Always a Bridesmaid
Chapter 9: Up All Night
Edward and I knew we had chemistry, that was undeniable. We were also both old enough to know that with our long history of practically being siblings and our friendship, sex would complicate things. My biggest fear was ridiculous, but really, it was unavoidable. I was worried about how awkward things would be with our whole group of friends if Edward and I ever broke up. I didn’t want them to have to choose between us. If they didn’t choose, how difficult would it be for me to sit across a table from Edward with his friends and family and not just be imagining, but know – intimately – what his ‘O’ face looked like.
The thought of sitting somewhere with our family and friends, imagining him making that face with another woman underneath him – I didn’t think I could stand it. However, the reality of it all was, even without sex, we had crossed a line in our relationship where everyone would be uncomfortable if things didn’t work out.
As the weeks went on, Edward’s crazy schedule at the hospital didn’t get any better. We were adjusting to it and getting used to taking advantage of small windows of time together. He’d told me that he was ready for us to move forward in our relationship and I was too. The trick was actually finding time when we were both awake or not running out the door to work. In the end, our first time making love was following a long work day and take out dinner from Panevino Trattoria. Edward had known me far too long not to realize that the way to my heart was through my stomach. Hell, I’d been ready to lie down on the table for him when he opened the lid on the appetizer; I saw that he’d gotten us the marinated portobello mushrooms, but I held myself back. I also restrained myself from eating too much of the penne with pesto sauce so that I didn’t wind up in a food coma.
After we put the left-overs away and cleaned up the kitchen, I headed for the living room to relax. He grabbed my hand, stopping me when our arms stretched between us. Standing in the entrance to the hallway, he waited for me to look back at him. When I met his eyes I knew what they were asking, and I was tired of saying no to something that I wanted so badly. I smiled, and he grinned before tugging at my hand to lead me to his bedroom.
There were very few words as we kissed and slowly undressed each other. It was romantic and sweet, but spontaneous as well. He didn’t stop and turn on his iPod or light candles. The only light was from the full moon through the curtains.
We had done pretty much everything besides have sex. There’s something to be said for spending hours lying together kissing, learning each other’s bodies, but nothing compared to the feeling of this. Our bodies joined and moving together, his weight on top of me and the slide of our damp skin against each other’s limbs. He knew exactly where to touch me as he rocked his hips in a rhythm that drove me crazy. I knew the spots to kiss that made him shiver and the words that would push him over the edge. Afterwards, we lay together, catching our breath, as he gently rubbed my back
“Well, we’ve done it now,” he said quietly, his chest shaking with laughter he was trying to hide.
“Yes. We have.”
“There’s no going back.”
“Nope. We should probably just do it again then,” I said, trying to sound serious as I climbed up to straddle his waist. Leaning forward to kiss him, I let my hair fall around my face and lightly trail across his shoulders. “Mmm…Why did we wait so long to do it in the first place?”
“Because we’re stupid; stupid grown-ups who worry too much,” he chuckled as his hands found their way to my ass to give it a little squeeze. “Now are you going to have your way with me?”
As I rolled my hips against his, I felt how ready he was for round two but I sat up again and gently ran my fingers down his chest. “That really sounds great, but we should set the alarm first.”
“You plan on fucking for another four hours?” he laughed. “I like the way you think.”
“No,” I said, lightly slapping his arm. “You couldn’t stay up for another four hours if we tried to fuck for that long!”
“Did you just say fuck?”
“Stop it. Grown-ups, my ass,” I laughed.
“Your ass is awesome.”
“Set the alarm, Edward.”
He groaned and tried to give me a dirty look, but we were both naked, so to me, it was just hot. Sitting up suddenly, he flipped us around so he was leaning over me to grab the clock. Pressing some buttons, he set the alarm, pausing to kiss me several times in the process.
“Now, where were we?” he asked as he set the clock down. His hands found my breasts and he grinned.
“Was it here?”
His fingers teased my nipples as he kissed his way down my chest. After paying equal attention to each of my breasts with his lips and tongue, his weight shifted and he scooted down to kiss my stomach.
“Here?” he asked, then swirled his tongue around my belly button.
His hands slid over my hips and down to my thighs as he moved even lower, settling between my legs.
I couldn’t take my eyes off him as he licked his lips and sighed.
“It was here, wasn’t it?”
He didn’t actually wait for an answer before his mouth was on me, his tongue doing wicked things to my most sensitive parts. I’m sure I cried out yes, but it had nothing to do with his question.
