Always a Bridesmaid
Chapter 7: Where Are You Going
Garrett took our break up like a total gentleman. It made me feel even worse about trying to explain that it wasn’t him, but me, that was the problem. He listened carefully, then asked if I was finished. When I nodded, he asked if there was anything he could do to change my mind. He really was perfect. I knew I was potentially making a huge mistake. For all of my telling Edward that I wouldn’t always be waiting and that we couldn’t just put our lives on hold, I knew I had to end things with Garrett. It wasn’t fair to any of us to continue things with him, and I had to find out if what Edward and I had started could become even more.
That night, before I went to bed, my phone buzzed with an incoming text. I was surprised to see it was from Edward. We were still texting back and forth, and though I hadn’t told him what was going on, I should have known that he’d find out I was breaking up with Garrett.
E: U ok?
I stared at the screen on my phone, not sure how to answer.
I sighed and texted him back the truth.
E: I’m sorry.
B: Me 2
E: Want me to tuck you in?
My eyes welled up with tears and I hesitated for a few seconds before I could type my response. I wasn’t sure how to answer, but I figured – what the hell? I texted back the first thing I’d thought when I read his message.
B: More than anything
E: Me 2
His response had been quick, and although it made me smile and warmed my heart, I didn’t have the energy to talk with him anymore about Garrett, or us, or whatever. Maybe I would have been able to talk with him, but I didn’t want to hash it all out over text.
B: Thanks. Goodnight
It took him a few minutes to respond. Maybe he was busy or maybe he was feeling like I was – thrilled that he was coming home but still frustrated with the distance.
E: You’re welcome. Thinking of U. Goodnight
I curled up in bed with a sigh and pouted. Earlier I’d been trying to convince myself I’d done the right thing by breaking up with Garrett; now I was sure of it. I couldn’t stop myself from wishing Edward really was there to tuck me in, though if he really was in my bedroom, I don’t think I wouldn’t have wanted to just sleep.
The spring seemed to fly by after that; I worked on my projects and papers and started to get organized for finals. It was the last semester of my senior year and my future was up in the air. I focused on what I could control, which was being prepared for exams, and tried not to worry about the rest.
Things with Edward hadn’t really changed, except our text messages had become even more flirtatious. We still hadn’t progressed to phone calls, and I was okay with that. I wasn’t ready for anything more until after graduation, when I had the time and energy to deal with everything. Plus, I knew that Edward was just as busy finishing up at Duke before the move home.
However, late one night about two weeks before my graduation, things changed.
E: Esme said they want to take A to dinner after grad. U and C going?
B: Change of plans. Em’s having a cookout. And no C.
E: Night shift?
B: No. Billy’s wedding. C can’t come down.
I’d been looking through some anthropology notes as we texted and was startled when my phone lit up, ringing. I bit my lip as I answered and put the phone to my ear.
“Edward?” I asked, sounding uncertain, even though his name had flashed on the caller I.D.
“What do you mean it’s Billy’s wedding? Charlie’s not coming to graduation? That doesn’t sound like him at all,” he said in a rush, “and wait, who’s Billy marrying?”
“Hello to you too, Edward,” I laughed. “No, Charlie can’t come. We’ve been all through it and it’s just not possible. Billy and Tiffany Call are getting married the same day as graduation and Charlie’s the best man.”
“Tiffany Call? Like, Embry’s mom? Man, I’ve been gone a long time. I had no idea. That’s like…” he trailed off.
We’d heard rumors about Billy and Tiffany years ago. There had been some speculation about how much Jake and Embry looked alike, so I knew what he was thinking. “Yeah,, weird, right?”
“Yeah, wow.” He exhaled and seemed to refocus. “But…Bella, Charlie should be at your graduation.”
“Why, Edward?” Charlie and I had been over all of this. So had Alice and I. “Why is it important for him to watch me and five hundred other people march across a stage to accept a fake diploma? Or to go to Husky Stadium with 40,000 other people and hope he can pick me and Alice out of the crowd?”
“It just is,” he said quietly.
