Always a Bridesmaid
Chapter 5: Can You Feel the Love Tonight?
The fall was long and lonely. Despite the efforts we both put in, Riley and I broke up before Thanksgiving. There was no big fight; no drama, just a mutual understanding and parting of ways. We both realized it was too exhausting to date someone long distance who you didn’t actually get to go on dates with or see in person.
After Angela’s wedding, there seemed to be an epidemic of engagements among our friends. My dad said it was just our age and in a year or so everyone would be having babies. Since I didn’t even have a potential fiancé, I couldn’t get my head around it, but I couldn’t deny what was happening. Every engagement I heard about was a little knife to the heart, a poke saying, ‘Ha! You’re still single, loser.’
I hated myself for feeling like that. I should have been happy for them, right? I should have wanted to spend money on their gifts and celebrate their unions. Okay, want was a little strong, but I should have been able to muster some happiness for them without the emotional struggle I was having.
The worst, was putting on a happy face for the quickie wedding that I found myself a part of at Christmas time. Of all the weddings that I had not expected to be in that winter, Mike Newton’s certainly topped the list. He hadn’t dated anyone seriously since Alice broke up with him. If you had asked me before I got the call from Mrs. Newton, I would have guessed Mike was still hoping that Alice would leave Jasper and come back to him. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Mike’s mother had called me in a panic when I got back to Seattle after Thanksgiving. Apparently, Mike had gotten a little wild in his attempts to forget Alice. He’d been partying a lot and sleeping around. Now he was set to marry a very pregnant Charlotte Jennings, who had worked at Newton Outfitters for the summer.
It was all a little surreal, listening to Mrs. Newton telling me all the sordid details. Alice stood next to me, eavesdropping, with her mouth hanging open in shock. The Newton’s were planning a spectacular shotgun wedding. Mike’s mom was ‘sure that I’d want to be in their wedding,’ since I’d known Mike forever. I truly had no desire to stand up for Mike or Charlotte. She was only nineteen; I barely remembered her from high school. I knew, however, that if I somehow ended up in a similarly bizarre situation, Mike would do it for me. I reluctantly agreed, while Alice buried her face in a pillow so Mrs. Newton wouldn’t hear her freaking out.
The wedding was scheduled for New Years Eve, with the reception in Port Angeles at the golf club. The Newtons were inviting most of Forks and it sounded like it was going to be a huge party, even Alice received an invitation. She’d called Mike’s mom to make sure it hadn’t been a mistake, but Mrs. Newton confirmed that Mike had wanted to include her. We thought it was either really big of him, or he was hoping that she’d stand up and call a halt to the whole thing. I didn’t tell anyone Alice had confided in me that she was skipping the ceremony and bringing Jasper to the reception.
At noon on New Year’s Eve I was sitting on my bed with my head covered in hot rollers, as Alice put the finishing touches on my make-up. The dress was dark purple this time; Alice called it eggplant. I called it very striking against my pale white skin. It was simple, sleeveless, with a straight neckline and a black velvet sash at the waist.
Although Alice had free-reign over my hair and make-up, she scared me a little scared when she started talking about giving me smoky-eyes. I’d tried that once on my own and ended up looking like a raccoon.
“Bella,” she sighed, “I’m not going to make it look like you have two black eyes.”
“Well, that’s good.”
“You’ll look beautiful. I’m mixing some purple in with shades of grey and it’s going to be amazing.”
“Sure thing, Alice,” I muttered as she swirled a brush over my cheeks.
She rolled her eyes. “So, text me when you’re heading for the reception. We’re going to hit the casino in Sequim for a little while. We’ll head over once we hear from you.”
“Sounds good,” I agreed. I was riding to the wedding with another bridesmaid, a girl named Jenna that I’d worked with at Newtons. I planned on riding home with Alice or Emmett.
After all of my whining and complaining to Alice about being in Mike’s wedding, I had to admit that I was pretty excited that we would all be together for New Year’s. Our typical New Year’s involved watching Ryan Seacrest while doing shots every time he said something Emmett deemed stupid. That meant we took a drink practically every time Seacrest opened his mouth. We laughed a lot and took photos that could be used for blackmail later. It usually ended with someone vomiting. It wasn’t pretty.