Eventually we slept, but not for long. I had no idea how Edward looked refreshed and wide awake after a quick shower. He kissed me sweetly while I stayed curled up in his bed then went back to the hospital, before the sun came up.
The fall was steadily disappearing and Edward and I were still living between our two apartments, though mostly I was going to see him. The thought of Edward driving farther than he had to after one of his marathon shifts unnerved me, so I found myself at his place several nights a week.
Following their engagement, Rose had moved in with Emmett, and by extension Tyler. She was doing her best to keep Alice occupied while I focused on Edward. It wasn’t that I was becoming one of those women who dumped her friends as soon as she got a boyfriend, but Alice and Jasper lived together and had similar work schedules. Edward was working such crazy hours that I felt like I hardly got to see him, and when he wasn’t working he was barely able to keep his eyes open. Sometimes that meant making him breakfast when he came off a night shift, and sometimes it meant waking up in the middle of the night when he came home wired, after working on an interesting case or procedure. I had to be flexible and since Emmett was working the same crazy hours as Edward, Rose made herself available to Alice.
We were all so busy that if felt like we never got to spend time together as a group anymore, and in reality, we didn’t. Our schedules varied widely that it tended to just be two or three of us getting together at a time. So when we realized we all had a corresponding Friday night off, it was cause for celebration. Both Edward and Emmett were off for sixteen hours and the rest of our schedules had somehow aligned as well. We sat scattered in Alice and Jasper’s living room catching up and eating a spread of pizza and hot wings.
Alice was telling Emmett about a new band that she thought he would like. Suddenly, while she was looking up on her phone what club they were playing at, she started squealing, loud enough to make Emmett cover his ears.
“What the fuck, Alice?”
“Oh my god! You’re not going to believe this!” She looked around excitedly as if we already knew what she was going to tell us and should be equally excited. “The wedding expo started today. I can’t believe I forgot!”
She was positively vibrating with energy, while we looked at her in dismay. It was silent for a second, then Jasper’s drawl broke the tension.
“That sounds like a lot of fun, sugar, for you and me, but I’m not so sure Emmett and Edward want to spend their night off talking to caterers and D.J’s. We could go tomorrow.”
“Ugh. No, Alice. I just want to hang out with everyone here,” Emmett whined. “We were going to have some beers and relax. I’ll let you get out your fucking board games, anything else that you want to do.”
“But Rose needs to talk to caterers and pick out bridesmaid dresses! Right, Rose?” Alice’s voice was still an octave higher than normal with excitement. “And, oh my god, Bella, you can help us decide. This is so great! I didn’t know when we were going to get a chance to all go together, and this way Emmett will be there too! It’s perfect.”
I glanced at Edward, who hadn’t said a word. He was watching me, his face a little tense but unreadable. The corner of my mouth lifted, and I couldn’t help but grin at him.
“Want to go taste wedding cake with me?”
He smiled back and I knew he was okay. “Miss Swan, I thought you’d never ask.”
And so, on our first big night out all together since the boys started residency, Edward and I pretended to be planning a wedding. At first I was worried that we were going to be uncomfortable, but when we walked into the exhibit hall, Edward put his hand on the small of my back and escorted me in like it was the most normal thing in the world. Alice stopped at the first table to point out to Rose and Emmett the highs and lows of that particular banquet center.
Edward had moved behind me, and I felt him lean closer and whisper in my ear, “Your ring is being sized and we’re waiting until I finish residency to get married. Remind me where we got engaged?”
I leaned back into his chest and giggled. “In the meadow, silly, the one behind your parent’s house.”
“I’ve always liked that meadow.”
He squeezed my waist and kissed the top of my head. “We can do this. It will be fun.”
We followed Alice to the next booth, where she talked to a D.J. about his sound system as if she was an electronics expert. Emmet looked at her like she’d grown three heads and Jasper just chuckled.
“Just let her go, Emmett. She’s been researching everything related to weddings since before you got engaged.”
I snorted. “Since she was twelve, you mean.”
Everyone laughed in agreement and Rose asked Alice if they could just use an iPod with a good stereo system. Jasper stood behind Alice, shaking his head at our friend.
“Rosalie Hale, I know you just said that to upset me. We’re going to pretend like you didn’t say that.” She gave Rose a hard look and then smiled at the rest of us, back to being our personal wedding planner. “Now, there’s a banquet hall that has a waterfall on the grounds that I want you to see. I saw their booth over here,” she said as she began maneuvering her tiny body through the crowd.
