A/N: Thank you to TwilightMundi, who so graciously helped me clean this up a bit.
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Unwritten by Natasha Beddingfield began and I soaked the words in like water to a sponge. It was the perfect way to start my day and I had no clue who to thank for it.
We let the song finish and looked at each other, all with googlie-eyed expressions on our faces. Yeah, whoever made the CD was good....
Alice helped me pick out an outfit after I told her I was possibly going to have lunch with Edward. Alice and Rose both raised their eyebrows at that, but I assured them nothing was going on, we were just meeting for lunch as friends. We agreed on a white tank, a pink sweater, jeans, and my pink Chucks. I picked up my black rectangular framed glasses and was on my way out the door. That day was casual, comfortable, easy.
While it was fresh in my mind, I put my notebook inside of my messenger bag to start my checklist. I had an early class and then I would see Jasper in my second class. I wanted to meet up with Edward for lunch as we'd talked about, so I texted him.
Free for lunch still? b
I took notes during my first class, stopping only to write "skydive?" in my notebook. The prof was going a thousand miles a minute and I was irritated at the focus required. While walking to my next class, I checked my phone to see if Edward had replied. Sure enough, he had.
Absolutely. In class now, should be free the rest of the afternoon. You? -E
Tucking my phone back into my bag, I decided to answer him once I had a seat in my next class and could think.
On the way to my next class, I unconsciously began to hum Unwritten. When I saw Jasper, I smiled.
Jasper wouldn't leave me an unmarked CD, would he?
"Hey, Jasper!" I waved.
"Hey, Bella. How are you this morning?" He smiled and my heart melted a little. No more romance, Swan, I reminded myself.
"I'm good, Jasper. How are you?"
We walked into the room and sat next to each other, as if it was just another day and nothing had changed. My heart ached just a little. I wanted to step aside for Alice, I knew it was the right thing, but that didn't mean it was easy for me. I could feel the heat coming off his body as I reached down into my bag for my phone and I let out an extra huff of air at the unfairness of it all.
Yep, this is my last class. Free after 1. Where should I meet you?
I put my phone away again, this time out of respect for Jasper. I didn't want to seem rude while we were sitting next to each other.
"So, has Alice called you yet?" I whispered, keeping one eye on the professor up front.
"No. She did text this morning though. We were thinking about getting together for lunch," he said.
Nodding, I looked down at my desk. I wasn't entirely sure how to make this transition from boyfriend/whatever to just friend. When I felt his hand on my shoulder, I looked up at him.
"You okay?" he asked. His eyes were so soft and kind I got lost for a brief moment.
"Yeah, Jasper, I am. Thank you for being my friend, for caring."
Smiling, another sliver of pain escaped from my heart and was replaced with calm. It would take time, but things would fall into place as they were meant to.
Getting my notebook out, I doodled a bit on the first page while the teacher droned on. A thought popped into my brain and I turned to the second page and added "volunteer" to my Discovery List. I'd seen a lot of places on my road trip out to New Hampshire but there were a few places I missed, or wanted to revisit and spend more time at. I quickly scribbled in "Disneyland/CA Adventure" and closed the book, remembering my trip to Disney World. I'd a fun time there and thought visiting the other park would be fun as well.
I was glad Jasper hadn't noticed my doodles and list; I wasn't ready to explain that my heartache was leading me to pursue new and different avenues of exploration. In my head, it sounded a little pathetic. Upon reflection, I wasn't sure what drove me to get romantically linked to three different people my first week at school anyway. The thought seemed completely ridiculous to me now that I was looking back on it, but I reminded myself that I was just being open to opportunity to learn more about myself, no matter which form it came in.
Class was dismissed and I hugged Jasper quickly, wishing him luck at his lunch with Alice. I had a sudden and rather funny vision of Jasper and Alice on a double date with Emmett and Rose. The only thing that might make that more awkward would be a triple date including Kate and Tanya....
Pulling my phone out, I check where I was meeting Edward.
Excellent, my last class too, let's go off campus? Meet 1, the cafe? -E
Shit, it was already 1:05. As I walked to the cafe, I texted him back.
