Always a Bridesmaid
Chapter 4: I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing
Forks being the small town that it was, we were friends with almost everyone in our grade as well as some of the kids in the years above and below us. It’s hard to explain to people who didn’t grow up in a small town, because while I’d say we were friends, we weren’t all friendly. We were bonded by our small town, raised with the same day to day nothingness that lulled us into the security small towns so often felt, forever imprinted with the events that shattered our peace. When I was in elementary school, a senior boy was killed in a car accident, drag racing out by the res. In junior high, a teacher was arrested for domestic violence, handcuffed and pulled out of the diner on a Saturday morning. Everyone I knew remembered those events, it didn’t matter how old we were; they were part of us, part of Forks.
Alice may have been my best friend, but Angela had always been my friend as well. She was nothing like Alice; she was quiet and mousy, intellectual and introspective. While Alice was on the cheerleading squad, Angela and I had been on the debate team together. Her fiancé, Paul Lahote, had graduated from Forks High with Emmett and Edward. They’d met while they worked at the hospital in Port Angeles. Paul was a security guard and Ang worked part time in the gift shop. They were an odd couple, the outgoing golden boy and the shy book worm, but together, they balanced each other out; I couldn’t be happier for them.
Considering the size of Forks, they were having a big wedding. Angela’s dad was a Lutheran minister and was performing the ceremony. We were all in it too—Alice, Emmett, Edward, Mike and I, along with a couple of other people from school. I had sort of shoved in the back of mind the fact that I was going to have to wear a horrific pale pink dress and dance to songs like Celebration and Mony Mony with most of our former classmates. Instead, I chose to focus on the fact that Riley was coming into town for the weekend.
He flew in to Seattle on Wednesday and after spending a good twelve hours locked in my bedroom, we surfaced to spend time with Alice, Jasper, Emmett and Rose. I had warned him about Emmett, explaining that it would take Em a few hours to warm up to him. I suggested bonding with Jasper since he could relate, having been under the same microscope a few months prior. In the end, Riley hadn’t really needed to worry. Emmett loved him. They talked about football, beer and religion, which was an odd fascination of Emmett’s. By the time I was ready to head home, the boys were three sheets to the wind and singing Irish folk songs.
Despite Riley’s hangover, we loaded into my car early Friday morning and headed to Forks. Emmett sent me a text to make sure Riley was alive, then said he’d see us later at the rehearsal dinner. I let Riley sleep a bit on the drive up. I wasn’t upset with him, I was actually pretty excited that Emmett loved him too, but I was worried about my dad. Based on the way he treated me sometimes, he seemed to think that I’d stopped getting older when I turned twelve. He’d always had a hard time with me dating, even if it was with someone he’d known since before they were born.
I wasn’t really worried, but had wondered how Edward was going to react. Dating Riley and spending the time in Ireland away from my support system of Cullens had really helped my independence grow. I didn’t need my obsession with Edward as a crutch anymore. It had always been there as a sort of safety net whenever I was broken-hearted and I had realized it was ridiculously unrealistic and probably a little unhealthy.
Alice had told me Edward was bringing a date home with him for the weekend. We all knew he only brought home girls that he was serious about. Since leaving for college, this was only the third girl he’d introduced to his family. I figured if he was bringing someone serious home, he would understand what it was like for me to bring Riley home. I hoped he would give him a chance, just like Emmett had and hopefully, my dad. I glanced over at Riley in the passenger seat and had to give myself a mental head shake. I was spending too much time thinking about how much I was over Edward when I had someone that I cared about right beside me.
Once he woke up, I gave Riley a rundown of the major landmarks we passed. I told him funny stories about growing up in the small town and about fishing with my dad and hanging out with all of the Cullen kids. My dad had been surprisingly mellow when we arrived at the house, greeting me with a big hug and Riley with a hearty handshake. When we finally made it into the kitchen I understood. There were four empty beer cans in the sink and the sound of the Mariners on the television bounced through the house.
“How are the boys doing?” I asked, knowing he wanted to get back to the game.
“Good. Good.” My dad grinned. “Riley, you like baseball?”
“I do,” Riley nodded, following my dad into the living room.
“I’m going to take my stuff upstairs and freshen up,” I told them.
“Oh, I’ll get your bag,” Riley said, turning to come help me. I saw my dad grin behind him.
“No, I’ve got it.”
