." I grinned at Alice. She smiled back realizing my attempt to diffuse the tension with another subject.

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Jasper's hand came up to trace the delicate cheek bones of her face, smiling gently, but with so much love I wanted to turn away from such a intimate moment. "Yes, we have. I expect you two have been enjoying yourselves too?" There was a secret dancing in Jasper's eyes. I could see it in Alice's too. She hid it better. My eyes narrowed in confusion. Alice giggled, "We saw you two running around last night. Well we heard you first, but I was just curious to know why you were in your Pyjamas? Not that you didn't look adorable." She flashed her teeth in a winning smile, one full of innocence. She could get out of court with that kind of smile. Alice could murder someone and get away with it with that smile. I could feel my cheeks burn. Edward laughed, regaining some of his previous good humour, though his eyes still pulled around the edges in subdued anger. "I tried to make her sit down for a length of time. With caffeine and sugar." Alice winced theatrically, her look offensively sympathetic. "I would have warned you about that, but I thought it would be more fun for you to figure it out on your own." And then she grinned in a knowing way. "Emmett got you started on the sugar popcorn?" My eyes narrowed in contemplation, "That's why you packed the pop corn." I murmured more to myself them anyone else. I supposed I should have seen that one coming. Edward chuckled in response to my analysis. "If nothing else it was an exciting evening. Thank you Alice. Anything else I should know about Bella?" She grinned darkly, "She talks in her sleep." Edward returned the smile crookedly, "Oh. I know." Jasper's eye brow shot up his forehead. I looked just as surprised, if not more red faced. Then I remembered the look he was giving me when I woke up on the couch with him yesterday. Oh, I realized with one of those slap-your-forehead moments that Edward had probably heard me narrate my dream to him. No wonder he looked so amused. I was probably rambling about nights in shining armour. "Okay, well we have to go." I mumbled turning away. Edward chuckled, following me. He waved goodbye to the two love bugs that were itching to get back to the sanctuary of a private place. Any private place as long as they were together. As physical as Alice made their relationship sound, I knew it was so much deeper then that. With only one look from either of them, the other knew exactly what was going on in the other's head. That, and the way that Jasper looked at Alice made me think his life meant little to nothing if Alice wasn't a part of it. Every once and a while, I would catch the small smile that would spread across Alice's face when she said his name, or got an e-mail and I knew Alice held Jasper in the same esteem. I waited outside the change room, Edward's new jersey folded over my arm as I waited for him to come out. He had convinced me that he wanted me to hold it because the stench from all the football players might just stain it permanently yellow, but I saw the thrill it gave him for me to hold it. It reminded me of the same look he got when he can finally manage to persuade me into his jacket, or when he had gotten me to write the shopping list. The sponge sucked it all up, leaving me with nothing but empty contemplation. Edward was starting to look more and more like the old fashioned prince charming from my dream. I couldn't

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remember the last time he had cursed around me. Even when I had been lying shirtless under him, he had the appreciation to look away. Edward stepped out of the locker room, taking a lung full of fresh air. He wasn't kidding about the smell; with just the breath of his exit I could tell that those players were ripe. I suppressed a gag. Edward chuckled at my expression and started walking back to his place. "Don't you want you're jersey back?" I grinned, "Captain." His smile was blinding, though he was trying to pretend that this was nothing, that he accomplished things like this all the time. As plausible as that was, I doubted he was anything but indifferent to this victory. "Why don't you put it on?" At my questioning expression, his grin widened, "Just want to see the size difference between you and me." I shrugged the jersey on and true enough it came to my knees. I flushed while he howled in laughter. When he pulled himself together he just grinned, his eyes dancing with mirth. "You could wear it as a dress." He commented in a surprisingly blasé voice that made me wonder what he was really thinking. I curtsied to him. He smiled, and then composed himself with an air of a refined noble man. "May I have this dance Mrs.-Miss. Swan." He stuttered over my title. I delicately extended my hand to him. He bent down to kiss it, soft as a moth's wig. He grinned against my flesh as I felt a faint blush touch my cheeks. "Oh, but of course Mr. Cullen. I would be honoured." He chuckled, and then he started to spin us around in a slow dance, a traditional ball room. It was hard to keep a straight face especially when one looked at our circumstances. We were dancing behind the gym, me cloaked in his jersey. Edward smiled when I did, but his expression was softer, and I could imagine who he wanted to be dancing with. I remembered then about the name change. "Edward?" "Yes?" He was trying to be funny by continuing to talk in the cadence of an earlier century. His head held in high esteem. His lips twitched at the corners. "I was thinking that it doesn't make sense, Mrs. X, unless she's married or something. If that's the case you should really let me know about that right now." He snickered as if the idea was absurd, "She's defiantly not married. So what are you saying? That you want to change her title?" "Yes, to Miss. X, I think it flows better anyways." I shrugged easily. I had expected a quick and simple agreement, instead his eyes narrowed. "No." I had to do a double take. "No? Why?" Not that I was really itching to change her name but I was confused. He looked like he was willing to fight to keep the name the same. I studied his expression carefully, trying to find the reason there. His face was very composed, revealing nothing. "Because it holds... a meaning. I can't describe it to you. Not yet." His eyes were apologetic. He stepped away, breaking our dance. I sighed, if there was one thing that drove me insane it was being on the outside of a secret. Especially when I was already so intertwined with it. It

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was like having blank spots in my memory that gave no hint to who I was. "Okay. But you'll explain it to me someday? Once you two get together?" I asked. I wanted to be sure of this. I might just start a list to make sure he didn't forget anything. His lips twitched again, but he put his hand solemnly over his heart. "Promise." After much prodding and threatening he finally allowed me to take the jersey off and return it to him. When we walked through his doors I sighed, glad to be home. "Would you mind if I took a shower after you? I still smell like lake water." And Edward's sweet musky scent. He was about to answer, then he froze, and a devilish smile broke across his face. He calmed it quickly. "Go ahead of me Bella. I already showered anyways." Another grin, "And you defiantly smell like something worse then lake water." I scowled at him. "Thanks." I snapped. Then stopped when I realized I didn't know where everything was. "Towels?" I asked. He grinned, and then jerked his thumb towards a nondescript looking closet. I smiled ruefully at him. "Thanks." I said again, kinder this time. I hurried my shower, not wanting to use all the hot water. I gladly used my strawberry shampoo rather then his sporty mannish shampoo. I was already too much of a guy. I didn't need to go around smelling like one too. I tried not to be nosey, but I wanted to know how very vain Edward was. Did he use gel to get that 'just got out of bed perfect' look? The casual disarray that was too beautiful to be natural. I couldn't find anything though, no gels or sprays. And I remembered this morning when he had just woken up, his hair that perfect messy appeal. I sighed, giving up and getting out of the bathroom. Edward was on the couch, flipping through the channels, waiting for me with a bored expression. "Hey." I grinned, plopping myself down beside him. He grinned warmly back at me, and then gave me the remote. "Watch what you want." He leaned his head on my shoulder. I thought I heard him inhale the scent of my wet hair. He pulled away quickly when I looked at him out of the corner of my eye, smiling mischievously. "Sure...How about...." I bit my lip, looking for something that Edward wouldn't be able to stand. "Desperate house wives, or gossip girl? Which do you want to watch?" He went to steal the remote back but I held it away from his grasping hands. I tsked him, "You said I could choose." I grinned when he made another lunge for the remote. I just barely managed to keep it out of his reach. "Not if you're going to be stupid about it." He muttered, nearly laying on top of me in his attempt to get the remote back. His one hand had me locked down against the couch so I couldn't wiggle farther away from his grasping hands. I feigned hurt, "Ouch Edward. That hurts deep." I put my free hand-the one that wasn't holding his precious remote hostage-and placed it over my heart. He rolled his eyes, not amused or convinced by my poor acting skills. His had finally managed to inch forward

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so he could just touch the remote with the tips of his fingers. So close, and yet so far. He groaned, "Bella!" I grinned, "But you have to have you're shower." I reminded him innocently. He froze, then leaned back and clapped his palm to his forehead. "Oh my...Bella you drive me insane." He grumbled, sitting up and going into the shower. I was still smug from my billionth and one victory against Edward's negative twenty. I flipped aimlessly through the channels until I found a cooking channel. I sighed, not really paying attention to it. I knew I would never put that much work into one of my meals. Instead I let my mind wander. When Edward got out of the shower I had wandered into dangerous territory that I knew was none of my business. I was curious anyways. He came out, his hair I saw, was combed for the first time since I had known him. Weird. Never would have guessed Edward a trim and tidy kind of guy. Of course the minute he walked into the room and saw me he ran a hand threw his hair, looking around the room. It was back to its natural Edward style. I pursed my lips, trying not to laugh at him. He grinned back, "What?" I shook my head, dismissing it. "Nothing. I like your hair by the way." I grinned again. His eyes instinctively flickered up, and then he grinned wryly back as he realized it was already dishevelled. "Do I get the remote now?" he asked, eyeing it on the table. He was such a stupid guy sometimes, he was leaving me open to steal it again, or maybe he wanted to wrestle for it like last time. I snatched it, and saw the conclusion proven correct. A hint of an excited smile pulling his lips up, his eyes glowed with dark intent. "Only if you answer one of my questions." I teased him by displaying the remote. "Hmm...Ask me first, then I'll decide." He sat beside me, looking very relaxed, all except for his weary eyes. I started to toy with the remote, not so sure of my question now. "Would you...you don't have to answer this if you don't want to." I reassured him quickly, then took a deep breath. "Would you...you know, sleep with Mrs. X if she asked you? In the beginning, I mean." What I meant, was take advantage of naivety. I was sure he understood though. He sighed, pursing his lips in thought. I already had the idea what his answer would be no, and he was going for an angle to bother me with. "I'm not sure." His voice turned dark, just as I had thought. "Why don't you ask me?" I was about to roll my eyes and ignore him, but I had a better idea. I threw myself at him, splayed across his lap, "Oh Edward, take me now!" I burst into peals of giggles at his shocked expression. I got off him still laughing. After a moment though, his shock melted into a playful look. He smiled the same way before he had launched his attack on me last night. I backed away; he slid closer, and then quickly snatched my waist with one arm. He pulled me to him and started to tickle my stomach again. It didn't last long, to my great relief. He stopped, looking confused at the door. "What?" I gasped, looking towards the door too, even though I was hesitant to take my eyes off him. Not that he needed that advantage.

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I could just barely make out the words. "No! Leave them alone!" It sounded like Alice arguing with someone behind the door. "No way am I leaving Bella along in there with him. What if something happens and she figures it out?" Rose answered back. I stared at the door in confusion. Then Edward let go of me and sprinted for the door before they could say anything else to compromise him. He threw the door open, his voice dangerous. "What are you doing here?" he snarled. It was silent out in the hallway. Then I heard Emmett. "Dude. I live here." Edward hissed something low that I didn't catch. Emmett responded with a laugh even though from just the tone I knew what Edward had said was in no way funny. "We were actually playing a little ring around the Rosie, but then her arms got tired so we decided to come here. Congratulations Captains." Emmett leaned around Edward to wink at me. My eyebrows shot up. For some reason I didn't think that 'ring around the Rosie' was the children's game I remembered. Rose suddenly pushed her way through Edward to see me on the couch. I smiled at her, she didn't smile back. Instead she glared. Even though Rosalie had always been a friend of a good friend, I sort of thought that we were friends. Or that was what I had believed before. My smile faded. Alice danced under Edward's arm, saw the look Rose was giving me, and jumped up to smack her in the back of the head. "Stop being mean to Bella. If she doesn't want to spend time with you she doesn't have to." "Too damn bad." She growled, "Come on Bella. We're all going to the library. I need to finish my report. And Emmett actually needs to start his homework." She had tried to give Emmett a reprimanding look, but it melted as soon as she saw his beaming smile. I giggled. "Sure. Library sounds good." "No!" Edward moaned. "If you bring her into the library you'll never get her out again!" I stuck my tongue out at Edward. Jasper was standing behind Edward; he looked a little worse for wear, like he and Alice had been arguing. Something trivial, but arguing about anything with Alice always put Jasper in a sour mood. Alice skipped back to Jasper, her eyes gloating, and some how apologetic at the same instant. She must have won the argument. Not that I'd had any doubts. Rose didn't look nearly as happy, and I guessed that the argument had been mostly between Alice and Rose. Anything that upset Alice though, reflected directly back at Jasper. I was reminded about the similar phenomenon between Edward and me. "Do you have any homework?" I asked Edward, I had already finished mine with Alice. Jasper would have lied had I asked if it meant he got to spend the rest of the day with Alice. Then he'd spend Sunday night doing it all last minute. It always amazed me how despite this he always had high marks. Alice was usually annoyed with it, even when she did the exact same thing when Jasper came over.

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"Only that stupid English thing." Edward rolled his eyes. The fun assignment in English was getting a lot of groans. Rose raised her eye brow. "Are you talking about that weird mythical assignment? We already did that, he doesn't tell you, but he gives you extra marks if you find a way to wedge a poem or two in there." I groaned. I was a horrible poet, I loved to read it, but my tastes were so unconventional that even my teachers gave me odd looks. I tried to stay away from them. Edward pursed his lips, and then shrugged. "That's not so hard. Just make something rhyme, right?" I envied Edward so much at this moment. "Can I switch brains with you?" I wondered aloud. Edward chuckled. "Not sure about that, what do I get out of it?" I pretended to think about it. "You get a girl's brain. You won't need any more lessons from me." Edward wrinkled his nose. "But what's the fun in that? Then I'll have nothing to keep you around." He actually looked troubled by this. I felt a sudden warmth swelling in my chest at this. He wanted to keep me around, that was flattering. I could feel a smile pulling my lips up with out the conscious demand to do so. Rose tapped her foot impatiently, "Can we go now? I'm tired of seeing my brother drooling over Bella. Along with every other girl on the face of the earth." Edward rolled his eyes at the hyperbole. "Well I'm tired of having a bitter resentful sister who thinks I can't do anything right." Edward snapped back at her. They glared at each other, and in that instant I saw the similarities between them I had never noticed before. They both had problems with their tempers, for one, but also the beauty. It was traditional beauty in some cases, like their straight noses and full lips, also Edward's green eyes and Rose's blue-purple eyes were deep and had a similar shape and spark in them. Edward also had very feminine ears. I had never noticed that before. I laughed nervously, "Maybe we should just go?" Rose turned to glare at me next, and I flinched. A bubble of sound rose from Edward's throat, a low snarl at her antagonism towards me. "Come on Rosie, Bella's cool! Don't be angry at her just 'cuz she's crushing on Edward." Emmett pleaded. He bent down a little so their eyes were on the same level, then he smiled, cradling her chin in his hand. I'd never thought of Emmett as a romantic man until that one moment. He looked at her in a smug kind of way, wanting to show the whole world Rosalie was his, but there was also the softness of his eyes. He loved her. I guess I should have kept my mouth shut, but his presumption on my feelings for Edward made me pipe up. "I don't like Edward." I said immediately, and then blushed when everyone turned to look at me questioningly. "I mean he's just a friend." I said much more quietly, looking at my feet. Alice huffed crossing her little arms in front of her chest unhappily, while she glared at the floor. Rose chewed that over for a second, then raised her nose in the air and smiled haughtily at Edward. No one else reacted to my outburst.

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Edward's face stayed smooth and emotionless. He turned away, "What the hell are we all waiting for?" he demand, walking out the door. Jasper's eyes widened in shock when Edward walked by him out the door, something on his face that I couldn't see. Guilt slithered down my spine, burrowing into my stomach like a stone. I looked at my feet. Why couldn't I think before I opened my big mouth? Oh right, because I'm an idiot. Rose looked even more pleased at the expression she had witnessed on Edward's face and my own spiralling guilt. I didn't look at her too long, already feeling the anger radiating through me, at her callousness towards her brother. I lengthened my stride to catch up with Edward, then gave up and just jogged to catch up when I realized he too was walking faster. He had chosen to ignore the elevator in favour of the stairs. I caught up with him at the landing. I slowed down beside him, his pace slowed too in habit to my shorter legs. I don't even think he was conscious of the decreased pace anymore. His face was smooth again, everything except his eyes were casual. His eyes were mostly opaque, but I could see enough past the mask to see the smallest amount of pain that escaped his strict façade. I had to look away, unable to reap what I had sewn. I wasn't sure what to say to him, now that I was here. Obviously not that I had lied. That was just too embarrassing to admit. He wasn't helpful either, refusing to start a conversation. I took a calming breath, and then very carefully touched the back of my hand to his. It could hardly have even been called a bump, and I worried for half a second that maybe he hadn't felt it. His hand reacted like a trap, almost instantly snaring my hand into his. Unbreakable and inseparable. I looked back again to see a true calmness about his face, a genuine serenity that I could feel even from where I was. He still wasn't happy but he wasn't hurt anymore. I could live with that. I could hear a faint humming coming from Edward. It wasn't something I recognized, it was a continuous stream of sound with dips and rises, only interrupted when he stopped to take a breath. "What's that?" I murmured, loving the music. He opened his mouth to answer but was interrupted when Rose very obviously moved between us. Ripping his hand from mine. Her voice was sharp and triumphant, about to take another victory. "Edward is such a dork. He's probably singing some patsy piano piece." She snickered like it was embarrassing. Edward glared at her; his eyes were pulled in a way that made me think he was embarrassed though. "It's beautiful. I love classical music." I told Rose, trying to keep the edge out of my voice. "Ha!" Edward barked into her face. He was the victorious one now. "Now why don't you go crawl under a rock you little bug?" He growled at her. I turned away to giggle silently. She turned her attack on me. "What's wrong with you? You don't care that he has a chromosome disorder," Edward made a face. "You don't care that he is a selfish man whore, you don't even care that he not only listens to that classical crap, but that he writes it! You can't be female, you can't even be human!" she was obviously exasperated by my lack of normalcy. She obviously didn't know me well at all. Nothing was normal about me, I'd come to terms with that a long time ago.

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"I don't care." I told her quietly, "Edward knows about my faults too. It doesn't bother him, so why should I be petty enough to be bothered by his flaws?" Rose just stared at me like I was speaking Latin. Obviously Rose had never been confronted with the difficulties of over looking other people's flaws; especially since she looked so perfect herself. I wonder how she would react when she realized that even Emmett had faults. No one was perfect. Not even Rosalie Hale Cullen. Clearly out of her element with what I had been saying, and still chewing it over, she slowed, waiting for Emmett to catch up with her I suspected. I was glad that she was big enough not to just give some offensive remark and walk off. She actually had the courage to step outside herself and try to understand something from another's perspective. Edward grinned down at me. "You've found the shallow witch's weakness. Depth." I grimaced, unhappy. I knew I was the cause of this family dispute. "Don't Edward. I can understand where she's coming from anyways, I'm not exactly you're usual company." I rolled my eyes. He chuckled in agreement. The library was mostly empty, normal for a Saturday afternoon. I gravitated immediately towards the books, where I usually went in a library. Edward grabbed my wrist, pulling me in the opposite direction, towards the computers on the left side of the library. "Oh no you don't. If you go in there I'll never get you out again." he smiled at me. I sighed, "Fine. Then what are we going to do in a library? Because reading is obviously not what you're supposed to do." He ignored the sarcasm in my voice, his eyes were far off. I nudged him, "Edward?" "Hmm? Sorry, lost in thought." His voice still sounded a little distracted. "People only get lost in thought when it's unfamiliar territory." I teased, nudging him again, impishly this time. "Ouch! That smarts." He grinned. "You're just grumpy because I'm not letting you read. You can be so weird sometimes." But his smile widened, his glace appreciative as if he was giving me a complement. "Um...thanks. What do you want to do?" I sat down in the computer chair next to him. He shrugged, booting his up. I did the same, and then amused myself through the wait by spinning around in the chair. I liked to see all the colours blend together, all except Edward. He never blurred into the back ground. Edward typed something into the address bar, and then we came to a music site. "So you really like classical?" he asked as if he didn't believe it. When I nodded his eyes narrowed. "Prove it. Name one classical composer other then the obvious ones like Beethoven." I gave him a look, about to tell him that I didn't need to prove anything, why would I lie? Then I sighed. "Debussy, Chopin's nocturnes," I grinned darkly, "And Beethoven." I added that last part just to bug him. "Is there a reason I would lie about my music preferences?" He chuckled, running his hand through his hair. Nervous. "Some girls...like to find similarities with me. I guess it makes them think I'll like them more." He shrugged, looking away. I snorted, "Because all I do is try to please you." I grinned as we both thought about all my tricks. "Throwing you into the lake, kicking you butt in your own sport, burying you in mine, and other wise threatening your life to get you off my back. Oh yea, bending over backwards to make you love me."

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Edward laughed, "And somehow I do." His eyes were soft. "And you say I'm weird." I muttered. "So what's with the music site? Want to go dancing again?" He smiled. "Maybe. What kind of music do you like?" "I already told you. Do you remember?" I wondered if Edward actually listened to me when I spoke. "Hard rock. Anything else? And specifics." He didn't look at me, he was strangely focused on the computer screen, afraid I would read something from his face. "Linkin park-ish music, my mom's new husband got me hooked. Other then that and classical I'm not very music savvy." "So we have a classical and heavy rock girl. Interesting. Do you like any girlie songs?" he smirked. I shrugged. "What's in the 'girlie' genre?" I leaned across my computer to look at his. He typed in bubbly then grinned when it started from the speakers, watching my face. I shrugged when the song ended. "I'd listen to it." "But do you like it?" I smiled, sidestepping the question. I didn't really like it, and if he found that out he's play it around me constantly. "Interesting. We have a 'girly' music kind of guy. Never would have thought it." He scowled at me, I smiled hugely at him. Edward thought about that, and then typed another name in. Wait for you – Elliott Yamin. Rosalie and Alice came running like their names had been called when the music started. It started with a bit of piano, and then a male voice started. "I never felt nothing in the world like this before Now I'm missing you & I'm wishing that you would come back through my door Why did you have to go? You could have let me know So now I'm all alone, Girl you could have stayed but you wouldn't give me a chance With you not around it's a little bit more then I can stand And all my tears they keep running down my face Why did you turn away?" Edward sang his gestures over the top and obviously mocking. He even ran one hand down from his eye to track a tear along with the lyrics. I laughed, starting to follow the baby pink lyrics that flashed across the bottom of the music video with him. "So why does your pride make you run and hide? Are you that afraid of me? But I know it's a lie what you keep inside This is not how you want it to be"

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I took Edward's hands, and we stood up, spinning around the room laughing. Edward's eyes looked a little resigned though. Edward interrupted me when I was about to sing the next line, singing it himself. I snickered at Rose and Alice, both of whom did enjoy the song giving us dirty looks. Rose was giving most of them; Alice just stuck her tongue out whenever I looked at her. "So baby I will wait for you Cause I don't know what else I can do Don't tell me I ran out of time If it takes the rest of my life Baby I will wait for you If you think I'm fine it just ain't true I really need you in my life No matter what I have to do I'll wait for you" Edward tried to make his voice go up into a high feminine voice at the end, ending up cracking his voice and coughing. I snickered darkly. Edward might play music, but I'd heard better singers. I wasn't one to talk though. He sounded good next to me. "It's been a long time since you called me (How could you forget about me) You got me feeling crazy (crazy) How can you walk away, Everything stays the same I just can't do it baby What will it take to make you come back Girl I told you what it is & it just ain't like that Why can't you look at me, your still in love with me Don't leave me crying." Edward managed to get his bearings, grinning he mouthed 'girl?' at me with a teasing look on his face. I grinned, "Yes, I like women Edward." I rolled my little conversation had made us skip a piece, and then the chorus started again. "So why does you pride make you run & hide Are you that afraid of me? But I know it's a lie what your keeping inside That's not how you want it to be Baby I will wait for you Baby I will wait for you If it's the last thing I do" Alice and Rose sang the last parts, obviously not wanting us to ruin the whole song for them. Edward managed to steal the last line from them. "I'll be waiting." He murmured lowly. Then smiled when I tried to search his face. There was something off about him, especially in those last three words. There was so much emotion in those three words that it could only be one thing. Or more specifically, one person. Mrs. X.

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He saw the awareness flash across my face and pulled me into his chest, resting what I thought was his cheek against my hair, sighing. I wrapped my arms around his waist, just standing there for a long minute. A slower music started, and we both looked up to see Alice grinning at us. Rose glared, then lunged for the mouse to change the music. Soon they were rolling around on the floor, the mouse swinging by the cord forgotten in the air. Edward pulled away slightly, keeping one hand on my waist, taking my hand in the other. He started to lead us around the library, spinning and navigating around the tables. "We actually have music now." I smiled, speaking lowly to him. He spun us around twice. Chuckling, "It's nice, isn't it? Dancing with out music makes you feel kind of silly." His eyes flickered towards where Rose had pinned Alice, still fighting, to the floor, and was just reclaiming the mouse to turn the music off. Oh well, thirty second dance was okay. Edward looked like he was going to say something really nasty to her, so I interceded quickly. "Rose, do you mind if I try and show Edward the kind of music I like?" Edward closed his mouth with a sharp clicking of teeth, not willing to argue now. Not with me. Her eyes narrowed slightly, and then she shrugged, stepping away from the computer, her face still hostile. I squared my shoulders. I tried not to let her see how much she intimidated me. I walked over to the computer, trying to keep my façade up. I put a new song on. Bite the Hand that Feeds by Nine Inch Nails, Edward looked a little impressed. I guessed I had introduced him to a new band. We spent the rest of the day looking up songs and discussing the pros and cons about bands, genres and just about anything else that came to mind. Much of the afternoon was spent laughing. The librarian had had enough when Emmett came to join us, laughing along with us in his ground shaking guffawing. She kicked us out of the library with a grimly triumphant expression. Her lips turned up in a tart little smile. Probably for the better, we got out of the library in time to see the sunset over the lake again. This time everyone was with us. It might have been nice had Edward and I not been the only single couple. That's what made me feel the most awkward, Edward wasn't bothered at all, and I though I knew our friendship wasn't the normal kind-too many lines had been blurred-it still made me uncomfortable how he acted around me sometimes. Jasper was resting his head in Alice's lap. She watched his face, running her hands through his golden locks rather then watch the bronzing sunset. Jasper was looking back up at her with a reverenced expression. Rose and Emmett were kissing behind one of the fall tinted trees, every once and a while we would hear Rose giggle, or squeal. Edward grimaced, looking like he'd like to take a spoon to his head to dig the images out that were drilling themselves in there. Edward had one arm around my waist, holding me to his warm chest as the chill of night settled on us. Edward didn't seem to think anything about this was awkward; he enjoyed it, smiling at me while the soft pinks and oranges of the sunset set everything on fire. In stead of the fire leaving harsh coals and colourless ash, it softened every thing it touched, making the world flash with colour. Even the sharp lines of Edward's jaw softened his green eyes flashing with their own brilliant, tender light. His own goodness becoming an internal sun. My sun.

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Today had been such a long day. I sighed when the sun finally set, "Ready to go home?" Edward asked, stretching. The wooden bench we had been sitting on wasn't exactly comfortable. "Sure. Don't you think someone should go get Rosalie and Emmett?" I asked, looking towards the trees. Maybe this one act of kindness could be something to help warm Rose up to me. "No, they're fine." Edward grinned, Alice giggled lowly in agreement and we set off for home. I looked back at the bushes where Rose and Emmett were secreting them selves, I could still hear a faint giggle. Whoever was in charge of siblings screwed up royally when they made Rose and Edward brother and sister rather then Alice and Edward. It was just so natural, the way they would joke, Alice's hand twined with Jaspers' while Edward's warm hand almost touching the small of my back every once a while. I wondered if he thought I would disappear in a puff of smoke if he didn't check to make sure I was there. I had to smile at that. When we got home, even though I was just staying here for a short time Edward's home felt like it was mine too, the phone rang just as we walked through the door. "Wonderful timing." Edward grinned, his eyes bright like he already had an idea of who it was. He put the phone on speaker, and we sat on the couch beside it. "Edward? Edward where are you?" It was Rosalie's voice, shrill with fear. "We thought we had gotten lost! How could you leave with out us?" The fear had subsided into a growl, and I was sure there would be pain when we next saw her. If she didn't hunt us first. "Because you're a terrible sister. And you were making out in the woods when I was in ear shot. You're the one who's going to have to pay for the therapy to get that emotionally healed." His voice was teasing; he grinned, and then winked at me. I hushed a snicker, wondering what poor Rose had to listen through before they got their own dorms. "I'll give you emotional scarring you little-" Edward hung up on her before she could finish her threat. We burst out laughing. "You might want to lock that door. She might just kill you in you're sleep." I grinned, nodding towards the door. Edward smiled. "I'll be counting on you to protect me while I sleep. We'll trade shifts at dawn." "Ha! Dawn, good luck waking me up before dawn. Rose would have more to fear from me if that was the case." I shook my head, thinking about waking up at dawn. I'd rather go for an icy dip again in the lake. The phone rang again. Edward rolled his eyes, hitting speaker again. "I'm not scared of you Rosie. You've been de-thorned." His eyes flickered to my face quickly to see if I thought it was funny. I shook my head sadly at him. He pursed his lips to keep from smiling. "Edward?" That defiantly wasn't Rosalie's voice. My breath caught. Edward's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Millie?" his voice had shot up too. It felt like I couldn't breath, my lungs weren't expanding. I had a huge weight on my chest, too heavy to push off. It was crushing me. I already knew what she was going to say before she said it. The husky note in her voice before had given her away. "You want to come over?" There was no question to what she was implying; her voice had dropped a few

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octaves. "No." Edward sighed, leaning back onto the couch, flicking the TV on. That was all. That one word gave me the strength to push the great mass off my chest. I sucked in a deep breath, revelling in the beauty of the air I could pull into my lungs. Everything was more beautiful, I felt so exultant that I thought I might just do a little touch down dance right here in the living room. Edward was bigger then this, he was in love. Nothing would get in the way of that. Her voice was poutie when she asked again, "Please? I'm waiting for you." It was a purr, a come hither voice that had tempted many men to the same fate. It didn't surprise me that Edward's stubborn expression wavered. He leaned closer to the phone subconsciously. "Are you?" he choked, his expression almost sceptical. "Mmhm. I'm waiting. Naked." Edward's breathing stopped. Then he composed his voice, it was darker, lower. "I'll be right over." He looked at me quickly, having evidently forgotten I was there when something so much better then my company had come up. I swallowed around the lump in my throat. The line was dead, and Millie was waiting. He always hung up too soon when he was excited. "Sorry Bella. Do you mind if...?" he trailed off, and I knew that if I told him to stay he would. He would always listen to me. "No it's okay." I choked; I forced a smile when he smiled brilliantly at me. "Just one thing. If you actually go over there, if you sleep with her, it won't be a one night deal. Get back together with her; actually try to make it work." My voice came out in a breath of pain. He didn't even think about it. Didn't even listen. "Kay. See you later." He called, throwing his coat on. He disappeared out the door with hardly a backward glance. Once he was gone the small sarcastic part of me laughed at myself. Oh he's in love alright. Just not in the way you thought. I felt like the stupid gambler who had bet all their winnings on the horse with the lowest chances of winning because of a dream. And then watching it come in last, wheezing and panting across the finish line. Already my mind was coming up for excuses for him. No one changes in a week. He's a man, what did you expect? Millie was the temptress; he never went to her that was an improvement, was it not? And then I felt even stupider because I wasn't angry at him. I wasn't angry because I had fallen for Edward too. Not in the traditional way, I didn't have romantic love him. But I had fallen for his charm, for his good looks and good humour. I had fallen for his wits and his playfulness. I had fallen for his smile, for the way he always glowed. The way he always wanted me around. How he never got tired of me, how even when I felt I'd messed up, seemed like too much of a guy, he always liked me that much more. He was my best friend, and that's how I had fallen for him. That's why I loved him.

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Chap 15 Edward Teeny Tiny Twilight Millie sighed, a contented happy sound. She had one warm hand resting on my chest only half covered by her sheets. Her eyebrows pulled down suddenly over her shut eyes, her mouth turned down slightly as her fingers tried in vain to find and curl her fingers in the hair on my chest that wasn't there. She never said it-she never had too, I just knew-that she secretly hated my chromosome disorder. It always made girls nervous when they heard it, because the first place each of their minds went was will this affect a baby? What mother wanted their child to be a freak? Carlisle had a different opinion. He though I was a step up in the evolutionary ladder since humans originated from much hairier beings, and what hairs we still had left were pretty useless. Also because I'd always been able to learn faster. I was reading before I was in school, I could easily do complex math in my head. The only reason I ever used a calculator was the same reason I sometimes asked my neighbours in class about a subject I knew backwards and forwards. I wanted to fit in. Not any more. The grimace Millie was making affected me about as much as her smile. I just didn't care anymore. Bella accepted me. She accepted me even when she was being pressured by Rose. Rose who could make anyone feel bad about themselves with just one disdainful glance. Bella stood up for me in the face of humiliation, with the chance of being ostracized by her peers. Bella had unwittingly given me the chance to sap from just a small bit of her strength, to keep myself strong in the face of something that used to scare me. Nothing new for Bella who was always forcing herself into a world where she wasn't accepted. She took chances, stood up for what she believed in, fought for what was right. I felt a swell of pride just thinking about it. I'd found a notch in Bella's life, I was ever so slowly whittling a place for me in there. After tonight though, I wonder if I hadn't just sanded over a weeks worth of work with just one stupid decision. It had been some senseless glitch in my brain. All that registered was that Bella was in the room with me, and Millie said she was naked. All my mind was able to summed it up as was: Bella + naked = good. Nothing else had gotten through until I had actually walked through Millie's door and found her waiting for me rather then Bella. I almost asked her what she was doing laying there, twirling a ridiculous wine glass with some kind of sparkling grape juice in it. It was like watching a four year old blow bubbles out of a plastic pipe. She must have thought she came off as suave. My new-newish girlfriend, the suave four year old twirling fake wine in an expensive crystal glass. I couldn't lie here anymore. Millie had already started to snore softly. Bella could run around the track like a pro-athlete, then still have energy enough to want to play football and bounce all the way home. Millie couldn't keep her eyes open after sex.

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I knew it was wrong to compare them, hardly fair to Millie, and not something a good boyfriend should do. So starting now, Bella would have no place in my mind. I was devoted to Millie; I would try to make this work. I would be good for Bella. Well that lasted a whole eighth of a second. I must be moronic to think I could go ant length of time with out Bella in my head. Love didn't work like that. And Bella's love was a miracle. A torturous miracle that ached deep in my chest, something I felt even when I was asleep. I was always aware that my love for her was fast building, and it was running out of room in my body, I would over flow with it, my bones would break and my heart would swell and rupture with it. I looked down at Millie, sleeping peacefully in my arms, trying to push this love off to her, to give her a little of the love I was too terrified to give to Bella. No relief came, no one but Bella could free me. If I only let her. I sighed, slipping out of bed smoothly, hardly making a sound or pulling the sheets. Millie's hand fell limply onto the mattress with a muted thuding. I carried my clothes out into the other room to get dressed, and then came back in to leave a note on the pillow for when she woke up tomorrow. I read it over one more time, trying to see why it felt wrong. Millie, Call me when you wake up, I want to talk to you about something. Edward. I realized I should probably finish with Love Edward or something just as sickeningly sweet for her to smile at when she woke up. I threw the note as it was on the pillow. My feet padded quietly on her hard floors, looking to see that everything was just the same as it had been the last time I was were. The floor was still cold against bare feet; her fridge was still as empty as it usually was. She ate when she was bored, stressed, angry, even when she was excited. The only reason she still had her figure was because her metabolism was still fast from when she used to figure skate. That wasn't going to last forever though, and she would rather lie on the couch and eat rather then go out and do something. Already her stomach was starting to roll when she sat up. I could deal with the fat. That wasn't my issue. My issue was when she complained about it while she sat on the couch eating a whole bag of chips and then snatching popcorn from my bag. How long before I could break up with her again? I gave myself a mental slap in the face. Try Edward. Bella said to try, and it was you're own decision to agree.

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Stupid freaking hormones. I took one last look around Millie's place, knowing this wasn't going to be my last time here, and slipped out the door into the hall. Closing the door softly, I looked from right to left, looking to see if I had been caught, just as I always did. Old habits died hard. This was no walk of shame. Shameful as I was. I froze for a moment from Déjà vu, I stared to the right, waiting for Bella, a bag too big for her thrown over her shoulder, fumbling with keys and a bagel shoved into her mouth to step out on her way to basket ball practice. Two hours too early. My lips twitched up. I walked slowly down the hall, hesitating at the door. I leaned my head against it smiling. I wonder who lived here now. I knocked quietly on the door, the sound echoed through the empty flat with no response. It pleased me-in a childish way-to know that in a way, this was still Bella's. That Bella would always be just next door for all the nights-and I knew they were coming-when I would be fighting with myself to at the very least tolerate Millie. She deserved that much. The door opened, and I nearly fell on top of the startled red head standing in the door way. I could tell right away that she was a minor niner. Her eyes were big and green, a shocking contrast to her hair, with pale skin, freckles peppered her cheeks. I jumped back. "Oh, sorry." I stuttered, felling what little camaraderie I'd had with the empty room was gone. It didn't belong to Bella anymore, and I was left to war with myself with no relief. "I thought my friend lived here." I finally managed to come up with that lame excuse a little too late. She looked at me, brows pulled over her eyes like she was wondering if I was okay. No. No I wasn't. "Okay, Well nice to meet you." I shook her hand wishing I could stop making an ass of myself right now. "I'll just...go." She nodded slowly, having ascertained that I was beyond witless, and then slowly closed the door, not taking her eyes off me even as I retreated towards the elevator. She looked like she was expecting me to suddenly turn around, foaming at the mouth. "Bravo you freaking moron." I muttered to myself, stepping into the elevator. I looked at the reflective chrome on the sides of the elevator; trying to make my hair look a little less like I had just had sex. I didn't want Bella to see me looking like that even though she already knew what I'd done. My feet dragged on the way back home. When I saw Bella I would have to face my shame, my regret. I hoped she'd slap me, tell me how horrible I was, and kick me out of my own house so I had to sleep on the floor in the hall. I'd take it all willingly. If I spent the rest of the week on my knees, begging for forgiveness, would she find it in herself to ever talk to me again?

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It was hopeless. I was hopeless. I felt like the moon, shyly orbiting around the earth when it was the sun that really kept me grounded. No matter where I turned I was always bathed in light, in warmth. I stopped outside my door, taking a deep breath. Then, opened the door. For one moment I was enraptured. It always stunned me every time I saw her. Electricity flowed through my, stopping me in my tracts so I was reduced to just staring at her. I venerated her, she was truly my goddess. She turned to look at me, and I remembered what I had just done. I could feel the guilt twist my face up. "Hey." It came out as a broken whisper. She looked shocked to see me, and then horrified as she took in my expression. She lurched up from the couch, "What's wrong? Edward what happened?" She demanded her eyes wide. "Nothing." I muttered, shoving my hands in my pockets. I'd spent all week pining after Bella, hoping to get a little relief from the physical ache of need. Almost as bad as the loving ache, but at least with this I knew how to handle it. All to nothing it seems. I needed her all over again, needed her like a blind man needed the light, like I needed to breath. I wanted to sob when her eyes filled with hope. "You didn't sleep with her?" Her smile was so heart breakingly beautiful I though I would die. "I'm so proud of you Edward." and then she rushed to hugged me around the waist. Her huge beautiful deep eyes filled to the brim with respect and hope. She was proud of me. That had been all I would have needed to do, just say no to Millie and she would have smiled at me like that. "No." I choked, moving out of her arms. "I did sleep with her; I just meant that nothing is wrong." I wanted to scream. Everything was wrong, nothing was right. The animalistic sound was raging in my throat, I could feel it. I would have loved for her to slap me, to scream, to accuse me of lying to her, I would have taken all that and smiled. Just not this. Anything but this. I couldn't stand the way the hope was crushed in her eyes, how she looked away from me with just a soft "Oh." How she didn't even look at me as she stepped away. Why couldn't she have just thrown acid in my eyes? Branded me with white hot metal over and over? Skinned me alive? This was the worst torture. "Then why are you here?" her natural soft voice held no bitterness, no hostility, just innocent curiosity. "Shouldn't you be spending the night with your girlfriend?" I thought her voice sounded particularly blank. I squished the little bud of hope before it could blossom. I could hear it, though she refused to say it. She was asking me whether I had asked her or not. "I left her a note. I told her to call me tomorrow, I'll ask her then." Bella's eyes narrowed. I quickly jumped to explain myself, "She fell asleep before I could ask her!" She didn't look completely appeased, but she didn't push it either. She went and sat down again on the couch, curled up in her big blanket. I didn't know whether I was allowed to sit with her or not. She smiled at me, "I'm watching Gossip girls want to watch?" she teased, patting the cushion beside her.

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I smiled, when all I wanted to do was fall at her feet and spell everything out for her, to tell her I loved her and only her. To tell her I would never want anything other then her. This acceptance must be my punishment. Instead of declaring myself, I spinelessly sat down beside her. She had been teasing about the show; she was actually watching a basketball game. Her eyes looked far away though, and I wondered what she was feeling. What was she thinking? Before I could even get the courage to ask that, she yawned. I tried to smile at her, "What, Bella is tired? The bottomless pit of energy is tired? You didn't even run or anything." I teased. She smiled back, obviously glad that my mood had gotten slightly better, "Actually I did while you were...busy." She yawned again. So I'd missed my bouncing Bella? Anyone else wouldn't have understood. Watching Bella run was like watching her fly. Her quick little legs hardly ever touched the ground; her hair flying out behind her like Apollo's chariot, her smile was the sun, her hair the flowing night. "Oh." I had to swallow down something very foul directed at Millie. She wasn't to blame, I just really wanted to. Anything to get this heavy cold feeling out of the pit of my stomach. "You want to go to bed then?" She nodded, looking apologetic. "Sorry. I hope you don't mind." I rolled my eyes at her. She won't be angry at me but it's a capitol offence for her to be tired. "Why would I mind?" She threw her blanket across the couch, across my legs. I raised an eye brow. She smiles in a resigned way, "I meant about me kicking you off the couch. I'm sleeping here tonight." She smiled in a small victory. Chuckling at the memory her last night when she had come in, her eyes big and embarrassed. I wished I could have seen her blush, but the moonlight hardly revealed anything. "I don't think there is enough room on that couch for both of us." She flushed a beautiful pink, "N-no, that's not what..." She stumbled over herself, something I rarely saw with her. She composed her self with one deep breath, her chocolaty eyes closing. "I'm sleeping alone." She peeked hesitantly through her long eye lashes to gage my reaction. What ever good mood I'd managed to pull together was lost. "What? Are you angry with me?" She should be, but that was the opposite vibe to what I was getting from her at the moment. Was I reading her wrong? That was disappointing; I'd thought I was getting better at deciphering her. She shook her head fast, "Of course not. How could I be angry with you?" Madness was coming on, picking at little pieces of me, pulling at what little sanity I could salvage. "I don't understand." She gave me an irritated look. "I can't share your bed when you have a girlfriend." She scoffed at the idea. This was the Bella I needed, the one who told me what to do and why. The one who knew how smart and different I was, and not only liked it, but expected it. She always snapped at me when I offered her anything less then who I was. "Then why Bella? I don't understand." I had enjoyed the way she had said it. 'Share your bed'.

