Always a Bridesmaid
Chapter 6: Into the Mystic
The new year started out lonely. It didn’t matter that I told myself I was a confident, independent woman. I was still alone.
A few days after returning to Seattle, I received a text message from an unknown number.
Incoming text: How are U?
Me: Umm. Who is this?
Incoming text: Edward. How are U?
I stared down at my phone for a second in shock. Apparently, I’d never gotten his new number after he moved to the East coast. I read the words on the screen again, but I didn’t know how to answer. Before I could respond, I received another message from him.
Edward: Are U alright?
I wasn’t sure that text messaging was the best medium for me to bare my soul to him, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I bit my lip and typed my simple reply.
Me: I’m fine. U?
Edward: I’m good. Just thinking about U.
Me. Well, I’m fine.
Edward: Good. Talk soon.
Edward: Bye. 🙂
I ran to Alice’s bedroom and pounded on the door. After I freaked out for a few minutes, we dissected the lines of text, giggling about his use of a smiley face and the abbreviation ‘U.’ We called Rose, telling her everything on speakerphone.
“Told you so!” Rose said in a sing song voice.
“Oh my god! You were so right!” Alice squealed.
“He just asked if I was alright. Jesus, you two. Relax.”
“Relax? He texted you! How did he get your number? Rose, do you think Emmett gave it to him?”
“I have no idea. This is an interesting turn, Bells. One I didn’t expect.”
I laughed. “Oh really? So now what? Do I text him tomorrow or something?”
“No!” and “Hell no!” came their responses.
“No,” Rose repeated, once again taking control of the conversation. “I know we’re all excited and shit, but he still needs to earn it. And that fucker owes you.”
“He so owes you,” Alice agreed, nodding even though Rose wasn’t there to see it. .
“So…I think it’s cool for you to respond when he texts for now, but I think it’s time Edward chased you a little.”
“Genius!” Alice grinned.
I sat on the floor of Alice’s room with my knees up to my chest, my arms wrapped around them. They continued to talk, but I had tuned them out; my mind busy with my own jumbled thoughts.
“Bells?” Rose asked.
“Yeah, I’m here,” I answered, pulling my attention back to the conversation.
“You gonna be alright?”
“Yes!” I said, exasperated. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Alice bit her lip as she looked at me. “We don’t want you to pin all of your hopes on him.”
“He’s in North Carolina,” Rose added, “what we mean is that you shouldn’t stop looking.”
I rolled my eyes, as if another Mr. Right was going to stroll into my life. “Sure, Rose. I’ll just keep putting myself out there.” I was being sarcastic; they both knew I hadn’t been on a true date since Riley and I ended things.
“We don’t want you go get hurt,” Alice said, giving me a small smile.
“More than we know you will,” Rose said sadly.
“Maybe Edward and I can become friends,” I said, trying to be hopeful and doing my best to ignore their doom and gloom attitudes.
“You are friends,” Alice said, confused.
“No,” Rose said, beginning to sound excited again. “She’s our friend, Alice. Bella has never been just Edward’s friend. I think that’s a great idea, Bella, but let him lead.”
I sighed. That was easy. It wasn’t as if I had a history of truly chasing him. I just pined quietly, for years.
The texts continued as Seattle began to warm to its normal damp spring. Sometimes we joked back and forth –
E: I thought I saw U in the park 2day.
B: Really? Did U 4get your meds 2day?
E: Funny. Not. What did U do 2day?
B: I went 2 the park.
B. I know. I went 2 class and worked. What did U do at the park?
E: I was supposed to review procedures for a surgery tomorrow but I fell asleep. Doing it now.
B: OMG quit texting me and study. I don’t want U not knowing what UR doing!
E: I said review. I know what I’m doing. Also, I probably won’t DO anything.
B: I watch Grey’s Anatomy. U have no idea what UR doing
E: It’s TV!
B: Whatever. It seems real. And it’s in Seattle
E: Sigh. whispers *it’s not real*
B: GO. STUDY..
E: Fine. Night 🙂
Other times he just sent me random statements about his day, or rambling thoughts that didn’t require any kind of response.
E: Someone said today that the jonquils are out. I didn’t know what that was. It’s what they call daffodils here. Weird.
