A week after I stepped in and paid Edward’s bills, I was offered a job in the admissions office at Seattle Pacific University. It started the week after New Years and involved me making sure prospective students sent in complete applications with all of the required documents and transcripts. It was a step below being an admissions counsellor, but I had to admit the idea of working with students who were applying for college excited me.
It couldn’t have happened at a better time. My six month lease had run out and I was renting month to month. A full time job meant that I could move out of the tiny studio and find something larger or if I was being honest, I was kind of hoping I could move in with Edward. It was logical, after all. I mean, I spent almost half of my time there anyway. I just had to figure out how to bring it up with him.
I got the offer on Monday and on Wednesday I spent the day Edward’s, who had moved into his first emergency room rotation. I woke to the sound of water running in the bathroom and stretched as I glanced at the clock. It was 3:17 a.m. and Edward needed to be back in the E.R. by nine. I fell back to sleep while he finished getting ready for bed and woke when he curled up behind me, pulling me into his arms.
“You worked late. Was it good or bad?”
“Big accident on the highway,” he mumbled.
“Oh, that sucks.”
“Yeah, we were slammed.”
I sighed. Thanks to my countless hours of watching Grey’s Anatomy, that was really all he needed to say. I didn’t need to hear about the internal injuries or the compound fractures, at least not at three in the morning; any other time I would have been more than willing to listen.
“I love coming home when you’re here,” he whispered. “Otherwise I feel disconnected from reality. It’s just me and the hospital, you know? But when you’re here I remember there’s another world out there.”
I bit my lip, wondering if I should just come out and ask him. We hadn’t said we loved each other yet; did that make it too soon to mention moving in? I rolled over and he opened his eyes, grinning at me. He smelled of shower gel and a hint of hospital. Being so busy meant that he didn’t have time to get his hair cut, so it was wet and long, sticking out in all directions as well as falling into his eyes. It was pretty adorable.
“Would you want to come home to me every night?”
“Of course,” he said, sitting up to lean on his elbow. “What are you thinking?”
I snorted a little. “I’m thinking I got a job, so I can get a decent place…or I could move in here. We’ll probably be together every night anyway.” I shrugged.
“You want to move in?” He sounded surprised, but even in the sort of gray light of his bedroom, I could tell his eyes were sparkling with excitement.
“Do you want me to move in?”
“Yeah,” he said like it was a given. “Of course, I just thought you would think it was too soon, so I wasn’t going to bring it up.”
“It is kind of soon,” I sighed, questioning myself.
“No, don’t,” he said, recognizing the doubt in my eyes. “I’d love to have you here. I think we’re ready for it. I mean, I just won’t be here a lot. I don’t want you to feel neglected or taken for granted.”
I sat up a little, mimicking his posture and leaning on my own arm. “I know that. I can’t promise that I won’t get frustrated, but I think that might be good – you being gone and working crazy hours – we’d both still get time to ourselves when the other was at work.”
“You’ve been thinking about this, haven’t you?”
I laughed. “Honestly? It’s been a couple of months but the clincher was when I wrote out your bills.”
“I figured.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Bella, I’d like to think things can’t get worse than that, but I know they can, and they probably will, whether you’re here or not.” He sighed and leaned forward so our foreheads touched. “You know what I’m going to ask.”
I grimaced a little. “What about Charlie?”
He nodded. “What about your dad?”
“I don’t think he’s going to be thrilled but really, Edward, what can he do? We’re adults, and more than that, you’re my future. Nothing he could say would change that. I don’t see why we should wait to start a future together.”
“Is that what we’re doing?”
“That’s what I’m doing. Is it what you’re doing?” I tried not to sound worried.
“Yes, Bella, that’s what we’re doing.” He laughed and kissed me slowly, convincing me again with his lips and tongue that his everything meant the same thing to both of us.
We kissed for a few minutes, his hand finding its way up my back and into my hair, then he pulled away and sighed. I kept my eyes closed, just feeling the heat in my cheeks and the pounding of my heart, until I heard his voice,
“What about your lease?”