Perfect, on my way... b
Turning the corner, I saw him standing there, his back to me. His crazy hair gave him away. I stopped, frozen, to observe. He looked even better than usual that day. Not that he ever looked terrible, but I was used to seeing him in his cafe uniform. He had on dark wash jeans, very nice from behind,a black polo shirt, collar popped up, black messenger bag slung over his shoulder, and black and white checked Vans. Wait, Vans? Edward was wearing Rock & Republic jeans, a no doubt designer polo shirt, and Vans? I couldn't wait to harass him about that.
He was talking to a girl and I wanted to see their body language for a moment before I approached. It hadn't occurred to me that maybe Edward had begun seeing someone else since the Kate incident, but I don't know why... he was handsome, smart, and funny – surely he wouldn't be single long. It didn't matter if he dated other people. I wasn't looking for anything beyond friendship from him, right? Right? Right, brain, keep telling yourself that.
The girl had her hand on his forearm, resting it there as she spoke to him. There was some familiarity, but not in a romantic sense from what I could tell. She would giggle now and then and toss her hair, trademark flirty techniques, but he didn't seem to even notice. Mostly, he stared at the building and was sneaking peeks at his cell phone now and then. I decided to have a little fun with him.
Trying to turn our lunch into a 3some? I know I'm open minded, but that's where I draw the line, buddy... b
Moving around the corner of the building, out of sight, I giggled as I saw his reflection in a classroom window when he turned around to look for me. His black sunglasses rested on his nose and his lips were pulled down in an adorable pout. He turned back to his female companion, fingers flying across his expensive phone.
Who says I want to share you? Where are you? Save me, please... -E
He needed saving, how could I resist that? This situation would require confidence, so I knew I needed to channel New Bella. I could feel the desperation wafting off Blondie as I approached.
Tapping Edward's shoulder, I alerted him to my presence. He spun to face me and I could see his forehead crinkle in emotion.
"Bella! I was just telling Irina here that I was waiting for you...."
"Ohh," I tried really hard not to giggle, "are you ready to go, Edward?" I smiled at him, ignoring the heinous skank. I decided avoidance was the best plan.
Offering me his arm, we wandered away from her. I could no longer contain my giggle and was gasping for breath by the time we reached his car, a shiny black convertible BMW M3. "Where are we headed, Edward?"
"Do you like pizza?" he asked.
"Ah, I know this great place, Three Tomatoes."
He opened the door for me and I slid in, putting my head in my hands; there was no way I could get into the depth of the irony before we got to the restaurant, so I just told Edward I would explain once we were seated.
The place was unsurprisingly busy for lunchtime. We waited a few minutes to be seated in sort of an awkward silence.
"How are your classes going?" I asked.
"Brutal," he confessed.
"I was surprised to see you at the cafe yesterday, and now you have time for lunch? You're not going to get behind by letting me monopolize a few hours of your time today, are you?" I smiled.
His mouth tugged up in a sort of half grin/half smirk and he shook his head no just as we were called to be seated. I followed behind the hostess and when she stopped suddenly at our table, Edward bumped into me. It was like a full body check, pushing me forward into the poor hostess. Edward's arms wrapped around my waist, steadying me before I fell all the way into her. I felt his warm breath as he overcompensated and drew my body back into his.
"You know, if you wanted to cop a feel, you could have just asked," he chuckled. My knees felt weak and I was glad to be in his arms, on the off chance I did actually pass out. Edward was warm and smelled good, and nothing at all about the current situation felt unnatural or awkward.
"I could say the same, you know," I said. "Letting me go might be a good start to eating lunch."
The hostess gave us a funny look but turned and set our menus down before walking off. I felt Edward's grip loosen and we took seats on opposite sides of the table.
"So, let's start with what is so funny about this place..." he prompted me.
"Oh, God. Okay, so actually I need to back up and give you some history before I sound like the world's biggest turbo slut. You might still think that when I'm done, but it will at least make me feel better to know I've given you the whole picture."
Our waiter showed up to take our food and drink orders. Once he was gone, I started talking in earnest.