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I wonder what Bella would do if I stole her into my room, if I took her on my bed and never let her go. If I ravished her until she begged me to never let her go. The throbbing became unbearable. I needed release again already. I shoved my hands into my pockets to hide my hard on. She hadn't even noticed, "Because Edward! That would be like if you were my boyfriend and I got into bed with another man. How would you handle that?" I'd rip the poor bastard to shreds. "Bella, she isn't even really my girlfriend yet. I'm asking her tomorrow." I hoped Bella would see reason. She looked at me for a long second, when she spoke her voice was very soft, very low. "Edward...It's not right." And there the battle was lost. I nodded, pursing my lips. "Fine." As I turned away heading for my room, I paused, turning to smile at her, "Bella?" She was bent over the couch, smoothing out the blankets. I knew it would be another argument to try and get her at least to take my bed. I would gladly switch, sleep on the floor if she wanted. She did not look like she was going to trade with me. "Yes?" she looked at me over her shoulder, her hair cascading over her other shoulder, setting her pale face in the most beautiful canvas, contrasting with her hair. I love you. "Good night." I love you so much more then you will ever know. She smiled at me, "You too. Sleep well." She slid into her make shift bed with about as much grace as a baby elephant, and I had to laugh as she knocked her head off the side table trying to get comfortable. She glared at the table, rubbing the back of her head. Then she flicked the light off. As I stared into the darkness, knowing I had to turn around before her eyes adjusted and she saw me still standing here, I came to a terrifying realization. Surely someone as perfect as Bella wouldn't wait forever? She would get snatched up along with all the other girls. I could lose her. What would I do with out my air? I would choke. What would I do with out my light? Fall into a darkness; so hideous that death looked a better alternative. And then what if that man that stole her, what if he just wanted to use her? Use her like I had used girls before I had met Bella? My teeth clenched and rage, rage worse then anything I had ever felt before took over me. Bella was mine. No she wasn't. Not until I made her mine. I was beginning to think that mountains would turn to sand at my feet, stars falling from the sky before I had nearly as much strength as Bella. I couldn't tell her, that much was obvious. I was too happy with that I had to put it on the line for a maybe. I still needed more. I needed Bella for more then just friendship; I needed to love her, needed to pass off the overflowing love onto her, to share it, because one person couldn't carry something so heavy and real. Nobody can stand through this life on their own. The people who tried were very quickly dragged under. And in return, I would be anything Bella needed me to be, as long as she was there to take my hand when I couldn't stand on my own. When the current was too strong, and the water too high. I disappeared into my room, hiding in the darkness. I wanted to go back in time, to tell Millie to go fuck

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herself. To tell her I was too busy to do it for her. I'd let Bella yell at me for being so unbearable rude to another human being, and then her and I would fly across the night darkened streets, I'd run beside her. I wouldn't be an idiot this time, I'd save some energy for the game she wanted to play after wards, then we would have gone home, I could have wrapper her in my arms, whispered sweet everything's in her ear as I had done last night when I knew she was asleep. We would have woken up with out a care, no fear, especially not the despair I was feeling now. How could I be with Bella when Millie had me under lock and key? Bella may be oblivious to my shows of affection, but Millie wouldn't, she'd put a stop to that right away. I was just drifting off when I heard the sound I wanted most in the world. Bella's nervous shallow breaths. I'd stayed awake for this. Bella was a strong girl, and I knew that, but I also knew something no one else did, I doubted even Bella realized exactly what the nervousness stemmed from. She was scared of being alone. Not of sleeping alone, or even really in the present tense. It was the lonesome future she feared. Having someone beside her just helped to ebb those fears, to brush them off to the side until later. Most likely why she was so set on making sure I ended up with Mrs. X, so that I wasn't terrified and alone. Little did she know she was saving herself too. She hesitated a few feet by my bed. I didn't move, I could watch her silhouette without her seeing my eyes open. She hovered near the side of the bed, then she startled me by kneeling beside the bed instead of nudging me to wake me up-I'd fake waking-or just climbing in anyways. "Please don't wake up before me." She whispered into the bed before disappearing from my sight. It was nearly impossible not to just lean over the side of the bed and see what she was doing. I managed until her breathing slowed enough for me to think she was asleep, or for her eyes at least to be closed, and then I carefully leaned over to see. She was cocooned in her blanket on the floor by my bed. So she had conceded to keep her idea of what the right thing was while not robbing herself of comfort. I moved my pillow so I could watch her sleep, smiling at her in the darkness. I wonder how she would react in the morning if I took her into bed with me now. She might yell, might refuse to talk to me until I apologized, she would defiantly blush, and maybe, she might smile at me. That last one was a long shot, I knew that. All the others though, I could live through them if I could keep her with me for just one more day. One more night. I got out of bed, untangled her very carefully from her blankets, and then scooped her up into my arms, cradling her there for a moment before laying her gently into the bed. I crawled in next, wrapping her up in my arms. I could breathe again. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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I was only half asleep, knowing I had to wake up eventually, and also knowing that I didn't want to. I rolled over something cool that crackled under my cheek. I sat up startled, fully awake now. There was a little folded piece of paper, ripped from something. I opened it squinting through the sleep to see what was written. The writing was so messy it was almost impossible to read. I rolled my eyes, no one other then Bella was capable of this kind of scrawl. Nice try I gave one surprised chuckle, and then as I heard her soft giggle from the floor I laughed until I had to wipe my eyes free of the gleeful tears. She sat up; her deep chocolate eyes the only thing that cleared the bed from where I lay. I smiled at her, her eyes pulled up at the corners in response, smiling back. "We have food in the house today." her voice was happy, and I wondered how the world had ever managed to turn before she was born. "That we do. Who's cooking today?" My stomach snarled. I hadn't had dinner last night, I'd been too busy, too distracted by my angst. I should have known everything would work out, everything always did. I would get my relief from Millie in a small part of the evening, and then spend the rest of the day and night with Bella. It sounded good to me. I was too hungry to let Bella cook on her own. I sped up the process by frying bacon in another pan while she made cheese omelettes. She smiled whenever I leaned over to inhale the most delicious scent in the world. "Careful Edward, lean any farther over and you might fall into the frying pan." She teased. What would she think if she knew I was inhaling her? She flipped my omelette out onto a plate, and I took half the plate of bacon. She gave me another quarter, rolling her eyes, "I can't eat that much grease in one sitting." She explain when I had looked at her questioningly, my mouth full of food. I shrugged, happily taking it. "Your loss." I mumbled through a mouthful. Her nose wrinkled in the most adorable way, and she laugh. I pushed all the food into my cheeks and grinned back at her. Just as Bella was sitting down with her plate, there were three harsh staccato knocks on the door. Bella's eyes flickered puzzled to the door before she grinned back at me. "Do you think Alice smelt the bacon?" I wrapped my arm protectively around my plate, "She's not getting any of mine." She raised her eyebrow, a small smile playing on her lips in one of those, 'you want to bet?' looks. Then she turned and went to open the door. Bella wasn't graceful, not like when she ran, but she didn't trip over herself either, it was a very smooth walk. It was natural, nothing forced about it. Some say you can tell a lot about a person by the way they walk. I already had a bad feeling before she opened the door. "Hi Millie." Bella's voice had lost a little of it's cheer, but the greeting was still sincere and kind. There was a loaded silence. "Edward here?" I saw Bella's shoulders move, folding down into her protectively, just a little. "Yeah, he's in the kitchen." She murmured in a quieter voice, all the cheer gone now.

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The strength Bella always carried was being leashed in. I couldn't figure out why until I saw Millie's face. She had red rims around her eyes. I jumped up, going to her. I knew I should have ended my note with love Edward. "Hey," I smiled, ignoring the way she sniffled. "You could have just called." I would have rathered you called. She nodded, smiling back at me through teary eyes. "I wanted to see you." I knew it was horrible, but I was more worried about how many people had seen Millie walk over to my place in tears rather then why she was crying. Bella was behind her, trying to sign something to me. I tried to look at her with out drawing Millie's attention to her. She was pointing at Millie, and then miming eating. Oh! "Have you had breakfast yet?" I asked her, my eyes drifting to Bella to see if I had interpreted her right. She gave me the thumbs up. I tried to tame my smile. Millie sniffed again, shaking her head. Her watery hazel eyes didn't quiet break my heart. Millie just didn't move me. Yes she was an easy piece of ass but that was all the appeal she held. I didn't even feel guilty for taking advantage of her, if it could have even been called that. Millie was as proud of her reputation as Bella was about being strong enough to kick any guys butt at basketball. She knew what she was and she embraced it. I tried to put the right expression on my face, like I had wanted to see her too. "I wanted to ask you something." I told her as Bella brought out her untouched breakfast to Millie. She went back into the kitchen to make her own breakfast again. I'd save some bacon from my plate for her. She looked at her plate, "Bella?" she whined. I shuddered at the time ahead with that voice. "Can you get me some ketchup? And some milk?" My teeth clenched. I almost snapped and told her to get off her lazy ass to get it herself. Bella had not only given up her breakfast for her, but she was also in the middle of greasing a new pan and turning the stove on. "Can you give me one sec and I'll be right there?" she asked, her eyes flickering between what she was doing and Millie. "Okay." Millie looked down at Bella's breakfast again, "I just don't want the eggs getting cold while I wait." I had to sit on my hands so I didn't hit her. I was never this violent around women, not even around Millie. She was just really grating on my nerves today. Bella dropped what she was doing, poured a glass of milk and grabbed the ketchup. She quickly poured her eggs into the pan, and then hurried to give Millie what she needed. I gave Bella an apologetic look; she shrugged, and went back to frying her eggs. Millie didn't say thank you, she scowled when Bella put the ketchup on the table instead of pouring it directly onto the plate for her. I took a deep breath, if I didn't ask her out now, I would hate her too much to force the question out later through my teeth. "Will you be my girlfriend?" I asked, nearly spitting the question out. There was no care for how the question came out, and I didn't care how she received it. She froze, then a smile pulled her face up, "You really want to try again?" she asked in a hopeful whisper when she could talk again. She not only had skipped breakfast, but had also not brushed her teeth yet. I halted

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my breathing so I wouldn't have to smell her breath. She must have just woken up, coming straight here to see me. The first thing Bella did every morning was brush her teeth. No. "I really do." Not want you to be my girlfriend. That right belongs solely to Bella now. And Bella had given it up to Millie. For the moment. Millie gave an ear piercing squeal that she had been perfecting and working on since the middle of grade ten when she heard a senior do it. It had been cute the first time, after that I wanted to shove a sock down her throat. We had been dating off and on since she had come here, mostly because I used to think she was pretty, and I knew she was easy. It worked out until she annoyed the crap out of me and I moved onto a new conquest. I realized with a shock, that even though I would love to have Bella come to me one night, to ask for me to make love to her, I would turn her down. I'd tuck her under my arm and we would laugh and talk and probably argue a little until she fell asleep. As many times as I fantasized about my being inside her, I wanted to do it the right way. I wanted us to last. I wanted Bella forever. She would never be a quickie. Millie looked at me in a way that should have made me so hard I could hardly walk straight. I didn't want her right now. "You want to celebrate?" she said in a husky voice, making sure Bella could hear. Bella, who was just getting her breakfast out of the pan, again blushed, looking extremely embarrassed and uncomfortable. "I'll get out of your way." She murmured quickly, trying to figure out what to do with her breakfast now. "Eat your breakfast Bella," I called, and then more quietly to Millie, "I'm not really in the mood right now." She stared at me. Waiting for the punch line. I sighed, standing up and going back to my own cold breakfast. Bella was looking down, trying to eat quickly so she could give us our privacy. She cleared her plate in record time, said a quick goodbye, a thank you, and was out the door with her bag thrown over her shoulder, wobbling a little from the weight. I watched her go, feeling very empty. "Bye." Millie called from the living room, not even getting up to join me at the kitchen table. "Edward, my breakfast is cold." I ground my teeth, than tried for a calm even voice. "I have a microwave in the kitchen." I heard her grumbled lightly then the sound of her feet dragging as she put her breakfast in the microwave. I shovelled the rest of my breakfast in my mouth, and then got up to take my shower. "Where-" I didn't let Millie finish her sentence. "I'm going to have a shower." I smiled at her to sooth the sharp edge of my voice. At least she got the message and didn't ask if she could join me. I stopped when I passed my room to see Bella's blanket still balled up on the floor. She must have forgotten it in her rush. Slowly I started to consider something else. If she was in that much of a rush...had she perhaps

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forgotten something else? I was in the bathroom in a flash, hurrying as if the shampoo may just walk off if I didn't get there soon enough. I ripped the shower curtains out of my way in my haste, to find that yes, she had forgotten it. A slow smile spread across my face. I got undressed, slipping into the shower. I let the water warm me for a minute before cracking open the shampoo. My primary intention had been to just smell it, to feed my prowler habits. The response I got though was shockingly immediate. "Where the hell have you been?" I muttered. Of course anything Bella made me hard, after a whole week of almost constant hard-ons, I had expected to get at least a days relief from them. Feeling kind on sick with myself, I had a girlfriend who was more then willing in the other room; I poured just a small drop onto my hands. Closed the cap and put the shampoo back on the little sill Bella had left it in. Lathering my hands up I pictured Bella in the shower with me. The smell of the shampoo made this fantasy just a little more real as I had intended. x x x x x x x Lemons ahead next 5 miles x x x x x x x x x x x I had gotten enough of a glimpse of her the night she lost her shirt in the lake to know the curve of the back of her body. The sweet gentle curve of her back, the gentle swell of her breast, just barely visible as the tender mounds peeked out the sides from behind when she had raised her arms to dive into the frigid water. Even her night dark hair, falling perfect and beautiful down her near bear back was enough to turn me on to points where I was ready to take the one step, to turn her around, to kiss her, to take her. Then, when she had pulled me out of the water, when I had been on top of her, her warmth burning through my wet shirt to my abdomen. I had stolen the swiftest glance at her form, knowing through the blinding need to touch, to look, that I couldn't. Not yet. The image was imprinted into my mind, I would never lose this memory, and I would remember it every night, as I already did, imagining going further. A low groan escaped me as I imagined, Bella naked with me here, biting her lip shyly-or would she be confident? Would she gloat her supremacy over me. That sexy little smirk pulling her full lips up. I started to stroke myself, seeing Bella doing it instead, standing on her tip toes to press her lips to mine. One leg hitched over my hip, pulling me so I would press her against the cool tile wall. Looking up through her thick lashes, her cheeks all cream and roses as she smiled, not a goading smile like before. She would know I loved her in that instant, and she would love me back. Not as much, obviously, I had to keep some part of this fantasy realistic; to pretend that maybe she would do this least her brown eyes turn hazel, to have Bella's beautiful brown hair turn dirty blond. To have Bella turn into Millie. Everything I was imagining doing to Bella had already been done multiple times with other girls. Keeping Bella separate and special in reality was easy, it was so obvious, but in my fantasies I had to try and shape her into someone who would do what I wanted her to, and then by the end, she wasn't Bella. She was Millie, or Amber, or even Brenda. I dislodged those thoughts; I could smell the strawberry saturating everything with its delicious smell. It was not quite Bella's scent; it was missing things, like the sweet flowery smell I couldn't pull apart to find each different blossom. It reminded me of nights when I would watch my mother's garden with the smell of all the warm light flowers saturating the warm summer time air.

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That's what Bella would smell like in the hot water streaming down her soft skin, drops dewing on her pert nipples. I tightened my grip as I saw myself disappear inside Bella, making up for how tight her body would be, the tight muscles from all her sports contracting around me. I groaned again, my hands curving into claws where I leaned them against the dripping walls inside the shower. I moved my hand faster, starting a rhythm that would keep Bella withering on me, impaled against the wall. How she would scream my name, back arched, bucking, how I would sink into her again and again. Always, as I got close, throbbing in my hand, the image flashed up to Bella's lust darkened eyes, dark, deep and some how still crystal clear. The image alone was too much for me, and like always when my fantasies started and ended with Bella, I came too soon. I would need to work on that. I splashed water against the wall, cleaning it off. x x x x x x x x You are now entering a Lemon free zone x x x x x x x x x x I washed Bella's shampoo off too, then got my own, using as it was actually intended. I stepped out of the shower, not feeling clean enough when I knew I was going to be spending the rest of the weekend with Millie. I didn't even feel the coursing twitch of need I should have at that thought. I knew Bella was planning something, this was another on of her lessons, I just needed to figure out what she was trying to teach me. No more Bella thoughts. I would be a good boyfriend; I would treat Millie with the respect she wouldn't even give to herself. That only made it harder to do. I would talk to Bella Monday in class, get her to spill what the lesson is while enjoying her company that in no way interfered with my task of commitment. Chap 16 Toiling In Time Teeny Tiny Twilight I'd thought it over all of Sunday and I still couldn't understand what I was supposed to learn from Bella's new lesson. Was it that along with pleasure came pain? Because that's all that I had felt Sunday, and some of Saturday night. I had to sit with Millie and watch TV, cook for her because she was tired from watching TV all day, and soon, I understood Bella's inability to sit for any great length of time. I was ready to swim across the ocean. Twice. Not that this was anything new with Millie, just that I had never stayed to watch it long enough for my legs to go numb with lack of movement. It had never been like this with us. We had break-up sex, getting-back-together sex, argumentative sex, lustful sex, and truly, a couple of times we just did it because we were bored. I couldn't tell you her favourite colour, or her middle name, or even her parents' first names. I'm not even sure if I had her last name right. I only knew certain things because she touched on them. "Wow, you can lift your leg like that?"

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"I'm flexible, got it from figure skating." "Hmm, would you mind moving like this...?" We were seen as a couple for convenience, it was rather long and embarrassing to give the real version. At the same time, we weren't apathetic towards each other. Something always kept her coming back, and something always kept me agreeing. She couldn't tell you anymore about me then I could her, but she liked that I was smart and could help her on school projects. Before, of course, she started to act stupid around me, thinking I liked the mindless blond act. She also liked that I made her laugh and that I knew just the right way to touch her so she would... never mind. I used to like some things about her too. I couldn't see them anymore. I couldn't remember how I liked how soft her hair was. Bella's was thicker, and I often found my fingers tangled in the mess that was brushed one moment, tangled the next. I liked it though; it was like navigating a path through the unknown, I always had to be mindful of what I was doing so that when my fingers became ensnared I didn't rip handfuls of hair out. Millie's hair parted easily, through my fingers and I was soon bored with out the adventure. Same with her eyes. Millie's eyes changed with her mood and what she was wearing. They changed colour. I used to find this fascinating, used to make her laugh then angry in close succession just to watch the transformation. Nothing like Bella's eyes that changed subtle shades with mood, how even though her face showed everything, it was her eyes that I watched, because they spoke the most. If only you listened. I had at first found it frustrating how little I could find from her eyes, those beautiful opaque brown orbs. They had seemed that way until she had graciously tossed me a light every now and then to let me see their depth where she shined, to see something no one else could. What I hoped no one else would. It had become a game where-like Millie-I liked to annoy her to watch the most delicate darkening or lightening of shade, whether she found my pique at her amusing, childish, or just plain infuriating. I was very slowly deciphering a code that was a language all my own. After that, Millie's eyes were like connecting the dots. A child's game. I used to like how Millie just pouted when she didn't get her way, she didn't get too difficult which was good for me when I abruptly broke it off with her without good reason or much of an apology. When Bella had been fiery with me for the first time, I had not only been shocked, but very much annoyed. Girls don't talk to me like that. And especially after Alice's rejection, I though I must have had something hanging out my nose or something. Now, when I looked beyond the anger and found the passion I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. It was stunning and blinding in its intensity. The minefield around Bella used to aggravate the hell out of me, I could never do anything right. Now that I knew what her sore spots were, it was easier to navigate around them-it also helped that I had gained a small bit of her favour. It was probably the only reason she hadn't ripped me to shreds when I wanted to go to Millie's. Instead though

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she give me subtle bruises covering my body, throbbing with regret at every tick of the second hand, knowing who I would rather be with at each and ever moment. Knowing as time passed, I was losing my chance with her, letting room for another to take the little notch of a place I'd made in her life. All these things stopped me from getting a good night's sleep Sunday night, and I had a feeling that tomorrow wouldn't allow for any piece of mind. Day one When Monday morning did roll around and I jumped up to walk Bella to class-remembering my stupidity, and the consequences to that mistake-that I was Millie's escort instead. I would have to wait until second period to see her. I was ready and knocking on Millie's door in half an hour, having dragged myself through the process. It usually only took me fifteen minutes max to get to Bella's. With Bella, the five minute shower was too long. I jumped through it, just staying long enough to get clean and jump out to get dressed in a mad rush not to waste a second of the time I had with Bella. Then I would stand outside of her door for ten minute trying to think of what to say when she first came out, thinking about things I could do to make her happy or annoyed today. Then, usually, I'd sulk off; remembering that she still held my spine, my guts, and my heart captive, and I needed two of those at least to actually walk her to class. Once and a while I would just knock with out thinking, without feeling the churning butterflies (I was ashamed to admit I did get the fluttery stomach) and then I would rush into a panic on what to say when she opened the door. On Friday-our first date. Something she didn't realize fully-I had stood out side her door with the flowers for hours, trying to think up the courage to knock, to tell her the truth, to ask her on a date. Water dripping on my shoes for hours from the little bouquet of flowers. When I had the same problem as before-Bella owning all of my insides-I had given up and called her, waited a respectable amount of time and knocked. The cowardice was even more embarrassing then the butterflies. It was fine until I remembered I still had the flowers in my hands. That was tricky to maneuver around. I nearly shoved them down her throat when she walked out the door. I could laugh now when I remembered her expression, shock. Her face was so absolutely shocked that I would have burst out laughing if I hadn't been scared out of my wits of her seeing the obvious. I chuckled at the reminder of Bella's shocked face in my head while I walked Millie to class. She smiled up at me, "Something funny?" she wondered. She was still a little shocked that I had not only spent all day with her, but at the end of the night I had just pecked her goodbye. She had stood staring at me, waiting for me to snap out of it. To revert back to the Edward she knew. She only left when I looked back at the clock and mentioned the time. I grinned back, "Just remembering something." She looked out at me from the corners of her eyes. "Hmm." Her eyes changed colours. More dark green than brown, confusion and annoyance. I kissed her cheek when we came to her class. I just thought she would go into class with maybe a goodbye, so I wasn't expecting her to throw her arms around me in a passionate embrace, blocking people's path into class. I cleared my throat, "Millie?"

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She nuzzled her head into my chest. "Mhmm?" "Let go." She did as she was told, but when she pulled away, she looked unaffected by my rebuff. Her glance was oddly victorious, and I wondered if she had put a 'kick me' sign on my back, maybe smeared something down the back of my shirt. And then I got it as she blew me a kiss, wiggling her hips, making nearly every boy drool as they watched her. I forced a smile, waved good bye. And hated myself. Millie thought she had won. When I had turned her down for physical pleasures before, claiming that I loved another, she had agreed. In her eyes, when I had given in-it was much harder to resist the temptation when you were already turned on beyond human capacity-I was telling her that it was she who surpassed all others. I wanted to fight back, to make sure the whole world knew that Bella's spot was not taken, or even shadowed. There were no close seconds, or even competition in this race. Bella could go as fast or as slow as she pleased and still win. I waited in quiet frustration all through first. This was the hardest part of the day. I usually watched the clock through this period. I very rarely paid attention, I did the work perfectly, I'd aced the test, studied the material-well glanced at it once or twice-but I knew I wasn't going to be getting my usual grade. At best 94% at worst, 87%. That would be due to my lack of participation in class. The teacher wasn't stupid as much as the other students would disagree; he knew who actually listened, and who was itching to get out of his class. I'd walked into second period, emanating a false calm so nothing would alert Bella to the fact that she was winning. I was in hell. Bella wanted this; I hadn't realized how wily she was. She was quick on her feet, turning something unexpected into something of her advantage. Was this why she had been so kind to me when I had come home? Because she pitied my immediately painful future? Or maybe she had seen the regret as clearly on my face as I had been feeling last night. I waited for her to come. When the bell rang I continued to watch the door. Maybe Bella was late; surely she would come hurrying through the door, red faced and out of breath. Give an excuse I would either laugh or roll my eyes at. All through Spanish the desk beside me was empty. My mind started to reel. Was she sick? Had she re-arranged her schedules again to get away from me? Had she been cornered behind a building, her innocent beauty getting her into trouble? My heart started to race. What if she was in trouble? It took a long moment-all of Spanish-to calm down my racing heart. Most of the things I'd thought of were probably stupid, and Bella had a good arm. And a good set of lungs. She flew like the breath of angel wings, who would catch her? Still...I'd rather be in between anything and everything that threatened Bella. She wasn't there in English either. That was a small-painful blessing; I could work on the English project without her curious eyes peering over me. The angel in my picture wasn't right. She was beautiful, of course

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she was, but it wasn't right. I erased it and started again. By the time Biology rolled around I was about to snap and throw someone against the wall, holding the class for ransom until Bella was delivered back to me, safe and sound. I hadn't actually considered Bella getting sick until now. When I had been sick it couldn't have been contagious. Who catches allergies from other people? But what if she was? I'd go see her at lunch, buy some chicken noodle soup and bring it over, explain to Millie why I couldn't stay and eat with her. When the bell rang, I hurried to buy the soup before a line started and then made my way to Bella. I should have been used to the little nervous feelings that I always had when I went to her house, or to meet her somewhere. Not yet, that was another thing I had to work on. I knocked on the door. The knock echoed back emptily. There was no sound of approach, no one sighing from the other side of the door, not shuffling things around to clear full hands. Nothing. "Bella?" I called softly, not wanting to wake her. It took me a second to realize the irony. "Bella, please let me in." I called more loudly. When I was still answered with nothing, I tried one last time. "I brought soup! If you let me in I swear on my life I'll be good." It was a lie, but seriously, was lighting going to come through the roof and strike me where I stood? If that were the case, I'd be dead a million times over. Bella would have answered the door by now, or at least called something out whether she be receiving or rejecting. I was a little hungry, so I ate the soup when it got cold, leaning against the door incase Bella was just taking longer then usual to answer. She was sick after all. Still nothing, so I deposited the empty plastic bowl in a trash can before going into our next class. Math. It was Bella's worst enemy. She always dragged her feet on the way to math. Maybe she had gone in for some extra help. I doubted it, Bella loathed math with a passion. It was the only place I could think for her to be though. The last place unless she was in the library again. I made a quick detour to look through all the towering book shelves, looking for a little brunette hunched over a book, smiling, maybe frowning, so caught up with the characters she might even be muttering quietly to herself about stupidity. It wouldn't surprise me to find Bella come early to the library to read, making up for having shunned the books the last time she had been here. She had probably gotten so involved in a book that she didn't even hear the bell ring for classes. Probably didn't even realize she was hungry. I finally found her at the very end of the book shelves, hidden in the corner hunched over a book like I had expected. Her back was turned to me, her hair pulled into a pony tail, leaving her neck vulnerable while she was so distracted. I tiptoed over to where she was, getting on my knees behind her. I raised an eye brow at her turned back, was she wearing perfume? I wrinkled my nose, I didn't like it. Bella smelled better naturally then any perfume. Unless it was eau de Bella then I guess it would be an even match. I should bottle her! I could make millions off it. I leaned down to brush my lips across the back of her neck. "Hello beautiful." I murmured, she jumped about a

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foot in the air and turned around. I jumped too, realizing I should have taken my hint at the perfume. The girl had pale blue eyes, her small eyes framed by expensive looking frames. She looked like she was going to say something along the lines of I carry pepper spray before her eyes did the once over I was all too familiar with. I bit back a sigh as the routine expressions went across her face. Shock, interest, then something not quite original, but not unheard of either. She melted to the floor. "Who? Me?" she fluttered her pale eyes that were surprisingly shallow for extra measure. Weren't dark eyes supposed to appear shallow, while light colours deep? It made her eyes seem ghostly, soulless looking. I shivered. "Sorry." I muttered standing up. She looked disappointed. "I thought you were someone else." She wrinkled her nose at me, offended, and then buried her nose back into the book with renewed fervour. I sighed, finally just going to the last place Bella would be. I didn't know where else to search. The class before must have been having a test. All the curtains were pulled, just a dull light filtering through into the dark room, stained a ghostly yellow from the thin fabric. Our math teacher was the only one in here to my great disappointment. I didn't like being away from Bella for so long. It was making me anxious. What if something had happened? He saw me before I could make my quiet escape. I was going to rip the whole campus apart, no stone left unturned until I found her. "Do you need any help with math Mr. Cullen?" Mr. Math man asked, looking perplexed. It wasn't his real name-obviously-but it suited him better then his real name. No, I didn't and he knew that too. He was all about numbers and figures. All the kids hated him for that, but he was a fun teacher as long as you didn't slam his love. Bella regularly slammed math. Pop quizzes were never great for her, and she complained in little grumbles when she didn't understand something. I was about to tell him no politely, before I realized that he might have some idea of what corner of the earth Bella had dropped from. "Actually sir, I was looking for a friend of mine. Bella Swan?" I hoped desperately that he would know where she was. I didn't think I could through the rest of the day without at the very least knowing her whereabouts through the day. "Bella Swan? I heard she made the boys basketball team." He didn't actually look as pleased about this as his words should have suggested. He was an older man who still had older fashioned ideas. I saw it in his eyes, the condemning look of doing something wrong. Was this what Bella faced daily? She was so much stronger then I had previously thought. She couldn't be human, too strong, too good, and too beautiful to be something so drab and common. There were over six-billion of us crawling all over the place. There was one Bella. This man, who had once been one of my most favourite teachers, just dropped near the bottom of the list. Right above Lauren and right bellow road kill. "Yes, that's her. You haven't seen her around lately, have you?" I spoke through my teeth, trying to keep from snarling at him. "I should hope not. Bella left for her basketball game with the rest of the team. She'll be back sometime Friday." He shook his head in disappointment, "I can't believe anyone agreed to this. They're missing a perfectly good week of school."

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My eyes widened. "What?" He nodded towards a yellow sheet that looked familiar. I had seen it everyday coming into this class since the beginning of the year, I just never read it. It was a notice telling people where they could buy tickets to go see a game. Just a basketball game. No. No. She couldn't have just left me here with Millie! She knows how much I can't stand her. She must have known that, it was impossible not to know! I need support, I need help. I need Bella. "No!" I kicked one of the desks over. "Fuck! Shit! She left! She left and she didn't even tell me." I roared at him, kicking another desk over. "Mr. Cullen, stop this right now." His voice was authoritative, but he took a step back from me. He picked up the phoned near the wall, the ones that went straight to the office. "I need someone down here right now." He murmured in a rush into the phone, not taking his eyes off me. "You don't understand." A shudder of rage ran through me, as my voice slipped through my teeth, low and dangerous. I stalked towards him, seeing red. I was face to face with him, glaring into his beady brown eyes. "I need her. She can't leave." I was nearly half a head taller then him, so when his eyes flickered away from me to the door; it was too obvious for me to miss. The relief that washed over him was almost instantaneous. I wanted to hit something, to destroy something and rip it apart. I turned away from him, kicking another desk over for the campus security, just so that there was no mistake on who they were taking in. I smiled darkly at them as they came into the room. "Sir," one of them started, one pacifying hand raised towards me, "Please calm down. We can talk about it in the green room, alright?" My smile turned into a grimace, my lip curling up over my teeth slightly. "Shove it up your ass." The two men, clothed in dark blue uniforms, their cuffs burgundy-school colours-looked at each other, then started towards me slowly, like they would an injured animal. I rolled my eyes, stalking past them into the hall towards the green room. The green room was where they took all the students that had breakdowns on campus, whether it was fights with each other, or doing what I did, they all went to the same place. It was adequately named. All the walls were painted green, light greens, contrasting with a dark green ceiling. It was really more of a detention room, but the school board was on this 'positive vibes' thing that had started in the sixties. The security on campus had to have a background in counselling so they could start reconciliation for the trouble makers to supposedly stop further incidents.

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Everyone still got punished. There were detentions and community hours that could either be served by cleaning up campus grounds or outside the campus in community hours. Only if it was bad. The officers followed me in. This room, like the other, had its blinds pulled, but that was normal here. They pulled the curtains here so that none of its occupants would see the bars on the windows. Since this also served as a detention room, they made sure no one found ways to slip out and wreak more havoc on the grounds. I sat down in one of the desks, kicking me feet up. I'd be here a while. The uniforms sat on either side of me. "What happened son?" one of them asked. His voice still had the authority, just more sympathetic. I didn't look to see if it was on his face too. "Is school too stressful for you? Are you getting too much homework in math, do you not understand your work?" I looked at him for a long time. "Ever been in love?" My voice, embarrassingly, came out sounding like I was going to cry rather then the growl I had been going for. I cleared the lump in my throat inconspicuously incase I needed to speak again. "Ah." One of them said, perfect understanding. The other pretended to look like he got it. I snorted, looking at the front. "How long am I in detention for?" I asked, my voice dead. "It's not-we will get your homework and you will be here until the aid teacher says you are free to go. I wouldn't be expecting to be getting out of here until around eight though." The security guy that understood me and my little fit in the class looked at me apologetically. They didn't like to call it detention, just like they didn't like to point out the bars on the windows or the locks on the doors. "Wonderful." I grinned. I had all night to myself, not even Millie was going to come here. I was safe. They both looked a little staggered by my expression, but they left anyways. This wasn't my first trip to this room, I've been here more times then I would ever admit to Esme or Carlisle. It always surprised me how the whole place smelled lightly of the vinegar cleaning solution they used on the floors. How despite my anger, the green was soothing. When they returned with my books, I thanked them. They had everyone's locker combination for lunch time, when no one wanted to lug a bunch of books around. Bella did but I doubted she really knew about the lockers. I had all my homework done before the end of the school day. It was easier to do all the work without a droning teacher to distract me every four seconds with something they forgot to include in the lesson, or some obvious question that needed to be answered. I leaned back, thinking. Bella left me here with out telling me. There must have been a reason, part of the lesson? Not surprising. Bella had everything figured out, and now I couldn't even talk to her, to find an escape... The more I thought about it, the more it was making sense. I just couldn't figure out what was making sense. I gave up when I heard voiced outside the door. I wrinkled my nose, wonderful. "That's my brother in there. I want to speak to him...her? She might as well be my sister, let us in." "No, don't!" I called through the door. "They're armed!"

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There was a low murmuring, and then the door opened. Alice pranced in first with Rose stalking in behind her, an evilly victorious expression on her demonic face. "Hello brother dearest." Rose smiled, sitting next to me. I didn't look at her; instead my gaze was riveted on the absolutely furious pixy who was standing in front of my desk. Alice picked my math book up, holding it high above her head her expression one of a executioner who was taking great delight in what she was about to do. I whimpered. Crack! A breath of air hissed through my teeth as the pain radiated from the top of my head down my spine, branching out into my finger tips. "Ow." Alice was a lot stronger then her frame suggested. Or my math book was a lot heavier then I thought it was. "That's for being an ass and sleeping with super slut. Jesus Edward, what were you thinking?" I glared at her, my head throbbing. "Nothing, obviously. And Bella said I could go so I went." Rose rolled her eyes, "If Bella told you to jump off a bridge, would you?" "Yes." I mutter under my breath. "By the way, do either of you know what Bella has in mind for my lesson? I need a hint." I wondered if I'd get brownie points for not throwing my science book at Alice. "You need a hint on a lot of things." Rose muttered under her breath. I narrowed my eyes at the hypocrite. Alice shook her head. "She said something about a lesson, but she was asleep, and that's all I caught." "But that's not why we are here." Rose said, looking at me with those dark eyes that spelled nothing but pain. I sighed; pain was a sour taste that was turning into bitter suffering. "What are you here for Rose?" "Just wanted to let you know that the whole school knows about your little tantrum. I never knew you were so childish." She rolled her eyes. "God, I'm so glad you are nothing like me. I don't think I could survive if we were anymore similar then our DNA." I stored that last little bit of information in the back of my mind until later. I needed to focus on the bigger issue. "Everyone knows about it? Do they know about...why?" I was about to say about who but that was just too obvious, even if she already knew. Stupid Alice and her abnormally huge mouth for such a small body. Rose smiled again, nodding. "So pretty much everyone knows you like Bella right about now. You might want to tell her the second she comes back before she hears it from someone else." Once I had gotten over that small horror, I went over what Rose had said before. After all, being forced to tell Bella before next Monday could be a good thing. A dead line was exactly what I needed "God, I'm so glad you are nothing like me." I'd always though Rose to be childish, especially when she didn't get something she wanted. She always

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became cold and sarcastic, attacking the self-esteem first and foremost. I had never actually compared myself to Rose before, wanting to be nothing like her. But after today, I forced myself to compare us. Rose had often gone into my room when we had been younger to rip apart my bed so that I would have to make it again. Not a huge loss, but it annoyed me to no end. But that had been when we were seven. Was I really that childish? God, no wonder Bella was ignoring me. No wonder she had hated me. I was pathetic; I deserved so much less then Millie. Only when I was forced to look did I see that Rose and I were not a mirror, as I had used to see us. Genetically similar, but cast as opposites. As it happened I was looking into a photograph. We were the same, each fault brought out by each flash of anger. I buried my head in my hands. Alice danced over immediately, sitting on my right, Rose on my left. Good and bad, neither my angel. She didn't look satisfied with my pain yet, and I had to agree with her then. I should be punished. How was I supposed to be able to have Bella when I couldn't even restrain from one night of pleasure? Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic. I felt like my blood was lead. Holding me down, making me cold and dead. I would need to make some serious changes on myself, and who I came off as if I ever wanted to be with Bella. Because the only thing worse then losing Bella to cowardice, was losing Bella to inadequacy. "Is there any stab as deep as wondering where and how much you failed those you loved?" I asked no one and everyone just the same, not lifting my suddenly heavy head from my hands. Florida Scott Maxwell must have known Bella in a past life. Alice, who had been convinced in that one quote that I was in the most horrible place I had even been wrapped her little arms around me, trying to make me feel like I wasn't alone. "Was this what Bella was trying to show me? That what comes around goes around? I left girls, and now the only girl I want to keep left me?" I lifted my head wearily to see Alice roll her eyes. "Obviously not. Or else she would have to know that she is the only girl you want to keep. Keep guessing." Rose snorted, I was painfully aware in a way I hadn't been before of how she sounded so similar to me. "Why are you even wasting your time with Bella? No matter if you two get together or not, you'll come out hurt either way." Her voice had been a snarl of frustration, but as I looked into her face, beyond the smug satisfaction of receiving what had been coming to me, was concern. I stared at her in shock. "You care?" My voice came out just as shocked as I was feeling inside. Of course she cared, I realized, she was my sister, and I hadn't been acting like a very good brother to her. All this time she had been trying to protect me from myself by trying to scare Bella off. So many wrongs to be righted. So little time. I had until Monday, maybe less time, to make myself better. And so I had a time limit also on my lesson. I grabbed Rose's chair leg, and then pulled her closer to me with a deafening squealing against the hard flooring. Rose jumped startled, but sat back down, her eyes weary when she realized what I was trying to do.

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Alice saw what I was doing too, she stood up suddenly. "I should call Jasper, see if he wants to come over tonight. Might as well take advantage of having the room to myself." She smiled, and I noticed that her eyes pulled up at the corners like Bella's did when she smiled that wide. Bella grew on people quickly it seems. I wonder what I had picked up from her. Alice skipped away and out the door quietly. I wonder what form of witch craft the two had used to get in here. Rose had dropped her usual façade, looking quite nervous, suspicious...and vulnerable. I wrapped one arm around her so she leaned her head on my shoulder, I leaned my head lightly on top of hers. "Sorry I haven't spent anytime with you." I murmured, "Sometimes I forget how much you miss Mom and Dad." "Shut up. You miss them just as much as I do." She didn't pull away though, instead she hugged herself closer. "What's with you going all 'good brother' on me?" she mumbled into my shirt. I shrugged. "So how are you? We haven't talked about much in a few months." "Because you made me think that you permanently died my hair." I chuckled, "You should have seen your face." I murmured into her hair. She charlie-horsed me and I laughed. "Do you remember when we used to play pranks on the baby sitters?" Rose snickered, "When you went through Carlisle's medical journals and found rare incurable diseases?" she shook her head, and I knew she was smiling. "You would read out what the sick person looked like and acted then we would get markers and paint." "And your dough with a little papier-mâché and food colouring for the open sores and welts." I added, remembering all the screaming babysitters. "They never came back again." We sat in a companionable silence. "I'm thinking of breaking up with Emmett." She murmured out of no where. I turned to her surprised. "Why? You looked so happy." She pulled away, looking at me with her dark violet eyes, "I am... I was just thinking about what you said the other day." She turned her had so I couldn't see her face as I wracked my brain for something that would have made her turn to this kind of thought. I hadn't said anything good to her the last few days I realized. I winced. She continued. "I was just thinking about that, and then I saw how deep Emmett is, he doesn't hide behind any kind of face. He is just so...real. Sometimes it's annoying, like when he laughs and the everyone in ear shot just looks at him, or when he laughs at something that he really shouldn't be laughing at. He just doesn't hold back. But when I woke up after...you know, us and I knew my hair was all messy and I didn't have any make up on, but he told me I was beautiful anyways, I knew he meant it. He is just so transparent." She shrugged, "And then there's me. Honestly I was only interested in him because of his looks at first. But he's a good guy, and we are just so...different." She looked up and saw I was still running through everything I had said to her yesterday, trying to find what I said that would have made her start thinking on this track of mind. She sat up, leaning away from me, her voice suddenly acidic to hide the hurt underneath. "You don't remember your shallow witch comment?"

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I wanted to kick myself into next week. "Rose, don't listen to me. All that comes out of my mouth is absolute shit. Bella told me off after, telling me you were just being like that because you were trying to protect me. She was right. As always." I mumbled those last parts to myself, and then continued. "I only said that because you've been a bug the last few months." "So you don't think I'm shallow?" she wondered, sounding sceptical. The she clued in on what I had really said. "Do I need to remind you of the hair die?" She growled, eyes narrowing dangerously at me. I hesitated, than realized I might as well start being a good person by starting with truth. I grabbed her around the waist so she couldn't run. Or hit me too hard. "You are kind of shallow. But I'm working on my problems too. We could reform ourselves for the people we love together. Hmm?" "You know the moment you let go of me you die, right?" I sighed, "Yes. Can I say one thing before I breathe my last breath? Last words kind of thing?" She craned her neck to see me since I was holding her at such an angle that she couldn't elbow me in the face. "Better make it count big brother." "No matter what happened between you and Emmett, or me and Bella or anything else, you are my sister forever and always. I'll always be here for you when you need me." I took a breath, then let go of her. The first thing she did was punch me hard enough in the gut to make me see stars, and then she hugged me. "You are the most annoying brother I could ever have been cursed with." I chuckled. "I love you too. Nice right hook by the way." "I've been practicing." "I can tell." I kissed the top of her head, and she got up. She looked once back into the room before she left, smiling at me, her dark eyes tender. One problem solved one million more to go. Chap 17 Day Two I could smell her; she was that close to me that the breath of her body wafted over me. My eyes flashed open in my dark room, looking for her. She must have gotten lonely again, come for company. Her soft brown hair, falling in a tangled mess over her shoulder, clothed in the most beautiful fuzzy bottom and tank top mix. The shirt she had worn in phoenix that brought out the roses in her skin with its thin-enough-to-wear-in-hot-whether-but-thick-enough-not-to-be-see-through white material. She smiled at me, "Hey." She whispered in the dark, climbing up onto the bed with me. Instead of lying down next to me as I had expected her to, she rested on her knees, sitting back on her feet as she looked at me, a coy smile playing on her striking, off balance, full lips. -------------Lemons--------Hey you're self. I wanted to say, but I was struck dumb by the way she was biting her lip, taking it between her

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teeth in ways I had wanted to do for what felt like centuries now. A shudder rolled through me when she leaned forward, her hair falling from its place behind her hair so that it curtained around us, infusing the air with her scent. I melted into the pillows, sighing. "I actually wanted to ask you something." It was just a quiet whisper, barely intelligible over the thundering of my heart. "Hmm? And what's that?" I tried for the sake of my shaky façade to sound unaffected by her. In one swift movement, she was straddling me, eyes dark with her intent. My breath whooshed out of me in one swift breath of desire, my eyes popping wide at my incredible luck. I had been blessed. Every god and deity had joined together to give me this gift. Now I just had to figure out what great thing I had done to receive it. Shit. I was dreaming. It didn't feel like I was dreaming the way her skin was pressed, very warm over my obvious reaction to her, and her scent was everywhere, making me dizzy, loosing my focus. She smiled, biting her lip again indecisive about what to do next before she leaned down and kissed me. Compared to the peck she had given me in the grocery store, this was like living in the basement all your life, then coming up for air, feeling the sun on your skin for the first time. I didn't know how I had lived with out it before now. Her lips were soft and urgent against mine, burning in their warmth now that all the blood was rushing to the wrong places. My groin, my lips, my finger tips where I was slightly stroking the unbelievably soft skin under her shirt. The blood had disappeared from my head, and in the wake of this, I was having trouble remembering this was all a beautiful dream. I gladly played along with my subconscious. Bella giggled against my lips, I smiled back and she took my hand, letting me pull her shirt up and over her head. She leaned back, letting me get the full view of her as she reached behind her petite frame, skin glowing silver in the moon light to unclasp her bra. For one short moment I was disappointed to see the beautiful darker colour leave her skin, making her look more like a goddess in this light then the moon or even the stars, but as her bra slipped down her body I was left gaping at her. The peaked breasts, nipples tinted a darker colour against her flesh, made my mouth go dry. I was so impossibly hard it was aching. Bella's dark eyes flickered down to what she was sitting on, then she grinned devilishly and rocked on me. My hands instantly were on her hips, deliciously warm through the fabric. "Again." I gasped; pushing up against her, trying futilely to fit myself inside her when there was so much of a barrier between us. This didn't stop her. She rocked again, harder this time. Her head thrown back, she moaned my name. The moonlight danced down her hair. That was it. I firmly grabbed her leg and then rolled so I was on top. I kissed her fiercely, pulling her pants down. She opened her mouth to me and I didn't refuse the opportunity to explore her, tasting the natural sweetness of her, along the velvety insides of her mouth.