I ran a finger over his collarbone idly; his body always distracted me. “After six months it turned into a month to month lease, so it’s no problem. Even with the holidays I have to be out in two weeks, or I have to pay for all of next month.”
“That’s dumb.” He grabbed my finger and wrapped his hand around mine. “What if you didn’t have anywhere to move to?”
I shrugged and pulled our hands closer to me. “Then I wouldn’t move out til I found a place. They aren’t kicking me out.”
“They could spend a few weeks fixing your place up before renting it; making people stay til the end of a month is ridiculous.”
He shook his head and I knew that he was sorting out the problems with the logic behind the policy. It was just the way his mind worked; when systems that people had in place didn’t seem logical he would try to explain to everyone what was wrong with the process or policy and how it could be implemented more effectively. It usually ended in Emmett making ridiculous comments and threatening to call whoever the offending party was to tell them about Edward’s remedy. There was also usually a lot of laughter and Rose made jokes about a stick up Edward’s ass.
I squeezed his hand and asked quietly, “That’s really what you’re going to think about right now?”
His eyes got wide for a second and then his mouth turned up into a boyish smile. Busted.
“Right.” He nodded and then smiled even brighter. “So when will you move in? I can trade to get two shifts off in a row…We’ll have to plan with Emmett too, so we can use his truck and his brute strength.”
“Are you trying to get out of doing the heavy lifting?”
“Yes,” he snorted, then rolled over on top of me, kissing and tickling until I was screaming in laughter and trying to get away from him.
When he finally let up, I was gasping for breath but grinning wildly at the thought of sharing a bed with him every night, at least every night that he wasn’t at the hospital. I was still trapped underneath him, his breath just as ragged as mine. His eyes were soft as he smiled down at me.
“I love you.” His words were quiet but powerful. We watched each other for just a second before I put my hands on each side of his face, pulling him towards me.
“I love you, too.”
“I know.” He smirked.
“Jerk!” I laughed at him and put my arms around his back, squeezing him a little.
His face grew serious after his little joke. “I know you love me, and I know you were trying not to make a big deal of it, or you were afraid of how I would react. I’m sorry it took me so long to get over my shit. Sometimes I’m so pissed at myself for losing so much time with you.”
“Edward,” I sighed. “You know what? I think, even though it was painful at the time, everything happened the way it should have. How would we have dated with you across the country? We certainly couldn’t have been doing this all the time.” I wiggled my hips and chuckled. “We can’t undo the past.”
“I know, but…” he trailed off, still serious.
“No ‘buts’. We just move forward from here.”
“I like the way that sounds.” He smiled a little dreamily, or maybe that was me projecting.
“I love the way that sounds,” I teased.
“Smart ass,” he muttered, before kissing me again.
In the end, coordinating time off with two medical residents was a nightmare, especially the week before Christmas. Emmett, Rose and I moved most of my things while Edward was at the hospital. Between two twelve hour shifts, Edward stumbled like a zombie through the maze of boxes. He was too tired to do much of anything but, with Alice and Jasper’s help, I managed to get everything unpacked.
I felt a little strange trying to make all of my things fit into Edward’s space, but in reality, he hadn’t fully unpacked either. I found labeled boxes in the guest room closet that had been put away unopened when he moved in; I enlisted Alice to help me unpack those too. My week off between jobs had been a blur of packing and unpacking, cleaning and reorganizing the condo.
As expected, my mother had almost no reaction to the fact that I was moving in with Edward. She gave me an, ‘Oh that sounds nice. Glad you two are happy,’ and then told me another story about Phil’s team and some locker room prank. Surprisingly, my father had taken the news quite well. When I asked him if he was feeling all right, he’d just laughed.
“Bells, I was married to your mom for a few years; I know how you women work. Telling you that I want to grab Edward by the balls and hold a gun to his head while I threaten his life if he hurts you, is only going to push you away. I know this, you know this, and that sneaky Cullen that’s weaseled his way into your pants better know it too.”
“Dad,” I laughed. “I know you’re serious, so does Edward. Oh, and for the record – I willingly opened my pants.”