If Billy hadn’t been getting married I would have agreed. But he was, and Charlie was his best friend. We’d known Billy’s wedding date for a year, but my graduation had only been announced a few months prior.
“What about your mom?”
I snorted. “She’ll be on vacation. Her new boyfriend won a trip or something. It’s not like she saw me graduate from high school either.”
He sighed. “I remember. I just thought, maybe…”
“Nope. It’ll just be me and Alice, but I’m used to that. Plus, your parents will be there, and they’ll video tape everything for Charlie. I’ve already gotten used to the idea he won’t be there.” I tried to sound positive. I had convinced myself that it was all right, so I repeated to him the things I’d been telling myself.
“Bella…” he started, but his voice was drowned out by an announcement in the background, “Doctor Smith, call 221. Doctor Smith, 221.”
“Are you at the hospital?”
“Yeah, I’m hiding near the morgue.”
“That’s why no one is down here. I was studying.”
“That makes sense,” I laughed.
“It’s nice to hear you laugh.”
“Edward…” I practically whispered, closing my eyes.
“I know,” he sighed. “I know. I’m sorry. I’ll let you go. I’m just…I’m sorry that your dad won’t be there for your graduation…and I know you’ve had a shitty spring.”
I knew he was talking about Garrett and it was odd to hear him referring to my break up as shitty. I had figured that he would be a sort of smug bastard about it.
“I’m fine.” I tried to sound convincing.
“You know that Em and Rose and my parents will be there for you, right?”
“I know. I’ll be fine, Edward.” I sighed. “When are you moving back?”
“I don’t know. My rotation is done the end of the month, but I’m still trying to figure out where I’m going to live in Seattle; I really don’t want to have to live with Em and Rose. I have to figure out what to do with some of my stuff or sell it and then drive back.”
“Oh, okay,” I said, though he hadn’t really given me a solid answer.
“Bella, I start my first rotation on August first. That’s less than three months.”
“Okay.” I could handle three more months. That wasn’t so bad.
“You can help me find a place if you want.”
“Oh.” I was surprised and curious. Did he want me to help him look because he knew I’d be spending time there, or because he wanted to spend time with me looking for an apartment? I shook my head, glad he couldn’t see my confusion. I knew it didn’t matter, I’d take what I could get.
“I’d like that,” I answered, trying not to sound too hopeful.
“Great. We’ll have fun.”
Again, I really didn’t know if he meant what he said or was implying something else. I sighed in exhaustion and frustration. “Edward, I need to get some sleep.” As well as stop getting my hopes up and reading into every little thing he said, I thought too.
“Right and I should study.”
“I’ll talk to you later?” I couldn’t help asking, even if I wanted to take it back as soon as I said it. I could almost hear Rose yelling at me that Edward was supposed to be chasing me. At least he’d called me in the first place.
“Bye,” I said, ridiculously, since we had already basically said goodbye. I’d really wanted to ask exactly when later was, but I resisted.
After we hung up, I stared at the phone for a few seconds. I thought about going to tell Alice about the call, but I decided to keep it to myself overnight. I wanted to mull it over, replaying the conversation in my head a few times before telling Alice and Rose. I was afraid they would crush me with reminders it meant nothing until he had actually moved home.
The girls took the news about the same as I did, with initial shock and joy, then weary cautiousness. Rose was full of, well, Rose-isms, but when it came down to it, her message was that I needed to be patient, and I was, or maybe I was so numb I couldn’t tell the difference anymore.
Even though I had tried to play it off to Edward as no big deal, graduation loomed over my head like a horrible weight. It hurt that my dad wasn’t coming, but it was understandable, and it was the least of my worries. There were so many changes on the horizon that the uncertainty with Edward wasn’t even bothering me. It was random and often confusing, but it was also sweet and it was a great outlet when I needed to vent. Most importantly, it wasn’t changing, even after graduation day. He would still be texting me the following week when I was no longer a student, but an unemployed twenty-something living in a tiny studio apartment by myself since Alice was moving in with Jasper.