Once in a while he sent picture messages of what he was doing or where he was.
E: I went to the beach this weekend. Look at this. So different from home.
It didn’t really matter what they were; his texts always made me smile. It became totally normal to have a text from Edward waiting for me when I woke up in the morning. We were friendly and it was sweet, but I tried not to delude myself into anything more. As my graduation approached and my stress levels went through the roof, I started to initiate some of our conversations. I followed his lead, sending him one line messages or pictures of things like Mount Rainier and Seattle landmarks. The difference was that whenever I texted him – no matter what it was – he replied, even if all he sent back was a smile. Mostly, he seemed to know exactly what I needed to hear.
B: I hate my Sociology professor. He is a royal douche.
E: He is douche royalty? Interesting.
B: Yes. He was born into his role as a douche.
E: Does he wear a crown? Or a pinky ring?
B: Neither. A pocket protector.
E: What’s wrong with that?
B: U have 1, don’t U?
E: maybe. It’s hard to get ink out of white lab coats. JS
B: U don’t wash your lab coats.
E: How do U know?
B: Grey’s Anatomy
E: NOT. REAL.
B: But U don’t wash your lab coat, do U?
B: So Y RU worried about ink in the pocket?
E: I’m a nice guy.
B: Dr. Nice. I like it.
E: Feel better?
E: Gotta go try not 2 kill people
B: Good luck…Thanx
The cute texts were…cute. They felt comfortable, but nothing more. After a short time, I felt like I could say that Edward was my friend, but there was never any discussion of ‘us.’ We never talked about progressing to phone calls or anything else but oddly, I was not discouraged. I was good with where we were in our relationship, because the connection we had, no matter how tenuous it was, was so much more than we’d shared in the past.
I went through the motions of my daily life, going to class and to work, but not much else. The news that Jacob had gotten engaged to Emily didn’t really help. It was a shitty reminder that I was still very far from that point in my life. Every other week I went to Emmett’s for dinner and game night. I watched movies with Alice and studied at the library, but really, I wasn’t doing more than getting by. I was just biding time until graduation. Rose and Alice eventually got sick of my moping around and called me out on it. They insisted on a girls day, and dragged me to Vashon Island for a First Friday tour of their art galleries.
Linking arms, we stepped off the ferry together and walked from the launch up to the main street, immediately stopping for coffee. Caffeine in hand, we casually began making our way through the galleries. We chatted among ourselves about our favorite pieces on display and someone held the door for us as we left Valise. I looked up as I stepped through and stopped in my tracks. A huge grin covered my face as I took in the tall, thin man with his hair pulled back into a pony tail at the nape of his neck.
He saw me gaping and smiled back, laughing out loud. “Isabella?”
“Garrett?” I asked, teasing because it was clear we both recognized each other.
“Oh my god, it’s great to see you!” He hugged me, picking me up and spinning us out of the doorway and onto the sidewalk. He continued to just smile at me for a few seconds before introducing me to the guy standing beside him. “This is my brother, Royce. Royce, this is Isabella.”
“Isabella?” Royce asked, looking at me strangely. “Like, Isabella that you met before the Trail?”
“Yeah,” Garrett replied, nodding and smiling. “You won’t believe this,” he said, turning to me, “my phone got ruined like the first week of our hike. I lost all of my contacts.”
I laughed. “Well, that sucks.”
It was also an explanation for why he hadn’t gotten in touch. I thought that he’d just moved on with life. Actually, I figured he’d never returned to Seattle, staying somewhere out East after their trip.
“What sucks?” Alice asked, coming back towards me. I’d forgotten she and Rose were even there. “Garrett! Hi!” she squealed, when she saw who I was talking to. She jumped up to hug him.
Rose shook her head, laughing at us. “I can’t take you anywhere! You two always find someone you know.”
I made introductions, explaining to Rose that Alice had set Garrett and I up sophomore year. Garrett chimed in, telling her about his trek on the Appalachian Trail with his brother.
I shook my head, grinning at him again. “Wow. It’s so crazy to run into you.”
“Right?” He was smiling back, looking exactly like I felt. I was excited and hopeful but a little shocked at seeing him. “Let me get your number again,” he said, handing me his phone.