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She pushed my hands away, undressing herself so that my hands were free to do the same. I did what she wanted. I could only hear the clothes whispering against the floor as we undressed and my own increased excited breathing. Faster, faster, faster, I chanted inside my head. This was too good to be true, even for a dream. Just as I discarded my last bit of clothing, letting it fall to the floor with one lash whooshing of fabric. I wanted to cry my victory, but the breath was stolen as I realized what was nearly lying beneath me. Beautiful, stunning, gorgeous, perfect. I needed better words for her, even if it was just the obscure form of her body in the dark. I wished that the light was close enough for me to flick it on with out moving away from her. I let my hands flutter up her thighs, tracing around the soft skin of her navel. I was about to bow my head, to taste her. If she tasted better then she smelt I might die from sensory overload. Instead of letting me take what I wanted-this wasn't just about pleasuring a figment of my imaginings anymore-she grabbed my hand and pulled me up so I hovered over her. Every wall I had built up against her came crumbling down. "I love you. Bella I love you, you are the only thing I'll ever want." I saw her teeth flash in the darkness as she smiled. I was so close, just had to push a little and I would be inside her. Just one gentle push... "Edward? I wanted to ask you something. Remember?" I could heat her soft laugh in the darkness. A definite blow to my masculinity that she could still talk, let alone be laughing at me. "Ask me anything." I whispered, absolutely entranced with her voice, floating around me in the darkness. There was a smile in her voice when she spoke again. Have you leaned your lesson?" -------End Lemon--I sat up, blinking at my buzzing alarm clock in the soft morning light, just rising over the hills opposite the lake. I groaned. She tortured me even in my dreams. No escape in unconsciousness, no escape in consciousness, especially not there. I bet she would haunt me even if I were dead. I threw my blankets off, a permanent scowl starting on my face. Today was going to be a bad day. I wanted Bella and I wanted her here now. By god I'd drag her back kicking and screaming, I'd get a taxi, ride a bus, and catch a plane. It didn't matter; I just needed to see her again, to talk to her, to get this new pesky little lesson off my mind so it would stop picking at me. It was so close I could taste it on the tip of my tongue. My frustration was tinged with desperation though, a cold feeling that slithered up from my stomach, leaving it cold and heavy, to wrap tightly around my heart and then this slithering serpent, cold and hard and strong swallowed my heart and squeeze my lungs so that every breath was a battle. I was fighting to live. And it hurt that my ally, the one I had trusted to take my hand when it was just this serpent that stole from my life and sucked me clean of everything but the ever throbbing love that would leave me no peace, had disappeared. At the very lest the flood of barely contained loved had stopped it's tirade against my tired heart. If I never loved again, I would be the happiest man alive. I thought all those mushy girls and guys that danced around, light on their toes with all this horrible love. They

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laughed and they smiled while I was left to carry a burden meant for two. I was left to look up from the great boulder of everything to look at happiness when mine was miles away, happily, obliviously enjoying herself. I growled, knowing that if I wanted to keep from taking the world down with me today, I had to smile, to pretend until the only thing that could balance my darkness came back. I took a deep breath, pulling it into my lungs, fighting against the constriction around my lungs, determined to get just one deep breath, pulling it so deep it touched my toes. I had to admit, when I let that one breath out, it was easier to smile, for force the muscles into a charade they hadn't had to play since last Friday. I only had to look at her to know that she was the most beautiful women I had ever lay eyes on. Had only to be rejected by her to know that she was the only thing I wanted to fight for. Had only to lose her to know that she was the only thing that I could ever want. I got ready and met Millie again this morning. She gave me a wired look out of the corner of her eye, a watered down look similar to that of the little red head occupying Bella's old place. Was walking her to class that far out of my usual behaviour? I tried to remember how I used to act around her before I met Bella. Then I realized that the only reason I walked Millie to class was because I had wanted to walk Bella to class, just to spend a little more time with her. This was only part of a routine I had built up around Bella. It took me a moment, but I realized I usually kept as far from Millie as possible during our relationships except when we had a common need, or I was bored and wanted to do nothing over at her flat rather then mine. I smiled at her, arranging the muscles unwillingly, then took her hand. Bella had a lesson for me to learn, and apparently Millie was the key to that lesson. Or she was just intent on obliterating the last small fragile piece of my sanity. Millie's eyes nearly popped out of her head as she stared at our entwined hands. Then she looked back up at me, her eyes slowly returning to normal, but a different kind of look was starting in her eyes. It was a haughty look, and then she smiled back surprising me with a striking imitation of a bird that had just swallowed the canary. My jaw clenched, I didn't like the look, like she had captured me. I might as well have proposed to her she looked so sure of her ownership of me. I would not be owned. Not by her. I had the good reason to drop her hand when we reached her class, and I did so gladly. Millie's fingernails were long and polished, unlike Bella's that were always short and trimmed. She always bit them, but having been chastised by Alice by it repeatedly had taken to cutting them when they reached any length. Millie's nails scratched the sides of my hands while we walked, and though it was only a bare touch-hardly there at all-I was very aware of it, and it bothered me more then it should. I was starting to resent Millie for the sole reason that she wasn't Bella. That was absolutely unfair, I knew that.

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The equivalent would be for Millie to hate me because I wasn't Jack Johnston. Or whatever her favourite singer was. Another aspect of Millie I didn't know about. Didn't care to ask about. I drifted mindlessly between all of my periods before coming into English. This was the hardest class, if only because I knew Bella liked this class so much. I sat down heavily on the chair, the despair building a quantifiable weight. I would weight three-hundred pounds by the end of the day if this continued. I'd have to drag myself home by my elbows. Someone would have to get a kick out of that, I'm sure Jared. Oops, forgot that he was having a grand old time trying to fit himself into the little piece I had been carving out in Bella's life. I stared at my nearly blank piece of paper. Well, that wasn't true, it was nearly done but for the best part, the only thing that really mattered to the whole picture. The angel was missing. Story of my life. I had tried to make her look like an angel, the wings spread out in brilliant glory, her expression that of when she was about to whip some ass on the court. The destroying angel, her face victorious. It never looked right though, it just wasn't Bella. Part of me told me not to care, that this was a stupid assignment anyways, and to just do her how I wanted. The other part, the overpowering part of my mind that couldn't do anything but make everything perfect where Bella was concerned wouldn't let me just do the assignment. And so I stared at the unhelpful sheet of paper, it said nothing to me. I wished that my inspiration was sitting beside me right now, so I could look over and know what I was doing wrong. The bell rang and I continued on my way around, a little rain cloud over my head. Everyone knew why I was so depressed, and no one snickered, no one pointed or whispered. I was surprised, high school was supposed to be full of blood thirsty wolves; they were supposed to pounce on the weakest link. Was it because I had social standing? Probably because they all knew I'd kill the first person who made any kind of mockery with Bella's name in it. Millie must have either been unaware of all the rumours going around-somehow I doubted that-or the more likely version, she was just too sure of herself to care. She took my hand firmly in hers at lunch and we went to one of the shops, she ordered a salad. I ordered the greasiest burger I could get my hands on just to spite her. Once she saw what I had ordered, she dumped the salad in the trash, untouched, and went and ordered the same thing. She smiled happily at me, and then took a bite of the burger. The bun had since been soaked a darker grey colour from the grease even though it had just been made. I sighed, pushing mine towards her. I wasn't hungry anymore. She gave the burger a guilty look, deciding weather the grease soaked sandwich was really worth that extra fifteen pounds. I was mildly surprised, the only feeling that was really reaching through my funk. The dark cloud that was hovering over my head make everything but the endless amount of time that stretched before

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me before Bella's return seem so far away and unimportant. Was Millie starting to realise the weight gain? I doubted it, Millie had very little respect for her body, in her eyes, if she was able to loan it out to people, then it could take what ever else she put in it. I had never thought about it before, but it hurt to think that someone would have so little appreciation for themselves. Even more so to know that I had cashed in on it. I cleared my throat just as she finished her burger and was moving onto mine, having evidently proved my theory right. "So, how was your day?" I wondered, it was in the job description and as much as I wanted to just stair off into space and think of more interesting things, I forced my concentration on her. She shrugged, "Okay." My eyes narrowed. If I was going to be expanding effort into something to completely tedious then she should at least award my labour. "Just okay?" I made the muscles in my face move, recreating the impression of a smile. Millie fluttered her eye lashes, and then looked down; feigning modesty in light of what she assumed was interest. I pulled another breath of air in through dead lungs, felt the blood pump sluggishly through dead veins. When people felt so empty, why didn't they just implode? Crumble into the empty shell of what was left behind when the person they had entrusted with their lives had turned their backs on the offer. "Nothing happened really." She giggled then, "Actually I fell asleep in English, it was hilarious, and the teacher was so pissed. He kept giving me dirty looks all through class." She looked up, then slowly her smile faded, and I knew a minute too late, I was supposed to have reacted to this information. In a positive way. What little I did feel was a little frustration. All for the same reason. She just wasn't Bella. I laughed hollowly, "Oh, yea, I guess that would irk him a bit." Finally Millie was starting to clue into the fact I wasn't there. Not really. She looked away innocently, pretending she hadn't noticed, and then continued with her day. "And then I was hanging out with some guys between classes. One of them was really nice; I think he was hitting on me." Her eyes flickered up to gage my reaction to that. I quickly started to search inside my head for the appropriate expression, not wanting to get caught off guard again. What would I feel if I really cared for Millie? Passionate anger or jealousy? Both maybe? My expression twisted numbly. Now all I needed was something to say that went along with the expression. Something vulgar. "Shit." Not quite dumb ass, try again. "Jackasses."

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Better. I sighed, glad that I didn't have to try so hard now, Millie looked satisfied. I remembered something about my day. Something that I should probably tell her. "I won't be coming over tonight, I have football practice." A halfway real smile pulled my face up. In some weird way I was getting closer to Bella by being close to the things that she loved. English, sports, books. Millie made a 'humph' sound of being put out with something. I looked up, absolutely certain that it was something to do with me. Of course it was. "You weren't with me last night either. Are you cheating on me?" her eyes narrowed. Unfortunately, I had thought it was my dead expression that had annoyed her, so I had brought my water to my lips to hide their shape. When she spoke I choked, sputtering the water over the table. "What?" I cried. Finally Millie had stirred a real feeling inside me, something other then petty annoyance for something that wasn't her fault. "Cheating on you? Are you stupid?" Close your mouth! Close your mouth! Millie brought her arm up to shield her from the unexpected shower, and then looked indignant at my words. Like I was lying. Like I wasn't putting my best effort not to just break down. Like the lifeless expression was just to spite her. "Why do you think I'm cheating on you?" I grimaced at the thought. Having to pretend for two girls. One was bad enough. She made a face at me, "Because you've actually been spending time with me for one, probably out of guilt." I went to defend myself, to tell her it wasn't out of guilt. It was out of consequence, but she interrupted me quickly before I could get a word in. Good thing, she would have hated me if I had told her the truth. "You absolutely refuse to have sex with me, you won't even really kiss me. That screams cheating. And then on top of all that I have to deal with all these rumours about some other girl. Usually I wouldn't believe them, but now that you're acting like there actually is someone else. I have to know." That probably had to be the most intelligent thing I had ever heard come out of her mouth. I was surprised to know she was able to retain information long enough to piece a situation together out of it. We stared at each other for a long moment. What was I supposed to tell her? That no, I wasn't cheating on her, but that Yes, I was in love with someone else? Bet that would go over well. Fucking peachy "I'm not cheating on you." I told her truthfully, and instantly wished I had Bella's ability to sound so undeniably sincere about what she said you had no choice but to believe her. Then again, I needed my knack of lying. "I just think that the reason we have been breaking up in the past was because we rushed into things. I want things to work out this time." And then I smiled like I actually meant that load of shit. "Bull shit." I couldn't help but grin. Millie looked angry from across the table, and if one thing stood true about her, she

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was blunt when she was angry. "Absolutely. Straight from the cows ass." I agreed whole heartedly. From what I could tell from Bella's torture on actually trying with Millie, I couldn't break up with her. She could break up with me though. She stood up angrily from the table, "If I find out you're cheating on me, you will be sorry. I actually care about you, and it hurts to know you don't feel the same." If what she had just said were true, I might have felt bad. I defiantly would have been disappointed in myself that I couldn't have done what I needed to and tried to make her happy. I sighed realizing I wasn't actually doing that anyways. "If you care so much about me, do you know my favourite colour?" She rolled her eyes like it was obvious. "Red." She sat back down. I grimaced when she got it right. Sort of. Right now I was leaning more towards green, or brown. Bella's warm brown eyes flashed through my head. Definitely a tie between green, brown...and maybe red. "Okay, I'll give you that." I admitted grudgingly, I looked away into the fast dwindling swarm of students in the lunch line up at the burger and fries counter. "What about my favourite genre of music?" Her face twisted the tiniest bit as she thought, then realized she didn't know. "Pass." "My middle name?" She bit her lip this time, getting more uncomfortable. "Collin?" I shook my head, a little swell of glee rising in my chest. I had to be a good boyfriend (not that I was necessarily doing a good job anyways) but if she dumped me then I could go on my way and wallow in self pity by myself. "How about my sister's name?" I instantly knew it was a generous one, but I thought that maybe if she didn't know something so personal... "Rose. Jeez, I'm not that horrible. I remember your sister." She sighed, shaking her head. "Next question?" I shuffled around in my head, trying to find something that was glaringly easy, but also something she didn't know. It had to be something important. "What do I want to pursue after high school?" Millie snickered at my vocabulary. "I'm starting to think that you're trying to pursue a life of celibacy." I knew Millie was stalling. There were three main choices she could pick from. Doctor in medicine, Doctor in mental health, or a lawyer. A shudder rolled though my body, the lifting of hope. If she didn't even know this, then maybe she would understand what I did now. That you shouldn't be with someone you know nothing about, that you shouldn't just stay with someone because of the sex. I was just starting to perhaps figure out what Bella's lesson was when Millie interrupted my thought process. "Lawyer, right? You like to use big words." She looked smug with this answer, absolutely sure that it was the right one.

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"Nope." I grinned hugely, and she narrowed her eyes at me. "Doctor." Slowly in perfect synchronization, her smile curved up at the same instant one of her eye brows started to go up. It was quite a sigh to behold; I had to clench my teeth to keep from laughing at her synchronized facial movements. I guess that's what you got when you practiced your smiles in the mirror. "So are you saying I should start dressing up in a short nursing gown?" she giggled lowly, and a few guys in hearing distance spun around to look at us so fast they nearly whirled out of their chairs. "No." the answer went just as flat as my mood. Now I knew why girls got so annoyed when men pressured them into sex. If this kept up I'd need a chastity belt to keep her from jumping me. She sighed, leaning her head on her hand and looking out into the crowd, put out with me. "What happened to you? You used to be fun." I shrugged, watching a familiar petite spiky haired girl grab fries and a salad. I grinned, "I got a swift kick in the ass to smarten up." Millie thought about that while I tried to grab Alice's attention with just my eyes. Eventually she felt me staring at her and she turned, then grinned. She raised an eyebrow at one of the two chairs that were still untaken at our table. I smiled in welcome. She grinned back and made her way over to our table, fighting through the throng of the crowd. I was pleasantly surprised how well Alice and I got along. Once she really got to know me that is. And as long as I didn't do anything too stupid. "And yet you still came over." Millie's sullen words broke through my thoughts. I shrugged, and then told the truth. "I don't know why I came over Saturday." Millie jerked her head from her hand, looking at me with shocked hurt. "No offence." I added quickly. See? See? This is why you shut the hell up. Millie's eyes watered, and she looked away. I recognised her tell instantly. These weren't tears she had forced to play on my sympathies like she had Sunday. These were real tears of hurt. I had a startling flash of Bella's face behind my eyes, the disappointment because I couldn't have just done one thing right. My body reacted with out my minds consent. Just as Millie got up to leave I snatched her wrist, pulling her into my lap and cradling her there. I was shot a few looks that I tried to ignore. Alice paused where she was, wondering if it was still okay to come over. I nodded to one of the chairs and she continued over, sitting in the chair next to us. Millie's back was to Alice, but she had heard the chair whispering against the floor as Alice sat down. Millie's silent tears turned into quiet sobs. We were getting more looks. "Shh, Millie, it's okay. Shh." I murmured quietly, dodging glances. Millie must have seen them too, but she liked attention almost as much as Rose did. The only difference is that Rose can tell the difference between bad attention and good attention, and she knew which one to avoid.

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Alice raised one slim arched eyebrow at me. I shook my head. She ignored that, "What did Edward do now?" I got a sick sense of pleasure to find that Alice spoke to her in a way that she would speak to an over reacting child. I had to bit my tongue to keep from laughing. Millie shrugged, her body was very warm nestled against me, but I only felt cooler like she was endothermic, stealing my heat. "Nothing, Edward is just being an ass." She looked up at me then. The first things I saw were the wrong things. That she had forced her eyes to get bigger, trying for puppy dog eyes, that her face was wet and the tip of her nose was red as was a blotch on her forehead from crying. Then there was the way her skin was matted conspicuously on her cheeks where her tears had mingled with the cover up over her freckles to make skin coloured mud over her skin. "Did you mean it? What you said before?" I looked back at her for a long time, trying to decide whether the truth or a lie would be better. After a long eternal struggle I gave her the decision. "The truth or a lie?" Alice's eyes flashed open. She must have thought I was an idiot. I wouldn't have argued with her if she had voice her thoughts. "Lie." Millie whispered. She wasn't the smartest girl in the world by a long shot, but she wasn't absolutely moronic either. She already knew the truth. I cradled her closer to me, rocking slightly. "Of course I didn't mean it. I was trying to be funny, it sounded better in my head then it did then when it actually came out. You're beautiful, of course I want you." She closed her eyes, breathing in the words like air. I just wished that they weren't poison. She was twisting them, making them real in her head. In some ways Millie was just as sick as I was, it was probably why I had always come back, because familiarity breads acceptance, and until now we had accepted each other. But I was different now, I was being fixed, I wouldn't be sick anymore just as long as my treatment came back soon. Friday was only an eternity away. I would live forever if it meant I could see her again. I'd find a way. I would always find a way. Chap 18 Day three My alarm went off; I was too busy to acknowledge it. I was staring at the calendar, willing for time to rip so I could jump to Friday. I stared at the eighteenth until my eyes swam. I clenched my teeth, grinding them together as I concentrated with everything I had. Friday was still two days away. I went to pick Millie up for school again, remembering how we had spent the evening together. We just sat together and talked about non-essentials until she decided that the TV was more interesting then me. We walked to school, she didn't try to hold me this time when we reached the class, and she didn't even try to hold my hand or do anything else to show possessiveness over me. I rejoiced in a numb way. I was glad that Millie was really starting to get the picture, what scared me was what had made her see the picture. And how

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would that affect me? She looked back at me one last time before slipping into her class, and leaving me free to toil in all the time that stretched towards me. Just the thought took my breath away. It seemed the closer Friday came, the less I was able to wait for it. She waved once and smiled, then sat down. I pressed my lips together in a tight smile, waved once, and then went on my way. One of the girls in the hall who might as well have been green with envy snickered cruelly. "Oh look! It's Mr. Sunshine. What's the forecast today? Doom and gloom or is the apocalypse coming?" I recognized her boyfriend, or at least the guy I assumed was her boyfriend, he was standing behind her, his hands on her shoulders. He looked at the little blond that was about as naturally blond as I was judging from her eyebrows, and then up at me with pleading eyes. Begging me not to take my anger out on him or his girl. He didn't need to worry, I smiled kindly at her. In reality the day was sure to be sunny and abnormally warm for September, but she already knew that. I looked up at the grey cement ceiling, pretending to judge the weather. "I'd say it's going to be sunny, but you might just get an unexpected shower." I winked at her startled face, and then walked off. She would spend the rest of the day looking for buckets on top of doors or a deluge of water coming off from the top of the building. Paranoia has been my best friend since I can remember. You only had to actually strike every now and then to keep them on their toes. Rose and I had danced around this game for as long as I can remember. We always called each other on the bluff. The threats and tricks grew apart as we did. Right about now, I missed them. It would have been nice to look forward to something other then Bella's return, which held countless threats in and of it self. I came into first period late. After sending out my threat in the hall, I realized I was itching for some kind of confrontation. I waited until the bell rang, then I went to the library for nothing except the atmosphere. I remembered dancing with Bella, laughing with her and finding out that not only was she the liveliest and fun person I had ever met, but also had taste in music. Even better was that her taste in music was anything but narrow minded. She ranged from the soft melodies of classical piano, all the way to hard rock that made you want to jump up and start dancing, screaming the lyrics out loud. I remembered how she had danced with me to Rose's favourite song. The one she used to put on repeat until I was on the breaking point. It was actually bearable when Bella made fun of it with me. The 'with me' being the best part. My art teacher, a man who really wanted to teach history-he hadn't been given much of a choice when the real art teacher left on maternity leave-glared at me when I came in. He was busy illustrating the importance of shading using stick figures as his art to demonstrate the concept. The most likely cause he hated art was that he couldn't draw worth crap. I walked to my seat, grinning innocently at him. "You're late." He finally growled. My hand fluttered over my heart. "You noticed." I sighed, looking at him lovingly. I didn't like art much either, and so I usually didn't pull any crap with Mr. Clairborn, empathising with his dislike of the subject. The only reason I was here was because I know it would make Esme happy to know that I had tried something new, and Carlisle-though more analytical then artistic-would be pleased to see that I was

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reaching beyond my normal artistic boundaries. They were sent a report card just as we were, so they knew my marks and my courses. I had hoped that this would make up for all the dumb stuff I had done in the past. I wasn't exactly an angel child. Not that that stopped me from being the favourite. Mr. Clairborn turned an odd shade of colour. I thought that any artist would have been pleased to see the variety of colours Mr. Clairborn was able to flush into his face. "I wish to speak with you out in the hall please, Mr. Cullen." I shrugged easily then walked out into the hall. I had the faint stirrings of a familiar nervousness and excitement of getting into trouble. I leaned against the wall, one foot propped up behind me. Mr. Clairborn walked out, took a deep breath, and then turned to face me with understanding eyes. "Look...Edward-" He choked over my name, trying not to call me Cullen. "I heard about your breakdown Monday. If you don't feel good enough to come to class yet, then maybe you should go back to the guidance counsellor." Stunned, my mouth opened, and then closed. I blinked. He was supposed to be yelling at me for being late, and then again for giving him sass. This wasn't what I had wanted. I floundered around in my head for something to say that would make him angry enough to yell. Nothing came to me, and I didn't want to. Not if he was going to turn around and be kind. How was I supposed to when Mr. Clairborn had obviously caught a quick spreading disease? He had caught Bella. I could see it in the familiar patient stance. The kindness even when I deserved something far worse than what he was offering. It was like when Bella should have yelled at me when I had come back from Millie's, but instead welcomed me back with open arms-of course I knew now why she hadn't been angry. I had walked myself right into one of her lessons. For the one moment that she had though I hadn't gone to Millie, she had been so happy, so unbelievably proud that I had learn what she was trying to teach me on my own. "I don't need a councillor." I muttered, and then walked back into class so I could learn about shades and shadows and depth of a painting and how we could add the illusion of mass to stick figures. Bella was still on my mind when I walked into English. I went from reminiscing of Bella's kindness, to wondering why she didn't just throw in the towel on a hopeless case. It was while I was staring at the almost-complete-empty-page that I figured it out. And I realized what I had

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been doing wrong the whole time. It was so obvious now that I couldn't help but wonder how I couldn't have seen it sooner. I was done the picture and the bio by the end of class. Clairborn's lesson on shades had evidently paid off for once. All I had to do now was write a poem. I wanted to laugh at the idea. Poetry in an English class wasn't unheard of, just the opposite, but along with everything else in the picture I might as well just send my manliness off on a silver platter. Edward Cullen, captain of the foot ball team, in love with the captain of the basketball team writes poetry and draws pretty pictures. I'm just sweating masculinity. I wouldn't admit it, but I was actually proud of the picture. It actually looked...okay. Better then okay, it looked almost realistic if Bella wasn't an Angel kneeling broken on top of a hill, the bones of her grey wings broken, and clothes torn. It surprised me that Bella should look like this, and I had to refine my Bio when I realized why she was broken. Bella was broken because she let herself be. Instead of just letting herself heal and regain the ability to go back to where she belonged, she made sure that everyone else was well, even going so far as to catch them as they fell. Even if it broke her bones. She had caught me after all. This was the girl Bella tried to let no one else see. All the rest of the day I threw myself into finding out what Bella's lesson was. If Bella was broken, then I would need to be strong enough to support the person who needed it more then anyone else. She needed it more because she couldn't see it and she sure as hell wouldn't dare take it from someone who needed to be fixed. I would be anything Bella needed, even if it was just a friend. I could do that for her. She had given me so much more then she could ever realize. Even if she never wanted me, even if all I'd ever be is just a friend, or worse, not even that much. Bella had given me more then I could ever even hope to return to her. Lunch wasn't as eventful as it was yesterday, even though Alice joined us again. Millie started to shoot her dark looks. Cowardly as ever, she always looked down at her fries before Alice caught the look, flipping her blond hair over her shoulder to make a wall between Alice's cool eyes. Alice wasn't afraid to let her opinion of Millie show loud and clear. Millie didn't Alice, because she did not like competition, especially when the competition was far more beautiful then her. I'd explain to her later that even if I did want Alice, I couldn't have her. Just as even though Millie wanted me, I couldn't be hers. Grow up. Deal with it. Life sucks.

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When I walked into math class Mr. Math gave me the same dark look he had given me yesterday, and I knew I'd fallen from his favourites list. Bella might even be above me at this point. That was okay, I didn't like him much anymore either. I winked at him as I took my seat. We started a gymnastics unit in gym. Some of the girls started to do cartwheels at just the mention of gymnastics, while most of the guys' gathered in the corners, pretending not to cower. Some of the more questionable ones tried to make jokes by trying to do the splits. It was all fun and games until one guy's buddy had the inopportune idea to play 'lets see how far your legs stretch if I push on your shoulders'. I flinched at the blood curdling gurgle of pain, and the boy doing the splits spent the rest of class in the health room with a healthy dose of respect for gymnastics. I picked Millie up at her last class of the day and we walked home together. I had a wired feeling in my stomach. Not a bad feeling like Monday night. Instead it was the familiar fluttering of my stomach that accompanied every trip to see Bella. I was so caught up in the feeling I nearly walked to Bella's place instead of Millie's. She had to tug on my arm to remind me I was taking the wrong way twice. Millie heaved a sigh at me. Obviously annoyed at me. "Sorry," I murmured, still looking at Bella's building. I saw a particularly large crack in her building. Some water must have found its way into the brick, and then frozen during the winter some years ago, getting worse with every year. That didn't look healthy for the heating system. Millie crossed her arms across her chest, looking away from me. "It's Bella, isn't it?" I flickered a glance at her. She didn't look particularly hurt, more angry then anything. Millie was too used to being catered upon to have someone else getting the attention. She did everything she could to keep the light trained on her. "I don't know what you're talking about." Millie cut me a hard look but didn't say anything more on the subject. The rumours must be bad if she was actually asking me directly about them. The whole school must be clued in by now that I liked Bella. When Bella came home Friday I'd need to be quick on the draw unless someone else took it upon themselves to inform her about...well about the fact I'm a moron and I should have seen this coming. The first thing Millie did when she came in was flop down on the couch and flicked the TV on. What a surprise. I went into the kitchen and looked through Millie's fridge for something to eat. My appetite had been off lately, I always felt sick where ever I was reminded of Bella, like the reminder that she still held my insides captive was making my absent stomach roll now.

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The reminder made me shut the fridge a little too hard. One way or another Bella was going to be the death of me. At the moment, it looked like starvation would come for me first. My dark cloud and I came back into the living room. Millie looked a little jittery, like she was planning something. Immediately I wanted to turn and walk out the door. I was surprised by all of these instincts attacking me, I wasn't usually instinctual. I was more like my father in that sense. I sat down on the couch, my arms over the back of the couch. I was getting ready for another gossip girls marathon when Millie moved over so that she was beside me. I dropped my arm around he shoulder. I may not be the smartest-as recent evidence was starting to show-but I knew how to read body language. Millie smiled cuddling into my side. I hugged her to me with one arm for a short moment, feeling guilty again for not trying harder. It wasn't fair to her. Any other girl would have broken up with me by now, and even though that's exactly what I wanted Millie to do, it was thoughtful of her not to just drop me like I had her so many times before. This was irony coming to bite me in the ass. "I'm cold." Millie murmured. I knew for a fact that it was too warm in this room, even for Millie. She couldn't possibly be cold, so when she shivered for a short moment, I was sure she'd made herself shake. I raised an eyebrow at her. "Cold?" She nodded, biting her lip. Her hand moved up and down my leg, and my body reacted accordingly. I sighed, now understanding what she wanted. She didn't just want to cuddle. She smiled, moving so her lips were at my ear. "You want me. I can feel you." I didn't even look at her. "No, that's just what happens when you rub it." Millie scowled at me, and then sat back down her expression thoughtful as the looked for another plan of attack, her arms crossed over her chest. I sighed. I was surprised at myself. Two weeks ago I would have jumped on top of her. Even one week ago I would have succumb. Like last Saturday. Millie tried again, snuggling into me; she looked up with wide eyes. "Edward, I'm still cold. Will you hold me?" she fluttered her eyes for good measure. I was just about to tell her no and end her game right there when a better idea came to me. I took her face in my hands, "Oh sweetheart, your cold?" I asked, my voice dripping with ill intended concern Millie nodded her head in my hands, dropping her gaze in a 'oh woes me' look. I let go of her face so I could open my arms to her. "Come here, I'll warm you up." Millie's dull hazel eyes were suddenly victorious. She moved closer, about to put the next step in her plan into action. I was faster.

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I grabbed the blanket that was always on the back of the couch and wrapped her up in it quickly, cocooning her so that she couldn't even mover her arms. Her legs were curled into her as well, confining all her body heat, none of it escaping but for the top of her head. I smiled darkly at her, and then wrapped her up in my arms as well, more heat centred onto her. After just a few minutes her face was flushed with heat. I stifled a laugh, this had to be the most fun I'd had all week. And really, what was she going to say? She wouldn't admit to her real plan after being so openly rejected until she either over heated, or I took mercy on her. I preferred the first one. I flashed her a smiled when she started to sweat. She struggled to move her arms so she could let off some of the heat. I smiled wider and tightened my hold on her. Eyes panicked, she realized what I was doing. She did have amazing tolerance, I'd give her that. I would have given up by now. "Thirsty?" She gasped, it came out pleading. "I think the first priority is to make sure you're warm." I told her solemnly. This was why you didn't pick on people who were stronger then you. It never ended well. Bella was the one exception to that rule. She knew how the body moved well enough that she could take advantage of every physical human weakness available. She had to do more then play basket ball to have so much knowledge on how the body moves. Finally I realized Millie wasn't worth seven years in jail for man slaughter. "Are you warm now?" I wondered innocently. I fluttered my eyes in a mocking imitation of hers, "Or do you need body heat too?" Her eyes were wide at the subtle threat in my offer. "I'm good." She answered quickly. I let her go and she burst from her cocoon the exact same as she had gone in. She moved to the other side of the couch, flickering a nervous glance at me as I settled comfortable into the couch again. "You can be really mean sometimes." She mumbled under her breath. "Then why don't you break it off with me?" I didn't take my eyes off the TV, trying to pervade calm, while I was actually holding my breath. Hoping. "Because I like you." She answered immediately, not thought in her answer. And then everything made perfect sense. Why she would always try to get me back, why when I wanted her she came back, why she wouldn't even break up with me now. Millie said she liked me, and maybe she really thought she did in her mind, but it wasn't true. Millie liked the idea of me, she liked the social status. Why else would she suddenly need me back the same day I became captain? And I'd thought Millie was slow. "Oh." My voice cracked. I cleared my throat of all the tension that was slowly building into a scream. I needed out of here. I needed Bella back.

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I've never been much of a religious man though my mother and father had been. I hadn't spoken to God since I had been ten years old, the age at which Carlisle gave me the choice to either continue with church or to use my Sundays as I pleased. I chose the obvious one, going to play football with my friends on Sunday. All I knew about real life that I could relate in any way to God was that something had to create the first atom to create the big bang. The rest was evolution in my opinion. For the first time in a long time, I closed my eyes and I made a deal with God. I would be good, I would be everything that Bella wanted me to be, and with a little help; I would make the right choices. Just let me see Bella. My phone vibrated in my pocket. Get the fuck out of here. I snatched my lifeline quickly, begging that what little hope that had been salvaged through out this week wouldn't be crushed. "Hello?" I breathed. "Hiya, Edward! It's Alice." I was clinging to this last shred of hope. "Hey. What's up?" I tried to keep a casual tone in my voice, trying to keep from asking what the hell was going on. My eyes flickered anxiously around the room as I remembered my little deal with God. Was I aloud to think words like Hell anymore? "Oh, nothing much. I was talking to Bella on MSN, and she wanted to know how you were. I thought you might want to talk to her-" "I'll be right there. I mean it, four tenths of a millisecond." I was grinning when i hung up to Alice's laughter. Millie raised an eyebrow. I was out the door before she could ask or try to drag me back. The win whipped by me as I ran and I wondered if this was how it felt when Bella ran; too feel like I was part of the wind. It could also be due to the fact I was walking about an inch off the ground. Gravity didn't apply to me when I felt this light. I didn't even hesitate when I came to Bella and Alice's room. Instead of faltering I burst through the door. "I'm home!" I sang, and each of those words hit all the right places. I was grinning ear to ear. Bella was here, now all I had to do was search her out. I wasn't surprised to see a shocked looking Alice standing behind the island divider between the kitchen and the living room. I was surprised to see Rose though. She looked just as shocked as I did, again mirroring each other in ways I had never realized until recently. I raised an eyebrow at both of them. "Bella?" They were both still giving me looks like I just streaked across the campus nude.

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I narrowed my eyes. "If Bella isn't here I can assure you there will be pain." Rose let out a breath she had been holding. "Sorry, I just didn't know it was you." "Because seventeen years with me hasn't imprinted anything on your memory." Rose scowled, "I meant that you didn't look like you. I thought you were high at first. I can't remember the last time you smiled like that." Alice trilled a laugh, "I can, you should have seen how happy he looked when Bella slapped him for trying to kiss her." Rose gave me a look like I was insane. I probably was. I remembered the time in this same room where Alice had recited her e-mail to us. I walked around into the kitchen, trying to see what they were doing, and hoping that Alice was holding her lab top hostage behind the lip of the counter. They were melting marshmallows over a red hot element; I saw the other ingredients for smoors beside them, a separate pile on their territory of faux green marble counter top. "What are you doing and where is Bella?" Rose grinned at me, "If you want you can go get some marshmallows out of the fridge too, everything else is in the cupboards. We're celebrating Bella's victory. Her team is in the top ten so far." Alice made a face at Rosalie. "Thanks, just invite him in. Offer him food. Hey, why don't we just kick ourselves out of bed for him too?" Rose returned the face, plus some. "You can take the couch. I can still sleep with him. We had to share a bed at our last house." Rose muttered something about never sleeping anyways. I chuckled in remembrance of the horrible insomnia days. Apparently my body didn't adjust well to change, because I carried jet lag from one place to another for weeks. Now that I thought about it, I wasn't really one for change at all. "Alice." I asked, my voice just barely containing my impatience. "Where is Bella?" "Touchy." Alice muttered. "She's in her new room. The door at the very end of the hall, the movers just brought her bed in Monday. Impeccable timing." Her voice was laced with sarcasm. I could see that Bella's absence was really starting to affect Alice too; she was usually a bubbly ball of sunshine. Bella was, after all, more then just her room mate. She was her best friend, probably the only person other then Jasper who didn't get annoyed with her sudden and unexpected out bursts of energetic and erratic thought patterns. Bella's body matched Alice's mind perfectly. I snatched a small handful of marshmallows, eating them raw in my haste to join in with the celebration. I wondered if this would be awkward. It very rarely was with Bella, which was a relief, but she had to realize how angry I was with her. I was absolutely furious at her. Or was.

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The moment I saw Bella on the small side picture of the screen, any form of ill feelings towards her melted into something much warmer and lighter. And then morphed into something unimaginably painful. I had to back out of the room again when it hit to hide my expression. I had thought that when Bella left that had made me see how much I loved her, made it so I couldn't love her anymore. There had to be a stopping point, the point where I was completely saturated in the forlorn devotion. No, of course not. Not me. I was given this untameable, inexorable ability to love, far too much for even an entire population to carry, and I was left to swallow it all on my own. Too bad irony and karma seems to have taken favour to my retribution. I could have anyone I wanted, all except the one I needed. Seeing her now had made me realize that there had only been a minor blockage in the incessant flood. Seeing her though the screen had opened it, drowning me in it. The next time I watched a romance I would laugh. Laugh at how unrealistic it all was; laugh at how real people suffered because of something as wonderful as love was destroying them from the inside out. I took a deep breath, remembered who I would be talking to, and walked in. There were two messages on the screen. Hey Edward. Where did you go? I chuckled, typing my Hello. I asked her if I could add her to my own MSN account. When she agreed I signed out of Alice's account and added her to mine. The main reason for this was that even though Alice missed Bella, she would drive me insane switching between Jasper and Bella's conversation windows if he signed on. Roses are red, my teeth are gold, women get on your knees and do as you're told, says: Hey Bella, what's up? I cringed as I remembered my name on MSN. Bella, says: Nice name. On screen, Bella didn't look like she meant that. Her lips were pursed in dark sarcasm. I wondered why she didn't tell me exactly what she thought of my name, unless she really missed me that much. The thought sent a thrill through me. I changed my name quickly. Bella is the goddess divine of all and she won't be angry at me for having a name that's antagonistic towards women, says: Forgive me? I saw Bella throw her head back and laugh, then she nodded at me through the screen. I smiled back at her.

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Her head snapped around suddenly, as if someone had called her. A short second later Jared walked into the room. My blood ran cold. Bella is the goddess divine of all and she won't be angry at me for having a name that's antagonistic towards women says: What's he doing in your room? I changed my name again quickly While Bella typed her answer. Bella, says: There weren't enough rooms for me to have a room all to my self. Don't worry; we are sleeping in different beds. Edward breathe. Bella looked worriedly at my expression. I forced a breath of air through stiff lips. Why the hell hadn't I joined the basket ball team? I could have shared a hotel room with Bella instead of warring Millie's advances off. I jumped when I felt a hand on my shoulder. Alice looked down at me sympathetically, "Sorry, I would have told you, but I didn't want you to hit me." I snorted, "I wouldn't have hit you. I don't hit girls. Off the football field." I added quickly when I remembered Bella. "You hit me." Rose muttered, narrowing her eyes at me. "I'm a girl." I fell back onto the bed in exasperation. "When we were wrestling, and I was seven. Will you just let it go?" One time Rose and I had been wrestling over the remote and she had bit my hand. In return I had punched the top of her head. She went crying to Carlisle, saying I had given her a tumour. Obviously, I hadn't, but Carlisle had sat me down afterwards and given me a strict talking to about hitting women. Even sisters. Rose smiled, flashing her teeth in a menacing way. "Forgive, and never forget." I rolled my eyes, sitting back up to see a curious looking Bella. The little slug had pulled up a chair beside hers and was at this moment pretending to yawn to put his arm around her. I tasted metal in my mouth as I glared at him. "Scum bag. Dirt eater. Earth muncher." I continued with my string of descriptions for Jared's character until Rose slapped a hand over my mouth. Good thing too, the words were going from PG13 to R. I was very pleased to see that when Jared put his arm over her shoulder like the loser he was, she shifted uncomfortable, and tried to shrug his arm off inconspicuously. Then to smooth over her rebuff and to send me into the seventh circle of hell, she said something and they both laughed at whatever it was. The camaraderie was puke inducing. I glared at Jared through the screen, feeling jealousy pump through my veins as thick as blood. Jared narrowed his eyes at me in return and looked like he was going to type something back before Bella slapped his hand off the key board, then shot a cold look in my direction.

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Bella, says: Behave. I haven't talked to you since Sunday, don't make me sign off. Alice smacked me in the back of the head. "Dumb ass. This is the first time I've talked to her all week too." That reminded me of something. Edward, says: Oh yea, Thanks so much for telling me that you were leaving. Mind explaining that? And if you wouldn't mind just tacking on the moral of the lesson on the end of that brilliant explanation. Bella shifted guiltily in her seat, and Jared put a comforting arm around her shoulders. Bella didn't shake him off this time. Bella, says: I didn't tell you because I didn't want to deter you from your decision of being with Millie. You have to figure out the lesson on your own. It's part of the learning experience. And then she smiled like she was doing me a favour. My eye twitched. Jared must have asked who Millie was, and Bella told him. Then he smiled at me in a dark way that made him look like he was winning. He typed something. Bella, says: I knew you were just trying to get her into bed. I knew it the first second she said your name. Bella stood up so suddenly that the video recorder on top of her computer didn't catch the movement. One second she was sitting, reading what Jared had said, and the next she was standing over him, yelling something at him with a furious expression on her face. She stormed out of the room afterwards. Jared stared at his lap, looking reprimanded before he typed something else. Bella, says: Mind if I talk to you? Alone? I didn't trust him, but Alice murmured to Rose softly, "Bella's probably going to call soon. We should go." Alice sent me a stern look that reminded me of my mother despite all their physical differences. "Be good." I said nothing as they left. I wasn't promising anything. Jared watched them leave too with the same sorry expression ha had on his face when Bella had left. Then he glowered at me. At that same moment the phone rang. Psychic pixy. Bella, says: You are the biggest ass wipe ever to crawl across this earth, you know that? Bella is good, and she's smart, and she likes animals and she's absolutely perfect. Really perfect, and not that skin deep shit you like. All you want is to get her in bed. I hate you.

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Edward, says: She likes animals? Bella, says: I don't know. Probably, it goes along with all her other stuff. Edward, says: I distinctly remember her telling me that she killed three gold fish in the span of one week. And she doesn't 'awe' at people who walk puppies. Oh, and just throwing this out there, I love her. That probably wasn't the best idea, giving that kind of information to the enemy, but he seemed angrier then usual. More so then he usually was towards me. I grinned when I realized how much I enjoyed what he had said. I hate you. I laughed out loud at it. He was a funny guy sometimes. Did he think I would cry because he wasn't my friend? Poor baby was losing Bella, and he knew it. She liked me better. Jared's face soured. Bella, says: You don't know the meaning of love. We heard about that shit you pulled anyways, your little tantrum because Bella wasn't glued to your fucking hip. My blood ran cold. Edward, says: When you say 'we'... Bella, says: She doesn't know. No one told her, but I'm starting to think I should. I would have openly scoffed at his threat if that wouldn't have made him more likely to do it. So I shrugged easily, swallowing the blind terror. If this didn't work with Bella and I... if she didn't want me, then the only thing I could ever give her for all her patience and kindness and even understanding was the truth. Jared just threatened to take that from me. So I went to a different topic. Edward, says: Have fun with that. And what gives you the right to tell me I don't know what love is? Have you crawled around inside my skin recently? Bella, says: What gives me the right is proof. You fucked the biggest whore in this school, she put a blog up about how you two are all lovey dovey now. If you really want to spout that Bullshit about loving her, you might want to at least have the decency to act like it. Not that you actually have any decency in the first place. Jared smiled when he saw my face twist in pain, in Regret. It was overflowing me, and suddenly I was glad it was Jared on the other side and not Bella, because I was about to spill my guts. And Bella deserved better then an online confession.

