Always a Bridesmaid
Chapter 8: Home Sweet Home
I spent the summer applying for jobs. I sent my resume to practically every job vacancy within an hour of Seattle.
I’d considered looking for jobs as far away as Olympia and even in Forks, but I held off. I didn’t want to plan my life around Edward, but really I’d had it on hold for him for years. With every development in our relationship, I’d tried to convince myself that I was being a little healthier about it. This time, I told myself it was okay because I had a lease in Seattle so I wasn’t staying just for him.
I had a few interviews and filled a desk drawer with rejection letters. With the unemployment rates being higher than average, I knew the odds were against me, but I kept trying. I’d gotten a job at University Bookstore before going to Ireland, and luckily they’d hired me back when I came home. I continued working there while I looked for something more permanent, doing my best to put money away.
Rose and Emmett continued to plan their wedding, and I had a feeling that Alice and Jasper were on the edge of announcing their engagement. Edward and I still flirted via text daily. Since his trip back home, we’d started talking to each on the phone occasionally as well. His voice was comforting, deep and smooth, soothing my questions about our future. I found his promises of being on the same coast a little more believable when he spoke them to me, rather than reading them on a text message.
After a few weeks, I got the courage up to have a more serious conversation with Edward. He’d said we were on the same page and we were going to be everything – but I didn’t know what that really meant. How had we finally gotten on the same page? What was this everything he was talking about? Was it the same as my everything? Because, honestly, I needed him to be sure before he promised that.
“Isabella,” he sighed, “I’ve always liked you. You’re beautiful. You’re fun to be around and you always make me laugh, but you were so much like a sister that I couldn’t see past that. Well, I did, but I thought I was a total perv, so I tried to convince myself I didn’t.”
“I understand that, Freud, but what changed?”
He cleared his throat and I could almost see him looking at the ceiling as he formed his words in his head. “Seeing you with Riley was a like a punch in the gut,” he said quietly. “It was like, suddenly you were a woman, dating a man, and I was watching from the sidelines wishing you were mine.” He paused, then chuckled, “It was awful.”
I laughed, “So that’s why you were such a dick to him.”
“It totally took me by surprise. They told me you were coming with Riley for the weekend; it never crossed my mind Riley was a guy, let alone a boyfriend.”
“I’m not sure if I should be offended by that.”
“Don’t be. I was in denial,” he laughed quietly. “Then you started to date the hippy.” He paused and I heard a quiet snort. “I wanted you to be happy, Bells, but I realized I wanted you to be happy with me, and it was killing me to be so far away. It seemed like telling you how I felt wouldn’t even matter.”
“Edward…” I wasn’t even sure how to finish that statement.
“But then you broke up with him and I’d gotten my match so I knew I was coming home…I finally felt like things were falling into place for us.”
“So you came to graduation to sweep me off my feet?”
“No. I came for graduation because I care about you. I wanted to be there for you. Getting in your bed was a bonus.”
I laughed for a moment and got serious. “What now?” I asked, trying to imagine our future. It looked slightly different each time I envisioned it, though at the core it was always the same- Edward and I in a dreamy, rather unrealistic, happily ever after.
“Now, I move back and we spend time together as adults. It’s not so different than when we spent time together before.”
I snorted. “Except I’ve always been quiet little Bella, terrified of making a fool of myself in front of you.”
“I never understood that. Why would you think you’d embarrass yourself in front of me?”
“Because I’m a klutz and I always put my foot in my mouth.”
“You say that as if I haven’t known those things about you since the day we met.”
I sighed. “But it’s different. You don’t want to be such a screw up in front of someone you’re attracted to.”
“But you can be a screw up in front of your best friend’s brother?”
“More or less,” I snorted.
“That’s ridiculous,” he laughed. “Now, let’s go back to the part where you’re attracted to me…”
“Let’s go back to my original question. What now?”
He sighed. “We date, Bella. I show you how I can be a good boyfriend; you act like a screw up in front of me, and I won’t care.”
A few weeks later, I went up to Forks for the weekend to be Jake’s ‘plus one’ at his friend Seth’s wedding. Jake needed a date because his fiancé, Emily, was visiting her sister in Anchorage. I’d known Seth since we were kids so I knew it would be fun. It wasn’t like I was doing anything on the weekends besides working and waiting for Edward. We had a great time, but I was also reminded again of how many weddings I’d been to and that mine, was still nowhere on the horizon. My dad continued to remind me it was just a phase in life when everyone you knew was getting married.
I had a nice weekend with Charlie and on the res, but was glad when I got to go back to the city. My monotonous routine allowed the days and weeks to blend together and I pretended that I wasn’t counting down until Edward started his residency.
Fourth of July weekend came and went. I visited Charlie for a day but had to be back in Seattle to work at the book store on the actual holiday. I saw the fireworks near the Space Needle, with friends from work. Everyone else had gone home for the long weekend and Edward was still finishing things up in North Carolina.
One afternoon in the middle of July, I answered the door to my tiny apartment and there he was – a week early.