“Jesus Christ, Isabella-”
“Night, Charlie!” I called and hung up before he could say anything else.
Christmas was sort of a blur with moving, getting ready for a new job and Edward only having Christmas Day off. The Cullens and my dad came down to Seattle because the boys couldn’t make it home. Esme took over Emmett and Rose’s kitchen and cooked her usual spread. Normally after dinner we played board games and cards, but since we were at his place, Emmett insisted that we play Guitar Hero and Wii.
At one point in the evening, Esme pulled me aside. With tears in her eyes, she told me she was in my debt for making Edward so happy. I’d blushed, ducking my head, saying that Edward was the one who brought me happiness. She looked at me for a second like she wanted to argue, then pulled me into her arms laughing.
When we went home that night, Edward and I exchanged gifts. There were only a couple of things left under our tree; we gathered them up and sat on the floor facing each other. First, I handed him a small envelope, and he opened the gift card for the hospital coffee shop. He laughed at my contribution to his caffeine addiction before handing me a small gift bag with snowmen on it. I reached inside and pulled out a Duke t-shirt. I rolled my eyes and made a joke about only wearing it for him. I was still laughing, the shirt draped across my chest, when he handed me a small box. I froze, looking at it in my hands.
“Edward,” I whispered. It was a small box, but not small enough for a ring. “Tiffany’s?” I was a big fan of their classic designs, but had never been willing to buy a piece for myself. I just couldn’t justify it, even as a splurge.
“You haven’t even opened it yet. Maybe that’s not what it really is.” He raised an eyebrow, teasing.
I rolled my eyes at him, pulling the ribbon and opening the box. Inside was a blue pouch nestled in cotton. I opened it and let the silver pour into my hand.
“It’s beautiful,” I murmured, looking down at a bracelet pooled in my hand. It was simple, with thick links and an infinity symbol opposite the clasp.
Edward lifted it from my hand while I was still admiring it, spellbound. He put it around my wrist, hooking the clasp. Sitting back, we both admired it.
“Wow,” I said, still overwhelmed. It wasn’t that I was expecting a ring, because I wasn’t; I didn’t think either of us were ready for that. No one, other than my father, had ever bought me jewelry.
“Edward, thank you so much. I love it!” I leaned forward and kissed him quickly, suddenly anxious for him to open his other gift.
“You’re very welcome,” he murmured as I handed him the box. He grinned, shaking it next to his ear like a little kid. Thank god for the secure factory packaging.
He took his time opening it, slowly peeling the paper back to reveal a new iPod. He shook his head, giving me a wry smile, no doubt remembering the night when his old iPod died.
He sat down at his desk to study, putting in his ear buds and opening a thick medical book. I heard him mutter a little, then he was cursing and clicking the wheel on is iPod like if he clicked it enough it would do what he wanted. He even smacked the music player on his palm a couple of times before he looked up to see my astonished face. He held my eyes for a second, and then groaned, putting his head in his hands. I couldn’t be sure if he was laughing or crying.
I walked over and put my arms around him and he grabbed on tightly, sighing. He’d had a long week at the hospital working with an attending physician who seemed to hate him, giving him the lion’s share of the grunt and scut work. He had a new patient with a rare blood disorder and he’d just wanted to sit down with his music and learn all he could to impress the attending, but his iPod wouldn’t even turn on. It was the last straw and he’d just lost it.
I grinned at him as he admired the new iPod. “It’s not loaded, but that doesn’t take too long. I know you’ve missed yours.”
“I have. I’ve just been too busy to replace it.”
“You? Busy?” I teased.
He laughed and pulled me into his arms so I was sitting in his lap. His hands smoothed gently over my back and I ran my fingers through his hair.
After a few seconds, he sighed. “I love you, Bella. Thank you for a great Christmas.”
“I love you, too,” I whispered back.
He’d already left for work by the time I woke up the next morning. I had until January second to settle into the condo before I started my new job. I kept busy, unpacking and putting away holiday decorations. Edward worked his normal hours, which meant that I rarely saw him, but he texted me and left me notes on the pillow letting me know how glad he was that I had moved in. After my first day of work, he brought me a fresh fruit arrangement; he got the one he knew I loved with chocolate covered apples and strawberries in it.