So I went through the motions, putting all of my energy into my exams but not really caring that I was graduating. Emmett was obnoxiously excited for Alice and me, planning a big cookout at his house after commencement. I walked in the small ceremony for psychology majors so I could at least give my dad a picture of me receiving my fake diploma. Afterwards, I rushed across campus to meet Alice and head into the stadium.
We joined the rest of the senior class for the processional in front of the stands and the mass ceremony. It was long, but sitting with Alice trying to find her family among the crowd in the packed stadium was fun; something I would never forget. We threw our caps in the air and cheered when the university president announced that we had officially graduated.
After making our way out of the stadium, we went back to the apartment and changed into more casual clothes, taking a few minutes to enjoy one of our last moments as roommates together. We drank some champagne before mixing drinks for the road; well we might have finished an entire bottle. We walked to Emmett’s, knowing we could get a ride home later.
About halfway there, I tripped on the curb and Alice had to put a hand out to steady me. She stopped me from falling and made a big deal about saving me from spilling my drink. When she slurred her words making fun of me, we realized that neither of us had eaten lunch.
“Oh, shit!” she giggled. “It’s going to be a long night.”
“Or a short one!” I laughed, and we linked arms and continued walking to Emmett’s.
When we got there, we walked into the house without knocking. The house seemed empty; we didn’t see anyone in the living room or kitchen. We could hear people outside so we made our way to the back deck. Alice slid open the screen door and Emmett looked up from the grill as we walked outside.
“Ali! Belly!” he yelled and everyone began to applaud.
Carlisle and Esme were there with Rose and Jasper and a few of our friends. We waved and smiled at everyone as we made our way down into the yard. While Alice and Jasper made out hello, I got caught up in a giant hug from Emmett.
“So proud of you, B,” he whispered before tickling me. I slapped at his hands and he let me go without much of a fight. He grinned at me like a proud father as I headed off to get a drink.
The keg was set up a few feet from the grill, right next to a long table they were using as a surprisingly well stocked bar a few feet from the grill.
“Jesus, Em. How many people are you expecting tonight?” I poured myself a rum and Diet Coke. I squeezed a lime over the mixture and took a sip, savoring the perfect mix with a loud, “Ahhh.”
“Just the regular crowd,” he laughed, then angled his head towards my drink. “Getting liquored up tonight, Belly girl?”
“Maybe,” I giggled.
“Maybe she already is,” Rose said, swatting Emmett on the ass as she walked past him to join me in making a cocktail.
Emmett studied me, squinting a little, then glanced over at his sister and threw his head back in laughter. “You bitches are lit. This is gonna be fun.”
Rose laughed and I muttered ‘whatever’ before I moved off towards Carlisle and Esme. I made it about three steps before I heard the sliding door open again and Emmett call out, “Ed, get me the platter off the counter. These burgers are almost done.”
I did a spit take on my drink and spun towards the door as Emmett and Rose burst out laughing. Edward was there, grinning at me.
“Got it, bro,” he called, reaching back inside for the platter before coming outside. He went down the steps and took the large platter to his brother before he came over to me.
I realized that my mouth was hanging open and forced myself to close it, but I couldn’t come up with any words. I knew I wasn’t drunk enough to be hallucinating, but I couldn’t believe he was there.
“Hi.” He gave me a shy smile, but seemed to recognize my complete shock and pulled me into a hug without waiting for my response. “You smell like rum.”
For a second I was distracted and thoughts of Johnny Depp saying, ‘Where’s the rum gone?’ filled my head, but reality crashed back into me when I realized I truly was in Edwards arms.
“Hi,” I finally managed to say as he released me and stepped back. “What are you doing here?”
He grinned. “Surprising you.”
“That you are.” I nodded, taking a big drink of my cocktail. I shook my head and smiled at him over the rim of my glass. “Are you really here?”
“I am. I wouldn’t have missed it.”
“Wow,” I said quietly, thinking about that – what it meant to me, what it implied.