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Edward, says: Le t me explain something to you since you obviously have so very little experience anything that has any form of depth. I want you to think of love as something quantifiable, something even your finite mind can understand and touch. Think of it as a very deep lake. If the person standing next to you says, "that lake is 100 meters deep" you would go "huh, that's deep." And you would know in some part of your mind that 100 meters is 300 feet, and you know that it's deep. Now imagine that you had a rock tied onto your ankle and got thrown into that lake. And when I say rock, I mean a boulder twice as heavy as you. All that way down you would realize exactly how deep 100 meters was, and you could touch and feel and taste and even hear every inch of that lake. Before Bella left, when I was so assured that I had as much time as I had with her to build up to telling her that she was more then just a friend to me, I was only looking out across that lake, thinking wow, I'm in love. It wasn't until I got dragged all the way down that I finally understood the real depth of it. Edward, says: I swear to god if you roll your eyes at me one more time I'll kill you. The little shit had been rolling the little spheres of ice around in his empty head while he had been reading my message. This was all from the heart; this was me opening up to another human being about something as fragile and impossible as love. Ha! Okay so I was trying to figure things out by typing them out, plus I wanted to rub it in his face that I actually had some profundity. It took me a moment to remember the little deal I had, and then I cringed. I guess I shouldn't swear by him to kill people anymore. Not unless I was willing to actually fulfill my promises. And with that I started a hit list. My first victim interrupted my thoughts before they became too defined. Bella, says: Ha! Like you could get even one hit in before I floored you! Edward, says: Your talking to the guy who beats the shit out of people for sport. Bella, says: At least I can grow facial hair you fucking rat Ouch. That was a cheap shot and I knew he knew it. He levelled an icy glare at me. I glared back at him, and he could only hold my glare for a few moments before he pretended to turn like someone had called his name. I leaned back smugly, I knew I had a ferocious glare and I was quite proud of it. Bella walked back into the room, Jared was looking back at me before she had walked in, so he hadn't seen her. Edward, says:

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Bella's behind you. Bella, says: I know, she slammed the door on the way in. Jared and I both grimaced at that. Edward, says: Wonderful, I was actually trying to get your ass off the computer so I could talk to Bella again. Bella read my message, rolled her eyes, and then told Jared something along the lines of shove over. Everything in my eyes became inexplicably brighter. I could almost feel the endorphins going off inside my head in pleasure. Bella said something to Jared, and he scowled at me before turning sharply on his heal and stalking out of the room. He was angry at me, and Bella knew that but she still shot him a guilty glance as he disappeared. The same way Bella had disappeared to before. There were certain things I had picked up on Bella's character. She had certain pet peeves. For example, she doesn't have much patience for people who have short tempers. Even less for hypocrites. She probably felt like one right now, but even when I was on the receiving end of that quick temper always in some part of my mind I understood that she was stressed and uncomfortable. It's hard enough to break all your ties to your family and move somewhere completely new in a forein country that was so completely alien from your own. Plus there was me annoying the crap out of her, especially in the beginning. I just hadn't been able to stay away from her for long though; she was always so interesting and funny, when I wasn't in trouble with her. And that had usually been because I had been playing on another of her pet peeves. Disrespecting people-especially women-when they had done nothing to hurt me. I understood now why she was always angry at me about my 'girlfriends' now that I saw her fighting for her every step on the basket ball court. So instead of letting her chastise herself for hypocrisy I tried to distract her. Edward, says: Hey Bells. How are you? What hotel are you staying at? Bella, says: Hey, I'm good, a little tired. Some of these guys are kind of big. Why do you want to know where I'm staying? So...should I tell her I was planning on flagging down a taxi to go see her? Drag her back here or at the very least see her, tell her I loved her, then beat the living hell out of Jared? Edward, says: Oh, no reason. Just curious. Congratulations on your games. Lagging behind the bigger guys with your stubby legs? I popped a raw marshmallow that I had set in my lap. I was iffy on having the lap top on my lap. I've heart too much crap about what it can do to your boys. I liked mine just the way they were, no glowing green shit or

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anything else I want to worry about. Bella, says: You say that, but you know I cleaned house. She grinned teasingly at me, winking playfully. My heart jumped in my chest. What she said next nearly made me sing out loud. Bella, says: I kind of miss you. It's no fun here when I have no one to stalk me around the hotel blubbering that they can't keep up with my almighty playing skills. Edward, says: You sure you have no stalkers? Jared seems sickeningly fond of you. And when have I ever blubbered? I object with dignity. Normal people get tired after running a marathon. Bella, says: Ouch, that hurts. I tell you I miss you and you practically call me a freak. She grinned when she said that though, so I knew she was teasing about actually being hurt. Didn't stop me from nearly spewing my heart out in a bloody mess in front of her. Then a terrifying thought hit me, what if Bella happened to scroll up to check what Jared and I had conversed about? When I had shown in writing how I felt about Bella? Fuck. Me. I wanted to tell her not to scroll up and look it over, but I thought that would get the exact opposite of the desirable effect. So I tried to quell the nerves of everything I'd been working towards would be destroyed by one flick of the mouse. What kind of moron put something they didn't want to be seen in writing? Oh, right. I do. Edward, says: I miss you too, Bella. So much. Bella turned the most beautiful shade of red, a blush that started on the bridge of her thin nose and spread down to her neck. I grinned and she smiled, the blush deepening so it flowed up her forehead. Her face looked like a tomato. I loved it. Bella, says: Have you had anytime to spend with Mrs. X now that I've left? You must have a ton of free time. I maneuvered around that minefield. Edward, says: Actually I've been being a good little whipped mutt. You told me to try with Millie, so I'm trying. Bella I swear to God I never realized how much I hated her until this moment. I don't even know what I was thinking Friday; just the thought of sleeping with her again makes me want to puke. Bella smiled when she read my message, and then leaned back cockily in her little metal fold up chair that

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reminded me of the ones Esme used to pack if we were ever going to the beach, a smug smile pulling up her lips. And then I got it. Please, just please let someone stamp MORON in capital letters across my forehead. Had I always been this oblivious? Had I been thrown down the stairs on my head, because just being dropped wouldn't have caused enough brain damage for this one. Edward, says: Just going out onto an incredibly obvious limb here, but did I just figure out the lesson? Bella, says: Yes, finally. I thought I would have to pull out the big guns to get the message across to you. When I raised my eyebrows in wonder of what the big guns were, Bella smirked and threw on some Beyoncee,and not just any Beyoncee song, it had to be if I were a boy. Edward, says: I thought you didn't like chick-Oops I mean FEMALE music. Wouldn't want to offend the evil genius. You do know you absolutely ruined my entire week with this one, right? Bella's smug smile faded and she looked heartbreakingly apologetic. Bella, says: Sorry, but when you agreed to the lessons there was no promise that they would all be easy and light. Plus, I gave you the option of whether you wanted to go or not and gave you the consequences that went along with the decision. Edward, says: Oh, that was harsh. Better hope I don't tell my girlfriend that you said spending time with her was a consequence. Not that I disagree. You know, other then me, I don't think you've ever said anything bad about someone else. This is a new side of you I've never seen before. I think I like it. I winked at her, and she scowled back. Obviously she didn't feel so bad about destroying the insubstantial edifice of happiness that I had built around her. This new brighter life couldn't hold through with out the main structural piece keeping it standing. Bella, says: Can you actually tell me what you think you learned? Because I'm starting to think you don't have the mental competence to have figured it out. Edward, says: Ouch. That hurts deep. I thought you missed me? The lesson is that you don't sleep with people you don't want to spend your time with. In other words, get to know girls and don't just use them. Or am I wrong? I challenged her with that last part. I was more then a little nervous that I had in fact gotten it wrong. It could just as easily be something completely different. I wouldn't be surprised; Bella's mind worked on a completely different wave frequency then my own. Or anyone else's I suspected. I couldn't have just fallen in love with some normal girl that liked to take long walks on the beach instead of

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playing sports and pushing her body to the extremes. With that last thought I became a little distracted by the thought of Bella's stamina. And then how useful that could be. Oh dear God. Bella distracted me from that train of thought with an agreement that I was right. With a little jab at how she was actually surprised I could figure it out all on my own. Hardy har har. I was actually a little surprised too, not that I was going to give her anymore fuel to burn me with. The bed behind me dipped and I turned to smile at Rose who had a celebratory smoor held up in her hands. "Where's Alice?" I wondered, not quite able to look at her as I asked the question. My focus was other wise occupied. Bella was laughing at Rosalie's smoor, and then apologizing, saying she already ate hers during the wait. "Mmmm, this is so delicious." Rose teased Bella, going over the top on her enjoyment on the smoor. Bella rolled her eyes, happy I suspected that Rose didn't hate her anymore. There must have been some kind of explanation for her behaviour the last little while, because Bella didn't seem at all taken off guard or weary of Rosalie's change of heart. "Alice is talking to Jasper. Again. Christ, her poor phone. I'm afraid to use it, it might transmit all that gooey 'I love you, but we can't show it out in public incase someone sees us sucking face.' crap onto me." I laughed. I threw my head back and really laughed with Rose after such a long time of coolness between us. It was just a plus that Bella was lightening the mood even more with her big eye crinkling smile even though she didn't know what the hell was going on. The sibling rivalry came in quickly after that as we fought adamantly for who was going to speak to Bella, since neither of us could share the lab top. The second she started typing, I would have something that I wanted to tell Bella, and then vice versa when I was typing. Finally Rose just sat on me to keep me still. She threatened to break into my place and shave my eyebrows in my sleep if I didn't bow to her wishes. Hmmm, eyebrows or talk to Bella for a few minutes more? Sorry Bella, I love you but I need my eyebrows for when I have to try and convince you to love me back. "Rose get off me or I'll put dye in your shampoo again. And if I wake up with no eyebrows I swear it will be permanent this time." Rose was still explaining to Bella why it was obviously such a big deal that her father had been looking at the newest Mercedes recently, and didn't even turn to look in my general direction when she responded. I was under her though, so she would have had to be a contortionist to see me clearly. "Depends. What colour?" "Puke green. And then I'll highlight your hair with the brightest pink I can get my hands on." "Edward, it would be a shame if I had to explain to Carlisle why I had to kill his first born child." But Rose got off of me, and I grinned hugely at her. She stuck her tongue out, and then flipped her hair back behind her shoulder in one smooth haughty gesture. Ugh, sisters.

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I heard Alice's voice drifting down the hall and into the room over the clacking of keys. "No, Edward has high jacked the computer from me. I'll check." I felt rather then heard Alice's presence with her lithe little dancer's step. I'd have to start tying a bell around her ankles so people would hear where she walked. Then again, she was always talking about one thing or another. That gave you a hint of where she always was. Before Alice even had the chance to ask, I answered her. "Jasper hasn't signed on yet." I murmured as I typed a witty response to Bella's last message. Apparently Alice's expression was something to behold because Rose laughed. "Once he gets tuned in on you, he gets inside your head." I already knew Rose was rolling her eyes. "He's eerie like that sometimes." I shrugged; it wasn't that hard to figure out. What other reason would she interrupt her conversation with Jazzy to talk to little ol'me? I wasn't going to tell her just yet that she wasn't even signed on. Alice turned and sulked back out of the room. "Jazzy, I know you're on. I can feel it. Edward won't give the computer to me." I heard Alice whine as she walked away. He must have consoled her with the fact that this was the only small slice of heaven I was getting before Friday finally rolled around. "You can feel it Alice? Really? That's just sad." I called after her, grinning at the computer screen as I explained what was happening here to Bella. She laughed on the other line. Bella, says: Poor Alice. Be nice and just give her the computer, then you can sweep Mrs. X off her feet while I'm still gone. Edward, says: Bella! I'm horrified. I can't believe you just asked me to flirt with another girl when I already have a girlfriend. I watched with a thrill as jealousy flashed across her eyes again. Every time I brought up Millie as my girlfriend she always got that same look. She didn't get even slightly uncomfortable talking to me about and Mrs. X though. I wondered if Bella already subconsciously knew that she was Mrs. X. Bella shook her head and then smiled sadly. Bella, says: I have to go, coach checks curfew. Edward, says: The point seems kind of moot to me when you're already sharing a room with a guy. In a hotel. Dammit, I'm going to be up at night thinking about you now, worrying that he's going to jump you in your sleep. Bella, says: I keep pepper spray under my pillow. No need to worry. And then Bella flashed the most adorable and dangerously sexy smile I had ever seen her wear. I said goodbye and logged off. Still a little light-headed.

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I grinned at Rose, "She sleeps with pepper spray under her pillow." My voice was dreamy and I grinned hugely at the thought. Rose raised an eyebrow at me. "And you like that?" "I think so." "I think you need some serious help." I sighed. "I know." I got up and went to leave. I was almost out the door when I heard Alice call my name. "Thanks a frigging lot Edward. You get off the computer the moment I get in the shower. Jerk." "Love you too Ali cat. And thank you for letting me steal your computer for a little time with Bella." I heard a sigh from down the hall, in the bathroom. I rolled my eyes with what she called down next. "Mind telling Jasper I'm in the shower?" I was about to yell no, that if she wanted talk dirty to her boyfriend I was having no part in that. I liked Jasper, just not that much. Then the phone rang before I could say anything that could be seen as an answer. I started at it for a minute before picking it up. "Alice McCarthy and Bella Swan's place, Edward speaking." Jasper was on the other line, "Hey is Alice there?" A chill ran down my spine at the coincidence. "And I'm supposed to be the creep." I muttered, and then more loudly, "She's in the shower." "...Oh. Can you pass me to her?" I wrinkled my nose. "Uh...I think she's already undressed...and no offence but Alice isn't on the top of my list of girls I want to see undressed." I heard Jasper mutter something along the lines of "Looks perfectly fine to me." And I groaned quietly, I really didn't want to be having this discussion, and especially not right now. Alice stomped out of the shower, clad only in a towel, snatched the phone harshly from me, and finally gave me one final bone chilling stare before spinning on her heal and stomping back into the bath room. That's it, I'm outa here. I fled off into the night, still wearing my Bella induced high. Chap 19 Rosalie You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses." – Ziggy (no joke, that was the only name that came with the quote.)

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Day four "Du...nuh. Du-nuh, dunuh..." The Jaws theme song got faster and faster the closer he came to his target. I smacked his hand just as it stole away an Emmett sized handful of popcorn, very nearly taking half the bowl in that one hand and crunching popcorn bits on my jeans. I brushed them off, scowling at my bear of a boyfriend, his mouth overly stuffed with popcorn so his cheeks puffed out like a mutant chipmunk. His dark brown hair curled around his face in perfect harmony with his tanned skin and huge dark child like eyes that always smiled at me. I had always known I was beautiful, I didn't even play with all that modesty crap; I know what I look like and how I look to other people. But being with Emmett really opened my eyes. I felt even more beautiful with him, like I was absolutely perfect. His huge, wide smile made his dimples stand out and I couldn't glower at him for long before I felt my lips responding to his infectious attitude. I would have been kissing him if I weren't for stupid Edward and his stupid crush on stupid Bella Swan. This all sucked. I had liked Bella, and I still did. She was almost as genuine and fun as Emmett. Not as hot, but that was to be expected. I was sorry to have to distance myself from her fun loving attitude and irritatingly unbiased opinion on everyone but my brother, but as aggravating as Edward could be, and usually was, I had to put him before my friendship with Bella. Bella was going to hurt my brother, and I couldn't let that happen. Even if Edward declared himself and Bella somehow responded in the same way and they were happy for a little while, Bella wouldn't be able to stay with someone like Edward. Edward had always had a wandering eye when ever he was in a relationship, nothing held him still for long, and I had a feeling that little Miss. I've-been-brought-up-to-respect-myself-above-a-man wouldn't stand for Edward's behaviour and she would leave him. I knew Edward liked Bella but he just couldn't change that quickly. The second scenario was that Edward would tell Bella he loved her and she would tell him to go fuck himself in more kind words, knowing her goody-goody attitude. Another fault of Edward faults that would lead Bella to drive a stake through his heart is that Edward is extremely stubborn, he wouldn't just give up on a dime, he'd chase her until she either gave in and hated him the entire relationship, or she would let him destroy himself trying to get her. There was no middle ground with Edward. He was an all or nothing kind of guy. It was kind of bittersweet. I would be proven right, but Edward would get hurt in the process. This way, if I could convince him earlier on he could just drop his obsession over Bella and go back to normal, find someone else who was actually suited to be with him. It shouldn't be that hard, I could already see he doubted whether Bella would take him anyways. I'd just pop some information under his nose, show him that what he was feeling was a crush and to just get the hell over it. That way he might find something like what Emmett and I had, but I doubted it. What I had with Emmett was special and original and absolutely untouchable.

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While I had been thinking about my stupid brother and his even stupider decisions that had me trying to bail him out before he got in too deep, Emmett had crawled under the computer table I was sitting at. He knocked his head on the shelf that held my lap top and cursed lowly, then laughed as he tried to maneuver his too big build around. I rolled my eyes and concentrated again on what I was doing. I was blowing off a girl's night out with Alice for Edward. Little shit better be grateful. I sighed, trying to subdue a smile when Emmett nearly brained himself on the leg of my chair. It was better to ignore Emmett when he started to do something stupid. He could be aggravating as all hell sometimes. I jumped, startled when his hands landed on the inside of my thighs, spreading them apart so his grinning head could popped out from under the table. He kissed my jean clad leg, then leaned the side of his cheek against the inside of my leg, looking up at me with his huge dark eyes that spoke of nothing but devotion with just a little bit of mischief thrown in. "I was looking in my world religions text book today," he started, the mischief taking a firmer place in his brilliantly dark eyes. "-and I found this picture of a Greek goddess named Aphrodite. She looks a lot like you, except you actually look like a goddess." My heart melted. That's why I kept him around. "Really? I'm looking at my own personal God as we speak." I smiled, cupping his cheek softly in my hand. Emmett's dimples made another appearance and his eyes danced, "Am I your Ares?" He wondered. My brow pulled together in confusion. "Who?" "You know, the Greek God of war, the illicit lover of Aphrodite." He wiggled his eyebrows at me. "I think the danger of it all is pretty sexy, but I would want the world to know that I love you." I laughed at him. "Emmett, you couldn't be the God of war!" His lower lip pouted out, the dimple never disappearing from his face. "Why not?" He flexed his arms, in the confining space. "I've got the body for it." I grinned, leaning down so my hair tickled his face. "Because you could never live with hurting so many people." I nodded towards the uprooted white rose he had potted fro me, claiming that he couldn't hurt a rose. Emmett shrugged, grinning again. "It reminded me too much of you. I couldn't cut it. Besides the detention was worth it to see your smile." Of course, how could I forget? Emmett had gotten detention for uprooting the principal's garden. He took it with out complaint. I personally hated the green room so much I was actually considering sneaking in one night with a huge bucket of red paint. "What are you working so hard on anyways?" Emmett wondered, craning his head to see the computer screen from under the table. The sun played in his hair and shone chocolate through his eyes. "Trying to help Edward understand how much of ass he's making himself out to be." I rolled my eyes again at the subject of Edward and Bella, the constant topic of conversation until Bella came. Then we all had to shut

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up least something we said got through her thick head. No one could understand how she hadn't pieced things together already. It was starting to drive me insane. Edward was already walking on egg shells around her. I looked down, expecting Emmett to grin and agree with me. Instead his head was back leaning against the inside of my thigh, his other hand was tracing around my knee cap. "You know I like Bella, right? And Edward is sort of my best friend. Why not just let them hang out?" Emmett was looking me squarely in the eye. He didn't hold back. He couldn't let things bounce around inside him for long unlike my brother and me. "Because she's going to hurt him Emmett. Can't you see how wrong this all is?" Emmett shrugged, still playing with my leg. "Well, sure, but every couple has their problems. Look at us, you wanted to break up with me a little while ago, but we talked about it and we got even closer because of it. Can you imagine what would have happened if Edward or Alice or someone else tried to get involved with it, trying to smooth out the problems so we couldn't talk about them? Wouldn't that have been worse?" I scowled at the computer screen. "You don't know what you're talking about Emmett. Edward is my brother, I know him better then you think. I know I'm right this time." "I know that, but Rosie-" "I'm busy, I can't talk to you right now Emmett." I snapped angrily. I very rarely was ever so harsh with him, but right now he was wrong and I was right. I watched him sigh and then try to squeeze out from under the desk. I honestly don't know how he could have gotten in in the first place. I pulled my chair out so he could get out more easily. "Thanks," he murmured, crawling out. I could still see his dimples, even when he didn't smile, but it was the happy dancing eyes that his eyes made that breathed soul into his face. His eyes weren't dancing now, and he didn't even meet my eye as he slumped out the door. "See you later." he mumbled, disheartened. My heart clenched for the sad eyed boy who was leaving now. Instead of degrading myself and calling after him to come back-men came to me, not the other way around-I called a harsh, "Yeah, whatever." Apparently it wasn't the last word, because Emmett's sad eyes peered back at me from the doorway, looking in on my scowling face. He was half in, half out. "I love you Rosie." And then he turned away again and let the door close softly behind him. My heart clenched again, tighter this time so that it actually squeezed some tears out through dry eyes. I'd hurt my teddy bear. Emmett was misleading in his size, and I knew that, but it was hard to remember when I was angry at him and I wanted him to yell back at me or do something sarcastic. Sarcasm wasn't Emmett's forte though, and he only raised his voice when he laughed or teased someone. I'd only seen him angry once, and his voice had gone down to a whisper. Emmett could talk about things like a rational human being while I ran around screaming obscenities.

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I wiped the tears away harshly. I was right, they shouldn't be arguing with me. Why the hell did Edward even like Bella? She wasn't even pretty, and she played sports and always acted like a boy. Edward didn't even like girls like that. Never had, never would. I finished gathering all my information to set Edward straight, and then stomped over to Edward's apartment. A boy on the walk way had an arm around another blond girl who was sketchily looked at the tops of the restaurants like she expected an ambush any moment. Freak. She was short, and hardly had any curves. She was more boyish in her figure then girlish but she wore clothes that were meant for girls who actually had bodies. As I passed the boy I heard him telling the sketchy girl that no one would throw water on her. I didn't know what the hell that was about, but it only proved my initial first impression. The boy wasn't especially good looking either, but as I passed I flipped my hair over my shoulder and gave him my 'come hither' look, then winking as he nearly tripped over the little runt under his arm. Just because I was taken didn't mean that I didn't have to stop being noticed. The girl flickered a glare at me before she resumed her search atop the buildings. Her boyfriend shook his head once, and then followed after his girl. He turned once to give me the 'call me' gesture. I rolled my eyes. Yeah, not likely buddy. Unless Emmett dumps me. Nah, not even then. I didn't feel any better about my fight with Emmett when I made my way to Edward's flat. I climbed the stairs instead of taking the elevator, keeping my head high incase any one were to see me. Rosalie Hale did not wallow. I hesitated for only a moment at the door, half hoping that I would see Emmett, half hoping I wouldn't. Then I knocked quickly before I lost my nerve and just called Edward's cell and yelled at him over the phone. I could just as easily get my message across over the phone as I could in person. Except I needed to physically hand him the sheet of paper to get my point across. The door didn't open, so I grabbed the key that Edward had given me after I had threatened to steal his to see Emmett. The reminder made my mood sink. Right or wrong, I didn't like to fight with Emmett. I'd call him after this was over and talk about it. He was a good talker, always speaking from the heart, and because I loved his heart more then anything else, I loved everything he said. Most of the time. The notes of a song floated from Edward's room, and the closer I came to the generic wooden door the more easily I was able to make out the lyrics of the song. I paused long enough to hear the song end, and then start again. It was on repeat. "I've been watching your world from afar, I've been trying to be where you are,

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And I've been secretly falling apart, Unseen. To me, you're strange and you're beautiful, You'd be so perfect with me but you just can't see, You turn every head but you don't see me. I growled, then stormed into his room without knocking. Edward was not going to label us as troubled depressed children. He needed to realize that because we were twins, we would always be labelled as something together because of the stupid conception that twins share some freaky mind thing where we finish each other's sentences. Edward was an hour older then me and as far as I can remember he had fallen into the cast as the big brother, and I into the mould of the little sister. Right now though, he might as well have been two years younger then me. He was lying on his bed, one arm thrown over his eyes in the most melodramatic Position he could have place himself in. You would have thought someone had run over his cat. I stormed over to his I pod and turned the song off. Edward's arm slipped from his face and he gave me a tired look, his green eyes looking dull and grey. Dead. That was wrong, Edward's eyes last night had been so green you needed a new name to describe the colour. It was happy and bright and alive. "Emmett's not here. He said he was going to the work out room." His face twisted in an echo of confusion. "I thought you two were spending the day together?" I pushed away the pity that made me want to pull him onto my lap and let him just cry. He had done it for me many many times before when I had needed it. Instead I shoved the paper into his face. The anger of my fight resurfacing with a vengeance. It was Edward's fault we had fought, so Edward could take the heat of my anger and push aside his trivial little crush on Swan. He read it over, his face twisting into confusion, more defined then before. He read it twice and I grinned. Maybe my message was finally coming across. I sat down on the bed beside him and pointed out certain points of the paper to better prove my point. "See look, that obsession you feel?" he turned to me and nodded, his face still staggered. "It's caused by a drop in serotonin levels, and then when you can't sleep at night, that's because of an increased production of cortisol, it's a stress hormone. All you are feeling is a generic, run of the mill crush." Edward wasn't listening to me, he had pointed to another point in the page. "The neural circuits that control social judgment are suppressed." He read right off the page. He thought about that for a moment. "That's why I don't care that she's so different from anyone else?" I nodded; glad he was finally getting the hint that what he was feeling was nothing more then a bunch of hormones running wild. His face was getting excited though, the more he read aloud, "This says here that everything I'm feeling is

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triggered in the same area of the brain as drug addiction." He laughed out loud. "I'm addicted to Bella! She's my drug." He laughed again. I went to take the paper back from him since I wasn't getting the desired effect at all. He kept it from me, his eyes glowing again, brighter then they were last night. "This is what I've been trying to tell you Edward! Listen, everyone feels this, it's not real. In a few months it will be gone. It's nothing but a generic crush that you'll get over in a few months, eight at the most." Edward's eyebrows came together, "What? No, Rosalie, look." He pointed to everything that we had read over, and then back to the title. My back stiffened. "These are all the symptoms of love." He laughed again, falling back onto the bed. "God, I knew I loved her, but I feel so much better now. It's scientifically proven that I love her. It's more...real." His eyes watered with emotion, and for the first time I had ever seen Edward cry, it was with happiness. He let the tears fall looking at me with such gratitude I wanted to be sick. Not because I had made him happy, but because I had made things worse rather then better. He really believed that he loved her now. How was I ever going to convince him other wise? The door opened in his flat and Edward perked up even more, rubbing the back of his hand hastily across his eyes, then he got up, pulling me with him to meet Emmett in the living room. I stiffed, trying to pull back from Edward. He didn't notice, and I hadn't told him Emmett and I had had a fight. Emmett looked wearily at me, then to Edward's face. His eyes instantly widened in shock, and then his huge smile was back, aimed solely at me. And then nothing else mattered. Edward was happy, Emmett was happy, and I was happy. I would deal with the rest when it came. For now things were fine as they were. Edward very nearly danced up to Emmett, showed him the piece of paper, and even before Emmett could read one word Edward was already declaring himself for the whole campus to hear. "I'M IN LOVE WITH ISABELLA SWAN!" he had cupped his hands to his mouth and everything. His voice rang around the room so loudly I had to cover my ears. Not even the McCarty's could have generated this much enthusiasm as Edward was now. Someone banged on the wall and yelled something back that wasn't nearly as cheerful. Edward didn't care, he was still grinning ear to ear. Emmett finally finished reading the paper full of information, and then when his eyes turned to mine his eyes were shinning with the same awed fascination that Edward had worn before. "This is what you were writing? Before?" I smiled slightly, nodding. Emmett's grin got unbelievably bigger, and then he wrapped me up in a huge bear hug. "Guess what Rosie?" He asked, and then with out needing any answer from me, he pulled me so my ear was to

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his lips. "I love you." I had my teddy back. Chap 20 Edward Day five Bella came home today. That was the beat I was singing to today. That and the absolute certainty that I loved her. Once Rose had left I had gone to the library to do more research. I couldn't understand why I hadn't thought of this before. It was an excellent distraction from the subject of my search and it made Millie think that I was actually doing something productive rather then actively avoiding her. Millie had been acting odd lately anyways. For example I had gone in and to apologized for what I had done before I felt to see Bella, and been truly sorry. Millie had been looking in the mirror the whole time. At first I had thought she was still angry at me and was ignoring me actively to demonstrate that, until I saw that she was brushing her hair and plucking her eyebrows. She had then turned around, kissed my cheek, and told me not to worry about it. Everyone had their bad days. And then she had just gone on her way. Next she had looked in the fridge, seen that it was empty again and then turned on my, accusing me of taking all of her food when all I'd had to eat in more then 24 hours had been a few marshmallows. It made sense that she would try something like that if she had been angry at me, but Millie liked attention; she wouldn't have just let me off the hook that easily if she was angry. I left soon after. I had done my job as 'boyfriend' and apologized and come to see her. If she was having her time of the month, I could deal with that. In fact a girl's period was one of the most sacred things I knew, I nearly worshiped them. It meant they weren't pregnant. I could deal with them, but not when she was screaming in my face for something that wasn't even partially my fault when she could have yelled at me for something that defiantly was my fault. I shook the disgruntled thoughts from my mind. I had much better things to be thinking about, like Bella. I grinned hugely at the thought. I was starting to have second thoughts about my English assignment. Due today or not, I was starting to have a panic attack. What if Bella saw it before I had the chance to confess to every little thing? How would I explain it other then to blubber about how I would have told her eventually. Girls hate both of those words, especially when they come together to describe the future of a relationship. I wish I could go back in time to the first moment I was about to mention Mrs. X and just tell her the truth. But

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if I had done that then, would she have been as willing to take me? No, definitely not. I wasn't even sure if she would take me now. No, I told myself sternly. Freedom from who I had been, from who I still was depended entirely on how I handled choosing my burden. On one hand, I could go through life watching what I could have had, seeing someone else take her away from me over and over again. Or I could just take the chance. If she hated me for lying to her, then I would stay with her and if my explanations weren't good enough, then I would show her my devotion. I would stand by her side until she was ready to acknowledge that I would always be there. Even if all of Rose's bull on this being a crush was right, then I would still want to surround myself with her, be her friend. Who didn't want to surround themselves with loving, caring people who were mature and brave and strong and still managed to be fun and funny? Yes, I would always want to be part of Bella's life. I knew at heart I was the most pathetic coward to ever have crawled up from whatever corner of hell I had come from, so I knew that I would take the easier choice, the one where I wasn't going to suffer endlessly and needlessly. When I gave the piece to Mr. Clairborn for an honest opinion, he took a brief look at my English assignment, turned away. He froze for a moment, and looked again dropping his jaw almost to the floor. Then he turned to glare at me, some of the shock still there in his eyes. "And you don't draw like this in my class because...?" I grinned at him. "As much as I'd love to say you inspire me. You don't." Mr. Clairborn nodded, jotted an A down on a separate sheet under my name, and then sent me off to sit in my seat. Apparently that was my mark for the course. This day might just turn out into one of the best on the history of the world. When Mr. Clairborn didn't give me back my assignment right away, I started to panic a little, thinking that he was going to keep it, and then became horrified that he might show it to his other classes as a demonstration of shades and colours and details. All of those fears were well founded. "You see class, this is an excellent example of how to properly use all of the art concepts demonstrated in this course. Edward Cullen, submitted this to me for an English assignment. This is a wonderful example that art isn't just a vein in which to express yourself, it is also required for some of the academics in this-" Mr. Clairborn stopped in the middle of his sentence. It wouldn't have mattered if he had finished it, the second my name was mentioned, and then everyone connected that the girl on the page was the same that I had thrown my 'tantrum' over, all eyes were rooted on me. This hadn't caught Mr. Clairborn's attention. It was the thumping of my head off the desk that finally made him stop talking.

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Kill. Thump. Me. Thump. Now. Thump. There was an encore of this in English where our English teacher traipsed around the class, declaring that there was a winner to a contest none of us had known was running and the winner would have his or her picture hung up on the wall for the whole school to see. Guess who won? Before Mr. Clarke had the chance to humiliate me further, I pointed out that the basket ball team hadn't had the chance to hand in their assignments in yet. Mr. Clarke finally agreed, disenchanted that the student who had "put the most soul into their work all year" wasn't going to be honoured immediately. I skipped the rest of my classes for the day. I was too impatient to wait in a closely confined class of people who knew what used to be my secret, and I was fast discovering that today might not be the best day of the history of the world. Not even the best bay of my life, though it definitely wasn't going to be the worst. Bella came home today. Instead I sat on the curb in the parking lot, the most likely place for Bella's bus to drop her off. Despite today's embarrassment, I was hardly phases now that Bella was so close to coming home to me. I had missed her desperately. Bella was no longer a choice, she was a necessity. You could live with out food for three weeks, with out water for three days, and three minutes without air. I felt dead after three seconds of finding out Bella was gone. My priorities had been rearranged over the last five days so that what was most necessary to my survival would always be first. Everything else fell down a notch to make room for her at the top. I had learned more about myself and the world around me from Bella in the last five days, and then I would have ever learned in five years of senseless sex and instant pleasure. My legs went numb after a while of just sitting awkwardly on the curb, and so I began a leisurely pace up and down the sidewalk. I had no idea what time Bella was supposed to come home at. It had never said in the flyer which I had read with the uttermost intensity during math everyday, trying to make up for ignoring it before. It was only after the last bell rung, and everyone was let out of class that I started to get a shadow that grew until a large part of the school was waiting with me for the team's return. Having the advantage of height I saw that not as many people as I thought had come for the great return that has all but consumed my thoughts. There were enough though, that they crowded the sidewalk uncomfortably. I felt a small tug on the bottom of my shirt, and looked down to find little Alice looking up at me impatiently. "I can't see." She stuck out her bottom lip miserably. "There's nothing to see Alice, only the road." I told her, though I did understand her impatience. I took a deep breath, held it, and then let it out in a whooshing of words. "Do you want to sit on my shoulders?"

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The half hope that I had of Alice refusing was instantly squashed as she started to scale me. I rolled my eyes and helped her onto my shoulders. She folded her hands on the top of my head, and then it felt like she leaned her chin down on her hands. "Thanks." She said happily, "You've really changed from the first time I met you." I nodded in agreement, and felt as that action mussed my hair. "I was just thinking about that." We were silent for a long time. Slowly the crowd started to disperse when they realized how long they might have to wait for the team's bus to come in. Only the most dedicated fans stayed, many of them girlfriends of the players. I made Alice get off my shoulders when she could see the road clearly again. She patted my head affectionately as we did the graceless dance of getting her down. "Thanks Edward, I hope everything works out for you." "I think you should be more worried about hoping I don't drop you, because it's starting to look like that might happen." I grunted, "Can't you just slid down?" Alice sniffed, "Fine, but if I ruin this shirt you're in trouble." "I'd rather be in trouble with you then with Jasper for cracking your head off the sidewalk." I growled, how could someone so small be so aggravating? We finally managed to get her down, and she breathed a sigh of relief to find that the Egyptian cotton she boasted hadn't wrinkled. I had to sit down again after standing in one position for so long. Alice danced around in the grass behind me, she had kicked the rocks out of her relative space so she could lay and wait for Bella. Because grass stains were not nearly as terrifying as wrinkles. I shook my head at her, wondering how Bella would stand to live with someone like that. Finally, it seemed, I stood again. I was expecting the extensive flood of an already barely contained emotion for when she stepped off the dull blue and white bus-at long last delivered safely back into my arms. I wasn't too worried. I was in love, and with science on my side, I knew there was no load I couldn't bear. Not if the end result was Bella. What I wasn't expecting was the blue blur that torpedoed into me, literally knocking me off my feet. I was faintly aware of Alice's yelp as I staggered backwards and then fell onto the grass right where a second ago, Alice had been lying. Bella, oh wondrous, glorious Bella blushed as she realized just how much force she had put into her hug. "Sorry." She said quickly, and then tried to get off me. I tightened my hold on her, laughing as I hugged her. "Oh God Bella, I've missed you." I love you in compelling, alarming ways. Instantly Bella was laughing with me, and started a strangle hold on my neck as we rolled in the grass. My pulse thundered through veins that hadn't had a heart to pump and my newly returned heart soared, bigger

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and better then when I had first entrusted it to Bella. As promised in her roundabout way, I was better. I felt real and whole, more so then I had ever felt. I had lost myself for a time, and now I found what I was looking for, reflected back at me from the depths of Bella's warm, laughing eyes. And I loved what I saw. I felt like if I stood and jumped now I could reach the sky, could take off and fly. We finally disentangled ourselves, Bella's cheeks were red with laughing, and my face hurt from how much I was smiling. We sat in the grass together for a moment, just grinning at each other before I little streak of black and white jumped on Bella. "I've missed you!" Alice sobbed, and then we were both laughing as Alice tried to collect herself though I wanted to cry just as much as she was. I wanted to sob in happiness that I was whole again. "And I have a surprise for you! Hurry, come to our room in an hour!" "Is my bed the surprise? It has come, right?" she asked, and I saw for the first time how tired she looked. I also noticed a bruise on her upper arm. My eyes narrowed at the offending mark. Alice noticed the mark too, following my eyes. Bella caught us staring and shrugged, pulling her sleeve down to cover the skin. "It's nothing. I had a bit of a run in." I snorted, "With what? A wall?" Bella sniffed, "Maybe." And then I was just ecstatic that I had her back. If I found out someone actually hit her they better hope that I never found out. Bella went around to the side of the bus to the storage compartment to get her bags. I turned on Alice. "What's the surprise?" Alice smiled happily, "Her birthday party of course! I decided instead of having it on Monday, we could kind of clump it together with a welcome home party." And then she grinned. "Yeah, that sounds great." I hardly tried for enthusiasm. Just the thought of sharing Bella tonight with everyone else was an unquestionable turn off. I also knew it was selfish to keep her all to myself when she had been gone for so long, so I didn't argue the point like I might have another day. Alice glared, her usually warm, excited blue eyes turning flat cold. "Don't you dare ruin this for me, Edward. I've missed her just as much as you have." I snorted, she had no idea what she was talking about. Alice noticed and shrugged, "Maybe not as much, but enough for me to hunt you down if you try and hog her tonight." I grinned, "I make no promises." And then I jogged to help Bella take her bags out of the bus. The asphalt was dirty with questionable spills and chewed gum that had been stomped into the ground, just seeking a more desirable piece of fabric to latch itself onto. Bella looked up at me with surprised eyes which immediately pulled up into a smile when I helped her with

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the vast expense of her duffle bag. It was no wonder Bella could hardly stand under the weight of this thing. It had to be at least half as heavy as she was. "What did you pack? Bricks?" I half faked a huff of exertion under the bag. She laughed the most beautiful sound in the whole world. It rang around me, saturating me in its warmth and acceptance. And then I was starving. I hadn't been eating much since Bella had left, and right about now, I could-and would-eat anything. "I had to have something to intimidate the other teams. Other then my massive brawn." She growled, flexing her petite arms. And despite the fact that my stomach was gnawing on itself I laughed with her. I ruffled her hair. "Why don't we get some meat on those bones, I'm starved." She raised an eyebrow at me, "Didn't you eat lunch today?" I winced as I realized all I'd had in the past week had been two meals, a granola bar and a handful of marshmellows. "No. I was hoping to take you out to dinner. A bit of a welcome back since I hadn't been expecting your ambush." She wrinkled her nose at me, "I was happy to see you, now I think I'd like to go away again." I dropped her bag carefully on the grass incase her can of pepper spray exploded in her bag, and then I wrapped her up in my arms, revelling in the warmth of her little body pressed against the length of mine. "Oh no, I don't think I could live through another one of your hellos." Or goodbyes. Bella laughed, and squeezed me tightly back in return. "You're right, you wouldn't. Next time I'll say hello by pushing you out into traffic." She pulled away enough to wink at me and my pulse thundered, my face pulled up in the most natural and unexpected smile. I hadn't even told the muscles to work; they smiled for Bella and the life she breathed into everything. "Bella, you are in serious danger." I whispered into her hair as I inhaled her. She pulled away, looking scared and confused. "Me?" she squeaked, "Why?" I grinned, pulling her duffle bag back up on my shoulder, "Because I'm really hungry and you're starting to smell really good. Come on, move those stubby legs faster." I teased, and then started to jog as she scowled and picked up her pace. We were both running by the time we made it to our destination. The first restaurant in sight. We got a booth, and Bella took her bag with her onto her seat so it wouldn't get stolen. It was a mystery to me why anyone would try to steal something from Bella. None of her stuff was all that nice and defiantly not worth the pain that would be dished out afterwards. If not by Bella, then by me, or Emmett, or even Alice. I didn't think that Bella even realized that she had a group of people who would back her up one-hundred percent. And one that would lay down his life for her with out a second thought.

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I had just barely sat down when Bella started her interrogation. "How are you holding up on the Mrs. X front? Have you told her yet?" There was no sidestepping her questions, and it would do me no good to lie now. "I...I'm not doing so well. No I haven't told her yet." I took a deep breath. After this whole week it felt like she should already know. It was so obvious to everyone else. "I'm going to tell her tomorrow. After I break up with Millie." I raised an eyebrow to see if I could do that or not yet. Didn't matter, I couldn't stand Millie any longer, she was going to be out of my life by the end of tonight. Bella's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You haven't broken up with her yet?" "No." Bella narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Why not? You two aren't...doing that again, are you?" I snorted, and Bella's narrowed eyes relaxed back into their bottomless warmth. "You should have told me when I could have dumped her and she would have been dropped in a heartbeat." Bella rolled her eyes, aggravated with my obvious disrespect, but I thought I saw a flicker of approval. So Bella didn't like Millie either. The thought warmed me, especially because it only furthered the proof that she was jealous of Millie. Jealous, because she wanted me. The blood sang in my veins. I took her hand across the table in both of mine, holding it securely. "I've missed you Bella." Bella smiled, taking one of my hands in both of hers, playing with my fingers. I watched her small hand dance across mine, marvelling in the tingles that started a path of warmth up my arm. Sparks dance through me at her touch, and I couldn't believe I had ever lived with out this. I hadn't I guess. Not really. "Why tomorrow?" Bella wondered suddenly, and then as she watched the confusion play across my face scrambled to clarify, a small blush starting in her cheeks at the minor blunder that was technically my fault. "I mean why wait to tell Mrs. X tomorrow?" I looked away from her probing eyes, watching her fingers draw slow, absent minded circles in my palm as I thought through an answer to her question. "I'm trying to think of the perfect way to tell her." I murmured slowly, choosing the truth carefully. "and I guess I'm a little scared. This is what will really make or break us. She might..." I had to take a breath as my borrowed happiness was tainted with despair. "She might not even want me." I looked back up into her eyes to find a certain kind of anger I had never seen before. It wasn't directed at me, but more at all the unknowns that troubled me. With a jolt of surprise I realized it was protectiveness that burned in her eyes. "Any girl would be stupid to reject you." She told me in a fiery voice. I raised an eyebrow at her. "Would you have had the same belief when we first met?" No, of course she

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wouldn't. Bella hesitated a moment, and the flames in her eyes cooled. She spoke as if she were choosing her words carefully. "No..." She admitted, looking away from my eyes. "But that's different. You have learned so much. You've changed without...changing." She struggled to find a way to voice her thoughts, but I understood what she was trying to say. I had changed without changing what made me me. I had changed for the better, changed so that I could be happier. I looked her squarely in the eyes until she looked back. "Would you take me now?" I realized my voice had come out lower, huskier, more intense then what was called for. Bella met my gaze for a moment before simultaneously looking down and pulling her hands out of mine. I saw a low flicker of pain work it's way though her face. Instantly I was frustrated. Frustrated because I didn't know why she was hurting, and even more so, because I didn't know how to make it better. "That's different too." She whispered into her lap. Abruptly, there was a wall between Bella and me. Bella had thrown out impossibly high and absolutely impenetrable barriers and I could see no way to enter through them even just to see what had put them up. Bella smiled, and launched us into another direction of conversation and I played along, pretending I didn't see the new distance, the new caution. We laughed and talked all though supper. I spend a large sum on all the food I ate, while Bella watched me shovel the food in with awed appreciation. By the end of supper I had almost managed to ignore the protective fortification that Bella had built around herself. I didn't have to like it, but Bella wanted me to back off just a little. "We still have almost half an hour before Alice wanted us to meet her for your surprise." I smiled at her, thinking about which way we would spend our time. Bella's musical laugh swept me up and my smile became impossibly larger. "I already know it's a surprise party Edward. Why don't we just skip it? We might have to cross over the border to get away from Alice's chilling ability to search and destroy." She grinned playfully at my surprised expression. She was just joking, Bella wouldn't let all of Alice's energy that was put into the planning be wasted. Unselfish as usual. Everyone else's enjoyment was always more important then her own in her flawed view of the world. "How did you know?" there was a surprise party, no point in pretending otherwise. Bella obviously knew. She rolled her eyes and shrugged. "A surprise the day I come home after Alice missed the chance to organize a birthday party? Yeah right." I laughed. "Very nice, but you have to act surprised or else Alice will think I told you. So what do you want to do before the party starts then?" "Football?"