My job turned out to be pretty amazing, and even though I was closer in age to the interns in our office than the other staff, I found myself making friends. A couple of women took me under their wings like a daughter, which was cool since I hadn’t really had a mother in years, besides Esme. The younger staff members also liked that they were no longer the youngest. Everyone seemed to enjoy training the new girl and giving me their grunt work, but I was enjoying my first official taste of having a grown-up job.
I’d adjusted to Edward’s schedule and started spending more time with Alice and Rose while he was working. When he was home, he was sleeping, studying, or falling asleep while studying. There was a pattern; we rarely did anything besides watch movies or grab take-out food. We couldn’t really do more than that because of the crazy hours Edward was keeping and the fact that he’d developed the talent of falling asleep within seconds anywhere.
Miraculously, we didn’t fight. I did my best not to count on him being around and kept myself busy. I kept waiting for us to argue or fight the way countless couples on television had, but it just hadn’t happened; things were going well between us.
I knew that eventually the time would come when Edward was late for something important. It was inevitable really, but I was still completely taken aback when it happened. It was a beautiful spring Friday, and I’d packed for both of us, including snacks for the long trip up to Forks. I was just waiting for him to get home and shower so we could get on the road. He wasn’t home when he said he would be, but that wasn’t all that unusual and we weren’t in a huge rush.
The clock ticked by and he was an hour late. I called his phone, but it went straight to voice mail. I packed the car, making sure to carefully hang his garment bag in the back seat so he could change quickly somewhere. I waited.
Then he was two hours late, and he still wasn’t answering his phone.
Another hour went by, and I was frustrated. No, I was angry, and I needed to make a decision. Did I continue to wait or leave without him? I had to get to Port Angeles for Jake and Emily’s rehearsal dinner. I figured I could wait another thirty minutes and we could still make it; we just wouldn’t be able to stop at his parents before we went to the restaurant. It also meant that Edward would smell like hospital and have to change clothes at a rest-stop.
Fifteen minutes later, I broke an unwritten rule in our relationship and called the nurses desk and asked if they knew where he was. He was doing an inpatient rotation, so he had been working fairly normal hours, but he could have gotten involved in any number of things. I spoke to the charge nurse, Zafrina, who said she thought he was still at the hospital.
“Do you need me to page him, honey?” she asked. She sounded like a sweet older woman and any other day she would have made me smile.
“Oh, no. Definitely don’t do that.” Paging him was a line I was not willing to cross. I sighed. “I’ll leave him a voice mail.”
“Are you all right?”
“Oh, no. Everyone is fine. It’s just…” I sighed. “We’re going out of town for a wedding, and I guess I’m leaving without him.”
“Oh,” she said, sounding surprised, then sad, “I’m sorry, dear.”
“Thanks. I guess, just tell him I called if you see him.”
I sat for a minute with my head in my hands, trying to get my head around what I had to do. With a deep breath, I brought his things in from the car and left him a voice mail. Thankfully Emily had chosen a bridesmaid dress that had a more loose fitting style, because I grabbed a big bag of M & M’s I had hidden in case of emergency and a cold Diet Coke before getting in the car.
The drive was tedious, but my mind was occupied. I had to wipe tears from my eyes several times, but I made it to my dad’s house before he left for the Port. He was surprised to see me alone but knew not to ask any questions. I took my bags to my room, changed clothes and fixed my make-up to ride with my dad to the rehearsal. Edward hadn’t called and I so wasn’t calling him again. I would have been worried, but I knew that if anything happened to him Alice or someone would have called me.
Everyone was at the bar when we made it to the restaurant. Jake grinned when he saw me, and he grabbed Emily’s hand before they came over to greet me. They each gave me a hug and my dad and Jake shook hands. Jake knew something was up but he didn’t say a word, he just led my dad over towards Billy and some of the other guys from the res, while Emily and I joined her mother, who was talking about everything we needed to do the following day.