Edward sat quietly and listened while I explained about my parents. He asked thoughtful questions about Jake and my drive out. He was kind when I explained about Emmett, Jasper, and Tanya.
"So, you lost both of your parents, your best friend slash boyfriend who turned out to be gay, drove on your own from essentially one coast to the other, met and began dating three people, one of whom was a woman, and then all three phased back out of your life as potential romantic interests in the span of two weeks. That's what the last year of your life has been like?" He looked slightly overwhelmed summarizing it.
"Yeah, I'd say that's a pretty fair analysis." I laughed lightly.
Our pizza arrived and we began to eat while still talking, each of us taking a turn with a question or comment and then a bite.
"I guess I shouldn't have taken it so personally when you turned me down for a date, then... even if I was a total dick to you."
"Yeah, it had less to do with you being a dick and more to do with life's complications. Now, of course, I've sworn men off for a while." I could see his eyes shift with curiosity, "And women. All romantic pursuits are off the table until I can get my footing here. I'm loving my classes and schoolwork, but I feel like I halted getting to know myself before I really began.... I started this list, don't make fun of me, okay?"
"Never," he said, as if he knew the weight of what I was trying to convey.
"So I started this list of things I want to do, see, or accomplish in my quest to find myself. Is that totally lame?"
"Bella, nothing you've said so far is lame, not even a little. Can I see the list?"
"Well, it's pretty short so far."
Reaching into my bag, I grabbed my notebook and opened it to the page with the list, then handed it to him. He wiped his hands so he wouldn't smudge it up with grease, which I appreciated.
"Hmm, we'll have to work on this, you realize?" Edward looked up at me through his lashes and I could see the hint of a grin on his mouth.
"You have some ideas for the list?" I raised my eyebrows and got out a pencil to write in any ideas I liked.
"I might. Let me think on it, okay?"
He handed my notebook back and we finished our pizza. I knew I had too much homework to blow off the rest of the day, as much as I really wanted to spend it getting to know Edward better. As friends. Really. Right.
"Edward, thank you for lunch. I had a nice time. It's good to be able to get it all out sometimes."
We exchanged smiles as he led the way back to his car, opening my door for me and then closing it once I slipped in. He walked around and got into his spot, driving us back to my dorm.
"Leaving me already?" he grinned at me.
"I'm sorry, Edward. I have so much homework. Don't you?"
He sighed. "Yes, I suppose I do."
He looked, upset? Disappointed?
"Edward, do you want to maybe meet up to study in the library tomorrow? I have to get back to the room for some things I need today, but I could plan to meet you there tomorrow after my classes, or in the cafe?"
Unwilling to just leave our next meeting to fate or chance, I realized from the way his face perked up, it seemed like he wasn't either.
"I'd love to, Bella. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my busiest school days, but I could meet later in the afternoon. What time are your classes?"
"I have a nine and a two, so I'm usually done and at the library by four fifteen. Would that work for you?"
"I guess that explains why you're usually at the cafe in between. That stinks that there's such a big gap in time between your classes. I work until one, then have a two o'clock class as well. It's pretty far from the cafe, but I could meet you there at four thirty for a caffeine and study break?"
"That sounds perfect. I might be in for lunch, too, so maybe I'll see you then. If you think of any great list additions, you can always text me."
We were pulling into the lot and I didn't want Edward to walk me to my door. Wouldn't that be too much like a date?
"Thanks again, Edward. I had a nice afternoon. I look forward to learning more about you."
Ss he put the car in park and turned it off, I turned and smiled. He got out and opened my car door again, that time taking my hand as I climbed out. Edward's hands were soft and warm, surprisingly so.
"I had a nice time too, Bella."
When he didn't immediately let my hand go as we walked, I was nervous, but it slipped from his on the way up to my room. I figured he was walking me up to say hi to Alice and Rose, but he stopped outside the door.
"Tell Alice and Rose I said hello?"
"Of course. Thank you for walking me to my door."
He smiled and turned to walk away. I admit, I watched a little longer than I needed. Those jeans were going to be my undoing. Stop blaming the jeans when you know it's the body inside of them. Sighing, I opened the door, then closed and locked it behind me once inside..