He stood in front of me and I couldn’t believe my reaction, or lack of thereof. I was probably acting like a complete asshole, but I had no idea what to think or how to act. Looking into his eyes, I felt overwhelmed—graduation, Alice’s move, my dad not being there—it was a lot to take, but Edward coming to my graduation put me over the edge. My eyes started to well up and he shook his head.
“No, Isabella, please don’t cry,” he said quietly, stepping forward and putting his hands on my cheeks. “I didn’t come to upset you. I wanted today to be special for you. Do you want me to go?”
“No,” I said quickly. “No. It’s not that. There’s just a lot going on right now.” He was gazing down at me and I didn’t know what to do, so I put down my drink and stood on my tip toes to hug him again. I took a deep breath and just let him hold me. “I’m glad you’re here. I just don’t know what to say.”
“You’re doing fine.” He rubbed my back and let me have a moment to get myself together. I didn’t care that everyone saw us, and I couldn’t help but notice that he didn’t hesitate from holding me like that in front of his entire family. When I could look at him without crying I stepped back, but he took both of my hands. “You okay?”
I nodded. “How long are you staying?”
He reached forward and moved some of my hair over my shoulder. “Just til morning. It was the only way I could make it work.”
“So, you’re going to have been in the air longer than you were here?”
He chuckled. “Um, it’s pretty close. I’m not exactly sure.”
“I. Wow, Edward. I can’t believe…” I closed my eyes and swallowed, taking a second to let go of all of the insecurities that were bubbling up. Taking a deep breath, I smiled up at him. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” He leaned forward and kissed my forehead. “Come on. Let’s go talk to my parents. We’ll rescue them from drunk Alice.”
I snorted. “Because drunk Bella is better?”
His hand slid down to my lower back to guide me towards his parents. It was warm through my summer dress and I wanted him to keep his hand there all night. “Drunk Bella doesn’t talk about having sex with Jasper,” he laughed. “At least I hope you don’t.”
After hugging Carlisle and Esme, and realizing it was clear to everyone that Edward had come to spend time with me, the rest of the night was sort of a blur. There was a round of tequila shots with Tyler and a pep talk from Rose, she agreed that Edward’s appearance definitely meant something. Throughout the night, Edward seemed to touch me much more than usual. He rubbed my back, put his hand on my shoulder, and even kissed my forehead. He held my hand at one point, too. At least I hoped all of that happened; I might have dreamed it.
I woke in the morning feeling better than I should have for having drunk so much. Taking stock of my circumstances, I realized I was in a t-shirt and underwear, not the dress I’d worn the night before. That was impressive. Then I realized that the hand gently resting on my stomach wasn’t mine and I started to panic.
I rolled over and gasped at the sight of Edward sleeping next to me. He was in nothing more than a pair of boxer briefs which left very little to the imagination. I closed my eyes tightly for a second and took a deep breath. I had to be dreaming. He was going to be gone when I opened my eyes; it was the only thing that made sense. But when I opened my eyes again, not only was Edward was still there, he was starting to wake up. He stretched to rub his face and moved his hand, which had ended up on my side. He opened his eyes and grinned at me.
“How are you feeling this morning graduate?” His voice was gravely and sleepy… and really fucking sexy.
“Much better than I should. I don’t really remember the whole night.”
He laughed and reached over to brush some of my hair back. “There are probably some things you should be glad you don’t remember.”
“Oh my god. Did I? I mean, was I…” I was too embarrassed to say the words.
“Were you a flirty drunk and then suddenly violently ill? Yes.”
I groaned. How embarrassing, but it explained why I didn’t feel like death.
“Sorry,” I muttered, feeling a blush creep up my neck and face. I started to cover my mouth to save him from my bad breath but I realized my mouth didn’t taste too awful.
“Did I brush my teeth?” I asked, more to myself than him.
“You did, and you made quite a production of it,” he smiled at me, his green eyes shining in the morning sun. He looked way too handsome for having just woken up.
“I’m sorry,” I said again. “Thanks for taking care of me.”
“Don’t worry about it. It was fine. Not at all what I was expecting, but fine.”
“What were you expecting?” I whispered, because I had no idea really why he had come to graduation or what it meant for us.