After a few minutes, Emily turned to me in confusion. “Is Edward coming later? I thought you were driving up together.”
I smiled sadly, “So did I.”
“Oh,” she said, understanding dawning on her face. “I’m sorry, Bella. He had an emergency or something?”
“I’m not really sure,” I said quietly, praying she stopped asking questions or I was going to cry again.
She made a strange face, that I took to mean she felt sorry for me, then she sort of cocked her head at me. “You want to get a drink?”
I laughed. “I would love one.”
“Let’s go. My mom has everything more than under control.” She rolled her eyes and I knew it was in reference to her mother.
Emily had refused to go home to Alaska to get married and her mother had refused to pay for a wedding on the reservation. She and Jake had considered eloping but Billy had been the voice of reason. Basically, he told them that he didn’t have much money to contribute to their wedding so if they wanted a caterer or a D.J. they should find a way to compromise. His only request had been that they have their union blessed by the council of elders.
She and I sipped our drinks, chatting quietly about the plans for the next day, but eventually Jake came over and pulled her away to talk to someone else. I sighed and looked around for my dad.
We found our seats and had a nice dinner sitting with Billy and Tiffany. I wasn’t the Maid of Honor, so I didn’t have to make a toast, I just had to mingle and smile. After dessert and coffee, I stood at the bar and quietly explained to Jake that Edward had gotten tied up at the hospital.
“He’ll be here for the wedding though, right?”
I almost laughed. Jake’s concerned about Edward being at his wedding was hysterical, but it was proof what a great guy he was. He’d known how I felt about Edward since we were kids and he never understood. I think even as adults he thought I was a little crazy for trusting Edward with my heart, and his absence that night was an example of why.
I went to find my dad to tell him I was ready ready to go and found him telling Embry, Jake’s best man, one of his many fishing stories. He finished up and we said our good-bye’s before getting on the road. I hadn’t checked my phone since we arrived at the restaurant, and when I pulled it out there were still no messages. I sighed and put my head back, closing my eyes and resting while my dad drove.
“Bells, wake up,” my dad said softly. “We’re home, and there’s either a homeless man on the doorstep or your boy is here.”
I blinked a few times and took a deep breath, then furrowed my brow. Edward and his bags were sitting huddled in on the stoop by the front door. I climbed out of the car and slowly walked towards the house, trying to let my dad get inside to give us some privacy. He took his time and gave Edward the stink eye on his way past.
“Hi,” I said quietly as I reached the front steps.
“Bella, I’m so sorry,” he said, stepping forward.
I started to cry the minute his arms came around me. “Where were you?”
“One of my patients got a kidney, so I got to scrub in on the transplant.”
I stayed in his arms but leaned back to look at his face. “Are you serious?” I shook my head in frustration. “How can I compete with that, Edward?”
“It’s not a competition, Bella,” he sighed and ran a hand through is hair. “I just…I didn’t realize what time it was.”
Regardless of his lifesaving reasons, I was sad and tired, angry and frustrated, and more than a little hurt that he’d stood me up. I was also glad he’d managed get to Forks, but I didn’t see his car anywhere.
“How did you get here? Why didn’t you call me to say you were on the way?”
“I paid Tyler to drive me; he doesn’t have Friday classes. I didn’t call because I figured you wouldn’t be answering your phone, besides, I thought I needed to apologize in person.”
I nodded, he was right that this was a conversation best had in person, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to say. I was torn between being pissed at him and being pleased that he made his way to Forks to join me. We stood silently for a few minutes, just the two of us outside my dad’s front door, watching some moths flitting around in the glow of the porch light, until he spoke again.
“I don’t know what else to say, Bella. I’m sorry. It’s not a competition. I mean I was so excited and when they asked me if I wanted to be in on the transplant; I just couldn’t say no.”
“I get that, really. I mean, I want to hear all about the surgery because I’m sure it was amazing, but you could have called me and told me you’d meet me here in the morning. That’s all you had to do, Edward. When did you even realize that you were late or that I’d had to leave without you? When you got my voice-mail?”