"What's that look?" Rose asked.
"I see it on your face. That look, Bella Swan. You have that look in your eyes."
Rose was looking at me with a critical eye as I walked towards my room. I paused at the door.
"It's nothing, Rose, I promise. I have a ton of homework. I'll be in here if you guys need anything, okay? Hey, before I buckle down, how are things with Emmett?"
Rose broke into a wide nearly giddy smile at his name, so I knew things must've been going well.
"Oh, Bella. He's amazing – handsome, charming, so smart. I think we're going to double date with Alice and Jasper on Friday. Do you want to come with us?"
Suddenly, it was like seeing my thoughts spring to life. I had to stifle the giggle again at the thought of Tanya and Kate joining them to make the Circle of Hell in my brain complete.
"Rose, I'm so glad for both of you. It's sweet of you to invite me, but I think I already have plans." Liar. "I'm going to get to studying. Just knock if you need anything, okay?"
She nodded and went back to her open book. Closing the door softly, I began to unpack my things onto my desk. My mind wandered to Edward and his moods and mannerisms. I was pretty sure he was interested in me and I was interested in him, but I felt like I needed time to myself, to really get myself together before I wanted to invest time and energy in another relationship. The amazing thing was, he seemed to completely understand and respect that.
I opened my notebook and wrote "babies?" as another line item. I didn't want to limit the timeline of these activities, so I just opened it up and let the floodgates pour out, writing short and long term goals. When I was done, I had a page and a half of things I wanted to someday try or do, or might want to someday try or do. Some of them had question marks while others were certain. I thought for sure I wanted to get married someday, but the details were obviously up in the air about babies and where I might settle down to live. I knew I wanted to be an editor, but the exact details were still fuzzy.
There were things I wrote that were silly or just for fun, as well – go to the State Fair and get lots of things on a stick. It seemed like once I got started, they just kept coming. I imagined, and wrote down, going to Paris with someone I loved. Visiting the Louvre and walking hand in hand under the Eiffel Tower. I wanted to go to Italy and drink espresso in a little cafe.
I knew there were more things I wanted to add to the list, but the sun was down in the sky and I really needed to get my homework done. I couldn't let myself get too far behind if I wanted to have any sort of a life outside of class. I wondered what Edward was doing, so New Bella told me to text him. Old Bella was unsure and nervous, but I stuffed her back in the closet and mustered up my inner flirty badass. I know, I was supposed to be focused on school, but I swore to myself this would be the last distraction before I actually did some work.
Think of anything great to add to the list, Edward?
Cracking my book from class open, I began to review my notes when I heard my phone chirp in reply.
That depends, Miss Bella, what are my restrictions?
Hah... you're going to regret that one, Edward...
No restrictions, this is about exploration, remember, Mr... I don't know your last name?
Hey, just because I didn't want to get into bed with him tomorrow didn't mean I couldn't flirt a little, right?
You're making it very hard to study, Ms. Swan (I asked Alice)... -Mr. Cullen
Oh, dear. Hard to study, eh? I giggled and went back to my homework without replying. Just as I was closing my book to begin working on a paper for a different class, my phone chirped again.
I didn't say I wanted you to stop, Bella...
You're not the only one with studying to do, Cullen. On a whim, I picked up a my notebook and wrote "SB" on my Discovery List.
Sorry, E, I gotta focus… can't drop out of college, don't have a sugar daddy ;) see you tomorrow. -b
What was it about Edward that had me letting my guard down so completely after I resolved to keep myself out of romantic entanglements? Could it be the hot ass in those jeans?
Damn it. I closed my book and flopped on my bed to think. My list needed more work, but that would have to wait. Undressing slowly, I yawyned as I put my pajamas on and wandered back out to the living room to say goodnight.
"Bella, Rose said you had a funny look on your face when you came home today. Anything you care to tell me?" Alice asked.
Sitting next to her, I rested my head on her shoulder.
"Nope, no late night confessions. How about you? Did you see Jasper today?"