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I grinned hugely at her, "I'd love to. Just wondering, why do we always play my sport instead of yours?" "Because I cream you at Basketball. It isn't much fun when there is not competition." She smiled innocently. I adjusted the strap of her bag more securely onto my shoulder, then cross my arms across my chest menacingly. "Run." Bella took off, a shooting star against the background of the setting sun. I ran after her, an awkward pace with her bag bouncing uncomfortably on my shoulder. I dropped it the moment we cleared the fence into the field, momentarily forgetting about the pepper spray . There were two runners on the connecting track that circumferenced the field. One of them a past conquest that refused to make eye contact with me. I didn't blame her, I wouldn't want to have looked at me either before I had met Bella. I didn't know the other girl well. She was in some of my classes the year before but I had never been interested in her. She looked at Bella and I, and then smiled approvingly and continued on her circuit. I grinned back at her. Bella noticed her too and smiled, waving. "You know her?" I wonder absently as I looked around for the foot ball. I couldn't find it under the bench, but that could just mean that someone threw it over near the fence or left it on the field somewhere. Bella smiled up at me, walking towards a subtle depression in the tall grass beside the fence, fishing out the football. "Yes, that's Angela. She's really nice." Bella stopped for a moment, looking at Angela run around the track. It looked like she was trying to piece something together, then very suddenly, she spun on her heal and looked at me with excited eyes. She looked like she was going to yell something across the field, but then she jogged over, her eyes dancing with barely contained excitement. She stopped just a few inches from me, "Is it Angela?" She whispered in a low voice. "What? Is Angela what?" Bella's expression dropped, "Oh, I thought...just the brown hair and...I thought she might be Mrs. X." I choked back a laugh, and then lost the precarious hold on it when I looked at Angela again and tried to imagine her in Bella's place. I laughed out loud. Bella scowled. "It's not funny. You can be such a-" she growled, blushing. I think she was more embarrassed with my reaction to her question then to how unlikely it was that Angela could ever hold the place Bella did. She just didn't have that same fire. I tried to get a hold of myself. "Go ahead Bella, what am I?" I asked, loving the almost imperceptible change of shades in her eyes. I was surprised with how much I missed her anger. The same fire I could never find in Angela, or any other girl. She grinded her teeth but didn't say anything. I grinned hugely, "Come on Bella, I want to hear it. What am I?"

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"A dick." She enunciated the word precisely, leaning in. I laughed again and Bella threw the ball at my chest a little harder then necessary. "I would actually say I'm a man if that's you're implying." "That's what I said." I put a hand over my heart, "Ouch Bella, what would Emmett say to that?" Bella crossed her arms, leaning her weight on one leg, one eyebrow raised at me. And I couldn't help it, the situation just screamed for it. I mimicked her pose, then snapped my fingers in a Z formation. Bella tried to suppress a smile, then she choked and slapped a hand over her mouth to keep the laughter contained. Finally she gave up and laughed out loud, "Careful Edward," she managed through her laughter, barley intelligible. "Or I might think you're actually looking for a Mr. X." I threw the football at her, pretending to be angry with her. She quickly caught it, and then started to run down the field, ball cradled into her chest. "Hey! No! That's cheating!" I called, running after her when I realized what she was doing. Grinning, she got a touchdown. "Phh, like I need to cheat to kick your butt." She scoffed. "Really?" I asked, getting ready for my own little cheap move. Bella grinned cockily, not concerned or even noticing my advance on the ball. I snatched the football and starting towards the opposite side of the field. I heard a surprised "Hey!" From behind me, and then I could feel rather then hear her chase. I was just about to look over my shoulder to see where she was when I caught her launch herself at me from the corner of my eye. The way she hit me knocked me off balance and I ended up falling as she had intended me to. I managed to twist us before we hit the ground so that I was the one who took the hit. I remembered the time I had nearly ground Bella into the ground, how horrified I had been that I might have hurt her. It was a no-brainer now, Bella could take care of her self, but she shouldn't have to. I opened my eyes and found Bella laying on top of me. She sat up, her legs falling naturally onto either side of me. She was straddling my stomach, too far up to make this awkward or uncomfortable. It actually felt very, very natural and I wanted it all the more. Bella grinned happily, "Really." She stated with all the confidence in the world. I groaned, letting my head fall back into the grass. I revelled in how close she was to me, so when I saw her beginning to get up off me I distracted her. "So what, did you do before to get all the balance knowledge? Figure skating?" Bella stopped and I saw, to my great pleasure, she stayed where she was. "Trampoline gymnastics actually. I don't skate well. I'm actually a menace on the ice." When I looked at her doubtfully her eyes widened as she tried to make me believe her. "It's true! I crashed into

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a group of people and the owner of the rink suggested I play street hockey instead of ice hockey." The skin over her cheek bones warmed. I chuckled, shaking my head. "I can't picture you clumsy." "Sorry to shatter the illusion you've made of me, but I was gawky from the time I could walk until I was fourteen. That was the year I started to grow into my feet. I have so many scars from all my misadventures, plus I have the most horrible luck. That has followed me all through my life. If something bad couldhappen, it will." I shrugged, tracing a finger up her arm, grinning. "Well I have especially good luck. We'll balance each other out." Bella smiled, linking her fingers through mine-a habit we had started that I was very glad hadn't been lost in the past week. Bella looked about to say something, her eyes were soft, but out of the corner of my eye I caught a movement. Instinctively, my eyes flickered over to see what it was. And then I froze. Rebecca, the other I had obviously hurt in the past had spotted us, and was currently making her way over to us across the field. Her eyes were dark in their maliciousness. I already knew what she was going to say before she got here, and I had no intention of Bella finding that out until tomorrow. "Come on Bella, we have to go." I spit out quickly, pushing her off me. Bella looked confused and even a little hurt, "What do you mean, we still have-" "No, no. We have to leave now." I grabbed her hand and dragged her off the field, not even stopping as I quickly scooped her bag up onto my shoulder. I felt like a cad for treating her so rudely. "But we hardly even got to play!" Bella protested, pulling against my hold on her wrist. I held fast to her, dragging her along as I thought of an excuse that would explain this. Eventually I decided the truth-or half of it-was best. Just as she was about to protest again I interrupted her. "Old girlfriend." I finally managed. Bella was quiet after that, letting me tow her along with out resistance until we reached her building. Her silence was worrying me, and I was afraid to ask what was wrong incase it would strengthen the already solidifying wall between us. When we cleared the doors into the lobby, I had started making up so many reasons in my head for what could be wrong that I was slowly driving myself off the brink. "Bella?" I asked carefully, watching her profile out of the corner of my eye. "What's wrong?" She had a puzzled look as she stared at her feet walking across the polished tile floors and to the stairs. "You didn't apologize." She said, sounding as puzzled as she looked, then she turned to face me. "Why?" I looked forward, away from her penetrating stare, the dark eyes that contrarily illuminated everything. "I didn't think she would want to talk to me. We had a bit of a nasty break-up." It was another half truth. Maybe I would have apologized when I had first seen her on the track if not for that fact. Bella looked inexplicably relieved, "Oh," she sighed, her shoulders that I hadn't noticed were tensed until now

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relaxed. "Why? What did you think?" Bella's eyes were suddenly wide, staring at me like a deer caught in the head lights. "Oh, no reason." She squeaked quickly, turning the most adorable shade of red as she quickly looked forward again. I laughed lowly, bumping my shoulder into hers. "C'mon, you can tell me anything." Bella snorted, like she didn't believe that while fiddling nervously with the bottom of her shirt. "Bella." I warned in a darker voice. She exhaled loudly, looking at her feet again. "I thought...you might have been having second thoughts." She looked up to judge my expression. When she saw the puzzled expression she continued. "I thought you might have decided that you'd rather the way you were before I met you. You know, different girl every week." "Oh." It was awkward for a short second before I captured her hand with my own. When she didn't look up at me immediately I stopped walking. She looked up at me with weary eyes, and I was determined to make sure she never doubted me again. "Bella, I'm happy like this, with you. Much happier then I was before." My serious expression melted then into something more playful. "Besides, I was never that notorious. It was a different girl every two weeks." Bella laughed, smacking my arm playfully and I pouted, rubbing the spot she had hit like it had actually hurt. Bella smiled, her spirits higher then before and the distance between us not nearly so great. "Come on, Alice will kill us if we're even thirty seconds late." When we reached the door I stopped her, "Remember, act surprised." I held her eyes with mine. Bella's eyes suddenly widened into saucers and her hands came up to her cheeks, mouth open and gaping in shock. "A party, for me?" I laughed, shaking my head. I opened the door, the room exploded into cheers of "Welcome back" and "Happy birthday!". Bella jumped and gave a small cry of surprise. I thought it was a little fake looking, but it passed for everyone else except for Alice who glared daggers at me from beside the punch bowl. That was going to get spiked in about ten seconds if it wasn't already. Bella was immediately blanketed in a mob of hugs and pats on the back for winning the vast majority of her games this week. Through out the chaos, I was pushed to the outskirts of the horde. It was better this was I guessed as I saw Millie glaring heatedly at the centre of attention and my affection. No time like the present. I thought dryly, walking over to her where she sat on the couch. She smiled when she saw me coming towards her. I smiled back-it was surprising how easy it was to smile now that I had a reason to again, even if it was just at Millie. "Millie? We need to talk." For a moment I just let those words bounce around in my mind dryly. The traditional, start to a conversation

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that ended everything. Millie knew immediately what was going on, and then suddenly she just needed to talk to her friend that was sitting beside her. I heaved an annoyed sigh. That was just childish. I waited patiently for her to finally give up her stalling, watching Bella as she made her way around the crowd, laughing and smiling, nodding with some and frowning sympathetically with others though through it all I had the oddest notion that she was searching. Her eyes would flicker around like she was looking for someone. By how high her eyes scanned I hoped it was me. I started at her intently, willing her to notice me where I sat, waiting for an invitation to rejoin her in the mass of party goers that were starting to disperse around the room rather then revolving around her like she was the centre of the universe. I didn't disagree with this, but it was my universe and people were intruding upon it. She finally caught my eye, and visibly relaxed. She smiled, an invitation to me. I went to stand, to go to her. Slowly letting gravity take over and letting it drag me to her. Then there was a different pull. My shirt was too tight against my chest, too lose on my back, and I craned my head to see Millie still engaged in her conversation with a hand in a vice grip on the back of my shirt, keeping me from going. I was honestly contemplating gnawing her arm off to get away, but I was sure we might get a few odd looks for that one. Stiff and unwilling I went against gravity and sat back down, looking to where Bella was with a longing that burned though me. At that precise moment every jewel in the world was worthless. Every ruby, every diamond and piece of silver and gold lost whatever petty meaning it had once carried for me. All of those cold, inconsequential, worthless, lacklustre stones meant nothing to me. Right now the only treasure I longed for was the pearly sapphire gem, looking at me with alluring, warm eyes. The blue deep necked top flowed down her body like water. Strong and soft and pure. Refreshing from all the monotonous girls that chattered inanely beside me. I stared back at her, and I knew finally what treasure was. Treasure was beauty and worth, happiness and truth. My beauty. La mia bella. (A/N: 'My beauty' in Italian) Bella's eyes slid to Millie, then down to the vice grip she still had on my shirt. Her eyes narrowed dangerously, and just as my chest started to swell with hope that Bella was about to rip Millie to shreds, she took a deep breath-calming down-and turned to talk to someone else. What the hell was this? She always looked down on my when she disapproved, and if she was angry she

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always let me have it. Millie goes and very visibly pisses her off, and what? She ignores her? Life sucks. I knew I wasn't as good as Bella in any sense, but I did try and as I started to plan out a revenge for all the things Millie had put me through in the last week, I felt a lash of pain as shame at my failure burned through me. Screw Millie and her stupid friends. So what if I wasn't courteous and interrupted her? I opened my mouth to do just that when she stiffened in her seat, turning away from me to wave at someone. The gesture and way that she turned made it so she had to let go of my shirt. I took the chance and took off with out even looking to acknowledge who she had waved at. I'd talk with Millie when she wasn't surrounded by distractions she could escape into. If nothing constructive was going to happen, I might as well enjoy myself in the mean time. Bella, beautiful Bella, was talking casually with none other then Jared who'd had her all to himself all week. I would be damned if he monopolized anymore of her time that by all rights should be mine. I had to stop, to take deep breaths and push away the possessiveness that I wanted to rectify in light of everything. Yes, I loved her. Yes, Jared wanted her too. Yes, this was starting to turn into a competition where Bella was the prize one of us would be walking away with. This wasn't right. She wasn't an object to be jockeyed after; she was a human, a person, and a girl who had every right- if not more- to be seen as an equal. I would not be the man to take that from her. So I smiled as I came up to the two of them when all I really wanted to do was sink my teeth into Jared's throat and rip him limb from limb. I would take great pleasure in the slaughter. "...All I'm saying is I think that he's starting to take a shine to you." I heard Jared finish and I stifled a grimace. How many other admirers did Bella have? Was their a line I had to get into? Did I have to sign up on a sheet to spend time with her now that she was famous? Not only the first girl on the boys basketball team, not only the first girl captain on the boys team, but the only captain who had managed to pull the team through for the first time with a nearly spotless record. They had almost won all their games. I had been studying the web site the school had posted to keep all the fans satisfied. Emmett told me about it while still glowing with his new heady understanding of the love he felt for my sister. It was disgusting, but kind of sweet in that please-don't-do-that-in-front-of-me way. "Jared, I really don't think coach likes me like a daughter. He's still leery about a girl on his team." Bella sounded like she just really wanted Jared to drop the conversation and the red stain in her cheeks made me think it was because she was embarrassed by the attention. And yet she runs out onto a court full of fans to play in an environment that had never been crafted for her kind. She was so weird. And I loved it. I was happy that I didn't have another man to worry about, though I was seeing more and more of the boys in the room taking notice of her because of the victory. Suddenly, Bella wasn't the he-chick anymore. Part of me rejoiced in the thought that Bella wouldn't be hurt by the petty males that couldn't comprehend a female with strength with out something being hormonally wrong with her.

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The other half though was seeing the way people were starting to realize what I had seen all along. Her strength and softness, her beauty, everything that made her Bella. I wanted to hide her away from the world. Keep her to myself. There was a small part of me-small but steadily growing-insecure voice that was starting to wonder if I ever could be enough for her. I didn't want competition when it just raised the risk of her finding everything she wanted in someone who wasn't me. Deep breath. I knew I had to say something. I was looming behind Bella and I was getting a lot of dark glances from Jared, who was at the same time trying not to clue Bella in of my presence. "Hey, Bella." I said cheerily. Bella turned, not looking surprised, and I wondered with a feeling of chagrin if she had been aware of my presence behind her the whole time. "Hey, did you talk with Millie yet?" she asked, right off the bat. Maybe she wasn't quite as forgiving in her piques as I had previously thought. "I...no. She needed to talk with someone." I mumbled lamely. Jared scoffed under his breath at my excuse and I gave up the pretence of civility to glare daggers at him. I received a hard elbow in my ribs and an annoyed look from Bella. I shrugged, not going to apologize. Bella's eyes, warm and chocolaty brown, looked toward where she had last seen Millie, and then her face was open confusion. I turned to look too and found that the scene was almost the same as I had left it. Except Millie was gone. In her wake, her friends were chattering quietly, nervously to each other while sending me frightened glances every few seconds. Warning bells went off in my head, and I knew how wrong this scene suddenly was. Something was up, and slowly I felt some pieces of a puzzle I hadn't even known existed being pieced together. "I should go." I said quickly, too fast. I didn't like this. I didn't like this at all. I looked in the kitchen first after I had scanned the living room over quickly in a half hearted attempt to dispel the sinking feeling in my stomach. I already knew where Millie was. Apparently I hadn't been the only one lusting after a reprisal for all the angst this week. I found her extracting her revenge on me in Bella's bedroom. On her now christened bed. My ego had been her target and she had hit a bull's eye. What better place to show me how little I mattered, how easily replaceable I was then in the bed of the girl I knew I could never have? As Millie's moans filled my head, watching her bounce on the torso-less figure, her back to me so I couldn't see the man she was with, I learned suddenly of two of the greatest tragedies. One was not getting what your heart desires, and the other was getting it. Getting what I had been longing for with a need that was very nearly pain. Millie gave me a wonderful reason to break up with her now. There was no denying that.

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The rage was almost all consuming. It bubbled up my throat and exploded out of my mouth. "You whore!" I roared at her, seeing red. The feelings that coursed through me were so undermining, so belittling that I might as well have been three inches tall. The legs under Millie jumped but with one dismissive comment, he relaxed. "Don't worry, he's nothing." She gasped, not even sparing me a glance, not even hesitating in her rhythm. And then I was half an inch tall. At the sound of my rage the sounds of the party in the living room stopped. Alice was behind me in a moment, seeing what I was seeing. She gasped, turning away quickly from the scene. I turned too. Turned to leave. The sound of Millie's screaming orgasm rang around the suddenly quiet flat and locked me in my place, seething. I wanted to turn around and rip her throat out. I didn't blame who ever it was that was under her. He was just a pawn in her game. A poor fly caught in the spider's web. This spider blowed and sucked. There was a laugh from behind me. My body turned to face her with out my conscious command. I deliberately avoided the face of the man she had just ridden. She smiled at me sadistically, "So what do you think of me now?" she looked at me like she was above me, like I really was half an inch tall. I told her exactly what I thought of her. And then, because that didn't seem like enough-her facial expression hadn't changed, she was still grinning that same smug satisfied smile-I continued, "You think I care? I don't care, go ahead. You can fuck some guy? I can fuck two girls easy." I snarled, I turned and left before she could say anything. She wasn't going to get the last word in, it was already impossible to walk when I was so small. Anyone could step on my at this point, and as I stormed out of Bella's place under all the stared and pitiful glances I knew what it felt like to mean nothing. I couldn't imagine what Bella thought of me. Maybe Bella had known I loved her all along and was polite enough not to act like she noticed. This was her way of letting me down easy. It was stupid to believe that I could ever be anything to her, I was lucky to have had this brief time with her, even if it was just as her friend. I already knew I wasn't going to act upon my threat to Millie. Everything Bella had instilled on me in the last two weeks was still clear and real and very vital. Even if I couldn't have her, if the chance of meaning anything to her was zero, I couldn't stop trying. If I stopped trying then there was no chance. No, I wouldn't sleep with the girls, but I would show Millie and myself that I could have something if not Bella. I would set up the dates, I would attend both of the dates, and then I would leave the girls at their door steps and try to confront Bella. Whether Bella knew I loved her or not, I would tell her. I would keep trying to work up to something that one day, would be worth Bella's time. I wouldn't be scared anymore. I would stand up and do the right things. There, the choice was made and I would follow through with it. I was already in my car, already starting towards a destination that would have both dates taking place. I called them both, collage girls that I had met at parties before. I had been with a girl at the time, and I didn't cheat on the people I dated.

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I fumed and honked angrily at a car that had pulled out of a dark parking lot with out looking. But even as I made my decision, I knew my frame of mind was unbalanced, still staggered by the anger and thusly indefensible. I had a feeling I was missing something important, and that I should change my decision until I was in a more stable frame of mind. And as my phone vibrated, Bella's caller ID to her and Alice's phone flashing blue across my screen, I had a feeling that change had already been set in motion for me. Chap 21 Sweet Dreams Teeny Tiny Twilight "Alice, I can't wear that." Alice smiled at me, thrusting her clothes at me. They were her clothes because I didn't own anything that skimpy. Two weeks ago, if someone had told me to go out and fetch the infamous Edward Cullen in that, I would have cheerfully told you that you were out of your fucking mind. Edward was going to die a slow and painful death, especially since I would have to use my money which I really didn't have much of to go and fix his mistake. Obviously he was pissed. I understood that, I was pissed too and it wasn't just because I had to burn my sheets. I really just wish that Edward had taken the high road. This wasn't the way for him to deal with his problems. I nursed my sore hand while Alice waved the outfit in front of my face again. It was scary and I hadn't even put it on yet. Maybe if I were a normal teenager this kind of thing would be run of the mill for me and I would walk out of the house in this thing with my head held high and no qualms about what people thought of me. The last time I had worn a skirt that had come above my knee was in the department store, shopping with Renee. I hadn't even bought it. Alice held out a jean skirt that looked like it would come about mid to low thigh. I choked back a laugh at the thought of me in that thing. The shirt could pass as one of my more modest bras. I didn't doubt that they would be nice, I'd seen Alice in these before, and they looked amazing on her. I wasn't Alice. I didn't have her never ending confidence in anything that fit her, I didn't have the beauty that made men turn their heads in wonder. I was Bella Swan, I wore boy gym clothes and played sports and every once and a while I managed to put on something half way feminine like the V-neck blue blouse I wore now. I didn't want to admit that Edward had been my original inspiration for the top. The thought of seeing him again had been a big deal to me. "Please Bella?" She pleaded. I had learned a way to escape the persuasiveness of her eyes by staring at something just to the left of her head. I had to do that now. When I didn't cave immediately Alice tried a new tactic. "How do you expect to get Edward out of the restaurant in what you're in now?"

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I had called Edward first when Alice had told me what Edward was doing. When he opened his phone and hung up immediately I had lost my nerve and Alice had had to call him while I dealt with ending the party. Through all of his ranting when he finally picked the phone up on the fourth try, Alice caught the name of the restaurant. I looked down at myself now. Nice jeans and my pretty blouse. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing now?" I asked self consciously. Alice raised an eyebrow at me like I had asked a ridiculously obvious question. "It's...nice Bella. Better then what you usually wear, but it won't do the job. Please for just once in your life, take my fashion advice." It was too late to look at the wall; she had pulled out the puppy eyes with remarkable speed. "Fine," I muttered, taking the clothes and trudging towards the bathroom to change. My room was under quarantine until further notice. "Now that I've given in, I'll never be able to wear my sweat pants again." I grumbled. Alice heard and laughed her tinkling laugh after me. I had been right about the skirt. It came to mid thigh, and the shirt came to just over my belly button. I couldn't look at myself in the mirror for long before my stomach started to spin and churn with nervousness. I had to sit on the bath room floor to collect myself. The cool tiles under my bare legs were surprisingly calming, and soon I was able to stand again with out feeling like I was going to be sick. Alice appraised me quickly, twisting her lips to the side in a contemplative look. I was feeling queasy all over again. I folded myself on the floor, looking at my hands and letting the hair fall over my shoulder as a protective barrier. "You look good." Alice finally said. I looked up hopefully, feeling a little better at her complement, though I would still rather be hiding under Alice's bed. Then Alice pulled out her make up bag. "Just one final touch Bella, then you will be perfect." Alice assured me when she saw the look of utter desperation cross my face. "No Alice, please. No make up." I pleaded uselessly. I already felt self conscious enough with out this. I always felt more comfortable when I looked like me instead of someone else. Alice sighed, "You'll look beautiful Bella. Trust me." I didn't protest when she started to do my make up. I didn't let her show me my reflection. The bathroom mirror incident was proof enough that it wasn't a good idea. Alice handed me my hardly used cell phone. "I charged it for you when you were gone." She smiled and I smiled back. "Thanks Alice." I hugged her and she hugged me back tightly. "Be happy." I thought I heard her whisper but when I pulled away she just waved goodbye, and I was left wondering if I had even heard anything at all. I hailed a cab much quicker then I thought I would have under normal circumstances, but that only worked to my advantage so I didn't complain when the driver gave me an appreciative look. Instead I pretended to be engrossed with the view outside the window as I told him where I needed to go.

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I resisted the urge to touch my eyes or chew on my lip the whole way there. All my worrying habits had been covered with make up I was sure to ruin, so I reverted back to chewing my nails. Almost three weeks progress in not chewing them had been lost in one make over. The taxi dropped me off and I paid him, giving him a tip and a thank you as I stepped out into the chilly night air. The shoes I had on pressed uncomfortably against my littlest toe. The open toe high heels to belonged to Alice. They clicked too loudly in my ears across the sidewalk to the impressive restaurant. This restaurant didn't have signs in the windows that advertised half off deals and 'kids eat free' scams like the places I was used to eating. I took a deep breath and opened the door. I was confused when I didn't hear a bell ding or another sound to announce my presence like I was expecting. Of course not I thought, this place was fancy, and expensive. The women at the podium ready to seat people raised an eyebrow at me. "I'm meeting someone." I mumbled, trying to move around her. She stepped in my way, blocking my path. "May I have the name so I may escort you to their table?" The women asked in a voice that sounded too loud. Some people in hearing distance leaned around the partial divider to see who was making a scene with the mature women, she had to be just entering her thirties and obviously took her job seriously. "Cullen." I spat, the name coming out harsher then I intended it to. The woman looked down a clip board, "Did he have a reservation?" I clenched my teeth. "I'm not sure. I didn't make it. May I please go in?" The woman sniffed at me, but moved so I could go in. She walked off briskly, obviously terrorizing me wasn't her only job here, and I was left to escort myself. When I came to the divider I peeked around the corner quickly. He was there of course, leaning towards the girl who face glowed in the surreal light thrown by the soft candle light placed on the thick dark red table cloth just three tables away from me. The soft yellows of her hair were brought out by the tiny white dress that shimmered when she moved. She was absolutely stunning. I felt a sudden need to protect this beautiful girl. She deserved better then this, then to be used as a means of revenge. My anger at Edward momentarily melted into anxiousness so overwhelming I was nearly sick. I stole back against the wall, concentrating on keeping my breathing even. "I can do this. I can do this." I murmured my mantra as my stomach flipped and my heart sprinted a mini marathon in my chest. I can't do this. So Edward goes out with two women in the same night. What makes that my problem? The raging jealousy

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that trickled like acid through my veins assured me it was my problem. No, it's his life after all. Who's to even say either of the girls will find out about the other? Maybe everyone will end up happy and oblivious. But what if he does get caught? A little voice in the back of my mind asked. What then? He'll start to get a reputation again and Mrs. X won't touch him with a ten meter poll with an attachable taser. I sighed. Not only that, but I will have let my best friend down because I was too cowardly to do the right thing. Especially when he had been there for me so many times. And then the beautiful girl sitting across from him, what about her? She, at least, deserves better then this. Maybe if it was different, maybe if Edward was truly putting forward his best then I could tuck away my own negligible feelings and let them both be. Problem was, Edward wasn't putting forward his best, and I wasn't about to let him damage this poor girl that was still waiting for her Mr. X. If I wasn't going to do this for me, or even Edward, then I should do it for her and all the pain and mistrust I could spare her from. I will do this. I forced a smile, smoothed out the not-quite-mine mini skirt, and peeked around the corner again. My heart thundered in my chest, my stomach dropping cold in dread. Maybe I'd give him one last chance. I pulled out my cell phone from my purse, dialling the number I had memorized. I could hear his phone ring from around the corner. The Edward's soft musical voice murmured something I couldn't hear, it sounded like an apology. I forced myself to take my finger off the 'End' button. No need to be scared, he wasn't going to bite. Yet. "Hello?" He growled quietly into the phone. I took a deep breath, more shocked then anything that he would speak like that. To me. "Edward?" "No shit Sherlock." I could hear him apologizing again. "Sorry Lisa," he said away from the phone. "I'll be right back." I could detect the ominous edge to his voice; I was going to get it. Here comes the bite. I panicked when I heard his chair scrape across the hard wood flooring. What if he decided to take his call behind this corner? I knew what would happen. He would sever my head from my shoulders. Not to mention my plan was shot to hell. Lady luck, for once, happened to be on my side. He stayed with in visual range of his table. "What the hell do you want? Seriously Bella, what is wrong with you?" I'm a coward, I have gender confusion, I'm scared out of my wits, and oh! I'm completely infatuated with my

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best friend who at the moment hates me. What's right with me? Not that I wasn't used to Edward's anger, I just wasn't used to it being directed at me. "Please Edward. Don't do this. Cancel your second date, walk out now and come home. We'll do something fun, just you and me after this date if you want, or even now." I pleaded desperately with him. He heaved a sigh. I could imagine him running his hands through his hair agitatedly. And for one second he sounded like he was deliberating. "No Bella." it was quiet, the anger softening. Then it was back. "I'm not even going to discuss this with you. Stop calling me." His voice almost sounded apologetic as he neared the end again. I choked back the lump in my throat. Edward had never been like this with me. He wanted me to leave him alone while he collected himself. Fine, do it some where else, a place that wouldn't destroy all the progress he had been making towards Mrs. X. "Please? You're better then this, she's Better-" "Stop calling me." He snarled with an accurate precision each word-sharp as knives-hit their mark. The line went dead. I closed the phone, holding it tight against my chest. I heard a light airy voice that I now knew belonged to Lisa ask Edward who had called, and if everything was alright. His face must have been a window into the rage centred on me. I leaned around the corner slightly to see them. I could only see Edward's back, his shoulders not as straight as I was used to, slightly slouched forward. I could see Lisa though. "It was...a friend of mine." He hesitated. "Come on Edward!" I cheered under my breath. "You're so close!" in that one moment of hesitation I could have sworn my pleas had touched him, that in that moment of hesitation, he imagined himself sitting across from Mrs. X instead of Lisa. And he saw himself happy. "Is everything alright?" Lisa asked again with too much concern in her voice. "Yes, she was just checking up on me,"-he chuckled suddenly-"I'm lucky she even puts up with me." He gave a forlorn sigh, and then murmured something quietly to Lisa that I couldn't make out. Whatever he said though, made her eyes flash with jealousy. Since I couldn't see Edward's face, I couldn't see his reaction to the look or even if he noticed it. My nails dug into the wall, stressed. This was a good of time as any. I took one more deep breath, smoothed down the tight fabric wrapped around my chest that really couldn't even be called a shirt, more like a modest bra. My previous plan to come off as cheap as possible was more intimidating then it had felt when I had planned it out in the cab. That was my best shot thought. I could see she was already suspicious. After Edward stopped hating me for this, he would owe me for the rest of his miserable life. The thought of actually waltzing out into the middle of the restaurant in what I was wearing made my stomach drop painfully. I could change my mind now, make a bee line for the washrooms and slip out a window. One more deep breath in, then slowly letting it out, I walked out from behind my hiding place, trying to convince myself that I would never see these people again. So who cared what they thought of me right now? Even if they did see me again after this, they wouldn't recognize this girl, the one with the shortest denim skirt imaginable with a royal blue shirt that only came over one shoulder, as if I wasn't showing enough skin as I

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was with the fabric ending just a few inches above my belly button. The feeling of my thighs rubbing together under the fabric was unnerving with out the clothed separation on my usual pants or jeans. Uncomfortable. "Hey handsome." I sighed, my voice low and husky with embarrassment. I heard a low sigh from Edward, having instantly recognized my voice. But when he turned around his green eyes popped, jaw dropping. I had to take another breath to steady myself, to regain my bearings-Edward's reaction wasn't comforting-then sitting in his lap fighting tears of embarrassment I pushed his jaw back up. "Don't look so surprised." My voice dropped an octave, getting huskier, "It's not like you haven't seen my body before." Technically, in a warped way he had. It had just been clothed each time he had. Edward let out a small cry of helplessness. Lisa had seen enough, "Bye, fuck head." She snarled, her airy voice replaced by something vicious and sharp. She purposely smacked Edward in the head with her purse as she threw it over her shoulder. She stormed out of the restaurant, heals clicking. "Bu-bye." He managed, not looking away from me. I grimaced. I waited until she was out the door, I waited until I saw her get into her car, I waited until she flipped me off, and then I watched as she drove out of sight. Then, ever so slowly, I turned to watch Edward. "You are so dead." My lip was curled up over my teeth in a ferocious snarl, my anxiousness condensing back into rage. His eyes were trained on me. "Is that why I'm in heaven?" He looked and sounded intoxicated. I would be driving home tonight. Then I would kick his ass so hard he wouldn't walk straight for a week. Then he would pay for my cab. The same grumpy waitress as before stalked up to us.. "Is there a problem here?" She asked accusingly, looking at me. I looked at Edward to see if he was going to get me kicked out. He looked like he had just been snapped out of a day dream. "No, there isn't." He told her quickly. When the woman continued to fume in front of us Edward raised an eyebrow at her, his arm suddenly possessive and protective. "May I help you?" he asked. "I'm going to have to ask that you and your friend leave. This is a family restaurant and her attire is not suitable for this establishment." She looked smug, and I guessed she had memorized the rule book for just these special occasions. I flushed, wanting to curl up and die right there on the floor. What she meant was this restaurant was too high

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class for people who looked like me. Maybe she would have even left me alone had I not sat on Edward's lap. I doubted it though; she looked like the kind who liked to cause problems. Edward stood and me with him, his arm brushing against the bare skin of my waist. Sparks went off behind my eyes, my arms erupting into goose bumps. Edward noticed; he started to rub my arms, to warm them. That didn't really help since I was suddenly feeling too warm. I sighed, pushing away the feelings. There was no use developing an unrequited crush that would just hurt me later. When I imagined Mrs. X with Edward, I never had that burning jealous feeling that I had when I saw him with other girls. No doubt because Mrs. X was still faceless and bodiless. She wasn't with Edward...yet. And that would be a yet I would work my best to achieve. Even if I had to do this twenty times over. Edward threw a bill onto the table and I let him lead me out of the restaurant. I didn't look any of the people on the eye as I passed them. I felt like I was taking some sort of walk of shame which was the most prominent feeling right now. The clicking of my-Alice's-heals make it worse. The moment we made it out of the restaurant I took them off and walked barefoot to Edward's car. Edward went around to the driver's side. "What are you doing?" Edward stopped, looking at me. "Driving...home?" his eyebrows had come together in confusion, his eyes which had been calm until now took on a weary look. I walked around to his side of the car, "I'm driving." I growled, holding my hands out for the keys. Edward was about to protest. "Trust me," I said, cutting him off, "You really don't want my hands free right now." Edward sighed, "I guess I deserve that." he said, taking Alice's heals from me. He unlocked my door, opening it for me. I sat down, taking his keys from him and starting the car as he went around to his side. "Mind telling me what you were thinking? And just how were you going to get both of those girls in one night?" I asked in scathing tones as I pulled out. Edward slumped in his seat, his knees propped up against the dash. "I wasn't going to do anything." He said, like that explained everything. I snorted. "Do you think that matters? You would have destroyed everything with Mrs. X. Do you think she would want to take you if you started doing things like this?" Out of the corner of my eye Edward looked at me for a long second, then when he spoke again his voice was snappy, like it had been on the phone. "No, but I don't see how that matters anymore. I never had a chance with her to begin with." He glared out his window. Finally I saw where his anger stemmed from. I pulled over and jerked the car to a stop. "Careful!" Edward cried, his hand moving to touch the dashboard in an almost maternal way. I glared fiercely at him. After a moment he met my stare, his eyes filling immediately with defiance. "What

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have I done wrong now?" My eyes narrowed. I waited for him to figure it out on his own but after a while of glaring at each other, he had to drop his gaze, and he seemed endlessly frustrated by it. "You are always looking down on me Bella." He growled. "Because that's the only way I can help you back up!" I exploded at him, exasperated with him and his sudden mood. Since when had Edward ever been the I can't do it kind? Edward didn't give up like that. Edward ran his hand through his hair, aggravated with me I was sure. He glared down into his lap, the muscles along his jaw pulled taut. This wasn't how I had pictured us spending our welcome back night together. I took a deep breath, I had to remember that I was Edward's friend, not his mom. If Edward made a mistake I wasn't supposed to chastise him for it, he had a mother for that. I was here to stand beside him, to let him make his own mistakes and help him pick up all the pieces when they fell apart. I couldn't imagine how Edward must feel right now, and right now, I wasn't helping him in the least. I had a feeling that Edward was still clinging to the last bit of the easy care free life where he was the most important thing. Edward was dealing with having his priorities sudden thrown down to make place for another person. I had experience with that with Renee, so when it happened again-making room for Edward-it wasn't new and I could deal with it. I put my hand on Edward's shoulder. He didn't shake me off, and I took strength from that. "I'm sorry." I whispered. Edward shrugged, "My fault." He turned to smile wryly at me then, "If I stop being an idiot, will you stop following me around?" he wondered, the tension from out skirmish slowly melting. I tried to stifle smile, "Maybe, but I'll need to find a new hobby. You're taking up most of my time." And I couldn't find it in me to care in the slightest. Edward smiled a little, "Then I'll keep being an idiot." I rested my head on his shoulder. I heard a click in the darkness, and my seatbelt recoiled back into its proper place. Edward pulled me onto his lap, tucking my head under his chin. Sometimes it didn't always feel like friendship with Edward. I sighed, hugging him. "I'm sorry your girlfriend's a whore." I mumbled. "Ex-girlfriend." He corrected immediately. "I guess I should thank her for that much at least." he sighed, holding me even tighter against him. "You know, you would be the perfect girlfriend if you just dressed more like this more." I punched him in the stomach. He chuckled until he heard my hiss of pain. I had-unthinkingly-hit him with my

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sore hand. I nursed it, already knowing that it would hurt for a while. I'd have to start hitting Edward with my other hand. Edward reached up and suddenly we were bathed in the harsh inside light of his car. "What happened to your hand?" He took my hand into his, raising his eyebrow at the dark splotch forming over my knuckles. "I punched Mille." I sighed. Edward looked like he was trying not to smile. "You didn't have to do that. I'd be glad you did though if you hadn't gotten hurt." "Oh, it wasn't for you." I lied. Edward caught on immediately, and I wished again that I could lie better then that. "It was a little bit, but mostly because she slapped me first." Edward was staring at me wide eyed. It still amazed me that Edward hadn't realized that I didn't play by girl rules yet. If you slap me, I'll hit you back. Then Edward's expression melted into fury and I saw that I had misread his expression before. He had been in momentary shock. "Relax." I commanded, looking him squarely in the eye. I had hit her hard enough for the both of us, since that had been what it was for. My anger, Edward's anger, his hurt.... It had mostly been for Edward. All she had done to me was slap me and call me names. I was used to names, and I could defiantly take a hit. What she had done to Edward was so much worse, and much more lasting, more scaring then a slap. I wondered if Edward would carry any distrust with him when he went to Mrs. X. I hopped Edward wouldn't. Edward was smart; he would know that it wasn't worth it. And he trusted Mrs. X. Edward took some deep breaths and calmed down. His hair was all over the place, a tribute to the tension and frustration of tonight. I leaned my head on his chest, listening to his heart beat. "We should probably go home." I mumbled, reluctant but I could feel myself slipping. I was hoping that we could just stay like this. Edward sighed, nodding and flicking the light off. Just as he was sliding me off his lap I stopped him. "Edward?" The sudden darkness stopped me from being able to read his expression. That was good, it meant he couldn't see mine either. I swallowed, brushing his hair softly with my fingers out of his face. Edward sighed softly, this breath warm on my forearm, so I pulled away quickly. "Mrs. X, who ever she is, will want you Edward." I assured him, my voice was passionate with the necessity of this. If I couldn't have someone-if I couldn't find someone who made me happy-then I would make sure Edward did. "Thank you Bella." He voice was just a breath in the darkness. Then he slid me off his lap, starting the car again. He took my hand for a short second, his lips pressed against my bruised knuckle so softly it was like the flutter

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of moth wings, and then he pulled away from the shoulder of the road. My hand still held lightly in his. I was almost expecting Alice to be waiting for us when we pulled into the school parking lot. It was empty but for a few cars. The purr of the Volvo cut off, and I went to get out of the car when lack of movement from where Edward was sitting stopped me. I saw him just looking out the windshield, his hands loosely placed on the steering wheel. "What's wrong?" I murmured, turning towards him in my seat again. Edward smiled a little at me. "Just thinking." He assured me. "Tomorrow is the big day and I still don't know what to say." I squeezed his forearm, "If you want I could be somewhere close by. Some moral support if you need it." For a reason I couldn't understand Edward started laughing, it was a loud, startled bark of laughter that made me jump. Edward was smiling much wider, chuckling in a more natural tone. "I'll definitely need you there Bella." I nodded, smiling because he was while all the while watching him warily out of the corner of my eye as I got out of the car. Edward was still laughing under his breath as we walked towards the building. I didn't see what was so funny, but I guessed that Edward had had a rough week. He deserved a moment of insanity here and there. At the cross section where we would part ways-me to my building, Edward to his-he stopped me. "Hey, where are you sleeping tonight?" he asked, one especially warm hand on my shoulder. I shrugged-a small movement that didn't disturb the tingling that danced from my shoulder and down my spine. "I was just going to go home. Why? Do you want me to come over?" Edward smiled, his hand fluttered down from my shoulder to take the tips of my fingers in his hand. "You don't have to, but I thought we could go back to my place. I haven't seen you all week." "Neither has Alice." I countered. I wanted to somehow spend time with them both, separately. "I have a prior claim." I raised an eyebrow at him, "Really?" Edward nodded, leading me back to his place. I dropped it when he didn't actually answer my question, revelling in the feeling of the grass beneath my bare feet. It was soothing, and I felt the sudden need to act like a child again, to run bare foot through the dew soaked grass where no one would see me but Edward. "Would you think any less of me if I ran around in the grass?" I asked Edward, grinning at him playfully. Edward looked down at me. "That's kind of childish, don't you think?" I blushed, feeling extremely stupid. There was a soft thudding and I looked over to see Edward had thrown his shoes off and was currently taking his socks off too. His eyes glowed in the dark, that same luminosity that shone from where the most beautiful piece of him rested. "Let's do it." He agreed, his bright eyes dancing with excitement.

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I smiled widely at him, and then he threw his shirt off in the grass along with his discarded foot wear. Edward saw my questioning look and grinned slyly. "I think I should have fewer clothes on then you do, it seems only right." I scowled down at what I was wearing at the reminder. "Edward, if we sewed all this together, your pants would still be more material." Edward laughed, "Probably." I smiled, at him then started a lazy run through the grass, just feeling the coolness of the grass. Edward was beside me, his paces longer then mine. Slowly he started to inch past me. Well, I wasn't having that. I sped up a bit, getting just a bit in front of him. Soon enough, our game turned into a competition as it always seemed to with us. We were racing each other across the campus, laughing as we did. The cool night was refreshing where it brushed over my skin, warmed with exertion. Edward, who I had thought was genuinely running up until now, had a sudden burst of speed that he used to get in front of me. He spun to face me just as quickly and caught me around my waist, picking me up in the air. He used all the kinetic energy I'd gathered to spin me in the air, and then slowly he set me back down in the grass. He moved one of his hands, now cooler then my skin to my back. The coolness of his skin brought forward an unexpected feeling of heat, like I had been burned with out the pain of it. His other hand twined with mine, and then we were dancing. A bubble of laughter escaped my throat as we danced bare foot in the drops of dew and the long strands of grass that they kissed. "Thank you." Edward whispered into the night. I looked up to see him smiling at the stars, each one a bright spot in the sky that symbolized a wish and I couldn't help but send my own silent thanks as well. Eventually our toes got to cold and we had to hunt through the dark for our shoes. After much strenuous searching we found them in a neatly folded pile on the walk, our shoes paired up. My right heel with his left shoe and vice versa. We blinked at them. "Did you do that?" I wondered, knowing he hadn't. "No." On closer inspection there was a small piece of paper held under Edward's right shoe. Good luck Edward. Rosebud Edward's expression was unbelievably tender. When I asked him about it, all he said was, "Rose had never approved of Mrs. X."