I saved my number for him before calling myself so I’d have his number as well. “So, what are you guys doing here?” I asked stupidly, as I handed his phone back. It was likely they were on the island for the same reason we were, for First Friday to visit the galleries.
“Royce’s fiancé has some paintings in there,” he angled his head towards the door we’d just come through. “We’re going to grab drinks with her and a couple of other artists later.”
Clearly I was not winning points with conversation. I didn’t know why I was nervous. We’d really hit it off before his trip. There had been great chemistry between us actually, but maybe that was because I knew he was leaving. There hadn’t been any pressure. “It was great seeing you. Call me?” I bit my lip, feeling hopeful, as I felt Rose’s hand squeeze my elbow in approval.
“I will,” he promised, before his eyes lit up like he had an idea. “Wait. What are you doing tomorrow night? We could grab some dinner.”
Standing there, trying to formulate an answer, I thought about Edward and realized I didn’t know what the hell was going on with us. I had no idea if I should have dinner with Garrett or if Edward would be upset if I went. I knew Rose and Alice would say I should go, but I wasn’t sure if I could.
After flipping back and forth in my mind for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only about five seconds, I decided it was only dinner. I wanted more from Edward, but we were just friends. He had made it clear that it wasn’t the right time for us. I’d had a good time with Garrett and I was eager to hear about his trip. Before I could second guess my decision, I heard myself saying yes.
By the time we took the ferry back to the city, I was back to second guessing myself. Rose, in her infinite Jedi-wisdom, shook her head at me, telling me to knock it off.
I let out a deep breath, looking out at the water. “I feel a little like I’m cheating on him.”
“Bella,” she sighed, putting her hand on top of mine where it rested on the railing, “you’re not cheating. You and Edward are just texting. There’s no commitment.”
I opened my mouth, but she continued before I could say anything. Her insight was creepy as usual. “You want the commitment from him, I know. The thing is…who knows how things are going to go with Garrett? I mean, maybe he’s leaving on another trip or something. You talked to him for five minutes. I say, go to dinner, have a nice time. Figure out what to do about Edward later. If things look good with your hippy, tell him. If not,” she shrugged, “don’t.”
Alice came out to the deck to join us, complaining about the wind messing up her hair. She looked at us, taking in our expressions before she began to pout. “I missed a moment, didn’t I? I hate it when you two do that.”
“Aw…We love you, Alice,” Rose teased.
“Whatever.” She rolled her eyes at Rose, then put her hand on my arm. “So, dinner with Garrett?”
I looked out at the water again, watching the island get farther away, then turned towards my friends, nodding. “Yeah.”
Dinner the next night was great with Garrett. We caught up, talking about his trip and his return to Seattle. After finishing school, he started teaching math in a district about thirty minutes outside of the city. Time flew by as we laughed and talked like we’d known each other for years; we didn’t realize how late it had gotten until our waiter told us the restaurant was closing.
Walking to the car, I knew I was in deep trouble. I liked him – a lot. It was amazing that just being around him made me feel good about myself. When his hand brushed my arm as he opened the car door for me, it took all I had not to lean into his touch. I slid into my seat and he closed the door before walking around to his side of the car. Sighing quietly, I leaned my head against the cool window. This was what I’d been afraid of.
My head and heart were full of questions. What did these feelings mean for me and Edward? Was there even a me and Edward? Did I feel like this because Garrett was here and Edward wasn’t? How would I feel if the two of them stood in front of me? Who would I choose? My heart was pounding and my hands were sweating. I didn’t want to think about it, but I couldn’t stop.
He kindly walked me into the apartment building and all the way up to my door. I was terrified that he was going to kiss me, and equally afraid I was going to like it. We stood outside of my apartment, smiling at each other.
“I had a great time,” he said, looking down at me.
“When can I see you again?”
I bit my lip, then smiled. “Call me ‘ll see what next week looks like.”
He nodded, leaning down to kiss me. I held my breath as his lips gently touched mine, and then it was done. He grinned down and took a step back as I opened my eyes. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Blinking, I tried to clear my head as I watched him walk away. He waved before going down the steps and was gone.
I went on two more dates with Garrett before I said anything to Edward.
E: Anything fun this weekend?
He texted again before I could decide how to answer.
E: Are you there?
B: Yes. I have a date tonight.