Edward and I managed to get lost in the crowd and leisurely made our way through the expo, sampling wedding cake and talking to caterers. We kind of got into it for a while, even having a heated debate over whether or not you should offer a fish in addition to beef and chicken at a reception. When Alice finally found us, we were sitting on a bench sipping coffee, talking about our plans for the following week.
“Excuse me,” she huffed, and I fully expected her to stomp her tiny high heel clad foot. “You may not be getting married yet, but others are and there are decisions to be made.”
I was about to make a comment about her implying we were getting married, but Edward spoke first, giving her a blank look.
“And we’re involved in these decisions how?”
“Emmett is discussing gray tuxedos with tails. I can only do so much, Edward. You have to help me out here or you’re going to be wearing a fucking top hat, and there will be nothing I can do. And you,” she said turning her head towards me. “You’re going to end up looking like a hooker if you don’t get over there and talk to Rose about dresses.”
“You’ll have to wear the same thing,” I muttered.
“And I’ll make it work, but I don’t want to. Now,” she raised an eyebrow at us, “ready to join the rest of the class?”
I laughed and Edward groaned as we stood and allowed her to lead us back into to chaos of brides. I knew that Rose was probably ready to pull her own hair out, and Emmett was probably trying to find an escape route out of the expo. After all they had done for me over the past couple of years, I owed them. The least I could do was talk bridesmaid dresses and steer Emmett towards more appropriate tuxedos. I squeezed Edward’s hand and we spent the rest of the night focused on Rose and Emmett’s wedding, laughing and joking with our best friends.
Around Thanksgiving I had a run of several interviews that I thought went very well, but I knew that with the holidays approaching, I might not hear back from them until the New Year.
I began spending more and more time at Edward’s condo and it became more obvious that it wasn’t just his laundry that he was struggling to get done. Edward had always been very tidy; his room growing up had been spotless. So at first, when I was dropping in for a night here and there, I just thought he was had been busy and hadn’t had a chance to clean, but as the mail began to pile up and the refrigerator never seemed to have anything in it besides milk and beer, I started to worry.
He never asked for help, in fact, he seemed so tired most of the time that he was oblivious to how fast things seemed to be going down hill in his daily life. He came home later and later, and I knew it was because he was reviewing charts, studying procedures, and picking the brains of the other doctors whenever he could.
As the days went on it became apparent that he was struggling to do more than survive outside of the hospital. When I talked to Rose she said Emmett was in the same boat, but luckily they lived together, so she was keeping things afloat. I found myself making more of an effort to clean while I was at Edward’s and do little chores that he was neglecting. I made casseroles so he would have leftovers to eat throughout the week and I tried to make sure he had fresh fruit in the house for snacks. I tried not to hover too much or seem too parental, but I was worried about him.
Working retail meant that my schedule was a little crazy too. The store was open seven days a week and my shifts varied anywhere from opening at 7 a.m. to closing and clean-up at 11pm. I was working full time so I had two days off each week. They weren’t necessarily two days in a row, but it was more time off than Edward had.
In mid-December, I had a rare two days off in a row and I was going to spend a couple of days with him—well, at his place anyway. He had a big flat screen T.V. and his own washer and dryer. Plus I’d be there waiting when ever he made it home; it had been his idea actually.
Even though I was trying to set some boundaries and not interfere too much with Edward’s living situation, I broke down when he hadn’t opened any of his mail in over a week. I knew his bills were piling up and that he had plenty of money to pay them, and I couldn’t just let them sit there anymore on his breakfast bar. I felt a little like I was invading his privacy somehow—I guess I was—but I took his checkbook out of the desk and wrote out checks for his bills, leaving Edward to simply sign them and seal the envelopes. We were going to have to have a talk about putting his regular bills on autopay.
I was reading a book while I waited for him when I heard his key in the door. He came inside and dropped his keys on the counter with an exhausted sigh. Grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge, he took a long swallow before he pulled his shirt off and started to strip out of his clothes as he made his way out of the kitchen.
“Edward,” I said quietly. I wanted him to know I was there, but I didn’t want to scare him.
He stopped mid-stride, almost stumbling, and his wide eyes met mine.
“Fuck.” He ran a hand through his hair and exhaled with a chuckle. “I didn’t see your car.”