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If it made Edward happy, then I was happy too. Edward tenderly folded the small piece of ripped parchment and put it in his pocket. We hurried into the house when a soft downpour of rain had started. "Do you mind if I call Alice to get some clothes...shoot." I muttered when I realized that I hadn't been there to do the laundry all week, and all my clean clothes had gone into my duffle bag when I left. I doubted that Alice would have done the laundry. For as much as Alice loved clothes, she loathed laundry. "What?" Edward asked, shaking the rain out of his hair with his hands. I was momentarily distracted by the action. I shook my head of the daze, scattering drops of rain while I did. "I don't have any clothes." Edward gave me the one second finger and disappeared into his room. He came back with a pair of draw string sweat pants and a t-shirt. "Sorry, they'll be too big." He apologized. I took them thankfully, "I rather them big then small." I said, gesturing at my tiny outfit. Edward snickered at something I said. "I hope so." I thought I heard him murmur under his breath, but when I looked at him again he looked angelic, blinking innocently at me. I shook my head and got changed into his clothes. I had to wrap the draw string around my waist once and then tie it for the sweats to stay up and I had to roll the bottoms up so I didn't trip, but other than that they were comfortable. I might just start stealing his clothes. I walked out with Alice's clothes folded carefully. Edward was sitting on the floor in front of the DVD rack, looking for something to watch. I sat down with him, glad to have fabric separation between my legs again. Edward looked me over appreciatively. "I think I like you in my clothes." He said quietly, a small smile pulling at his lips. I grinned. "Good. I like to wear them." Edward smiled hugely, "I'm serious. You might not get these back." I warned him. He shook his head, then leaned it on my shoulder as we looked through the DVDs. "Do you really want to watch a movie tonight?" I wondered, not finding anything particularly appealing on the covers. Edward shrugged. "I'm open to alternatives." "I'm apt to wasting time on the couch." Edward smiled, "Sounds good. I am a little hungry again though." He stood up, "You want anything?" "Nope. I stuffed myself during dinner." I couldn't understand how Edward could eat so much. He must have been fasting for months in preparation for the feast. Edward came back out of the kitchen later with a bag of crackers and a bottle of peanut butter. This was going to be good...

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Twenty minutes later I had a stop watch in my hand while Edward tried to choke down ten crackers in under a minute with out a drink. He choked. I took pity on him and threw him the water bottle. He stubbornly refused the water, determined to finish the dare. I rolled my eyes and took the water bottle onto my lap, waiting for him to either choke to death or give up. He managed to force the lump of what used to be crackers down. "Ha!" He exclaimed proudly, taking a long swig of water. I looked at the watch. "Ten seconds late. Sorry Edward." Edward sighed in disappointment, turning and laying his head on my lap. "So what would have been your plans for tonight if I hadn't dragged you here for this action packed night?" I rolled my eyes. "Alice is actually ceremonially torching my sheets as we speak. I think we might have burned the bed afterwards too, but that's a two person job." Edward chuckled quietly, and then sighed. "Sorry about Millie Edward. I never should have made you go out with her. It was a stupid idea." I apologized. Edward sat up, "No it wasn't Bella. I wasn't thrilled about it, but I learned what you wanted me to." I looked guiltily into my lap. No matter what he said, this was my fault. I had set the whole fiasco up without even knowing it. Edward read my face easily. "Hey," he murmured softly, taking my face in his hands so I had to look at him. "I'm not angry at you Bella." He smiled a sad smile. "How could I? You are the most important thing to me now. The most important thing to me ever." I suddenly felt very dizzy. The sponge in the back of my mind throbbed. I touched my head, leaning into Edward, breathing through my mouth. "Bella?" Edward asked worriedly. I shook my head, sitting back up. "I'm fine. I think I just need to go lay down, it's been a long week." I mumbled. Edward scooped me easily into his arms and lay me down gently on his bed. He got in beside me, lying on top of the covers rather then underneath with me. "You don't need to go to bed now if you don't want to." I mumbled almost incoherently. The throbbing in my head seemed to pull me into unconsciousness rather then keeping me awake. Edward shushed me and then I was out. That night I dreamed I was looking through a pane of glass into a separate room. What I was looking at was Edward. His smile was radiant, I had never seen him so happy while his arm was extended, curling awkwardly around nothing. There must have been hidden speakers somewhere in the room where I stood because I could hear with perfect recall bits and pieces of mine and Edward's conversations, each of them echoing around the room, one after

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the other. "Please Edward? At least tell me what she looks like." "She has long brown hair. All the way down to the small of her back. Full lips, very big expressive eyes." A shape started to form in his arms. She was obviously female with long brown hair that it flowed down her back like liquid night, beautiful and glossy. Her lips were large and full, and always looked on edge of turning up into a smile. Her eyes were big too; they smiled though I couldn't see their colour. They were empty of colour but they reflected her every thought as clearly as if she had spoken them. I realized with sudden clarity that this was Mrs. X being constructed before my eyes. Instead of mine and Edward's voice echoing around in my head, I was surprised to hear my mother's. "But I love your eyes sweet heart. You're my open book." I remembered how Renee had laughed while I blushed awkwardly in front of Phil, who had been her nice new boyfriend at the time. "What colour?" Me again, asking Edward. "I can't tell you that." "Fine then tell me what you can." I had sighed. There had been a pause as he thought. "She's short, fair skin. Absolutely beautiful." The girl in his arms took those characteristics. Except for the last part. Even from the small things I could see about her, she was beyond beautiful. Gorgeous. "She's smart, kind, caring, brave, compassionate, understanding..." and I could see more then that on her. I could see the shallow lines, hardly visible around her mouth that suggested patience; there was a kindness about her, how soft her eyes were, though they remained devoid of colour. "...and feisty." Edward's voice finished, and then my dream started to spin, turn. I was suddenly dizzy as the girl's eyes were suddenly filled in. They weren't green or blue or grey or even hazel. They were brown. She was shorter then I expected, her head coming just bellow his shoulder. Her body was thin, petite and she had subtle curves. Her top lip became just a little too big, too full to march the bottom lip, her nose too thin to balance either of them out. With a shock I saw myself in the window-the mirror-and was also abruptly aware of a warmth wrapped around my waist. Edwards arm was around me, his face proud, happy. My face showed all my shock, then hurt, and then as the true meaning of all this hit me. Horror. I was Mrs. X.

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Despite all the emotions running wild through me, turning the world upside-down, shaking it off it's axis, I was able to notice that even as this perfect figure turned into me, into something I had previously seen everyday and labelled as plain, stayed beautiful. She stayed beautiful, I realized, because this was how I looked through Edward's eyes. All the conversations between the two of us started to speed up. All the clues set free from the sponge in my head. I saw now why my mind had been keeping this all from me. If I had received each of these facts on their own, I would have pushed them away, not believing them. I had bided my time, waiting to unleash a full out invasion on myself. Either way I was going to lose. "What are you doing spending all your time with me when you should be trying to be with her?" He sighed, "I'm working on it." And then when we had been sitting together on the couch in his dorm, "I just realized that if it was Mrs. X sitting here, I wouldn't tell her that I loved her. If this had been a real date, I couldn't tell her how I felt." Other conversations that hadn't been significant at the time started to fill the room, coming at me from all sides until the evidence was unavoidable and inescapable. And then the conversation that had started this whole dream, that had given me the key to unlock the knowledge from the placed I had hidden away in the back of my mind, had given me that one last piece of the puzzle to put it all together echoed around the room. "You're the most important thing to me now. The most important thing to me ever." Edward leaned down, his face jubilant and bright. The light in his eyes was the sun and I couldn't seem to look away from it. He whispered one more thing in my ear, in the same moment the same words echoed through my head. The words from the restaurant on our first date. "I love you." Chap 22 Our doubts Are Traitors Teeny Tiny Twilight My eyes flashed open to Edward's dark room. I sat up, my back ramrod straight, hands shaking. The dream replayed behind my eyes, flashing with more proof of this new idea that struck me to my core and spun my world off its axis. I slowly became aware of another presence beside me, and then nearly jumped out of my skin when Edward sighed, turning over in the bed. I stared at him for a long time. There was this new-new but impossible-idea that started to form that Edward, the Edward that I had slowly grown to love in the last two weeks could be mine.

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Then a million other thoughts bombarded me before I could fully roll the idea around, distracting me with their darker ideas, throwing the room into a sinister light. I shook Edward roughly, "Edward. Edward get up." He groaned, turning his head into the pillow and blowing out a long breath. I shook him again and he sat up, rubbing tired eyes that didn't seem quite able to open fully. "Wha-Bella?" He rubbed his eyes, then half propped himself up on his elbow, looking concernedly with eyes that were more asleep than awake. "What's wrong?... Is your head bothering you?" he was hardly coherent, and I quickly checked behind me for the time. Two thirty in the morning. "No, my head ache is gone." My voice came out sounding half hysterical. I took a deep breath, trying to calm down. "Edward, how many letters are in Mrs. X's name?" My voice was calmer, almost sane though I couldn't help the way Mrs. X made my lips curl. Edward rubbed his face, "Uhh...nine?" his lips moved silently as he counted, and then he nodded to himself. "Nine." "Oh, you mean like B-E-L-L-A S-W-A-N?" I counted each letter off on my fingers, showing him my fingers when I'd finished counting. Edward was suddenly far from sleep. "Oh, shit." I threw the covers back and got out of bed. That was all the confirmation I needed. Edward jumped out of bed too fast and stumbled into his desk, looking dizzy and not quite awake yet. "Wait, Bella." I ignored him and sat on the couch, waiting for him to follow me. I really wished I had my own clothes instead of wearing Edward's right about now. Better than that, I wished that my world didn't revolve around Edward. That would make things so much easier. Edward was close on my heals, he sat down beside me. I looked stormily down at my hands as he collected himself. "You weren't supposed to find out until tomorrow." He murmured quietly. I nodded towards the clock ticking casually on the wall, "its tomorrow." Edward rubbed his face, taking a deep breath through his nose. "I'm sorry Bella, when I first realized how much I wanted you, you absolutely loathed me. If I had told you then...you would have just said no and left it at that, so I made up Mrs. X." "How long?" "Since before you left. Since I got sick." I shook my head, "Edward," I groaned quietly. "Why? Why couldn't you have picked someone else?"

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Edward's voice was soft. "You can't control who you fall in love with." Unbelievably, he had the nerve to rub my back. To touch me at all. I shrugged him off. "You know what Edward? I don't believe you." I finally turned my glare on him. "Bella listen-" "No, you listen Edward. I've always been here, and it seems every time I turn my back, even for a second, you're off chasing after another girl." I stood up. "I think you need to get your priorities straight, because obviously love doesn't rank very high for you. I let it slip when it was Mrs. X, because that was a new person, she would be smart enough to give you a try, and if you still hadn't gotten your act together, then I had done what I could. This isn't the same. Not at all." "I really like you Edward." I murmured, hesitating in the doorway. Edward's arm reached out over my head, softly closing the door. "Don't go. We can still be friends, right? Until I can show you how much you do mean to me Bella. Please don't go." I turned and Edward's face was heart breaking in intensity its pain, of its vulnerability. A soft sob escaped my throat, followed by another as I shook my head. He pulled me into his chest and I let him. I cried for the deceit, cried for Edward's loss as much as mine. I cried for the shoulder I couldn't cry on anymore. When I pulled away there were streaks of moisture down Edward's eyes. He wiped them away quickly, his voice breaking as he plead with me for something I wanted just as much as he did. "Please?" Every great choice, mistake, success...each of them have a half way point, a split second when the future stops second guessing itself and becomes the sure present, and then turns into the past. Joyous of sorrowful all depended on that one moment in time where the decision was made. For better or for worse. This was that moment. "No, Edward. I'm sorry." I opened the door again and made it out. Edward didn't follow me, but I heard a light thump followed shortly after with a heart wrenching sob that very accurately painted the picture of my pain. The rain that had started just as we were going into Edward's flat had picked up in the night and I was soon drenched. I cut across the grass, still bare foot since I didn't have any shoes, but the grass didn't feel anywhere near as nice as it had before. The grass suddenly felt too sharp, too hard and cutting against my skin. I felt vulnerable and week and cowardly. I ran. I ran through the cold, and the rain and the wind until I couldn't feel the hot tears where they mingled with the bitter rain. I hadn't noticed where I had been running until I got there. The tree where Edward and I had sat down together. I stopped running; instead I slowed until I stopped under the tree. I sat in the rain and looked out on the cold night. The water that had shimmered with life and love and hope was black and cold.

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Even as the rain poured in little torrents down my face, I didn't feel like I was getting washed clean. My bones felt hollow, not light; instead they felt like they had filled with thick heavy iron. Eventually I had to remember that there had been many more girls before me that had had Edward break their hearts, hollow out their bones, and left them wondering what the hell happened. So I got up. I didn't run as I went back to my own place. Alice let me in, grumbling as she came to open the door for her unexpected night visitor. When she saw me, drenched and sniffling she threw her arms around me. I struggled limply. "I'll get you wet." I mumbled. "I can change my clothes." I felt like a moron now, everyone had been in on it except for me, and now that I was really letting myself see all the evidence, it was all glaringly obvious. It was good in the fact that I didn't have to explain to Alice what had happened. She fetched me some of my comfy clothes, not wrinkling her nose once at them, and let me shower, staying up though she could barely keep her head up for when I came out. We ended up falling asleep together on the couch, Alice's bed head tucked onto my shoulder while my arms were wrapped around her. As I was falling asleep a passage of Shakespeare's writings-I couldn't remember which it was in my somnolent state-came to me. Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt. The words were just too close to home right now, and I couldn't stand to even watch them in my head, let alone contemplate them further, so I pushed them back into my subconscious for a time when the wounds didn't sting so much. Shakespeare slept for a long time. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"When you listen carefully, you get to hear everything you didn't want to hear in the first place." --Sholom Aleichem -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A/N: For all of you who expected Bella to run into Edward's arms screaming "OMG, I LOVE YOU, TOO!" I'm sorry. There is just one chapter left before the epilogue, and if you could not hate me for this chapter, that would be great.

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I promise, I won't deny you your happy ending. And for QtGirl who "would just die and go to heaven" this is to you ;) you and everyone else who had reviewed has really inspired me along the way when I probably would have other wise been distracted by something shiny in the distance. ^_^ over 100 reviews for just this chapter! It means the world and more to me. Thank you! ^_^ For all of you who don't understand why Bella didn't run into Edward's arms before, i hope an (awsome) review from trutwilightfantasy can explain it better then i can: "Well hell. Seriously, you'd have to be completely dense or lack in your own self worth, to just run in the arms of someone like Edward. People like that will tear you apart inside, and good looks aren't worth that heartache! I completely agree with everything Bella said to him. I mean, how would he feel if the situation was reversed? No one with any common sense would want to be in that position. Deceit cuts like a freakin knife and the loss leaves you cold and hollow and the lack of the shoulder that you'd rather be your comfort leaves you in the lonliest place in existance, because there is no one else in that moment who could fill that void. Yeah, I believe I'd run away too." If you still have questions, please feel free to review me, even if it's just to flame. ^_^ thanks for reading and putting up with all my twists. Chap 23 Twilight Teeny Tiny Twilight "Things don't go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be." – Charles Jones I had a long weekend with Alice. She had expected to have had me over at Edward's all weekend; they had worked this out in advance apparently. I wasn't angry at Alice, or anyone else for keeping this from me. I had kept it from myself just as much as they had. Besides, none of my friends would betray the other intentionally, and going against Edward's wishes and telling me would have definitely been a betrayal of the worst kind. Though Alice and Jasper were very sympathetic and never once made me feel like they didn't want me there, this was their time. I tried to keep from being underfoot as much as possible. There is only so much sympathy someone can take, especially when the living example of things done right, of relationships that bloomed into love, was standing right there as evidence of my own failure. My problem with trying not to be underfoot was that I didn't have anywhere else to be. My best friend, couldn't even be called that now. I didn't even think we were friends. Just another failed relationship with Edward Cullen. The only difference was that this time I took from him just as much as he had taken from me. I wasn't the only one mourning.

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The very worst part of this was that it wasn't just one heart break. It was two. I had wanted this perfect love, this fairy tail that would give both Edward and his other a happy ending that sang from the rocks and cried it's truth and integrity from the deepest depths of the ocean just as much as Edward had. It was supposed to have been earth shattering. This love was supposed to have been for me too, because surely just to be in the presence of such a deep and fulfilling fervour would satisfy even the hungriest of souls. I knew now that I was never meant to find love. I was the other in the great scheme of love. The non-necessity. I felt like a dead planet-empty and only useful for consuming vacant space. I wanted to play football with my friend, wanted to run with him until he begged for mercy, wanted to have a sleep over and joke and play until we passed out on his bed. I wanted to dance in the rain. When Monday rolled around, I dragged myself out of bed. Alice picked my clothes out for me, and I poked myself in the eye with my tooth brush. When we walked outside, there was a folded pile of clothes with high heels on top. It took me a moment to match the clothes to the ones I had left at Edward's house. I ran inside to get Edward's clothes, feeling like a slob for not having washed them this weekend. I dragged Edward's clothes out from under the bed where I had stuffed them before. After a dreary first period, I stalled as long as I could with Alice, walking her to class and even going so far as to strike up a conversation with one the teacher that used to be my second period teacher. He never really liked me, and his thick germen accent was hard to understand. I usually mistook his words for him clearing his throat. Eventually I understood the alien language enough to know he was telling me to get to my next class. Edward was sitting in his desk, his eyes trained on the door. I was instantly locked in his green gaze, and even when I looked down at my feet, I could still feel his stare. They probed with apology and beseeching intensity that pulled extra moisture into my eyes. I blinked it away when I sat down, staring at the front so he wouldn't read my face. I had another four classes of this. "Bella..." he sounded like he had rehearsed this, made sure that everything came out perfectly. I hadn't had the mind to do that, and when he reached over to touch my hand, I flinched away and pushed his bag of clothes at him, making a wall between us to protect myself. Edward looked at his clothes for a second, then back at me. "Keep them." "I don't want them."

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"But I thought you said-" "I don't want them!" My voice couldn't hold its composure this time, and a sob broke though. A few tears escaped, and I fought to keep them in. The pain in my heart was spreading like a disease; it crawled up my throat, rotting and destroying every healthy tissue in my body so everything ached. Edward didn't give me his discourse; he took the clothes with out another word and looked forward towards the board. I did the same, and continued to do so through out all the classes we shared. Every once and a while I would catch Edward staring at me out of my peripheral vision. The same with the next day. And the next. Thursday, when I came into class, trying not to meet Edward's eyes that still implored for me to pretend that everything was normal between us, begged for me to take him back and be his friend again when I couldn't even look at him for too long with out crying. Edward wasn't looking towards me though. He was staring down at his hands in a frustrated way. His fingers were twined on the desk, his brows pulled together like he was looking at someone else's hands, trying to will them to part with just his concentration. He didn't look at me when I sat down. He spoke to his hands. "Bella?" I opened my binder, doodling mindlessly as an excuse to not look at him either. "Yea?" He paused for a short second and my pencil pressed harder into the paper in stress to what he was about to say. "Would you feel more comfortable if I switched my schedule around?" Shocked, I looked up at him, my pencil dropped to the page unnoticed. "What?" He was looking at me too, face smooth as glass. Even his eyes were covered by the same even mask the rest of his face wore. "I could change my schedule around so we wouldn't have to be in the same classes. Would you want that?" I looked at him doubtfully, "I think...I think that would be better." I measured each of my words carefully, not sure what he was trying to do. I continued to scrutinize his face, but it was unreadable. He nodded, then stood up from his desk and kissed the top of my head. I jerked away from his lips when I felt the soft pressure on the crown of my head. Edward's eyes were the only thing that broke through of the calm façade, and for just one short second, they were agonized. The mask was back when he went to the front of the class room to speak to the teacher briefly before exiting the class. His feet dragged. Edward came back in third period, and for the rest of the day he watched me discreetly, shooting me

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inconspicuous glances every once and a while, and when I caught him once, his gaze had been so intent on my face, it had made me think he was trying to memorize my features. I spiralled in the guilt and depression for the rest of the day. Hurting Edward was like taking a blade to my own wrists, it was sadistic in the most masochistic ways. And yet, I couldn't justify the pain-even to myself-that I would bring us both by accepting him. I wished I could persuade myself into thinking that if I did accept him, regardless of the girls, and the lies that things would just fall perfectly into place and we could be happy until Edward found someone else that interested him. Everything he had done in the last week though had only shown me that he wasn't ready, and he hadn't learned his lessons. I couldn't knowingly walk into something like that with out looking over my shoulder constantly, waiting for the next catastrophe. Friday Edward wasn't in any of my classes. None, except fourth hour biology. I tried to quell the small blooming of happiness that started. I squashed it quickly, not willing to acknowledge that I had been looking at Edward's empty desk all through second and third. It worked though, I felt more secure in my classes. Secure in my decision. Vulnerable in every other aspect. Edward misinterpreted my self chastising, for frustration. "Sorry." He murmured, he was watching me again in that same intense way. "They couldn't switch me out of biology." "Don't worry about it." I murmured, doodling in my book again. "So," Edward murmured, "I guess you don't want me at your basketball practices either." I shrugged my pencil hesitation on the page before starting again. "Coach is getting harsh with all his visitor rules now that we're getting farther in the season." I muttered as a pathetic excuse. "Don't worry about it." Edward quoted me in a whisper, seeing through my excuse effortlessly. When I looked up anxiously to asses the damage his face was smooth again, watching the front of the class. We were worse then strangers over the next few weeks. Unlike strangers sometimes did, we didn't even make small talk. Edward would smile at me when I walked into class, and I back at him politely. I kept my eyes from Edward and Edward returned the courtesy, though I sometimes felt his quick eyes on me now and again. It was useless to believe that I was slowly moving on from Edward, that I was working past the love I felt for him. There was nothing farther then the truth. I missed him daily, and when I got my bed back-new sheets-I was free to cry myself silently to sleep with out worrying about disturbing Alice. One day when I was walking down the hall after the last bell had rang, I saw Edward down the hall, nearing the door. There was a smaller girl behind him, trying to balance her bag on her frail shoulder. Edward opened the door for her, smiling at her as she passed. For one moment I thought she was his new girlfriend. Edward was never usually so chivalrous unless there was a reason. But she gave him a surprised look, a bright thank you smile, and then carried on her way. Edward was about to pass through the door too until he saw me. He smiled at me, holding the door out as I passed him. "Thank you." I murmured, looking at the ground as I

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passed. Last night had been especially bad, as was the trend that had formed, each day worse then the last. The raw lashing at my heart had kept me crying for almost two hours before I fell into a fitful sleep. As I passed, I felt Edward's lips press softly atop my head. Three days later we had an assembly. I came in with my class, and a small group of girls in hearing distance were discussing the latest gossip. I was only half listening while my eyes automatically searched the gymnasium-along the organized rows of chaotic students, some standing and some sitting-for the unusual bronze hair that distinguished Edward no matter how populated the area. My eyes caught him sitting in a row with what I assumed was his new class. At the same moment one of the girls said Edward's name. They instantly had my automatic attention. "Did you hear about what happened with Lauren Mallory and Edward Cullen?" on of the girls asked in a subdued malignant way. My ears perked while my eyes stayed locked on the back of Edward's head. "No," one of the girls answered for me, "What? Are they together?" The first girl laughed, "Lauren wishes." A sudden burst of laughter exploded from a group of boys near us, and I had to strain to hear the rest. "Apparently Edward came home yesterday and Lauren was laying naked in his bed!" My eyes popped open. "No!" one of the girls giggled, "Did they...you know?" she let her sentence trail off suggestively. I was tense, waiting for the answer, my eyes boring into the back of Edward's head. It's not my problem anymore, I reminded myself. A girl was heading across the row where Edward sat, and he got up to give her his chair. He looked like he was going to position himself at a less convenient spot when he caught me looking at him. Even from this distance, I saw his eyes brighten. I looked quickly away, staring instead at the group of girls. "No, get this, he just told her to get out. His room mate...you know Alice McCarty's brother? Apparently Edward didn't even try anything or even curse at her." One of the other girls interrupted. "I would have." She muttered, sullen that the story hadn't turned violent. The first girl continued, more excited then before now that she had a captive audience. "That's not even the best part. He gave her his jacket so she wouldn't have to streak across the campus to get back to her dorm." I stared at the girls with awe. It seemed too hard to believe that Edward would pass up easy sex when he had no ties, nothing to prove. More then that, he would have been angry with Lauren-because there was no way she didn't argue with him-and he would without a doubt made her walk home in her shame. I hadn't been paying attention, too caught up in my thoughts, but it occurred to me belatedly that the girls in the group were staring at me, and I realized I had been caught eavesdropping.

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My cheeks heated, and then a pair of lips pressed softly on the crown of my head, dispelling the notion that the girls stared at me. Startled, I turned around in time to see Edward's retreating figure. So he had been listening to the girls too. And I made sense of Edward's kisses. Each one was for me, a subtle message for his good deeds. I saw now what each kiss said. Because I love you Every time I saw his good deeds, he reminded me why he did them with just a simple kiss. Hope and a prickle of fear fluttered in my chest. I watched Edward more closely over the next few days, saw him in the halls, saw the girls that approached him and I metaphorically writhed in my want to approach him too, to ask him why. I had thought he had given up, so this new because I love you game didn't make any sense to me. I wasn't the only one noticing his sudden change in character, and soon Edward's reputation took a sharp one-eighty. He went from the heartless womanizer to the new age gentleman that opened doors and pulled out chairs for the women he used to exploit. Along with his new reputation came the new admirers. The girls who used to approach Edward had traded in their mini-skirts for clothes that were elegant and dignified, they looked smart and sure and mature. These were the girls I would have approved of, this was the group I had expected Mrs. X to have come from. Their pace was sure with undertones of a libidinousness that saturated their every move; their speech was inundated with sensuality. Edward smiled at them politely but he looked past them as if they were everyday women that were merely talking about mundane things. If he could, I saw him try to escape with out getting their numbers. Every once and a while they managed to corner him until he took the numbers with an air of graciousness. One night, Alice and I were sprawled out on the floor, talking about nothing in particular when there was a soft knock at our door. I got up to answer the door, and when I opened it, Edward was standing there, smiling at me with a warmth that was never present when he looked at the other girls. The beautiful ones with symmetrical faces and feminine bodies that swayed with the most natural sensuality. Wordlessly, Edward handed me an envelope and then kissed the top of my head. He smiled once, then disappeared back down the hall and out of sight. I stood, stunned in the door way until I regained enough of myself to close the door and go back into the living room. "What's that?" Alice asked, she was looking at me upside down from her place on the floor. She was laying on her back with her un touched science book laying beside her. "I'm not sure. Edward dropped it off." I murmured. It didn't feel like there was a letter in the envelope, but something that gave way like light sand or dust under my fingers was inside, collected at the bottom.

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I shrugged at Alice, and then opened it. It was full of ash. I blinked, confused as to why he would give this to me before I identified a thin rectangular piece of paper. I fished it out, taking a closer look at it to see what it was. There were a series of numbers on it with half of a charred name. Edward had burnt all their numbers. I started dumbfounded at the envelope. Finally Alice became frustrated by my silence and demanded that I tell her what the hell I was gaping at. "He...rejected them." I murmured to her, "Alice you should have seen those other girls." I shook my head in wonder at this. Edward was changing before my eyes in ways I had never expected. Alice looked at me for a long moment, then her eyes lit up and she squealed. The next day in biology I spoke for the first time in two months. "Hey Edward." I murmured as I sat down next to him. Edward smiled up at me, perfectly polite when I deserved nothing more then for him to spit on me. "Hello." He waited curiously for me to organize my thoughts. "So, I was wondering if you wanted to, maybe come to basketball practice." I wondered, looking intently at my hands. "If you're not busy." I added quickly as an afterthought. I looked up to see Edward smile. "I'd love to." He murmured with a quiet intensity that made the walls shimmer. It took me a moment to realize I wasn't breathing. After gym last period, I changed quickly and hurried out of the locker room before any of the other boys had even started to come in to change. Edward was already sitting on the bleachers, the books from his last period beside him on the bench. He had come right here after his last class, not even bothering with his locker. It felt like we were starting over, doing things right this time. The thought warmed my heart and the picture of Alice and Jasper flashed through my mind. That image was instantly drown in other less appealing images. The anger that had made his face a stranger to me when he stormed out of the house after Millie had cheated on him. The far away look he had gotten when Millie had offered herself to him. Other's swirled and cancelled out the original happy picture of me standing where Alice was and Edward in Jasper's place. And then Jared saw Edward on the bleachers. Instantly Jared's accusing yells were echoing around the gym painfully loud, brining me out of my reverie. "What the hell do you think you're doing here?" Jared stormed across the gym throwing his bundled basketball uniform on the floor. "What right do you have to be here after what happen? She told you to get lost, why not take that advice?" Jared snarled.

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Jared was yelling right in Edward's face, and Edward stood up. He towered over Jared, his face had lost the peaceful look it had taken on in the last two months, eyes burning with righteous anger. Jared's voice dropped, his voice low and sure in its conviction. "You never deserved her." Edward's fist pulled back, ready to snap forward into Jared's face that was just as twisted in wrath as his own. Then for just one short moment, Edward's eyes flickered to my face and he froze. I tried to see what he was seeing by feeling my face from the inside. I was looking at them both in shocked horror, my whole body tensed in distress. Edward slowly lowered his fist back to his side, straightening up and the peaceful look returned as he watched me. Jared didn't look at me, and he took Edward's moment of distraction as an opportunity. His fist snapped forward connecting with the side of Edward's head. I gasped and found my feet, running forward. Edward had staggered backwards and I-again-waited for him to launch his own attack. My Edward would have beaten Jared into a bloody pulp right now. He should be mulch in the garden. Instead Edward straightened again, and suddenly a ridiculous grin stretched across his face. It was an expression of victory rather then what should have been a grimace of defeat. Edward stood tall, and even though I knew that if Edward wanted he could destroy Jared. Edward was the epitome of anger and vengeance when he had been wronged. He was the dark destroying angel that delivered justice, even more terrifying when he had been the one offended. Edward's look was serine, and he looked down at Jared, not like he was above Jared, but like he was not a part of the scene at all. He looked like none of this touched him. His gaze was understanding. Jared didn't want to be understood. He launched himself at Edward, his blue eyes cold and hard in the heat of his anger. "Stop smiling!" he roared at Edward. He knocked them both to the floor, his fists unrelenting on Edward. I ran at them, "No, stop!" I yelled, running towards clash of what used to be my friends. From what I could see, Edward wasn't even trying to fight back. His arms were raised protectively in front of his face, bit he made no other move to defend himself. I tugged uselessly on Jared's shoulder until Seth came running at our raucousness. Seth was able to pull Jared off Edward. Jared shrugged harshly out of Seth's hold, glaring down at Edward with so much hatred it pounded inside my head painfully. "Are you insane?" I gasped at Jared as I dropped to the floor near Edward's head. He had a hand lightly cupping his nose and I could see he had split his lip.

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"I'm going to take Edward to the office for some ice." I said my head spinning from the blood. I breathed through my mouth, ignoring the churning in my stomach. I couldn't think through the panic and confusion. Why hadn't Edward fought back? Why hadn't he done something to get Jared off him? It wouldn't have been seen as fighting on Edward's end, it would have just been self defence. Edward stood up on his own; I could see some of the blood where he had been trying to block it from my sight. Edward shook his head, looking like he was trying to clear it, and I wanted to fix him quickly. I was in a rush to get him to the office where we could get him some ice and to have an expert opinion on whether we should take him to the hospital to see if he had a concussion. I lead him towards the office, scrutinizing his movement carefully to see if anything was off that would signify a head injury. Nothing seemed too off about Edward other then his surprisingly humoured expression like this was all so amusing. Maybe he did have a head injury. "What are you smiling at?" I demanded. Nothing about this was even remotely comical to me. Edward chuckled, and then grimaced when that hurt. I started to walk us faster. That along with the woozy feeling I was getting from the blood made me stager drunkenly for a moment. Edward's smile disappeared. "Whoa, carefully there. You okay?" I looked at him incredulously. "Am I okay? Did you just seriously..." I shook my head at him, not understand what had made him take such a drastic one-eighty change. "Stop distracting me." Edward laughed, and I saw his shoulders tense in pain. I winced for him. "I'm distracting you?" he asked, his eyebrows shooting up in disbelief while he battled a smile that was twisting his cut lip crookedly. We walked into the office then, Mrs. Cope, the secretary behind the counter with a flaming head of perfectly curled shot hair gasped at the sight of Edward. "Oh my," her hands fluttered over her desk of scattered documents. "We had a bit of a scuffle in the gym. We just need an ice pack." He assured her. I watched his face carefully, looking for any signs of distress, but all I found was a slight twist of his features that told me he was uncomfortable. Mrs. Cope nodded, hurrying around the desk to lead us to the clearly marked nurse's office. Edward walked in the door, startling the nurse. I walked in with him, my eyes flickering around the room, eyeing the needles wearily. "There are cloths in the cabinet there if you would like to clean your face. I'm going to get some ice, I'll be right back." The flustered nurse gestured towards one of the many cabinets that lined the right wall above the counter with a small square stainless steel sink before disappearing where Mrs. Cope had gone. "Sit down." I told him, looking at him until he did as I asked. He sighed, but sat down on the crinkly wax paper. I turned and grabbed a cloth from the faux wood cabinet and soaked it in warm water. I was initially going to clean the blood off myself, but when I turned around and saw just how much there was, I could only hand the cloth to him while the room spun sickeningly around me.

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I flopped into one of the chairs beside the examination table, trying to calm down and breath deeply. The chair let out a huff of air, clearing my head of the salt and rust smell of blood. I closed my eyes while he stained the white face cloth red. "Why didn't you defend yourself?" I demanded when I could glare at him with out my stomach churning. Edward didn't answer. Instead he stood up from the examination table and came over to me. I was momentarily distracted by the relief that his nose and lip weren't bleeding anymore to really realize what he was doing until I felt his lips, soft and warm, press to the top of my head. I dropped my head into my hands. "No." I moaned into them. I heard a whoosh of air from the cheap plastic padded chair beside me as he sat down. The antiseptic smell saturated the air around us. "What did I do?" Edward asked, his calm had turned into a desperate disappointment. He thought he had made me happy by letting himself be hurt. This realization brought with it the liability of what had happen onto me. I raised my head to look at him, "What justifiable excuse is there for letting Jared do this to you?" my face twisted as the reality that he had hurt himself because of me really dawned. I was a horrible person for ever letting it get this far. "I didn't think you would want me to hurt your friend. I thought this would make you happy." Edward brought the cloth to his face again when the blood started to trickle again, not fully bled out yet. I looked at him disbelievingly, "No, Edward. Defend yourself. That will make me happy." Edward raised an eyebrow. "So if Jared hits me again for attending another one of your practices...?" "Feel free to clock him." After that time in the nurse's office, not much had changed between us though I saw Edward desperately wanted that when I saw him in biology the next day his eyes brightening at me. Even the black one. There was still an uncomfortable air between us. Edward was too careful around me; he measured his words and actions while I tried in subtle ways to make him stop chasing. There was still so much doubt on my end, and far too much regret on Edward's end for the air to be clear between us. Edward's face turned resigned when he read the apology in my eyes, not nearly as bright as I assessed the dark mark that started on his cheek bone and lead up to his left eye, engulfing it in a bluish-purple colour. He continued to attend my practices. When the football season was coming to a close, I attended the last big game that they had. It was being held at our school, and Edward was playing beautifully on familiar ground. He had just scored a touchdown and had turned his excited face towards the crowd, receiving the cheers from all the fans that stood in the bleachers.

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His eyes scanned the crowd for a moment, then his face dropped in disappointment when whatever he was looking for hadn't been found. I had been hiding like the coward I was behind two larger boys, it had just been too much to see how much it hurt him to think I wasn't here to cheer him on. I stood on the bleachers and screamed. "Go Edward!" at the top of my lungs. The boys beside me moved a little when I nearly took their ear drums out. But they were boys so I didn't get any dirty looks like I might have had it been girls. Like I would have had it been girls. Edward finally celebrated his touch down with a dance that had me, and half the crowd here cracking up. Edward met my eyes again, and even from where I stood, I could see through the helmet's protective cage that he was smiling hugely at me. I smiled back. It was impossible to miss when the sun came out from behind the clouds. Edward was taking some of the advice I had given him, like watching fingers to see whether they were running or jumping. He also suddenly had expert knowledge about balance points that he had seen me use. Pride bloomed in my chest at the idea of him taking my advice. And I knew I was kidding myself. I wasn't Edward's friend now, not because I didn't trust him to be a friend, or more then that, but because I was scared of the idea of putting myself into such a vulnerable position. I had learned first hand how easily the power of love could be turned on you, used as a weapon that struck you again and again in relentlessly painful ways. Edward met my stare many times through his games, and with every point he scored he would look me in the eye and smile and I felt like I was celebrating with him. I sure acted like it. I danced on the bleachers and screamed my enthusiasm for him and the team. Alice was by the front of the crowd where she could see Emmett playing. She dragged me down to her seats which were closer to the field. Edward stole a routine glance at where I had been, and his face dropped dramatically when he didn't see me immediately. I rolled my eyes and stuck two fingers in my mouth, letting loose an ear splitting shriek of a whistle. Edward's head snapped towards me, and then he grinned as his team celebrated an interception that had turned into a touch down on their end. He jogged over to the fence, spitting out his mouth piece. "Hey Bella. Hey there Ali cat, I didn't see you there. Emmett will be happy to know you showed up." Edward secreted me a wink. Alice pouted. "But I'm right in the front row." "I guess we couldn't see you over the grass." Alice glared and stuck her tongue out at Edward in a display of her aggravation at the pique on her size. Edward grinned, and then looked at me. I raised an eyebrow. "Do I blend into the grass too?" I wondered

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playfully. Edward leaned against the fence, his hands crossed under his chin on the bar. "You? No, too pale." I rolled my eyes, smiling a little at his attempted jab. Edward's smile darkened and I knew I was in for some ribbing. "You're like a little china doll, so fragile." He sighed, then patted my head. I glared at him now. "You. Me. Flagpole. Three o'clock sharp." Edward chuckled, "I don't want to get beat up by a girl. Again. But I wouldn't mind meeting somewhere, for supper maybe? I know this perfect little place right off-" "Sorry." I mumbled, interrupting him quickly. "I'm...busy tonight. With school and...Alice and I are going into town for some winter clothes." I looked away from his eyes, ashamed by my own cowardice. Edward wasn't afraid. Edward didn't have a problem with putting himself out there. Edward didn't turn into a snivelling ball when he lay awake at night and thought about things he could fix if he just had the courage. Edward was silent for a long moment, and then he nodded, smiled and ran back out onto the field. Edward dealt well with rejection. I felt a sharp smack in my arm, and I turned surprised to see Alice glaring at me. "What's wrong with you? He just asked you out! You've been singing his praises about how much he has changes for the last few weeks, but you won't go out on a date with him despite all that? That's just depressing Bella. Just really, really sad." She looked at me stormily though I could see the hurt there too. Alice hated the sudden distance between Edward and me almost as much as Emmett did. Not to mention Rose who wasn't even talking to me anymore. I shrugged, digging the toe of my shoe into the earth as I avoided her eyes. Alice took a deep breath, "I'd say I was sorry-and I am-but just for hurting your feelings. Everything else is the truth and I don't regret that in the least. Maybe I wouldn't even get involved in this if you were just pushing Edward away, but your not. Your pushing everyone away Bella, and I hate it." I looked up to see that Alice was crying. Her huge blue eyes were filling with tears. I was surprised to find that my cheeks were suddenly wet. Warm tears slid silently down my cheeks as I saw how little I had been keeping from her. I wiped my eyes quickly. "I'm sorry Alice. I'll try...I'll try to give him more of a chance." And then I smiled half heartedly, "And if I push you away again feel free to smack me in the head." Alice gave a screeching war cry that somehow managed to carry the melody of her voice, and then she jumped on me, smacking the top of my head just hard enough so I could see she was attacking me with out actually hurting me. We both laughed on the ground where we had fallen, the tears still wet on our cheeks. I glanced across the field automatically to see that Edward and Emmett were looking at us like we were crazy.

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I guess we were. The rest of the game was okay, Edward didn't look at me as much, but when he did it was for celebration and I found myself relieved to find he wasn't angry. I was disappointed to find he was still trying. No, that wasn't true; I was disappointed that Edward was hurting himself. I hated myself for enjoying that someone had so much love for me. Even when all of this was nothing but Edward chasing his tail. And I had to stop kidding myself. I didn't doubt Edward, not anymore. Once, when Edward should have been doubted, I was doing the right thing. Now all I was doing was acting out of my spinelessness. Was I ready to hand Edward all my fears, all my insecurities and weaknesses. I would have to drop every wall I had erected around myself through all these years of cruel comments, and scatter brained mothers. I needed to be the mature one. I needed to be the strong one. If I gave that to Edward, what would I have to keep myself from falling apart, from being weak and loosing my dreams and future. What if Edward decided once he saw all my faults and saw how weak I was that he didn't want me? I would be the lost echo of some fragile silence. Worthless and forgotten instantly. I shook my head free of the thoughts. Edward would loose hope eventually and go with one of the better girls. The pretty ones that would be good for him. He would be happy, and I would be happy because he was. Just as I was considering this very empty, and pathetically appealing idea, I heard voices around the corner from where I was in the school hall. Alice had had to hand in an assignment that she had been procrastinating on for days after the game had ended and she had made sure that Emmett had in no way been harmed. She had somehow managed to worm her way into getting the teacher to extend the due date for her. She had been on her way to class when I had to visit the ladies room. I recognized the voice speaking almost immediately. "I don't understand why you're even wasting your time." Rose stated grumpily. I tried to push away the egotistical little voice in the back of my head that was sure she was talking about me. "Because there's nothing else I can do." I barely managed to catch Edward's pained whisper, and the sound lashed at my heart with all the divine retribution that had been coming to me since I had met him. Rose's voice became harder at the sound of Edward's suffering, and I knew that the anger was directed towards the one hurting him, and not him himself. "That's stupid Edward, it's not like she's allergic to you and she obviously doesn't hate you. She hated you before, and you managed to worm your way in." Edward snorted, and muttered something incoherent that almost sounded like a dry "Why thanks so much." Their footsteps stopped in the hall and my breath caught. Had they seen me? Heard me? The surety that what I was doing was wrong was suddenly compelling. I shouldn't be eavesdropping on Edward and Rose. Then Rosalie was talking again and I was momentarily distracted from my nagging conscience.

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"Edward, I'm so damn tired of seeing you so sad. I want you to be happy, and if that means that you have to follow her around until she breaks and is forced to just take you, then do it. Just be happy again." The soft footfalls of Edward's steps started again, and then Rosalie started to follow. "How would that ever make me happy? Bella would hate me if I ever did that to her." His voice took on a wry amusement. "Besides, when have you ever known Bella to be forced to do anything? No, I want...I need to do this right by Bella. I can do that for her at least." Rose seemed even more frustrated for a reason I didn't understand, her words coming more clipped. "So how much time are you willing to throw away? How many opportunities for real happiness are you going to let pass you by?" "I don't know Rose." Edward responded, his voice perfectly sincere. "For as long as it takes, or until I stop loving her. I can't be happy with anyone else until then." "You are such an idiot." Rose snapped, and I could hear her pick up the pace and storm off down the hall. Edward and I both sighed, and murmured in the same instant. "I know." I turned then, and left quietly, still undetected as Edward continued in the opposite direction. One thing I knew for certain now was I couldn't keep putting a wall between Edward and I, not if Edward was going to keep wasting his life on me. I'd like to think that I wasn't that selfish, but I was starting to wonder what horrible monsters fear made of people. The next day in biology when I was trying to remember the strong girl I had been before I met Edward, and what I should say to Edward that would make him stop squandering his time, the bell rang. I had no idea what had even been discussed in class today I was so caught up in my thoughts. It took me an extended minute to remember that the bell meant I was supposed to go to my next class. I sighed, and as I gathered my books, I noticed that Edward hadn't moved from his spot either. He was looking at me, waiting politely as he waited for something. He smiled a little. "Your really out of it aren't you?" I shrugged, a little surprised that he was so on the mark. I had expected his easy access into the depths of my mind to have diminished over the last few months. "I'm fine." Edward raised an eyebrow; his smile had grown until he was trying to hide it. "Really? So are you ignoring me then?" "No," I stuttered, blushing as I realized what he had been waiting for before. He had called me, and I hadn't even heard him. "Sorry, just thinking." He reached over and took my hand, turning it over so that he could trace the lines in my palm. "About what? You looked so sad." His smile had disappeared as he spoke, and I had a feeling that just as Edward's pain hurt me, more intense then even my own pain, Edward seemed to have a similar suffering through my grief. The teacher cleared his throat at the front of the room. When we turned to look at him, he looked very obviously at the clock hanging on the wall, then turned around and continued to write a note on the board for the next class. I stood, "I have to get to class, see you later." I mumbled, pulling my hand out of his delicately, wishing that he would leave me alone and take Rose's advice.