The pre-wedding pictures with Charlotte were awkward. Luckily, they didn’t take very long. She looked cute, in an off-white empire waist wedding gown that didn’t hide her pregnancy at all. I was paired with her older brother, Stephan, who I’d met the night before. He was a nice guy; married and a father of four. His wife was thrilled to have the kids staying with her parents for New Year’s Eve. I tried not to be bitter at their happiness.
The wedding was beautiful, but long. There were several songs and readings that made the ceremony drag on. Standing at the altar, Mike looked terrified. He also looked like he’d aged ten years since he and Alice had broken up. I felt bad for him, but at the same time I was insanely jealous. My emotions made no sense, neither did the tears in my eyes when they said, “I do.”
After the ceremony we took more pictures. The wedding party was made up of a mishmash of people who were friends with either Mike or Charlotte, but no one was really friends with both of them. It made conversations strange and the air was oddly tense but jovial. I needed a drink – a strong one.
I texted Alice: get your @ss 2 the golf club. need alcohol. stat.
She responded a few minutes later: we’re rollin, beyotch!
I laughed out loud, shaking my head as I read her reply. When Alice tried to text with slang like that it meant she’d had a lot to drink.
The club looked beautiful when we arrived. The walkway was lined with luminary bags that had cut-outs of snowflakes on them. The banquet room was decorated mostly in white, with a lot of pink feathers and flowing fabrics. There were splashes of the dark purple that matched the bridesmaid dresses with tiny pops of hot pink mixed in around the room. It was much cuter than I expected, but I knew Alice was going to hate it, telling me what they could have done to make it better.
I made my way directly to the bar. If there was anything the Newtons were good for, it was showing off their wealth. Most Forks weddings had a keg of beer and boxed wine, but not this one. They had an open bar with top shelf liquor, cases of beer and imported wine. I ordered a Captain Morgan and Diet Coke, standing near the bar to wait for Alice. I was just finishing my second drink when I heard the rumble of Emmett’s deep laughter.
Turning towards the sound, I saw Em and Rose walking hand in hand with Alice beside them, tucked securely under Jasper’s arm. Carlisle was alone and Esme was arm and arm with Edward. Edward was here? I took a long sip of my drink through the straw, making a loud sucking noise indicating I had already finished it. I stirred the ice around, but it was no use, there was nothing left. My eyes darted to Alice in panic, but there was no time for her to explain because, while I was still trying not to freak out, Emmett pulled me into his arms for a hug.
“Looking foxy, Swan.”
“Thanks, Em,” I managed.
I was passed through the family for hugs while I tried to figure out when Edward had gotten into town. I felt a little like a pinball in a machine, bouncing from person to person. The next thing I knew, Edward’s arms were around me. His breath was warm on my neck and my eyes closed of their own volition as I sighed.
Neither of us said a word, we just stood there, connected for a second before his hands slid slowly down to my waist. He stepped back, avoiding my eyes, turning to talk to Jasper. The whole exchange had taken maybe a second and a half, but it had been heartbreaking for me.
It was our first interaction since the morning after Paul and Ang’s wedding. We’d both been dating other people then, but things had changed between us.
We had been in his mother’s kitchen with friends and family when he’d put his hand on the small of my back, reaching around to get something off the counter. The warmth of his hand had tingled all the way up my spine as he inhaled sharply next to me. Whatever it was between us had somehow become more than it had ever been.
It was the same feeling I’d had seconds before, when he’d wrapped me in his arms; I knew he felt it too. The way his hands had lingered on my waist, how he wouldn’t meet my eyes. Whatever was happening between us, he wasn’t comfortable with it, either. I just wished I knew what it was.
When we got a second alone, Alice explained that Edward had shown up to surprise everyone. He’d planned on meeting them at the reception, but didn’t realize they were skipping the wedding ceremony. He’d been just as surprised to find them at home as they were to see him. She also told me that Edward had broken up with Gianna. I didn’t know how to feel about that. Maybe it had nothing to do with what we talked about. Maybe it had nothing to do with me. Then again, maybe it had everything to do with us.
Esme and Rose joined us and we began to critique the fashion sense of the ladies of Forks. We were practically in tears laughing when the guys arrived with another round of drinks. I accepted a glass from Edward, who still refused to make eye contact with me. Taking a sip, I realized it was just a Diet Coke. I decided I didn’t care that he was uncomfortable and leaned towards him before I spoke quietly.