“Edward?” It was a ridiculous question, but I was surprised to see him. I had all of his flight information, and he wasn’t due in until the following Wednesday.
I threw my arms around him and squealed, “Oh my god! I can’t believe you’re here!” I glanced around and noticed he didn’t have any bags. “What are you doing here?”
We were standing in the hallway holding each other and before he answered me, he lowered his head and kissed me. When he pulled away, it took me a minute to come to my senses and when I opened my eyes he was smiling down at me.
“I got everything finished early and changed my flight. Em picked me up and I left my stuff at his place. I borrowed his car and headed over here.”
“Oh. Okay,” I sighed, contented, relaxing into his touch as his thumbs caressed the back of my neck. “Are you here for good?”
“I’m here for good. Well, except that I need to go up to Forks and get my car,” he said, referring to the Volvo he’d stored in his parent’s barn while he lived in North Carolina. He’d purchased a used Accord while he was out there and had recently sold it to an incoming resident from New York City. “Not to mention all of the stuff I have stored at my parents’.” He smiled down at me. “So, you have the night off?”
“I do. How did you know?”
“I have my ways,” he teased with a fake evil laugh. “Want to go out to for dinner and to check out the neighborhoods around a couple of condos I’m going to look at?”
“Oh, that sounds fun.” I glanced down at my jeans and worn t-shirt. “Come in for a second and let me change.”
“You look fine.” He pulled at my hand and I laughed, shaking my head.
“I need to at least run a brush though my hair. I’ll be just a minute.”
He followed me inside and I changed clothes quickly, brushed my hair and applied a little mascara. When I came back into the living room Edward had spread a map out on the coffee table and was comparing it with something on his phone.
“Ready?” I asked.
“Yeah, just trying to get my bearings, I haven’t lived here in a few years. I want to try to find the restaurant without using the GPS. ”
“Why?” I laughed. I relied heavily on the GPS and he knew it.
“I don’t know. I just want to see if I can.”
“Sure thing,” I laughed, tucking my own phone with its easy to use GPS system into my purse and opening the front door. “Let the adventure begin.”
And so it began.
Edward found a condo to rent and after unpacking boxes and moving even more of his things down from Forks, he started his residency. I continued to work at the bookstore and plaster the greater Seattle area with my resume to no avail.
For the first two weeks, before Edward started working, we saw each other almost every day. I joined him and his mother when he went to buy furniture, including a bed, which was totally weird. He and Esme kept talking about how he needed a large bed. I tried to wander away because I didn’t want her thinking about me rolling around in the bed with him. I also couldn’t think about anything else as we looked at bed frames, with headboards that would be great to hold onto and mattresses that were almost as large as my entire studio apartment.
I had asked him what his parents thought about us dating and he’d laughed. “Are you kidding? They love you.”
We were sitting on the couch. He had his arm around me and I pulled my feet up, putting my arms around my knees. “That wasn’t my question. What do they think think about us?”
“Bella, they’re thrilled that we’re dating. They think it’s great that I finally realized how wonderful you are.”
“They aren’t freaked out?”
He pulled me closer against his side, laughing. “B, I’m only four years older than you. It’s not a huge difference.”
“Did you just hear yourself?” I snorted at him.
“Shut up,” he teased.
“I wish you had known that years ago, Edward.”
“Watch it, Swan.” He started rubbing my head with his knuckles. Soon, I was laughing too hard to worry about his parents anymore.
For the most part, we avoided any discussion of our relationship. We simply jumped into things full force, except for the sex part. It was like we were both afraid if we rushed into bed it would change things. To be honest, it probably would. We’d known each other for years, but we were still getting to know each other as adults. I had a slight advantage because I’d been watching him from afar for years, but we were both learning new things about each other every day.
He had known that my favorite ice cream was mint chocolate chip and that I was a Diet Coke girl; I would only drink Diet Pepsi as a last resort. Like if I was dying of thirst. He hadn’t known that I was afraid of dragon flies; they freaked me out the way they dive bombed people. Or that if I came across A Few Good Men or Last of the Mohicans while looking for something to watch on TV, I had to watch them. For Edward, I learned it was the same with Independence Day and American Pie, but only the original.
I had known that he alphabetized his books and CDs and that his favorite band was Dave Matthews. I knew that he wanted to work in an emergency room. He wanted some experience in a big city hospital but wanted eventually to move to a smaller town, just not one as small as Forks. I hadn’t know that he was that he organized his closet by both color and season or that he had a habit of drinking orange juice directly from the jug. Those weren’t really important things, but they’re things you learn about someone in a long relationship. The fact that we didn’t know those types of things made us both a little hesitant.
Edward’s first week of residency was a rude awakening. His first shift was eighteen hours with only twelve hours off before he had to be back at the hospital. He worked over eighty hours that week, and it set the tone for the insane schedule that was to come. He’d explained to me the week before there had been a well known research project showing that residents who worked upwards of one-hundred hours a week were more likely to make mistakes. Most hospitals, he explained, had begun to follow the recommendation that residents shouldn’t work more than eighty-hours a week on average in four weeks.