He smirked. “Not that. Okay a maybe a little bit of that.” His fingertips ghosted over my cheek and he smiled thoughtfully. “I just wanted to make sure yesterday was special for you. I didn’t expect to end up in your bed. I’m not upset that I did, and I hope you’re not either…but I thought we’d have more time to talk.”
“Talk?” I grinned. That’s not how I imagined a night in bed with Edward.
“Yeah,” he said with a sigh. His eyes seemed to search mine for a second before he spoke again, “I guess I just need you to know that we’re on the same page.”
He nodded and then leaned towards me so our foreheads were almost touching.
“We are.” I felt his breath across my cheeks as he spoke. “We just have to hold on a little longer. When I come back next month I’m staying.”
“What are we holding on for?” I leaned in even closer, so our lips were almost touching.
“Everything,” he whispered, looking into my eyes.
I could have said something back, and we could have kept talking, but that wasn’t what I wanted anymore. I certainly didn’t want to wait for everything, not the way he meant. Carpe Diem and all that. I angled my head, moving my lips over his to kiss him again the way I’d wanted to since the second I walked away from him on New Year’s.
He kissed me back without hesitation. The chemistry we shared was palpable, but we kissed leisurely, hands roaming each others’ sides and backs. Although it felt relaxed, we were both breathing heavy and making small gasps and sighs. Our bodies shifted, he was angled over me and I could feel how hard he was against my hip.
I slid my hands into his hair, arching my neck as his as lips moved down it towards my collarbone. He slid my shirt up and cupped my breast with his hand as I bit my lip in anticipation, hoping his lips were heading for the same place. He nuzzled his face between my breasts for just a second before I felt his breath on my nipple. I gasped, rather loudly, and he chuckled, his forehead against my chest. It was intimate and adorable, but all I cared about was his mouth finding its way back to where he’d left off.
“Edward,” I rasped, shocked at how turned on I was when we were just making out.
I felt his hand tighten on my ribcage in response just before his tongue finally touched my skin.
“Shit, Bella,” he muttered, glancing up for a second with dazed eyes before returning his attention to my chest.
We were tangled together and things were getting a little out of control, but I didn’t really care anymore. I was pretty sure I could live with the consequences when he left. When he stretched up to kiss my lips again, I reached down to push his shorts off. He groaned, but it was definitely not a sound of protest, and he didn’t try to stop me.
Just as I got a hand on his ass, and oh, it was as good as I’d imagined, better maybe, I heard music coming from somewhere in my room. I knew the song but I was breathing too hard to make out the words. I turned my head and Edward continued kissing my jaw and my neck, then I heard the song more clearly.
“Oh, my god!” I started laughing when I realized what it was. “Is that your ringtone?”
I was trying to stop laughing and Edward froze and listened, dropping his forehead to my shoulder as the familiar tune played.
Ice ice baby
Ice ice baby
All right stop collaborate and listen
Ice is back with my brand new invention
Something grabs a hold of me tightly
Flow like a harpoon daily and nightly
Will it ever stop yo I don’t know
Turn off the lights and I’ll glow
“I’m going to kill my brother,” he grumbled as Vanilla Ice continued to sing for a few seconds before it looped and started over.
I cracked up laughing and the music started playing again.
“What?” Edward barked into the phone. He listened for a second then groaned. “Yeah. Gotcha. I’m getting up, Emmett.” I grinned as he paused, then he snapped at his brother, “You’re an ass.”
I heard Emmett’s voice on the other end of the line but couldn’t make out what he was saying.
Edward leaned over and gave me a chaste kiss as he listened. He rolled his eyes at me before he spoke again, “Yes. I’ll see you in an hour. No, I’m not telling Bella ‘hi’ from you.”
Em was yelling into the phone as Edward disconnected, then he flopped back on my bed next to me.
“What time is it?” I asked quietly.
“I have to get to the airport,” he sighed.
“I really don’t want you to go.”
He rolled onto his side, giving me a lopsided smile. “I don’t want to go, but I suppose it’s a good thing we got interrupted, right?”