"I did." She sighed, that dreamy sigh of someone already deep in lust. "It was wonderful. We had dinner together and got to know each other better. I'm just so happy around him."
As if she'd been snapped out of a trance, her head twisted so she could look at me.
"Oh God, Bella, I'm sorry. Is this awkward?"
"No. Well, yes, it sort of is, but I did ask... and I had a feeling I knew the answer. I'm going to have to get used to it, since I'm sure he'll be around more. Speaking of, where's Rose? She out with Emmett?"
Alice nodded and took my hand in hers.
"Bella, you're like our sister, you know that? We both love you so much. I know you're lying about what's going on in that pretty head of yours, and trust me, I'll get it out of you." She paused to giggle. "It may take some time, but I'll figure it out. Speaking of figuring things out, any word on your mystery CD delivery?" She quirked an eyebrow up at the end of her sentence.
"Nope, no one fessed up today. I'll see Tanya and ask her about it tomorrow, though. Ugh, is it terrible that I'm dreading seeing her? At least I got class with Jasper over today and it honestly wasn't too awkward, but Tanya? I just don't know what to say or do. The whole situation feels like it exploded in my face."
I let my voice trail off in sadness at the end. I was probably channeling more sadness into Tanya than I truly felt, just because it seemed like a 'safe' place to be sad and not hurt Alice. She slipped her arm around me and pulled me closer to her.
"I can't even imagine, Bella."
We watched the end of some mindless TV show Alice had been watching, her arm around me and my head on her shoulder. She was right, I felt it too; we weren't blood related sisters, but this is what I always imagined a sister to be. She and Rose loved me and I loved them right back.
"Alice?" I questioned quietly.
"Don't read anything into this, okay?"
I could see her look at me from the corner of her eye, both of our heads level now.
"Is Edward a good guy?"
She began bouncing in her spot, clapping her hands, and I knew right then and there that I was royally fucked.
"Oh, Bella, the best. I mean it, he's my best friend and I love him like a brother. He would do anything for me and vice versa. He's loyal and kind and sweet. He's romantic and smart...."
She shifted her body to look at me. It felt as if I was an ant on the sidewalk under a microscope tilted into the sun; intense pressure and heat took over my chest and I knew I was blushing furiously.
"I said don't read anything into it, Alice, and I meant it. I'm not dating anyone right now, especially not the ex-boyfriend of my ex-girlfriend's ex-girlfriend, got it?"
We fell into laughter together at my explanation. It was a tangled web, and I was grateful we could still laugh about it.
"Uh huh, we'll see about that," she said, smacking my butt as I got up off the couch.
Climbing into bed, I thought about Edward; really, how could I not? As the peppy beat of Wake Me Up by Wham drifted through the room, I was thankful that my sleep was restful and I couldn't remember a single dream.
Hopping out of bed, I danced at the footboard for the duration of the song. Yep, another good day, Swan. I got my clothes picked out and opened my door to see Alice at the coffee pot, willing it to drip faster. I repeated her actions from the night before, swatting her playfully on the behind as I walked to the front door on my way to the showers. Just like the previous day, there was a square white envelope containing a homemade CD with my name on a label. That time, as I slipped out the CD, a note fell to the ground.
It is sometimes hard to see that the mistakes we make in life can lead us to the right path.
Huh. I put the CD in my computer and Alice joined me in my room again.
She shook her head and we smiled together. At least someone was getting laid?
The piano began to play and I recognized the song instantly: New Soul by Yael Naim. Alice and I danced together and I understood the meaning behind the note. Once it finished, Alice hugged me and I bounced to the showers. Thinking about my mistakes, I hummed the song all through my shower.
Whoever was leaving me the CDs could have been someone that wanted to be my friend on the floor – maybe someone saw me humiliated by Tanya and Kate and felt bad for me? There was no tone set by the songs yet aside from new beginnings, and that was fine with me. I got out of the shower and dried off, ggetting dressed before I walked to my room. I mentally replayed the song as I dried my hair and put on a touch of makeup.
Tucking the note back into the CD sleeve along with the disc, I put it on my desk with the envelope from the day before. It's not going to be a good day, it's going to be a great day.