I smiled, heading up the stairs without giving him the chance to stop me. I put my bag in my bedroom and stood by my dresser, running my finger through some dust. Dad had never been the greatest house keeper. My room hadn’t changed since I’d left for college. My dad had gotten rid of some of my old magazines that had been stacked in the corner, but my pictures were still tucked in the mirror frame: me with Alice at graduation, my dad holding a huge fish, Christmas a few years ago with the Cullens, my mom and I in Florida, Jake and I grinning as he twirled me around the dance floor at prom.
I was excited to see Jake while I was home; it had been too long. While I was in Ireland, he had started dating a girl named Emily, who was a new teacher on the reservation. He was bringing her to brunch at the Cullen’s house on Sunday morning so we could all meet her.
I looked out my window, getting lost in my memories for a few minutes. Over all, I was glad that I had gone to U-dub and moved to Seattle, but sometimes I missed how simple life had been in Forks.
“Hey,” Riley said from my doorway.
“Hey.” I turned around and smiled at him. “Is the game over?”
“Nah… You were just gone for a while, so I wanted to come check on you.”
“Yeah?” he asked, coming over and putting his arms around me. “Good memories?”
“Mostly…” I sighed, snuggling into his chest, enjoying the feel of his strength and warmth surrounding me.
“So… I was thinking we had time for a nap.”
I laughed. “We have time for a short one, but there’s not a chance in hell we’ll get away with it without my dad coming in here with a shotgun.”
“Oh, I know,” he laughed. “So come downstairs with me, and we’ll fall asleep watching baseball.”
“Sneaky, Mr. Biers, I like it.”
“I thought you would.” He smiled and gave me a kiss, much softer and shorter than I would have liked, but it was safer that way, for both of us.
We made our way downstairs to watch TV. It didn’t take too long before I felt myself falling asleep, my head on Riley’s shoulder. When I woke up, my dad was sitting forward, elbows on his knees, watching the game intently. Reading the score box in the corner of the screen, I saw that the game was in its final inning, with the Mariners up by two runs. As I rubbed my eyes and stretched my shoulders, Riley woke up yawning.
“Wow. Looks like we missed a good game,” I said to my dad between batters.
“You did. Looks like you guys needed some rest, though. Emmett keep you up partying last night?”
“You know him well.” I laughed, but Riley was surprised at his guess.
My dad smiled at him. “It’s a small town, Riley. I know those Cullen kids almost as well as I know Bells here.” He chuckled before he described them, “Emmett is predictable, Alice is a hurricane, and Edward…” he trailed off.
“Dad…” I said, trying to warn him not to say anything too awful.
“Edward is an enigma.”
I shook my head. My dad had never been able to reconcile the different facets of Edward’s personality. He had no problem with the combination of Emmett’s athleticism and intelligence, and Edward was both of those things too, but when you added his sensitivity and ability to play piano to the mix, my dad just couldn’t fit the pieces together.
Riley just smiled. “Yeah, I got those impressions of Em and Alice last night. I haven’t met Edward yet, though.”
Dad snorted and I glared. He knew that I had a thing for Edward growing up. I was beginning to realize that it had been obvious to everyone, except Edward.
“He’ll be at the rehearsal tonight,” my dad told us. “I talked to Carlisle before you kids got here, and he said all of the kids were on the road heading home.”
Riley and I were walking into the church just as Emmett’s Hummer pulled into the parking lot. I shook my head, watching as everyone climbed out like car full of clowns.
“I didn’t realize that thing seated six,” I teased Alice as she walked over.
She glared back at Emmett. “It doesn’t. Trust me; we’re riding with you to the restaurant.”
“Riley Beer-me!” Emmett called out.
I shook my head, laughing a little, remembering how Emmett had come up with the play on Riley’s last name the night before. Em came over and gave him a man hug, patting him on the back. Everyone was talking when I saw Edward and a slender blonde woman approaching us.
“Ed!” Emmett called, abbreviating his name in a way that always annoyed Edward. “Come meet Riley!”
Edward’s smile disappeared when he saw Riley holding his hand out. “You’re Riley?” he asked, looking him up and down as they shook hands.
“Yeah,” Riley said. He either didn’t notice or ignored Edward’s reaction, I wasn’t sure which. “Nice to meet you, I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Edward glanced sideways at Emmett then smiled at Riley, though it seemed a little off. “Sorry, I was expecting one of Bella’s girlfriends.”
“Dude,” Emmett laughed. “You thought Riley was a chick? I love your dirty mind, bro.”
I raised an eyebrow at Edward, wondering where the hell he’d gotten that idea.