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Edward stood with me, his eyes still infiltrating the corners of my mind, trying to ferret out my fears. "I was actually wondering about that." Edward murmured quietly, and for one insane second I though he was answering my thoughts. "What?" Edward smiled, moving closer to me until my heart started to throb against my chest, reaching to touch him. "Can I walk you home?" He wondered softly. I took a step away from him. "I actually have basketball practice tonight-" Edward grinned, "I know. I was planning on being there again. I meant after practice." When he saw me trying to figure it out, the best way to go around with letting Edward out of my loop, his eyes softened. "It won't be a date or anything close to it Bella. I promise." "Sure." I nodded, then turned and left quickly before I could agree to anything else. It was horrible and selfish and just plain mean to let Edward keep trying. Part of me though, longed for the nights when Edward and I would lay sprawled across my floor doing homework while Alice typed, or phoned her beloved when Edward had his sitting across from him. I wanted my best friend back, and I was tired of weekends when I had to wander around campus instead of being with Edward, eating popcorn with sugar and running along the doughnut path around the football field. I wondered if we could ever go back. In math I stared at the new brilliant green flyer on the billboard that announced our new away game on Thursday evening. It was only a short basketball game at one of the schools out of our area. We would be staying at their school's branch off for the weekend instead of having to rent a hotel like last time. Mr. Courbour, asked me to come to the board to solve a math problem I didn't know, when I hadn't even had my hand up. Actually, I had been shrinking in my seat when he had asked for volunteers. So I was in a fowl mood when practice started after gym. I was one of the first in the change room as was the usual, and as I was leaving, I already knew Edward would be in his spot on the bench, his books beside him as they always were every practice. Ridiculously, he seemed too terrified to miss even one second of the practice, even to put his books away and organize his bag. I threw the basketball at him. He caught it, his face looked so surprised that it managed to chase my mood away. Only Edward seemed able to do that. I wondered how Edward could wake up in the mornings with his smile and perfect mood if he even felt close to how miserable I was. "You want to play a little before everyone gets here?" I wondered. So much for trying to push Edward out of my life. I was giving up slowly. Edward noticed my perturbed expression at that last thought. And he misinterpreted it. "Are you still angry at me Bella?" he wasn't demanding, or angry, merely enquiring though I thought I detected an undertone of dejection under the words.

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I suddenly had a perfect idea, one which would save Edward and kill me. I could tell him I was still angry about the whole incident, I could tell him that I could never forgive him for such a despicable deception of my good nature and trust. I could accuse him of being deceitful and devious and therefore no longer a suitable friend for me. I could tell him that I needed to trust my friends, and I couldn't trust him. I could lie. "I'm not angry. I haven't been angry for a long time." I murmured when I'd had all the intentions of lying to him. It had been that undertone of hidden suffering, the perfect sincerity he always had in his eyes whenever he spoke to me that had thrown me. "Oh," Edward murmured, looking down at the ball in his hands. He started to dribble it slowly, letting it bounce lazily off the floor then catching it again. "So, am I...not enough...I mean, have you found someone else?" he finally managed. Edward met my eyes, and the depth of the pain in them was beyond agony, this was the worst kind of suffering that I wouldn't even want to inflict on an enemy and here I was throwing it, unfiltered and undiluted at a friend. A best friend that deserved so much better. "No, Edward, it's not you. I just...I can't, I'm sorry." Please, I thought; please just let him be happy. Edward deserved that much, even through all his stupidity in the past, Edward had grown past it and learned on his own. As it turns out, Edward never needed me to run after him, he just needed me to leave. Maybe a true separation would be even better for him. I had to agree with Rose now. He needed to move on, even if a selfish part of me wished he never would. Ridiculously Edward laughed, shrugging and throwing the ball at me again with a grin. His eyes had been leached from their pain, they were clear again like there was nothing wrong. I looked at him incredulously, catching the ball purely on ingrained instinct. Edward laughed again, harder at my shocked expression. "What's so funny?" I managed, still staggered. Edward shrugged, stealing the ball from me and throwing it at the net. It bounced off the rim. "Nothing I suppose, except your expression. I'm just extremely happy that you don't have a boyfriend. Even happier that there is nothing wrong with me. As long as those two things stand true, then I still stand a chance. I'm not giving up, not even close." "Why...?" I still didn't understand where all this ease came from. Hadn't I just rejected him? Before I could even finish my question Edward danced over and kissed the top of my head. I pursed my lips and nodded as he answered my question with just that gesture. Hardly simple, but purely adequate. "So, I'm still allowed to walk you home, right?" He asked, passing me the ball again. I caught the ball, and threw it at the basket. It swished through unhindered, not even touching the rim. "Sure." I was horrible and selfish and mean. I was letting Edward try. Edward shook his head at the ball in annoyed awe where it was bouncing alone across the court under the

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basket. I felt like it was accusing me with each of its hollow bounds. Edward and I played lightly. Or I did to make the game last more, and truthfully, it was fun to let Edward think he was winning because of his skill rather then my mercy. Edward slammed dunked one-a move I was extremely envious of since I wasn't actually tall enough to reach the basket to execute the move-and he did a victory lap around the gym, making his own applause by breathing out into his cupped hands, trying to simulate to applause he was looking for. I had missed this. Grinning at him, wondering if we could manage to do this more often without getting Edward's hopes up. Maybe there was hope for us to be friends again yet. Some of the team were sitting on the benches, clapping for Edward though I saw that they knew I was throwing the game. Jared was staring stormily at the floor, a look he took on without fail since Edward had thrown his own game. And somehow Edward still came out on top. Edward was grinning hugely at me, his eyes bright with excitement at our game while I was feeling my skin warming at the warm-up. Coach walked in and Edward smiled at him in hello, his breathing was still a little hard from running around the gym. Coach grunted at him in response, and I had to laugh at the coolness he extended towards Edward. As it turns out, Jared had been right at the party. Coach might not see me like I was one of the boys yet, but I could see he was starting to look at me like a daughter. I wouldn't have made that connection if it hadn't been for Jared pointing it out. Apparently our last away game-the one that had brought me back in time to see the disastrous consequences that had been starting in my absence-had made coach take a new look on me, and that new sight on me lead him to feel more protective then what was expected of a sports coach. "Sit down Cullen or you can't come back. The rest of you, warm-ups with Bella." He squeezed my shoulder as he passed and I smiled a little at him as Edward went and took his seat. His eyes polite as coach came and sat next to him. I started the warm up with suicide drills, dribbling the ball while we ran. We moved through the warm up activities until we started to play. I saw a few times through the practice, Edward and Coach Clapp engaged in a discussion. Edward looked like he was pleading for something while Coach looked hesitant, not sure. I was paying so much attention to them that I nearly got brained with the ball when Tyler threw it at me. On my team or not, he was still a nasty piece of work on the court. He was still sore about not being picked for captain after all this time. After practice, I changed and then went out to meet Edward who looked at me with easy green eyes that were starting to have a luminosity even in the day. Edward was getting brighter, an internal light that made him glow. I wondered if anyone else saw it and thought it as odd as I did. We started walking; Edward's pace was measured to keep pace with me, but easy. I walked a little faster so he wouldn't have to go so slow. "What are your big plans tonight?" Edward asked as we found our pace.

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I shrugged, "I'm not sure yet. What about you?" I was nervous to say I was doing nothing tonight incase he asked for another date and I had nothing to fall back on. This way I could conveniently remember that I had an important thing I needed to get to. Edward hesitated. "I'm not sure either." He hedged and I waited for him to continue, when he didn't I nodded. There was an awkward pause while Edward looked foreword, deep in thought. When we reached mine and Alice's place, Edward snapped back into reality. "Oh, Bella, I wanted to ask you something." I stopped in the doorway and turned to look at him. Edward took a deep breath, and then smiled. "Can I come with you to your next away game?" He asked, his eyes covered and closed, a mask sheltered them. "I don't see why not." I said slowly, realizing that this was what he had been discussing with Coach Clapp before. "Thank you." Edward breathed fervently, and then he reached out and pulled me into him, kissing the top of my head. Edward didn't move right away, his lips stayed where they were, his arms tight and warm around me as he just held me, revelling in the moment. "Edward." I murmured against his chest finally. He stayed where he was for a second longer, then he moved away from me. He turned away quickly before I could see his face and he hurried off down the hall, breaking into a run when he reached the stairs. I swallowed thickly. Edward was hurting more then he was letting on, and I knew all my rejections weren't just bouncing off him. Pain lashed at me in horrible and unforgiving ways, so strong that they stole my breath and stopped my heart. I loathed myself in that instant. I hated that I was weak, that this seemed to be the only way I could get along. I hated that I couldn't even find a compromise with myself where I could find a way to make Edward happy with out loosing everything myself. I took a deep breath and then went in to pass the rest of the week in the same resigned mourning I had been in until Thursday came. Edward, the next day in class, smiled at me and we pretended that I hadn't seen his slight emotional breakdown in the hall. He pretended he was fine and we talked about the game date together until class started. I started packing my clothes and necessities for the trip on Thursday, Tuesday night. When Alice saw me adding the last of what I would need Wednesday night, she frowned a little at the bag, looking deep in thought where she leaned again the door jamb to my new room. "So I guess Edward is going to have another break down when you're gone again, right?" she asked, looking morose by the thought. I knew Alice didn't like to see Edward unhappy anymore then I did. They had bonded

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and formed this sibling like connection to each other. Even though they weren't part of the same family, they did love each other in ways that one would expect in a family. "No," I said, trying to zip everything up. I was starting to see why folding clothes was much more practical then just balling everything up and throwing it in. "Edward's coming with us. He paid for his over priced ticket and everything." I shook my head at it all. The school made any excursion so expensive you would think you were getting on a plane to get there. Then again, with the inflated gas prices today, that might be the actual cost of a bus. I was suddenly jumped on, my front end pinned to the bed and by back end collapsing on the floor as Alice's diminutive weight dragged me to the floor in my surprise. She smacked my head rather hard. "Ow!" I complained, still pinned and shocked. "You're pushing me away again!" She cried, "As your room mate and almost best friend I am entitled to know about the Edward thing. Understood Ms. Swan?" I sighed, I should have known that was coming. "Yes, Ms. McCarty." I muttered dryly. My whole suitcase had turned over on the floor during the attack and I sighed again when I realized I was going to have to pack it all again. I guess this time I should fold it. Alice saw too. "Oh, sorry. I'll help you pack that again. I didn't mean to spill it all." I got up off the floor and started to empty the rest of the bag so I could start over. "Right, you just wanted to inflict bodily harm." Alice was on her knees beside me, helping to fold and organize all my clothes. I leaned my head against her shoulder. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you Alice. I guess I'm just out of it, and I think that this was a suitable revenge for all the zoning out I've been doing." Alice flashed her teeth at me in a huge smile that had me grinning along with her. Alice's smile had left me with a good feeling about tomorrow. That didn't help me get to sleep that night though, and I spend most of the night tossing and turning in anxiety for what was going to happen tomorrow. I started to imagine conversations that Edward and I might have, and I tried to think of witty responses for his questions and jokes. I was slowly lulling myself to sleep, and it took me a long minute to figure out why the Bella that I was imagining with Edward was so confident and carefree. As it turns out, I don't have much of an imagination. All I had been doing was remembering past conversations Edward and I had already had. This was all before I had found out about Mrs. X and we had been so very...happy. I had always been happy with Edward. I hated that Mrs. X had even had the nerve to shadow our little bubble of bliss. Maybe if I had never found out about it, and Edward had had time to say what he needed to in just the right way.... I sighed, turning over again in bed so that I could look out my window into the dark Canadian night. Alice was

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finding it odd that it hadn't started to snow yet in November, but she shrugged it off and hopped fervently for her white Christmas. Maybe it was just how dark the sky was, maybe it was the depression I had been spiralling down the last few months, or maybe it was just the new pessimism I was starting to develop because of Alice's mutterings about the snow, but I had a strong feeling that no matter how Edward had planned on telling me about Mrs. X it wouldn't have made much of a difference in the long run. I fell asleep with tears running down my face again. Thursday morning rolled around and I groaned, throwing a hand over my eyes to keep out the harsh morning light. "Bella!" Alice yelled, "Wake up, I have a surprise for you!" She sang the last part and I groaned louder. Wonderful, surprises this early in the morning usually equated to a bad mood and an even worse day. As I was dragging myself out of bed and brushing my teeth, I smelt something wonderful. The process of dressing only half awake was much quicker today, and I hurried out of the room to find Alice standing beside the kitchen table that was actually more of a counter since our kitchen was so small. There were two plates on the counter, both of them were piled with eggs, bacon, toast, home fries, and even fried tomatoes. I stared at her as I greedily inhaled the beautiful breakfast lay out. "Alice! If I knew you could cook so well I never would have stepped foot into the kitchen. Ever." Alice laughed as she rubbed her stomach. "I wish. If I could cook like this I'd be four hundred pounds and you would have to roll me into the kitchen everyday." I froze, staring at her uncomprehending. A chair was pulled out for me and I turned to see Edward standing in our kitchen. He must have hidden himself behind the fridge when I had come in. There was nowhere else he could have been where I wouldn't have seen him. "Oh," I managed to squeak. Then I shook my head and composed myself. "Very mature Edward, give me a heart attack." Edward laughed, "I didn't mean to startle you. Here, sit down." I sat, obedient in shock. "What's all this for?" Edward sat beside me, and took a bite of the eggs. "What? I can't just pop over here every now and then and cook you a balanced breakfast?" I tried not to just nod and only concentrate on how good everything tasted. I hadn't had something this good since one of Renee's boyfriends had take us to a good all you can eat restaurant that was deceivingly delicious. "You never have before." I mumbled in between mouthfuls. I looked to see that Alice didn't have a plate. "Alice, have you had any breakfast yet? Do you want to share some of mine?" I added the last part with an edge of unwillingness.

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Alice looked like she was about to agree to pick off my plate, but Edward wielded his fork like a weapon, pointing it at Alice menacingly. "Ah, ah. Back away from the plate, you already had a huge helping of breakfast. It's no fault other then your own that you ate it too fast." Alice scowled at him. "Huge? You hardly gave me as much as Bella has." I was about to tell her that what I had was a good helping of food, but as I looked at my plate I found with surprise that it was almost gone. I blinked at the plate in surprise and Edward choked on his laughter at my expression. I had to laugh too, because I realized I was getting full, but the taste battled the bloated feeling. Then I turned accusing eyes onto Edward. "So if you could cook like this, why didn't I realize it before?" Edward grinned, and then nodded at Alice. "Apparently Grandmother McCarty had a secret recipe for eggs that included a little...orange juice." He shook his head like he still didn't believe it, "And some other fruit juices. Apparently all the fructose makes the eggs naturally sweeter." I laughed, "Like putting sugar on popcorn?" Edward grinned and nodded. Alice scowl at Edward deepened. "It's not much of a secret recipe when you tell everyone." She mumbled. Edward grinned at her. "I couldn't not tell Bella." "Of course not." She muttered darkly, leaving to get her bag packed for school. I smiled at Edward. "Thanks for getting up at god knows what time to make this." I gestured at the breakfast. Edward smiled, leaned over and kissed the top of my head. I sighed, and Edward smiled ruefully at me. "I'll see you in biology then." He pulled on his coat and I started at the appearance of the thick football jacket. Edward waved once, and then disappeared out the door. I sighed, and realized that it must have been cool again this morning. We had been getting frost on the ground the last couple of weeks, but the cold snap hadn't really started yet. For that, I was happy. I had another surprise this morning. As Alice and I walked out, there was a sudden gust of wind and I was frozen to my core. The most Alice had shopped for in the winder clothes department were two sweaters that were already packed in the bottom of my suitcase. Alice pulled on a huge winter jacket that made me green with envy. It just looked warm and I wasn't even inside it. Alice apologized and told me that she didn't have another one. She was going to do her winter shopping for us both next week when the newest winter jacket fashions came out in stores. I shivered my way to school, only to find that the doors had been frozen shut during the night. Some kids that decided they didn't want to go to school today had known the cold snap was coming and had thrown water on the door during the chilly night.

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The janitors were in the middle of carrying over boiling water to melt the ice with while the majority of the school waited in the cold. Edward, Emmett and Rose saw us standing near the outskirts of the crowd. From what I could see, Rose refused to come over near me, and Emmett wasn't going to leave her. Edward rolled his eyes at his sister, said something low to Emmett with a smile on his face which Emmett returned, and came over to see us. "Hey." He called, jogging over. His breath came out in a puff of steam that rose, then dissipated in the cold air. When he was close enough, he really looked at what I was wearing, and then frowned in disapproval. "Why didn't you wear a coat Bella? It's minus fifteen out here." I did the conversion in my head from Celsius to degrees. It was five degrees Fahrenheit. I wanted to cry and crawl back to Renee in Florida where it was probably at the least eighty. "I don't have a jacket yet. We're going next week." I mumbled, and then realized I would have to live through another week of freezing temperatures. Edward sighed, and then started to shrug out of his jacket. "Are you insane?" I cried, pushing the jacket he offered away. "It's negative fifteen out here!" He scowled at me, "Exactly, put it on. I'm warm Bella, I don't need it." When I stubbornly refused the jacket again he gave an aggravated puff and put the jacket back on, not even doing up the zipper. I rolled my eyes at him and turned to say something to Alice about Canadian weather when two arms pulled me suddenly, and I thumped into a warm chest. A zipper sudden zipped up in front of my face. I gave a small startled yelp in surprise before the heat over whelmed me and I melted into Edward's chest. "Does this make you happy?" He asked, his voice still carrying the undertones of his irritation. I sighed and nodded. Edward wrapped his arms, clothed in the coat sleeves, around us. "Good, me too." I stiffened, "Edward," Edward's arms tightened around me in response. "I've come to terms with my masochism Bella." I shook my head, not in denial, but in remorse for all the unfair things I was doing to Edward. Edward liked this; this seemingly simple touch that he knew would hurt him later. I wished there was some way for me to talk some sense into Edward, to let him see that there was something wrong with me that made me cowardly and selfish and stopped me from being able to open up enough to give Edward any kind of deep relationship. Edward deserved better then some shallow meaningless fling that didn't give him what he needed. Edward was done with meaningless flings that resulted in wandering partners and empty conversations. I wonder if Edward hated me in some corner of his mind for changing him so much. The doors were finally unfrozen, but I didn't feel the need to be one of the rushing crowds that fought to get into the warm building. I had my own heater right here.

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Edward grudgingly undid his jacket and let me gather by book bag off the ground where I had dropped it and get into the school. Before I left I smiled at Edward sadly, "Thank you Edward. You really are the best. See you in Biology." Edward's blinding smile left me wondering if I shouldn't have said anything at all. I hurried into first, ate lunch with Alice in the library and then walked into biology. Alice complained that the smell of old books was ruining her appetite. I didn't understand how she didn't like the smell of books. I always found it soothing. I sat down beside Edward to find him balancing the lead of his pencil on the pad of his index finger. I stared at him and found myself even more at ease here then I ever was with a book. I could spend all my time with Edward, I realized, and never be board. Never want a change in scene. The rest of the day passed in its normal slow motions and finally it seemed the team, Edward and I were all standing outside the gym in the freezing cold with our numb fingers clutching at our various bags and carrying cases for our clothes and other necessities. The minute the bus pulled up, Edward thrust my shivering frame through the doors into the heated bus since I had refused to be coddled in front of my team. He growled things under his breath about me like stubborn and sensitive and other very real but offensive things about my character. "But I need to put my bag-" "Get in the damn bus!" He roared at me and I could even feel the bus driver flinched at the tone behind me. I gasped, and-though I would never admit it to Edward-was terrified out of my wits. I scurried up the stairs and into one of the seats in the middle of the bus just above one of the various heaters dotted along the sides. I saw Edward placing both of our bags in the storage compartment, his face still twisted in frustration at my stubborn rejection of what he considered all things good for me. Edward stomped onto the bus after and stopped where I was sitting. He was still fuming, but he wasn't going to take the seat until I told him he could. I tried to hide my smile while Edward blocked the isle, waiting for me to either tell him to sit somewhere else or to have a seat with me. I wanted to see how long he would last before he snapped and sat down. Eventually Edward huffed and crossed his arms. "Is this seat taken?" he growled, irritation still inflicted in his tone. I laughed at him, and I saw that Edward's expression darkened at me for finding amusement in his anger. Grinning, I moved over and he sat down beside me. "Thanks." He said, a little unwilling to let me off the hook so easy. "I don't think I could have sat with your boys. They don't seem to like me very much." Edward turned a little to grimace at the bus load of boys that had gathered in the back of the bus. Only the teacher sat upfront with the driver. "My boys?" Edward finally grinned at me. "Yes, that's what I said."

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"How are they mine?" I was trying to see in what way I could even pretend to own any of these guys who were each almost twice as tall as me each. They didn't follow me like a leader out side the court, it's not like I spent much of my time with them when we weren't playing or practicing either. Edward smiled condescendingly at me like I was missing something obvious. "They look up to you like a leader. You set a wonderful example for strength and determination, you're good at the sport that they love and you're humble about it...for the most part." He chuckled as he remembered all the times I rubbed it in his face that I had won. I shrugged. I only gloated because he was so obnoxious about all his 'skills' that he had been so sure had preceded over mine. Edward studied my face carefully; his eyes intent on something and a small frown started to turn his lips down. "What?" I asked self-consciously, shifting uncomfortably under the intensity of his shrewd eyes. Edward's hand cupped my cheek and I froze as his hand soothed over the skin under my eye. "I'm trying to figure out what's been keeping you up at night. You look so tired." At the mention of my sleeping habits an involuntarily yawn over took me. "I've just been up. None of your business." Edward smiled innocently, "Can't a friend be politely concerned about another friend's sleeping habits?" Edward said the magic word and I yawned again. Edward's eyes grew unbearably soft, and he let his hand drop from my face. "Why don't you sleep now? It'll be a long bus ride." He murmured softly to me. I nodded; the bus ride was going to be long. Four and a half hours in a small bus full of rowdy boys excited for a basket ball game long. "Maybe I'll just take a short nap." I said, smiling at him, "Then I might not be bouncing all over the seat half way there." Edward chuckled, "I'll make room for you when you do." I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the window. My luck pervaded me though, and the bus hit a bump in that moment so that my head bounced off the window painfully. I grimaced, maybe I wouldn't get a nap in after all. Edward sighed, then tucked me under his arm so my head rested comfortably against the soft muscle just under his shoulder. "Sleep now Bella." he whispered into my hair. "I'll make sure no one wakes you." Because I love you. He added the last part in soft kiss atop my head. All the sleep deprivation had been wearing on me lately, and I felt quickly into unconsciousness. I knew I had slept for more then a 'quick nap' when the bus jumped and jolted me awake. The bus was nearly silent but for a few snores and the groaning engine of the old bus. I did a quick look over my shoulder in confusion to where all the quiet came from. Had everyone gotten off at another stop? That didn't seem likely, and sure enough, everyone was where I had left them before I fell asleep. Most of them were listening to music or sleeping. Edward, his arm still warm and heavy around my shoulders, was sleeping too.

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I remembered Edward's promise to me before I fell asleep, and I was beginning to wonder what he had done. Drugged them maybe? Another jolt set Edward off balance and he tipped towards me, then startled awake. He blinked twice, taking in his surroundings. He looked towards me finally and smiled, "You're awake." "Or I'm part of your dream." I challenged jokingly. Edward looked like that had thrown him. He looked contemplative out the opposite window, looking over where Tyler was slouched unhappily in his seat, his music plugged into his ears. I could hear the dull thundering of bass from where I was. "Either way, I'm happy." Edward finally said, and he turned to grin. I smiled a little, "Darn, I thought you'd pinch yourself or something." I teased weakly. Edward tightened the arm that was still around my shoulders so I was crushed up against him. "I can feel you, that's enough for me. Plus the bus still reeks like diesel." I sniffed the air, then wrinkled my nose as I realized he was right. I guess my head had been close enough to Edward that I was only able to smell his sweet spicy scent. I sighed, "What time is it?" Edward pulled a thin black cell phone out of his pocket, flipping it open. For a short moment I was a little peeved, thinking he was going to ignore me and do something high-tech-ish on a phone I knew I would break if I touched. Then he snapped it shut, "Six fifteen. We have forty five minutes before we get to the school. How do you propose we spend the time?" Edward asked his smile mischievous. I returned the look, and then looked at Seth who was snoring loudly three seats away from us. I raised an eyebrow at Edward, "Think he'll mind?" Edward blinked innocently at me, "Mind what? We were sleeping the whole ride." Then the innocent façade melted into a grin so devious that I wanted to applaud. I grinned proudly at him as it was. We snuck quietly out of our seat, over doing the whole act of tiptoeing towards Seth's seat so that the rest of the guys understood what was going on was worth watching. We nearly blew our cover twice when the bus jumped and Edward and I stumbled, nearly bursting out laughing as we tried to regain our balance. The knowledge that we weren't supposed to be laughing made it harder to stop. I inched my way over Seth so I sat on the inside of the seat, and Edward perched on the outside. Mike leaned over the padded divider between the seats and passed us a marker. I grinned at him and very carefully drew the moustache Seth wanted so badly. He had been showing everyone the barely visible dark hairs starting on his upper lip. He would be pleased when he woke up. "Does anyone have any gel?" Edward stage whispered.

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Someone handed him a traveling case of gel and Edward put two small dots on his fingers, then gelled Seth's eyebrows so that each of them stuck up into a point in the middle. I choked back my laughter and went to scramble back to Edward but Seth shifted in his sleep, brining his knees up on the seat and blocking my exit. I grimaced, and then started over the back of the seat. "Sharp right turn coming up." Jared called softly, acting as look out. I grinned at how we each knew our appropriate co-ordinations with out having to be told. Like separate units in a whole. Edward grinned hugely too, whether with pride or because he was part of that unit in this one case, I wasn't sure. I panicked, and jumped over the back of the seat into Mike's lap. I accidentally knocked the breath out of him and he was left unprepared for the turn that dumped us both on the floor. "Oh!" I cried in surprise as I fell flat on my bottom. My expression looked so incredulous that Edward stumbled back into someone else's seat, choking back laughter. Seth woke up at my cry and the turn, he looked groggily at all of us with this pointed eyebrows and pained moustache. He took in my expression too. "Ha! Bella you look so ridiculous." Edward and I got rightfully pinned for the blame, though no one said what it was out loud since not even coach got tired of looking at Seth. Seth would figure it out eventually. We had to sit up front where the bus driver could see us, in separate seats, looking out our own windows. As some dark trees passed out front Edward's window, I caught his expression in my own window. He was grinning hugely. "Definitely worth it." He murmured quietly. I agreed as the driver snapped at us to be quiet. I think he was more peeved that we were in the isle rather then what we had done. When we arrived at the school, Edward grabbed his and my bag and carried them while he ignored my complaints. I could carry my own bag thank you very much. We were just finding the note on the door of the separate building that we would be staying at. It was just a generic note with a hello, enjoy your stay, and we hope to have a good game tomorrow. It also mentioned that showers were located in the building we were staying in and if we had any questions or concerns to see the main office. We all went into the building, finding our rooms. There were two floors above the main floor devoted just to rooms, and so we had enough for two to a room plus a separate room for my feminine privacies. Edward met me outside my new room. "Everyone is looking for the showers. I don't blame them after that ride." Edward grimaced and indicated to his clothes that still smelt like diesel fuel and old leather.

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I nodded in agreement. We all stunk like bus and sweat, plus I almost always had my shower before I went to bed anyways. We walked down and found everyone standing in front of two grey double doors. They were all looking every uncomfortable. I tensed, looking them all over, "What? What's wrong?" "Uh," Jared hesitated-speechless for the first time I had ever met him-and then he stepped forward and opened the doors for me to see. I stepped up beside him, I could feel Edward hovering curiously behind me as I looked through the door. I groaned as I looked into the great shower room with it's immaculate white tiles and dozens of shower heads. There were no stalls. "This is the male building." Coach said as an explanation behind me. I gulped. "So who brought their bathing suits?" Edward laughed uncomfortably behind me. I shook my head and shrugged it off. Oh well, I changed with these boys, granted I always had a tank that covered me well and hung low enough to keep from sparking any uncomfortable conversations on what Bella was wearing today. "We'll just take separate showers. You boys go first and I'll go second." No big deal, I'll just shower alone in a big empty cavernous shower that is completely exposed to anyone who sticks their head in the door. I was beginning to think it would have been a lot less troublesome to just have been born a male when Edward squeezed my shoulders, "I'll stand guard outside the doors while you shower. I promise no one will see anything." Jared snorted. Now that I had presented everyone with a good and comfortable idea, he was back to his normal verbose self. "Oh, there's a brilliant idea." I nodded with him. "I agree. It is a good idea." I glared at Jared for his sarcasm. "Thank you Edward, why don't you come and get me when you're all done showering? I'll be in my room." I squeezed his hand as I passed as a more private show of my gratitude. Edward's smile brightened the whole room. I went up to my room and unpacked all my things. Arranging my shampoo and conditioner just perfectly on the counter beside my toothbrush and toothpaste, my deodorant, and hair brush. I frowned when I saw that my pattern was uneven. I needed something flat on the other side of my little organization to balance out the brush. I was really starting to get ticked that things weren't balancing out when there was a soft knock on my door. I sighed, abandoning my obsessively organized hygiene products to get the door. When I opened it and saw Edward waiting for me, I realized something else was imbalanced.

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Edward was doing so much more for me then I ever did for him. He cared for me more then I could let myself care for him. He was putting himself out there and I was hiding in the shadow of my own doubt. Edward grinned, not noticing my scrutiny on our relationship and offered me one of the towels from the showering room. "I managed to save one for you. It almost turned into a fight to the death though so guard it from any boys who look suspiciously wet coming at you." He winked and I forgot about balancing. I ran back in and grabbed my favourite shampoo and conditioner. Edward offered to carry everything, and with no male witnesses to his chivalry, I let him. He smiled like it made him happy to do little things like that for me, and I couldn't understand why. I also couldn't understand why a pink stain started under the skin on his cheeks when I handed him my shampoo. I thanked him again before stepping into the shower. The moment I undressed, I felt uncomfortable and vulnerable. "Edward?" I called, not even thinking, just wanting assurance. "I'm right here Bella. Do you need me to come in?" Heat flooded my face, "Oh, no I just wanted to make sure." I started the shower and washed quickly in an attempt to be out of the uncomfortable showering room all the more quickly. When I dried, I had to admit, the towel was nice. I dressed and came out of the showering room. Edward grinned at me, and then unexpectedly pulled me into a hug, burying his head in my hair and inhaling. I laughed when I realized what he was doing. "Do I smell nice?" I joked, rolling my eyes at his antics. "Mhmm." Edward agreed, ignoring my sarcasm. I shook my head at him, "Lets get some dinner, I think I heard something about Pizza before." Edward grinned and stepped away. We ate pizza with the rest of the team, all of us cramming into one small room. Someone turned a game on and most of the boys were watching the sports network when I had finished my supper. I had managed to wrestle a grand total of two pieces from the rest of the team. The testosterone was choking me as they had contests on who could swallow the most pizza. "Night guys. We have a big day tomorrow." I said, stretching. John, a usually benched boy because of his lack of aim, groaned. "You're going to bed so early? Why not stay up a little while later and have some fun with us?" I grinned at him, "Because I have to set a good example for all you boys." Edward nodded in agreement, "I guess Bella is right. I'm off too." Some of the others groaned too and the TV was shut off as people started to get ready to go back to their own rooms. Edward grinned at me as he closed the door. "Told you they follow you." He gloated softly. He walked me to my room, kissed the top of my head and went back to his own room.

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"Edward?" I called before he was out of sight. He turned and grinned crookedly at me, "Yes, Bella?" I grinned back at him, "I'm glad you came. See you tomorrow." Edward smiled and that said it all. He was glad he came too. "See you." I closed the door and got into bed before I did anymore damage. -I woke early the next day, jittery for the game that was set to start in less then two hours. I brushed my teeth and brushed my hair back into a ponytail. I thought about twisting it into a bun, but I decided against it when on the first two tries one piece always managed to worm its way out and make me look like a cockatoo. I got dressed in my uniform, my hands shaking in pre-game shivers and I bit my lip as I pulled the uniform impeccably straight over the shorts. Stupid since it would be sweaty and dirty by the end of the game. I hurried down the two flights of stairs to the main floor in the lobby like area that boasted three nice leather couches and a TV. This school was almost as well off as our own school. In our separate building though, we had a huge flat screen TV. Everyone was waiting in the lobby, the room buzzed with electricity and even Edward who wasn't going to be playing at all was affected by it. He chattered excitedly to Seth until he saw me. He wished Seth good luck, and then he jogged over to me though the distance between us was about four of his bounds. He was absolutely vibrating with excitement. I laughed at him, "You look like you're ready to win the whole game single handily." Edward grinned. "I feel like I should. I feel like I should be stepping out onto the field any second now with a football tucked under one arm." Coach walked in then, "All right, everyone ready?" We all let lose deafening cheers. A pep talk wasn't necessary. "Alright, the game starts in ten, get to the gym now. Bella, can I talk to you a minute?" I watched everyone leave for the school; my pre-game high had worn off a little at what Coach wanted to say. "I'm sorry Bella. I forgot to mention to this school that you're on our team, so just...don't be taken off guard. I know that they were less then welcoming when they had some fore warning..." Coach trailed off, taking a deep breath as he remembered our last away game. "If you don't want to go through that again, none of us would blame you." "Oh. No I don't mind, lets play." I smiled confidently at him. I'd be damned if anyone was going to stop me when I had already gotten this far. Coach Clapp nodded, "Good luck out there kid." I crossed my fingers and grinned, then started towards the gym. I met with the rest of the team, Edward and Coach went out to sit on the bench along with our second string. I

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positioned myself at the front of the line that was going to run out onto the court, preparing myself for the reaction I was going to get. "What'd Clapp want Bells?" Jared asked from behind me. I shrugged like I wasn't bothered. "He forgot to tell them that we had a girl on our team." Jared was stonily silent behind me. "You want to sit out the game?" He finally asked. Some one heard him and then everyone was crowding around wanting to know what was wrong. When I grudgingly explained, each of them sobered. I rolled my eyes at them all. "C'mon, Who cares? So I won't be on their hottest player's calendar at the end of the year." I winked playfully, "I'm still going to play." Seth who was easily pleased grinned and cheered. "Yeah, Go Bella!" The cheers and energy started to build again as we celebrated our own strength. When we were called out, we exploded into cries of pre-victory and ran out onto the floor. The cheers in the crowd dimmed when they saw me leading, but none of us missed a stride. If anything, we were even more determined. We were all positioned to start when the boy I was facing off against looked at me with confusion. I was standing in forward and he had to be a good foot taller then me. Thicker too. This was a strategic move we had been using, and so far it worked each time. "Aren't you supposed to be over there?" he asked, jerking a thumb towards the sidelines where cheerleaders were supposed to be cheering. We didn't bring any, Coach didn't say why, but he refused to bring any on the away games. I just smiled at him. The whistle was blown and I jumped for the ball. The boy opposite me didn't jump for it, he was cocky in his belief that his height would do the job itself. Each of them tried to undermine me more by gloating the differences in size. I just managed to tip the ball to Jared who ran it around onto their side of the court. I dodged around the big boy I had been facing off against and ran into an open position. When Jared passed to Seth, he passed me the ball, I took aim and we scored our first point of the game before the first thirty seconds were even over. The other team who had been giving me condescending smiles until now stood in shock; most of them had hardly had time to move. Their shock melted instantly into rage at being taken in by a girl and her team. We continued to score points and the other team became more and more angry until the heated energy was driving them across the courts. When the other team threw the ball in we were all ready and open. They got the ball as far as our court before Jared managed to steal the ball and passed it to me, quickly getting it out of our side. I ran it over, ready to pass it to Seth. Just as the familiar feeling of the ball left my hands there was a sudden experience of the floor disappearing

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out from under me. The world, for a moment, shifted and then I was on the floor. It took me a second for the pain to register. My scalp screamed where my hair had been tugged hard enough to knock me off my feet. Some of my team stopped to look at the ref, waiting for him to call a penalty. His eyes just passed over our scene, and I looked up at my attacker to see my hair elastic had snapped when he had ripped it out of my head, there was a good handful of hair tangled along with the elastic. "Hey!" Edward yelled. My head snapped around to see him standing and yelling at the referee. "How did you not see that!" His voice echoed around the gym, nearly drowned out by the cheers of the crowd with just a few small boo's that barely made it through. Clapp was standing with Edward, looking lividly at the referee who finally blew his whistle. Edward and Coach relaxed a little until we heard his call. "If you interrupt the game again you'll get escorted out of the building." We all stared at him in shock. The game started again, and now that the other team knew they had a prejudiced ref, they got worse. I was thrown to the ground twice, each time I got right back up again, hoping to dissuade them and keep my team and Edward calm. This was worse then the last game. The worst they had done to me then was slam me into one of the walls. And that had only been once. One bruise on my arm that only Edward and Alice noticed. I was passed the ball again, and this time I kept a sharp surveillance of the other team, looking for chargers. My elbow ached where I hit it off the hard floor and my leg was starting to really bother me where I had been accidentally stepped on. I noticed out of the corner of my eye, the boy who had nearly taken my scalp off before. I ran faster when he started towards me. I saw Jared was open and I quickly threw the ball to him. I relaxed a little when I was no longer the target and started to concentrate on where I should place myself if anyone needed me. Seth looked like he needed help where he was and I started towards him. I never made it that far. Something hit me hard from the side and I was hurled towards the floor. Everything went black. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A/N: I know most of you hate it when character point of views switch, but it's only for a short moment. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Edward There was an inexplicable light around Bella that I couldn't make sense of, it illuminated her and made her the

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constant focus of my attention. It was so hard to sit here and watch this, harder then not hitting Jared back, harder then leaving Bella's classes. The other 'trials' where women were involved meant nothing. It had been ridiculously easy to tell Lauren to go home and think things through, even easier to take a match to each of the numbers I had been given. I was distracted by that thought when the bigger boy who had grabbed Bella's hair before took a running start towards the light of my life. Blood boiled in my veins and I was itching to join Bella on the court to teach each and every one of these boys a lesson. I wouldn't mind throwing a good punch or two at the ref either. Bella saw him and quickly passed the ball to Jared in a futile attempt to keep from being his target. She was still running down the court, staying open incase one of her team mates threw her the ball, not paying anymore attention to the boy who was still coming at her. Stupidly believing that all these players would play by the rules. The boy slammed his shoulder into Bella and sent her hurling towards the floor. I heard her head bounce off the floor with a bone chilling cracking sound. My whole body chilled cold as ice. Her body kept moving even after she hit the floor, she rolled twice before coming to a stop. Her face was turned towards me but her hair, out of its pony tail since Mr. Fairplay had literally ripped it out of her head had fallen across her face. I couldn't see her face even to ascertain that she was conscious. I watched her lay there, feeling all the white hot rage drain out of me as I waited for her to get up. She didn't move. I listened to the other team cheer and laugh; even some of the audience joined them. She still didn't move. No one notice me stand up numbly, but the gym started to quiet as they saw me walking onto the court. It felt like I was in a dream, I couldn't quite feel the ground under my own feet as I walked. It was silent by the time I reached Bella's unconscious body. I gathered her, small, warm, and limp into my arms. Her head fell back before I could shift my arm to support it. There was a bloody mark on the side of her forehead where the skin had been ripped by the hard floor, pulling the skin to its polished surface. Her head fell limply backwards, deceivingly peaceful looking, like she was dreaming too. I looked up into the brown eyes of her attacker. He grinned complacently at me. I'm sure he was quite proud of himself and his brothers who had all ganged up on this one small girl. The smile faltered as he met my eyes, and then looked down at the girl he hit. The first real stirring of what he had done occurring to him. In the absolute silence of the gym my clear quiet voice was heard at the back of the bleachers.

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"Good for you. You laid down a girl a third of your size. Your parents must be so proud." There was no emotion in my voice. I was still arrested in my horrified shock. The boy looked towards the bleachers instinctively, and found who he was looking for. He wasn't able to keep his eyes raised for long before they found their way back to the girl in my arms. I only nodded towards the referee. Nothing I could say could make him feel any less of a man then he was feeling like right now. Or should be. He looked completely unaffected by this. Of course not, he was one of the men who were raised to believe that no women belonged on a court. His grey hair was deceiving. He hadn't gathered any wisdom in his years. I cradled Bella in my arms, supporting her head to keep from hurting her neck anymore then I already had. The gym was quiet enough that as I walked back to the benches that I could even hear my shoes squeak against the floor which had been polished in preparation for the literal slaughter that was taking place now. If Bella had gotten up they would have continued to beat her until she stayed down. I knew how intimidating Bella was better then anyone else. When you looked at her, you felt like you were looking at someone who was one hundred and ten feet tall. It was just how she carried herself. She was strong, and brave. She was compelling, impressive, deep, athletic, and over all just extraordinary. It just was Bella. But she was also merely a measly five-foot-four-inch one-hundred-and-ten pound girl. She was small and fragile. She was warm and sweet. She was compassionate and understanding, she was smart and wise, and she was truthful and trusting. And no matter how much Bella might fight against it, no matter how much she fought to keep anyone from seeing, Bella was just a small scared girl fighting for something no one seemed inclined to give her. Everyone who looked on her now, her basketball uniform overflowing her petite frame could see her clearly now, see her for what she was underneath all the walls that she had built to protect her from the razor sharp scorn flung at her from all angles. I had made a safe place in my arms for her. A place she could always comeback to. A place that was just for her. I had to cradle her there now. The game moved sluggishly after that. One of the boys on the bench was called in to fill in for Bella. All the energy was gone. All except for Jared who threw himself into it, making basket after basket with the fervour of his rage. I was still numb, though I felt the battering undercurrents of what Jared was feeling fighting to break through the lack of sensation. All I could see was Bella in my arms, and the knowledge that I should have stepped in sooner. When the game ended, I stood, about to take Bella up to our room when the boy who had tackled Bella tapped me softly on the shoulder. I turned to see him staring at Bella, still unconscious in my arms. "It's customary to shake hands with the players. A sign of respect." His voice was quiet, apologetic. Before I could open my mouth to tell him he didn't deserve to touch her, he gingerly took Bella's limp hand and shook it. "Good game." He murmured, and then turned away. On the back of his shirt, I saw for the first time the 'C' that crowned his name. Just as the C on Bella's jersey crowned hers. He was captain.

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The rest of the team had been lined up behind him, and started to follow suit. Some shook Bella's hand like their captain had, while others squeezed her shoulder, one even swiped the hair off her forehead to plant a soft kiss on the patch of delicate cream skin. They all murmured their appreciation to her, and then left. I finally saw now why Bella continued to fight even after all of this abuse. Because despite it all, she was winning. She was forcing her way into a different world, and behind her was a clear marked trail for the others that would follow in their own time. Everyone just needs a leader. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Bella I was slowly gaining awareness of a throbbing in my head that felt like a jet taking off inside my skull. I winced, and just as I was about to get up off the floor and tell everyone I was fine, I realized I was laying on something soft and wrapped in something warm, not hard and cold at all. I gasped and sat up, my head spinning. Edward was lying in a bed with me. He didn't smile at me like I had expected him too. I might have tried to make a joke to calm the tension but the throbbing in my head drowned out every other thought. "You alright?" I asked when he still didn't smile and I started to worry something bad had happened. I checked around the room quickly to gage my surroundings. I thought it was the room I was staying in, but I couldn't be sure. They all looked the same. "No, I'm not." He growled lowly. "You don't even look surprised that all this happened." Edward thought about what he had said for a second before a strange kind of horror took over his face. "Last time...when you had come home from that other game..." I looked away, but didn't answer. Edward's expression made the words I should have answered him with clear in the air. "You knew this would happen?" he whispered. We watched each other in silence. Edward abruptly pulled me back into his arms, holding me there tightly against his chest. I was shocked at the suddenness, expecting him to be angry at me. "I'm sorry." He whispered, "I should have stopped it all, I should have pulled you out of the game the first time he touched you." Edward shook his head, mumbling some other nonsense. I waited until I thought he had calmed enough so that he would hear me. "And do you think I would have let you? Do you think I would have stepped off the..." I trailed off as a new kind of horror struck me. "Everyone saw you drag me off the court?" I gasped. This was the worst kind of weakness I had ever shown. Worse then if Edward had put his jacket on me in the cold, worse then when Edward carried my bags into the hotel, and even worse then when he had stood outside the showers. They must all think I was pathetic. Just a pathetic girl who couldn't handle herself on the court. The other team was probably enjoying their victory over the little girl who went down with just one easy hit.