“Did you forget I was coming?” I smiled. He was adorable in his confusion with his crazy hair and sexy five o’clock shadow.
“I forgot it was today. Wait…” He cocked his head and furrowed his brows. “I have no idea what day it is. That’s the problem.” He snorted and shook his head, finally grinning at me. “You scared the shit out of me.”
“I’m sorry.” I stood and set down my book before walking over to him. Putting my arms around him, I gently rubbed his back. “How was your day?”
His head fell to my shoulder. “Long.” He took a deep breath and I felt his chest expand and then contract as he exhaled. “I got to stand in on a quadruple by-pass today…but he coded on the table.”
“Oh, Edward,” I sighed, hugging him a little tighter and then rubbing his back in sympathy.
It wasn’t the first patient he’d lost, but he still struggled with each one. Was there something he could have done differently? Had he missed something in his examination or preparation for the procedure? I wasn’t sure if a person should ever get used to death, but I hoped, for his sake, that he could learn to live with it a little easier.
“I went back over everything. I don’t think we could have done anything differently.”
“It was his time then,” I said quietly.
He snorted and lifted his head, rolling his eyes at me. “That is so cliché.”
I shrugged. “He’s in a better place.”
Through tired eyes, Edward looked at me like I was crazy.
“He had a good life,” I continued, trying hard not to laugh. “He’ll always be watching over you.”
“Oh. My. God,” he laughed, finally getting it. “Are you making death jokes?”
“Ummm… Yeah?” I said, sort of squinting in uncertainty. “I was trying to make you feel better, or not think about it or something.”
He grinned, shaking his head. “I lo-…” he started, but stopped himself. “You’re amazing. Do you know that? And if I wasn’t so fucking tired, I’d show you just how amazing you are.”
“Wow. You’re that tired?” I teased, trying to cover up for the fact that I realized he’d just had to stop himself from telling me he loved me. I think we both knew we loved each other; we were just building up to saying it. Kind of like the sex. It was another hurdle we were easing over. At least I was.
“Sadly,” he said, lightly running his hands up and down my arms. “I’m that tired. I do, however, have a full twelve hours off. That’s plenty of time for me to rest up and then worship your awesomeness.”
I laughed and settled deeper into his arms, running my nose along his neck. “One condition: you shower before climbing into bed. You smell like hospital.”
“I think it’s in my pores,” he sighed, sounding dejected and exhausted.
“I’m sure it is. Just go scrub off the surface, and I’ll meet you in bed.”
When he nodded and headed towards the bathroom without another word, I knew he was dead tired. Sure, he’d said he was exhausted, but I still expected him to try to convince me to shower with him. The fact that he hadn’t spoke volumes.
The water stayed on for far too long in the bathroom and I went to check on Edward, afraid he’d fallen asleep in the shower. He hadn’t, but he was standing under the spray, his forehead leaning on the wall, letting the water pound on his back.
“Edward?” I asked quietly. “Come to bed.”
He sort of nodded and his arm reached over, fumbling to turn the water off. I grabbed his towel off of the hook and handed it to him before going back to the bedroom and climbing in bed. He joined me a few minutes later, his hair still wet and his skin goosepebbled from the cool air. He set his alarm and snuggled in bed behind me, putting an arm around my waist. I took his hand in mine, twining our fingers together in front of my chest.
“Are you okay?” I whispered into the darkness.
He sighed, his breath tickling my neck. “I’m just exhausted.”
I didn’t say anything more, I just held onto him and tried to relax as I felt his chest rise and fall against my back and listened to the sound of his breathing.
When I was almost asleep he held me a little tighter, and I squeezed his hand to let him know I was still awake.
“Bella,” he whispered, then paused. I held my breath wondering what he would say, then he continued, even more quietly, “I don’t think I can do this without you.”
My breath caught, his words breaking my heart a little and making me fall for him even more. Sighing, I remembered the night that he and Emmett had rescued me from the diner and my disastrous date with James. He said he’d always come and get me. If I hadn’t realized it before, his whispered words against my skin confirmed what I knew in my heart. I would do anything for Edward and be anywhere he needed me to be. Not saying we loved each other didn’t mean I didn’t feel it.
I lifted our joined hands to my mouth and kissed the back of his hand before whispering, “I’m not going anywhere, Edward.”
He kissed the back of my neck and settled behind me, his breathing slowing down and evening out. He was asleep within minutes. I laid there, suddenly awake thinking that maybe, just maybe, I saved Edward just as much as he saved me.