“That’s one way to look at it,” I mumbled.
He pulled me into his arms and tight against his chest. “We have horrible timing.”
“It sucks,” I whined.
“Bella, I think you’re worth waiting for. Okay?”
I didn’t respond. What do you say to something like that?
“Okay?” he asked again, squeezing me a little tighter.
“Okay.” I nodded into his chest and let out a deep breath. “I would take you to the airport, but I have to drive up to Forks.”
“It’s okay.” He kissed me sweetly, then put his head on the pillow and grinned at me. “What are you going up to Forks for?”
“I have to go to the res, actually. Billy and Tiffany are having a luncheon something or other at the community center.”
“Of course,” I laughed. There was always some kind of salmon on the menu at La Push.
“What time do you have to go?”
“Nine thirty or so.”
He nodded and we laid there quietly smiling at each other. After a few minutes he gently traced my cheek with his fingertips. “I’ll be back soon, Bella. I promise.”
I sighed and moved forward to snuggle against him again. I wanted to spend as much time in his arms as I could. I couldn’t wait for him to come home again now that we seemed to be on the same page, or at least in the same book finally.
Eventually, he got out of bed and took a quick shower while I made coffee and sat by the window, trying not to think about how everything was changing. He came out of the bathroom smiling at me, buttoning his shirt from the night before. Stopping in the kitchen, he made himself at home, getting his own coffee and making a piece of toast.
I went over and joined him, leaning on the breakfast bar. We talked a little, avoiding serious topics, while we seemed to gravitate towards each other so we were standing close enough that we brushed arms as we drank our coffee.
His phone buzzed and he looked down to read the message. “Em’s on his way over.”
“Oh.” My voice was small and I could feel myself starting to collapse inward just thinking about him leaving, both physically and emotionally. My shoulders sank and my mood plummeted.
“Isabella.” Looking down at me he sighed, gathering me into his arms. “We’ll be all right. I’ll be back.”
I nodded, not wanting to hear my voice break or let myself start to cry. He leaned down and kissed me gently, then it wasn’t so gentle anymore, and I was pressed against the bar as I clutched him to me. There was a loud pounding on my front door and we both laughed, sneaking in a couple more quick kisses before letting Emmett in.
“Hello, love birds,” he teased as he stepped through the door.
“Fuck off, Emmett,” Edward said, rolling his eyes.
I didn’t even acknowledge it, knowing he’d just keep teasing us if I did.
“Yeah.” Edward nodded. He gave me another quick hug and kissed the top of my head. “I’ll call you when I land.” I looked up at him in surprise. I hadn’t expected that, but I guess things had really changed. He smiled down at me. “I have to go.”
“Okay.” I nodded. “Thanks for giving him a ride, Emmett.”
“No problem, Bells. Rose said she’d be home all day if you wanted to call.”
Bless Rose; she always seemed to know when I needed her most. Emmett started out the door and I stood on my tip toes and kissed Edward’s lips one more time. “Thank you. For coming out, for talking.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it, Bella. Everything turned out better than I hoped for.” He turned back to look at me when he reached the door. “I’ll be back,” he said, grinning and trying to sound like Arnold in Terminator.
And then he was gone, closing the door behind him. I made my way to the bathroom on autopilot, knowing I had to start getting ready if I wanted to stay on schedule and get on the road. Edward had pulled the clock radio forward on the bathroom counter and put my iPod in the dock. I got undressed and started the water running before turning on the music, noticing it was on a playlist called Belly.
I didn’t know when he’d had time to mess with my iPod or how he knew my passwords, I had a feeling a certain pixie-like sister of his was involved, but I was pretty excited that he’d made me the equivalent of a mix-tape. I climbed into the shower and stood under the spray getting my hair wet, grinning as I recognized the Dave Matthew’s song as it began to play.
I am no Superman
I have no reasons for you
I am no hero
Oh, that’s for sure
But I do know one thing
Is where you are is where I belong
I do know where you go
Is where I want to be
I sang along as the water washed over me. Edward was coming back, and he wanted to be with me.