“You’re from Chicago, right?” He looked at Riley who nodded. “I just assumed you were a friend. No big deal.”
With that, Edward was himself again. He turned on the charm and introduced Riley and I to his date Gianna, who was a nurse he worked with. After catching up for a few minutes, we all headed inside the church to find the rest of the wedding party.
“Okay!” Ang said excitedly after the minister had gone over everything once. “Everyone line up together, then we’ll do a dry run.” She called off the names of our high school friends, pairing everyone off. Luckily she’d decided to have Alice walk with Emmett instead of Mike. I was walking with Edward; I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that. Once the wedding party was situated, Ang called out to our dates and had them sit in the front row.
She stood back and watched as we all took our places. Edward took his place, but he didn’t even glance in my direction. He stood stiffly beside me looking straight ahead. I huffed in annoyance and he finally turned my way.
“You’re asking me what?” I asked, a little surprised. “You’re the one acting all cranky.”
He rolled his eyes. “I’m not acting cranky.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “You were a total dick at first when Em introduced Riley.”
“Bella,” he sighed. “I just don’t want you to get hurt.” The look on his face was sad, not condescending at all and I didn’t know what he was getting at.
“What are you talking about, Edward?”
He sighed again and shook his head. “Bells, he lives halfway across the country. I heard him say he’s probably headed to Northwestern for Law School. You really think you’re going to come out of this unscathed?”
“Probably not,” I snapped at him. It wasn’t like I hadn’t already thought about all of that, but I’d also thought that if there was a chance that things could work, we should try. I wasn’t going to break things off just because they might not work out. I bit my bottom lip and let out a big breath, then continued, “but I think we deserve a chance.”
“You deserve more than a chance,” he muttered.
“You know what? You have no right to talk to me about this. Where are you going to be next year, Edward?”
“What?” He looked like I was crazy.
I huffed, he was so infuriating some times. “You. Next year. You’re leaving Duke for your residency, yet you’re still here with Gianna.”
“I’m not going to get hurt by Gianna.”
I snorted. “I’m sure you’re not, but you might want to think about her for a second.”
“You’re just trying to deflect all of this.”
“Maybe I am, but you’re being a jerk and I have no idea why. Can’t you just be happy I found someone who cares about me? Just let me be happy for once.”
We glared at each other, and when he opened his mouth to say something more, Angela’s mother loudly whispered his name. We realized it was our turn and began our slow march. We separated at the front of the church, as he went to the opposite side of the aisle. Alice gave me a curious look as I passed her, but I shook my head and rolled my eyes.
I took my place, and as Angela’s father talked to her and Paul about the actual ceremony, I let my eyes move down the row of groomsmen. Emmett was making faces at Rose and Mike was glaring at Jasper. Then my eyes landed on Edward. So many emotions were flying through my brain all at once it was hard to understand. I was angry, but the sight of him still made my heart skip a little. I was frustrated with myself, because I thought I’d started to get over him. I felt bad for him, because, watching him as he stared down at his feet, I could tell he wasn’t happy either. I heard the minister make a joke about it not being too late for Angela to change her mind, and I laughed along with everyone, shaking myself from my thoughts.
I looked over at my friends in the front rows and grinned. Riley was leaned over, listening to something Jasper said. He caught me looking at him and gave me a smile and wave. I smiled back, silently cursing Edward for making me doubt anything about us. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t thought some similar things since we returned from Ireland, but I had pretty much convinced myself that the good outweighed the bad, now I wasn’t so sure.
After Reverend Weber finished his instructions, the wedding party started to move down the aisle. When it was our turn, Edward took my elbow and we started towards the back of the church. When we got past the first couple of pews where the church was empty, he leaned closer to me and whispered, “I’m sorry.”
I bit my lip as I looked over at him, nodding.
“Are we okay?” he asked.
I wanted to cry. We weren’t okay. I didn’t see how things ever could be when he had no idea what he meant to me. “We’re fine, Edward.”
“Good,” he sighed as he turned his head. I wasn’t sure I was supposed to have heard him.
The morning of the wedding was full of rushing around and then waiting, along with calming Angela down and keeping her separated from her mother, who was equally freaked out. Alice and Rose took care of my hair and make-up. I felt a little like I had for prom, I’d been transformed almost to the point I didn’t recognize myself, but the new me was pretty hot, if I do say so myself. We posed for what felt like a couple hundred pictures with Angela and the other bridesmaids. Ang was whisked away so Paul wouldn’t see her, and we took group shots with the groomsmen. Edward and I made small talk with everyone else. Things seemed to be fine between us, although I think we both knew that there was a fragility in our relationship that had never been there before.