He didn’t respond and I started to think I shouldn’t have told him.
B: Are you there?
E: Yes. A date? That sounds nice.
E: No. But, have fun.
B: I’m sorry.
E: Nothing to be sorry about.
B: I’m still sorry.
E: Me too. It shouldn’t bother me. Go out. Have fun.
B: Don’t be mad. I’m having a hard time with this.
E: Don’t feel bad. Please, have fun. We’ll talk soon.
B: K. Bye.
E: Bye. 🙂
I felt sick to my stomach after that conversation. I didn’t mention dating again unless Edward asked directly, which he didn’t do very often. I knew from Rose that he talked to Emmett about me; what he said, I didn’t know.
Royce’s wedding was about a month after I ran into them on Vashon Island. Garrett hadn’t been planning on taking a date until Royce’s fiancé Irina and I met. She insisted that I go with him. I spent the day watching the wedding party as sort of an outsider, friendly with everyone but only really knowing Garrett. It was a wonderful day, despite the rain. The ceremony was short and to the point, with a few personal touches. Throughout the day, I was reminded of weddings I’d been to in the past. I laughed about little cliché things I knew Alice hated and took pictures of things I thought Rose would like.
Between the wedding and the reception I got a text from Edward.
E: How’s the wedding?
B: How do you know where I am?
E: I know everything.
B: Spooky. Wedding done. Pictures, then 2 reception.
E: Fun. Chicken or steak?
B: HA HA HA HA Free range chicken. No steak.
B: Groom is a hippy. Bride is an artist.
E: HA HA HA HA *can’t breathe* Have fun, Belly.
B: Flipping U off.
B: Still flipping U off.
The reception was a strange combination of Woodstock meets the Seattle grunge scene. Oddly, it all worked well together. Garrett sat at the head table for dinner while I was seated with some of his cousins. Dinner was, in fact, free range chicken, organic vegetables and tabbouleh. There were even strange, earthy cocktails at the bar. I managed to sneak a picture of my cucumber martini to send to Edward. He hated weird drinks like that, responding quickly with one word in shouty capitals: WRONG
The newlywed’s danced to Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic before the the wedding party took the floor for Sting’s Fields of Gold. I stood off to the side, sipping my cuc-tini, as I watched Garrett and the Maid of Honor slowly twirling on the dance floor. All I could think about was that Sting was one of Edward’s favorite artists. I finished my drink, cursing myself for allowing my mind to drift like that. Swirling the ice in my glass, I pretended that thinking of Edward while I was at a wedding with Garrett didn’t mean anything. pretending like it didn’t really matter that it had.
In the weeks after the wedding, Alice and I were busy getting ready for mid-terms while Emmett and Edward were both nervous wrecks waiting to hear about their matches. Edward had tried to explain it to me via text, but it had taken a longer conversation with Emmett to really understand the whole process for applying to a medical residence program.
Basically, medical students had to apply to residency programs they were interested in. Based on those applications, schools chose the students they wanted to interview. After that, med students rank ordered the programs they were interested in while the schools did the same. Finally, an aggregate program was used to “match” students with residency programs all across the country.
Emmett had ranked several schools out West as his top choices, but he was praying to stay in Seattle at the U-dub Medical Center. He wanted to study family medicine, eventually focusing on sports medicine. Edward said he was hoping to come back to U-dub as well, but he wanted to study emergency medicine. I knew that he should have been looking at much larger hospitals, in cities like New York or Chicago, but he wanted to come back to Washington. He’d listed U-dub as his top choice, with several other hospitals in the West as fall backs.
Both Duke and U-dub had Match Day events where their med students found where they’d been accepted for residency. Alice and I went with Rose to meet Emmett at the hospital to find out his match. We waited in a conference room with the other med students, quietly talking even though Em was so nervous he could hardly sit still. Duke was in a different time zone, so Edward had already learned where he’d matched. The brothers had agreed that they wanted to tell each other where they’d be going. Edward had already called his parents, but he was waiting for Emmett’s text to tell the rest of us.