“Edward, I think you gave me the wrong drink.”
He sipped his own drink and shook his head with a grin. “No, that one was for you.”
“Asshole,” I muttered, as he turned back to Emmett without another word.
“What?” Alice whispered from right beside me.
“Nothing,” I said, staring daggers into the back of Edward’s head.
Mrs. Newton appeared beside me before I could plot Edward’s murder, telling me to find my seat at the head table for dinner. I went to the bar to get my own cocktail before taking my seat. A few minutes later, the theme to Rocky played in the background as the DJ introduced the ‘New Mr. and Mrs. Michael Newton.’ After the toast and blessing, the waiters began serving dinner.
As we ate, I had a clear view of Cullens at their table. They were talking and laughing, waving forks at each other as they ate. Esme was grinning, loving the opportunity to be with all of her children, while Carlisle smiled lovingly at her. I could see Edward interject into the conversation occasionally, but he seemed more of an observer than a participant. For all of my thinking that I’d gotten over my unhealthy obsession with him, it was clear that I wasn’t and I probably wouldn’t ever be. Or maybe it was just all of this wedding envy that was bringing it out. It didn’t really matter why; the fact was, it was there with a vengeance.
I took deep breath and put my shoulders back, making the decision that I needed to focus on my bridesmaid duties to get through the night.
Before the cake cutting and dancing could begin, I went to the bathroom with Charlotte and another bridesmaid. Somehow, I ended up being the one to hold up Charlotte’s dress so she could pee. After that I stood on the dance floor with the all other single women for the bouquet toss. There was really no competition. Everyone got out of the way so Rose could catch it. Next, I gathered around the cake with the bridesmaids. We each pulled a ribbon from beneath the edge of the bottom tier of the cake to reveal our good luck charm for the year. I got a pineapple charm which, according to Mrs. Newton, meant that I had a welcoming heart. Great, tell me something I didn’t know.
As Mike and Charlotte cut the cake, it was the first time in the entire day that I felt like Mike had a genuine smile on his face. I hoped it was because he really felt something for his new wife and it wasn’t just because he was loosening up from the drinks.
I made my way towards the bar and heard the D.J. announce it was time for the happy couple’s first dance. Alice came over to stand by me as Elton John’s Can You Feel the Love Tonight? blared through the speakers. We both had to turn away as we broke out in giggles.
“Oh my god!” she laughed, “are we watching the Lion King?”
“You know Mike’s mom chose this song,” I managed between fits of laughter.
“Ohmygod, she so did.”
“I need a drink.”
“You can’t go anywhere. You have to dance next.”
I groaned, wondering what ridiculous song Mike’s mom had chosen for that. I stole Alice’s drink and finished it, looking at her with wide eyes. “Christ. What was that?”
“Jack and a splash of Coke, I stole it from Emmett.”
“God, you’re a trash can when it comes to alcohol.”
“That’s me!” she giggled.
I looked around for Stephan as the song wound down. He smiled and gave me a wave as he stood up from a seat next to his wife. We made our way towards each other, meeting on the dance floor. Stephan muttered something and laughed as the song changed to Shania Twain’s From this Moment. I chuckled as well, and we joked about how there was no way Mike or Charlotte had picked the music.
We were quiet for the rest of the song, just dancing, lost in our own thoughts. The D.J. announced there would be another slow song for all of the guests and Stephan thanked me before making his way towards his wife. A number of other couples came onto the dance floor as I tried to decide what I wanted more – to sit down or get a drink.
I felt someone grab my hand as I tried to leave the dance floor. Without looking, I knew it was Edward. He smelled like no one else, and the feel of his skin against mine was unmistakable. I took a deep breath before turning towards him. I tried to read his face, unsure of what I saw there. He looked hopeful, yet uncertain. I was just as confused as I’d been the last time we’d danced, but I couldn’t say no. He lifted our hands between us as his other arm slid around my back. I smiled, realizing that dancing with him was even better than I remembered.
As we swayed together, I was overwhelmed again by being in Edward’s arms. I couldn’t stop myself from leaning against him, breathing in his cologne. Elvis sang Can’t Help Falling in Love, as I shamelessly snuggled a little closer. Every unhealthy and dirty thought I’d ever had about Edward swirled through my head as his thumb made small strokes on my lower back. When the song came to an end,I kept my arm around him until he eventually took a step small backwards, his face looking strained..