I had looked at him stupidly when he finished telling me about it. Of course people working over a hundred hours a week made mistakes! I didn’t need to do a research project and I could have told you that. His whole description of the hours that would be required of him made me think that his moving home might not have changed anything for us. He was going to be so busy that I would never see him. He and Emmett had talked about the hours before, and I watched Grey’s Anatomy religiously, so I knew what to expect, but it was totally different when it became my reality.
His first week of residency also fell during my boss’s vacation, so I closed the store each night and worked over-time. It had sounded like a great idea when I agreed to it, keeping busy during Edward’s first week. When the time actually arrived we were both tired and cranky which lead to short tempers and self-important attitudes, followed by flowery and apologetic texts. About ten days after he began working, he had his first large stretch of time off, something like twenty-two hours, and I found him dead asleep in my bed when I got home from work.
There was a half drunk cup of coffee from Starbucks on the small bar that separated my kitchen from the rest of the apartment. I put my hand around the cup and it was cool to the touch. It, and Edward, had been there a while. I set my things down quietly and hung my raincoat on the back of a bar stool, wanting nothing more than to climb in bed and fall asleep next to him. I knew if I did though, we would sleep away our time together.
Sitting on the edge of my bed, I ran my fingers through the hair at the base of his neck. He murmured in his sleep and snuggled his face farther into my pillow. I pulled the sheet back and sat for a moment looking at his strong back before I could force myself to move. With a sigh, I turned and put my hands on his shoulders, using my thumbs to press into the knots in his muscles. He groaned into his pillow, and I chuckled.
“Like that, Doc?”
“Fuck. I love it,” he groaned again. I moved both hands to a particularly tight spot and kneaded his shoulder. “Oh, shit, yeah right there.” He turned his head to the side, and although his eyes were closed, I could see that he was smiling. “You’re really good at that.”
“I had the same teacher you did.”
“I don’t want to think about that.”
“What?” I laughed. “Emmett teaching me to give back rubs?”
“No, Emmett’s hands on you,” he mumbled before sitting up. He scrubbed his face with his hands and turned to me with a grin. “Hi. I fell asleep waiting for you to get home.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Did you really try to wait up for me?”
He sighed. “Not really, but I didn’t intend to sleep that long.”
“Aw. You’re exhausted,” I said, putting my arms around him. “I don’t know how you’ve been doing it.”
“I don’t know either. I just keep moving and drinking coffee. I’m going to get an ulcer.”
I tucked my nose into his neck as he pulled me into his lap. “Wow,” I laughed. “You need a shower.”
“Yeah, I fell asleep before that happened too,” he said sounding sad.
“Come on.” I stood and pulled him up. “Get in the shower and I’ll call for food.”
“Come with me.” He kissed across my chin and over to my ear, gently tugging on my earlobe with his teeth.
“Mmm, maybe next time,” I said trying to convince both of us as my hands ran up his back.
Then we were kissing, his tongue doing devilish things to my mouth while one hand cupped my breast and the other tightened on my ass.
Finally, we stopped for breath and we stood together, hearts racing and eyes dazed. “I’ll be a gentleman,” he whispered next to my ear and it sent a shiver through my body.
“You’ll be a gentleman. A very naked gentleman,” I laughed.
“Don’t forget aroused,” he chuckled, knowing I was standing my ground.
“Do you really want our first time to be in the shower because you stink of hospital and sweat?”
“Not when you put it that way,” he snorted. He sighed, dropping his head on my shoulder for a second before meeting my eyes. “I’m not trying to rush you. I just don’t need any more convincing. We’re good together.” He pushed some hair behind my ear. “If we hadn’t known each other for so long, we both know we’d already be sleeping together.”
“We would not!” I laughed. “Okay, maybe we would,” I said quickly in response to his raised brow.
“But you are probably right,” he sighed.
“Wait, I need to record that.”
“Funny. You’re right that I don’t want to just get it over with; I just don’t need prom night and roses, if you know what I mean. I’d rather make fireworks with you than watch them before hand to set the mood.”
“Did you really just say that?” I smiled and teased him.
He shrugged and grinned. “I suppose there’s a better way to say it; I’m just too tired to think of it.”
“I know.” I stood on my toes and gave him a quick kiss. “And I know what you meant. Let’s work on keeping you from falling asleep on your feet.”
“Sex would wake me up.” He sounded serious but he was trying really hard not to smile.
I smacked his butt. “Get in the shower. Pizza or Chinese?” I asked, stepping away from him and grabbing my messenger bag to dig out my phone.
He grabbed my hand and pulled me back for another hard kiss. “Surprise me,” he said over his shoulder as he stepped into the bathroom, already pushing his shorts down to tease me with the top of his ass; bastard.
After his shower, we ate Chinese food for dinner, sharing our garlic chicken and Mu Shu pork. We cleaned up the take-out containers and started to watch a movie. As I expected, Edward fell asleep before the opening credits were finished.
It was the first of many a nights we’d spend together like that, where in the end, I could only be thankful for our time together before he disappeared into the hospital again- gone for days at a time.