Eventually, the guys were called back to the rooms they had gotten ready in while the bridesmaids met Angela in the Bride’s Room. Everyone quickly refreshed their hair and make-up, making a final trip to the bathroom if necessary. By the time we finished, it was time for to line up in the entryway of the church.
Edward took my arm, smiling down at me, almost shyly. It was the first moment we’d had alone since our little argument the night before, if that’s what you would call it.
“You look beautiful,” he said quietly.
I glanced at him, trying to gauge what he meant, if it was simply an observation or something more. He smirked and I didn’t have a chance to say anything because we were walking down the aisle with all eyes on us. When we reached the front of the church, he gave my elbow the faintest of squeezes before we separated. I turned and faced the congregation like we practiced, smiling and trying to focus on the ceremony. My eyes drifted over the guests but my mind was again focused on Edward.
I saw Riley sitting near the middle of the church and he smiled a little wider when our eyes met. I bit my lip as I smiled back. Suddenly, I just wanted to be done with all of the wedding stuff to spend time with him. We hadn’t had nearly enough time to be alone together, and I was irritated that Edward was occupying my thoughts.
The ceremony finished and everyone clapped and cheered as Angela and Paul kissed. Then I was briskly walking back down the aisle trying not to think about whom I was walking with. I was anxiously looking forward to a cocktail at the reception. We took more pictures of the wedding party as a whole group with the bride and groom, but this time it was with our dates looking on. The sun was warm for the outside shots and I felt myself blush a little as Riley grinned at me.
Riley had brought my car to the church, so we rode together to the Elks Lodge for the reception. It was decorated in the style of most receptions there, with a balloon arch over the DJ booth and hurricane lamps on mirrored tiles as centerpieces. We joined the line at the beer table; I introduced Riley to the locals while we waited. Forks didn’t see a lot of outsiders, so new people were always fawned over a bit.
By the time I had to line up for the introductions of the wedding party, Riley was seated with my dad, Jasper and Rose, drinking beer and talking about sports. We ate dinner, watched the happy couple cut the cake and have their first dance.
I had forgotten my one final duty as a bridesmaid; dancing with Edward. I must have blocked it out, because it took me completely by surprise. I was leaning against Riley as Ang and Paul danced to Nora Jones’s Come Away with Me, when Edward moved in front of us, holding out his hand.
“We’re up next,” Edward said quietly, then continued when I looked confused, “the whole wedding party.”
“Oh, yeah.” I smiled, and Riley chuckled behind me. I took Edward’s hand as I saw the rest of the bridal party moving onto the dance floor. My hands were starting to sweat, and I was terrified of stepping on his toes or completely embarrassing myself in some other way. We had danced together before, why was I so freaked out? More importantly, after everything that had happened between us, how had I forgotten I had to dance with Edward?
His arm came around my back as he turned to face me, and he brought our joined hands up between us intimately. Steven Tyler’s voice started coming through the speakers and I was sure I was right. I had utterly and completely blocked out the fact that I had to dance with Edward to Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.
I could stay awake just to hear you breathing
Watch you smile while you are sleeping
While you’re far away and dreaming
We slowly twirled on the dance floor, and I tried not to think about how close to each other we were, or how large and warm his hand felt on the small of my back. Or the way he smelled. Or the feel of his jaw, which half-way through the song he’d moved to rest against the top of my head. I really tried not to notice the caress of his thumb over mine. What I couldn’t ignore, however, was his deep sigh and whispered words near the end of the song.
“I’m sorry about last night.”
The music stopped, transitioning into the next song while the DJ encouraged everyone to join us on the dance floor. I hated to break the connection we had, but I moved back enough to see his face. I didn’t respond. I wasn’t sure what to say, but we held each other’s eyes for a tick of the clock. Then he brushed his fingertips over my forehead before he spoke again.
“You’re important to me, Isabella. I’m sorry if I over-reacted.”
I wanted to cry. To kiss him. To ask him what the hell he meant; but none of that happened. Instead, I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see Riley grinning, Gianna by his side.
“May we cut in?”
Edward looked at me for another second, then at our dates. “Of course.”
He seemed to disappear with Gianna after that. I didn’t see either of them for the rest of the evening. Did they leave to spend time alone together? Were they just off in a different part of the hall, talking with other friends? I had no idea.
Just like I had no idea what the fuck had happened between us on the dance floor.