“Edward?” I asked quietly. It was the beginning to a thousand questions that I couldn’t put into words, but I sensed that he knew exactly what I meant.
He closed his eyes, exhaling before licking his lips. When he opened his eyes again, he took another, larger step back. “I can’t,” he said, shaking his head. “I just can’t.” He tried to move even farther away, but I held onto his hand.
I didn’t want to break what was left of the connection between us, but I couldn’t just let him go. “I don’t understand,” I whispered.
He pulled his hand out of mine, continuing to shake his head. With one last look at me, he walked away without another word. What did that mean? What was going on?
I watched him walk away, replaying the scene in my head. When I looked up, Rose was already walking towards me like a crazy psychic who knew I needed her. She put an arm around my shoulder, and I moved on autopilot as she led us to the bathroom. I barely noticed when Alice fell instep beside me. I flopped down in a big over-stuffed chair in the powder room, telling them everything. Rose groaned and rolled her eyes, as Alice listened quietly, her head cocked and brows furrowed.
“Do you remember what I told you before?” Rose asked finally, grinning.
I sighed, wanting to run my hands through my hair, but I knew Alice would kick my ass. “I remember.”
She smiled sadly at me. “It’s happening, and it scares him.”
Alice looked between us in confusion. “What’s happening?”
“Edward has realized that Bella’s not a child, and she’s not his sister. It scares the hell out of him.”
“Oh!” Alice grinned, as she seemed to get it.
I looked at them like they were crazy. “Rose, I appreciate your Jedi-like wisdom but…I don’t really think that’s what’s going on.”
She continued to smile back at me sadly, like she knew something I didn’t. She shrugged. “He’s either got to figure his shit out or you’re going to have to give him permission not to feel like a perv.”
“What?” I laughed.
“He feels like a pervy old man for looking at you as anything other than his sister.”
Alice laughed while I sat there trying to take it in. Was that what this was about? Did he actually have feelings for me?
Rose turned to face the mirror, reapplying her lipstick, while Alice chatted about how great Jasper was for coming with her to her ex’s wedding. I had tuned them out, thinking about the last few interactions Edward and I had shared. I wondered if Rose was right.
Mike’s grandmother and great aunt came into the bathroom, interrupting us and pulling me out of my thoughts. The girls and I made our way back out to the reception before I’d come to any conclusions. I wasn’t sure that Rose was right, but I hoped she wasn’t wrong.
When we reached the dance floor the D.J. had moved to playing music from our high school years. Most of the people our age, including the Cullen boys and Jasper, were on the dance floor jumping around to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was similar to a high school dance with the girls in a circle while the guys had their own group. Emmett was in heaven, goofing around in front of a crowd, moving back and forth between both circles of friends.
Time flew by as we danced and reminisced. Before we knew it, the D.J. announced he was playing one more song before the countdown to New Year’s. There were a mixture of squeals and groans as Livin’ la Vida Loca came through the speaker. I tried to resist, but Alice dragged me toward the middle of the dance floor.
When the song finished, the D.J. began talking about Mike and Charlotte starting a new life and a new year together. As he babbled, I looked around for the rest of our friends, hoping we could all toast the New Year together. Emmett, Jasper and Edward were walking towards us with plastic glasses of champagne, but when Edward caught me looking at him he stopped. Locking eyes with me for a second, he handed a glass to Rosalie before turning to go outside. I stood there, transfixed for a moment before I followed him to the exit doors.
Looking through the glass in the door I could see him standing near a pillar, staring up at the stars. His breath was cloudy in the cold air. I watched him for a second, thinking about what to say. Should I ask him what he had been talking about on the dance floor or just put myself on the line? Neither option was all that appealing. They both had the potential to crush me, but doing nothing would drive me slowly crazy.
I opened the door and joined him outside, but he didn’t seem to hear. Standing right behind him, I was so close that I wanted to reach out and touch him, but I resisted. Instead, I jumped off the proverbial cliff.
“What if I want you to?”
His shoulders tensed, and I could almost see his eyes closing as I spoke. His hand came up and I knew he was pinching the bridge of his nose.
“Isabella,” he sighed.
“I’ve always wanted it.” God, I hoped I didn’t sound desperate.
“I can’t,” he repeated his words from earlier.
“Why?” he asked, sounding frustrated. “Shit, the reasons are endless.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Why?”
He shook his head. “I can’t just forget how long I’ve known you. You’re like a sister to me.”
“But I’m not.”
“I know that,” he said with a sigh.
My eyes filled with tears despite how strong I was trying to be. “You can’t even look at me?”
He turned quickly, reaching out to touch my cheek before putting his hands in his pockets. “I can’t think when I look at you.”
“You’re making me crazy,” I said, exasperated. “You either want me or you don’t.”
“It’s not that simple, Bella.”
“It is. For me, it is.”
He closed his eyes, running his hands through his hair before shoving them back in his pockets and exhaling loudly. “I know. I just…I can’t. Not now.”
“Why not now?” I knew that I was sounding desperate by this point, but I was past caring. I was also freezing. I started rubbing my arms with my hands.
“You know why,” he said quietly before taking his suit jacket off and putting it around my shoulders.
Inside, we heard the crowd begin to count down to midnight. Everyone yelled out, ‘Happy New Year!’ while Edward and I stood silently, in our own world.
When the revelers quieted down, he spoke again, shaking his head sadly, “Bella, I start my residency next year. I don’t know where I’m going. I’ll be there, wherever it is, working, what? Eighty to a hundred hours a week for another four years?”
“You’re making excuses,” I said, willing myself not to give up.
“I’m not. I’m flying back across the country in four days. Where does that leave us?”
“I don’t know.” I wiped away a tear. “But this…” I trailed off shaking my head.
“I know,” he said quietly.
From the look on his face, I believed him. It didn’t make me feel any better, and it didn’t change anything.
“I understand what you’re saying, but you can’t tell me you’re putting your entire life on hold until you finish residency.” I sniffed and shook my head. “I won’t always be here waiting, Edward.” God, how I wished that was true. I hoped he didn’t know just how big of a lie it was.
“I know that.”
“Do you?” I asked, wiping more tears off my cheeks.
“I do,” he whispered, stepping forward and pulling me into his arms.
I should have pushed him away, but I couldn’t. I let his warmth wash over me as I tried to memorize the feel of his body pressing against mine. “Happy New Year, Isabella,” he whispered.
“Happy New Year,” I managed, as I swallowed back tears.
I closed my eyes, listening to him breathe and resting my head on his shoulder. I’m not sure how long we stood like that before Emmett opened the door, clearing his throat.
“Hey, Ed. Mom’s looking for you. She wants you to talk to Charlotte’s cousin about Duke.”
“All right,” Edward cleared his throat and answered without letting go of me. “Give me a minute?”
The door clicked, leaving the two of us alone outside, in an embrace that shouldn’t have been as comfortable as it was after our conversation. I sighed, moving back just enough so that I could see his face. He looked down at me, his gorgeous green eyes more tired than I remembered them ever being. I decided in that moment that if he couldn’t, I would.
I stretched onto my tip toes, watching his eyes get wider as I brought my mouth to his. I realized my mistake the second our lips touched, because kissing him would never be enough. I knew for now, though, it had to be. There was no denying that he responded to me or that we had chemistry; it took all that I had to pull away from him.
I stepped out of his arms before slipping off his jacket. Handing it back to him, I looked into his rather dazed eyes and spoke before I lost my nerve, “I know you’re scared, Edward. I am too, but sometimes it’s the things that scare us that are the most worthwhile.”
Turning around, I heard him say my name as I grabbed the door handle. I didn’t stop. I didn’t look back. I went back into the party without him but with my head held high. Whether I agreed with him or not, whatever it was between us wasn’t happening, yet. It was that one little word, yet, that would get me through the night, or hopefully until I could get over him – again.
I like to do a lot of research for stories, making sure that the places I talk about actually exist. If you’re into that kind of thing – here are a couple of links for things in this chapter:
I kept looking for this quote I remembered from somewhere about the things that scare us and I couldn’t find it listed as attributed to anyone in particular. What I discovered, however, was that it’s actually a line in one of my favorite guilty pleasure chick flick movies. I should have known. Now I want to watch the movie again.
(Matthew Goode) Ben: If you are scared then why do it?
(Mandy Moore) Anna: It’s the things that scare you that are the most worthwhile.