Emmett paced impatiently as the names were called by lottery. We stood, wringing our hands, through six other names until he was called. He went up to the podium for his envelope, coming back to stand in front of Rose before opening it. In a very un-Emmett like fashion, he slowly slid his finger under the seal of the envelope, pulling the paper out. Taking his time, he tried to smooth out the creases from the folds, prolonging our anticipation. He held the paper up in front of his face so no one else could read it, then simply re-folded the letter, putting it back in the envelope, his face blank.
“Well?” Rose asked anxiously.
“Oh, Rosie, you better start packing up your apartment.” He tried to sound sad, but he couldn’t help himself, breaking into a grin. “So you can move in with me! We’re staying here, baby!”
“Ohmygod!” she yelled, throwing her arms around him.. Alice squealed. I may have shouted and somehow we ended up in a giant group hug.
Alice and I stepped back and Em kept one arm around Rose as he pulled out his phone to call Carlisle and Esme. They were thrilled, as was to be expected, promising a celebratory dinner the next time they were in Seattle. He was still grinning from ear to ear when he finished the call. Waggling his eyebrows as he typed, he texted Edward. We all laughed, watching his giant fingers fumbling with the keypad
Their next texts passed in cyberspace –
EM: I’m staying here!
EC: I’m coming home!
We cheered, hugging each other again before Em shushed us to call Edward on speaker phone.
“Congrats, bro!” Emmett said before we all echoed him.
“You too!” Edward said excitedly. “I can’t wait to move back to Seattle!”
“Dude, it’s gonna be epic!” Emmett was still grinning, though I wasn’t sure if it was related to his own match or because he was getting his brother back. He’d been thrilled for Edward when he went to Duke, but he’d missed his brother. It was obvious from his voice on the other end of the line that Edward felt the same.
I was just as excited as everyone else, but the thoughts in my head were all over the place. Edward was coming home, in six months, less if he moved back during the summer. We would live in the same state, even the same city, again. I kind of wanted to go home so I could call talk to him alone, but I knew the timing wasn’t right. Our timing was never right. Maybe soon it would be, though.
Later that night, I waited for Edward to text me, but it didn’t come. Instead, I got an excited phone call from Rose letting me know that Emmett had proposed. She had of course, agreed. It had been a long time coming, but now that Emmett knew he was staying in Seattle, they could start planning. It was cute that he asked her on Match day; it made the day even more special, for both of them. Excited about their news, I fell asleep smiling, despite the hollow feeling I had from not hearing from Edward at all.
The following day, I was surprised when a tray of Beecher’s mac and cheese was delivered to the apartment. Beecher’s was a cheese shop in Pike Place Market and a local favorite. Alice liked to tease me about how much I loved their mac and cheese. I searched my brain to figure out who could have sent it, because, really, who would be sending me mac and cheese of all things? Why not flowers or candy? I set the tray of food on the counter so I could I opened the tiny envelope. I couldn’t stop myself from grinning and laughing when I read the simple typed message inside.
One of my favorites for another. Guess what else I miss about Seattle?
I put the mac and cheese in the refrigerator with a note telling Alice not to touch it, before I called Edward to say thank you. He didn’t answer, so I left a quick voice-mail. I tucked the note away in my desk, and went to sit by my window. With a silly grin on my face, I let myself daydream about Edward moving home.
A few weeks later, Emmett and Rose had an engagement party at a night club. It was a mix of their friends and people they knew from work, so Garrett and I spent a lot of time talking with Alice and Jasper. Midway through the night, Rose introduced Garrett to someone as my boyfriend and I froze, automatically wanting to disagree.
Standing there, with my mind reeling, my denial slapped me in the face. Garrett and I went out every weekend. He knew how to order my coffee perfectly and that if I was drinking tea I didn’t feel well. He was my study partner, grading his students’ work while I did homework. He was the last person I talked to every night. He was my boyfriend. There was no question. I just hadn’t realized it.
Garrett stood behind me, reaching forward to shake hands with Rose’s friend. He put his other hand on my shoulder, leaning gently against my back as he said hello. The contact was intimate, but it felt all wrong.
I glanced at Rose, who was looking back at me apologetically. Somehow she knew what I had just realized, and she understood. Garrett may have been my boyfriend, but I was in love with someone else.
Links for things, if you care about that. 🙂
The beaches in Washington and North Carolina do actually look different – though I’m sure you could find some that looked alike…Here’s what he was talking about –