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Edward watched the thoughts play across my face and he heaved an exasperated sigh. "Stop being stupid Bella, no one is judging you." I snorted at his attempt to make me feel better. I highly doubted that anyone thought well of me now. I didn't even know if I could face my own team. "Did we win?" I finally asked after deciding that a brown paper bag would adequately hide my features from recognition. Edward sighed, "Yes, your team made it to the finals." I sighed with relief. "Good." I flickered a glance around the room until I found the time. I tried to count the hours I had been out for but I couldn't remember when I had first passed out. I distracted myself with something less disturbing. "Hey, Edward? I wanted to ask you something." Edward sighed again, and I knew he was still aggravated with me for stepping out onto the court when I had an idea on how it would play out. I also knew he placed most of the blame wrongfully on himself. "What is it?" "Why...before, you didn't want to change Mrs. X's name to Miss. X. I was just curious as to why." I rested my head comfortably against his chest as I watched my distraction working when he chuckled lowly. "You really haven't figured that out yet?" He wondered, more to himself then to me. When he was answered with my patient silence he answered me. "For me, Mrs. X was never just you. I mean it was always you, but it was also the idea of you being mine, being taken. That's where the Mrs. Part comes from. I wanted it to have a sense of commitment. I've always wanted you to be mine, but Mrs. X was something deeper then anything else I ever wanted." "Till death do us part." I mumbled and Edward chuckled sadly. I sighed, the throbbing that echoed through my head like the empty beating of a hammer in an other wise silent room was starting to dim. I took the opportunity of clear thought to ask Edward a question I had been dying to ask since I had seen the picture, I always forgot about asking him or I chickened out. "That English thing...with the pictures and the bio. Do you remember that?" Edward tensed, then the muscles relaxed and he sighed. Sighed in defeat. "Yes." I remembered the picture clearly. I had been up at nights thinking about it while I cried, trying to understand what it meant. Sometimes I cried because of what I thought Edward meant to say, and because I knew he was right. If the picture had only been of me kneeling on a hill surrounded by beautiful swaying flowers with a numinous stream of light parting the clouds and falling on my face, I might have tried to ignore it best I could. It was the fact that I was broken on top of that hill that bothered me. My bones were broken in my angel wings, gruesomely protruding the grey feathers that looked almost birdlike, my clothes ripped and torn with dirt and drops of dark that could be interpreted as my tears or blood. I wasn't sure. I wasn't just physically broken though. My cheeks were wet with tears, my eyes beseeching the sky for

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something that was also left to the imagination. I felt like Edward was trying to tell me that I was weak, that I needed something that I didn't have, and that elusive something drained me of my strength and grounded me. The familiar sting of angry tears started again as I tried-again-to riddle out what Edward was trying to tell me, and failing. "So why am I broken?" Edward ran his hands though my hair carefully, aware that my scalp was still tender. "Because you're whole enough to be broken." He whispered into my hair, "You're strong enough to be weak." I moved away from him, jerking my chin up, stubbornly trying to fight his accusation while I battled the same war against myself. "I am not weak." Edward sighed, laying on the bed so he faced the ceiling, both of his hands behind his head. "I don't think I explained myself well enough." Edward was silent as he thought of how he was going to rephrase his explanation. "It's like...I'm not sure I know how to explain it right. I probably won't but I'll try. You are so good Bella, so very fierce and passionate in everything you do. A lot of people don't have that same zeal for life that you do, and when you see those people, people who need help because they can't help themselves, you lend out some of you're self, some of your kindness and joy and strength because your strong enough to so that. But you never let them give it back to you once their on their feet again." Edward turned to look at me with the depth of truth that each of his words rang with. "You're so whole that you're breaking, and you won't let anyone help you." I looked away from his insightfully astute eyes. "You're wrong." Edward sighed again. "Of course I am." He muttered something else under his breath before sitting up. I sat up quickly too, my head spinning as I did so. "Where are you going?" Edward looked at the clock on the wall and I followed his eyes. I sighed, almost ten thirty. I guess I had been out for a while then. Amazingly, I was feeling tired, like wasting the whole day being unconscious hadn't been enough. Edward looked back at me while I frowned at the clock. "I think I should let you sleep." "I don't want you to leave." I mumbled pathetically. I was weak, everyone knew that now, why hide it anymore if it meant Edward got to stay with me a little longer? Edward chuckled lowly, "Are you sure? I don't want to start any rumours." I rolled my eyes, of course, everyone seeing Edward Cullen staying the night in Bella Swan's room might raise an eyebrow."You're the good boy now Edward, no one would even consider starting rumours." Edward looked like he was warring with himself. He looked towards the door, then back to me. He gave a heavy sigh and ran his hand through his hair. "Bella..." I couldn't believe it. Edward Cullen was worrying about my reputation. When had we switched places? Edward was worrying about me now, trying to fix me. I smiled at him as an idea occurred to me. "I've knocked my head off the floor pretty hard today. I probably

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have a concussion. Aren't you supposed to stay with me all night to make sure I live till morning?" Edward's eyes narrowed. "That's not fair." My smile widened and Edward chuckled, shaking his head. "You know, for someone who claims to be so complete, you do get lonely easily." I ignored that as he climbed into bed. I half expected Edward to take the other bed, but he climbed in beside me, wrapping me up warm and safe in his arms. "Good night Bella. Dream sweet dreams, I'll be here when you wake." Edward whispered into my hair, then he completed his sentence with a tender kiss on the top of my head. I smiled, responding to the silent spoken ending. "Thank you." ---- --I gasped; groggy and disorientated when a sudden lack of pressure and warmth disappeared in a cold whooshing of fabric. Edward grunted sleepily behind be, pulling me closer to his chest protectively as he felt our blankets being ripped off us. My eyes snapped open to see Coach Clapp and three other boys standing beside our bed. Coach had a hand over his heart like he was having a heart attack...or recovering from one. The other boys looked shocked, then amused by the scene. It took me a moment to figure it out, then it clicked. They thought exactly what Edward had been trying to protect me from. I groaned, sitting up and shaking Edward awake. "Edward, wake up. We're going to miss the bus; I forgot to set the alarm yesterday." "I'll hail a cab. Come back to bed." He started trying to pull me down again, not aware of our audience yet. His eyes flashed open though when he heard John snickering at the edge of the bed. Edward moved to sit up quickly, gasping in shock but he was so close to the edge of the bed that when he went to put his hand behind him to keep him upright it encountered nothing but air. Edward fell out bed with a mighty thump. I looked at the edge of the bed where Edward just disappeared from for a moment, then turned back to Coach. "Was it really necessary to maim Edward?" Coach Clapp looked severely at me. "I would have done more then that. You have a separate room for a reason." Edward's head popped up, grinning. "Did you just threaten me?" Coach crossed his arms in front of his chest. "It wasn't a threat; it was a promise that if it happened again under my watch, something very, very bad will happen to you. Get out of bed you two, the bus leaves in half an hour." I nodded and yawned. "'Kay, we'll be down soon." Edward stood up and stretched. Then left with the rest of the boys to give me my privacy to change. I heard some of the boys ribbing Edward.

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I went to throw my wet hair up into a pony tail after my shower but the usual one on my wrist was missing. I looked for it for a good five minute before the already repressed memory peeked through and I sighed. I made it down to the parking lot where we were all waiting. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was warm out. Not like at all Friday, but today also wasn't even close to Florida's winters. Coach was talking on an old prehistoric cell phone that closely resembled mine. He looked aggravated and I heard him say-too loudly-that he'd had enough of the people in this school and he wanted to be gone now. Finally he snapped the phone shut and muttered the explanation to us quickly. "Our bus is having some troubles getting started. It will be a little late." When the bus did come, it was just past twelve in the afternoon. I didn't mind much, the warm weather made it nice to be outside and Edward presented a wonderful barrier to boredom. To my great surprise, my team didn't shun me for being knocked out of the game yesterday, if anything, they complimented me on playing well. They kept muttering slurs about the other team and I shrugged more times then I could count, and told them I was over it. We won, and we got to move onto finals. When the bus came Edward put my bag away again against my wishes, and sat with me on the way home. He answered my other questions about Mrs. X while most of the other boys laughed raucously in the back and threw playful insults at each other about their playing yesterday. "Oh, I forgot to give you this." Edward said suddenly. He pulled a letter out of his pocket and handed it to me. I looked at it confused. "Is this from you?" "No, it's from the captain on the other team." I opened it, and read it over quickly, then again more slowly. Isabella, On behalf of myself and my team I would like to apologize for yesterday's un-sportsmanship, especially mine. You are an example of determination and courage that we tried to undermine. Though I did not approve before, I understand how gifted your team is to have you a part of it, and I wish you and your team luck in the finals. I hope we meet again so that we may redeem ourselves with just game that better demonstrates who we are as a team. Though I am not quite happy about this next part, I would like to share it with you. My girlfriend took your strength and bravery as a model for women and is planning on showing her own strength by joining the boy's football team at out own school. I may not approve of the risk, but I am very proud of her, and she wanted me to thank you for the inspiration. Sincerely, Sam Uley I looked up shocked so see Edward reading over my shoulder curiously. "Huh, that was...big of him. I didn't expect a formal written apology from any of those dogs."

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I rolled my eyes at him, "The wolves would have played well I'm sure if we hadn't surprised them. What would you have done if you were in their positions?" Edward sighed, "I'm not sure. If I knew you, I wouldn't have done anything of the sort." "They didn't know me." Edward sighed, looking at me tiredly. "Do you always need to play the devil's advocate?" I grinned before our bus started choking . Apparently it wasn't just having problems starting. We ended up having to wait another hour for a new bus to come pick us up to take us all home. When we did get home it was later then it should have been, and no one was waiting at the bus stop for our return. "Hey, Edward? Can I talk to you about something?" I asked as he was getting my bag out from under the bus's carry. "Sure." Edward stood and handed me my bag, waiting patiently for me to start. Nervousness clenched my stomach into knots. While we had been stranded, I had thought about what Sam had written, on people I had inspired. I didn't want to be afraid anymore. "I actually meant later, I want to put my stuff away in my room and say hello to Alice. I'll meet you by our tree maybe?" Edward smiled, "Sure, I wouldn't mind the time to wash up anyways." We parted our separate ways and I ran to throw all my things away. Alice was suspiciously absent, though I called out for her when I walked in. I had expected her to welcome me back. Oh well, I thought, all the more time to stress about what I was about to do. I walked out of my room, closing and locking the door with more concentration then was really necessary. When I finally reached our tree where it over looked the lake despite my stalling, Edward was already there. I sat down silently next to him and he moved a little closer to me. We silently looked up at the sky as I tried to collect my thoughts. Edward was leaning back on his arms, looking up at the early stars just as I was. I took small shallow breaths to keep from allowing the panic to find a place to reside in my chest. Edward was sitting what would have been suspiciously close to me if I hadn't already known why he placed himself just so. He wanted to be close to me. If I were strong, this wouldn't be a problem. I would be able to be close to him in every way, I would be able to open myself to him and relinquish all my fears and vulnerabilities without fear that they would be turned back on me when Edward moved on and I was left with nothing. I didn't want to leave myself so defenceless and exposed; I didn't want to give something so vital away when I wouldn't be able to function without it. My heart, which had once upon an easier time when boys had cooties

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only been full of aspirations and dreams, had now expanded to hold a love for my friend boy who desperately wanted to be my Boy friend. Switching the order of two little words shouldn't be so hard to do. So I had two choices, neither of them something I wanted to consider because no matter how many times I envisioned what path each would lead me down, I always ended up broken. Choice one: I could give him my strengths, and weaknesses, my dreams and my nightmares, my joys and my fears and trust that it would all be safe in Edward's hands. I could take that leap and love Edward and let him love me. I could let myself be happy with the only man that could ever truly fulfill me and let me be Bella, sports and all without feeling intimidated by who I was and wanted to be. Choice two: I could be too terrified to weaken myself for another person and refuse him. Him and the chance to truly be whole, to be happy and belong to someone who would keep me safe from all the people who did intend to cause me harm. I could be unbroken and undivided if I just gave him the chance to finalize what I was supposed to be. I knew who I was, and for the most part I liked who I was. But that was only half of something, and nothing could be totally appreciated until it was finished. I wished I could say I was a fragmentary masterpiece, but I was just a work in progress. Edward was quiet, letting me think. He always knew when I was thinking or when I was sad or happy. He knew everything, while leaving me with a small private piece of me. Something I could either give to him or retain for myself and I appreciated the distance he let me have out of courtesy. I was slowly building up the courage while I stared at the grey waves shyly caressing the dark sand on the mini beach. The sky was cloudy, apparently warning of the oncoming winter with shorter days and colder nights. We were given this one last day of warmth before winter finally reared it's ugly head. Alice would be happy that the snow was coming soon. In one last show of its promise to return when the clouds again yielded it the sky, a small bit of temporarily relinquished sky was painted in soft purples melting peacefully into oranges, and finally the clouds harmonized the beauty with a dazzling blushing of pinks and reds. The sky was braver then me, though it let me feel the smallest bit of hope. If the day could relinquish itself to a force that it could no more control the then changing of seasons, and especially if night could permit and even compliment the sky when it was ready to show its tender side as it made ready to rest then maybe I too could learn by example. Weakness didn't always equate to defeat. Maybe sometimes you needed to be weak to become stronger. Needed to lose something to gain so much more. Maybe Edward was right and I wasn't whole. Not yet. "Edward?" I asked quietly. I needed to be sure. "Can you tell me something? The absolute truth?" my voice was steadier then I had expected it to be, but it was my trembling hands that were giving me away. I curled my knees up and tucked my hands between my stomach and my legs. Edward turned to me, his eyes soft with a quiet flicker of surprise. The luminosity that had started in Edward's eyes had consumed him, the goodness of who he was, was unhindered now, shining with pride of what he knew he was and wanted "Of course Bella, ask me anything."

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"Do you love me? Do you think you'll want to love me years from now?" Edward was about to answer me, but I put a finger to his lips quickly, "Wait, I'm not done yet. Listen to the rest before you answer me, alright?" Edward sighed and nodded, and then he moved my hand and leaned over and kissed the top of my head. Of course, Edward wanted to answer now; he probably had a whole speech memorized for this moment. I curled my hand back into my stomach, taking a deep breath as I watched the sky do it's timeless, and somehow, still dazzling and awe inspiring dance into night, and I took comfort in it. I measured my words carefully so he would understand it all. "If you say no...I promise I won't be angry at you. I wont yell or cry or anything else, we'll just go our separate ways and you can try to win back some of those numbers you burned before." I smiled a little at him, and Edward smiled back encouragingly. "Maybe when all of this has passes we could even be normal friends again without the whole Mrs. X business. This isn't like an all or nothing deal." Edward smiled at that in a secret way that had me wondering what he had heard in my words that had amused him. "Can I answer yet or is there anymore?" "I'm done, go ahead." Edward's smile became softer, and he reached over to cup my cheek in his palm. With out my permission, my head leaned into his hand and a soft sigh escaped me. Edward's smile widened. "Isabella Marie Swan, I think I will love you a year from now, I'm sure I'll love you five years from now, and I'm almost positive I'll love you ten years from now. What I know is that I'll love you until my heart stops beating. I know that when I'm with you time doesn't mean anything. I know that when I die, whether I'm reborn or sent to the next world or whatever it is that is waiting for me; I will always be searching for you and you alone. "I know that someday you're going to get old, I know that you might not be as thin as you are now, or your hair won't be as soft and dark as it is now. I know that there will be people who are going to try and take you away from me and me from you and that the course of true love never did run smooth anyways. "I know that when we get into collage together we are going to get busy and we are going to get stressed and we'll probably fight more because of that. I know that we won't always agree on the same things and that we might work hard hours or maybe you won't want to have children when I want to. I know there is a very definite chance that your father will hate me or your mother might never approve of us. "I also know that when I look at anything even remotely beautiful, I always see it in your face, and because of that I knowthat when you get old and grey you will always be the most beautiful thing to me. I know that I'll never be able to find that in anyone else. I know that I'm happy when I'm with you, and that even when I'm angry or stressed or hurt or lost that I'll be able to look at you and know that eventually all these things will pass and it will just be you and me again. And I know all of this because you are Bella and I am Edward and I love you." I could only stare at him for a moment while my eyes pricked with tears. "Too much?" Edward wondered, looking a little shamefaced as he dropped his hand from my cheek. Maybe I couldn't give as dazzling a speech as Edward could, but I could give him everything he wanted. I

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could give him beauty and peace and love and truth and a safe place to go when the world turned ugly just as Edward was offering me. All I had to do was take it. I moved my hand up to trace his eyes where they burned with truth and love and a small dancing spark of humour for having spilled his heart out to me so genuinely and even if the subject of children was a little scary, I loved him for being able to think about it when I couldn't. This was why he was perfect for me and me for him. I moved my hand to cup his cheek, letting my thumb smooth over the hairless skin of his jaw. "No Edward, It was perfect." I whispered. I moved my self on my knees in front of him, letting my other hand take his face too. I stopped right before his lips. "Edward Anthony Cullen...I love you too." And then I let my lips mould to his softly. Edward kissed me back slowly, adoringly and each of his words before was proven an absolute fact even though most of it was the future. It was set in stone just as the world would turn and the day would turn into night and night to day. And as we kissed in soft sentiments that traded weakness for strength and fears for joy, the peace of darkness settled in as the day gave itself-in perfect harmony and conviction-into the night. Twilight had never been so beautiful. "Something we were withholding made us weak, until we found it was ourselves." –Robert Frost Chap 24 Epilogue Teeny Tiny Twilight Obituary Early Thursday morning Edward and Isabella Cullen were found together in their bed in an eternal embrace of their love in their house in Jacksonville. Doctors have determined that Edward Cullen's heart failed, and that this had been long expected. There was no evidence found to what Isabella died from other then her wisdom, counted by her numerous years. Both Isabella and Edward were ninety three at their time of death and had enjoyed a happy marriage for over seventy years. They left behind four Children, three children in law and six grandchildren. The funeral will be held Saturday at the Kerlin Funeral Home from three till five. All are welcome to pay their last respects. -------- ------------------ -----------------P.O.V-no oneThe two caskets at the front of the room could hardly been seen through the constant stream of tears from the mourning crowd. Some grieved quietly while others let lose with their racking sobs as the minister finished his speech on two people he didn't know.

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Little Alice, her mind still sharp in her old age though her eyes were dull, leaving her clinically blind was helped onto the stage by her grey haired Jasper. He still looked upon his blind wife with enough love that she didn't need to see to know it was there. It saturated the way he touched and guided her by her elbow, it could be seen and heard in the way he tenderly murmured to her where the stairs were and which way they were turning. Jasper turned Alice towards her audience, and took a step away to give her the spot light. Alice spoke,"If I knew either of them, I know that they wouldn't want us to cry now for them, they would want us to remember them happily. That's why I brought some home movies for you to see." Alice smiled as tears continued to fall silently from her useless eyes. Jasper and Alice's son came to the front quickly to set up the first movie. Jasper squeezed his shoulder with a sad smile, and Bryant smiled back, then came and kissed Alice's cheek with his own reassuringly tender hand squeeze. "Thank you Bryant." Alice murmured. "Watch little Alison, I think she's getting into the treats." Alice smiled at the mention of her littlest grand daughter who, just like she knew was getting into the snacks that were laid out for the guests. It never ceased to surprise anyone how Alice still managed to know and see all. The old VHS tape started. The sobs quieted while the tears came faster as a young Edward and Bella appeared on the blue ray projection screen. Bella was standing in the tender embrace of Edward's arms, shifting awkwardly and biting her lip. Edward watched her mouth fascinated. When Bella caught his gaze he smiled unperturbed. "Stop worrying Bella, you look breath taking." And indeed she did. The silken blue dress draped around her frame which was given a new definition with the printed gold that shimmered with her as she moved. (dress on profile) Bella in turn made a face at Edward, "I don't even know how you got me into this thing." The crowd watching laughed sadly at youthful Bella while she scowled down at herself. A voice trilled, hidden behind the video camera. "Plus it makes your breast look nice." Edward laughed and Bella blushed looking horrified at the camera. "You'll delete that, right Alice?" She asked with a horrified expression. "Of course Bella. I'll burn this tape when we get home. No one will see it." The trilling voice responded and the audience laughed again, real laughs as the Bella on the screen looked relieved. "Alright. This tape is for Mr. Clapp's gym class on expression through dance." Bella said, looking at the screen, her expression twisted in distain for their current unit. Then Edward, who was just as well dressed as Bella in a dark tuxedo, turned and disappeared of to side of the screen just as Bella did in the opposite direction. A song started and Emmett, who sat in one of the front benches, recognized it as apple bottom jeans by T-pain. He would have smiled if the seat next him that should have been taken by his wife wasn't empty. Both Bella and Edward appeared on the screen again, dancing formally despite the contrasting music. Edward placed one hand on Bella's bare back and she shivered at the touch, smiling up at Edward as he started to lead her in a fox trot in time with the beat. Bella lagged a little in the dancing department, but the effortless grace in

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which Edward moved compensated for it. They smiled at each other, as they danced. Everyone realized that Alice had been right in picking this video, showing their love for each other in ways that no written not spoken words could have described. You simply needed to see and experience the feeling first hand to understand it. This was the beauty of young love that each of the people here knew had blossomed into a deeper, more mature love. When the song finished, Edward turned Bella towards the screen, and they both bowed. "What was being demonstrated in this piece," Bella started, pausing to catch a short breath, "was how separate personalities can come together and make something better then it was alone." Bella looked at Edward then, and the almost worshipping love that passed between them was enough to bring anyone to tears. Everyone understood now what the dance had been expressing. The song had been Edward while the dance had been Bella. The two coming together had been energetic and fun with undertones of respect and something that only the truly in love could identify. It was the severance of one soul dwelling in two separate bodies. "Are we done?" Edward asked, not looking towards the camera. Instead his eyes were focused on Bella's full lips, currently pulled up into a smile. "Yep." Alice said happily. Edward smiled, and then he kissed Bella. Their lips were still moulded to each other's when the tape stopped. Alice smiled. "For the next movie, I'll need Jasper to read something for me." Alice negotiated a step back careful of the wires that set out to trip her fragile footing. Jasper stepped up and cleared his throat, opening the old and yellowed letter he held in his hands. "Dear Mr. Cullen, We regret to inform you that the tests have shown that you and Mrs. Cullen are not able to bear children together. Bella's reproductive system is quite okay. We have concluded that your chromosome disorder extends farther then just the production of your pubic hair, it also effects your sperm count, has reinforced your bones with enamel, and made a higher red and white blood cell count. What this means is that even if your sperm does reach Bella's egg, your chromosomes are so different we do not think it will be possible for you to create a child. We apologize for not being able to give you better news, and if you do not feel fit to come into work tomorrow, we have your shift covered. Sincerely, Dr. Gordian" Jasper stepped back as another movie started. Friends and family where sitting under a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. The only one missing was the one who had thrown together all the decorations. Edward, now twenty eight looked down morosely at one of the Christmas gifts. Christmas was hard for him and Rose this year once they had both found they couldn't have children. Rose had a chromosome disorder that no one had caught onto until she and Emmett were trying for children. Rose had been born with out eggs.

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Edward picked up one of the gifts, reading the name tag aloud. "To daddy, from Bella." He sighed, and then went to pass the box to Charlie. Edward tried to smile, the expression looking fake as envy burned in his eyes. Bella took the gift from Charlie and handed it back to Edward. "It's for you." She smiled her own secret smile. Edward looked at her tiredly. "That's just cruel Bella." Bella moved closer to him, leaning her head against his shoulder. "I know, and I'm sorry. I thought you would...like it anyways." Edward sighed, and unwrapped the box. What he saw made his eyes burn with anger. He picked up the large plastic doll clothed in only in a diaper and a skirt. "Do you really think this is funny?"He demanded of her, holding the doll with distain by one of its chubby plastic hands. Edward looked like he was going to say more when something fell out of the doll's dress, followed by three other something's. Bella looked at Edward with quiet amusement as he picked up a long think stick with a piece of paper attached to it. He read the paper out loud, his voice in not comprehending yet. "You can practice with this for another seven and a half months. Merry Christmas daddy." Finally Edward really looked at the think stick in his hands with a pretty blue plus sign printed on it. "This...this can't be right." He whispered. Bella smiled patiently at him and picked up the three other pregnancy tests from off the floor. "I thought you would say that, so I had three more done." Edward's hand came over his mouth in a rare speechless moment, his eyes watering with joy. A single sob broke through his lips before-in front of everyone-Edward jumped on top of Bella, sobbing happily as he held her. "Oh my god." He murmured again and again until he was singing it. Bella's face which had been finally showing the true joy of the moment twisted and she pushed Edward off of her, running off the screen. Edward looked after her for a minute with confusion until the sound of Bella's retching made Edward smile again. "You didn't have the flu!" Edward jumped up and ran after her into the bathroom, though the screen didn't move. From off screen everyone heard Edward's victory cry. "Morning sickness!" A younger Alice that no one had seen in over fifty years all except Jasper, who saw the same women he fell in love with every time he looked at her appeared on the screen as she turned to camera on herself. "Because none of us want to see what Bella had for dinner last night, we'll just say this. Congratulations you two!" the movie cut off with that and a much older Alice stepped up to speak again. Alice laughed a little. "I remember that Christmas. When Bella told me I didn't believe it either until she showed me all the positive pregnancy tests. She asked me to help keep the secret from Edward, which proved much harder then either of us thought. When Bella blamed her morning sickness on the flu, Edward wanted to take her to the hospital just to make sure she was okay. He almost got her there too but I stepped in at the last

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second." Alice laughed at the thought of one of the doctors telling Edward exactly what Bella had. "I'm sure most of you know who that little one was. Renesmee was followed by three more impossible miracles. Jasmett, Carlie, and Alose." Alice shook her head at the names. "I'm sorry babies," Alice said, looking at each of Bella and Edward's children where they mourned. "But I honestly didn't like the names that Bella picked out for you all until she told me why she chose them. She told me that each of you was a miracle, and something so miraculous couldn't have normal names." Alice laughed again and the mood in the funeral home was starting to brighten from dismal and dark to the slightest shining of light. "I'm sure the doctors agree with her. To this day, they still don't understand how Edward's chromosomes could have possible matched with Bella's. Not once, not twice, not even three times. Bella and Edward defeated the odds and had four children. Doctors and scientists are smart, I'll give them that since I was a woman of science married to a man of science, but none of us could ever figure out the power of love and the impossible odds it can over come. I wish I could say I have another memory for you to see, but it isn't the case. It was so impossible to convince Bella to step on screen." Alice shook her head and then stepped away from the microphone. Jasper helped her back to her seat. Their hands didn't separate once they were seated, and even though his wife didn't see, Jasper smiled down at her, still undone my the miracle of their love. Renesmee stepped up next; her eyes were still wet at the passing of her parents so close together. "I have some memories to share, though I have to agree with Aunt Alice, it was impossible to get mom to participate in any kind of recording." Renesmee smiled in warm memory. "She was also impossible to argue with. Being a lawyer had nothing to do with it. My mother was like the fair Judge of the family. She loved us all equally, and if there was one thing she hated in this world, it was double standards. None of us got away with anything the others didn't. That's what made her such a good mother, I think. Another thing that I learned and try to apply to my own parenting, was mom never said no. She told you why something was wrong, and how it hurt others and if you went and did it anyways she let you learn your lesson, but was always there to help you pick the pieces up afterwards. "I remember once I stole a lollypop from a candy store, and mom found the wrappers under my bed. When I told her I didn't know where it came from, she didn't say anything except put the wrapper in a plastic bag and put on the cork board in our living room. For the next week, every time I said something, even if she knew it was the truth she would look at the candy wrapper then back at me sadly. When I finally told her the truth she looked so proud of me, but she still make me take the wrapper back to the store and say I was sorry. I never lied or stole anything again." Renesmee smiled a little. "No matter what you did, even if she was angry, she always loved you. Even in our worst fights, if I needed her, she was there." Renesmee smiled again, "If mom was the fair judge, then dad was the bottomless pit of love. I think he was the one who really showed me how to love unconditionally. It wasn't just the way he acted with us, it was also with mom. They continued to hold hands together until the very end. Every once and a while I remember dad would do something, go completely out of his way to do something for mom and after each time he did, he kissed her on top of her head. I asked mom what it meant once, and she just smiled and told me it meant that she was Bella Cullen." Renesmee smiled one more time, "There has never been a doubt in my mind that mom and dad loved each other, and were absolutely made for the other. I'll miss them." Renesmee turned and kissed first her mother, then her father where they lay. She walked down off the podium and back to her seat. Jasmett and Alose stood up together. Alose had something tucked under her arm, her father's green eyes shone

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out of her mother's pale face, framed by her dark thick hair, while Jasmett, the only son in the family looked more like Edward. Bella could only been seen in the shape of his eyes and the shrewd quirk in his eyebrow. Jasmett smiled. "I have to agree with Alice when it came to names. Especially mine;" he chuckled Edward's laugh, "I'm ashamed to say that I'm the only one of Bella's children that gave her grandchildren normal names." His children, who were quietly playing an inconspicuous game of sunken treasure with their mother's purse turned their attention to where their father had mentioned them. Jasmett winked at them and they smiled and waved back. Desree, their mother, chastised them with a look that pinned them each to their seat. Jasmett smiled and Alice's heart ached at how similar Edward and Jasmett were. "There were a lot of things about my mother and father's relationship that continue to remain a mystery to me, and I think that's the way they wanted it. I remember that no matter how busy things got at mom's court hearings or dad's hospital, they always managed to be together for sunset, even if it meant that they would be on the phone and watch the sunset from opposite ends of the city over a silent line. It was one of the things that made their love different then any other one I have ever known." Jasmett stepped back and let Alose take the stage. They smiled at each other, each of the Cullen's coming together to get through their most tragic loss. "I found something while we were sorting mom and dad's things." Alose had to swallow back her tears. She took a moment to compose herself before she continued. "And we found an old picture that was dated back to dad's prehistoric high school days." Alice sniffed at the remark about how long it had been since high school for each of them as Alose unfolded the picture in her hands. It was of a familiar broken angel on a beautiful hilltop. "The picture was amazing enough, but it was what was on the back that threw us all. It says 'Your strength is what makes the world your own, your weakness that makes the world mine.' There was also a poem attached to the picture. We read it and we all thought that it told a certain story about the angel on the hill and the man who drew her." Alose cleared her throat, unblocking the tears that threatened to choke her words. "To tell the truth, to never lie, I cross my heart and hope to die, Where blind men see and deaf men hear, It is this angel I must fear. For nothing gained is something lost, and something lost has once been gained. I therefore pledge my heart to failing wings, To live a life of loveless things, And should she die before I wake, I beg of you my soul you take." Jasmett and Alose walked silently back to their seats after Jasmett had tucked the picture and poem into Bella's coffin. It belonged to her. Carlie knew that what she had to say next would probably never be believed by any of the people in this room but for Bella and Edward's children who each saw the genuine partition of two souls that couldn't be without the other. The poem had made what she was about to say all the more true. She took her place in front of everyone. She didn't wipe away the silent streaming tears on her cheeks. If Jasmett was Edward, then Carlie was Bella, only with a taller stature then her mother had, and softer words.

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"What I have to say is short, mostly because I spent all last night trying to summarize mom and dad, or even their love. I couldn't do it. Instead I'll share something with you that not even my brother or sisters have heard yet. "Once upon a time, when my mother was just a young girl looking for her perfect prince and my father was imagining ways to sweep his princess off her feet, my mother made a wish. Most of what she wished for, everyone has seen already in my father, and some of the other parts of the wish belong to her. The most heart breaking part of the wish comes at the very end, because my mom already had her story planned out. She knew how she wanted it to end. "The doctors said that my mom died six hours before my dad did, and that there was evidence that my father had woken up some time in the morning and found my mother first. I was the one who found them both when I was taking my little one to see grandma and grandpa." Carlie paused, partly to let that sink in and to let anyone leave who wouldn't want to hear the next part. "My dad was holding mom in his lap. "If you haven't guessed as to what the end of my mother's wish was, it was to die one day before the love of her life." Carlie looked each of these people, the ones who wouldn't believe in wishes, the ones who didn't know how real true love was, no matter the age, or how long they were married or how much or little money they made. "I guess dad just couldn't wait the whole twenty four hours." ----------------------------------------------------------------------- -------------------- - -----------------------And because I couldn't leave you all on a note like that. Bella and Edward's honeymoon -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -------------------Bella Edward's hands burned where they touched my skin even through the fabric. One on my back and one under my knees. I smiled at him, an excited, anticipating expression that hadn't left my face since we had been pronounced husband and wife. "Maybe you should have rethought the whole threshold thing when you chose a honeymoon suite in the penthouse." I told him gently, all the while trying to hold back my laughter. Edward, on the thirteenth floor in the stairwell, huffed and leaned back against the wall. "I thought about taking the elevator but that seemed to ruin the whole idea of the threshhold." His cheeks were flushed with exertion. "I can walk the rest of the way, and you can pick me up when we reach the suite." Edward shook his head stubbornly. "I can do it." Then he looked up all the stairs he had left to climb. I pursed my lips to keep from laughing. "Cheer up; you only have twenty seven floors left." Edward groaned, and then started up the stairs again. "You would make a wonderful motivational speaker." He muttered sarcastically. I smiled, then kissed his neck. "I love you. Even if you don't make it up all these stairs." Edward grinned down at me. "That's why we're here. And don't say that, I'll get to the fortieth floor."

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I smiled to myself and let him pant his way up the stairs, letting my mind wander back to the day he proposed to me. *** I barely managed to walk in the door before I wanted to collapse. After all day listening to laws and jurisdictions, and how to prepare legal papers all I wanted to do was lay down and die until I had to start it all over again tomorrow morning. Collage was-despite all my complaining-much more fun then I thought it would be. It was only my last class that put me in a bad mood. The teacher seemed only capable of a monotone when he spoke about laws and regulations. All my other classes were wonderful. Most of my teachers made me get involved in what they were saying, making everything they taught interesting. It was surprisingly easy to read the text books and do the essays that they wanted when I liked it. I found myself smiling when I was writing an essay, something that didn't happen in my other classes when I had been in high school. Or maybe it was that Edward and I shared a dorm that made me smile. I shifted my bag on my shoulder and was reminded of the day Edward bought me a lap top to help me in my classes. I flipped out of course when I saw it, but he showed me how to work it, and told me all the things it could do. I felt very prepared for my classes, and I thanked him, while I tried to think of a way to reciprocate the action. I had already tried to convince Edward on more then one occasion to sleep with me, but he refused on the grounds that 'it wasn't the right time yet'. I still had the lab top tucked safely in my backpack. I had managed not to even give it a scratch in the first two years, but after five years, it was starting to look a little worse for wear. Edward had tried to convince me in letting him get me another one. I said no, that this one was special to me. I put my back pack beside the kitchen table that looked too big, while it was actually small. Like our kitchen. We-technically-had two bedrooms too, but we shared mine, while Edward put his things and clothes in his other room. I never tired to falling asleep with Edward's arms wrapped around me. I quietly started my homework, remembering the time that the sun would set today. Edward and I had started an unintentional ritual every night. There was something that I always thought was magical about the sunset now that I saw something familiar in it. So every time at twilight, I would sit and watch the sun set. Edward apparently had been doing the same thing, and it wasn't until he caught me once that we both realized what we were doing. We started to meet to watch the sunset after that. The sound of our bedroom door clicking quietly caught my attention. I looked up to see Edward watching me surprised. "You're home already?" I looked at the clock on the wall. It was the normal time I came home at. "Yeah, I thought you were sleeping." My eyes narrowed suspiciously at his expression. "What were you up to?" Edward smiled excitedly at me. "Do you want me to show you?" Intrigued by the mystery I nodded and got up to follow him into our room. Edward finished classes earlier

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then me on Fridays. It always irked me to no end how he always finished his homework faster then I did, and then he wandered around and unintentionally distracted me when he stood behind me to play with my hair, or played with the tips of my fingers when I was thinking of what to type next. Edward stood in front of our bedroom door, a grandiose way. Then he smiled at me hugely, and opened the door for me. I was shocked speechless, watching what he had done. Edward had far too much time on his hands. Our sheets had been changed to something that shone like silk in the subtle light from two strategically placed candles, the only light in the room that illuminated the words on the bed, written in freesia and lavender pedals. Marry Me? I think I should be committed. I really and truly think that girlfriend who screams like they we're on fire when their wonderful and perfect boyfriend proposes to them belong in mental institutes. "Are you insane?" I yelled at him while he looked confused as to what he had done wrong. When I caught my breath, staring wide eyed at the letters that at the moment seemed to spell insanity, all I could think of was trying to work through collage and trying to make a marriage work. Edward looked at me sincerely, "But I love you." Edward got down on one knee. "Please? Isabella Marie Swan, I swear to love you for the rest of forever. Will you marry me?" I think it was his eyes that had disarmed me. Or maybe the way that only Edward could say my whole first name with out making it sound wired. Or maybe it was because I just really loved him that much. Whatever it was, I somehow managed a yes through the block in my throat. Apparently that night had been Edward's right time. *** Edward's only right time. Apparently Edward only saved those nights for special marriage related occasions. "Edward?" I asked as he was taking another break on the thirtieth floor. "Are you sure you just don't want me to walk? I really wouldn't mind." Edward shook his head breathlessly. "No, I got this." "Can I ask you a question then?" I wondered, leaning my head against his chest to listen to his heart beating frantically in his chest.

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"Sure." He grinned down at me. "I'd tell you-give you anything and everything." "Except sex." Edward let out a breathless laugh. "Can you wait till we get up the stairs?" I rolled my eyes at him. "You know what I mean." Edward started up the stairs again. "The only reason we didn't wait till now, was because I didn't want there to be any pain on our wedding day. I want this to be the best day of your life." Edward huffed, "At this rate my arms are going to fall off before my legs do." I took a tighter grip around his neck so his arms weren't supporting so much of my weight. I guessed what Edward said made sense, and now that I really had the opportunity to look at it like Edward did, I would have made the same decision. Tonight was going to be special...once Edward got up the stairs. When we made it to the fortieth floor, I stole the room key from Edward's pocket and unlocked the door for him. He fulfilled his promise of carrying me over the threshold, and then he gently placed me on the bed before collapsing on it beside me. "I'm sorry Bella, but we take the elevator next time." I laughed, worming into the circle of his arms while he caught his breath. "Okay. I propose that neither of us leave this bed for the rest of our honeymoon." Edward smiled at the thought, his eyes closing. "That sounds perfect." I kissed up his neck, peppering his jaw before finally kissing his lips. Edward's arms wrapped around me, holding me close to him. His lips parted mine gently and with out my conscious command, my hands wound into his hair. His lips left mine, peppering kisses down my neck and along my collarbone. "Mrs. Cullen?" He whispered against my skin, his breath was coming faster again, just as my chest was heaving under me. I managed a whimper. Edward smiled against my skin, "May I love you?" I wrapped my arms tighter around his neck. "Yes." Edward went to maneuver a way to pull the zipper on the back of my dress down while I was laying on it. I sat up and pulled it over my head. Alice had gotten word of our wedding, and the next thing either of us knew, she was wedding coordinator. Edward and I hardly had to lift a finger, and it also meant that we had out fits for each occasion. My traveling dress was lighter then the hot wedding dress had been. Edward pulled his own shirt off along with his slacks. I went to undo my bra, but Edward caught my hands. "Do you mind if I do that?" He whispered against my bare shoulder. "But I'm almost done." I frowned perplexed at him.

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Edward's hand danced behind my back and then I heard the click of the hooks coming apart. Edward didn't let the bra fall; instead he kissed my shoulder until it encountered the thin strap. His fingers flicked the other strap off my shoulder before he finally let the inconsequential piece of fabric fall from me. Edward's hands were fluttering down over my skin then, only hesitating a moment where my breasts peaked. Edward left butterfly kisses down from my shoulder, between the valley of my breasts, and then over my stomach. His thumbs hooked and peeled the last piece of fabric off me. My breaths were coming too fast and shallow already. I let myself fall back from where I supported myself on my elbows. I looked at the ceiling, trying to slow my breathing. Edward's smiling face appeared above me. "You're beautiful." He told me, then he pecked me quickly once the lips. "Is that so?" I murmured absentmindedly, trying to pull him down to me for a real kiss. Edward danced out of my reach, smiling still. I saw as he leaned back that he had discarded his boxers. I sat up too, reaching for him. He ducked out under my hand again. His eyes danced with challenge. I raised an eyebrow at him. "This isn't a sport Edward; you can't beat me in this." Edward laughed, "You can make a sport out of anything." I made a lunge at him, knocking him on his back so I straddled his stomach. The bed was big enough to wrestle in. I had never understood the practicalities of beds this big until now. There must be more Edwards out there then I had previously thought. None like mine thought. I grabbed his shoulders, in the same moment that his hands took hold of my waist. "Gotcha!" We both exclaimed. I shook my head, at him stubbornly. Now that this was turning into a game, my competitive spirit was coming out. "I'm on top, that means I have you." "Fine," Edward grinned, and then he flipped us so I was on the bottom. "Gotcha." I frowned, "That's cheating." Edward laughed. "That's marriage." I pursed my lips but I couldn't help but let a small laughed slip through my lips. "Fine, you win." Then I moved so my voice was at his ear. "I'm yours." Edward sighed contently at that, "Mine." He whispered, listening to how it sounded. Then he grinned crookedly at me, my breath stuttered in my throat. "I like that." He murmured his eyes impossibly deep as they stared into mine. "I do too." I whispered. The wedding band on my left finger glinted in the light and we both looked to admire this impossible fact that we belonged to each other. Edward met my eyes again, and with out needing to speak, I knew what he wanted to tell me. I loved him too. I shifted my legs apart so he could position himself comfortably between them.

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With one gentle movement our bodies tangled into one. It was still a shock, the feeling of having someone else inside me, but it didn't hurt this time. I watched, as Edward's eyes stayed on my face, his pupils dilated though the light in the room didn't change. The black in his eyes nearly consumed the green until there was just a thin band of glowing colour around the night sky. He rocked and a heat-not like fire, it didn't burn though it seemed to consume me-spread through out my body with the absolute knowledge that there was only Edward and I in the entire world. Nothing could ever change that. I could feel the heat start to change something deep within me. I felt like I was drowning in a feeling that pulled me closer to Edward while he moved inside me. As my name slipped from his lips, originating somewhere in the depth of him, I knew what the feeling was. It wasn't love. Love wasn't a strong enough word. It was something that was so much deeper then that, it was something that pulled a piece of who I was out and replaced the missing part with a perfect piece of Edward that completed me. This was the eternal truth of who we were. We were one half of the other, one perfect piece that was finding the familiar contours of the shape it had been at another time. Another feeling distracted me, it built itself from my abdomen, a delicious clenching that flashed pleasure through my body. Above me, Edward gasped, his movements coming fasting, harder. I cried his name out as a flash of colours pulled into the centre of my body, then exploded in a wave of bliss that knocked the world off its axis. Edward came soon after, his face twisting into an expression of absolute pleasure. Pin prickles fluttered across the top of my skin as Edward pulled out and lay down beside me. Edward's hand reached over to weave his fingers with mine. I smiled lazily at him, turning on my side so I could look at him, our fingers still twined together tightly. His eyes were back to normal, the circle of green that was so unique and bright, not in colour but in the way they glowed, the way his whole self glowed. No one else ever commented on it, and I guessed that I must be the only one who saw this. Edward shifted closer to me, positioning his lips at my ear. "Do you know what this ring means?" his breath tickled and I felt his twined finger sooth across the ring. I shook my head infinitesimally even though I had an idea of what it meant to me. I could hear the smile in Edward's voice when he spoke again. "It means that we get to do that tomorrow, and the next day and the next. It means I'll never leave you, and it means that you legally are mine just as I am yours." I smiled at that thought. "It means everything is perfect now." I whispered. As long as Edward was standing next to me, it would be. Edward smiled, and I knew he agreed. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------------------- -------------------

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