“No, I knew before that, but I couldn’t leave to call you.” His arms tightened around me as he tucked his face into the crook of my neck, breathing deep the way he did when he was tired or stressed. “I am so sorry.”
“I know,” I said quietly. “I can tell, but how can I be sure it’s not going to happen again? This is what I’ve been afraid of.”
He stood straight and rubbed his face. “I know. Stupid Grey’s Anatomy,” he said trying to joke. “I can’t say it’s not going to happen again, Bells. I guess all I can say is that I love you and I don’t want to lose you.”
“Edward, you’re not losing me.” I took his face in my hands and leaned up to give him a small kiss. “I understand that things are going to come up and you’ll be late sometimes.” I sighed and continued, “I’m not your wife, and part of me feels like an awful harpy for being upset about this, but I have to feel like I mean as much to you as someone’s kidney. Okay? I deserve a phone call, at least.”
“Isabella, you’re everything to me. Remember what you said? You’re my future and I don’t want you to doubt that for a second. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how horrible I felt on the drive up here, worrying that you wouldn’t even talk to me tonight. From now on, I will call you when something comes up. I promise.”
I put my arms around him again, needing to feel him close to me. “You had better keep that promise, Doc.”
“You’re still upset,” he said quietly, rubbing my back.
“It’s been a long day. I feel a lot of things right now but mostly…I’m tired. Can we go inside and get some sleep? I have to be a bridesmaid tomorrow for the ten thousandth time.”
“I don’t know, can we sleep? I have a feeling your dad is in there with his shotgun.”
“He probably is, but I can talk him down,” I said as I stepped back. “Grab your things.”
We walked into the house and my dad didn’t have a shotgun, instead he sat in his recliner and was sipped something that looked like water but I was sure was much stronger.
“Doctor Cullen, take your things upstairs and then come have a drink with me.”
“Dad, don’t,” I warned.
“Don’t what? Talk with the man my little girl is shacking up with? I think Edward and I have a lot to talk about; don’t you, Doc?”
“It’s fine, Bella.” He gave me a small smile and I could tell he was a little nervous, but he turned and spoke in a confident voice to my father, “I’ll be right back down, sir.”
Edward followed me up the stairs and set his bag down in my room. “Well, at least he didn’t tell me to sleep on the couch.”
“True. That’s a good sign.” I snorted. “I’m going to get ready for bed. I’ll see you in a little bit.”
“All right,” he said, giving me a quick kiss. “I love you.”
“Love you, too. Oh, and Edward,” I called as he stepped back into the hallway, “grab a beer, don’t let him give you that shit he’s drinking. I’d bet Billy’s friends made that on the res; it’s moonshine.”
“Good call,” he chuckled.
I grabbed my pajamas and toiletry bag as I heard his footsteps going down the stairs. Much later, as he crawled into bed beside me and leaned forward to kiss my forehead, I smelled on his breath the strong alcohol I had warned him about.
“Good talk?” I chuckled.
“Great talk,” he slurred slightly. Well, that was surprising. I raised an eyebrow at him and he grinned back. “But it was super secret man to man stuff.”
“Oh, really?” I laughed, wondering how they had gotten past my dad’s anger and moved to whatever had made it a great conversation.
“Yup,” he said with a yawn. “But I can’t tell you about it.” He grinned and his eyes sparkled.
“You’re a dick,” I pouted and rolled over, giving him my back.
“But I’m the dick who loves you.”
I snorted. “I kind of love your dick, too.”
“Ha! What about the rest of me?”
“Ask me again in the morning.”
He laughed and kissed the back of my neck as he squeezed me. “I will, I promise.”
I chuckled and rolled my eyes even though he couldn’t see. It was going to take me some time to believe in his promises after the day I’d had, but I had to admit I was pleased that he seemed to be keeping it in the front of his mind.
“Goodnight, my future.”
“Okay, now you’re being cheesy.”
“Sorry,” he laughed. “Goodnight.”
I fell asleep to the feel of him pressed against my back and his thumb tracing circles on my hand, hoping that we’d hit just a bump in the road and hadn’t completely jumped off track.
Links – If you like that kind of thing: