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del amor es una incrédula

Chapter Text

The device hanging over the door beeped, indicating someone had come in through the side door, a common occurrence where customers ignored the signage there to prevent people from coming in from the door. She tried to real in her irritation because she knew that people were inattentive, and it would likely happen again. This was the first of today, and probably not the last person to ignore the boldly printed sign prompting people to use the front door. 

 

Rosalie could've quickly shut the blaring sound off within moments, but felt the satisfaction grow within her as she took in the evident discomfort of the patron in her peripheries. Their fidgeting grew worse as the alarm's volume rose in intensity the longer it persisted. She knew she had approximately five minutes before the device would notify the police department, and Rosalie would have to detail the events to the concerned officer. 

 

Rosalie, out of sheer amusement from watching the pretentious child squirm, continued turning through the pages of the newest edition of her favorite automotive magazine. If they had the courage to ignore the boldly printed sign, then they certainly still possessed it in the fourteen steps from the door to the front register. 

 

The blonde fought back a smile when the distinct sound of a throat clearing met her ears-eyes, still pointedly scanning the magazine. Although she had less than two minutes left before the police department called, Rosalie refused to give in to the entitled attitude of the boy standing now directly in front of her. 

 

"Excuse me." Amber eyes looked up, and the blonde's best-startled look flashed across her face. "I accidentally set off the alarm."

 

"Oh?" She contemplated letting it go, but the blatant attempt to avoid admitting to a fault succeeded in setting her mind against it. "I could've sworn there's a sign out there posted on the window, and there's also a cone placed in front of the door." Rosalie glanced across the boy's features as he began to sweat in earnest. Knowing the phone would ring in less than a minute, she moved to reset the device. 

 

"If you don't want people to use it, then maybe don't have a door there."

 

She halted her actions and let the time run as she bore down the rapidly reddening paste-like skin of the human golden retriever known as mike newton. She reset the device as the time ran out, a deafening silence took over the room for all of twenty seconds. 

 

The phone rang, breaking the silence causing the boy to jump. Making sure to clasp the phone gently and maintain her glare, she answered the call. 

 

"Forks Police Department, we've been notified of a break-in at your location, is everyone alright?" 

 

Staring into bland blue eyes, she responded, keeping a glare on her face. "I was currently relaying to our customer, Mike Newton, that we only allow customer entrance from the front door for the safety of our employees. Would you like to speak to him?" She was aware of the horror passing through her classmate's face as her voice came out soothingly sweet. 

 

"I wouldn't worry about it, sir." Her gaze burned into the already overhearing face across from her. "I'm sure he'll understand that next time he does this, he can face serious consequences." She smiled as she spoke. "Thank you for calling!" 

 

The phone was placed onto the dock more aggressively than she intended. The disgusting smell of sweat and masculine musk-scented deodorant traveled into her nostrils, Rosalie physically fought back gagging. 

 

"I'm sorry that I used the wrong entrance, it won't happen again." He dabbed at the sweat pooled at his temples. "Do you know where I can find the windshield wipers?" Not bothering to reply verbally, she gestured to the aisle. The boy muttered thanks and ducked into the nearest aisle. 

 

The sound of stifled laughter from behind her alerted her to the presence of her closest sibling. She fought the smile, but the rolling waves of humor overtook her before she could help it. "Every time he gets too big for his britches, you're more than willing to knock him down." His blonde hair curled into his eyes that were watering with mirth. "That was texas justice, and absolutely savage."  

 

"Now, I know for a fact that you've been spending more time with Edward and Emmett." She leaned back to glance at Jasper in thoroughly undisguised incredibility. "Who uses millennial slang and Texan slang within the same sentence?" She gave a genuine chuckle at the flash of realization on his face. 

 

The sound of sneakers squeaking in the direction of the wiper aisle snapped Rosalie back to her predicament. She nonverbally conveyed her request to Jasper and, at his nod, moved to do a walkthrough of the store. As she made her way around the store, organizing the items as she traveled, her thoughts wandered.  

 

Although the store came with moments of frustration, like with Newton earlier, she still loved the environment of the shop. Esme had approached her in the garage on her birthday, somewhere no one, but the Cullen matriarch was permitted and handed over the keys to the shop. Rosalie had been shocked, but the warmth in the auburn woman's smile as it met her eyes pushed her to embrace her. 

 

The store would be a hobby outside of school. The gesture had been wholesome and done out of love from her mother figure. Still, the implicitness of the act hung like a cloud over the store, all of her family's unspoken words oozing out as pitying glances in Rosalie's direction. She was the only one alone, and it was starting to feel that it would remain that way. 

 

The sound of the front doorbell chiming, indicating the departure of the nuisance known as Mike Newton, brought her out of her thoughts and onto the auto part in her hand. 

 

She made her way to the front counter and gestured to the store inventory scanner. Jasper tossed the device in her direction, and she went back to begin scanning labels. 

 

Taking her phone from her back pocket, she increased the volume and hit play on her current favorites—a small static sound from the overhead speakers giving away the change of music. 

 

"Rose!" A loud groan from the front brought a smirk to her face. "Last shift I worked with you, we agreed I was the DJ today." 

 

"I said, 'Jasper you can choose the music next time we work.', I didn't say you can choose all  the music." She was met with silence and continued to work.

 

The entire night after closing and leaving, passed by like always. 

 

Rosalie showered, set her clothing for the following day, and read a book in her bed. The book provided a temporary distraction from her inability to relax fully. Halfway through, her senses were overwhelmed and rendered her incapable of focusing on the words before her.

 

The silence of her room became amplified by the sound of sweet loving murmurs from the bedroom next to hers, proclamations of devotion down the hall, and poetic whispers in the garden. 

 

The walls felt bare, void of any artwork, and her shelving full of books the clutter detailing their own story of her attempt to pass the time, not living it.

 

The pressure in her chest, usually subdued during the day, amplified at night with the deafening sound of her aspirations shattering. 

 

She gave up reading long ago that night and remained fixated on the single photograph on her vanity-her family. Their contended smiles incited corrosively spiteful envy in her stomach, which quickly morphed into guilt. 

 

Beams of sunlight came in through the window, glaring off of the glass casing of the photograph, another night with no end in sight, giving way to a new day. 

 

With a sigh, she went through the motions of getting ready for her day. Packing her bag with her school materials, and her work items, she left her room, making her way passed the sounds of temporary last kisses until they returned home. 

 

Grabbing her set of keys from the designated hook and unlocked the vehicle, she got into the car turning on the music to drown out the sounds from inside the house and shut her eyes. 

 

The sound of the passenger door opening brought her back from her temporary meditative state. Meticulously spiked black hair greeted her sight, accompanied by a blindingly bright smile. "Can Edward and I ride with you?' 

 

Unable to remain upset with her painstakingly wholesome family, she gave a small smile in affirmation. The gestures they took to value her autonomy never failed to make her appreciate her diversely assorted family. Alice never acted based on her gift, but her consent. Edward frequently devised new methods to minimize his presence in her mind. Jasper refused to manipulate her emotions during her triggered emotional distress, only intervening upon her request. 

 

The guilt from earlier came barreling through wave after wave. How could she feel anger towards her family? 

 

"I would love to listen to SWMRS again, but I'd hate to lose my hearing." 

 

Ah, that's why she disliked her siblings because they're merely annoying.

Chapter Text

" Nena," She heard a breathy pause on the phone, "Segura e' lo que quieres ?" The voice lost its typical conviction as it wavered with emotions.

 

"Mom, it's alright." She held her phone between her ear and her shoulder as she shuffled her luggage. "You need some time for yourself, and I want to spend time with Dad."  

 

After coaxing her Mother from hopping onto the soonest plane to retrieve her from Forks, she managed to hang up.

 

Her Mom meant well, and her father did too. They always made sure they put her through the best schooling and never left without a meal. Together, although never married, they co-parented her without the help of their families—her Dad's family in Mexico, and his extended cousins in California. The free powerful spirit of her Mother's alone in the US, her connection with the island dwindling. 

 

She'd always been alone and had yearned for a sibling, but alas, her parents separated. The brunette spent the entirety of her childhood and young adulthood, searching for a group she could call her friends. Every endeavor came up empty, and her sense of happiness hollow. 

 

The first instance in middle school, her friend group at the time, had managed to convince her Mom to allow her to spend the night. Elated and beyond excited, she ran the entire way to the girl's house, refusing to stop even as she became winded. The bag in her grip worn and ripped was overflowing with an array of snacks that her Mom had bought her in preparation for the event. 

 

She knocked on the door and waited for Sarah to open the door. 

 

Craning her neck, she took in the large brick house in wonder—the beautiful green grass, and the garden decorations. Unable to stop herself from comparing the house to her home, Bella realized she wasn't ready for the experience. 

 

"Bella!" The girl opened her door and gripped her tan arm, yanking her through the front door passed the parents in the living room. The girl dragged her up the stairs despite the protests to go back down. "What's wrong?" 

 

"I didn't greet your parents." It came out more like a question, blue eyes trailed across her face, waiting for the punchline. Realizing her actions did not fit in the current environment, she smiled and focused on the night of fun to follow. Satisfied, Sarah continued pulling her toward her bedroom. 

 

"C'mon," the night progressed as they'd finished surfing the internet on her desktop and chose to watch a movie. 

 

"I brought some candy!" The girls all surrounded Bella's bag, and she zipped open the pocket to bring out the stockpile of assorted goods. Fingers ripped the items from her hand and immediately began inspecting it with skeptical eyes. 

 

A chorus of 'ews' and 'what are these' rang loudly in the room. A flush began to travel down her face and neck. Playful banter carried them downstairs and left Bella to realize her mistake. She quickly shoved everything back in her bag and zipped it closed, placing it on her back, she left the room. 

 

Her excuse on the tip of her tongue, tasting bitter and false. The parents approached her as she moved to the front door. "My Mom said I could come over, but I couldn't stay over." They nodded in understanding and wished her a goodnight. 

 

As she walked back, the brunette didn't know why she fled or reacted that way. They meant no harm, right? The lies naturally slipped past her chewed lips, and her Mother's inquisitive glance melted into an affectionate smile. One of the many times she shifted the truth, and she never understood why. 

 

Retroactively, she now knows they meant no harm; they were children. The ramifications of their actions followed her throughout her adolescence, prompting her to create a persona outside of her home. Nena, for those close to her, and Bella for others. 

 

"Nena!" She whipped her head in the direction of the call. The familiar figure jogged up the sidewalk and enveloped her in their warm embrace. A firm kiss was placed on the top of her head, only reminding her of the small height difference. 

 

As he asked her questions about her trip, he took the luggage from her hands and began placing it in his truck. Her Dad, Carlos or Charlie, had wavy hair always kept neat with gel. 

 

He opened the door for her, a gesture he never failed to forget, and closed the door behind her. As he got in, she took in the smell of the car, and the overbearing aroma of pine used to cover the odor. Flighty brown eyes took in the scrunch of her nose. 

 

"You're smoking again?" His shoulder sagged, and he huffed out in laughter. "You and your mother are detectives." He turned to look at her, an excuse evident in his eyes, and the lies on the tip of his tongue. " Mija --"

 

"How's Sue?" He relaxed upon the realization that Bella wasn't going to lay into him about smoking, she'd genuinely just inquired. 

 

"She's wonderful," he glanced at her, nervously, "Harry and Sue are on better terms with each other. Enough to know it wasn't best for them or the kids. He's currently seeing someone from the reservation, and Sue's pretty happy." He seemed torn between looking at the road or taking in his daughter's expression.

 

"I'm glad that you and Mom are doing things for yourself." She pretended not to see the way his soft brown eyes watered with unsolicited emotions. Never a man for speaking about his feelings or conveying them, he cleared his throat. 

 

"How's Renata?" She smiled a genuine smile for the first time in a while and launched herself into the last five years since she'd seen him. The car ride felt welcoming, and the brunette couldn't be more thankful for the easy-going relationship they had with one another. 

 

Bella climbed up the stairs and made her way toward her childhood room. Plain walls greeted her. A queen bed now replaced her old twin-sized mattress, the blandness mimicking the rest of the house.

 

Footsteps sounded on the old wooden stairs and made their way behind her. A rough hand disheveled her already unruly curls, and she playfully smacked the hand away. 

 

"I'm glad you left your hair natural, pretty sure your ma was happy." She turned to face him, the genuine delight in his features, he looked younger in the lightheartedness. "How about I take you this weekend to pick up some items from the hardware store? We can redo your room." She nodded and continued into the room. 

 

"It's really alright. I can put some money into it--"

 

"Nena," he clapped his hands together, "let me do this, porfa. " The wrinkles surrounding his eyes more became prominent from clenching his face into a pleading look, she gave in quick. 

 

"Okay, Dad." 

 

She spent the entirety of the afternoon sifting through the old items in the room and separating things into garbage or donation. The soft guitar of one of her favorite bands providing a soothing aura, along with the rhythmic pelting of the rain on the roof. A melancholic mood overtook her as she looked around the barren room. No sign of a life well-lived, she fought back the overwhelming senses and got up to use the restroom. 

 

Bella's father had left the house in search of takeout. It had taken el Viejo nearly twenty minutes to decide where to order from, and she assumed it'd take another half hour before he returned with the food. 

 

As she washed her hands, she looked up into the mirror, the reflection glaring back at her. Brown hazel eyes glowed with an expression that she had difficulty displaying-burned too many times for being too emotional.

 

Her fingertips, as if they had a mind of their own, began to trace the features of her face. Full lips turned downward in a semi-permanent frown, a button nose, and round-shaped eyes felt alien to her fingertips. 

 

The nose on her face belonging to her Mom, along with her hair texture, Puerto Rican in origin. The short stature of her being, and the eyebrows on her face belonging to her father, Mexican in derivation. The skin on her very person, not a mixture, but its own creation of a honey tone that granted her entrance to neither identity. The only option left an American, but even then, it felt wrong because what did that mean? 

 

"Nena "

 

"Mande!" She clutched the counter as she brought her focus back from her dwellings on identity. The brunette ran down the steps and took in her father, waiting at the table with the bag containing their food. 

 

They collected their drinks and dug into the food. A smile formed across full lips as their owner thought about earlier. "Dad?" A grunt was the only response she received and decided to continue. "How'd you manage to snag mom?" He gave her a curious look but finished his mouthful before he spoke. 

 

"I'm pretty sure I've told you about it before." She shook her head in faux innocence. "When we lived in Arizona, I took Renata dancing, and let me tell you, kid; I have the best moves." He took a swig of his beer, placing the bottle down onto the table, clanking, indicating its emptiness. "These looks aren't the only thing that reeled her into my trap." He rose to retrieve another bottle from the fridge.

 

"Hmm." 

 

Shaggy eyebrows rose in question.

 

"I was just wondering," she washed the hesitation from her throat with a generous gulp of water, "since it's obviously not because of your height."

 

The carbonation mixed terribly with his startled noise, and the resulting cough only continued as he began to laugh. Bella started to clear her items and moved to take the empty bottle toward the kitchen trash.

 

"I maybe 5'9, but at least I know how to dance." 

 

"I was joking, relax,  Viejo ." She finished washing her cup and bid her Dad goodnight. 

 

"You start school Monday, but this weekend, I want to take you for supplies to redecorate your room and for school." She kissed his cheek and went up the stairs to complete her nighttime routine. 

 

She riffled through the bag containing her electronics and plugged her phone into the outlet near her bedside. Hitting play on her nighttime playlist, she settled into the crisp duvet. 

 

Did she make a mistake coming here? Arizona had diversity, and from what she remembered, Forks lacked it. No, it'll be better for her family. That's all that matters, right? Her Dad missed her, and Her Mom was more than tired. 

 

She'll miss her friends, even though they promised to keep in touch, she knew it was empty words for the sake of comfort. At least she could escape awkward encounters with her exes. No one knew her here—an opportunity to start again. 

 

A tension she didn't know she'd been holding in her lungs, relaxed in the form of a cathartic exhale. 

 

The sound of the rain, accompanied by the soft bass of the music, quickly delivered her to the darkness. 

 

The week passed by in a colorless blur, amber eyes glazed over time. Bow shaped lips pressed into a thin line, severely stretching the skin, a universal sign of impatience from the usually collected figure.

 

The aggressive wind blowing through the empty parking lot, the tall, fierce blonde made her way across the scattered chatter from her peers. A flurry of smells assaulting her senses, making her want to gag with the oversaturated scents of cologne and perfume. The desire to vomit the churning sensation away from the pit of her stomach overwhelmed her. 

 

Rosalie stopped by the monstrous jeep, waiting for her brother. 

 

It wasn't their fault; they're still growing and discovering their preferences, and consequently, the correct amount of fragrance to use after working up a sweat in physical education. On a positive note, it did minimize the repulsively intrusive presence of their overbearing hormones and the devastating effect it had on the blonde's mood. 

 

The booming infectious laughter across the lot and from the direction of the front door ceased the chatter in the area. Rosalie didn't have to look up to verify her suspicion that this big man child's personality could uplift the sourest of moods. The voices continuing their conversations now did so with notably more pep in their tones. 

 

Her eyes, now without the film glazed over, glanced up and toward the gentle giant. Flawless beauty greeted her sight. Emmett standing the tallest could easily overpower any of them, but rarely ever used his strength besides to joke. He possessed the kindest personality out of their entire coven, but the coldest comebacks in the west coast. 

 

Smooth espresso colored cheeks lifted in the most welcoming smile they could muster and leaped towards the blonde, lifting her in a hug. She looked over his shoulder and smiled at the person standing behind. 

 

"Hey, Eddie." She tapped on the strong shoulder to indicate her desire to be placed on the floor again. "How was today?"

 

The devastatingly perfect face frowned. "The same as always. It's getting better, but I often find myself swept up in the cloud." Emmett smiled at the mention of their decided name for her brother's ability. 

 

Suddenly Em's face turned stoic, catching the other two off guard.

 

"Have you tried turning it on and off again?" 

 

Rosalie laughed at the unexpected comment and the childish smile on their face. She sat in the backseat of the monstrous vehicle refusing to put on the belt. Edward had no choice but to sit in the front with his still giggling partner. 

 

The playful banter in the front transitioned into playful flirtation. Rosalie leaned her head against the window and allowed herself to focus on the thrum of the vehicle and the sound of the tires on the gravel. 

 

She'd need to change them soon because it sounded like Emmett had retaken the Jeep off-roading. The likelihood that he'd ask for her help was minimal. 

 

It was moments like these that made the blonde feel like this eternal life was a curse. The gift of a perfect memory that would effortlessly recall this very train of thought down to the color of the dried leaf on the floor mat. What good was this memory if all that she'd remember was worthless and inconsequential? 

 

"Rose, will you please help with my maintenance?"

 

Her gaze met the apologetic set of eyes in the passenger seat, and she smiled in forgiveness. Slightly shifting her position, she spoke to the oblivious man driving. "Of course, Em. I can look it over during our shift today."

 

"Sweet." Her grin widened, stifling her laughter at the conspiratory look he'd sent Edward. 

 

After they'd stopped to drop the baby of the family off at the house, they left to relieve Esme of her post. 

 

Confident fingers turned the dial down, the volume significantly lower. Curious, blonde eyebrows rose in question. They were alone in the car, and they were perfectly capable of hearing one another across the house in whispers, what was wrong?

 

"I just wanted to apologize for not helping out at the store." He continued when she nodded. "You know I would help more, but they were short-handed in the after school program--"

 

"Em," he glanced at her, "you don't have to apologize. What you're doing is much more important. It's not selfish to help other people," she purposely paused, "nor does it make you a bad person to stick up for yourself."

 

"Rose--"

 

"I say just fight Newton one time. I'm beyond tired of hearing his commentary." Pleading, at this point, I gave him my best pout. "He runs his mouth sooo much, just scare him shitless--"

 

"Rosalie," his severe tone cut through her jovial attitude, "I wish I could, but you know better than anyone that if I show an ounce of aggression, the entire town would immediately see me as a threat, the aggressor and I don't want to put the family through it." His hands tightened their grip on the wheel.  

 

She opened her mouth, looking for the right words to fix her terrible mistake, only to find herself unable to speak.

 

"I don't want to talk about it, so please let's focus on making the perfect playlist for work." 

 

Guilt lodged in her throat with the inability to comprehend Emmett's actions. She moved the conversation to the back of her mind. 

 

Slipping on a perfected smile masking her genuine emotion, she took her phone out. They quickly made the soundtrack for their evening, finishing as they parked beside the familiar grey Mercedes. 

 

Hopping out, she took in the refreshing breeze before she followed after Em into the store. 

 

The front door rang as she opened it, allowing the older man to pass by first. The blonde made her way to the back room and left her items in the chair. 

 

"You'll never guess who came by?"

 

"Hmm."

 

"Forks Chief of police, with his daughter." Carmel colored eyebrows moved upward as her eyes widened.

 

"That's nice." Rosalie pushed play on her phone and relaxed when the sound reached her ears. If anything, she was confused as to what Esme was insinuating. Why did she care? 

 

"They said they'd return soon for the second trip of their purchases." Warm gold eyes bore into her ice facade, melting away at her defenses. "Call it Mother's intuition, if you must, but fix your hair." 

 

The blonde huffed at the jab delivered to her open defenses but discreetly did so anyway. 

 

The bell rang loudly as the sound of the door smacking the wall accompanied soon after. 

 

A muffled curse sounded in the air, "no mames." Too quiet for anyone to hear, but she wasn't anyone.

 

Hazel brown eyes looked up, and a darkening flush traveled down beautiful cheekbones toward a smooth neck disappearing behind an oversized flannel. 

 

Emmett's booming voice startled the girl in front of her. "You must be back for the second trip!"

 

Rosalie's eyes widened as she realized she'd just been staring at the person with no regard for her surroundings. 

 

It was just her entrance, nothing else. She moved to begin sweeping behind the counter but froze, hearing the femme fatale voice sweep across the lobby. 

 

"Yeah, thank you again, Mrs. Cullen, for holding the items." Amber eyes followed every movement of those full lips. 

 

"It wasn't a problem, no need to thank me." The matriarchal figure moved forward to help gather the items. A pale hand gestured to her brother. "This is my son Emmett; he's a senior at Forks High." That same hand traveled and landed on her stoic figure. "This is Rosalie; she's my oldest daughter and also a Senior. Are you going to Forks High?" 

 

Hazel brown eyes boldly glossed over the two new figures, as their owner nodded. "Nice to meet you both. I'm Bella." The blonde's grip on the broom tightened, and the snap reverberated through the room. 

 

"You're pretty small, so I'm assuming you're a Sophomore?" Hazel eyes darkened, and a tight smile appeared on the gorgeous face. 

 

"Keep your assumptions to yourself. I'm a Junior. I may be short, but I can still hold my own." A playful smirk spread on Emmett's face. 

 

"You should sit with us during lunch if you're in our period!"

 

That statement snapped Rosalie from her astonishment, and she whipped her neck in Em's direction. "What?" He met her stare at her exclamation. 

 

The blonde was flooding with an assault of feelings she couldn't begin to decipher: a neutral indifference, her typical mask, set in place firmly. The two siblings glared at one another for moments before a throat clearing, Esme's, interrupted the nonverbal discussion. 

 

"I'll help you out to the car, Bella." 

 

The blonde fought every nerve in her neck to keep from turning toward the retreating figure, unsure as to why she wanted another glimpse of the girl. 

 

Her vision swam with the strain. Could vampires go into hypertension? 

 

"What the hell was that, Rose?"

 

She finally exhaled the breath she'd been holding in since the encounter began. On the inhale, she felt her knees grow soft, her pupils dilate, and her stomach swirl. 

 

The words, "I have no idea," left a bitter taste in her mouth as they exited.

Chapter Text

Bella's forehead wrinkled the entire drive back toward the house, what was the blonde's problem?

 

The entire time, she'd glared through her and directed her anger toward her sibling for offering her a seat at their table. Panic rose through her chest and choked out of her throat in a whine. 'Relax,' she told herself, 'think this out.'

 

Realistically, the siblings weren't related, or they'd look more alike. Unless they only share partial parentage, but even then, they shared no physical similarities. 

 

The boy, or rather, the man stood beside the women, towering over the other two. Emmett's complexion blemish-free, as rich as burnt umber, glowed enchantingly. His thick hair kept faded on the sides, but the dark hair on his front kept naturally lined—the top length maintained appealingly nappy and lighter toward the tips. 

 

Rosalie beautiful also without imperfections, sported fair skin starkly contrasting her brother's. Blonde silk thin hair fell in cascades down past her shoulders. Her appearance, although different than Esme's, could pass as a distant relative.

 

Why would she already dislike her, it couldn't be close-mindedness, right? 

 

The brunette groaned into her hands and felt dread seep into her being. She contemplated staying in her car to avoid interacting with her blissfully, unaware Dad, but she eventually mustered up the courage to make the first trip into the house. 

 

Setting the first items onto the floor near the kitchen, she found her Dad sitting in the living room watching television. She just stared at him incredulously, if there is one thing men have, its the audacity because this man stared at her as she'd struggled with the load and asked her if she needed help. 

 

She sent him the most scathing look and sarcastic remark possible, seeing as she was winded. "I would LOVE some help, but please don't strain yourself." Eyes still glued to the screen, he groaned as he lifted out of the seat. 

 

Bella rolled her eyes as he made his way to the car to grab the other trip, which consisted of two buckets of paint. 

 

"Was Esme still at the shop?"

 

"There was a guy named Emmett and a girl named Rosalie there too." She glanced at him as she washed his dishes from his lunch from earlier. "Are they adopted or something?" 

 

"Hmm." he turned back from looking at the score, and the new commentary from the soccer sportscaster. They stared at one another until he realized she'd asked him a question. "Oh, yeah. They arrived here last year, and they stirred up quite the conversation." He reached into the fridge to grab another beer. 

 

Bella quickly thought of different ways she could go about this without sounding like an instigator but decided against asking if the blonde was typically that rude toward people she's never met before. 

 

"Emmett seemed nice." He scratched at his mustache to hide his smile. 

 

"He's a good kid." He took a swig of his beer and placed it on the counter. "I hope you don't have your sight set on him." He began to rub at his scruff, a fidget of his. " Es joto ." 

 

Bella's stomach dropped and ice-filled her veins, painful tiny shards nicking her sporadically. Cold sweat formed on her nape, and she dried her hands off. With a quick, "I'm going to set up in the room for the paint." she printed up the stairs. 

 

Shutting the door with her back, she slid down to the floor. The cool wood felt terrific on her overheating back. 

 

A primary reason for moving with her Father hadn't been just to spend time with him. Bella had lacked the courage to come out to him over distance because of their waning relationship. Her Mom's idea had been to hold off until she grew more comfortable with him, the best method to do so, move to Forks. 

 

Panic rose inside her, what if she'd made a mistake? Sure, they got along well, but it didn't matter if he couldn't accept her. 

 

The tiny thread of hope growing thinner every time she heard a joke, comment, or rant. He'd never been homophobic by any means. At least she thought so, but during moments like these, his offhand remarks made her worry. 

 

If Bella reacted like she'd wanted to, he would immediately ask why she cared, and the truth was she cared because it wasn't right, but she especially cared about what her family thought of her. The two people responsible for her birth, and the only family she'd ever known, their rejection would kill her. 

 

If she lost her Dad, where would that leave her? The brunette groaned internally at the answer, with a Mom that was just beginning to come to terms with her daughter's exes, who at the same time was on a journey of self-discovery.

 

Who was she helping by not saying anything? She should've corrected him, but last time she'd done so over the phone, he'd interrogated her only to do it more to get a reaction from her because she refused to answer his question.  

 

The brunette heard the firm steps on the stairs and got up off the floor to begin setting her room up. She'd surely have time to dwell on her life as she tried to sleep on the couch tonight as the fumes of the paint aired out. 

 

The hinges on the door made a noise. "Ready?" A contemplative look crossed her Dad's face before it settled back into the standard expression. 

 

She could do this. Not now, but eventually.

 

*************

 

"Seriously, what the hell, Rose?" Dark amber eyes swirled with a rare emotion she'd never seen in their owner's eyes before this moment. Esme had gotten into her car as soon as she'd helped the girl and left, sensing a sibling dispute. 

 

"I said I don't fucking know!" She threw the broom in his direction, landing in shards that would be hard to pick up. Like a rabid mountain lion, she lashed out when scared, and snapped back at her sibling. "What in the world inspired you to ask her to sit with us?!" She glared at him, her eyes entirely onyx at this point. "She's fucking human."

 

Dark brown eyebrows pinched together in confusion and relaxed in realization. "I don't know." He seemed deep in thought. "She seemed nice, and I liked her attitude."

 

"Well, fucking, don't." 

 

She took in the unclenching and clenching of the muscular jaw. Rosalie doubled back, the emotion from before becoming clear to her. "You're angry about this??!"

 

He snapped back, making her flinch. "Yeah, I am." Emmett took his bag off the counter and slung it over his shoulder. "Sometimes, I wonder why you even changed me." His face abnormally severe, he abruptly left the store. 

 

The blonde stared at the truck as it pulled away and, in the same movement, sped to the main road. 

 

Emmett, the kindest of them, had never complained about his change and made sure to show gratitude to Rosalie.**** TW

 

On a hunting trip in the Tennessee mountains, she'd noticed a faint heartbeat in the shrubbery. A gasping breath wheezed on the exhale. Rosalie made her way to the sound and came across the brutally mangled body. The person remained conscious, still fighting to breathe, refusing to give up. 

 

The angular jaw clenching in agony and anger made her decision for her. As she carried the now changing boy home, she refused to think of the ramifications. Instead, choosing to focus on the life she saved.

 

To this day, Emmett tells a different story of fighting a bear and how it lead to his death, but she knows the truth. There weren't claw marks, bites, or scents of animals on him. The blow to his head resembled the impact of a bat, his knee horridly mangled by a blunt object. The smell of urine, not from one source but multiple, burned her nostrils. 

 

***START*** Rosalie retroactively knows the motivation behind saving him was that Emmett was the victim of a beating. At the moment, unaware of her reasoning, she helped him. The anger she felt for years toward Carlisle for changing her, she resolved gradually by speaking to others and executing meticulous revenge. 

 

How could she hold this contempt for Carlisle when she did this herself? 

 

Why did Emmett insist on the story that she kept secret per his request? 

 

She rubbed at her temples and fought back the venom pooling in her eyes. Her family, a mess of brooding creatures, all appeared perfect in their image but internally rivaled the darkest depths of despair. She adored every one of them, but they all held their baggage. Jasper and Emmett unable to remain alone together, Edward and Carlisle, never honestly discussing anything besides scientific theory and Rosalie unable to connect beyond superficial conversations.  

 

The need to contain this ticking time bomb is only growing in necessity as time advances. 

 

Jasper and Alice, a wonderful addition to the family, only furthered tensions. The first and last explosive outbreak led to her Edward and Emmett going on their own for a while. Around the mid-'50s and up until the '70s. 

 

Rosalie shook her head and grabbed her phone, switching the upbeat playlist she'd created with Em and putting something reflective of her mood. 

 

The store was relatively dead, and the blonde was grateful for the lack of customers. She doubted her ability to deal with people with an ounce of patience. As she locked the doors, she began the process of cleaning the floors. The spare broom in the back allowed her to sweep up her earlier mess, a frown on her face as she realized she'd thrown those pieces at her brother in anger. 

 

The brown hazel eyes burned unto her memory, and Rosalie vividly recalls the facial features that would've made her blush if she could've. Thick brows with a soft arch rested above those expressive eyes. Short in stature, but big in presence, she would fit perfectly tucked into her--

 

"What?" Her voice across the empty establishment.

 

Rosalie did the only thing to distract her; she raised the volume to drown out the sound of her thoughts. If she were human, she'd most likely leave with a muffled ringing in her ear. 

 

With a sigh, the blonde lifted the messenger bag on her shoulder and made her way toward the side door to set the alarm on her way out. Tires hitting the gravel of their lot made her wonder who came to retrieve her. 

 

A hideous yellow Porsche greeted her sight, and a small head poked from the window. "Get in Bitch; we're going shopping!" She walked up to the door and got into the passenger seat. 

 

"It's loser, and it's 9:30 at night." She hesitated and looked over her sister in suspicion. "Did you just want to call me a bitch?"

 

"Don't be ridiculous." Avoiding her gaze, she buckled herself in to prevent the sensor from going off. With a hint of snark in her voice, she continued. "I didn't  want  to, but you earned it." 

 

"Ugh." Her head smacked into the back headrest a little harder than necessary, and she ignored the glare Alice sent her. "What's going on at home?"

 

"Emmett's been angry the whole day. Jasper tried to intervene and help, but it kinda blew up."

 

"What do you mean by 'kinda' Alice?" Blonde eyebrows furrowed.

 

"Emmett and Edward are staying at the Hotel on the opposite side of Forks." She glanced back at Rosalie, knowing what her next question was going to be. "Indefinitely." 

 

"Jesus Christ, what happened?" 

 

"Jasper tried to calm Emmett down without his permission, and Emmett took it bad." The unspoken conflict hung heavy between them in the small car—two southern men, both with drastically different experiences and on different sides of the issue. "He snapped and went off on Jasper for 'trying to keep him under control like he's an animal waiting to attack.' Em brought up Jazz's inability to own up to his mistakes and that he was the one that made us move the last two times." Alice's eyes glistened with contained emotion. 

 

"Then Edward and Carlisle joined too." She shook her head as if getting rid of the memory. "I don't know what happened. We were good for a while." 

 

Rosalie kept her mouth shut, refusing to entertain a discussion. She knew full well what would happen, Alice would see her words before they left her mouth, and then they'd be fighting. Anger swelled in her chest, she knew, everyone knew why this kept repeating. 

 

"I'm going to give them space, but I'll talk to them after the weekend." The silent words spoken, Alice knew she'd side with them if it came down to it. 

 

As they stepped into the house, the atmosphere was stiff, and the wave of unrestrained fury hit her before she could prepare. The coffee table in the living room cracked in half, the wall behind the furniture on the far wall covered in a tarp, and the shirt Em had worn earlier ripped on the floor. 

 

Two concerned eyes stared at her, and the blonde ran up the stairs to her brother's room, ignoring them. Tearing the door open, she walked into the seething fumes of Jasper's emotive space. 

 

"Was it worth it?" 

 

"I didn't do anything wrong." Rosalie glared at him, and his apathetic voice. 

 

Fully aware that the entire household was listening, she continued. "The fact that Carlisle, nor you, are willing to admit that you ever do anything wrong is quite telling of your moral character." 

 

"That's not what this is about!" He stood, breathing harshly in his anger, but Rosalie had left in the direction of her bedroom before he could continue. 

 

"Emmett never does anything unprovoked." She slammed the door behind her, putting on music to drown out the sound of Jasper seething. 

 

Rosalie showered and began her routine before she laid in bed, staring at the emptiness of the walls surrounding her. 

 

The only positive of the evening was the amplification of the blond boy's fury, distracted her from her loneliness, and got her thinking about the girl that somehow set this series events off. 

 

************************

 

The weekend passed by relatively fast for the brunette, and her teachers had emailed her all the material she needed to review to ensure she was in pace with her classes. 

 

She'd tried her best to appear as if there was nothing wrong, but her discomfort must've been apparent to Carlos because he opted to visit Sue at the reservation on Sunday. He cited his obligation as completed, and stating that she could just put up her decor on her own, he left on Sunday morning. Bella spent the remainder of the evening organizing her items along with her bookbag. 

 

On Monday morning, she woke up with a wave of nausea that carried her in the direction of the bathroom. Anyone hardly enjoyed vomiting, but the worst sensation was an empty stomach with the bile burning as it rose it's way up her esophagus. 

 

Wiping the cold sweat from her forehead, she flushed the toilet and immediately brushed her teeth before she jumped into the shower to get ready. 

 

The smell of her hair product soothed her as she made up an arsenal of scenarios to prepare her for the possible outcomes of today. After hurting her own feelings sufficiently, she began the intricate process of detangling, rinsing, and conditioning her hair. 

 

As she finished diffusing her hair, she thought about her previous wash routine in Pheonix and realized she might luck out and be able to cut back her shampooing.

 

"Nena!" She poked her head out the door. "I have the night shift today, but I need to run some errands. The keys are on the counter." He abruptly paused, and the sound of light shuffling carried upstairs. "Have a good day!" 

 

"Okay, Dad, be safe." His steps were loud as he made his way out the door and toward the police cruiser. 

 

She quickly finished getting dressed and made her way downstairs, snagging a granola bar, and her cut-up fruit she packed into a container the night before. She placed the items into her bag and rushed, realizing the time on her phone. 

 

The drive was relatively quick, but she had no idea if the rooms would be difficult to find. 

 

Parking the car, she tossed the bag on her shoulder and took out her folder with the documents she might need, pretending to look them over to avoid the stares she felt burning into her.

 

The building looked like a collection of brick clusters, and Bella realized there was a possibility she'd have to walk between two buildings. Ringing the door to the main office, she patiently waited for the buzz. 

 

The woman at the desk smiled warmly, and the brunette felt herself smile back reflexively. "Good morning, Sweetheart. How can I help you?" She felt the smile on her face, widen at the woman. She glanced at the nameplate,  Mrs. Jennings.

 

"I'm a new student that starts today." She paused and continued at the nod of understanding. "I'm Isabella Sanchez."

 

"Of course!" A confident and steady hand gripped a manilla folder from a stack on the precipice of tilting, pulling it without an issue. She opened it, checking over the material, and handed her the file.

 

Impressed and amused, she took the folder with a simple, "Thank you." 

 

"The documents there are flyers for events coming up soon. Make sure you keep an eye on those dates." She raised her hand, opening the file, "The page on top is a slip that your teachers must sign to make sure they can handle the classload, bring this to me at the end of today. The second sheet is a map on the front and the schedule on the back." Her hands retracted, and she smiled in reassurance. "Any questions?"

 

Brown curls bounced as their owner shook their head. 

 

"Have a great day!" Smiling at the infectious energy from the older woman, she moved in the direction of the nearest bathroom. 

 

The bathroom echoed the sounds in its emptiness. 

 

Drying her hands, she contemplated checking her documents out in the hall but thought better of it. Yanking the second sheet from the small stack of colorful pages, Bella began to decipher the information. Her frustration began to grow as she realized the buildings and their numbers didn't make sequential sense. 

 

A door slammed open, making her jump back into the drying machine pressing the button on—the loud noise making her flush along with the stare she received.

 

The brunette made her way toward the general direction of her first class, fleeing from the stare and the noise. In her rush to place a generous distance between the awkward encounter and herself, she managed to run into a body. 

 

"Oh my god," a gentle hand gripped her shoulder to steady her, "I'm sorry. I--"

 

"Don't worry. It was an effort on both parts." A cute smile spread on bow-shaped lips.

 

"I'm Angela." The same hand from earlier gave an attempted wave, and a giggle left her mouth before she could figure out why.

 

"I'm Bella." She gave a mocking two-finger salute and received another smile in response. "Any way you can help me get around?"

 

With a nod, she took the file sheet from her grip and began to direct her. "Are you Chief Sanchez's kid?" Dread filled her as she realized one of her scenarios might be accurate. Gentle brown eyes curiously looked over her sudden shift, and they slightly widened in realization. "The sheet-" she shook the page in a desperate attempt to rectify the mood, "says your last name is Sanchez." 

 

Exhaling the breath she didn't realize she'd been holding in, she nodded. "Sorry, I have no idea why I panicked." Eyes softened in understanding at her words. 

 

The rest of the interaction went smoothly, and as they made their way to the back of a classroom, Bella realized Angela was in the class with her. 

 

"I'm in your first class, Calc, Lunch, and AP US history." Looking at the sheet, the words  Government and Politics glared back at her. At least she'd have someone she knew and was incredibly helpful in these four periods. 

 

After receiving her textbook and the signature of approval, she sat down into her seat.

 

"Alright, Mr. Hale is in a meeting with the Teacher in charge of Student Interns. He's currently going over the feedback from last weeks lesson, thank you for being on your best behavior." 

 

They offered this class back in Pheonix to Seniors in place of P.E.; the brunette wondered if the deadline to apply for the following year had passed. 

 

Angela insisted on helping her find her way toward her next class even though the passing period was a measly five minutes. As she made her way toward an empty seat in the back, she glanced at the surrounding chairs, mostly empty, perfect. 

 

A petite girl with hair gorgeously styled waved at her from the front. Unable to ignore the pleasant greeting, she waved back. The girl taking this as an invitation moved back to the chair on her left. 

 

"I'm Jessica." Brown hazel eyes took in the beautiful ebony skin, and the raw beauty she exuded. 

 

"I'm Bella." The brunette began vying for the words to jumpstart their conversation, trying to get over the feeling of making two acquaintances this early in the day. "I love your aesthetic."

 

The glowing smile she received was infectious. "Thank you. I went for like a soft girl vibe today." She gestured to herself. "I wasn't quite sure if I overdid it with the pastels, but I liked the fit." 

 

"You definitely didn't overdo it. I feel like I'm stuck in two aesthetics at the moment, but this has definitely inspired me." Jessica opened her mouth to continue the conversation but was interrupted by the Teacher. 

 

"Alright, Rosalie, if you would please sit beside Isabella and help her get caught up." Hazel brown locked onto a dark set of eyes, her mood instantly soured. 

 

The blonde girl managed to walk down the aisle of desk chairs stiffly, and still look like a model running the walkway. 

 

An irritated look passed over the blonde's face before settling into an apathetic look. "Hello, I'm Rosalie." 

 

Hazel eyes swam with fury at the blatant attempt to gloss over their meeting. Bella could feel Jessica's gaze still on her face, so she refused to give away her upset. If the blonde wanted to act indifferent, then so would she. 

 

"Bella." She faced forward and opened her notebook to the notes she'd taken with as she did the reading. Intent on ignoring the blonde, she turned to face her new friend. "Chapter Seventeen?" 

 

Jessica's hair bounced with her nod, and she smiled in thanks directing her attention to the front of the class. 

 

The eyes glaring into the side of her face remained in place the entire fifty minute period. 

Chapter Text

Rosalie couldn't believe the likelihood of the girl being in her interning class. 

 

Okay.

 

She could understand that the chance increased because of the school's moderate student population, but the universe must be on a testing streak because her patience was dwindling. 

 

An alien sensation invaded her mannerisms every step of the way. Her movements almost mechanic in their execution, brewing a feeling of inadequacy. The urge to flee rising along her soles and up her back with every step she took.

 

Painstakingly aware of those eyes on her the entire time it took for her to settle down, the same brown hazel currently burned into her perfect memory.

 

The head turned in her direction, and the brunettes gorgeous eyebrows furrowed in anticipation of the blonde's next move, that action alone rendered Rosalie immobile. Face hardened in her concentrated refusal to inhale, still reeling from her prior extreme reaction to the aroma.

 

Concern for her bodily reaction morphed into curiosity, and she wondered if the specks of color on her iris--

 

The blonde gripped her thigh, hoping the material would withstand the strain, and her focus to return. Gritting her teeth, she smiled and wished her voice came out neutral enough to avoid suspicion. 

 

"Hello," She couldn't believe herself, "I'm Rosalie." Obviously, she fucking knew her, but maybe she'd take it as an attempt to clean the record. Her hope, along with the anticipation in her stomach, was shot dead by the beautiful girl. 

 

That doesn't sound right, anticipation? Hope?

 

A curt, "Bella," and the girl whipped around and proceeded to ignore her. 

 

The blonde huffed in disbelief. She'd been perfectly civil and direct. Honestly, what was her deal?

 

The same voice that rendered her stupid whispered in Jessica's direction. The same sound that sent shivers down her spine, a sensation she'd ceased experiencing after her change, her nerve endings long ago dead. 

 

The side profile that graced her sight would've made anyone swoon. Bold eyebrows, full lips parted in concentration and dimples that formed when perfect teeth bit their lip. Jaw clenched, she refused to because Rosalie wasn't just anyone.

 

The bell rang loudly, interrupting the droning of the teacher in front of the class. 

 

Her eyes widened at the realization that the class had ended, and she'd just spent the entire period staring at the brunette. The blonde quickly averted her gaze forward and feigned indifference as she jotted useless notes onto the incriminating blank page.

 

Rosalie felt the tear before she heard the sound. Groaning internally, she fixed her expression just as she saw the brunette turn in her direction. Her peripheral vision caught brown hazel eyes rolling as the brunette gathered her items. Rosalie stared as she left with Jessica. 

 

She sat, stunned in her seat. Unable to fully grasp what just took place, and how time had passed so fast. 

 

Students for the following class began trickling in, prompting her into action. Careful with her movements as not to enlarge the hole in her jeans, she made her way to the following period.

 

*******

 

Bella smiled at the familiar face that greeted her outside of calculus. Chic round-rimmed frames paired with brown eyes lit up excitedly.

 

"Bella!" The girl grabbed her school ID from her bag and into her hand. "Lunch this early may suck, but it's the best block because most upperclassmen are in it. No childish antics from the kiddos." Bella squinted at the girl before her ready to retort but thought better of it. "I'm just joking, girl, chill. It's the best because most of my friends are in it." Relief overpowered the uncomfortable churning in her stomach.

 

"Lead the way!" The taller girl led her through the crowd weaving confidently through the backpacks and flailing arms. The cafeteria was underwhelming, to say the least. 

 

Windows scattered generously across the room, but a tragic deficiency of sunlight made them pointless. The duo made their way toward far back, and Bella smiled upon the realization that Jessica was also in this lunch. 

 

Noticing the waving from the girl, Angela spoke up. "Ah, I see you've met my girl, Jessie." Bella looked up at the use of possessive language. Hazel eyes widened in shock. 

 

"You're," She cleared her throat, realizing the small scratch, "together?" Angela shook her head with a tight smile, Bella's instantly fell, a hope she fleetingly experienced shot down before it could even fester on its own.  

 

Bow-shaped lips straightened. "She's just my best friend."  

 

"Well," Jessica began, "if you're interested. I'm open to negotiation." She shot Angela a conspiratory wink before she continued. "Especially for cuties like you." Round rimmed glasses concealed a loaded look, a contradictory smile placed on Angela's mouth.  

 

Bella felt her entire face flush at the flirtatious nature of their conversation. Feeling exposed as she stood in the rapidly filling cafeteria, she quickly sat across Jess and Angela. Soon the table around them started to fill out. 

 

"Bella!" Looking up at the call of her name, she took in the towering handsome figure. Emmett came swaggering up with certainty. With a smile and tilt of her head, she waved back. "Do you folks mind if we sit with you?" Bella looked around him and took in the lean model like figure standing behind him. Whereas Emmett was composed of firm sculpted muscles, the person was wiry slim in build.

 

"This is my boyfriend, Eddie." He leaned down to theatrically whisper to the table. "Don't call him that though, he only lets me." 

 

Bella looked around the table, noting the bewildered looks. Knowing the silence wouldn't help anyone, she acted. "I don't mind." This seemed to do the trick because soon after, choruses of agreement rang out. They took their seats and looked at one another. Feeling like she was intruding, Bella looked away.

 

"Sorry." She perked up at the words confused about the direction they would take. "My sister sometimes appears upset or comes across abrasive, but she doesn't mean it." He looked to his left. Bella followed his gaze and froze as she made direct contact with the eyes that glared at her for fifty minutes. She fought the desire to stick her tongue out and flick her off, not yet, she didn't know the people she sat with well enough.  

 

"You shouldn't apologize on her behalf." She rummaged through her bag for her food. "Ever." Placing the container on the table, she looked at him directly. "I won't hold it against her, but she needs to talk to me if she has an issue." Em nodded in understanding an undiscernible look in his stare remained.

 

"You both know each other?" Angela thankfully broke the wall of tension that divided the table because everyone began to speak. Jessica smiled at her and looked at Em for the answer. 

 

"She came into our shop and bought more than she could handle. Thankfully I was there because oof, she would've pulled something trying to carry it all."

 

"Hmm," all the eyes turned toward her, "It would've been a real help IF you'd been the one to help carry. Not your Mom." Edward bit back a smile at the scandalized look that crossed Em's features. Friendly bantering broke out around her.

 

Looking down at the container, she realized her mistake. She'd failed to grab utensils for her fruit before leaving. Bella released a groan and met Angela's curious stare. "Is there plasticware? I forgot my fork." The girl hid the grin at her misfortune but had the decency to point her in the direction of the cart containing cutlery. 

 

The brunette rose from her seat and walked toward the metallic cart containing the disposable forks. As she made the short trip, she couldn't shake the sensation of eyes burning into the back of her. Without turning or giving the person the chance to receive her attention, she knew perfectly well who was staring.   

 

Grabbing a fork and a couple of napkins, she made the trip back, taking in the atmosphere of the cafeteria basking in its light weightedness. Edward reached across the table and turned the container right side up. He shot her a lopsided grin, "I'd rather you not spill and carry residual stains all day."  

 

Bella nodded in gratitude, taking in the natural way in which he leaned into Emmett's much larger frame. The sudden feeling that she was imposing on an intimate moment between the two crept into her thoughts. 

 

She couldn't believe she'd been worried about the likelihood of her rejection before she even made new friends. The brunette wouldn't have predicted she'd be sitting with a non-hetero couple and a table that seemed entirely at ease with their display of affection.  

 

"Is this your finsta?" Bella looked up toward Jess and gaped at the phone held for her to see. A screen on full brightness displaying her Instagram, she thanked her past self for placing her page on private months ago. The brunette looked toward Angela beside her, sputtering to formulate a coherent statement to address the brutal blindsided inquiry. It'd been a while since people had been this emboldened, had it been a mistake being too positive on the first day? 

 

The warm brown eyes softened behind round-rimmed glasses in recognition of her panicked expression. "You totally don't have to tell us or let us follow it." She clasped her slightly larger hand around Jess's and locked the screen in the same motion. "We just got excited." 

 

Jessica quickly changed the subject, and everyone focused on the conversation she led. Charisma oozing out of her pores, infecting those around her with her positive energy. 

 

Bella, thankful for her interjection, smiled, opening her container to begin eating. The smell traveled across her senses, the aroma providing a warm feeling. Memories of her childhood tied to simple foods. A gesture so minuscule to most, they'd simply gloss over it entirely, but she realized the motive behind the action—her parent's attempting to show affection with their effort to keep fruit ready for her to eat. Sometimes they went so far as to bring her fruit randomly throughout the day.

 

The papaya tasted heavenly on her tongue, and she bit back the moan before it slipped past the fork. Renata never truly able to choose fruit, a gift Carlos solely possessed. The number of guavas, papayas, and mangos they had to dispose of because of their combined inability to select tropical fruit without her Dad's help. Bella'd forgotten the taste of the delicacy. 

 

Emmett's voice excitedly rang out. "Oooh, can I have a piece?" The brunette immediately nodded and brought the container closer to his tapping fingers. Edward's face a mixture of amusement and something else she couldn't pinpoint.

 

Firm fingers plucked a piece of the bright orange fruit from the container and popped it into an eager mouth. 

 

The entire time the brunette couldn't take her eyes off the facial reactions on the fair-skinned face, trying to decipher the other emotion. That's when she noticed everyone at the table had food before them, everyone except the two, and Bella felt terrible for failing to offer food. "Would you like some too?" His eyes widened, and at the moment, laughter from across the cafeteria sounded. 

 

"C'mon Eddie." Emmett smacked his back and smirked in a manner that made the brunette feel as if she'd missed something. "It's so many chef kisses." Fingers pinched together on his lips; he exaggerated a kiss. 

 

A steady hand grasped the tiniest piece, and she stopped him from taking it by gesturing to a bigger chunk. "That's too small, take this one." The same entrancing laugh traveled across the cafeteria. Something or someone must've changed her mood. Politely grabbing the sticky papaya, he gently popped into his mouth. A dimple showed as he attempted to smile while he chewed, only it came out more like a grimace.

 

The smile left her face dropping in tandem with her stomach. The light laughter ripped from her lungs and replaced with heaviness. The brunette's irritation boiled to the surface, and it felt it would give to anger just as fast.

 

Moments after the doors to the cafeteria ripped open, and in walked another blonde model with a face fixed in a permanent scowl. Lips thin and severe, showing no signs of levity. The severe cadence of his walk, resembling a practiced march, emphasized further by the tension in the room. Involuntarily her eyes followed the form as it sat directly across the blonde that had a problem with her.

 

Rosalie met her without hesitation. A petite hand shook her shoulder, but she maintained her glare on Bella, refusing to look away.

 

"So Guy's," The brunette broke the gaze and tried to count backward, her irritation threatening to boil over, "it's awesome that you all joined us because we are planning a bonfire. You all trying to go to the beach in a couple of weeks?" That only confirmed to her that they'd never sat at this table before. 

 

"The beach?" She managed to reign in her doubtfulness.

 

"Perfect photo opp, not to mention the bonfires are to die for." A soft-toned boy spoke up. Almond-shaped eyes sparkled with imagery; She only wished she could picture as well. Angela nodded feverishly in agreement. 

 

"Eric's absolutely right. There's nothing more perfect than the beach in the fall." 

 

Bella left the conversation with a promise to check with her Dad. She couldn't help but notice that the Em and Edward retracted into themselves. A silent discussion took place before her, but she couldn't pinpoint how. The rest of her school day went by without issue. 

 

She was pleased to find out that Emmett interned for her US history class. The dimples became more prominent; the more their owner tried to make her laugh. The class ended with her sides in pain from holding in laughter to avoid interrupting the lecture. If she didn't have abs by now, then she wasn't meant to have them.

 

The hallways outside of the front office resembled an aggressive stream, a current capable of dragging anything within its clutches. Bella managed to maneuver her way through and launch herself across the doorframe. Mrs. Jennings looked up, alarmed at the disruptive entrance, only to greet her reassuringly.

 

"Good afternoon," she took the sheet with the collection of signatures, "I hope your first day went well?" She remained attentive for her response as she did some clerical work for the document. The brunette nodded. " I'm glad. Well, you're all set, is there anything else I can help you with?" 

 

The brunette left with a quick goodbye and attempted to step into the current of students leading out the front door. Regret seeped into her nerves as she ran into a bag in front of her. A taller figure came up on her left and another on her right within seconds of each other. A slight stutter in her step, she realized a person was unnecessarily close behind her, in her personal space. Squished among this pack of students unable to see anything besides sweaters and bookbags, she began to panic. 

 

Bella, seeing a break up ahead past the double doors, dashed forward, ignoring the protests of people. She took in gulps of air and took her jacket off to feel the open air on her better. Thankful that no one around seemed to notice her brief lapse.

 

She stopped to investigate the cause of the pedestrian traffic jam. A crowd assembled in the loading zone with a sleek red sports car parked—the students emboldened enough to view from afar but too timid to approach the vehicle and its owner. Bella huffed, how inconsiderate to the people behind them. It's a car, and for the life of her, she couldn't understand its necessity.

 

Trailing her eyes across the car, looking for the wow factor, the familiar form of Rosalie Hale came into view. Leaning onto the side of her car with her arms folded across her chest. The brunette felt her heart race without motive upon realizing the blondes stare directed at her. Gritting her teeth, she fixed her best neutral expression as she kept walking.

 

Bella frowned, what was wrong with her? People failed to get under her skin, people that tried harder to antagonize her, but this person managed to irk her beyond compare without trying. The heat from earlier, finally beginning to go down, sparked again, threatening to grow. 

 

She turned back, hearing the crowd disperse heading to their cars. Edward grabbed the keys from the blonde's grip, her ice-cold stare somehow managing to meet her across the lot. Rosalie moved around the car and hopped into a waiting jeep, slamming the door with more force than necessary.

 

A pale hand rand through intricately disheveled hair while their counterpart opened the driver's door to the sports car before hopping. The jeep made a left turn just as the red car pulled up in the right turn lane.

 

Even as she waved goodbye to her new friends, drove home, and did her homework, she couldn't keep the ridiculous blonde from her thoughts. What was her deal?

 

Looking through the fridge, she realized they desperately needed groceries—the pantry stocked with chips and sweets. A distraction she gladly welcomed the brunette made up her mind and made a list of the items they needed on the back of the old mail. With her bag in her hands, she left the house. 

 

Finding the nearest grocery store on her GPS, a Thriftway, she avoided the guaranteed hour of aimless driving. Finding the items around the building wasn't tricky, but the layout made no sense. Ignoring the stare she received from the employee in the third aisle every time she lapped around. Bella, too stubborn to bother the worker, did one last lap around the store. 

 

"Bella?" Spinning on her heel, she came face to face with the Esme. Soft gold eyes, and laughing lines formed around her face. The presence of the wrinkles alone put the brunette further at ease. "Are you out doing some shopping for dinner?" A distant look in her stare concerning the brunette.

 

"Hey, Mrs. Cullen." Her curls shook as she nodded enthusiastically—the urge to lift the solemn look from Esme's gaze. "I went into the fridge and pantry, nothing besides stuff to snack on." 

 

A wistful half-smile took over her face, a contemplative stare. "The boy's always clean the shelves out, and I have to make sure they stay full." A glint in her eyes now reflected some humor. "They turn into different people sometimes, but hunger does that to people." 

 

Bella nodded in understanding, but even then, she felt unaware, as if the entire conversation held more considerable significance than she was privy to at that moment. "I completely understand. I'm like that myself sometimes." 

 

"Do you have siblings?" Bella shook her head. "Imagine five of you within the same household, and all of you lacked the communication skills necessary to resolve their problems." 

 

She winced, realizing her glorification of siblings may have been unwarranted. Are siblings that petty? "Oh, wow." 

 

"God," Esme placed a hand on her cheek as if to conceal a blush that wasn't there, "I must sound like a terrible mother. I promise--"

 

"No!" Bella rushed to interrupt the downward spiral of the Cullen matriarch's mood. "You don't sound like it. I'm just not used to the inner workings of sibling disputes." Awkwardly looking everywhere but into the stare, before her, she continued. "I think that neither party will truly budge until their willing to entertain one another's circumstances. Personally, I've never had to share space or my parent's attention, but I'm sure you're doing a wonderful job." The pale hand on her face moved back to her side. A contemplative look crossed her flawless features. 

 

Bella fought back the wave of her panic, shoving down her body's desire to darken her complexion with a flush. Her skin began to burn, and she expertly removed her flannel to tie around her waist loosely—the oncoming heat from her body no match for the perpetual draftiness of Forks. 

 

"Thank you for listening to me rattle on." Esme began to apologize with a confused look in her eyes. Eyebrows furrowed and just as fast smoothed out. "I have no idea what came over me." Clearing her throat, she flashed her an array of perfect teeth. 

 

"It happens." the brunette shrugged, used to people unloading onto her. She wanted to prevent the moment from turning awkward, which was the following step. "would you happen to know where I can find the fresh herbs?" 

 

The older woman took the bait and helped her find the herbs. After selecting the bunches, she turned toward the woman and found her hugging the overflowing basket to her hip as it weighed nothing. 

 

"Thank you, Mrs. Cullen," the eyes, now slightly darker, shot up to her face. "I'm going to head over to the checkout. I hope I didn't throw you off your schedule, but I'll see you around." 

 

The older woman bid her farewell with a gentle wave. Bella rushed through the transaction and placing the items in the car, afraid that she'd get caught up in another similar interaction. 

 

If she smiled at people, they took to her, but if she remained neutral, people grew weary or upset. What was it about her that elicited those responses from people.

 

Bella groaned as she pulled onto the main road. She'd finally escaped her mother emotionally unloading onto her, only for others to do so.

 

As she caught her reflection in the review mirror, she froze at the conflicted look on her face. Eyes squinted, she cursed herself out. Upset with how she carried herself to her car as if fleeing. 

 

'It's better they unload onto you than resent you.'     

 

Chapter Text

Emmett sat on a boulder in the middle of the clearing, a sliver of sunshine escaping the dreary overcast and highlighting his sharp jawline. The beautiful clearing one of their favorite spots to spar with one another echoed the harsh silence.

 

Standing feet from each other, but divided by a gulf greater than their desire to reconcile. Space only emphasizing the stupidity of their predicament and only aided in infuriating Rosalie more. They're supposed to be a team, platonic soulmates, and as a result, family. This series of events unfolded because of the girl, and she'd do anything to erase the past few days.

 

Emmett had never gotten upset with her, and she'd never lashed out at him before either. The fault lay on this man as much as it weighed onto Rosalie, every fabricated exhale tightening her chest further.  

 

That entire morning went beyond testing. She double-backed at the look Emmett sent her way, her brother, as he ignored her words and steered away from their table. Moments from launching herself at her agitating family and resolving their conflict through her preferred method, cathartic violence, Edward spoke under his breath. 

 

"I'll cover the store tonight." A simple sentence managed to take the fight from her limbs. The brief moment of peace shattered as Bella turned to look in her direction. A blazing intensity cackling like the embers that start wildfires, those uncontained flames narrowed before turning back to the conversation. All of this contained in two infuriating eyes. 

 

She sucked back her noise of betrayal, and her eyes closed in an attempt to regain control—the audacity of the tiny spiteful being irking her further. Rosalie scowled into her palm upon the realization that the girl's presence upset her far more than Emmett's dismissal. 

 

"What do you want?" The defeated tone that reached her ears woke her from her reflection. Her face ended up buried in her hands like earlier, so she moved to look at her brother. The ordinarily happy face, now resembling a somber affair. 

 

"I want to apologize, but I don't know what it's for." Wincing internally, she realized that was the most horrid option, and she went with it. His eyebrows shot up in disbelief. "I'd hate to apologize, and it comes off insincere because I care, Em. There's nothing more offensive besides an apology made to dismiss the incident." 

 

Lips stretched in a scowl opened to retort. "Do you honestly think it has to do with you snapping at me?" He paused and began to play with the tag of his shirt at the nape of his neck, something he did when nervous. "It was just a build-up of anger on my part, but you being unnecessarily rude to Bella rubbed me the wrong way." He must've noticed she was about to interject because he continued with a gesture for her to wait. 

 

"Do none of you realize that if we don't engage with people like humans, we will expose ourselves anyway? It's not 2005 anymore, or the 1960's, or the fucking 1930's. It's not okay to be judgmental assholes anymore." A loaded look in her direction. "It doesn't matter that we've supposedly changed, because it's in our mannerisms." Getting up from the boulder, he moved with purpose. "I'm the funny guy that uplifts everyone's moods and can't even do anything without it affecting others." 

 

"I was changed as an uneducated twenty-year-old black man in the south." He threw his hands up in frustration. "I adapted, but I can't change things about my experience." Chest heaving, he extended his arms in her direction. "Why can't the family try?" 

 

Rosalie stood there with a neutral disposition. This entire conversation building until this very moment. Decades of internalizing and miscommunication unfolded in front of her. Rosalie's eyes widened as she realized the conversation went beyond their decorum around humans. 

 

"Everyone says they're past it, but where's the apology?" He glared at her. "Not just from you, but am I supposed to ignore the fact that they played a part in all of this?" He gestured around him and to himself. "In murdering me."

 

Guilt swarmed her throat, threatening to choke her if she dared to speak. A pair of dark eyes roamed over her figure. "I'm not an empath by any means, but this isn't the time for your guilt." His eyes flashed. "This is exactly why leaving is just easier." 

 

She swallowed her guilt and voice raw with agony she spoke. "What do you mean, leave?" 

 

Eyes cast downward; he toed at the bolder and began chipping at the surface. "We spoke with each other this weekend, and we both decided its best for me to sort things out." Emmett sighed, giving up with his fidgeting, and sat down on the rock once more.  

 

"Alone."

 

Rosalie felt the lonesome word lodge itself in her chest.

 

"I'm sorry I reacted that way--Listen--We do a lot of stupid stuff, but we care about each other." Eyes, watering with tears that would only tease her with the promise of release, blinked in shock. "What can I do to fix this?" 

 

She felt her carefully built walls of defense crumbling into nothing at the threat of losing one of her own. 

 

"That's exactly what I didn't want to happen, Rose!" His voice rang in the clearing. "Am I wrong to be upset? I can't stand making everyone feel guilty, but all they do is look at me with pity. Goddammit, even Edward!" 

 

"Why do you think I never bring it up? I'm angry at them because I forgave them so quickly without addressing my reservations. I should've spoken up sooner, and I didn't because they've made up for it. At this point, I'm just upset with myself." He looked down. 

 

"If I'm honest, I'm scared that their apology will do nothing to redress their actions." The beautiful face of the first man she'd ever loved looked to her in desperation. "I just need to be on my own."

 

A sleepless night held new meaning for her. Although unable to truly go unconscious, she could relax into a meditative state, that wasn't true as of last week. 

 

Only four voices whispered in the night around the house—the blaring absence of two members left a gaping hole in their home. 

 

Rosalie, still reeling from the conversation earlier, plotted to the best of her ability. The sounds around her all sounded appropriate, but voices skirted around the topic on all of their minds. Determined, she got up and spoke clearly into her bedroom. 

 

"Living room, we need to talk." 

 

The blonde laid the book that she'd given up on reading hours ago, on the bedside table. She stood and left her room as the others joined her in the communal space. The blonde sat in the designated love seat that belonged to the two missing at the moment.

 

"Emmett's thinking of going his own way for a while." She paused, looking at the still in repair wall. "Edward will join him after he graduates."

 

Esme covered her face with her hands and moved Carlisle's arm from around her, Rosalie continued. "I can't keep doing this, guys. It can't be that hard to pretend to be normal, right?" 

 

Jasper answered from his seat on the floor by Alice's feet. "We can't exactly change the past, Rose. What do you want from me?"

 

"I agree with Jasper. Rosalie, what's your solution?" Carlise, of course, would choose to speak now. 

 

"Solution for what? That we somehow claim to be a family but know nothing about each other, or that humans are evolving and less likely to be oblivious of our condition?" 

 

Alice remained attentive but decisively quiet as Jasper responded. "We know enough about each other. Emmett just assumes because he's never--"

 

"That's precisely the point." Everyone turned toward Esme in surprise. "I love you all like the Children I never got to raise, but you're astoundingly dense." 

 

She sighed and gently patted Carlisle's knee. "You're driven to discover more truth, but don't admit when you make mistakes." Esme glanced across all of her family as she spoke. "It's okay to be wrong, love, and lose because that's what makes us human." She turned to him to whisper. "Honey, you've done the best you could, but it's important to learn from our mistakes. We can't just gloss over them." 

 

Alice interjected softly. "I'm sorry, Rose. You're right. Things haven't been okay because it never was alright." She nodded in acceptance, a long-overdue apology that extended back from the first fractures in their family's foundation.

 

"How are we supposed to fix this long-standing conflict in the months we have left?" 

 

Jasper's question hung in the open space of the room, looming over the five of them. The silence continued to overpower the room, and the entire group remained in place, reflecting internally about their options. 

 

***

 

The brunette stumbled inside and made her way to the kitchen. Cursing herself out as she noticed her shoelace had become untucked. The window in the room cast a peaceful orange glow across the table. Setting some music from her small speaker, Bella began to prepare dinner before she dug into her homework. As she washed the produce and set about searching for the cutting board, she couldn't help but get lost in her thoughts. 

 

The school week had surprised her, that's certain, and it only continued to so. The entire week Emmett and Edward were the only ones in school, except today. The duo was missing at their now designated table, and the seats remained empty. Everyone at her table assumed they'd left to get a headstart on joining their family on their camping trip. Edward, from what she'd noticed, didn't seem the outdoorsy type. Frowning at her train of thought, she internally scolded herself. 

 

She didn't know anyone well enough yet to draw these conclusions on assumptions, but she was on her way to establishing relationships. 

 

Bella couldn't help but smile at the endearing personalities of her new friend group. Emmett almost always ate his packed food before their fourth period, and would randomly steal pieces of her lunch. Bella shook her head, ignoring the flood of envy at his metabolism and continued dicing the onions. Jessica had taken to catching her up on the latest trends of fashion and the newest music releases. Eric would show the entire table memes and wait patiently for his phone to make rounds. Angela and Edward would discuss their current art projects with seldom passion exuding from the pair. 

 

As she finished making the salsa, she set the meat to defrost before washing her hands to begin her homework. As she heard Keys jingling at the front door, Bella glanced at the clock on her phone. 

 

"Nena, it smells good in here. You cooking today?" She sat down by her bag at the table and began taking out her materials. 

 

"Yeah, I've been craving  sopes, figured I'd give it a try." Her eyes followed after her Dad as he took his boots off, hung up his coat, and washed his hands. "Hope you don't mind? I would cook more with Mom because she worked long hours."

 

He smiled behind his glass of water. "Sound great to me. I just thought you would've made  guisado." 

 

The brunette rolled her eyes at his turned back. The sound of him washing the dish and placing it on the drying rack, making her smile. "In about twenty minutes, I'm about to start cooking the meat." Shooting him a pointed look, she continued. "That's enough time for you to shower and get ready?" 

 

Her Dad scoffed, and she caught him as he inconspicuously sniffed himself and winced. His steps were loud on the stairs as he raced to shower and change. 

 

The homework was straightforward. She understood the content and enjoyed it, but the brunette couldn't quite relate to it. Why did she care about the history of dead old white men? She was none of the above. 

 

Okay, maybe that's a harsh way to look at it, but in her defense, relearning the same events did nothing for her. She couldn't be the only one that thought this way. 

 

Bella sighed as she closed her textbook and put away the only worksheet she had for the day with a promise to herself that she'd finish her reading for English class before bed. 

 

As she finished cooking the meal, she set the table. 

 

"Alright, I'm fresh and ready to eat." A hand snagged a piece of steak popping it into his mouth with an innocent grin. "I'll cook tomorrow." He grabbed his beer from the fridge and nudged her.

 

"Uhh," she thought better of it, "I'm good with water."

 

They sat and ate in comfortable silence with one another—the occasional gulp of beer followed by a muffled hiccup. 

 

"How's school going?" She finished her mouthful thinking over the answer. 

 

"It's going well. I'm in pace with my last school, for the most part." Playing with the napkin beside her hand, she looked up. "I forgot to ask, but can I go out tomorrow?"

 

His eyebrows furrowed as he finished his beer. "Is it with friends or--"

 

"It's with friends! They want to go to the roller rink, and I haven't been skating in a while." She shrugged as she placed her empty dish in the sink. "I figured I still have my skates, and it's the weekend." 

 

His hand rubbed at the scruff on his face. "I don't see that as a problem, but finish your homework tonight. I don't care about you going out, but I want your school to come first. Your Mom and I didn't bust our asses off for you to just mess around." He grunted as he lifted from the chair and began cleaning up after dinner. 

 

Bella smiled inwardly at his relaxed and trusting nature. Her Mother would interrogate her with no end in sight. God forbid she ask for permission to go dancing because the last time she did, her Mom spent a week questioning her. 

 

The brunette glanced at her phone as she yawned into her fist and was shocked to see 10:13 glaring into her watering eyes. Bella set her book down and contemplated fighting sleep, but decided against it. The rest she got the entire week was minimal and low quality. 

 

Getting ready for bed, she made her way into the bathroom. The lighting above the mirror cast an orange glow across her and the room. Hair wrapped, teeth brushed, and skin routine complete, she went to her room. 

 

The draft in the house was perfect for her to use the comforter without overheating. Lifting the covers, she slid onto the mattress with ease—the house silent without a single sound beside the heater turning on and the rain.

 

The blank white ceiling, once dull, was now covered in shadows—a mirage of images cast from the moonlight spilled in from the large window. The wall now resembled a canvas dancing with life, and the pair of wide-awake eyes couldn't look away. 

 

The reality of her circumstances crashed into her with force greater than the droplets hitting the gutters. The silence in the house amplified in her thoughts. A mantra of questions reverberating in her mind.

 

What was her purpose?

 

What were her plans?

 

Renata expected her to go on and accomplish what she couldn't because of the teen pregnancy. Her Dad wanted her to do better than they both did their entire life, but what did that entail? She's newly seventeen and just as unaware of her future as she is afraid of it. 

 

Inadequacy, a feeling she'd learned to keep at bay needled its way into her mind and lodged itself in her core. 

 

Finally, alone in her thoughts and with no one around her, she gave in to her body's whims. Soft sobs wracked her body, causing her bedframe to shake lightly along with her tremors—the wind's howls engulfing the sounds of her painfully muffled hiccups. Thankful for the rain pelting the house and canceling the sound of her weeping, she cried herself to sleep. 

 

Unbeknownst to her, a figure drawn by her cries sat beneath the window to her bedroom. A set of slender fingers gripped golden locks in distress; their owner listened with concern until the sobs gave way to soft snoring. 

Chapter Text

A hiss escaped her lips as a rogue beam of sunlight burned into her eyelids. Bella reflexively threw an arm over her face to block the bothersome glare. But even with her eyes shut and her arm tossed over her eyes, she was wide awake. The covers felt suffocating in their weight, and as a result, she quickly kicked them off with a sigh. 

 

"Sleep?" Her phone's front screen displayed a few minutes past six. "Don't know her." Groaning, she got up from her bed and went down to make some coffee. 

 

Expecting to be the only person awake, she was surprised to run into her Dad in the kitchen. Her eyes roamed over the supplies that he was digging out from the hallway closet. 

 

"Buenos días?" She tried to greet him, but it came out more like a question. He shot up, knocking his knee into the doorframe. 

 

With a groan, he responded. "Please, don't do that. I am so old, and you're going to kill me by accident." 

 

"Don't be so dramatic." She rolled her eyes as he rubbed his knee while whispering under his breath. 

 

"Just don't cry when you kill me." 

 

Bella whipped around and narrowed her eyes. "Hmm?"

 

He got up and ignored her question. "I'm going fishing with Billy and Harry." His eyebrows furrowed as if he finally took in her presence. "Why are you awake so early?" 

 

Shrugging, she poured some coffee from the fresh pot into her mug. "Since when do you fish?" The brunette fought back a shiver as the scalding liquid traveled across her tastebuds and down her throat. 

 

"I took it up when I came here." He maneuvered around her and poured himself a cup from the pot. "Between you and me? I'm not the biggest fan, but it's Harry's choice this weekend. Also, with Billy's condition, we cut back on sporting." 

 

Bella had forgotten about her Dad's friend group. The ease in which they all socialized and understood one another without disparaging each other. Billy's car accident with his wife had left him in a wheelchair and a widower. It'd been so easy to expel the information from her mind because she'd never met anyone and without a name to their face it was too easy. The travel from Arizona and back from Washington too expensive of a cost to incur. 

 

"How is he?" 

 

"Billy's good. His older girls are out of the house, but he has Jake still." Shrugging on his coat, he continued. "That's good, at least." He took a sip of his coffee, keeping his eyes on the countertop. "Do me a favor? Don't put me in one of those nursing homes? Just drop me off in the woods or something." 

 

Bella lightly smacked his arm and hid her frown behind her cup. The topic light in its introduction but so heavy with its contents. She quickly changed the course. "I'm glad you and Harry are good again. I remember when you called me to complain about your fights." Chuckling, she took in his smile. "I knew it must've been a low point to vent to your daughter about the fight you were having with your besties." 

 

"Very funny." Setting his coffee down, he leaned onto the island. "Where are you going again?"

 

"Skating at the rink." 

 

"Right, so, Sue and Harry own the rink." Her eyebrows shot up without her permission. "You might run into Sue." He waited nervously, gauging her reaction. 

 

"That's pretty cool. I'm going to finish some stuff at home beforehand, but I'll make sure to introduce myself to your girlfriend." She fought back her grin at seeing his embarrassed flush. 

 

He firmly patted her back, and she winced with his heavyhandedness. "Alright, I'll see you tonight, Nena." In a flurry of motions, he cleared the kitchen with all the fishing items within his grasp.

 

The fast pace of his exit was contagious because she cleaned her bedroom and finished her laundry before noon. 

 

Bella's phone buzzed and grabbed her phone from the bedside table. She winced as she realized she'd missed a handful of messages. 

 

Angela:  So, not saying I can't, but what would you guys say to me sitting out the rink? 

 

Jess:   ffs Angie, I know your ass can't skate. Just hold onto me. It'll be fine. 

 

Jess:    Wait Bellaaaa, can you skate? 

 

Angela:   See if she can't skate, then how can you help BOTH of us. 

 

Jess:   Bella, you'd better answer. I will call you.

 

Angela:   Jessie, YOU'D better C H I L L.

 

Bella fought back a smile as she took in the text messages and typed out a response before she could find out if Jessica's threat held weight. 

 

Her smile slid right off of her face as she realized her skates remained packed away in the box she'd shipped here before she'd moved. The box had been easy to locate but difficult to maneuver down the attic stairs. A victory cry left her lips as her feet touched the floor. 

 

Her skin prickled with the dust that clung to the perspiration on her, and she immediately decided to shower and get ready for the outing.  

 

In Arizona, she wasn't an outcast by any means, but she did have a difficult time maintaining friends. All of her friend groups deteriorated before her eyes, and as soon as she began dating those relationships as well. 

 

The sound of her phone ringing in her room spurred her to act. Clad in only a towel, she dashed for the phone and caught it before the call ended. 

 

"Hello?"

 

"Girl, are you ready to get picked up?"  Checking the caller ID, she was confused to hear Jess's voice through the speaker. 

 

"I thought we were going to the rink in the evening?" She pressed the speaker button and placed the phone on the bed. Bella rushed because If they were going to push up the time, then she'd better get ready while on the phone.

 

"Well, Angela picked me up, and we wanted to get a bite to eat. Want us to get you, and we can eat together?"

 

Just then, through the phone, she heard jostling and Angela's muffled voice, which sounded suspiciously close to,  "We can get burgers."

 

Jessica giggled out,  "Yeah, we can totally get pizza!" 

 

"Alright, I'm getting ready now. I'll text you the address so that you can give me an eta." She couldn't help the smile at their playful attitude. 

 

After saying goodbye, she tossed her phone as she rushed to get ready. Sifting through her wardrobe, she decided on something practical, comfy overalls and ball tee on her body she rushed to her phone. 

 

Only to panic as she realized they said ten minutes over eight minutes ago. She ran down the steps with everything in her hand, just in time to hear the obnoxiously loud horn. A curse escaped past Bella's lips as she slipped while trying to put on her shoes. 

 

Bag on her back and her water bottle in hand, she locked the front door behind her before she made her way to the minivan in the driveway. Angela waved enthusiastically from the driver's seat as Jessica's body faced the back seats. 

 

The door opened up before Bella could hesitate, and a blindingly bright face greeted her. Eric's broad smile dissolved the building nerves she'd felt as she got ready for the outing. 

 

"Bella, first of all, love the look, but can you hurry in here before they start flirting again?" As soon as he threw in a playful jab to prove his point, the girls in the front of the van quickly ceased their banter and focused on the conversation taking place between the two in the back. 

 

"Where are we eating?" As if on queue, her stomach gurgled. "I forgot to eat this morning, and I'm kinda ready to overindulge." Eric's eyebrow twitched. "Sorry, let me rephrase. I'm so hungry I  will  overindulge."

 

Laughter sounded around the van, and she buckled in as they pull onto the road. Angela and Jessica argued about the best route to take to their destination, and it was amusing, to say the least. 

 

Bella leaned over her armrest to whisper to Eric. "Do you know where we're going?" 

 

He shrugged and whispered back. "I think it's between pizza or burgers. My bet is Angela gives into pizza, and we go to our usual spot." Eric's eyes shot to the front before he continued. "Normally, I drive separate, but I didn't want you to have to third wheel on your first outing." 

 

A warm chuckle left her lips. Of course, she noticed the flirtatious nature of their friendship. Her and Eric's whispered conversation in the backseat only confirming to her that she didn't imagine the romantic aura of their friendship.

 

"We decided on pizza!" Shouted Jess from the front with a victorious cry. 

 

The two backseat passengers shared a look, their first of many to follow, and hopped out of the van. 

 

A handful of other students she recognized from their table at lunch joined them for pizza. Soon enough, the voices traveled across the establishment, and the excitement extended along with it. 

 

Bella felt uncomfortable for moments at a time because a girl, who she couldn't remember the name of for the life of her, stonefaced her the entire meal. The attractive features smiled in every direction but hers. At that point, It felt personal.

 

A hand on her arm prompted her to face her left, where Angela was struggling to lace her skates. "Don't worry, Lauren isn't mad at you." The brunette went rigid as she'd been read correctly by her new friend. Angela continued as if she sensed her unspoken reservation. "She has a very good neutral face, and people mistake it for anger often." 

 

Those words settled in her mind. Resting bitch face is something she'd been accused of before. Her eyes widened as she realized she'd perpetuated the judgment onto others. Had she done that unfairly to Rosalie? Bella thought through their encounters and winced upon the conclusion that she could've been a bit nicer.

 

In her defense, the blonde had so many chances to apologize, that is before she dropped off the face of the earth with her family. 

 

"Also, can you help me skate." Her hands held in a begging position she pouted. "I know you have to be good because you own those cute skates, but have mercy." 

 

Bella took in the feeling of leather on her fingertips as she finished lacing her skates. Glad that she'd cuffed her pantlegs before she'd left the house, she got up and offered Angela a hand. 

 

A tiny squeak came from the newbie. "I promise I won't let go. You need to trust me with this one piece of advice." She paused, wondering what Angela was looking at and rolled her eyes playfully as Jess came into view. "You're going to fall, and it is okay. Everyone does, and it doesn't matter how good they are, they will fall. Just don't look at your feet, look up as if walking, and take small outward steps." 

 

Bella gently pushed forward in small movement and held Angela's hand. The girl's glasses were sliding off her nose, so she pushed them up for her. 

 

Soon enough, Angela took off alongside Jess, and they both used each other for balance. The brunette shook her head at their obvious excuse to initiate contact. The music created an ambiance of slow jams, which didn't sit well with her on a Saturday night.

 

The music left something to be desired, so she figured there wouldn't be much to lose from requesting a song. 

 

A small group of three teenagers occupied the booth. Beautiful russet skin, silk black hair, and perfect features greeted her as she approached. Their combined beauty and the height of the box added to their intimidation, and she was close to fleeing. The only thing that prevented her escape was the girl waving her over. 

 

"Hey, are you Charlie's kid?" She stopped and felt flush as she realized they meant her Dad. She nodded and stared at them in question. "I'm Leah, and that's Seth, we're Sue's kids." She tried to ignore the glare that the third unnamed person shot Leah. 

 

"Oh, wow, nice to meet you?" Seth, who seemed small enough to be in middle school, laughed at her hesitation. 

 

"That dude is Sam. He's just Leah's boyfriend." His shoulders shrugged. "Not too important." He ducked, in what could only be an expert move, from his sister's smack. 

 

"It's nice to meet you all. I'm Bella." She waved and immediately cursed herself for waving.

 

"Ignore him. He's letting the power go to his head. I let him take over the music one time, and he thinks he's the next big thing." She shot her a cute smile. "What can I help you with?"

 

"Uhh." Bella contemplated just pretending to ask for the bathrooms, but she wanted to fight herself when she saw the visible signage. "It was to ask for music." Her luck had visibly run out earlier that day.

 

"I fucking knew it!" Leah ripped the laptop from the boy's lap. "Ha! That's the last time you get to DJ." She turned to face her. "Now that he's demoted, what do you wanna hear?" 

 

Her middle finger began to pick at her thumb, a nervous habit of hers. "Maybe some Reggaeton or something more dancelike?" 

 

An infectious smile spread across the three in the booth, but the music didn't change. Leah handed the computer to the older man and seemed to give out directions. It then dawned on the brunette that they probably queued the songs. 

 

Bella began to skate backward to join the crowd of excited skaters. Only to be surprised when a familiar song began to play, and Leah stepped down onto the rink.

 

In skates (and probably without), she was tall and graceful. 

 

Dile que bailando te conocí

 

Leah approached her and spun to skate backward dancing with her. Bella's smile widened in a manner that would surely hurt later, but at the moment, she took the bait. The familiar beat and rhythm coursed through her, in what could only be a cathartic experience.

 

Dile que esta noche me quieres ver

 

The taller girl's agility and skating capability outdid her abilities by miles, but the music livened up the entire crowd. It'd been so long since the brunette had genuinely enjoyed herself. In the background, Angela screamed in laugher. 

 

Cuéntale, que soy mejor que él

 

She spun forward and swerved in and around people, in the edges of her vision, she could see Leah keeping up and dancing with her. Both out of breath and a bit overheated, when the song ended, they made their way to the beverage stand. To the brunette's horror, the taller girl jumped over the counter and grabbed a couple of water bottles. Bella relaxed as she remembered they owned this place. 

 

"So why can't Charlie do that?" Still not used to people referring to her Dad that way, she brushed over it with a laugh. 

 

"He's legit a smooth dancer, but roller skating." She drew her hand across her throat. "How much for the water?" She took a generous gulp of the cold fluid and moaned at the relief it provided.  

 

"It's no biggie. We mainly use the funds here to help around the reservation." Bella felt guilt wash over her, and she quickly placed a bill in the tip jar. "You really don't have to. You're technically family and friend, but thank you." 

 

"My Dad told me about the reservation, finally receiving the money to reconstruct the school outside of the tsunami range. It's ridiculous that it took so long."

 

"It's the worst. Our entire reservation is within the tsunami range, but as long as the school's safer than before, we'll manage." She gestured around the space in grandeur. "That's why we have all these avenues to make up for lack of representation and funding." Leah hesitated before continuing. "To be honest, I'm just glad the younger kids on the Reservation will have a better school environment." 

 

Two arms wrapped around her from the back and across her collarbones. A gust of air escaped her as a body impacted her from behind, knocking her forward and into the counter. 

 

"Oh my god, I'm so sorry. Jessie pushed me in your direction because she had to use the bathroom." 

 

Bella shook her head with a gentle smile and helped her friend steady herself. "Angela, this is Leah. Her Mom is dating my Dad, and they own the rink." 

 

"That's so awesome!" She gasped as if realizing something. "You guys must've bought it when they were going to shut it down." Leah seemed to grow stiff with discomfort over the direction the conversation was taking, so the brunette stepped in before it became awkward. 

 

"By the way, thank you for the music change your bother wasn't bad, but I wanted something more lively."

 

"Of course, whenever you all want to come down here, feel free to do so, and we can skate. I always wanted to start a derby league." 

 

"Emmett and Edward should come with us next week." Angela gained some confidence and stood proudly by herself. "I am now determined to become a better skater than you, Bella." 

 

A scoff slipped past her lips before she could help it, and quickly backtracked to clarify her actions. "That's a low bar to set, did you even see Leah?" The brunette looked over the features that became more severe and less welcoming at the mention of the two boys. 

 

"Did you mean Cullen and Masen?" They both nodded in affirmation and curiously waited for the older girl to continue. "Not a single member of their family has been here once since they moved here." She shrugged nonchalantly, but her facial expression depicted otherwise. "If they were interested, then I'm sure they would've come by now." 

 

Bella's brows furrowed as she thought over her words. Angela and Leah continued a playful banter back and forth, but the words stuck with her. If there's nothing else to do in town besides bowling or rollerskating, then surely they had to have been here before. 

 

After saying goodbye to the trio at the booth, she skated her way to the nearest bench where the group was crowding. Eric and Jess both insisted on hugging her, but their sweat combined with hers only made her feel caged. They considerately refrained from physically touching her at seeing her reaction, without question, and the brunette was grateful.

 

Someone from the group recommended going for ice cream, but Bella checked her phone and saw the time. No curfew was a test, and she knew it, so she opted out and volunteered to skate home since she lived close enough. Her social battery completely drained. She dreaded getting into the van and appearing standoffish or irritable. 

 

"Bella, don't be ridiculous; it's dark out, and I don't want this guilt on my conscious." Jess gripped her from her backpack and started dragging her backward toward the van. 

 

"Woah, don't yank too hard. This is a VAN, not just a car." Eric paused halfway in the backseat with a shake of his head. "Abduction is not something I want to be arrested for tonight." 

 

"Wait." Angela, in the front seat, spoke up. "What do you want to be arrested for?"

 

Bella saw the opportunity in the distraction and spun around. "I promise I'll text the group chat when I'm home." Lightly pushing Jess toward the passenger door, she waved at Angela, making sure to return her bright smile. "Please go enjoy some ice cream in my honor and text us when you're home after dropping them off." Her glasses slid slightly down her nose bridge face with her nod. 

 

Bella waved at them as she took off in the direction that her GPS took her and put some music on to accompany her instead of the silence. The breeze of the crisp fall air biting at night, she donned her sweater and relished in the open air. The rink, while fun on its own, didn't compare to the fresh air on her overheated skin. 

 

The curve up ahead perfect for cruising she lengthened her strides. The sound of her wheels and the wind whipping past her along with the music in her ear took her out of her surroundings. Headlights from behind cast her shadow, and the realization that the lights were right behind her came too late. 

 

The impact was less painful than she'd expected, actually significantly less brutal than she'd expected.

 

"What the fuck, are you okay?" 

 

Hazel brown eyes snapped open upon hearing the voice and the vibrations beneath her. She wasn't dead, or at least she couldn't be with familiar amber eyes staring straight at her, inches from her face. Panting from the exertion and fear she felt, the brunette's chest made contact with another. With a cry, she realized that she was lying on top of their body. 

 

"What the fuck?" 

 

They, in place of an answer, simply helped her to her feet while inspecting her.  

 

Rosalie Hale looked furious, and the overwhelmed brunette was shocked as she realized even up close, she held no imperfections. 

Chapter Text

Bella yawned as she started a new pot of coffee. In the background, she could hear the birds as they chirped early in the morning without humanmade noise polluting the air. The aroma of coffee invaded her senses, and she couldn't be grateful enough that her Dad preferred coffee to tea, unlike her Mom.

As she gathered her lunch and prepared her coffee, her right arm weighed heavy. The black brace on her arm prevented her from jostling her injury. Thankfully, a fractured radius was all she received from the accident in return for dealing with the unbearable blonde, so she'd happily take the exchange any day. Rosalie had saved her from a worse fate. 

 

"How are you not aware of your surroundings!" 

 

"Excuse me!"

 

"You ignored the obvious rules of the road, and you're hardly in protective gear!"

 

Bella surged with anger at the slights directed at her. "What are you even doing here?" She glanced down and took in the sights of ripped yogas, and a ruffled zip up, all of her clothing appeared high end. What the hell, even in athleisure wear, she looked goddess-like and ready to take anyone on. 

 

The brunette close to losing her temper took in deep breaths and decided to take in the scene before her. 

 

The blonde hesitated before she fixed her face in determination. "I'm  was  on a Run before I came across a moron skating in the dark without proper equipment or care for their surroundings." The girl came closer and moved to crouch in front of her. Bella seethed and proceeded to shove the girl away, but gave a cry when her arm pulsed in pain. 

 

"Watch it! I'm trying to help you take off the stupid skates."

 

Gritting her teeth, she cradled her arm, and her ears rang with each pulse of pain. Cold dexterous fingers gripped her and examined the injury. A sigh escaped her lips as the cooling sensation eased the burning sensation on her wound. 

 

"If you're just going to insult me and continue the glaring that you're so good at, then keep jogging. God, I don't know what I did to you, but I know I don't deserve this attitude." Her rant was cut short by the intense look the blonde sent her. 

 

"Stop moving. I think you fractured it." As the blonde spoke, the words traveled across her face. A burst of strawberry mint breath washed over her senses. Bella's eye's fluttered at the request, and she stilled instantly. 

 

Blonde brows furrowed at her, and before the brunette could inquire, a car pulled up beside them. A sleek grey Mercedes with the tinted windows pulled up. Bella startled when arms gripped her back and swept her knees from behind. "What the hell are you doing? I can walk." A scoff from the blonde irritated her, "It's my arm, not my legs."

 

"You still have those stupid skates on, and you refused my help in taking them off."

 

She struggled futilely and cursed her small statue gifted to her by her Dad. Panic settled in when she realized the blonde was strolling the direction of the car. "Who is that? Dude, this isn't funny!" 

 

"Don't call me, Dude. I have a name, and this is my Mom. I texted her when you were lying on top of me." That did nothing to placate Bella. 

 

As hands helped her into the car, her mind screamed at her to run from this unknown car, but at the same time, her body relaxed into Rosalie's side without hesitation. Her bodily dilemma confused her further.

Granted, the insults Rosalie threw in her direction that night were unwarranted, but she could manage. 

 

At the hospital, Bella avoided breaking the news to her Dad by drawing out the process. The brunette dreaded the interrogation and panic that would unfold in the waiting room. Bella was unaware that at the same time, Rosalie explained the events that took place to Carlos in the waiting room. Only for her to receive a hug from her Dad and a concerned gaze as they left the hospital.

 

The entire week flew by in a flurry of motions. The teasing from her friends expected, but the tentative cordial relationship with Rosalie Hale exhausted her beyond reason. Bella couldn't get a read on anything the blonde did or the intent behind her actions, the energy that went into deciphering their brief but loaded encounters could power a small boat. Maybe then she could get away from it all.

 

Jasper, in her Government and Politics course, seemed different. It could've been that she read too much into it, but Bella knew she hadn't when his demeanor shifted. The entire class Bella had to remind herself to stop staring because the mannerisms from the boy seemed more mechanic than his usual militaristic behavior. His expression empty, but his eyes blazed with restrained emotion. At least she could see the resemblance between the Hale twins because of their constant personality shifts. They both were similar, she guessed, one could say.  

 

Angela, Jess, and friends in her other classes offered to take notes neat enough for her to photograph or copy.

 

However, all the offers were thrown out the window In English class. Bella stared dumbfounded at the chalkboard as Jess's text messages kept her phone vibrating in her pocket. Out of the corner of her eye, she took in the pale, slender hand as it glossed over the blank pages with calligraphy that looked practiced and tastefully aged. 

 

With a hidden glance around, she noticed everyone facing forward or nose in their notes. As to not alert anyone or disrupt the class, she carefully took her phone from her pocket and unlocked it. 

 

Jess: She wants your children.

 

Angela: What?

 

Jess: BEllA

 

Jess: Oh my god

 

Jess: This tension is so thicc that I can barely breathe. Ask for my safeword next time, please. 

 

Angela: ✨𝓼𝓱𝓾𝓽 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓯𝓾𝓬𝓴 𝓾𝓹✨

 

Angela: I'm going to remove myself from this chat. 

 

Jess: I'll add you back anyway. So your call, sweetie. 

 

Bella: I don't know what to say. I'm so confused? We'll talk after?

 

The brunette locked her phone and slid the device back into her pocket. Her body relaxed into the chair because no one seemed to take notice of the phone. A throat cleared beside her, and she froze. 

 

Rosalie was staring right at her and glanced down in the direction of her pocket. She leaned closer to whisper, and a shiver went down Bella's spine, as the same smell from that night invaded her nose. "Next time, I have to take the phone." 

 

Bella flushed in embarrassment and reflexively kicked Jess's chair. A giggle spilled passed her friend's lips at the jostle.

 

When class ended, Jessica moved to carry her bookbag despite her protests, but a hand swiped out before both of theirs could reach it and snatched the bag by the straps.

 

Rosalie smiled tightly. "I can walk her to lunch after we make a copy of the notes." 

 

Bella blanked, and Jess nodded with a giant smile on her face and disappeared with a quick kiss to her cheek. "See you in a few!" 

 

Rosalie neatly put away her items into her own expensive-looking bag and held onto her cheap bag the entire time. She shook her head at her absurd thought because it almost seemed like Rosalie was buying time and preventing her from swiping her bag back. "I can carry my bag." With her hand extended, she waited, and she couldn't believe the audacity of this girl as she walked right by her. 

 

"Did you want to stay for English round 2?" 

 

Bella then looked around and saw the classroom almost full with students. With a huff, she fell in step with the blonde as she took them to the copier. The silence became unbearable as they waited in line behind the others wanting to use the machine. Amber eyes dropped down to her hands, and she ceased her actions upon realizing she was flicking her thumb. 

 

"Thank you for helping me the other day. I never got to thank you. My Dad said you and your Mom left after filling him in on the details." Chewing on her cheek, she paused before continuing. "I don't know what you said to him, but thank you because I avoided so many punishments." 

 

Bow-shaped lips lifted in a gentle smile, and Bella's filter launched itself out of the conversation. "You have a cute smile." 

 

Amber eyes swirled with amusement and something else she couldn't detect. Probably ridicule because why did she say that?

 

"Thank you." Her eyes trailed across Bella's face as if searching. "Your Dad seemed upset, but I told him you went skating with me while I jogged."

 

"Thank you for covering for me. I didn't even know you jogged, but I guess I got lucky." She paused as it came to her, why was Rosalie there? "Wait, Emmett said you were out of town." 

 

The blonde's demeanor shifted from playful to reserved within seconds of her question. "It's a hobby." Bow shaped lips pursed, and a familiar taught line formed across her brows. "I came back early with my Mom, but I needed to get out of the house." 

 

Bella felt unsettled by her dismissive answer. Rosalie's gaze avoided her entirely as if omitting something or lying. "How fast do you run because I was cruising." That did the trick, and Rosalie immediately tensed up as they stepped up to photocopy the notes. 

 

"Staple or whole punched?"

 

"Um, staple, please." 

 

"Here you go."

 

Those curt words set the mood for the short walk to the cafeteria. Rosalie's tone of cold indifference halted the recent steps they made in forming a friendship. Bella felt as if she'd fallen into icy waters. The little progress they made thrown back into her face, destined to fight with one another.

 

"I'd prefer if you didn't tell anyone that I ran into you or helped you." 

 

Bella bit her cheek and chose to reserve the tongue lashing for later in the privacy of her room. 

 

"Sounds good." 

 

She refused to falter and walked directly to her seat in the cafeteria. The entire walk she felt the glare on her back and battled the urge to turn around and send her a universal gesture of contempt, the middle finger salute. 

 

Angela's voice broke through her angry haze as she sat down. "Bella, you good girl? What happened?" 

 

She could have spewed the events without any regard for the blonde, but she knew she would feel terrible about it after. 

 

"I fell off my skates riding home. I totally bailed, and it could've been worse, but I got lucky." 

 

"I knew it. God! Last time I fucking believe you." Jess smacked her petite hands on the table, and Bella flinched back. "We waited for a text in the group chat!"

 

"Woah, easy there, Jessie." Angela clasped Jessica's hands and coaxed her to relax. "She's fine because accidents happen, but look were all here, so no need to stress." 

 

Bella's curls bounced as she enthusiastically agreed. "Seriously, I'm sorry on my part. I should've been more careful, but you only live once, so fuck it, ya know?" Her attempt to be humorous fell flat on the two girls, but Emmett's boisterous laugh was all she needed to feel better. She smiled toothily as Edwards musical laughter joined.

 

"Fine." Her shoulders sagged in relief as the discussion over her 'accident' ended. "So, what did Rosalie want?" 

 

Brown hazel eyes shifted uncomfortably across Rosalie's siblings at the table, her friends. "What do you mean? She wanted to give me the notes." 

 

Jessica rolled her eyes and directed the most scathing look at her. "C'mon, don't play with me like this, Bella. She's a student intern and already took the class for credit. Why didn't she just give you her notes?" 

 

Bella's brows furrowed as she realized that Jess made an excellent point. Why didn't she also just let her take a picture on her phone if she needed the notes too? 

 

She flushed, now aware of the multiple sets of eyes on her at the table, taking in her silence. 

 

"I don't know. I think she genuinely wanted to give me the notes." Glancing at Edward and Emmett, she saw them engaged in their own conversation, she mumbled to herself. "It doesn't matter, though, because I somehow pissed her off."

 

"What was that?"

 

"Anyway, I would ask you all to sign my cast, but I have a brace. So I will instead ask you all out for coffee." Jessica thankfully took the hint to drop it and went ahead with planning their outing. The conversation extended to the entire table and away from Bella's end.  

 

Emmett's hands took the sheets from in front of her. His amused eyes took in neat writing, and Edward from beside him smirked. Her head tilted slightly in question as they both leaned forward. 

 

"Oh, it's nothing." With a dismissive wave of his large hand, Emmett continued. "Actually, it's not really a big deal, and it's more like ' The More You Know, ' but this is Rosalie's artistic calligraphy. Well, I don't know. Eddie, can you explain better?" 

 

"Rosalie, much like myself, is a brooding artist. She writes all her poetry in this script. This is her free hand." He took out an old tethered notebook and opened it—a beautiful series of notes written about the easiness of the lecture. "This is how she writes, but we don't know. We're only her brothers." All of this information, combined with her earlier interaction, piqued her curiosity, and words flew out of her mouth before she could help it. 

 

"I thought you guys were out of town this past weekend." 

 

"We were, but half of us came back early." Edward glanced behind her and probably toward his siblings. 

 

"Ahh, so are you all a sporty type of family?" 

 

"God, no. We only go camping, because Carlisle and Jasper love it. Alice loathes it. Her hobby is more fashion-oriented." With a small smile, Emmett leaned forward. "If we're talking Rose here, she is very much a car person. That's all she loves and does."

 

That felt honest compared to Rosalie's explanation earlier, and it didn't add up. Unless she was reading too much into it, if Rosalie usually jogs, wouldn't that be something that she loved? Bella could not say she ever felt like going for a jog to get out of the house.

 

The entire conversation felt weirdly catered to an audience. Almost as if it wasn't just the three of them talking. The likelihood of this was ridiculous, but she couldn't shake the suspicion that others were tuned in to their discussion. The duo in front of her seemed way too exuberant for a conversation between them.  

 

Bella had failed to formulate a response before the table's conversation reached them. "Bella, so coffee this weekend and then costume shopping?" She nodded in affirmation before she could ask specifics or even think if her Dad would allow it. 

 

The rest of the day went by in a blur, and her mood ruined. Not even Emmett could get her out of her funk. The entire day felt off after her interaction with Rosalie went south. She went over the encounter and dissected it multiple times, looking for her mistake. Around the thirteenth time she went through their conversation, she realized the problem likely originated when she'd complimented Rosalie's smile, and now she'd ruined any chances of eliminating the tension throughout their interactions. 

 

Her Dad noticed her behavior but didn't comment anything else besides a quick, "You good?" And For that, she was grateful because she could hardly think about it on her own. But talking to her Dad about a girl she finds attractive, for the wrong reasons, that was asking for her Dad to question her orientation. Okay, so she found Rosalie attractive, but who didn't? 

 

That night was different from the others. As she lay in bed, the brunette replayed the entire encounter and cursed herself for complimenting the girl. In the process of thinking about the blonde and losing herself in the streak of masochism, she drifted into slumber. 

 

She spent the entire following week confused out of her fucking mind. 

 

On Tuesday, Rosalie acted as if she didn't completely brush her off the day before. 

 

On Wednesday, the blonde during class was friendly enough, but on the walk to lunch, she became closed off and trailed behind her and Jess. The entire interaction beyond uncomfortable. 

 

On Thursday, well, Thursday was the absolute worst. Rosalie proceeded to ignore her without any indication she would be doing so. In an optimistic mood, she offered Rosalie and her sibling's seats at their table. The olive branch Bella extended snipped before she could finish her offer of friendship. Loud silence was the only response she received. If Rosalie didn't want to be friends, she could've answered with curt answers or simply said no, Bella would've been fine. 

 

Although her temper flared when Rosalie straight up ignored her, Bella jumped to her defense as someone at the table she barely knew called Rosalie a bitch. No one deserves to be called a bitch in an unempowering way.

 

This is why on Friday, Bella's patience, already worn thin, snapped. The audacity Rosalie possessed was astronomical. She came to class with a smile directed at her and pep in her step. 

 

"Good morning, Bella." She looked past her and said the same to Jess. Both of them couldn't fully grasp the change in mood, and Bella gave way to irritation. She wanted to ignore her, but then she'd be no better than her. 

 

"Morning." She turned her back to the blonde and focused on Jess. 

 

"Anyway, the party is next Saturday at Lauren's house. Her parents are going out of town, and they approved a Halloween bash."

 

"I'm not sure I should go. I'm pretty sure she hates me." 

 

In fact, the girl at their lunch table rarely ever spoke to Bella. She randomly quirked her lip in her direction as if to smile, but that didn't equate to friendship. 

 

"Bella, you couldn't be more wrong. She's clearly crushing on you, so give her what she wants." Wiggling her brows, she giggled. "A sexy but cute Halloween costume, and she'll be happy you came." 

 

Then it hit Bella. She didn't need to come out to her friends. Their calm and leisurely way to bring up sexuality soothed her as if it was clear that no one was completely hetero. The weight on her chest lessened as she realized she would only have to really 'come out' to her Dad. 

 

The bell rang, and Jess had told her the previous night not to worry about taking Rosalie's notes because she'd take notes for both of them. 

 

The entire class, she refused to look in Rosalie's direction even with her stare burning into the side of her face. The feeling of Dejavu washed over her as they found themselves back in square one. Their first encounter at school burned into her memory.

 

When the bell rang, Bella grabbed her bag and put it on. 

 

"I have your notes here." 

 

"No, thank you." 

 

"C'mon, Bella." Jess clasped their hands together and pulled her safely into the hallway. They made their way through the foot traffic with Bella trailing slightly behind. 

 

A gust of air forcefully left her lungs with the force of her bag yanked backward. She crashed into a solid form, and the same form practically dragged her off to the side of the hallway. 

 

"What the fuck, dude." Blonde brows furrowed in contempt at the nickname. "You can't yank on me like that. Just call my name like someone not trying to murder me." 

 

"Look, I just wanted to apologize for my behavior--"

 

"Don't want to hear it." 

 

"I'm sorry--"

 

"Nope."

 

"Can you not do that?" She gestured at her hand, where her fingers were currently picking at each other. 

 

"First of all, don't tell me what to do. Second of all, I don't want to hear your half-assed apologies if you're only going to keep up with the back and forth attitude." With a frown on her face, she continued. "Listen, I don't know you well at all, but if you have such adverse feelings against me, then why even talk to me. I don't know what I personally did for you to hate me so much, but I'm not here for it." 

 

Bella paused her speech. "Whenever you work through whatever this is then feel free to approach me so we can talk, until then, I don't want to hear it."

 

"I don't hate you--"

 

"Actions, not words." With a sigh, Bella turned toward the cafeteria. The hallways empty and void of anyone besides them. At the moment, she realized Rosalie might've caught wind from their table discussion the other day. "For the record, I don't think you're a bitch, but I do think you're confusing and irritating." She walked away. "See you Monday."

 

At their table, they went over their plans to go searching for costumes. Bella took a couple of minutes to file the earlier encounter away. 

 

"Wait, are you doing a couple's costumes?" 

 

Emmett grinned ear to ear, and Edward smiled as he spoke. "I already pieced our costumes together. No, it isn't a couple's costume, but they're going to be so perfect." 

 

Eric interjected. "I highly doubt it's better than Mike and mines."

 

"What is it?" Bella questioned. 

 

"Ketchup and mustard." A giggle escaped her lips as Edward appeared insulted, and Jess looked amused. 

 

"Ours is a movie costume!"

 

"Wait, you guys are a couple?" 

 

Their banter buzzed in the background as Angela turned to her. "So, we're going thrifting?"

 

"I hope you both don't mind, we could always go to a costume shop or something, but--"

 

"We don't mind like at all. We always make our own costumes because who would seriously buy a sixty dollar costume that's just clothes. Not dissing it, but, you know." 

 

"Couldn't agree more, Ang." She hesitated before continuing. "So who, all is going shopping?" 

 

"It'll be you, Me, Lauren, and Jessie." Angela's kind gaze trailed across Bella's face. "Don't worry. She doesn't hate you, I promise. It's like we said about Rosalie last time. Miscommunication is the enemy, not each other." 

 

Bella mentally laughed at her attempt to placate her. It only succeeded in bringing up the earlier discussion and the possibility that Lauren was joining them. Angela had a point though, it was probably a miscommunication, but in Rosalie's case, it just couldn't be. They'd hashed it out enough to determine Rosalie despised her. Bella, exhausted at this point, had tried more than enough to communicate.  

 

At the end of the day, though, a little thought nagged her in the back of her mind.

 

Why did she care so much? 

Chapter Text

"Hey, do you love this hat?"

 

"Um..."

 

Without missing a beat, Jess launched the material off of her head and into the mess of bins behind her. 

 

"Forget it. It's gone. Forget it." 

 

Jess's stare roamed across her form, and she felt naked beneath the scan. Bella shifted her weight between her feet nervously as she glanced around her, hoping Angela would come out with her outfit next. 

 

"How do you feel about this look?" 

 

Bella paused in contemplation. She'd never worn things that her Mom didn't approve of because it would incite a fight. In fact, her Mom regularly critiqued her appearance or her weight when trying on clothes, but she'd never asked Bella for her opinion. 

 

How did she feel?

 

"I'm not sure." 

 

Understanding eyes met hers, and the urge to flee from the building intensified. Bella only really wore comfortable clothing, and although she wanted to develop her sense of style, she felt crippling fear at the prospect of looking stupid in what she thought was cute clothes. 

 

The last time she went shopping for clothes was before her Mom agreed to her living with her Dad. 

 

"Nena, they're your friends, but I'm your Mother." Her hands pulled and shifted the fabric across her body. As if searching for the beauty in a scrap of fabric on her or maybe a semblance of beauty on her body. "I would never lie to you and let you look ridicula." The same hands pinched at her thighs and hips. "Ya vez, start working out more. At your age, I had abs and everything." 

 

"Bella?" Angela's voice in her ear caused her to flinch away from the proximity of it. Her eyes took in Angela's outfit and Jess's absence. The concerned eyes of her friend made her feel worse, so she quickly acted.

 

"I love it! You look like a sexy Velma. God, I know Jess is going to find a killer Daphne outfit too." Shaking her head in mock frustration, she continued. "The ultimate power couple." Angela's flushed cheeks only added to her suspicion that they both were very much crushing on each other. 

 

"Thank you."

 

"I love the dress you have on, but it does nothing to accent your figure. Where did you even find this? It looks like you're drowning in it." Jess, from literally out of nowhere, came back into the conversation wearing her clothes. 

 

Lauren approached the trio with a couple of items in hangers, without a word, she handed the stack to Bella and nodded for her to go try them on. Confused and stressed because of her relationship with shopping, she complied without hesitating. 

 

A muffled voice came through the curtain. "Can I come in?" 

 

"Yeah."

 

She nearly tripped over her shoes after seeing Lauren very casually come through the curtains and close them behind her. As if sensing her confusion, she spoke, her voice gentle. "I love them, but I'm glad I don't have to third wheel when shopping anymore." Her eyebrows shot up as they roamed across her. "That's a cute dress, but on you, it looks amazing. I'm glad I found it." 

 

"Thank you." For the compliment or finding the dress, she wasn't sure yet. "Did you have luck finding anything?" She adjusted the fabric, and expertly removed her bra without exposing herself. Lauren approached her and stopped inches from her. Bella felt fingers clasp the laces on her exposed back to tighten and tie them. 

 

"No, but I have a feeling I'll find something at home or last minute. Do you promise not to tell anyone my costume if I tell you?" A shiver ran down her spine as Lauren's breath traveled across her neck. She nodded. "Cherie Currie."

 

Bella smiled in surprise and tried to spin around, but hands firmly gripped her hips, preventing her from turning. "Not done yet." 

 

"Sorry. That's so cool, and you even have the same shade of blonde." 

 

"No joke, the hair color factored in a lot more than I would've liked, but it worked out." A slight pressure on her back indicated she finished. She spun around. Her usual bright blue eyes looked darker in the poorly lit dressing room. Lauren's eyes narrowed as they took in her appearance. "Let's show them." 

 

A hand opened the curtains, and Jess and Angela came into view. Jess beamed as she circled her with a look of approval. 

 

Bella felt oddly content with her purchases as they walked back to the car to leave the items in Angela's van. No reservations about her choice or the way it looked on her. 

 

The rest of the evening went by with relative ease after Angela dropped her off. 

 

The smile on her face drew suspicion from her Dad as she did some laundry, but she couldn't bring herself to care. She didn't care though because Angela was right. Lauren didn't hate her, which meant Rosalie might not either. She couldn't control their actions, but she could hold her judgment. 

 

After Bella unloaded the dryer, she began to fold, hang up, and put away her clothes. The rhythm and routine were smooth and seamless, only to be interrupted by her phone buzzing multiple times. 

 

An unknown number sent her a handful of messages. Curious, she unlocked the device and took in the grey bubbles. Bella quickly updated the contact and sent back a response upon realizing it was Emmett. She was surprised seeing as they'd exchanged numbers her first week, but he never texted her. 

 

Emmett: Bella

Emmett: Please

Emmett: Answer me back

Emmett: This is Emmett btw

 

Bella: Hey, what's up?

 

Emmett: You busy tonight? 

 

The brunette looked at the time displayed on her phone and was curious as to what else she could be doing. Did she even want to do anything else social? 

 

Bella: No, I'm just doing laundry. What's up?

 

Emmett: Want to come over for a sleepover????

Emmett: Edward went camping this weekend since he won't be going next weekend. So I'm alllll alone in this bitch. 

 

Bella: I can ask my Dad, but I'm not sure if he'll say yes.

Bella: Worst case scenario. Would your parents be home (to verify), and are they okay with it? 

 

Emmett: Yes, Carlisle and Esme are both going to be home. And so are my sisters. 

 

She bit her cheek as she thought about how to approach this with her Dad. She could just say she asked him when she'd asked for permission to go shopping but thought better to be transparent. Bella groaned, there's no way her Dad would buy that lie. 

 

Her mind made up she made her way down the steps toward the sound of sports commentary and voices chattering. 

 

Billy, Her Dad, and Harry were all engaged in a heated discussion regarding a terrible call made by the referee. She noticed that even in their fight, they appeared friendly. Billy saw her first and sent her a smile before tossing a cushion at her Dad. The object missed the target and hit Harry, who, in return, looked offended. 

 

"Dad?" he immediately cleared his throat and directed his attention to her. "I was wondering if I could sleepover at a friend's house?"  

 

His eyebrows furrowed, and he finished his beer in his grip. "Which friend?" 

 

"Emmett, his parents are home, and so are his sisters. They even said if need be, you can call them." The chatter between the two guests ceased.

 

"I trust you." With a groan, he got up from the couch and collected the empty bottles to bring to the bin in the kitchen. "Be careful, and please don't do anything stupid. When should I expect you back?" 

 

"Tomorrow." She hesitated before continuing. "Can you drop me off?"

 

He ran his hand across the scruff on his jaw. "You can take the car. I'd rather you have a way to get around safely." Bella kissed her Dad on the cheek and went to gather her items and check her phone. "Make sure you bring something with you." Her Dad called after her, and the brunette rolled her eyes because she knew that.

 

After plugging in the address Emmett sent into the GPS, she saw that their house was in the complete opposite direction of the rink. Why had Rosalie jogged all the way out by the rink and not around her home? Surely, there are better-equipped routes for running near her where her parents probably didn't mind her jogging. 

 

Come to think of it, Rosalie wasn't even wearing reflective gear, and there wasn't a sidewalk for her to use. Who was she to give her grief if she wasn't safely jogging?

 

Freshly irritated, she packed her bag and made sure not to forget anything important. After double-checking, she made her way out the door and said goodbye to everyone in the living room. But Bella couldn't shake the feeling that she forgot something important. 

 

Bella rolled her eyes at the light on the dashboard. Her Dad, notorious for leaving gas until the last minute, had graced her with the task of getting gas. Swiping her card on the pump, Bella noted that she'd need to start working soon. Her savings gradually depleted throughout the past month.

 

The door above the bell rang as the brunette made her way to the snack aisle and mulled over what to bring to her first visit. What should she bring to someone else's house that they'd like?

 

Arms full of a wide variety of snacks, and a pocket full of loose change, Bella was on her way. 

 

The scenery of the forest at night brought melancholy into her heart. She didn't necessarily understand it in that exact moment, but she could sure as hell feel it. 

 

Anything Bella had ever said about her middle-class friends in Pheonix doesn't mean a damn thing. The house (more like mansion?) stood on an incline and exuded an intimidating presence. In place of brick or vinyl siding, there were large windows. The architectural design screamed wealth. The garden looked kept after, and all the cars lined up along the gravel lead to what looked like a garage. Everything looked new. 

 

After sitting in the car for what felt like seconds, but in actuality was closer to half an hour, Bella worked up the courage to walk up to the door. She simply stood there for a while and couldn't muster the courage to knock. Every time she felt like she'd worked up the courage to knock, she convinced herself otherwise. 

 

She couldn't do this.

 

Her feet began to move backward, and just as she was about to turn and sprint for the car, the door opened. A blonde Man came into view with an expensive-looking combover that was stylistically messy. Her question from the drive home upon meeting Emmett answered because this man was the palest person on earth. His hair practically white and not a trace of melanin on his features. Everyone but Emmett looked similar. But not even the same?  

 

Eyebrows furrowed and mouth wide open, she failed to compose herself fast enough to speak first. "Isabella?" Closing her mouth so fast she bit her tongue, she winced as she nodded. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Carlisle. I was on my way to bring out the trash, but please, feel free to come inside. Emmett is in the family room." 

 

"Thank you, Mr. Cullen." He nodded and made room for her to pass by with her bags. The house screamed Good Housekeeping, the decor beyond beautiful, but almost inconvenient to live with the pristine decor.

 

"Bella!" Strong arms wrapped her up and tossed her onto a shoulder. 

 

"Let me down!"

 

"I will let you down." He took off with dizzying speed, and Bella closed her eyes upon seeing the marble floors pass by upside down. "After, I bodyslam you." 

 

"God, no." She was about to scream bloody murder, but something halted their movement. 

 

"Emmett put her down, now. She's so much smaller than you. You can practice with Rosalie later." Bella pictured the image, and a chuckle slipped passed her lips. 

 

Emmett put her down, and Bella greeted Esme. A megawatt smile blinded Bella before Esme pulled her into a gentle hug. "It's nice to see you again, Bella." 

 

"Nice to see you again too." As Bella hugged her back, she looked toward the doorway where all the items lay on the floor. "I brought some stuff for the household. I wasn't sure what you'd all like but--" 

 

"Who the hell went into the garage?!!" Bella jumped back at the sudden appearance of Rosalie Hale. She could've sworn that she hadn't been there seconds before. 

 

"Rose." Esme grabbed her upper arm, which prompted the blonde to stop and take in Bella's presence. "We have company, why don't you say hello?" 

 

Lips pulled into a thin line, and eyebrows furrowed Rosalie complied. "Good evening, Bella." The beautiful curve of her jawline and chin strained with tension. Blonde hair whipped Bella in the face with a vengeance as the owner turned to glower at Emmett. "Did you go through my tools?" Bella could only blink in response.

 

"Nope."

 

"I know it was you, Em."

 

"I didn't touch it." 

 

"Esme!"

 

"Sweetie, it seems like he's telling the truth. Did you try asking others? I know Jasper was in there this morning." Rosalie stopped as she processed the words. 

 

Bella just stood right in the middle of their discussion, hating her positioning. If she moved backward to give them room, they would notice and immediately backtrack, making it even more awkward for her. She could always ask to use the restroom quickly to get out of the line of fire. 

 

"May I use your restroom?"

 

Three sets of amber eyes turned to her. 

 

Esme was the only one to respond. "Of course. Emmett, why don't you show her to your room and where to put her bag so she can use the restroom." 

 

"She's sleeping in Em's room?" Rosalie said in disbelief. "No, she can stay in mine, and I'll stay in Edward's room." 

 

Bella just wanted the floor to swallow her. She'd just had one of the most confusing weeks of her life only to continue it through the weekend. She found herself staring at her reflection in Rosalie's spacious bathroom. The blonde's smell overpowered her senses. The distinct scent sent a shiver down her spine. 

 

"Bella?" Rosalie's voice carried through the door and into the large bathroom. "Are you okay in there?" 

 

In a frenzy to get out of the bathroom, she attempted to make noise that sounded like she'd used the restroom. On the first step of her plan, Bella freaked out when she saw no toilet paper. As quietly as she could, she removed her finger from flushing and opened the cabinets only to curse as the hinges squeaked. 

 

Gently moving items around, she couldn't believe her luck, no toilet paper. The entire storage and shelving contained high-end body washes, oils, and perfumes, but not a single sign of a stupid roll of paper. Bella gently closed the cabinets and sighed in relief when they didn't squeak. Freaking out, she leaned back into the sink and shoved her face into her hands. With a deep breath, she calmed down enough to think things through. 

 

She had two options. 

 

Continue the lie and pretend she didn't wipe to ignore the blaring absence of the toilet paper. Of course, she'd just run the risk of Rosalie coming in there after her and noticing she used the bathroom without the proper equipment.

 

 Or she just asks for toilet paper, but then how would she explain the time she spent in here without using the bathroom. Mortification washed over the brunette as she realized there was no right answer. 

 

Another knock on the door followed, but Rosalie's voice sounded muffled. Then a falsetto voice carried through the door. "Bella! I'm so sorry. I forgot to put more toilet paper in Rose's room when I used it last." 

 

Bella flushed horribly. "Uhh."

 

"I'm taking her downstairs with me, but I'm leaving a roll outside the door. Feel free to grab it in a second." Then the sounds of struggling and clothes shuffling sounded followed by a loud thud. Bella could've sworn that someone was wrestling, but dismissed it.

 

Embarrassed, she made her way downstairs. 

 

"God damn, Bella." Emmett's booming voice greeted her from the bottom steps. "Did you fall into the toilet?" 

 

Bella, wholly exhausted and semi regretting her commitment to socialize more, launched herself at him jokingly (but kind of not jokingly). Never has she regretted so many of her actions in such a short span. 

 

"You bitch." She cried as he caught her with ease and carried her by her underarms, only to dump her unceremoniously onto a comfortable couch in a big room. 

 

Prepared to continue the fight, she paused at the giant smile on Em's face. The genuine elation in his features was hard to ignore or pretend wasn't there. Bella felt herself return the smile because she couldn't stay mad. Not at him.

 

"So, what movie are we watching?"

 

"What have you seen or haven't seen?" His eyebrow rose, and she revised her question. "Scratch that, what do you feel like watching? Since apparently, you stand by your claim that you've seen anything and everything."

 

He shot her an exaggerated wink and searched through his streaming services. 

 

Bella used the time to examine their surroundings. The walls were a deep red and held no windows. The only source of light in the room came from the dimmed overhead bulbs. The built-in screen looked like it belonged in a movie theatre rather than in someone's home. Speakers were positioned strategically out of plain sight and around the room. 

 

Emmett searched through a laptop that mirrored to the screen, and Bella, well, she felt odd. 

 

A warm feeling that could only be affection and endearment swelled in Bella's chest, but she fought back her watery smile. 

 

Although she had minimal experience with sleeping at other people's homes or going to other people's homes, she couldn't quite believe the relative ease she felt around Em and (most of) his family.

 

"So is it just us--"

 

"I'm not watching all the Marvel movies again, Emmett!" 

 

Bella whipped her head around to see a tiny pale person practically dance into the room with Rosalie behind her. The girl had pitch-black hair that was disorderly, but with a purpose. Did their entire family consult and follow the same fashion trends? Her nose button and small, even her night ware looked high end. Bella remembered her as Alice. It seemed fitting. 

 

And beside her stood Rosalie. 

 

Joggers and a baggy T-shirt, but she'd never looked more ethereal. In the most normal clothes, she somehow managed to exude confidence in her appearance. As if she were able to walk the runway with this look alongside people wearing formal outfits without a problem.

 

Rosalie's eyebrow quirked, and Bella felt her breaths shorten. 

 

"Bella is the guest, and she gets to choose. You wanted to watch all the avenger movies, right?" 

 

Three sets of amber eyes settled on her still reeling body. She cleared her throat and glanced around the room. "We can play the odds for our picks?"

 

"What are the odds?" Alice said, intrigued, she sat beside Bella on her left.

 

"What is your pick for tonight?" Bella asked.

 

"Miss Congeniality!" Emmett rolled his eyes at Alice's request.

 

"Well, ask me what the odds are we watch it." 

 

"What are the odds we watch Miss Congeniality?" 

 

"I choose a range from zero to infinity. I choose one in ten. So at that moment, you and I both count down from three and choose a number between one in ten. If we, by chance, choose the same number, then we watch it." She shrugs. " It's normally a game of dare, but it gets stuff done." 

 

Rosalie sat down beside Bella, close enough to touch thighs, but just far enough, they didn't meet. "Or we could just let Bella choose since she is our guest." 

 

Bella met Rosalie's stare and almost lost it when she sent her a smile. She felt angry with herself for finding Rosalie attractive even as she treated her so poorly.

 

Already exhausted from earlier, her filter was out of the equation, so she spoke without reservations. Thankful, it came out more playful than she'd felt. "I'm sorry, are you speaking to me now?" Hand on her chest. "I wasn't sure what phase we were in again." 

 

"I've been trying to apologize, but you refuse to hear it." A pause, and Rosalie mumbled. "You're so stubborn, it's ridiculous." Bella's eyes narrowed at the snide remark.

 

"Are you serious right now?" Emmett interrupted the retort on her lips. "You're going to come to my sleepover and start a fight? Rose, I  will  tell Esme." His hands tossed in the air. "What would you even gain from starting a fight?" Emmett said in exasperation. 

 

Bella felt uneased when the tension bubbled over from playful teasing to borderline conflict. The sound of Emmett shutting the cabinet louder than necessary spurred Bella into her compliant personality. 

 

"Let's just watch Booksmart. I heard it was good, and I haven't gotten around to watching it." A lie, but one made for the greater good.

 

"We haven't seen it, too, actually," Alice said. 

 

In the darkness, Emmett was right between Alice and Bella. However, instead of sitting, Emmett had opted to lay across the couch and rest his legs across Alice's legs. Bella found herself playing with the ends of his curls. They felt incredibly soft, and she reminded herself to ask later what product he used because it was heavenly.

 

The snacks made it around, but every time Bella was handed a bag, she could've sworn they never grabbed any. In fact, the sour worms had made a total of six laps, but besides the noise of the wrapper, it weighed the same.

 

Bella was horrified after she noticed she'd eaten almost the entire bag on her own. They obviously never ate trash because they didn't possess an ounce of fat on them or even a single roll. And here she was just overindulging in front of models that care for their figure. Bella put the item down and simply sipped from her water for the duration of the night. 

 

The sex scene typically funny and laughable felt charged in the room. The proximity of Rosalie's thigh beside her bare leg felt charged. The desire to adjust her leg in the pretense of comfort just to see the blonde's reaction kept her busy the rest of the film. 

 

Into the second film, Bella fought back her drooping eyes but failed miserably. Passed out, she adjusted herself into a more comfortable position. Although sitting upright did not help the slumbering brunette. 

 

The brunettes soft puffs of air and resting heartrate signaled she was asleep.

 

"Careful with her neck, Rose. She's laying weird on you." Emmett moved to adjust her, but Rose's chest rumbled in a warning. "Okay, maybe try conveying your feelings to the human when she's awake."

 

Alice's amused eyes took in the scene before her. "He has a point, Rose. Bella's constantly seconds away from questioning your motive at any given moment." Alice ran a hand through her hair. "It's kind of giving me a headache how indecisive you both are being."

 

Rosalie's hands moved to comb through Bella's hair subconsciously, but that would've ended a disaster for everyone involved. Her eyes roamed across the features of the girl: full pouty lips, bold brows, and three tiny moles on her face. 

 

Rosalie knew if she were capable, her heart would be pounding in her chest from the proximity. Blood would be rushing through her veins in an attempt to flush her face. Her breaths would be coming in short gasps, and she would be fidgeting nervously. 

 

But she wasn't capable. 

 

She wasn't capable of a lot of things, but she was able to redirect her focus. 

 

"She's human." In a whisper, she continued. "We don't know how any of this works, but I know this isn't it." Her lips drew into a thin line. "So please, drop it. I don't want to talk about it again." 

Chapter Text

Bella gasped awake and shot up in the bed. Cold sweat formed on her brow and hairline. She felt out of breath and realized she must've had another bad dream, but she couldn't tell because she never remembered anything in her dreams. 

 

She glanced around the room and took in the empty walls. The bookshelves cluttered in comparison, and Bella smiled as she realized it resembled the condition of her new bedroom and the old one in Phoenix. The vanity was beautiful and organized—the only item on its surface, a modestly sized photograph framed beautifully. 

 

The lights shut off, and the only sound came from the fall breeze hitting the windows of the room. Bella's heart pounded in her chest with energy that told her she would not have luck falling back asleep. 

 

She quietly got out of the bed and flicked on the light on the stand. The low orange glow provided enough coverage for her to search for her phone and water bottle. Bella's hand found her phone in the covers, but her water bottle probably remained downstairs in their entertainment room. 

 

Wait, how did she get up there? 

 

She dismissed the question with a shrug because Emmett probably did her a favor. As the brunette descended the steps, she made sure not to make any noise as to disturb the others sleeping. She highly doubted anyone was awake at the crack of dawn or wanted to her to wake them at the ungodly time.

 

A whispered cry of triumph escaped her lips as she found her water bottle. 

 

Bella's eyebrows shot up, and some water dribbled past her lips at the sound of bare feet padding on the floor past the room toward the kitchen. 

 

"Fuck." The brunette dabbed at her mouth and took in her soaked shirt. 

 

"Why are you up?"

 

The brunette's eyes widened as she looked up to the sudden appearance of Rosalie. She tried to get over her shock and speak, but words wouldn't come out. 

 

"Are you okay?" Bella felt guilty for making so much noise and was about to answer, but Rosalie continued taking her silence as her answer. "Or are you still planning on ignoring me?" 

 

That seemed to do the trick because Bella knows how to give as good as she gets. The brunette walked to move past her, but a firm hand on her shoulder stopped her in her tracks. Bella refused to turn and face the self-righteous blonde, so she stood still in anticipation. 

 

"That was uncalled for; let's try that again," Rose said softly. "I just heard you come downstairs, and I figured since we were both awake, I could keep you company." Bella felt her eyebrows raise before she could keep the surprised look from her face. She turned to face the blonde. "I usually open up the shop on Sundays with Jasper, but he's not here. That's why I'm awake so early." 

 

Bella shrugged the hand from her shoulder and stood taller. She cursed her genes because, even at her tallest, she measured up to Rosalie's chest. Refusing to give in to the imposing height difference, she looked up and stared into the blonde's eyes. 

 

"Once I wake up, I can't fall back asleep, so I went to search for water." She cleared her throat. "Excuse me. I need to use the restroom." The brunette moved to walk back out of the room, but the sound of shoes squeaking on the marble reached her ears. Bella sadly had even less time to react before she was tackled and picked up in the same motion. 

 

Bella's top half remained upside down and faced Emmett's back. Her hair, at least still in a wrap, allowed for clear vision and less of a claustrophobic reaction. "Good morning, Em." She muffled against his T-shirt. 

 

"Wanna call your Dad and see if you can go with us to get breakfast and chill with us at the store?" The brunette hummed in contemplation against the boy's back and smiled at the giggles from Emmett at the tickling sensation. 

 

"Deal, but you need to put me down, and I need to shower." 

 

Emmett did as the deal entailed and stared as she pulled her phone out, checking the time. Bella dialed her Dad's number and knew he would be just leaving for work. 

 

"Bueno?"

 

Emmett stared and seemed to be listening to both sides of the conversation, but the volume was pretty low, so there was no way. Just to be sure she put a little space between them to assure herself. 

 

"Hey, Dad, how was last night?" 

 

"It was nice, but I can't drink beer the same way anymore. They left so energetically, and I went to bed feeling terrible. The other two are perfectly fine this morning. Is it me? Am I really that old?"  

 

"No, you're young and handsome." She paused and let him absorb what she was saying. "Sue seems to think so, at least, but that's all that matters, right?" Her Dad's barking laughter brought a smile to her face. 

 

"Nena, que quieres? I'm on my way to work, and I know this call isn't for pleasure."  Bella flushed as her Dad called her on it. 

 

"I did want to check-in, but I also wanted to ask if I can hang out with my friends a bit longer?" She looked toward Emmett and saw his toothy grin broaden. She shook her head at his energy this early in the morning. 

 

"You're okay, Nena. As long as you keep me posted on your whereabouts and you stay on top of schoolwork, you can go out and stay out." She felt a wave of emotions travel across her at the trust he held for her. 

 

With an affectionate tone, she hung up after saying goodbye. Bella cleared her throat and blinked back her watery eyes. She hated her ability to cry so easily. 

 

The morning went by relatively fast after Bella had showered in Rosalie's bathroom. Alice and Esme were awake by the time they'd left the house but opted out of breakfast because they planned to redecorate one of the rooms. She wasn't sure which room since everything looked brand new and in pristine condition, but she knew they were extremely talented if the house looked the way it did because of them.

 

Soon, Bella found herself awkwardly sat in a stool behind the counter as Rosalie managed the cash drawer. 

 

"So," Bella looked to Emmett, "whos Nena?" 

 

The brunette opened her mouth and furrowed her eyebrows. "It's a nickname." 

 

Rosalie turned to face her full as did Emmett, and she looked intrigued. "Your middle name?" She asked without stopping her tasking. 

 

"No, it's more like a term of endearment that close family and friends call me." Bella twirled around in the seat but abruptly stopped facing Emmett with narrowed eyes. She could've sworn she moved away to avoid him overhearing. "Eavesdrop much?" 

 

Emmett's tongue stuck out playfully. "Don't talk so loud then." He finished closing the drawer and moved to sit on top of the counter facing the backroom and Bella. "Wait, does that mean I get to call you, Nena? Since I'm the most important person in your life?" 

 

"Wow, that's very bold of you to assume I have an important person in my life." Emmett just stared at Bella in devastation. 

 

Rosalie looked at the two of them interact, and Bella leaned back in her seat once she realized her body blocked the blonde off from the conversation. Rosalie turned to face her. "What does it mean?"

 

 Bella began to answer but stopped.

 

She stood there momentarily stumped because people rarely asked her about the name when they heard it. 

 

"It's contextual, I guess, but don't take what I say for certain. My parents use it as a term of endearment. Uhh," she contemplated continuing and felt reassured at Em's encouraging nod. "My ex, well, they used it as babe or baby." 

 

Emmett looked curious, almost as if he wanted to ask but knew better. Bella's use of gender-neutral pronouns went noticed by Rosalie if her raised eyebrows were anything to go by and her sudden shift in demeanor. 

 

"Normally, Rose chooses the music, but since we dragged you into work, it's all you, Nena. " He comically wiggled his eyebrows. 

 

Bella chuckled at the way he smoothly slipped it into the sentence. She felt alright with him using it, which felt odd because she expected extreme discomfort. Not a warm feeling. 

 

"What are you in the mood for today?" 

 

"No country, please."

 

"Yeah, Jasper isn't here, so not bluegrass country or rock today, please." 

 

Bella gauged their expressions and stopped laughing when she concluded that they were not joking. After connecting to their Wifi and Bluetooth device, she scrolled through her playlists. The brunette put on her recently played and ignored the slight panic that shot through her. Her taste was all over the place, but she hoped it wouldn't upset anyone. 

 

Emmett smiled at her and immediately demanded that she share her playlist. "God, yes, I love this so much. Finally, something besides the emo stuff we listen to." 

 

Without missing a beat, the blonde spoke up.

 

"Fuck you, Em. My music is not Emo. Post-punk rock is so much more than that." She got up and looked ready to storm off but began to pace in front of the counter. "I never shit on your music choices, I even like the music you enjoy. I even let Jasper put on his shitty music, and I never say anything, but you decide to come at my preferences?" 

 

"You're going to tell me I'm wrong?" Emmett, riled up by his sister's behavior, also stood as he spoke. "All post-punk is fucking Emo, but that doesn't mean its bad. New wave surf rock, garage rock, and pop-rock are all made up of children from the emo age." 

 

Rosalie looked outraged at his oversimplification of something she was evidently passionate over. She glanced at Bella as if she expected Bella to side with her. The brunette fought back her delighted smile at their sibling banter and schooled her best face.

 

"Why are you looking at me like that? What do you think this is, The Office?" The blonde's glance morphed into a glare.

 

Emmett raised his hand in her direction and directed a look in the blonde's direction. "Bella, would you like to provide your input?" 

 

"Personally, I love all music. I even like country, but like with most music, I use it to reinforce my mood or in more extreme cases to alter my moods." She played with the phone on her lap. "I don't know. I do know that post-punk is straight-up Emo, but it's Emo now grown-up. Post-punk is such an umbrella genre, but since Emo stems from pop-punk, it means Post-punk has to be Emo, right?" 

 

Rosalie appeared irritated, Emmett looked delighted, and Bella felt confused. 

 

"I guess," Rose said. 

 

The rest of the early morning went by smoother, and Bella felt more at ease than she'd expected. 

 

The siblings just spent time debating over products advertized in auto magazines, and Bella enjoyed their company. Their banter, annoying at times, provided background noise. She reveled in the friendly atmosphere.  

 

'Is this what having a sibling is like?' 

 

That thought echoed through her head as she took in their words. Bella's stomach interrupted with a growl, and she darkened considerably as both of them looked at her. The brunette's embarrassment grew as she realized they heard it over the counter. 

 

"Woah, you hungry there, Nena?" Bella glared at Em. "I'll go get us some lunch, what do you want?" After taking all of their orders, he headed to the diner. 

 

The loud silence blared in her ears. The blonde's presence became more prominent, and without the interference of their buffer, the promise of conflict hung over them. Bella sat and refused to look up from her phone. She scrolled through her feed, choosing to catch up on her old friends. 

 

The bell rang on the front door, and Bella looked up in time to see a familiar face. 

 

Blue eyes lit up as their owner's smile stretched across their face. Shocked at seeing her direct a genuine smile in her direction, Bella returned the gesture. 

 

"Didn't expect to see you here," Lauren stated. 

 

"In a store?" Bella and Lauren redirected their eyes toward the tall blonde standing beside Bella. Wait, when had she stood up?

 

Lauren chose to ignore her and simply dismissed her with a weak half-smile. "Do you work here?" 

 

"No!" Bella choked out a quick response. "I don't work here. I'm just hanging out with Emmett." 

 

"Oh, is he here? I could tell you guys the plan for the party since you're both here." Lauren looked around, making sure she hadn't missed him. 

 

"He went to get us lunch," Rosalie spoke tersely. "He should be back with our food soon, is there something you need?" 

 

Lauren chose to ignore Rosalie's offer to get her out of the shop and turned back to Bella. "I wanted to ask you how your costume is coming along. I would've texted you, but I don't think I have your number." 

 

Bella felt giddiness at the prospect of discussing her costume with someone. She took the phone from Lauren's outstretched hand and plugged in her number. 

 

"Sorry, I kind of asked them not to share my number." Lauren nodded in understanding. Bella felt even more grateful for Angela and Jessica because the duo refused to give out her number. The fact that they listened to her simple favor meant a lot. "Though, I did find some fantastic net black tights with a floral print to add to the look."

 

"You didn't like the spider tights anymore?" 

 

Bella shook her head. "No, it was more like they didn't fit the costume anymore." She paused as she saw Emmett pull into the parking lot. "The only thing I need is shoes." The bell rang above the door, and Emmett came in with bags of food. 

 

"Yoooo!" Emmett greeted Lauren enthusiastically. "What's up?"

 

"Well, I came here for new foglights, but since you're both here, I could just tell you the plan for Saturday." Emmett took out the food and nodded, indicating he was listening. "Since everyone will be drinking, it's okay if you stay over. I'd rather you don't do anything dumb getting home. I told everyone the same thing. Jess and Angie are staying, but I think Eric and Mike are walking home since they live a block over." 

 

Bella wanted to clarify that she wouldn't drink but stopped before she gave Emmett another reason to tease her.

 

Rosalie stood defiantly quiet and still the entire time. Impressed by the blonde's ability to remain in one place and a tad curious, Bella formulated her question. "Wait, Lauren?" The blonde looked at her. "Who all is going?" 

 

Blue eyes shot to Rosalie and just as quickly darted back to her. "Pretty much whoever wants to go. It's usually just the same people." She turned to Em. "Except this time, we're excited that some new people are joining Edward, Emmett, and you."

 

Emmett grinned ear to ear as he slapped a heavy hand on his sister's shoulder. The force sounded impactful, but the blonde did not indicate that he hurt her. "You going, Rosie?" 

 

The blonde looked rigid, and a smirk spread on her perfect bow-shaped lips. The smile seemed hardened, and like it lacked genuine emotion. Bella realized her stare's intensity and quickly faced forward to avoid an awkward encounter. "I don't have anything else to do, so why not?" Bella stopped herself from scoffing in disbelief when Rosalie quirked an eyebrow at her small slip. "You can get ready with us, and we'll carpool."

 

Lauren's face fell into her default look of indifference. "Oh, I thought you were getting ready with us at my house?" 

 

Bella felt cornered and extremely uncomfortable. She hadn't expected Rosalie to want her to hang around their family. Especially after the ridiculously infuriating week. 

 

"Anyway," Lauren perked up again, "I'm just going to get my stuff, and I'll shoot you a text later." Bella nodded and waved at Lauren's retreating form. 

 

The rest of the day went smoothly, but Bella grew restless. 

 

Her Dad asked her about her weekend, but Bella didn't know what to say besides the normal 'it was fun.' 

 

Sunday night turned into Monday morning, and Bella lay in bed awake. The birds chirped in the early morning, and the brunette sighed as she realized she'd missed her window of opportunity to sleep.

 

The morning went by in the same fashion. 

 

Rocky as fuck.

 

When Bella drove to school, she noted Angela alone stood by her car. The smile plastered across her face, rooted in insincerity. The glassy look in Angela's kind brown eyes depicted her friend's true feelings. 

 

Lunch came and went. An ordinarily festive period resembled a somber affair. Bella felt guilt strike through her when she checked the group chat and noticed the last messages came Saturday night confirming everyone made it home. What could've possibly happened between Saturday night and Monday? 

 

Bella sat beside Angela, and Jessica sat beside someone she couldn't remember the name of for the life of her. The distance between the two best friends charged the entire table's dynamic by injecting it with tension.

 

Angela looked down into her binders containing photographs from her project. Bella noticed the cuticles of her friend's nails were raw and wounded. A similar trait she deployed, and she unsuccessfully attempted to curb countless of times.

 

Edward and Emmett sat with their siblings today. So Bella did the only thing she found rational at the moment. Fighting her instincts to flee from initiating physical touch, she set her mind. Her hand gently clasped over Angela's, and her brown eyes blinked into focus as they landed on Bella's hazel brown eyes. 

 

"Go to the bathroom with me?" 

 

The girls grabbed their bags and made their way past the restroom outside of the cafeteria and toward one of the overlooked bathrooms by the stairwell. Angela followed her in and simply stood there in silence. 

 

"Do you want to talk?" 

 

Angela bit her lip and shook her head. 

 

"Okay, you don't have to talk. I'm here if you need someone to listen to you." Bella's concern grew as teary eyes blinked away the film gathering in their corners. The ordinarily energetic Angela looked defeated, and in her place stood someone different. "I know we haven't known each other that long, but you can talk to me or just vent to me." 

 

 

Angela's head hung in the silence of the echoing bathroom. The blinding white walls and sinks reflected the ambiance perfectly. The bun on top of her head disorderly instead of the usual chic style. 

 

"I messed up." 

 

Bella almost jumped back, startled at the voice breaking the silence. She had not expected the brunette to speak. She nodded in encouragement. 

 

"Jess told me Saturday about this guy from her bio class texting her. I freaked out." She ripped her scrunchie from her hair and ran fingers through the knotted mess. "I told her I didn't care, and I said I didn't understand why she was telling me. I panicked, and she never messaged me or didn't even call me for out nightly facetime Sunday." 

 

Bella nodded and realized she paused for her input. "Did you message her?" 

 

"No, I didn't." 

 

"Angela, you need to make an effort to reach out. If anything, she thinks you're upset or don't care." She paused. "Maybe shoot her a text or ask her to get ice cream." 

 

The day's mood shifted from the bathroom encounter, and Bella realized the hypocrisy of her actions. She rarely took her own advice, but maybe it was time.

 

That night as she lay in bed, she took out her phone and typed a brief message. Four lines were short compared to the paragraphs she owed the person on the receiving end. 

 

A metaphorical weight lifted from her shoulders and the sound of soft guitar riffs floating in the room blended into the perfect ambiance to soothe her to sleep soon enough. 

 

Beside the brunette, her phone buzzed, and a pale white hand shot out to pick up the device. 

 

Amber eyes took in the message, and as they read line by line, the amber eyes darkened considerably until the onyx swallowed the golden color. 

 

Steady fingers expertly deleted the message and placed the device back in place. 

 

The brunette rolled onto her side, and the dark eyes roamed across the sleeping girl's features. The furrowed brows softened at the relaxed features on Bella's face. 

 

"Goodnight." 

Chapter Text

It's only the morning after that Bella woke up with weight lifted from her chest that she finally found pep in her movements. Although slightly saddened that she received no response, it didn't matter. Bella reached out and made an effort. That's more than she could've said if she ignored her own advice. 

 

Her mood considerably shifted as the week progressed and coincidentally just as Angela and Jessica seemingly made up. 

 

Bella's smile broke across her reflective state, and she made her way to the group hanging out beside Angela's van. 

 

"So, what's the plan kiddos?" 

 

"Ew," the blonde grimaced and stepped away from beside Eric, "we're the same age, and 'kiddos' sounds terrible coming from the babiest of faces from this group." Lauren turned toward the rest of them, ignoring the overdramatized look of shock on his face. "The party is tomorrow. You know the normal plan. Everyone leaves by eleven, twelve at the latest, and then you all can stay if you'd like to avoid going home." Blue eyes shifted nervously in her direction, and Bella grew uncomfortable with the loaded stare. 

 

Did she do something wrong?  

 

Lauren's mouth opened, and she hesitated. 

 

Bella felt panic rise like bile in her stomach. The feeling threatened to unleash itself in the form of word vomit. 

 

An arm tossed itself on top of her head, and Bella reflexively moved to shove it off of her hair. Disgruntled, she adjusted her now disheveled hair as she fixed her best glare. 

 

Only to be greeted with the sight of Emmett grinning ear to ear, with Edward standing behind him in his typical edgy fashion. 

 

The two of them made the most complementary pair. Emmett a lighthearted extrovert with a contagious personality. Edward, a brooding introvert that screams compassionate. 

 

Bella's eyes land on the tall model-like blonde standing slightly behind the broody teenager. 

 

Her mouth dried up, and she cursed herself for finding the girl attractive. Bella hates her body for the way it reacted at all to the infuriating girl. 

 

Rosalie.

 

God, even her name's beautiful. 

 

Rolling her eyes, she directed her attention back to Lauren. 

 

"So Bella, Angela, and Jess?" The three mentioned nodded. "You three are getting ready at my place, right?" 

 

"Actually, Bella is getting ready with us, but we will be over early to help you set up." The brunette looked up at Emmett's towering figure in disbelief. 

 

"I am?" 

 

"Yup."

 

The silence that followed made everyone uncomfortable. Emmett looked unbothered, and Edward looked embarrassed? That's not right. He would never act embarrassed for Emmett's actions. 

 

Moments after they all said goodbye avoiding the weird atmosphere and they all left with the promise to arrive in time to help. 

 

The following day, Bella found herself standing in front of the house that she initially needed to muster the courage to enter, and within moments found herself in the same position. Her hand, poised and ready to knock, she brought it back down. 

 

The door ripped open in a similar fashion to the first night, except this time instead of the Cullen patriarch stood the matriarch. Esme's auburn hair swept off to one shoulder looked effortless but just as beautiful as a hair cosmetic's commercial intended. Her pink lips drew into a smile, and Bella returned the gesture. 

 

"Come on in Bella. I'm sorry if I missed your knock. Alice yelled downstairs that she could see your car in the driveway."

 

"Oh, no worries. I hadn't gotten around to knocking yet." Bella said as she took in the finished construction in the living room. On her last visit, the blue tarp covered the majority of the wall. At that moment, Bella took in the fresh coat of paint and new decor. 

 

"I love your additions." Bella gestured, and Esme beamed at the compliment. "Design and decor is an undervalued career." 

 

"Okay." Emmett came up from out of nowhere, and his booming voice startled Bella. "Stop kissing up to her and help me get ready." He stopped at the stern look Esme shot at him. Emmett backtracked. "Please, help me get ready?" He looked to Esme as he directed the question to Bella. The brunette coughed to hid her laughter at his predicament. 

 

"Of course, what do you need help with?" 

 

Bella found herself in Emmett's room, helping him wash and moisturize his curls. She glared in envy at the lack of damage and an overall lack of need for moisturizer. She carefully worked the products into the ends and noted his eyes shut in the mirror. 

 

"Your hands are so warm."

 

"Wow, I'm sorry my hands are sweaty." 

 

"I obviously didn't mean that, but it's alright. I forgive you." Bella, instead of continuing the banter, felt a better opportunity arise at that moment, and she yanked a little harsher than necessary. "So before you snap my neck with this unreasonable amount of strength," Bella playfully rolled her eyes. "Do you have your eyes set on anyone?"

 

Bella's eyes widened, and she stopped her work. That's the boldest question anyone's approached her with since she's arrived. She shrugged. "Not really." She couldn't really tell him she found his sister unmistakenly attractive, but she wanted to throttle her just as much as she appreciated her beauty. 

 

She cursed herself as she felt her skin flush and refused to look up from her task. She knew Emmett could see her darken from the reflection. 

 

"Oooh, you do!" Bella looked up and glared at him. "if it's me, I'm flattered, but I am taken." Just then, a longstanding question popped into her head.

 

"So, does Esme know you and Edward are together? And Alice with Jasper?" Emmett's eyes lost a bit of their shine but remained light.

 

"Yeah, Carlisle and Esem know. They don't mind since none of us are even related." As if realizing his mistake, he interjected. "Except for Rose and Jasper." 

 

Bella nodded but remained curious. She honestly didn't mind because it didn't impact her personally, but she wanted to know more about her friend. "How old were you when you started dating?"

 

Emmett kept a calm demeanor, but his shoulders seemed more rigid. Almost as if he sopped breathing to focus on the question. Guilt gnawed at the brunette, and she placed her hands on his shoulders. "Hey, I'm sorry I asked. I'd hate to think I made you uncomfortable. You don't have to tell me." 

 

Emmett shook his head. "No, you're okay." He paused. "I've just never spoken to anyone about this besides my family." He relaxed into the hands, resting on his shoulder. 

 

"We met after I was introduced to Rosalie." Emmett looked at her, and she felt unsettled at the mechanic tone he took on. "I used to live in Tennessee, but because of the social and economic conditions my family faced, I went into foster care." 

 

His eyes trailed to the photograph on his stand, and his voice lost its unvarying intonation. "Edward hated me at first," he laughed heartily. "We both got on each other's nerves, but we found out it was internalized phobias and past trauma. We hated the attraction we felt, so we turned it into displaced anger." 

 

His smile grew, and Bella felt awe seep into her being at the genuine affection in his tone when he spoke of Edward. "It took a while, but we got it right, granted, it is always going to be a work in progress." 

 

Bella nodded in understanding and smiled back at him. She held her questions because that wasn't the right time to ask loaded questions. It wouldn't be fair of Bella if she were not willing to answer any herself.  

 

"So, to answer your question, not too long." 

 

Bella finished his hair, and her thoughts trailed off to the discussion from earlier as she finished her facepaint. 

 

The boys seemed at ease with one another, and the atmosphere around them screamed comfort. How did they so quickly go from enemies to lovers without discomfort? How old were they? 

 

Now that she thought about it. Emmett didn't really answer but instead danced around a direct response. She stopped for a moment and looked down at the bin by his stand, the brush, and the carpet. 

 

Huh, throughout the entire process, he didn't shed a single hair. 

 

Confused and amazed, she turned to him laying on the bed playing a video game. "Seriously, what kind of voodoo is this, Bitch?" He turned to her without stopping the game. "You didn't shed at all!" 

 

He looked genuinely confused, and the smile slowly fell off her face. Did she say something weird? She backtracked and held up the materials as proof. "There's no hair." 

 

The pause thunderously sounded across the room. Emmett's game continued in the background, and Bella grew uncomfortable. The stop felt longer than it was because the hesitation's organicness threw her for a loop. 

 

She jumped when the door suddenly thudded open and into the room bound a petite flurry of colors. 

 

"You're both so slow!" The bed squeaked when Alice threw herself on top of the coverers. Emmette groaned and moved to shove his sister off of his bed. "It's already six o'clock, and we need to help set up." Nobody moved, so she continued. "Go, get ready!"

 

"Ugh, fine." Emmett got up from his bed and shut off the console and television in the same motion. The girl spun on her heels, and Bella's brows disappeared into her bangs. The smallest Cullen wore the tiniest shorts and a pair of expensive-looking boots along with a flannel top tied tucked underneath her cleavage. 

 

"I love your hair. Do you always have bangs?" 

 

Bella nodded at her and continued applying the makeup. "I usually pin it back or use it for my edges." 

 

"I love it. A modern skeleton." 

 

"Um, it's more like a  calaca ." Alice looked curious, and as she sat down, Bella continued. "It's more like I grew up celebrating Day of the Dead more than Halloween. Well, it's more like my Mom and Dad both wanted me to embrace the smallest part of our history that wasn't colonized, ya know?" The awkward silence made her even more uncomfortable. She felt her temperature rise. "My Dad is Mexican, so he felt strongly about this holiday specifically. So I wanted to dress up as a  calaca.

 

Alice looked intrigued, but she looked at the door just as it swung open once more. In stepped Rosalie, in all her glory. The outfit she donned left Bella speechless. The baseball cap on her long flowing blonde hair left an alien sensation in her stomach—the slightly darker brows as they narrowed in precision. 

 

"Rose!" Alice made her way to the door. "Bella needs some help getting ready, and I need to help Jazz with his hair." The brunette bristled at the mention of needing help, but only caught Alice's back as she left. 

 

The air immediately stilled, and the tension in the room doubled. 

 

Rosalie stood silently and moved to sit on Emmett's bed. She cleared her throat, and Bella noticed her eyes seemed darker. Probably from her smokey eye makeup and the eyeblack that went with the uniform. Still, the difference threw her off from her trail of thoughts. 

 

"What did you need help with?" 

 

Bella groaned when she realized she needed help with her dress. The last time she wore it, Lauren had helped her tie it, but she didn't think it through for when the time came to wear it. Resigned, but not defeated, she squared her shoulders and stood straight as she left the seat. 

 

"If you wouldn't mind, can you help me with my dress?" Rosalie instantly stood, and Bella grew confused as she moved around the blonde. "I need to put on my dress first." The blonde stepped back with widened eyes, and Bella looked across her features. That's odd, she expected a blush or some coloring, but it probably didn't show because of the makeup. 

 

"I'll be out here then." Rosalie swept out of the room and closed the door behind her. 

 

Bella looked at herself in the mirror and felt inadequacy seep into her being. The dress looked beautiful, but it felt odd on her body. She noted the jiggle in her thighs, and her nerves increased tenfold. 

 

The brunette swallowed her fears before opening the door. The blonde took her in, and Bella swore her eyes darkened even more. She stepped back to allow Rosalie space to come into the room. Facing Emmett's full body length mirror, she lifted the hair off the nape of her neck. 

 

Bella stilled as she felt Rosalie come to stand right behind her. The height difference, although less significant than with Emmett, still meant Rosalie towered over her by sheer presence. Hands gripped her waist, and the cool touch relieved her overheating skin. 

 

Unintentionally, the brunette leaned back into the touch. 

 

"This dress looks great on you." 

 

The blonde's smoldering look caught Bella by surprise. Although the reflection gratefully minimized the intimidation she felt, Bella couldn't help but flush. 

 

"Thank you." She looked back at the blonde's cap and her uniform. "I think you've somehow managed to level up the baseball player's look." The blonde's resulting smirk prompted an exaggerated eye-roll from the brunette.  

 

The deft fingers easily maneuvered the strings across her back. Each time Bella swore that their skin would connect, the blonde managed to avoid contact. The ghost sensation of fingers trailing her back still caused shivers to roll across her spine. The brunette cursed her sensitive back and trained her attention away from the slim, perfectly manicured fingers tieing her back. 

 

"What made you choose baseball player?" 

 

A cold gust of air blew on the nape of her neck, and she shivered. "It's our family's uniform for when we play." She saw her shrug in the mirror. "Emmett and Edward are doing their own thing. Jasper and Alice are doing the Dukes of Hazard. So I figured something simple would do." 

 

Bella's furrowed brows softened as she heard the blonde's attempt to act nonchalant. 

 

She couldn't imagine how difficult it must be living in a house where everyone paired off together, everyone but Rosalie it seemed. The family environment present, but not really. 

 

Seventh wheeling sounded just as gruesome as she imagined it. 

 

"You should've told me," escaped past her lips before she could think it through. "We could've coordinated a killer costume." 

 

Rosalie looked up and stared confused at Bella's genuine smile. "You hate me." 

 

"You hate me too."

 

The brunette was thrown off balance and into the mirror when Rosalie pulled harshly on a particular string. "Fuck!"

 

Firm hands dug into Bella's hips to hold her in place and keep her from fully toppling over into the mirror. "I don't hate you." She finished with a simple knot and avoided direct eye contact for the duration of their close interaction. "I'm not sure how I feel about you, to be honest." 

 

Bella nodded and turned around to face Rosalie. She stepped out toward the door, and the gap of space between them helped reduce the growing tension. "I'm not sure either." 

 

The brunette's guilt gnawed at her from earlier. She never considered what it meant to Rosalie having her family members already divided attention further siphoned off to new friends. 

 

With an internal sigh, she set herself to correct her errors. 

 

"Let's start over?" 

 

Dark eyes looked directly into her eyes, and Bella's breath stuttered in her chest. Those long lashes fluttered in tandem with her heart. The brevity of their encounter masked the magnitude of the following words. 

 

"Hello, I'm Rosalie." The blonde sent her a smile that Bella knew for a fact she'd never seen before. She reminded herself to breathe and respond before she ruined the encounter. 

 

"Bella." That time instead of turning around in a huff, she sent her a smile along with her best-exaggerated wink. Her smile widened in satisfaction at the blonde's exasperated sigh.

 

Emmett came barrelling back with Edward in tow. 

 

"Jeez, just fucking kiss already." Bella moved to shove at him playfully but instead proceeded to shove her pride down when she caught sight of the blonde's disgruntled look. "You look sexy, Bella, if I do say so myself." He continued choosing to ignore the glare from his sister. "As a bisexual king, I am verifiably the authority of overall attractiveness in this household." 

 

Bella tried to take in stride, but the openness in which he spoke about his sexuality momentarily shocked Bella. She felt a sense of immense relief and, for some reason, even more of a deep platonic affection for him. 

 

The car ride went without a hitch. 

 

Emmett's curls looked perfect on top of his head. However, what looked insanely expensive and movie quality was the costume on his body. His physique looked molded by God, and in the tight-fitting suit, even Bella had a hard time denying his looks. 

 

Eric came bounding around the corner in his comical Ketchup costume. "Where did you even get such a kickass Black Panther suit? It looks so quality." He turned to the smaller and slim figure beside and laughed in delight. "Edward? You're spiderman, and it feels right." He finished speaking, looking over the duo in unconcealed awe. 

 

The two of them really looked the part. There was no padding necessary, and Bella felt a twinge of jealousy at their perfect bodies and proportions. 

 

A hand on the inside of her elbow brought her attention to the person on her left. Blue eyes roamed across her face, and the brunette gasped at the blondes transformation. 

 

Her hair mussed up, eyeliner applied thick, and cherry lip gloss finished her look ideally. "How did it turn out?" She spun around and shot a glare at Jess, who was busy twirling a giggling Angela in a chair. "Jessie said it looked 'okay, I guess,' and I don't know what that even means." 

 

"It looks perfect." 

 

They quickly finished with decorations, and Bella couldn't help but notice the distance between Rosalie and everyone else in the room. The living room soon crowded with swarms of excited and dressed up teenagers. 

 

Mind made up, Bella made her way across the room and in Rosalie's direction. Even leaning against the wall, she looked like a model. A simple baseball uniform looked beyond amazing on her. 

 

"So, how good are you at baseball?" 

 

Rosalie's eyes looked lighter than earlier, but not their ordinary bright topaz. The brunette shook her head. She really needed a vision exam. 

 

"I am easily the best in our family." Her lip twitched, and Bella's eyes landed on a small mole on her upper lip. She'd never noticed it before, and she couldn't help but stare. "Alice anticipates our game plan, Jasper strategizes best, Emmett is the power hitter, and Edward is the fastest." She looks at her siblings engaged in conversation near the middle of the crowd. "They depend on their strengths so much it leads to their downfall because I'm better at utilizing my entire skillset." 

 

Bella nodded in understanding because, oddly enough, it made the most sense anything has in a while. 

 

The silence between the two of them shifted from painfully tense to an awkward vibe. The brunette knew it felt like an upgrade, but it still felt far off from friendly. With a drink in her hand, she sipped from it, hiding the grimace on her face. 

 

Eric insisted on her drinking the concoction he threw together, but Bella hated the taste of alcohol. The sweetness only added to the bitter aftertaste, but the scent managed to fool her with a mouthwatering smell. So she smiled at him encouragingly when he made the drink in front of her.  

 

"What are you drinking?" 

 

"I have no idea, actually." She turned to look at Rosalie and noticed her stare on the necklace she wore. 

 

"I didn't know you were religious." Bella tried to stifle her laugh. Dark blonde eyebrows rose in question.

 

"I'm not religious. It's just a gold cross I've had since I was younger." Dark amber eyes never left her face. 

 

"Do you not believe at all?" Rosalie's eyes burned into her eyes, and she looked at her cup. 

 

"Do you?" She lashed out and immediately felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. "Sorry I don't know. I grew up in a Catholic household, around Lutheran neighbors, and friends involved in Christian churches." She looked up to Rosalie and felt some reservations leave her body when the blonde nodded in understanding.

 

"We don't go to church, and we don't follow the scriptures, but I would say I'm a 'spiritual' person." 

 

Rosalie played with a strand of her hair and hummed in thought. 

 

At that moment, someone stormed into Bella, and she spilled her entire beverage on her dress. She fumed because the moisture slowly trickled down her cleavage, and without a bra to absorb it, the liquid traveled down even more. 

 

"Fuck, I'm so sorry!" A hand patted her down with a napkin, and Bella tried to grab the hands, but Rosalie, with a mind of her own, moved her backward. 

 

"Leah?" The taller girl's worried frown turned into a genuine smile once she looked at the face of her victim. 

 

"No way, I swear this wasn't premeditated." Perfect white teeth flashed along with her smile. 

 

"Sure, it wasn't." Bella jokingly sighed, but couldn't help her grin. "I didn't know you knew Lauren." 

 

"Yeah, well, the squad always goes to hang at LaPush beach, so we ran into each other enough to become friends." 

 

Then the grip on her waist brought her attention to the blonde standing right beside them. She discreetly maneuvered herself away from the hand as not to draw attention to it. "Leah, this is Rosalie." 

 

Leah's neck length hair bobbed gently in a discreet nod and a quick, "Colonizer," in greeting. Bella nearly choked on her spit at the comment. 

 

"Nice to see you, Leah." Completely unfazed, Rosalie continued. "Also nice to see the fiery attitude." With a quick wave, Rosalie exited the conversation claiming to look for the bathroom.

 

"Woah, wanna tell me what that was about?"

 

"Nah."

 

"That's fair." 

 

Leah tucked her underneath her arm and directed her to the kitchen. Bella felt miserable. The sticky liquid was weighing her clothing to her skin. She also felt a burning curiosity as to why exactly Leah hated Rosalie—maybe not hated but disliked her. 

 

Everyone in the kitchen cleared out except for a young-looking boy with long hair, Jess, Leah, and Angela. 

 

"Alright, let's do this!" Bella felt horror strike through to her core as she glanced at the counter and saw the army of glasses with a clear liquid. "Russian Roulette with shots." If they all played, there were still at least five 'shots' per person. 

 

Leah, from beside her, yelled. "Children go first, Jakey!" 

 

With a huff, the boy selected from the middle and downed the liquid. To Bella's horror, his face remained entirely neutral. Jess also noted this because she egged everyone on. "Oh, okay, so I guess we're doing poker faces too." Her hand reached forward and grabbed from the outer edge. She downed the glass, and Angela from behind her, smiled in what could only be adoration. 

 

Then followed Angela, Leah, and finally, she couldn't buy any more time. Bella trusted these people, and she knew she could trust herself when inebriated, so with a mumbled, "Fuck it," she grabbed a glass. 

 

She avoided letting it sit on her tongue and schooled her best neutral face. The burn nearly made her cough, but she felt Leah's smirk from beside her. 

 

They went a total of six rounds, and Bella got lucky with four shots of tequila and two shots of water. She felt fine.

 

That was until she left the kitchen to use the bathroom. 

 

She giggled at the light, bubbly sensation in her stomach and chest. She smiled toothily at Emmett from across the living room. At the moment, the Black Panther stopped what he was doing. He spun his back on her, so she shrugged and made her way to the backdoor to get some air. 

 

"Bella!" She almost lost her balance as she turned back to see Emmett. "We're going to play spin the bottle. Well, they're going to, but Eddie doesn't want us to." A laugh escaped from her at the sensation of Emmett leaning down to whisper. "He gets super jealous and territorial." 

 

She let him practically pick her up and take her to the circle in the den. The party had started to wind down, and in the circle sat the usual suspects from their lunch table. 

 

In the middle of the circle lay an empty bottle. 

 

And Bella's dress stuck to her front slightly. At least being tipsy distracted her from the sensation of wearing wet sticky fabric. 

 

"Wait," Alice spoke from outside the circle, "Rosalie, come sit here!" The blonde looked at her sister suspiciously, and it seemed as if a conversation took place between them. She ended up sitting where her sister recommended. 

 

"Alright!" Jess sat on Bella's right and spoke up. "I'll go first!"

 

The night proceeded in a blur. Bella's face hurt with the smile she produced when Jess and Angela made out with one another. 

 

"Bella, your turn!" The brunette jolted from her moment of dissociation and looked to Jess. Her friend's kind eyes shone with giddiness. 

 

She spun the bottle, and it landed on a still flushed Angela. Bella darkened, and Angela began to blush again. The loud reaction from the group caused her ears to ring. 

 

The liquor in her body did a phenomenal job of eliminating any and all doubt. She confidently grabbed Angela by her orange sweater and pulled her in for a kiss. 

 

Angela's lips were soft, and her strategy was gentle. Her friend was not a bad kisser by any means, but it felt odd because it lacked any attraction. That just solidified to Bella that the affection she felt for Angela rooted itself in platonic adoration. 

 

Bella yanked them apart and gave her a peck for good measure. 

 

Angela looked at her like she didn't know who she was, and Jess looked conflicted. Someone cleared their throat, and Bella turned to look at a pink Lauren. 

 

"I'll go next." Lauren's spin landed on an unsuspecting Ben. She seemed relieved when the bottle marginally evaded Rosalie. Lauren took the lead and seemed content with a short kiss. 

 

All eyes looked to Rosalie, who appeared focused. Everyone feigned indifference, but Bella knew better. All of the boys gave themselves away by leaning forward in interest. Their body language gave them away, and Bella giggled when Eric nearly tipped over. 

 

Everyone turned quiet.

 

Bella's confusion grew when everyone turned to look at her. 

 

Oh no, had she spoken out loud? 

 

Jess slapped her exposed thigh and hissed in her ear. "C'mon Bella. It landed on you." She noted Rosalie made no move to meet her, so Bella shrugged her shoulders and crawled to the blonde. 

 

Without a doubt, she would regret her actions that resulted from her overinflated confidence once sober. 

 

The blonde's dark gaze trailed across her face, and Bella noticed her mouth part. The little mole on her upper lip drew her attention. Bella felt the heat rise from her stomach and into her cheeks. 

 

Without a thought, she gripped the blonde's blue vest and pulled her forward until she practically sat in Rosalie's lap. 

 

Their lips met in a clash of unfurled tension. 

 

No sparks.

 

No fireworks.

 

Only a bubbling desire boiled over and spilled past the brunette's lips and into Rosalie's mouth. 

 

She felt fingers grab onto the curls at the nape of her neck and pull her deeper. 

 

Rosalie's lips felt smooth like velvet and moved in precision someone could only achieve with practice. Lips moving in tandem, the brunette gasped into the kiss when she felt the smallest of probes from Rosalie's tongue. 

 

She didn't know when it happened, but at this point, they were both kneeling. A firm hand on her hip brought her back to her location.

 

"Um," Angela started looking completely red. "Do you guys need some time?" 

 

Bella sobered up instantly and retracted from the blonde. It took a moment to pry her hand away from her neck. Rosalie's eyes completely dark now, her chest heaving and hair disheveled. The brunette wasn't even aware she'd run her hands through the blonde's mane the entire time. 

 

She tried to back away and end the awkward moment, but the hand on her hip wouldn't let up. In fact, the blonde hadn't budged an inch. 

 

Emmett came up behind his sister, and it looked like he was rubbing her back? 

 

A low sound escaped the blonde, and she let go of Bella. The brunette blinked in fear as she sobered up. She couldn't have possibly heard that right. 

 

Ignoring the calls after her, she fled. 

Chapter Text

The late autumn breeze tore through the leaves, ripping them up off the sidewalk. A chill crawled up the brunette's back, and she fought back a vicious tremor. 

 

Bella gasped in lungfuls of air as she attempted to catch her breath. Each gulp of the crisp night air singed as it made way down her throat and burned in her chest. 

 

She came to a stop after Bella realized she had no idea where she was within the neighborhoods. With her hands positioned at her waist, she fought off hyperventilating. The tears that rolled down her face left a scorched trail with the heat of exertion and embarrassment from earlier adding to the droplets.

 

"C'mon," Hands moved from her waist to pat the top of her head. " No seas chillona ." 

 

So focused on trying to calm herself enough to move forward, Bella failed to hear or even notice the approaching footsteps on the sidewalk. 

 

"Bella!" 

 

The brunette turned around and felt her hope shoot down within moments. Dread filled her to the brim as she took in the concerned blue stare roaming over her puffy eyes and disheveled appearance.

 

"What happened?" The blonde stepped into reach, and she grabbed Bella's midsection and pulled her in for a hug. 

 

Bella's breath caught, and she momentarily stood stiff as a board with her hands braced against the blonde's shoulders. 

 

She expected to feel a strong sense of discomfort.

 

Bella even expected just a smudge of awkwardness from her part.

 

However, she had not expected her body to react so positively to touch. With a mind of its own, her hands reached to wrap around the blonde's shoulders and neck. Hands somewhat awkwardly positioned due to the brace, she ignored it. Bella buried her nose in the nape of her neck and let herself burst. 

 

She wept.

 

She cried for the loss of her hometown, her childhood, her inability to act normal, and the conflicting hatred she held for herself.

 

And finally, months of pent up emotions and reserved feelings flooded through her gates with no sign of letting up. 

 

The brunette gripped on the blonde as a lifeline, and Lauren responded as such by grabbing onto her tighter. 

 

Bella felt the vibrations of words against her, but couldn't process them. The sensation of fingers caressing her waist brought her to focus momentarily. 

 

"Hey, I know you're not okay, but I'll make sure you're safe." The words sounded distant but alone were enough for the brunette to latch on. 

 

The brunette leaned heavily into the taller form, grounding her to reality. Bella zoned in and out. The ringing in her ear subsided enough that she was able to hear Lauren better.   

 

Bella's brows furrowed, and she processed the blonde's words gradually. She'd never reacted so strongly, in any sense of the word, emotionally. The brunette noticed the ease in which Lauren coaxed her and even seemed self-assured in her actions. 

 

"Bella, I cut up some fruit for you, and it's in the fridge at home. I'm not sure if you even like honeydew, but we can have some fruit when you're through this, and then the four of us can watch movies."

 

In a daze, she allowed Lauren to guide them back to her home. She remained tucked into her side to avoid visibility and choked on a gust of air as it escaped her lungs. The driveway empty at that point only had a couple of figures crowding around the familiar jeep. 

 

A voice called out from a distance, "Yo, where did you go? We were worried!" Emmett's booming voice, ordinarily capable of lifting her lowest spirits, did nothing for her at that moment besides rubbing her the wrong way. Lauren, as if sensing her unrest, intervened within seconds. 

 

"She went out for some air. Bella wants to stay the night, so I don't know how you want to figure out the car situation." Either not sensing or merely ignoring the uncomfortable silence, Lauren continued. "I'm assuming her car is at your house? I can ride with you to get it, or you guys want to bring it here?" 

 

"Oh." Bella's heart clenched at the fallen look on Emmett's face. It wasn't his fault, but he bared the consequences for her actions. If only she hadn't stupidly and senselessly made out with his sister. "I thought you were sleeping over at our house." She couldn't find the words fast enough to fill the open-ended silence. He looked away from Bella and towards his car while he reached for the nape of his neck. Only to stop at the absence of the item he searched for in the first place. 

 

"I'll bring your car back tonight or tomorrow." 

 

Bella failed to make out two figures as they piled into the vehicle. A familiar lanky copper-haired boy and the blonde goddess nowhere to be seen. 

 

Bella washed her makeup off and thanked Lauren for the clothes she provided for the impromptu sleepover. The grogginess of being tipsy slowly left her body as she finished getting ready. 

 

Face washed, and sleepwear donned. She looked at her reflection in the mirror. Lauren's clothes pooled around her frame, and she kind of liked it. Tall and a member of the varsity volleyball team, Lauren's aura provided a similar sensation as Emmett's presence did. 

 

A big bowl of fruit was on the large bed where all the girls splayed out.

 

Her heart swelled with gratitude at the ease in which they maneuvered into mindless conversations and avoided bringing up the events that transpired that evening. 

 

The following morning at the crack of dawn, when she woke up, her legs met soft skin instead of the sheets. Bella's eyes shot open, and she moved to turn around, but arms gripping her midsection kept her in place. Soft puffs of air billowed in her ear and triggered a shiver to trickle down her spine. However, she lay shocked when she realized she felt comfortable and remained groggy. With a soft exhale, she leaned back into the embrace and blissfully drifted back into sleep.

 

Bella, for the rest of the school week, felt rejuvenated from sleeping more than four hours at a time, although the discomfort in class grew far worse than before Bella felt grateful that Rosalie didn't approach her. Of course, the full eight hours of sleep she experienced at the impromptu sleepover at Lauren's house helped her more than she expected. 

 

One thing Bella couldn't shake off was the reaction the blonde had after their kiss. It physically pained her to think about the excruciatingly awkward affair, but something plagued her mind. 

 

She swore Rosalie kissed her back and initiated bodily contact. However, besides that horrible miscommunication, she heard a sound that triggered her flight or fight response. 

 

A growl.

 

Bella couldn't look at Rosalie, but worst of all, she couldn't face Emmett. She'd completely stepped out of line, and worst of all, she felt out of the loop. As if she was the butt of an ongoing joke or something of that nature. Going back through their entire history of interaction's Bella knew that there was something she wasn't privy to knowing. 

 

Rosalie reacted by lashing out when caught in a lie or asked simple questions. Emmett and Edward always seemed to engage in conversation over her head. The latter would inquisitively stare at her and merely glance away when she caught him. 

 

Not to mention that she never saw Emmett, Alice, or Rosalie use the bathroom the entirety of their slumber party. Did they ever even eat? Last time they ordered food at their shop Emmett, and Rosalie excused themselves to complete work tasks. She thought it seemed avoidant at the time, but now she knew she felt right. 

 

Their eyes randomly changed color, but Bella could argue it sometimes changed in accordance with their moods. 

 

Bella stared blankly at her bedroom ceiling. 

 

Was she going crazy?

 

She carried the same odd feeling with her for two weeks, where she felt weird around Emmett. Almost as if he could sense her feelings or knew she was curious. 

 

Even Jasper, who usually did a phenomenal job of avoiding her during their shared class, asked her if she was okay. 

 

Surprisingly Rosalie was the first to break in their weird hiatus of friendship between her and the family. 

 

"I don't understand why you think it's a bad idea, honestly." Bella's mouth parted slightly, and she hesitated in disbelief at the genuine sentiment from her friend. 

 

"Are you serious?" 

 

Jess whined in a manner that Bella believed thought exuded her childlike personality best. "Just do it already, ya know?" Shrugging her shoulders, Jess smirked. "I think you and Lauren are super cute and compatible, so why not? You have nothing to lose." 

 

Just then, Rosalie walked in the door, and Bella panicked in her attempt to avoid the topic of discussion. Especially in front of the most infuriatingly complex person in her life. 

 

Well, beside herself. 

 

"Is that why you tried to shoot your shot multiple times with Edward?" Jess leaned back as if struck by Bella's question. The look on her face comical in it's upset. 

 

"Why would you say that? What do you even get out of it?" Jess ran a hand across her face and spoke into her palm, voice muffled it sounded an awful lot like, "I went through the edgy skinny white boy phase, and honestly, how daring of you to throw it in my face like that. We all go through it, Bitch." 

 

A giggle escaped Bella's lips, and she bit down to stop her laughter from trickling out. "It's okay. You're grown now and know better to do better." 

 

"Damn right." 

 

A pause.

 

"So, you're telling me you didn't go through it?" 

 

With a groan, Bella laid her head on her desktop to avoid the intimate conversation in the classroom, but especially so close to the always vigilant Rosalie Hale. 

 

"Good morning, ladies." 

 

Bella turned her head still on the surface in the direction of the blonde's voice. She looked into light amber eyes and responded with a "Morning" before turning to face Jess. 

 

Jess smiled, and Bella's nerves fired up. Her friend leaned down to speak quietly. "I just don't understand why you don't want to make a move." Although she made an excellent attempt at keeping their conversation private, Bella just knew that the blonde beside them could hear. 

 

Irked and somewhat upset that the blonde randomly determined when she wanted to speak to her, Bella acted on impulse. "Fine, I'll text her, and we can all do something this weekend." Jess smiled at the mention of a faux double date. 

 

"I wish Angela would just go for it because I've personally done all the work, but maybe you'll inspire her." 

 

"Yeah, I still don't understand why you don't just date without the formality of labels or asking-"

 

"Because Bella, if Angela can say we are dating because we both asked one another, it's different then saying were friends even though we are technically dating. I'll wait until she's ready to say it. If she can't say we are dating, that means she's not ready." Jess shrugged. "I don't mind waiting for her."

 

Bella sat with the words playing in her mind throughout the lecture. From beside her, Jess kept inconspicuously texting the group chat because her pocket kept vibrating. 

 

"Bella!" She turned toward Jess and her loud ass whispering. She signaled for her to check her phone, and Bella sighed. With a glance around, she noted Rosalie writing in her notebook. The handwriting indicated it was a copy of her notes. Even though they both told her Jess could do it, Rosalie refused to stop giving her the copies. The teacher buried behind the screen and the projector, she made up her mind.

 

As gently as she could, she pulled out her phone, and her eyebrows flew upward. Thirtytwo notifications on her home screen stressed her to the core. She unlocked her phone and went to open the message icon when someone ripped the phone from her hands. 

 

Mouth wide open in shock, she turned to see Rosalie sliding the phone into her bag. 

 

She looked around her to see if anyone noticed and met Jess looking the same as she did. They looked at one another like gaping fish at the blonde's actions. 

 

Soon enough, the bell rang, and Bella spun in her seat to dig into Rosalie.

 

"What the hell-"

 

"You can come to get your phone from me at the end of the day." Rosalie calmly packed her items up and left the notes on the desk. "I told you what would happen next time you messaged in class." 

 

Blood boiling, Bella cut off the lecture before it continued. "We don't talk for weeks, and then you snatch my phone from my hands?" She shouldered her bag and felt Jess waiting for her to storm out so she could follow like a great friend. "You said we could be friends, and then you get mad over a stupid kiss." She flushed with rage and embarrassment as she slowly lost her grasp on her calm. "I'm sorry if you felt obligated or if I genuinely offended you. However, I'm tired of this attitude."

 

Bella looked into her now dark eyes. Moments from bringing up the family's suspicious behavior, she paused momentarily, but her feelings won out. Stupidly courageous and angry, she leaned forward. "Your suspect, and that's on you." As she walked away, she spoke quietly enough that Rosalie shouldn't have heard her, but she did. "Give my phone to the teacher, and I'll get it from him." 

 

Bella told Jess she didn't feel okay and told her to go ahead without her as she went to the nurse. 

 

She never made it to the nurse.

 

She bit her tongue to stop the tears from falling. The entire time she spent cooling down in the bathroom, she cursed herself out for crying. She hated that she cried when she was angry, and it only made it worse.

 

The door opened, and Bella muffled her quiet sobbing at the sound of someone coming in the bathroom. Shut inside a stall. She managed to calm herself down enough to wipe her tears away and flush the tissues down the toilet. 

 

As she stepped out, she crashed right into the only person she didn't want to see. 

 

"You were crying." 

 

She scoffed. "Don't flatter yourself thinking its because you hurt my feelings, because I'm fucking pissed and that's why I cried." 

 

Rosalie looked concerned. "You cry when you're mad? Why?" 

 

"A lot of fucking people do." She groaned in annoyance. "Jesus Christ, did you just come in here to antagonize me further, or did you need something?" 

 

"I'm sorry for everything." 

 

"Okay."

 

"I keep apologizing, but I also keep messing up. I have no idea why I am like this around you." She ran a hand through her hair. "I thought you were mad at me for kissing you inappropriately, but now I feel like there's miscommunication." 

 

"I acted like a bitch because I like you, and I haven't experienced a crush before." Bella froze as she listened to the blonde. "I had a conversation with my siblings, and they spent upwards of two hours just attacking me personally before spending fifteen minutes helping sort through my inner turmoil." 

 

The tall model-like blonde looked at her directly before continuing. "I'm sorry I reacted that way, and I'm sorry I haven't done this correctly. I just need you to know that I like you, and I don't know what it means." 

 

Bella felt giddiness threaten to overpower her, but at the forefront of her mind, she realized it didn't change behavior to confess feelings. "I don't know what you want me to say."

 

Rosalie visibly backed away a bit at the comment from the brunette. Bella felt guilty, but she'd rather nip it in the bud before the mood swing came back to blindside her later. 

 

"I don't need you to say anything because I just needed to convey my feelings. I wasn't upset over what happened at the party. It was just a moment of realization for me, and I didn't snap out of my daze until almost a week after." 

 

Bella couldn't believe that Rosalie confessed her feelings for her in the bathroom at school. However, it seemed chaotic and fitting for their tumultuous relationship. 

 

"I appreciate your honesty, but total transparency I'm kinda not sure what to do from here." Rosalie nodded hesitantly. "We aren't even friends, so I don't know what good it'll do if we confess feelings to each other." 

 

"Listen, I am confessing because I need to stop denying this, and I need to end my unacceptable behaviors." She gestured to the brunette. "You don't have an obligation to reciprocate or even say anything." 

 

Bella stood in the middle of a restroom with Rosalie discussing the blonde's feelings while skipping class. 

 

"We've done this so many times, but Rosalie, this is the last time." She glared at the blonde intently to emphasize her point but received a blindingly beautiful smile from the blonde in return. "This is the last reset, last do-over, no more makeups after this, is that clear?" 

 

"Crystal." 

Chapter Text

Bella walked into lunch beside Angela, and they both halted when they took note of a new member at the table seated near the two returning members. 

Rosalie sat beside Bella's usual spot, which had turned into Lauren's usual seat. The table had filled out at that point, and Angela just shrugged her shoulders before leading them to their destination.

 

Emmett and Edward awkwardly waved as if they didn't sit with their family for two weeks and randomly came back with their sister. 

 

Bella nodded, and Angela waved back. 

 

"Where's Jess?" Angela asked out loud in her direction as she placed her bookbag on the empty chair beside her. 

 

"Oh! I forgot to tell you. Lauren said something about them being late because they needed to speak to their coach about something volleyball related." Bella hid her smirk by biting down on her lip. 

 

"So, Jess is pretty tiny but powerful, isn't she?"

 

Angela's eyes widened behind her round-rimmed glasses, and she blushed deeply. Emmett chuckled from behind his palm, and Angela's eyes narrowed in determination. "I guess you're right, but I'm certain its nothing compared to big spoon Lauren, right Bella?" 

 

Bella froze like a fucking possum does when caught with the back porch light. Nothing graceful like a deer in the headlights. No, she had two options fake her death or bite back. 

 

"Damn, I thought Lauren lied when she said you were the little spoon." Bella's hair whipped around into her face as she turned to face Eric. Her look must've scared him because he continued. "I'm a proud little spoon. Nothing to be ashamed of and no judgment here." He turned to Angela in a call for help. 

 

Edward and Rosalie left the table in the same swift motion. Bella's eyebrows furrowed in question, but Emmett responded quickly, easing her worry. "They went to get some food." He leaned forward and wiggled his eyebrows. "I didn't know you and Lauren, ya know..." 

 

Bella choked on her spit and rapidly shook her head. "NO." Everyone within the radius of their conversation whipped around at the increase in volume. "We didn't do anything. We're just friends." She takes one of her cherries and pops them in her mouth. 

 

"Just friends?" He asked, interested in the boring details of her romantic life. "She seemed protective of you during the Halloween when jive went down." 

 

With a napkin over her mouth, she disposed of the pit inside of it before she spoke. "Listen, I want to apologize for what happened at the party." She looked at Emmett directly before she continued. "It wasn't alright for me to kiss your sister, or even attack her like that-"

 

"Woah, calm down there, Nena." Her frown quirked up at the infectious mood and the natural slip of her nickname. "You don't have to apologize to me. She's a grown woman that can make her own decisions. She also didn't seem to mind you 'attacking' her, so maybe don't stress over it." He plucked a cherry from her container and popped it in his mouth. "Plus, I think you'd look cute together." 

 

Bella's mouth parted to interject, but a loud cracking noise interrupted her. Angela, Eric, and Bella stared at the source of the sound. Emmett continued undisturbed but stopped smiling when he noticed all of the concerned stares.

 

"What?" 

 

"Did you just eat the pit?"

 

"The what?" 

 

"Emmett, did you just eat the fucking cherry pit?"

 

Just then, Lauren and Jess came to sit at the table. Lauren moved to sit down, but a bag on the chair stopped her from sitting too. Her blue eyes looked at Bella questioningly. 

 

"Oh, I'm sitting there." Rosalie and Edward came up to the table together. They both placed their trays down and sat down smoothly.

 

Bella noticed Lauren's typical mask appear as it fixed itself on her features. Determined to help her friend just like Lauren helped her, Bella spoke up. "Do you want to go with me to the library? I need to drop something off."

 

A smile lit up the blonde's face, and she nodded. 

 

After she bid everyone goodbye, ignored the pointed look from Jess, and awkwardly waved at Rosalie, she left side by side with Lauren.

 

After dropping her rental off, Bella and Lauren sat outside on one of the picnic tables. The cold autumn breeze felt great on Bella's overheated skin. Her blood pumped in overtime to replenish the heat as it escaped her body. 

 

"So, before I forget, do you want to go to my meet this weekend?" Lauren's ice-blue stare trailed across her face taking in her reaction. 

 

"I'd love to." She paused, trying to find the best way to word her question. "Actually, I wanted to ask if you wanted to do something this weekend with Jess and Angela?" Lauren's smile dropped a bit, and Bella felt her panic surge. Had she pushed too much? 

 

"Yeah, that sounds cool."

 

Bella felt uncomfortable, and she couldn't pinpoint why until the following words. 

 

"I can't wait just to have a girls' night again." Her bright smile caused Bella's stomach to drop and her mood to dampen. The nagging feeling of impending miscommunication followed her to class. Well, the rest of her school day went by similarly. 

 

Only when she left the front doors to come in contact with Rosalie did she feel an odd sensation stirring in her stomach. 

 

All fierce brow and sharp cheekbones, Rosalie stood defiantly near Bella's car with her arms crossed. The beautiful features on the blonde never failed to trip her up momentarily. 

 

"Rosalie," Bella nodded in greeting as she moved to open her driver door. "How can I help you?" 

 

She arranged her bag while she waited for the blonde to speak, but found the pause a tad too long for it to be Rosalie's normal. 

 

Bella tossed her bag over the center console and closed the door. 

 

"Would you be interested in hanging out with my siblings and me?" Rosalie ran a hand through her hair and proceeded to look at her nails as she picked at them. Her nonchalant attitude thew Bella off, so she shrugged her shoulders in the same manner.

 

"Where and when are you going?" She reached for her back pocket, but her hand grasped around nothing. "Also, now that we've supposedly moved past our past grievances give me my phone, please?" 

 

Pale, slender fingers reached into a back pocket to pull the device out of its depths. 

 

"So," Bella checked her notifications but nodded, indicating that she was listening to the blonde. "Do you want to go to the pumpkin patch with us?" Bella froze, and she looked up in surprise. "We're all going, but I am the odd one out. So I figured I'd invite a friend." 

 

Amber eyes usually planted firmly on her brown hazel, drifted away and off her gaze. Bella couldn't help but notice it seemed like a nervous habit of hers; however, it appeared less jittery.

 

"When were you thinking of going?" 

 

"Sunday." The same pale hand ran through blonde strands of hair.

 

"I'll check with my Dad, but I'd love to join you guys." 

 

Bella did check. Her Dad, however, seemed hesitant and slightly concerned for her back to back plans. 

 

"Nena," he stifled a burp behind his balled-up fist and hesitated before he continued. "If you have a boyfriend, you can tell me." The beer bottle placed on the coffee table he looked seriously in her direction. 

 

"I don't have a boyfriend." She winced as she turned around to reach for her bookbag. Bella hoped her delivery only sounded weirdly defensive to her. "I would tell you if I started dating. I have two friend groups wanting to hangout."

 

The wrinkles around his mouth crinkled as he rubbed the scruff on his face. Bella scrunched her nose at the sight. The feel of stubble on the first person she kissed ruined facial hair for her, and she cringed at the memory. She couldn't imagine Sue's misery. 

 

"That's fine. Just make sure you talk to your Mom more, please. She texts me so much to check in with us." He looked horrified. "You know, I hate texting." 

 

Bella smiled and shook her head at her Dad's refusal to adapt to the preferred method of communication for her and her Mom. 

 

The rest of the school week passed by uneventfully. 

 

Bella felt herself gradually lose the hardness to her voice and the stiffness in her limbs when she interacted with Rosalie. The blonde was genuinely a pleasant person. Not that she'd necessarily behaved unpleasantly, but more that Bella found herself looking forward to their interactions. A giddy feeling would rise from her stomach and bubble from the depths of her chest. 

 

Giggling, who was she even at that point?

 

She didn't even know she giggled so damn much until Angela looked at her during their brief walk to lunch. 

 

"Damn, Bella." She turned away from Rosalie and in Angela's direction. "I've never heard that laugh before. Why is that?" 

 

She felt herself flood with heat from head to toe, and her glare did nothing to wipe the smirk from her friend, so she figured words would do the trick. Bella smiled when she managed to burn through Angela's armor. 

 

"You know what's crazy?" Bella's eyebrow rose to challenge the smirk still on her friend's face. "That Jess is single." She tapped her chin in faux thought. "Maybe I should ask her out?" 

 

Her smirk widened at the look on her friend's face, but she stopped when she remembered Rosalie walked alongside them. The blonde shot her a gentle smile without hesitating.

 

Lauren and Jess were absent from lunch again because of volleyball. Bella smiled at Emmett and Edward as she sat down beside Rosalie. 

 

"What's for lunch, Nena?" 

 

The brunette reached into her bag and opened the container. "Guavas, I sliced them before leaving this morning." She brought the container to Emmett, and his fingers clasped around a slice. "Did you check out everything to make sure your teeth are fine?" 

 

Emmett appeared genuinely confused before he asked her what she meant. 

 

"You ate the cherry pit, and I could've sworn it breaks teeth." His eyes widened as he ate the fruit, and he looked to Rosalie. 

 

"Yeah, he went, and they said he's fine." 

 

Bella hummed as she bit into the delicious fruit. A small moan escaped her throat at the swirls of flavors and the mouthwatering smell the fruit omitted. 

 

Emmett's grin broadened, and he took the container from her. "Eddie," he shook the box, "Rosie."

 

Bella watched with curiosity as the two took a piece after looking in her direction. She continued chewing as the two siblings in front of her bit into the guava. Bella's eyes narrowed because their reactions felt so insincere. 

 

So fake that it triggered a collection of memories.

 

It unlocked a small memory she'd long forgotten. 

 

Making playdoh food and watching her parents expectantly. Hoping they'd love it. 

 

They all mimicked the mannerisms, down to the same gestures and over performative expressions. Bella felt unjustifiable irritation shoot through her. Why not just say they don't like it?

 

"Wow, that's incredible." Bella reacted without an ounce of hesitation at the blonde's words. 

 

"Oh?" She shoved the container to Rosalie and spoke without looking away from the blonde's gaze. "I'm not that hungry. I ate so much this morning." Not true, she had an iced coffee to wash down her exhaustion, but who cared? "Please finish. I'd hate for them to go to waste." 

 

Emmett's booming laughter spurred her curiosity even further as she looked at the happiness decorating his handsome features before she turned back to Rosalie. Her beautiful features masked with a calculated calmness. 

 

She watched the blonde nod in thanks before shooting her smile as she picked up another slice. 

 

Bella flashed her a small smile and nodded. She felt someone tap her shoulder, so she turned to face the person. The sight of Angela pushing her glasses up higher on her nose greeted her. "What time should I pick you up tomorrow?"

 

The brunette had nearly forgotten that she made plans for another movie night. She remembered the feeling of disappointment when she asked but chickened out of further clarification. 

 

"Um, good question. What time is the meet?" She picked at the loose thread on her oversized hoody sleeve. "If you want, we can pick up the snacks before we go to meet them, and on the way back to Lauren's, we can pick up the food." 

Angela nodded and snatched her phone from her jacket pocket. As she checked the details and times of their plans, she turned back to face the siblings. 

 

"Woah, double-booked up on the weekend." Emmett wiggled his brows and opened his mouth to continue before he was interrupted. 

 

"Aren't you going with us on Sunday?" Rosalie's eyes burned into hers, and Bella found herself struggling to find the words to answer. 

 

Angela cleared her throat. "Yeah, we just have plans for Saturday and Sunday morning, but after that, she's free." 

 

"When should we pick you up and from where?" Bella was still shocked by the apparent effort Rosalie made to engage in planning. She just assumed she would end up planning with Emmet, per usual. 

 

"Um," She tried to control the slight waver in her voice. Instead of a shaky voice, it came out in the form of a question. "I'll let you know?"

 

"Can I get your number so I can stop making my Brother play messenger?" Slim pale fingers smoothly slid a sleek phone onto the table, and Bella carefully picked it up. 

 

She sent herself a text message and slid it back. 

 

The entire time, Emmett couldn't keep the giant smirk off of his face. Bella noticed and immediately sent him a glare. 

 

Lunch went by relatively smooth, and after spending a week of lunches at the same table, Bella realized that Rosalie wasn't the most talkative, but she was an attentive listener. Although she appeared distracted by looking at her nails and even at the end of her hair strands, she remained wholly involved in the conversation. 

 

Rosalie randomly interjected with tasteful commentary, and being honest, Bella found her snark endearing, especially when she wasn't at the end of it. She could see why Rosalie remained number one on Emmett's official sibling ranking. 

 

Angela break checking her, brought her back to the present.

 

She and Angela laughed at their attempt to checkout rapidly. They spent too long deciding between popcorn selections and sped through the roads to make it in time for the event.

 

They ran from the van to the school gymnasium swerving in and out of the clusters of students and families. Out of breath and with giant grins on their faces, they made their way to the bleachers. 

 

Bella's grin slid off her face, and heat rushed through her at the sight that greeted her. 

 

Lauren's fingertips gripped at her sneakers while she bent in half as if no big deal. Effortlessly Lauren caught her eye and waved with a smile, all the while maintaining the same position. 

 

Bella quickly realized she'd stared without reservations for a significant amount of time and smacked Angela's shoulder when she turned to her friend only to find her looking at Jessica in longing. 

 

Slightly embarrassed but refusing to admit she also did the same, she teased her friend. "Damn, Angie, are you okay? You look a little flushed." The glare she received made her giggle, but her friend's response shut her up. 

 

"I don't know, Lauren's ass had quite the equation, hmm?" 

 

"What--" Bella sputtered out, "What are you talking about?" She avoided her friends, knowing look before pretending to look for seats. "We can sit over there!" She pointed and exhaled in relief when Angela dropped the subject without further prompting. 

 

Bella felt herself actively avoid looking for too long at any specific person. Not wanting to give her friend any more ammunition, she spent the duration of the match actively distracted. 

 

The girls picked up their pizza on the way back and spoke mindlessly. 

 

The music in the van played low and clear. The late autumn air coursed through the open car windows and billowed through Bella's hair. The brunette sighed in content and rested her head on the window frame as the streetlights passed by, and the comfortable silence overtook them.

 

Moments like these made her wish she could stay in this moment forever. 

 

Bella's heartfelt full, and the sight behind her in the van prompted a smile to spread across her face. 

 

Jessica's head rested on Angela's lap in the backseat. The latter massaged her scalp delicately with an intimacy that left Bella stunned in awe. Angela's fingers practiced in their choreography smoothly trailed across her scalp to avoid pulling or tearing her best friend's hair. 

 

Bella, well, she simply stared without reservations, and the longing in her chest layered itself on top of her happiness. A heaviness weighed on her shoulders, increasing her difficulty to breathe. 

 

A gentle hand on her thigh brought her back to the front seat. 

Kind blue eyes met her stare, and pink lips pulled back in a small smile. A smile Bella knew she reserved for private conversations and outings with the group together. 

 

"It's overwhelming, isn't it, sometimes at least." 

 

Oddly, the brunette understood what she meant without further prompting. She nodded and took in the blonde's hand still placed on her thigh. In a moment of unusual courage and an equally rare urge for intimacy, she trailed her fingers underneath the palm and intertwined their fingers. 

 

The heat from the blonde's palms radiated through Bella's slightly chilled one. 

 

"They didn't always know." Bella looked up to Lauren. The blonde's strong jawline emphasized by the shadows of the lamposts. "Believe it or not, they actually hated each other in elementary school and most of the middle school." Bella looked at her incredulously before she realized she'd mindlessly spent the time rubbing her thumb against Lauren's hand. 

 

"I'm sure you're overplaying the hatred between them." 

 

"Jess used to bully Angela." 

 

"Oh."

 

"..." 

 

Lauren looked at her as she attempted to downplay her reaction to the news she received before the blonde continued. "They've obviously moved past it, well, worked through things, but no one ever just finds the person they're meant to be with by chance." She pulled into the street her house resided on. 

 

"So don't let them make you feel bad for not knowing what you like or don't like because they just went through it earlier." She pulled into the driveway and turned to face Bella. "They're meant for each other, no doubt, but they got lucky."

 

As they unbuckled themselves, Lauren quietly spoke, "Don't stress; we're both still single at least." 

 

As the girls unloaded their items from Angela's van, Bella couldn't shake the words from earlier. 

 

Ready for bed, she left the bathroom lost in her thoughts. 

 

"Bella!" She ducked in time to miss a pillow, and Angela shot her an apologetic look. 

 

The night continued in the same manner. The girls remained wildly energetic from the late-night sweets and pizza. The endless amount of energy eventually gave way to exhaustion. The first one out for the count was Jess nodding off while watching reruns of their favorite shows. 

 

Bella grew confused as Angela and Jess said goodnight before disappearing into the dark hallway and shutting the door behind them. 

 

Lauren seemed nervous, but she quickly explained. "Last time we all slept in here, but they typically go to my sister's old room. Usually, at sleepovers, it's just us three, but..." 

 

As she trailed off, Bella understood and shrugged her shoulders to put Lauren at ease. 

 

"Do you want to go to sleep?" Lauren asked, but Bella felt wide awake. Whether it was the sugar or the random surge of giddiness in the pit of her stomach, she didn't know. 

 

That was why when the two girls ended up in the dark beneath the covers facing the ceiling, Bella almost died of asphyxiation from trying to level her ragged breathing to match the blonde's beside her. 

 

Why had the ambiance shifted from the first sleepover? 

 

They'd done this before. 

 

A quiet, "fuck this," reached the brunette's ears before she felt fingers grip her side and turn her. 

 

Her eyes widened when Lauren's typical bright blue eyes bore into her darker than she'd seen them before. 

 

Bella's eyes trailed across the features of the blonde and landed on the pink lips. 

 

The hand gripping her waist tightened, and Bella surged forward. 

 

Their lips met in a gentle caress. 

 

Nothing happened. 

 

No fireworks.

 

No explosions.

 

No unreleased tensions or any pent up feelings escaping. 

 

Determined and upset, Bella pushed further and parted her lips, slightly gasping for air, hoping the blonde would take the initiative. The blonde pulled away instead and smiled at Bella sweetly. 

 

Determined not to give up, Bella leaned back in and let Lauren's hands guide her. Although she tried to speed up the urgency of their mouths, Lauren's soft lips set a different pace. 

 

Straddling Lauren, the blonde's hands moved to indicate to the brunette what she wanted from her. 

 

Hands placed on the blonde's shoulders, she leaned forward and allowed the blonde's hands to grip her sides. The same hands ground her down into the figure beneath her, but Bella couldn't focus. 

 

It felt off. 

 

Two different paces and Bella knew it. 

 

She kept waiting for the do-over from another kiss. 

 

One she wished never took place but knew she wanted to happen. 

 

Placing her hands on Lauren's shoulder, she pushed slightly, and the blonde took the gesture. 

 

Gasping for breath and staring at one another, Lauren was the first to break the silence. 

 

"Oh my god!" She laughed heartily, and in return, Bella just stared at the blonde beneath her. Lauren's infectious laughter reverberated through her entire being and traveled through Bella, spreading rapidly. 

 

The duo couldn't stop themselves whether or not they were laughing for the same reasons. They both sensed one another's discomfort and the need to laugh it off. 

 

"I'm so sorry!" Bella choked out into the palms of her hands. "I don't know what happened." The only thing that ground her to reality was Lauren's hands on her hips. 

 

"Bella," hands moved hers from her face, and a genuine smile greeted her vision. "Are we okay?" 

 

Bella exhaled before nodding. 

 

"I'm just glad we're on the same page." A chuckle slipped past thin pink lips. "We both were kind of curious, but I'm glad we are good." 

 

The brunette nodded as she made to move off her friend. She looked over to the mirror and saw her wrap intact. "Thanks for avoiding my hair." She smiled at the blush on her friend's cheeks. "So, this won't make things awkward, right?" 

 

Lauren's eyebrows furrowed, and Bella's concern rose. 

 

"Obviously, nothing's changed. We're still friends, but to be honest, it felt like kissing Jess or Ang during spin the bottle."

 

"That's--I was just about to say that too." Bella felt a weight lift from her shoulders. 

 

The two spoke in whispers and felt better about the outcome.

 

More specifically, the kiss laid Bella's fear of ruining her friendships to rest and the brunette to actual sleep. Bella fell asleep with Lauren's head on her chest, and she felt beyond delighted at the ease in which they cuddled. 

 

The words from earlier that night replayed in her mind. 

 

She had time to find her significant other. Soulmates took time, and she had time.

 

Chapter Text

Bella stepped from the shower with a giant smile fixed on her face. She could barely contain her joy even as she dressed for the day and the thought of spending a day with her best friend and his family. She wouldn't lie and say it didn't help that Rosalie's sudden mood change helped the brunette's mood considerably.

 

A knock on the door brought her out of her contemplative joy. 

 

"Waffles or cereal!" Angela's muffled voice carried from the door. 

 

"Coffee, please!" She could practically hear the eye-roll from her friend through the door. 

 

She hurried to get ready and made sure to leave the bathroom in pristine condition before she ran downstairs to join the girls. 

 

The smell of breakfast wafted across the room as she entered. "When are they coming to get you?" Jessica said from her seat to the left. "It's already ten o'clock." 

 

Bella sat down beside Angela once she noted the steam from the coffee mug in the empty spot beside her. 

 

"They said ten o clock, but they never sent me an 'on our way,' message." She purposefully ignored the concerned look from Angela as she took a sip of her drink. The scalding dark bitter liquid coated her tongue and melted her stress along with her oncoming headache. 

 

"You should probably eat something." Bella knew her friend was right, but she couldn't help but think about her complete disregard for healthy eating the evening before. She wouldn't expect any of them to understand because they all were beyond petite and adorable. However, with the last conversation she had with her Mother now burned into her memory, she nodded to defuse the situation. 

 

"I will, but I need some coffee before I do eat anything." Not necessarily a lie. Her caffeine addiction led to some gruesome headaches if she didn't refuel by a particular time. 

 

Lauren sat down with her plate and smiled at her before digging into her small stack of pancakes. 

 

"Thank you for letting me use your shower, Lauren." The blonde nodded with a smile as she chewed her mouthful. 

 

Angela's curious eyes followed their interactions, and something clicked for the brunette. Bella nodded at Angela's silent question before she continued gulping down the rest of the beverage. 

 

Jessica's smirk told the rest of the girls that she did not get the memo. 

 

"So--"

 

A horn sounded from outside, and everyone jumped at the sudden interruption. However, the horn did not let up, and Bella felt herself grow warm at the loud sound. 

 

She hoped Lauren's parents weren't home. 

 

"Good thing my parents are at church." She chuckled and moved to get up. "My bet is its Emmett as passenger laying onto the horn." 

 

They all made their way to the door, and Bella took her bag with her as she said goodbye to the girls. Once she opened the front door, Bella tried her best but couldn't hold in her laughter at the absolutely horrified expression on Edward's face. Emmett waved from the front passenger seat, but he angeled his entire body over the center console and onto Edward's lap.  

 

"I knew it," Lauren whispered in triumph.

 

Bella spun and waved to them one last time before she walked to the jeep. She awkwardly stood near the car and immediately stepped back to avoid getting clocked in the face with a door. 

 

Emmett jumped out of his seat and stepped up behind her. "I can do it, but thanks." She huffed as she reluctantly gave him the okay to boost her up into the seat. 

 

She ignored the laughter from him as she buckled herself into the seat.

 

"Good morning, Bella." She turned toward the voice and took in the blonde's smile. Her heart stuttered at the sheer beauty of that smile. 

 

"Good morning, Rosalie." She mentally shook herself from her momentary lapse of thinking, and she turned toward the front. "Good morning, boys." 

 

With the weather relatively crisp, but not freezing, Bella understood his choice for windows down. The temperature perfect for a cozy sweater and a warm drink. 

 

"Aux cord goes to the guest, sorry, Rosie. I don't make the rules."

 

"You do make the rules. You just made one right now."  

 

"C'mon Eddie. Let me have this, please."

 

"Ugh, fine." A throat cleared in the front and a sudden tone change. "Sorry, he doesn't make the rules." 

 

"I could honestly not care less than I do right now." 

 

"It must be killing you, Rosie." 

 

"I just said I could care less." 

 

Bella held in her laughter as Rosalie's indifference slowly bled into irritation, and the teasing from the boys up front set the mood for the drive to the pumpkin patch. 

 

"I didn't know half of these songs." Rosalie seemed delighted. "Where did you come across them?" 

 

With a shrug, Bella tried to play it off. Although, her music selection and taste were one of the only things she prided herself on possessing. 

 

"I collect music from everywhere." She hesitated but thought better of it. "I can make you a playlist and share it with you?" 

 

Rosalie seemed genuinely excited. "I'd like that a lot." 

 

They spent the rest of the drive queuing songs in the order of Edward's choice, Bella's, Rosalie's, and Emmett's. 

 

"I just don't understand why I'm last--"

 

"Oh wow, doesn't matter since we're here now, huh, how about that?" Bella interrupted his complaint as soon as she saw the gravel road led to a farm. 

 

That was when she saw the light reflect off the car behind them. Expensive and equally outdoorsy, she assumed it belonged to their family. 

 

She waited patiently for Emmett to open her door and help her down. She would've jumped down on her own, but the step on the jeep was still too high off the ground for her uncoordinated self. 

 

"Looks like I have to invest in a better side step for you." Bella just ignored him before adjusting her sweater. 

 

The vibrant colors of fall in their purest form greeted her. Piles of leaves and the breeze drifted into her path. Orange, brown, and yellow morphed into one bright color. 

 

The sound of a door opening brought her to the pickup truck—the two youngest looking parents to ever exist exited the car as if modeling for a shoot. Behind them, she noticed another duo, and her nerves came back with a vengeance. 

 

Although she knew they would be civil and most likely just as kind as always. She felt out of place for intruding on their family outing. 

 

"Bella," Mrs. Cullen's kind face lifted into a smile, "It's wonderful that you were able to join us." Bella instinctively reached her hand out and pulled her in for a kiss on the cheek. 

 

When she pulled back, she nearly passed out from the realization that she went into her reflexive tendencies. 

 

"..." the brunette could barely conjure the words to bring the attention away from her. 

 

Dr. Cullen stepped forward and gently grabbed her hand and mimicked the gesture. Her unease melted away as she pulled away. "I couldn't agree more with Esme. Our kids are enamored with you." 

 

Bella smiled at the unashamed look on Emmett's face as he came up beside her. The tallest of the group and the absolute gentlest came up, sliding his hand into hers. 

 

His hand was ice cold like marble but as soft as the most expensive silks. He pulled up her hand and inspected her nails. Bella squirmed under the scrutiny because she hadn't retouched her usual black nail polish that week. 

 

"I know, I need to retouch them." He shook his head before putting their still joined hands down between them.

 

"I like them." He turned to her as his parents excused themselves to get something from the car. "Rose does hers all the time too."

 

Bella lifted their hands and gaped at his perfect cuticles. Not a single hangnail or one misshapen nail. "First off," She taps his hand, "these are the nicest nails I've ever seen on any teenager." 

 

He looked at her with an aura of timidness she'd never seen on him before. "Maybe after, if you want, I can do your nails when I do mine?" 

 

"Won't it call attention to them?" 

 

Bella's brow furrowed as she listened to him. "Not really, if you're not comfortable or don't want them done, don't stress." She saw Rosalie come up with the other siblings, so she decided to allow the conversation to sit with Emmett. "You can think about it and let me know." 

 

Jasper looked every bit intimidating that Rosalie did, but for him, it felt different. His reserved personality was analytical. So he gauged her every move carefully as if he were ready to take her on at any given moment. While Rosalie looked like a goddess sculpted from the rarest material, Jasper looked ruggedly built and handsome. 

 

Yet, they looked nothing alike, and they somehow all resembled one another. The family all had the same mechanic mannerisms that appeared studied and well-executed. As if artistic portraits of angels came to life without any other humanly features added, not a single flaw or blemish. It didn't quite add up to the brunette as she took in the entire family near each other.

 

"Hey, Alice," she waved at her and nodded at the blond beside her.

 

Emmett's fingers clenched around hers as if grounding himself. She lightly tugged on their conjoined hands and brought his attention to her. "You good?"

 

Emmett playfully shoved her before taking off running. 

 

Confused, she looked at him run, and for what? 

 

"He took your phone." 

 

She whipped around to face Rosalie's amused expression. "Wait. What?" She patted herself down and realized in horror that he indeed took her phone. The small device that she failed to protect with a password because she trusted in others.

 

Bella's legs took off after him faster than she registered and managed to catch up to him, sitting near the hayride. Embarrisnly out of breath, she shot her hand out palm facing upward expectantly. 

 

"The amount of athleticism you've displayed is exquisite." He handed her the phone. "You've proven yourself worthy of being on my team for the scavenger hunt."

 

"Hah!" Rosalie's scoff carried from the short distance. "You can't have her and  Edward. Plus," the blonde from beside the brunette continued, "I invited her as my plus one." 

 

The scavenger hunt was not what she had expected. Bella spent the majority of the time basically following after Rosalie, where she discovered the blonde's competitive personality. 

 

Anytime the brunette tried to provide input, the blonde somehow seemed to be ahead of her. Normally, Bella detested games or tasks that required outdoing one another, but she found herself smiling at the blonde's antics. 

 

Dangerously close to finishing their list and reaching their established finish line, Rosalie abruptly halted their steps and crouched down to whisper into her ear. 

 

"Decoy." Bella nodded and carefully followed the light amber eyes as realization dawned on the brunette. 

 

Brows set, the brunette rolled her eyes at the farewell salute from her teammate as Rosalie took off in a brisk jog. With a big gulp of air she sucked in, she loudly cried out in faux pain. 

 

"Ow," she could practically feel the roll of Rosalie's eyes at her terrible execution, so she added a sprinkle of flavor, "fuck, my arm." 

 

She hid her smile as she heard the answering call of concern from Emmett a row over. Forehead crinkled, she almost lost out on her oscar worthy performance when the overwhelming urge to giggle erupted from her stomach. 

 

"What happened?" Emmett worriedly asked while Edward rounded the corner with the pen and paper in hand. 

 

"No!" Edward's eyes widened and unfocused as if he heard something giving away their plan. "Em, they coordinated!" Edward jogged up to them. 

 

Bella's smirk grew as Emmett gasped in outraged betrayal. Quickly without looking back, she ripped the page from Edward's hand and ran in the opposite direction Rosalie went. 

 

She heard the steps growing closer, and she swore she felt phantom brushes of fingers on her back, but she refused to slow down. She ran straight into Alice and Jasper. 

 

Eyes wide and breath short, she looked at the two in a desperate cry for help, and she celebrated when Alice smiled at her. Small pale finger to her lips, she grabbed the paper and tucked it into her pocket as Edward caught up to them. 

 

"Alice, give it back, please." 

 

"Wait, where's Emmett?" Then she heard the sound of Emmett screaming for help, followed by Rosalie cursing him out.

 

Alice dodged his attempts to wrangle her, but instead of it looking sporty. It looked choreographed. The two danced around one another as if they predicted one another's next move.

 

Alice shot her a smile while she twirled around her before skirting off to the other side of the path. Edward, well, he looked extraordinarily focused and equally aggravated. 

 

Reinvigorated by the siblings' competitive energy, she fixed her stare at the blond in front of her. Suspiciously calm, she looked him over. As if sensing her distrust, he held his hands up and shot her a charming smile.

 

"I'm the least competitive." 

 

Edward looked at him with a malicious smile that only confirmed to Bella, the exciting dynamic between the siblings didn't just exist between Emmett and Rosalie, but all of them. "Of course, you are Jasper. If I'm not mistaken, the last team you were on, you lost, didn't you?" 

 

Jasper's demeanor shifted, and he launched into help Alice evade Edward's attempt to go into her pockets. 

 

The trio caught up in their small fight. Bella realized she could make a run for it to help Rosalie. She slowly backtracked and started to sprint back toward the finish. 

 

As she approached the finish, she caught the duo standing on opposite ends of the exit, poised and ready to go at it again. Bent in half with her hands on her knees, she tried to catch her breath as she took in Emmett's dirt coated sweater, and Rosalie's right cheek smudged with mud. 

 

Bella just stared in disbelief as she noticed the destroyed scavenger sheet on the ground. Esme and Carlisle stood off to the side, and while Carlisle looked exhausted, Esme looked used to it?

 

The Cullen matriarch caught her eye and waved. She shot her a smile before turning back to the scene of the crime. 

 

The stupid sheet torn to shreds and strewn all over the ground taunted the brunette.

 

"Bella!" Edward looked spotless as he called her. "Game over, Jasper ripped our paper to bits. How southern of him..." He stopped beside her and trailed off as he saw the scene before them. 

 

"I don't understand." Bella stopped as she tried to process the outcome of events. "What happened? This was just a scavenger hunt. What is wrong with me?" She turned to Edward. "I swear I'm not competitive." 

 

Bella couldn't stop the heat as it rushed to her face, but she could stop spewing words. 

 

Esme looked at them with doting eyes, and the unreserved adoration she saw in them made her heart clench. She adopted all of these children on her own with her husband. She wanted and planned for this, even at such a young age. 

 

Her chest felt tight with emotions threatening to overflow. 

 

The sound of tinkling laughter from behind her pushed Bella over the edge, and she made a run for it. 

 

"I'm going to the bathroom." 

 

The cold water on her hands felt godsent. Without any further thought, she splashed some cold water on her face. Although bitter and freezing because of the cool fall air, it was nothing compared to the cold, harsh reality of her family. 

 

A knock on the door startled her. 

 

"It's Rosalie. I can't tell if you're okay, but--No, you're obviously not okay, but we're sorry." She paused, waiting for Bella's response. The brunette just stared at the paper towel she'd dabbed onto her face. "We bought you a pumpkin donut as an apology for ruining the game." 

 

There was a brief silence.

 

Newly refreshed, Bella opened the door. Only to laugh because Emmett stood right behind Rosalie, holding a steaming cup, while Edward waved from further back.

 

"I have no idea why you're all apologizing." She mustered her best-confused look as they made their way back to the rest of their family. "I just had to use the restroom, but I will gladly take the donut." 

 

Bella's hand absentmindedly took the offered sweet from Rosalie's outstretched hand and muttered a quiet, "Thank you." Amber eyes curiously followed the donut as it traveled from her grip and to her mouth. She looked at all of them and realized she was the only one eating. She slightly wagged the newly bitten dessert as an offer for the blonde to try. 

 

Emmett and Edward trailed ahead of them before she could do the same to them. 

 

Rosalie looked hesitant as she stared at food as if it were to kill her. Bella felt terrible for eating the sugary item in front of the healthy family. Bella's concern plastered on her face, the blonde quickly acted. 

 

Pale slim fingers gently plucked the orange-brown circle from her grip and cautiously brought the item to pink bow-shaped lips. Inches from her lips, Rosalie looked ready to formulate an excuse, but with one more look in Bella's direction, she smiled before biting a large chunk off. 

 

"Wow," She finished chewing before she continued, "it is super good." Bella practically beamed at the blonde's display of comfort to eat around her. Rosalie handed it back, but not before her eyes roamed across Bella's face. Almost as if she wanted to make sure she appeased the shorter girl. 

 

"I told you it was good." She finished the last bite and wiped her mouth with the napkin. 

 

"Bella! Rose!" The two girls turned toward the voice that called their names. "Are you girls ready to go, or do you want to check another attraction out?" 

 

They both smiled at one another before they made their way to the group.

 

Bella felt at ease as she settled in between Emmett and Rosalie in their huddle. As they parted ways with the promise to meet at their house for dinner, she took in the slightly alienated blond behind Alice before they all parted ways. 

 

The brunette spent the night in stitches with a giant grin on her face. Jasper seemingly warmed up after a while. Even in class the following day, he spoke with her more than their usual greeting. 

 

The days blended into weeks, and soon Holiday break was around the corner. 

 

Bella could hardly believe the amount of time she'd spent in Forks by the time the snow rolled around. She'd spent the past week groaning at the frozen rain, but nothing prepared her for the harsh reality of actual snowflakes. Their shape resembled nothing of the artistic recreations or interpretations people depicted.

 

And just something about the winter mornings delivering freezing temperatures made her more irritable than usual.  

 

Thermos in hand, she struggled to shut her car door, and eventually did, but not before losing her balance and slipping on her ass. She bristled as she heard Emmett's booming laughter from across the parking lot.

 

She scanned the lot and spotted Emmett beside all his siblings as he waved at her. She flipped him off and tried to help herself up off the ice patch. 

 

Only to freeze in horror at the chilling sound of tires skidding on the blacktop parking lot. 

 

She looked up at the call of her name, "Bella!" She locked eyes with the voice's owner. Rosalie looked horrified as she set her sights on the scene that unfolded before her. 

 

Everyone always claims that things happen ridiculously fast, and people hardly have time to react, but that wasn't true in Bella's case. Her brain responded quicker than her limbs, so she saw the van barrelling towards her car's back corner, but she could only sit there and watch it approach her. 

 

As a last-ditch effort to put herself at ease, she used her best coping mechanism in her arsenal to deal with her imminent death. Humour. 

 

"Sick."

 

She closed her eyes as she sucked in a breath expecting the impact to rip it from her one last time. 

 

Bella wheezed as the impact drove into her from the left side, and she slid across the ice patch before she slammed into the car beside her. She groaned as her head smacked into a hard surface, and she rebounded against it. 

 

Eyes closed she heard muffled sounds before the ringing in her ears grew too loud. Disoriented, she got up on her elbows only to turn around and throw up her stomach contents.  

 

Bile rose and spewed from her mouth, the black coffee from breakfast burned its way back up and left her esophagus extensively singed. Bella barely managed to hold herself up before realizing she could open her eyes. Tentatively, the brunette opened her eyes to minimize the significance of the ringing in her ears, but she hissed when the daylight burned.  

 

That's when the ringing gave way, and Bella's ears picked up on the complete and utter chaos. 

 

"Get him out of the van!"

 

"Where's Bella?!!?"

 

The brunette groaned as a cold touch on her back, brought her back to focus. "Hey, just relax for me. Where did you get hurt?"

 

Bella tried to react or respond in any way, but she couldn't find the words to form a simple sentence. The shock, pain, or overall disbelief stopped her from doing so.

 

"Okay, can you tell me your name?" 

 

Head pounding, 'i can do that,' she thought. 

 

"Isabella." 

 

"What--"

 

Without warning, Bella lost a battle with another bought of nausea and threw up before the person could finish speaking.

 

Bella could barely register the words from the other person, besides the occasional word floating out of the fog, and before long, she gave into exhaustion and passed out. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Steady beeping sounds drowned the sound of hushed voices. She winced as her head viciously throbbed in pain.

 

"Bella?" The brunette tried to open her eyes but hissed when the bright white lights and decor burned. "Don't rush to open your eyes, but can you hear us, alright?"

 

The brunette tried to nod in affirmation but stopped as the throbbing intensified. Bella winced as her voice cracked, her throat felt raw as if she'd gone without water for days. "Yeah." 

 

"Okay, it's Dr. Cullen." His voice drifted closer, and she felt herself relax, knowing who exactly addressed her. "Your Dad's on his way." She then heard him whisper under his breath, but she couldn't pinpoint if he spoke to himself or someone else. Did she imagine the sound?  

 

"What happened?" 

 

Bella's head felt heavy as she tried to sort through the events that transpired, but the fog in her memories leading up to the accident remained. Working through her headache to lift the haze, she squinted through the discomfort of opening her eyes to bright lights. After a few moments, she blinked the film from her eyes.

 

"What do you last recall?" The brunette turned toward Dr. Cullen and then looked back at her body, lying on the bed. 

 

"I was getting out of my car, and I fell." She wracked her brain and ignored the throbbing pain as it morphed into a stabbing. "I turned toward Emmett because I heard him laugh. Then I just remember seeing a car coming toward me but not being fast enough to do anything about it." Bella's brow furrowed, and she looked up at the blond man. "Someone pushed me out of the way." She recalled through the muddle memory and chaotic sounds someone comforting her. 

 

"Ms. Webber told me about Rosalie helping you." Bella's confusion doubled. "You have everyone worried."

 

"I hope not because I'm fine." She paused and worded her reservations. "Wait, Rosalie pushed me out of the way?" Bella questioned the man as he looked over the devices attached to her. 

 

"Yeah, she said she managed to react fast enough from beside you to shove you and get herself out of harm's way." She noted the efforts he made to avoid direct eye contact, and suddenly it all clicked. 

 

The past couple of months played through her mind.

 

The incapacitating headache pushed to the back of her mind, she looked at the head of the family, and it all fell into place. 

 

"Where is R--"

 

"Nena!" Her Dad came bursting through the door, and Dr. Cullen calmly turned to face him. "What happened?" He approached her and immediately directed his attention to the Doctor. 

 

"She's perfectly fine. There's no need to panic." Her Dad's shoulder's visibly relaxed as he received the okay. "Now that she's awake, we're going to run some quick tests, but as of now, I've determined it's a concussion." 

 

Her Dad's eyes roamed over her, and she shot him a toothy smile to minimize his worry to which he responded with a frown. 

 

As she ran through the tests, Bella's mind kept straying to earlier. 

 

Rosalie pushed her out of the way? She'd looked at the horror that flooded the blonde's features as she stood near her siblings across the parking lot. 

 

"Okay, Bella." She snapped out of her thoughts. "You're all clear. I would mainly relax for today and tomorrow. If you feel pain, take something to reduce it, but if the pain and symptoms persist into the fourth day, see me again."

 

Bella left the room and walked right into her Dad. He looked ghostly, and she shot him a concerned look before he shook his head with a quiet "Later." She nodded as he raised his voice slightly to converse. "I'll bring the car around if you want to say bye to your friends." He kept walking while she slowed. 

 

"Friends?"

 

Just then, a tiny but powerful person bounded into the brunette. "Bella, oh my god. We thought you died." She chuckled as she gratefully, but just as awkwardly, patted Jessica's back. 

 

Angela shot her a huge smile and wrapped herself around both of the girls. "We're just glad everyone's okay." Bella exhaled in relief at the words. The stress she completely forgot about lifted from her shoulders. Everyone else was alright, including the driver. 

 

Jess stepped up onto her tiptoes and whispered into Bella's ear. "Rosalie's been waiting for you since we all got here." 

 

And just like that, the stress from earlier came back tenfold. The brunette's stomach flipped and twisted uncomfortably at the prospect of confronting her friend and, consequently, his family. 

 

The girls said their goodbyes and left Bella standing alone in the hallway before she finally gained the strength to make her way into the waiting room. 

 

Rosalie stood in all her grace and intimidation near the waterjug. She looked up at Bella as soon as the latter entered the room. 

 

Bella took in her disheveled appearance and scoffed to herself. Of course, even after evading death, she looked as if she'd meticulously styled appearance. Something she's sure not even anyone else in the blonde's family could do. 

 

"Hi."

 

"Hey."

 

Bella awkwardly shifted her feet around until she finally caved to the awkward silence and weird eye avoidance game. 

 

"Thank you for saving me."

 

"There's no need to thank me. It's what anyone would've done." 

 

"Sure," she looked directly at the blonde, "if they stood beside me." She hesitated before throwing caution to the wind. "You were across the lot next to Edward." She noticed the blonde's eyes darkened significantly and fought back a chill. "How did you get to me so fast?" 

 

An unsettling silence overtook the exchange.

 

Rosalie just looked at her but seemed to contemplate her next step. A cold, calculated look crossed Rosalie's features. Was this just a board game to her? "I just need you to give me some time to explain." Almost as if on-demand Bella's anger rose from the ashes. 

 

"To explain what?" She snapped out but felt guilty at the conflicted look that crossed the blonde's face. The brunette paused to breathe deeply from her nose to center herself. "That you all think I'm stupid?" Bella reflexively stepped back as Rosalie tried to move forward to placate her. 

 

"I dropped the first incident because it seemed lucky and well-timed, but this? Holy fuck, Rosalie." She glared at the blonde. "If all you're going do is give me the runaround, then find a mirror to practice your delivery because this is hilariously tragic." 

 

The blonde reacted to that at least because she snarked back quickly. "That's what I get for saving you? Interrogated and a bad attitude?" 

 

Bella laughed, legitimately guffawed in the blonde's face. "Thank you so much for saving me." She leaned upward and kissed the blonde's cheek as she tried to ignore how soft it felt against her lips. "Tell Emmett that this applies to him too, but until you guys want to stop lying to me, feel free to stop talking to me." 

 

She took in the genuine shock on Rosalie's face before she spun on her heels and left the room as fast as she left the hospital building, but not before turning back to spew some final words. "Also, next time, just let me die like an average person? Then we won't be back to square one?" She shook her head. "Seriously, two times now? Yeah, that's normal."

 

Her Dad patiently waited in his cruiser and jumped out to help her. The brunette typically would've fought the gesture, but drained and slightly in pain. She thanked him instead. 

 

"You're going to have to call your Mom tomorrow." She smacked her head back onto the headrest. She just couldn't catch a break. "You're lucky I stuck my head out and convinced her to give you some time to rest." 

 

She glared at the snow as it fell all around their car. 

 

Not only does she have a family of lying superbeings as friends, but her Mother waited on standby to somehow turn this into a lecture. 

 

Bella lay in her bed with her music cranked in her ears. 

 

How could she overlook months of events not adding up? Was she willfully ignorant? Did she genuinely disregard her inquiries for that long to appease her blossoming friendship? 

 

None of them ever really ate, and when they did, it was minimal at best and after prompting from her end. Is that why they found Emmett snacking on her lunch amusing?

 

She rolled over with a huff and muffled her groan into the pillow. 

 

Bella heard a knock on the door, and she turned her face outward to call out, "Yeah?" The hinges creaked as her Dad's head popped into view. 

 

"I have to head back to work." He looked hesitant before he continued. "Dr. Cullen said someone needed to be with you, and I work the night shift."

 

"What is it, Dad?" Nervous and concerned at his hesitance, she maneuvered herself to sit upright. 

 

"I mentioned what happened to Sue, and Leah offered to keep you company." She nodded before she slowly got off her bed. 

 

"I appreciate it. I wasn't sure how I was going to keep myself busy." Not true, she had an arsenal of questions and past scenarios to evaluate now that she knew she wasn't crazy. "When is she going to be here?" 

 

He scratched at his scruff. "Well, she's already downstairs. I'm kind of late for work..."

 

"Go ahead. I'll just change into something more comfortable and head down there." 

 

Bella changed into some shorts and an oversized hoodie. Before heading to the steps, she snagged a blanket from the closet. The brunette entered the living room and took in Leah sprawled across the furniture. 

 

"Hey."

 

"What's up?"

 

"Nothing much, almost died today."

 

"Damn, that's crazy."

 

"The usual." 

 

The older girl broke first and cracked a smile as she laughed. Bella felt the thin ice melt, and she moved to sit beside the girl on the couch. 

 

They spent the evening laughing and joking about the inaccuracies in the Fast and Furious franchise. In fact, they both couldn't pinpoint a singular plotline near the fifth one. "Wait," Leah finished chewing her bite of pizza, "he just let them go?" 

 

Bella could barely process the ending, so when Leah's genuine upset at the outcome of events shone through, she stared at her blankly. "I don't know what's going on, to be honest." She drank some water to wash her food down. "I couldn't even get past the opening escape scene. There's no way any of the people on the bus would've survived that accident." 

 

Bella and Leah just sat side by side, staring at the end credits. 

 

The brunette sighed as she got up to get some painkillers from the medicine cabinet. "Want anything from the kitchen?" 

 

"More water, please!"

 

The brunette felt a prickling sensation on her back. As if someone was watching her. Quickly looking at the rapidly darkening night, she closed the kitchen blinds before making her way back to the living room with two full glasses of water. 

 

"So, what's good at Forks High?" 

 

"It's nothing special, that's for sure, but I can't complain." Bella looked at Leah and her beautifully braided hair. The brunette almost jumped when she recalled her last interaction with the girl. She thought about the best way to go about it but concluded the best method was to be truthful. 

 

"Rosalie pushed me out of the way." She gauged the girl's reaction as she brought up the blonde and her earlier accident. "This morning, the van barreled toward me, and it's crazy. I could've sworn she was across the parking lot." 

 

She noticed Leah tense before she turned from her to look at the TV. "Hmm, that's weird." Leah brought the glass to her lips.

 

Bella narrowed her eyes at the girl's awful acting. "What do you know?" She inconspicuously pulled more of the blanket onto her feet and away from her guest. 

 

Dark brows furrowed as Leah tried to keep her chill composure. "What do you mean?"

 

Bella scoffed and rolled her eyes before she pulled her receipts. "At the roller rink, you said they've never been to the roller rink? And you seem to have a problem with Rosalie, at least." 

 

Leah's beautiful features crinkled before relaxing. She sighed and leaned back. "I don't  really  have a problem with them, I guess." She yanked some of the banket back as she shot a playful glare at Bella. "It's more their ancestors did terrible things, and indirectly, they profited off the dehumanization of my tribe." 

 

Bella's curiosity piqued she asked, "What do you mean?"

 

Leah shifted and faced Bella directly. 

 

"There are cultural aspects to our tribe that we pass along, but there are also stories by mouth that aren't necessarily true, I think." She hesitated. "I don't know how true it is, but it makes sense." 

 

Bella leaned forward and took note of the girl's mannerisms. "What does?" 

 

"That they're the very same people that came and colonized us." She laughed, and Bella startled slightly. "It's almost like a comparison to the rich or elite taking from the people for their personal gain." 

 

Bella processed the older girl's words as they came from her chevalier attitude.

 

"They're not allowed on the reservation based on an agreement, but when has that stopped white men from going back on their word." She scoffed as Bella simply stared. 

 

The brunette's mind in overdrive, she tried to draw parallels and then came up with the same question. 

 

"If they're supposedly not human, what are they?" She tried to add a small laugh to minimize the impact the exchange had on her actual mental state. 

 

"Have you ever read any theorists?" 

 

Bella held her breath as she shook her head in response.

 

"Well, there's the bourgeoisie, elite, one percent, really your choice of terminology." 

 

Bella's horrified confusion must've been evident on her face because Leah leaned forward, and her words blew across the brunette's face punctuating her sentiment. 

 

"Bloodsuckers or vampires, I guess you could say." 

 

Bella felt the blood rush to her head. Her breath wheezed out of her chest, and she fought down her desire to gasp. 

 

There couldn't be a single, more ridiculous claim. 

 

But it added up. 

 

It all made sense- the family's refusal to eat, their lavish life, their lack of flaws, the constant evasion of sunlight, and their ability to somehow show up at the right moments to save her from certain death. 

 

How could she be so stupid? 

 

We're they grooming her for their next meal?

 

God, how stupid could she be even to believe this? 

 

"Hey girl," she snapped her head up toward the voice, "you good? It's just a story. They're just the richest people, and they're deathly white. Them coming to live here probably just rubbed some of the tribe the wrong way."

 

Leah paused, "Well, at least they have the token Black person." Suddenly, concern and a horror colored Leah's facial expressions. "Is he in the sunken place?"

 

Bella chuckled at the girl's punchline , but it came out more like a wheezy sigh of relief. They settled into a similar routine, well, she tried her best, she really did, but the brunette's mind couldn't stray far from Rosalie. 

 

She'd saved her twice, and both times Rosalie was nowhere near the vicinity yet claimed to be close. What could the blonde possibly muster up as an excuse? She needed time for what? To come up with some other bullshit response? 

 

Last time she'd questioned her, the blonde had snapped at her. As if she'd caught Rosalie redhanded. 

 

The entire night Bella's mind replayed the same memories and scenarios with no end in sight. She groaned internally at the realization she would most likely remain like this until she confronted them.

 

And before long, stuck in the same cycle of thoughts, Bella fell asleep. However, due to the Doctor's recommendation to wake her every so often during the night to make sure she was alright, Leah set alarms, waking her up every few hours to check on her.

 

Her Dad greeted them the morning with fresh coffee. "Thank you, Leah." 

 

"No problem, Carlos." She snagged a cup of coffee and prepped it to her liking. 

 

After thanking Leah and saying their goodbyes, Bella negotiated with her Dad. Although it took far longer than she'd anticipated, she convinced him to let her return to school the following day. 

 

So the brunette kept busy, and she organized her bookbag after catching up on her homework. She'd even finished her laundry before she finally sat down in her bedroom. Bella glared at the offending item and stopped avoiding the inevitable. 

 

With a groan, she unplugged her forgotten phone from her bedside outlet. As she went through the numerous messages from her group chats with her friends, she came across two separate threads. 

 

Emmett and Rosalie had messaged her. 

 

She just hovered over their threads, but couldn't get herself to open them yet. 

 

So she sighed as she dialed her Mom's phone. 

 

" Nena !" 

 

"Mom, don't stress, please." 

 

" Why didn't you call me sooner ?" Bella tried her best to interject, but her Mom rattled off her thoughts for a while before she managed to input a word or two. 

 

"Mom, porfa." She just rested her head in her hands, a small headache coming on. "I rested the day before. I haven't even touched my phone. I called you as soon as I did." 

 

A huge pause filled their conversation, and Bella checked to make sure the call didn't drop. 

 

"Ma?" 

 

" Te escucho, siguele ." 

 

"I'm fine. The Doctor said everything's good." She heard rustling on the other end. Bella looked at the clock on her phone, and she realized she probably called her Mom at a bad time. "If you're busy, I can call you--"

 

"Mira Mami, luego te hablo."  

 

"Okay," she trailed off as the line went dead before she could say, "te quiero." 

 

Strangely disheartened and annoyed, she threw caution to the wind and opened the messages. 

 

Emmett : Hey, just checking in and making sure you're alright. I missed you today.

 

Her heart clenched as she read the message from her closest friend, who she absolutely adored, but who also lied to her. And just as quickly, Bella's anger resurfaced, so she deleted the thread without remorse. 

 

Rosalie : Anything you need to ask, I'll answer truthfully. 

Rosalie : It's not Emmett's fault, please don't be upset with him. 

 

Bella typed out her response, and she chewed her lips raw as she did so. The uncertainty she felt upset her as she stared at the bright screen in her dark and gloomy room. 

 

Everything about this was so unfair. 

 

So, she couldn't care less. Angry and truly confused, she went with her instinct and deleted the thread as well. The brunette would deal with this when she saw them. 

 

One thing was for certain, Bella enjoyed Leah keeping her company. Her cheerful personality overpowered the gloomiest of Bella's moods, and the distraction helped, but more so, she appreciated the information because it helped rationalize her thoughts. 

 

She knew it. 

 

It was too good to be true. 

Chapter Text

"So," she turned her head toward the voice, "what do you think?"

 

Bella tried her best to recall the conversation leading up to that moment, but the brunette found herself struggling. Angela just stared at her expectantly, and she opened her mouth to improvise a response. 

 

Her friend took her hesitation as a response, and a horrified Angela continued. "You're right. It's a stupid idea." Angela shoved her face into her hands and groaned. "What do I even get her?"

 

Bella felt relief flood through her, and she jumped at the opportunity. "I wish I could help, Ang. But being honest," she leaned forward, "I don't even know what to get my person." Her friend's eyebrows furrowed before her eyes narrowed. 

 

"You pulled my name, didn't you?" 

 

Bella pulled back bewildered as the conversation changed directions into an interrogative territory. She turned to the boy behind them and jabbed her thumb at Angela. "Can you believe that?" 

 

The boy just blankly stared at them before turning back to his book. 

 

"Answer the question!"

 

"What question?"

 

"That you pulled my name!"

 

"Oh, you mean,  accusation ." 

 

Bella ducked in time to avoid the pen Angela flung at her.  

 

It was distractions like this that facilitated a perfect environment for her to forget the ongoing issues in her life. 

 

The brunette promised to approach Rosalie and Emmett once she returned, but found herself slamming into a problem—the family took an improvised trip to visit their extended family. 

 

Bella had arrived at school the following day to find out they made a headstart on winter vacation. 

 

Now left to her confusion, she tried to fill her busy head with mindless chatter. 

 

And Angela's love-fueled meltdown was just what her Doctor prescribed.

 

She chuckled as Angela continued the discussion throughout the period. Friday before winter break started, and the teachers allowed for free reign. In all her classes, teachers assigned worksheets, and small self-led assignments, that when completed, they could talk. 

 

In all honesty, she didn't have Angela for Secret Santa, but she wanted her to remain suspicious because Jess had confided in her that she asked Lauren to have Angela for secret Santa. Bella could only laugh in delight at their frighteningly similar mentality. Angela and Jess, both begged to pick each other, but neither knew it. 

 

Bella pulled Eric's name from the bowl, and she didn't even know where to begin looking. He loved everything, but he leaned more into the creative arts. Judging by his lunch activities, an adult coloring book or sketchpad with some pencils could be the right choice. She'd probably run to the store to finish her Christmas shopping during the weekend and pick up his gift then. 

 

"Bella, we're going to get some coffee after school, you trynna go?" Eric's voice brought her out of her inner musings. She noticed a new face joined their group from beside Ben. 

 

"I'm alright, thank you for the offer." She shrugged her bag higher onto her shoulders. "There's so much I need to get done." It wasn't an understatement at all. 

 

That evening she sat on her bed with her laptop. Once she submitted her third job application, she placed the computer aside. The only sound in her room was the winter night breeze blowing through her slightly opened window. 

 

Even with the cold, her phone burned hot in her pocket, so she whipped it out. 

 

Scrolling through her group chat with the girls, she smiled at their antics. 

 

That didn't last longer than a minute, because her thoughts drifted back to the same people dominating her mind. 

 

Bella glared at the screen before she set her jaw and typed out her message. She stared at the name across the top of the typed out message before setting her mind. Without looking it over, for fear she would chicken out, she sent it through. 

 

The phone in her hand instantaneously rang.

 

Rosalie ,  in bold letters, appeared before they disappeared just as quickly. 

 

Bella just stared at the phone, did she accidentally reject the call? 

 

Rosalie  appeared again, but this time Bella answered without hesitation.  

 

The phone raised to her ear. She paused with a greeting lodged in the back of her throat. What does she even say? The other side of the line reflected the same silence, and Bella felt her hesitation melt away. 

 

They were both unsure. No one had the upper ground, at least Bella thought so. 

 

" Bella, " the brunette felt the breath she hadn't known she held in escape her lungs as Rosalie, albeit whispered her name into the phone, " don't hang up ." 

 

Bella never understood people's fascination with voices, but at that moment, it all made sense. Rosalie's voice managed to slip the rug from underneath her. 

 

"I know you're still on the line because I can still hear you breathing into the mic. " She paused before Bella could find a gap to speak or even stop her loud mouth breathing. " Are you mad?"

 

Bella felt guilt swell at the bottom of her stomach. She might've reacted poorly, but it was warranted, right? 

 

"I'm not mad." Bella listened carefully to the other line. "I'm just," she rattled her mind for the right word to use before settling on, "confused." 

 

Bella sat on her bed with the phone held to her ear. The silence on the telephone complimented the winter quiet from the cracked open window of her room. 

 

"Are you up to having visitors?

 

Bella's brows furrowed as she heard the question. "What do you mean?"

 

"Can I visit you?"  

 

"Now?" 

 

"Yes."

 

"Um, yeah?" 

 

The call ended, and Bella just stared at her phone in disbelief. 

 

With a groan, she let herself fall back onto her bed. Only to shoot up at a knock on her window. Eyes wide and heart racing, she looked directly at Rosalie Hale herself. Somehow elegantly crouched on a branch and waving at her with her signature raised eyebrow. 

 

Bella could only stare for a while before she finally went to the window and opened it up. She stepped back as the blonde climbed in through the window with grace people could only ascribe to the Cullen family. 

 

Rosalie Hale stood towering over her in the safety of her room. Her room which currently contained a mess of wrapping supplies and decor all over the place. 

 

"Hey." Bella tried. She swore she tried to avoid getting annoyed at the lack of urgency Rosalie had to explain, but it got the best of her. 

 

"Hi, so we use windows now?" 

 

Rosalie looked distraught at her response. "No, it's just I saw the car out front, so I assumed your Father was home." 

 

"He usually drives the cruiser." Bella halted her next words before she looked at the blonde in question. "So you're obviously not out of town, but how did you even get here so fast?" 

 

Rosalie gestured at the bed, "Do you mind if we sit?" She looked over Bella's face, and something prompted her to continue. "I'll answer anything and everything. I don't want you to get tired of standing." 

 

Bella just moved the computer onto the side table before she sat down against the headboard. Rosalie gently sat down at the end of the bed and turned to face her. 

 

"We were supposed to be out of town, but I stayed behind with Emmett and Edward. They're at the house right now." Bella nodded, and Rosalie continued. "We didn't want to leave in case you wanted to see us. or speak to us." 

 

Bella swallowed the earlier guilt and focused on her quest for answers. "How did you get here so fast?" 

 

"I was around the area--" Bella's cut the bullshit look must've done the trick because she quickly revised her answer. "I wanted to make sure you were safe, so I sometimes do check-ins around your perimeter." 

 

"As if a car, my ultimate nemesis would run me over in my house." 

 

Rosalie's scathing look shut her up faster than her words. "Well, you would be lucky enough." 

 

Bella just sat there and avoided making direct eye contact with Rosalie. The topic weighed heavily in the air. Both of them couldn't deny the palpable tension of what the next question entailed.  

 

Bella ignored the gut feeling and her rational mind yelling at her to stop. Even if she sounded ridiculous, the outcome of the past couple of months was even more outlandish.

 

"What are you?"

 

Rosalie's brow twitched in a momentary lapse, and that was all Bella needed for validation. The perfect presentation of what an uncontrolled expression looked like gave her away within that twitch.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"Please," Bella's breath hitched as she thought over her delivery, "I know there's something unique about you all, but I want to hear it from you." She didn't want to rat on her source of information. If Leah was wrong for whatever reason, and she was too, then she'd be solely responsible.  

 

Rosalie's back straightened, and she looked directly at Bella. 

 

"Why aren't you disturbed or petrified?" 

 

She exhaled utterly unaware she'd held her breath the entire time. 

 

"You're not scary," Bella's eyes trailed across Rosalie's face, "and Emmett's the kindest person ever. If he wanted to hurt me, he would've done so already." As Bella spoke, her original fears seemed misplaced and warrantless. Why would she think her friend would hurt her?

 

"Well, Emmett's wounded that you messaged me." Rosalie looked up to see if the joke landed, but Bella couldn't muster a smile. With a sigh, Rosalie continued. "So, what's your guess?" 

 

"It sounds ridiculous." 

 

"Try me." 

 

"Vampire." 

 

The loaded silence was all the answer Bella needed. The brunette examined the blonde's demeanor. Her golden eyes were brighter than their typical smoke amber. Rosalie's pink bow-shaped lips parted as she visibly formulated her next words. 

 

"Emmett was right." She sighed. "We need to be less suspicious." 

 

"Wait, so I am right?" 

 

"Yes." She looked up from her hands. "I am telling the truth." Rosalie looked conflicted as she continued. "We're all are vampires." 

 

Bella's morbid curiosity and fascination overpowered the will to clarify her previous confusion. "We're you all born that way?"

 

"No, we all were turned by someone else. Except for Jasper, Alice, and Emmett, Carlisle made us." Rosalie's eyes critically searched her face, but Bella paid it no mind as she continued her interrogation. 

 

"You're not related?" 

 

"God, no." Rosalie cringed. "I don't know why we continue to use the awful cover story." She humorlessly laughed. "We don't look anything alike!" As if her filter abandoned her, she rambled on. "This feels amazing. We should've told you sooner." 

 

Bella nodded, but her overall confusion remained. Leah's words echoed loudly in her mind, and she opened her mouth to amplify her reservations. "How old are you?" 

 

Rosalie froze, and Bella feared the worst. 

 

"All of us are from different periods of history, so to speak." Bella leaned forward to indicate her attention remained on Rosalie. "Carlisle is the oldest of our family and older than a lot of our kind too. He's physically twenty-three, but he's from the 1640s." 

 

Bella scoffed at the dates. "There's no way." Rosalie's perched brow knocked her certainty down. "Is this all a joke?" 

 

"What are you serious?" Rosalie pinched her nose. "What would I get out of lying? Seriously, I just wanna come clean, and you think I'd bullshit?" She rolled her eyes. 

 

"Wait," Bella hesitated but continued regardless, "how old are you?" 

 

Rosalie's eyes narrowed, and her head tilted slightly in a quiet challenge. "Guess, and then I'll tell you."  

 

Bella shook her head, these siblings insanely competitive, and for what? Not wanting to look like she caved into the game, she rattled off an unrealistic number, "One hundred."

 

"Hmm, pretty close. I was born in 1915." Bella just stared at the blonde in shock. Leah's words rattled in her mind and weighed down her judgment. 

 

"Wait, so you're serious." She grappled with trying to find the right words. "Are you..." she leaned forward even more in intrigue, "You're all old." It came out more like a statement. 

 

Leah's sentiment remained imprinted on her mind. If they're all old, then how did Emmett fair in comparison to his family? How did they explain or manage without rousing suspicion? 

 

"Wait, how old is Emmett?" 

 

"He was born in 1915, and he joined the family two years after I did." Smoldering amber eyes roamed across her face, but Bella was too preoccupied with trying to remember what Leah joked about the night she found out about the family.  

 

"You don't look terrified or disturbed. I don't understand you..." Rosalie trailed off, looking mildly offended. 

 

"What," Bella scoffed, "did you expect me to try and run?" Blonde brows furrowed further. "Guessing by your inhuman abilities from my last two near-death experiences, you clearly could just stop me without issue." Bella shrugged, emphasizing her indifference that baffled Rosalie beyond cognition. "Also, I'm sure your family would've killed me by now." 

 

Bella got up and snagged her water bottle from the desk before settling back in her spot. Rosalie failed to budge an inch from her shocked pose. The brunette could visibly see the algorithms floating from Rosalie's head as her friend tried to understand her indifferent attitude. 

 

"Let's backtrack." Bella nodded in agreement. 

 

"We don't hurt humans," Rosalie stated with a sense of vindictiveness. 

 

"So you just Capri Sun suck some blood bags?--Like a mosquito," Bella added as an afterthought. 

 

"You know what?" Rosalie got up and moved backward toward the window. "This seems like an Emmett and you kind of conversation. I'm not--He's way more the funny person, and he understands trauma way more than I do--" 

 

"Okay, am I coming on too strong?" Bella groaned and regretted letting her defense mechanisms come through. "Look, I'm sorry I made you uncomfortable with my humor. My mistake I forget people don't respond to a serious conversation with quips or punchlines." 

 

Bella raised her hands in an offer of peace. "I'll tone it down, promise. Although I can't help but agree with you." 

 

Rosalie crossed her arms and scowled mildly offended. "Then why did you text me instead of him?" 

 

Stumped, Bella leaned back and realized Rosalie was right. Why did she message her first? 

 

"I'm not sure." 

 

Rosalie sat at the desk in the grey mesh chair. Bella could only stare because why had she reach out to her before her best friend? She could simply stow the action into the file labeled chance, but Bella knew better. Bella hesitated and acted after some vetting. However brief her pause, it didn't matter because she always stood behind her actions.

 

She took responsibility for her behavior and how her choices affected others. Bella felt her guilt resurface. 

 

"Even though you all lied to me, especially you," she shot Rosalie a glare, "I understand why you did, so I'm sorry for making our friendship rockier than it should've been in the first place." Bella felt great speaking her deeper concerns and reservations. "Literally, no one ever keeps stuff from me. Usually, it's the opposite people spill their guts to me all the time. So, when you saved me the two times, I should've thanked you without interrogating you." 

 

"Thank you." 

 

Rosalie cracked a smile, and at that moment, Bella knew that it'd all work out. One way or another, they're all alright, and they had copious amounts of time to figure everything out. 

 

The brunette beamed back at the blonde, and she felt it with certainty that she'd made the right choice reaching out to her. Her belief only solidified further by Rosalie's beaming smile in return. 

 

Rosalie tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear, and Bella followed her mesmerizing movements with a careful eye. The blonde's teeth glinted impeccably white, and the brunette felt her breath falter. The blonde's beauty always a focal point, but her smile, something so bright and elusive, nearly brought her to the brink of emotional outburst. 

 

Never had Bella understood herself and her actions more clearly. 

 

That smile was hope that something better was on the horizon, a promise of a better future for her, and an exit from the darkness she'd felt until that point. Bella felt aspirations return to her as she saw an end to the neverending winter. Rose-tinted lips mirrored the pink of the most wonderous break of light in the morning sky. Although similar to others, those gems outshone them as their radiance reflected the most lustrous sun as it rose on the first morning of spring. 

 

Even with winter in full swing, Bella felt the warmth she'd only ever heard of before. 

 

Suddenly, it all made sense. 

Chapter Text

The holidays went by better than Bella could've anticipated. 

 

In fact, she'd go so far as to say they went a little too well because Bella's savings depleted terribly over her frivolous spending, and it physically pained her to look at her account. Bella's frustrations only continued to build because she'd yet to hear back from her various job applications. Seriously, she applied to at least ten places, and no one called back.

 

She'd hate to start mooching off her Dad even more, but the reality seemed more realistic than finding a job in time, which is why she spent a couple of days before the New Year venting to Emmett as they lay on his bedroom floor. 

 

"Dude, giving Harry, Sue, Leah, and Seth a gift for our holiday party set me back, but damn did it feel good." With a huff, she threw her arms up. "Why do I have to be poor?" 

 

Emmett tossed the small bouncy ball against the wall a few more times before he answered. "Trust me. I'm the same way with gifting." 

 

Bella's brow furrowed as she remembered he gifted her something she couldn't reciprocate. "You shouldn't have spent money on getting me anything." She didn't want to appear rude, so she added, "But, I appreciate my gift." She loved her new blanket, but once she checked the tag online. The urge to keep the item in its package almost prevailed over the desire to use it.

 

"I just feel bad I can't afford to get you a gift right now." Emmett's ball smacked into his palm. 

 

"Don't be sorry." He shrugged, and she felt the movement against her shoulder. "What's the point of having so much money if we never spend it or do anything good with it? I just meant I love giving people gifts too." 

 

Bella agreed, but she couldn't shake the feeling that he directed his comment to someone else in the household. Granted, she was still adjusting to some aspects of their supernatural life but found it pretty easy to do so with their superhuman abilities. It's as if she'd gradually picked up on their mannerisms over the past few months but rationalized or attributed their powers to her overanalytical personality.

 

Wait, "So at the pumpkin patch when I ran away from Edward, and I got ahead of him, he let me run like an uncoordinated fool?" She glared at the ceiling and only stared harder as Emmett's shaking shoulders kept hitting hers. His laughter only deepened her embarrassment. 

 

"You know what's even funnier? He's the fastest out of all of us." He reached over and pinched Bella's cheek. His cold fingertips squeezed a bit harder than she'd expected, so she involuntarily yelped as she felt it cross the tender threshold and into pain. 

 

"Oh my god." He looked so serious as he rolled over and looked over her face. "I'm so sorry. Oh no, Rose's going to be so pissed." 

 

Bella's brow furrowed, and her lips twitched as if to smile before she straightened it out. "Why would she be mad?" The brunette waited patiently for Emmett to finish stressing. 

 

Only for him to glance at her again and begin panicking anew. "Oh god, it bruised." Bella's felt her eyes widen as she slapped a hand on her cheek and ran to his mirror. 

 

Horrified, she stared at the little purpling patch of skin. Emmett's equally terrified features floated into view in the mirror's reflection. She didn't quite understand the reason for his fear, but her primary efforts remained to hide the small injury from her Dad. Oh god, what would he even think? 

 

Bella's head whipped around as she heard the front door open with a bang followed by Edward's cry upstairs. "Em, she knows!" 

 

Emmett's mouth opened in horror as Rosalie came into view in the doorway, "how?!?" he cried. Bella watched in disbelief as Emmett opened the window and threw himself out just in time to avoid Rosalie's grip. 

 

The brunette just stared as Rosalie approached her. Bella noticed her darkened eyes and the silent question they posed. Oddly enough, she understood and nodded before holding in a sigh as cold fingers gripped her chin to further examine the injury. 

 

Her stomach fluttered as Rosalie's breath traveled across her face. The familiar scent of strawberry mint invaded her senses. "Why does he roughhouse with you so much?" 

 

Bella's brow furrowed, "maybe because we're friends, and he meant it endearingly?" She tore her chin from her grip and ignored the feeling in her stomach when Rosalie's face slightly dropped. 

 

Emmett's voice traveled from the doorway, "It's true, Rosie. I forgot she's way more fragile--" Bella cleared her throat, "breakable?" She nodded before turning back to Rosalie. 

 

"It was an accident." Rosalie looked irritated, and Bella swore she couldn't keep her eyes off of her cheek. She didn't understand why it bothered her so much if Emmett admitted it was an honest mistake. 

 

"Rosie, you can't be mad at me, wanna know why?" Emmett called from the hallway. Rosalie turned toward the question and impatiently waited for him to continue. "You need employees, and Bella's looking for a job. Since I flake too much because of volunteer work, I found you the perfect replacement." 

 

Rosalie turned to Bella, "Is that true? You need a job?" 

 

She nodded and added, "But don't feel obligated to hire me or even consider me." 

 

"Well, you'd be covering Emmett's shifts, and he only works with Edward or me. So I'd rather hire you than a stranger. When are you free to start?"

 

Bella struggled to play catch up with the change in direction the conversation took, but Emmett's thumbs-up motion settled her enough to nod. "After the holidays?" 

 

Rosalie's teeth flashed, and Bella swallowed her mouth's sudden dryness before looking up to meet her gaze. 

 

"Deal," Rosalie's lips curled upward, "I can't wait." 

 

A few days were all it took for everyone to settle into a routine. Bella got to know the family more, and it filled her with joy.

 

Jasper, although somewhat aloof, spent the majority of the time instigating their competitiveness. Sometimes Esme would have to intervene, and even when she did jump in to help, Bella noticed she never acted like a Mom, but more like a cool, understanding Aunt. 

 

In particular, when Emmett and Jasper would fight, Esme's compassion and true love for her family shone through. As if she knew and without effort, understood the individualized love languages in the family. As soon as Jasper and Emmett began to butt heads, which happened more often than Bella would've thought, Esme would offer to rebraid Emmett's hair while watching a movie both boys enjoyed. While she prepared the bands and comb, she'd bring out a candle from the hallway closet—the same candle scent in full stock behind it.  

 

The candle now lit, she noticed Jasper sink into the couch, the delicate balance returned to the room.

 

Amazed and in awe, she silently blended into the surroundings as the family just existed. Although she felt like a burden, everyone steadfastly assured her she wasn't, and in Esme's case, she'd periodically remind her that everyone adored her in their way. 

 

New years eve wasn't very different. Her Dad had made plans with his friends on the reservation during the morning and worked overnight. She fought the urge to wallow at home in self-pity as her Mom sent her a picture of her friends. So, she accepted Edward's and Alice's invitation to sit back and watch them play chess. An odd offer at the time, but seeing them play made all the more sense. 

 

"Alice," Edward pinched the bridge of his nose before glaring at his sister, "please stop singing. I promise I won't listen to your thoughts but stop singing." 

 

"Ha!" Alice clasped her hands together in delight. "I wish I could, but if you're strategically indecisive, then I get to be strategically mindless." 

 

"Alice!" Edward looked devastated. "At least something I enjoy listening to, I beg you."

 

Alice jutted out her tongue, "mind your business then!" 

 

She felt the seat dip beside her as Emmett's arm landed on her shoulder. Carlise sat on her left reading a book. Bella felt overwhelmed by the living room's stuffiness. Such a large room, but not enough space to ease her. Emmett's affection never made her feel like this, but the chess game, Emmett's commentary on the game, and Jasper's movie in the background overstimulated her. 

 

She hated how conflicted she felt. She hated loneliness, but also disliked crowdedness?  C'mon make up your mind, she thought. 

 

She quickly got up and acted without thinking. 

 

"Where's Rosalie?" 

 

Bella felt the wisps of grass dancing between her fingers as the cold winter night breeze gently traveled through the small clearing beside the house. The heated blanket provided terrific coverage from the bitter wind, but somehow the moonlight created a sense of warmth that the cloth wrapped around her couldn't. Cocooned in a swaddle of thick blanket, she felt protected from her surroundings. 

 

Well, some surroundings because at that moment, her warring emotions threatened to overpower her. 

 

The soft sound of music playing from the portable speaker didn't help, but at least Rosalie did listen to the playlist she made given the music choice. 

 

Wake up alone

In the morning, with no one at my side.

 

Melancholy flooded her throat, and she fought back the tears pooling in her eyes. Throat tightened, she swallowed down the urge to-to expel her emotion. She hated caring so much. Why did it bother her so much that her parents spent the holidays working or with friends instead of with her?

 

"Bella?" 

 

Her fingers tensed as she realized they'd unconsciously dug into the frozen soil. To avoid drawing any attention to her hands, she responded with a quiet, "Hmm?" 

 

"Are you okay?" 

 

Huh, no one rarely asked her that. She knew she wasn't, but Bella refused to dampen the mood. So tongue pressed between her teeth, she nodded. 

 

Snow started falling, but this time Bella's eyes trailed after one lonesome snowflake, and as it fell with grace, she noticed its unique sparkle in the moonlight. With a scoff, she realized that, of course, the moonlight heightened the appeal of anything or anyone—even globs of frozen water.

 

Bella finally gave in to the pull and turned her head toward her companion with the last trailing thought. 

 

Blonde hair glistened, and sharp features glowed underneath the stars. Eyelashes cast shadows on regal cheekbones, and Bella's plan to turn away instantly unraveled before her. Rosalie lay back with her arms behind her head, eyes shut, and lips parted, looking every bit at peace. 

 

"Why are you staring at me?"

 

Bella's jaw just dropped slightly, and she looked closely to reassure Rosalie's eyes were closed. "How could you tell?"

 

"I heard you rustle around before I felt your stare burning into my face," a playful smirk formed on pink bow-shaped lips before she continued, "and there's the fact that you just confirmed it." 

 

Bella huffed as she fell back onto the floor, "Whatever." With a yawn, she tugged the blanket closer to her figure. 

 

"If you're tired, we can go back inside." Rosalie's golden eyes glistened even more beneath the night sky, and Bella fought back the urge to gag at her internal monologue. 

 

"I'm good." Not really. "Just super relaxed."

 

Rosalie curiously stared as Bella attempted to shuffle herself without undoing her cacoon. 

 

"Why'd you want to leave the celebration?" 

 

Bella just stared at the flake on the fabric. "I felt overwhelmed." She looked up. "I'm sorry if I am disturbing you from your alone time." 

 

"I've spent too much time with them and plan on spending more in the future. So I've had plenty of alone time." Rosalie sat up and angeled her body toward Bella. "We've done it all, and we will do it again, that's for sure." A pang of jealousy shot through Bella. 

 

"I'm not sure how everyone feels, but you guys are all cute together." Bella hesitated, but she continued once Rosalie stopped moving. "I'm just not used to being in large groups for extended periods. Typically, it's just a parent and me."

 

"Was your family like this?" She saw Rosalie visibly stiffen and try to play it off. "You don't have to answer if you're not comfortable--"

 

"No, it absolutely has nothing to do with you asking. It's different when someone asks me instead of assuming." Rosalie sighed. "We barely spoke outside of social engagements. My parents raised me with one goal in mind, to be a good housewife. Correction, the perfect housewife." Rosalie played with a small pile of snow beside her. "I had two younger brothers, but they were already destined for more even at a young age. My parents gave them a freedom that I wouldn't even get to experience with a husband."

 

Could it be

I've waited too long, waiting for the lucky one.

 

Bella took in her face, and she felt her heart clench at the torn look on her friend's face. 

 

"I love these guys more than I could explain, but I understand you. I love them, but sometimes it's not the company I need."

 

My sweetheart, where are you?

 

"Surrounded by people you love, and you still feel alone," Bella whispered. 

 

I need someone to spend my time with

To give and share all my love

 

"Exactly," curious coal-black eyes roamed across her face. "Even when fighting, everyone has their partner looking out for their interests and overall well-being." Rosalie looked intrigued, "What was phoenix-like for you?" 

 

"Hell." Bella didn't hesitate as the word rolled off her tongue. She thought back to the years with just her Mom. She loved her Mom, but the absolute disregard for her childhood didn't sit right. "My parents never really stayed together for my whole life. They had me and remained connected because of me." Bella ignored her desire to curl up and stop talking about her childhood. 

 

"My Mom loves me, but it's not enough for her to remind me of it or spend time with me." Bella laughed with genuine humor, and she startled Rosalie. "I remember when my Dad first left Pheonix. I came out to my Mom, and she turned it into her being the best parent. For years, she told me how ungrateful I was that she could've reacted poorly and kicked me out, that she deserved more credit."

 

"Which is crazy because you're supposed to love your child unconditionally, not with reservations or throwing it back in their face, but that's beside the point." She added as an afterthought. 

 

"Anyway, things escalated, and she told me my Dad convinced her to keep me so I should be thanking her." Bella's fingers pulled at the thread. "So, Pheonix wasn't the best." 

 

Rosalie looked mortified, and Bella feared she would see the dreaded emotion of sympathy on her face, so she looked away. However, as she looked back up, Rosalie's eyes screamed understanding, and that's all Bella needed. 

 

Gently Bella sat up and opened up her cacoon. Teeth chattering, she motioned for her to come into the bundle. Rosalie seemed hesitant at first, but Bella's determined face sealed the deal. 

 

It gets real cold

Because these blankets

Will never warm my heart

 

Rosalie came into the bundle, and she stiffly lay beside her. Bella rolled her eyes and threw the covers around Rosalie before laying her arm across Rosalie's midsection and resting her head on her shoulder. 

 

"Aren't you cold?" 

 

"Nah."

 

"Are you su--"

 

"Shhh, I can't hear the countdown." 

 

She could feel Rosalie's huff before she heard it, and she chuckled. She could hear the sound of cheering in the house before a quiet silence settled. 

 

Bella's filter completely abandoned her, or maybe the intimacy of her cuddling Rosalie helped, but she felt herself throwing up internal thoughts. 

 

My sweetheart, where are you?

 

"I'm sure having so many siblings can be stressful, but I wish I had someone besides my parents." Her eyes trailed after a flake that landed on Rosalie's golden hair. "Or to reaffirm that I didn't ruin two people's lives by myself." She ignored the urge to continue and profusely apologized for unloading on her unsuspecting companion. "I'm sorry, Rose." 

 

I need someone to spend time with

To give and share all my love.

 

A hand reached up from the ground and placed itself on the small of her back. Bella felt herself stiffen, and her breath halt. "Thank you for apologizing, but you didn't do anything wrong." Rosalie's hand seemed unsure as it traveled up and down her back in a soothing motion. 

 

Bella felt her stress and edge dissolve quicker than the snowflakes on her face. Whether it was the comfort of Rosalie's words or her actions, she couldn't tell, nor did it matter. 

 

My sweetheart, where are you?

 

The same hand moved gently to the base of her neck and played with the baby hairs. Bella leaned into the touch and looked up as the hand clasping her neck's nape prompted her to move. Dark amber eyes bore into her, and Bella found herself answering the unasked question with a nod. 

 

I need someone to spend time with

 

The same hand tilted her further, and Rosalie's lips parted as they moved in closer. 

 

To give and share all my love.

 

Bella's eyes fell shut as soft velvet lips encased hers and took her breath away with their gentleness. Rosalie's other hand cupped her cheek delicately as if made of the most fragile materials, and Bella felt warmth envelop her better than the cacoon ever could. Her heart burst with euphoria and the desire to return the affection. 

 

Bella's lips mirrored Rosalie's best they could, and the tenderness brought jitters down her spine and limbs. Bella's euphoria bubbled over into laughter, and she giggled into the perfect pink mouth. 

 

Rosalie pulled away and looked mildly offended at Bella's smile before her infectious giggling brought a grin onto Rosalie's face. 

 

"Happy New Year, Rose."

 

"Happy New Year, Bella." 

Chapter Text

"Mommy, please!" Tears streamed down wet puffy cheeks, and to any bystander, it would cripple them to see such despair from the child, but not the woman gripping the petite wrist painfully tight. The sound and sight of crying angered her more.

 

The small commotion drew eyes from around the department store, and sympathetic glances turned into annoyed side stares. The store clerk rolled their eyes as the duo passed by them. Of course, just another kid throwing a tantrum for not getting the toy they wanted. 

 

The woman dragged the girl through the aisles and into the dressing room. 

 

The girl fought her hardest, knowing what would happen in the room, but she couldn't stop the door from shutting.

 

A smack reverberated across the open space.

 

Big round eyes widened further as the girl burrowed into the corner of the fitting room. Tiny hands cupped puffy cheeks, and sobs threatened to tear their way out of her small but powerful lungs in shrieks. 

 

"What did I say, Bella." Hazel eyes narrowed. The woman's severe expression only added to the girl's distress. "I told you to stop hiding in the clothing racks. Shut up before you make a bigger scene." 

 

The girl held in her sobs as her body shook underneath the impact of her Mother's palm now imprinted in her mind. She hadn't meant to upset her or be bad. She knew better. 

 

...

 

A tiny brunette, slightly older than before, rubbed her nose on her sleeve as she muffled her sobs. Her tiny body wracked with silenced cries and eyes wet with remorse. 

 

A sound outside the door caused her to stop. Breath stilled and eyes wide, the small girl waited as she listened closely. The door's presence almost loomed; its old wooden frame and the rusted hinges, along with the damage to the door, only heightened the child's sense of fear. It's towering presence held mystery. 

 

Would the person rip open the door and come back for more, or would the door remain shut, protecting her from another round of punishments? 

 

The door creaked on its hinges as it gently opened up to reveal the last person she wanted to see. 

 

The woman came through the frame. She scanned the room and quickly noticed her daughter hidden beside her bed and the stand. With a sigh, she moved into the room and sat on the twin-sized bed.

 

The sound of the box frame creaking filled the loaded silence. 

 

"Nena, vente." Big hazel eyes glanced up in uncertainty and testily rested on her Mother's face. "C'mon." A hand patted the space beside her on the bed, and the tiny brunette cautiously moved to sit beside the woman. 

 

Renata appeared upset, almost irritated as she waited for the girl to sit. However, when Bella finally managed to do so, her face softened considerably. The young Mother sighed as she saw the wince on her child's features as she sat down. 

 

"Aver, show me." Tiny hands hesitated as they lifted the shirt on her back. Renata's mouth turned down in disgust at herself. The welts appeared angry and red—the blemish-free skin of her child marred by marks that would scar her for life. If not physically, then mentally. 

 

"Mommy?" She called without an answer. "I'm sorry." She sniffled as her tears began again. "I promise I won't hide my report card again." 

 

"Do you see what happens when you're bad?" Her Mom's voice reached her ears, and Bella ducked her head in shame. "You think I want to do this, Bella? The school called and asked me why I haven't returned it with my signature." Her Mom pulled her shirt down and prompted her to turn around. "They think I'm a bad parent that doesn't care, but really you just hid it from me." 

 

"Mommy, I'm really sorry--"

 

"Ya te escuche." 

 

"Okay, Mom." Bella nods, hunched over in pain and exhaustion. 

 

A brief pause from the older woman as she took in her daughter's puffy cheeks. Renata looked away in frustration of it all.

 

"Que tal una nieve?" 

 

Bella perked and looked over hesitantly. What changed with her Mom for her to suddenly offer ice cream? Whatever happened, she didn't care because it meant less yelling. So, she quickly shrugged it off as she nodded. Her Mom kissed her head and clasped her hand around Bella's before leading them to the kitchen. 

 

"No le digas a tu pa." Bella looked up curiously. Her Mom looked serious, so she listened closely. "He'll get mad too, worse than I did."

 

Bella's tiny aching body shivered with the threat of worse. So, she quickly learned to take her punishments in silence.  

 

...

 

The very same girl sat there working on her math—the sheet marred by eraser marks and, most recently, tears. She regretted asking for help with her homework. She knew better than to ask, and now Bella cowered as her Mom raised her voice. 

 

"C'mon, five times eight." 

 

"Forty?" Small shoulders relaxed at the nod. 

 

"Three times eight?"

 

"Twenty-four?" Another nod.

 

"Eight times five."

 

"Forty-five?"

 

"Diablos, Bella. Deja de pendejear." The girl jumped back as a palm connected with the back of her skull. "Five times eight is the  exact  same as eight times five." 

 

"I'm sorry."

 

"Don't be sorry, just do better." A ragged sigh, the woman continues. "You should know these by now."

 

Bella knows better, but the bitterness building in her stomach whips out maliciously in self-inflicted pain. Even at eight, the girl knew her Mom and understood what made her tick. "They sent a game home for us to play, but you're never home." Already braced for it, the smack that followed doesn't hurt at all. 

 

"I work so hard for you, Bella." The girl looked up and noticed the bags under those dull eyes. "Your Dad doesn't even bother to help. He just comes by and buys you toys, but when does he go to your school or help you with homework." Neither of them ever did help her anyway. 

 

Bella knew better, but the growing anger and resentment bubbled to the surface. "Daddy said you don't let him--"

 

"If he wanted to help, he would do it without asking." Her shoulder sagged, and Bella hated that she always did this to her Mom. Bella always knew better, but still chose wrong.

 

"Everyone thinks I'm a terrible Mom." 

 

...

..

.

 

"Gah!" The brunette shot up covered in a cold sweat. She swallowed lungfuls of air that burned on their way down. Bella's eyes darted around and quickly took in her surroundings. Unsettled, she sat up, her dreams from moments before erased from her mind even though she knew her body's reaction stemmed from them. 

 

With a groan, she noticed the time on the clock. Bella got up and went through her morning routine. But halfway through getting ready, her mood shifted as she thought about her day. Bella could barely contain her excitement. Although her Dad would drop her off in the cruiser, she would ride with Rosalie in the afternoon. 

 

Bella could hardly fathom New Years unraveled the way it did. Being honest, she expected it to crash and burn based on her mood. She spent most of the day sulking, and miraculously Rosalie's mere presence eased her into a state of comfort. 

 

Not to mention the kiss indeed helped validate Bella's feelings for Rosalie that she'd ignored up to that point. 

 

The week after felt like a dream. Bella woke up to messages from Rosalie asking her questions. The back and forth helped her lose the jitters she felt when she saw the blonde. What helped her the most, though, was the daily music recommendations they'd send one another. 

 

Rosalie surprised her for the fifth day with another delightful recommendation. It was during those moments, Bella quickly realized her infatuation with Rosalie would only spiral more out of control sooner rather than later. 

 

"Bella!" Her eyes focused again and landed on her friend beside her. Jessica's wide and expressive eyes screamed out in curiosity while she sat there expectantly. Bella then realized she'd asked her a question. 

 

"Sorry, I got distracted. What's up?"

 

A sly grin slid onto her prettily glossed lips, and Bella realized too late what the facial expression indicated. "Thinking about someone?" Jess looked elated as the bell rang, meaning the period would soon begin. 

 

Bella felt her presence before she turned to look at Rosalie strut into the room. Hair in a low pony, lips pursed, and her beauty still outshone everyone else's. Bella felt her cheeks flush when those pink lips stretched into a small smile that she just knew was meant for her. 

 

Before Bella could register her actions, she lifted her hand to wave, but quickly thought against it. So she lowered her hand and shot her a small grin instead. Jessica cackled in absolute delight beside her. 

 

"Good morning, Bella." She sat and turned to peer around Bella. "Morning, Jessica." Horrified, Bella noticed her friend's mischievous look moments before she opened her mouth. Braced for the worst, she quickly interrupted. 

 

"What did Angela end up getting you?" That seemed to do the trick as Jess dove into a dreamlike trance retelling the grandeur efforts Angela went to give her a gift. 

 

When class started, Bella felt palpable tension between them to the point where she couldn't focus on the lecture. In fact, she fought every one of her impulses to avoid turning her attention to the girl on her left. Stealing glances was off the table because Rosalie caught her multiple times before. Rosalie was always attentive and aware. 

 

So when a small slip of paper appeared on her desk beneath her notebook, she froze. Bella ignored the burning stare as she gently opened the slip of paper to avoid any curious glances from her peers or, worse, her teacher. 

 

The small lined scrap of paper held a few words.

 

Are you okay?

 

So naturally, she wrote back playfully.

 

I don't know, do you like me?

Yes [] YES, but in caps. []

 

Rosalie smothered her smile behind the sleeve of her hoodie before she moved to respond. Bella just stared, mesmerized by the raw beauty Rosalie possessed. 

 

The entire week resembled a rollercoaster for her as if she'd rode up in anticipation and just now reached the plummet. Her stomach rose and floated up with her excitement and overall giddiness. 

 

Buried beneath all the excitement and contentedness rested Bella's nerves. Later on in the school day, she began to mindlessly pick at the scabbed over wounds on her fingers before a hand covered hers on her lap. She startled and looked into Emmett's kind eyes. His concern showed on his handsome face, so she relented and made a show of placing her hands at her sides underneath her thighs. 

 

After school, she walked alongside Lauren as they joked about their friends. "Then Jess wouldn't stop texting me, asking me what she should get her." Lauren rolled her eyes endearingly. "Honestly, I get it, but then I wanted to shake her and remind her Angela would've been happy with a framed selfie and a KitKat." 

 

Bella giggled. She'd completely disregarded the other half of their duo. She just assumed Jess was the collected one of the pair, but it turned out that both of them scrambled frantically. "Granted, I haven't known you all that long, but you're all exceptionally patient with each other."

 

Lauren nodded. "I'm pretty sure it's growing up with one another. You're forced to hang out so you can choose to make it miserable or fun. We just happened to love each other, so it worked out." She hesitated but continued. "Don't you have friends like that in Arizona?" 

 

Bella did have friends. Emphasis on the had, though. 

 

She grew up, bouncing around districts because her parents couldn't afford the rising rents. So, when she settled in a townhome with her Mom's last boyfriend, she quickly established roots. 

 

Her best friend Jesse and she did everything together. Even though they knew each other for a considerably shorter time than their peers, they were inseparable, but when she chose to come out back in Arizona, everything changed.

 

The shift was noticeable enough where Bella started to feel out of place. As if she'd overstayed her welcome. Although wanting to spend time with her Dad and give her Mom freedom was a factor, another major factor in her leaving rooted itself in her falling out with Jesse. 

 

So no. Bella didn't quite understand, but she nodded anyway. 

 

"Up to anything exciting after school?" Bella relaxed her shoulders. She wasn't aware she'd tensed up. 

 

"Not really," she trailed off, but couldn't find a reason why she shouldn't tell her friend, so she continued. "Actually, today's my first day working with Rosalie." 

 

Lauren perked up. "That's great! I knew you were looking for a job. I'm sure the job's even better now that it is with Em and Rosalie." Lauren smiled gently, and Bella returned it. "Let me know if they're hiring because I think Newton's gonna fire me." They laughed because Lauren was notorious for being late, and Mike had no problem reminding her during their lunch period. 

 

They said their goodbyes as they walked in opposite directions in the parking lot. 

 

Jess and Angela waved at her from their places beside Lauren's van. She waved back before she turned around to see Rosalie leaning against her car. The extravagant red vehicle screamed luxury. 

 

Emmett's jeep gone from the lot, she realized he most likely already left for his volunteer work. Edward standing awkwardly beside Rosalie was a strong indicator. She looked on humorously at their opposite personalities. 

 

Edward, a quiet and introspective teenage boy who wilted under attention, was equally as beautiful as his (adopted) sister. 

 

Rosalie, a direct and...well, Bella wasn't sure to be fair.  

 

Brows set, she marched the rest of the way across the lot with one goal in mind. She'd get to know the blonde girl more. Although they got off on the wrong foot, Bella was determined to learn about Rosalie. 

 

"Bella," she nodded in response to Edward, "how was your day?"

 

It could've been worse, but she answered truthfully in accordance with how she felt. "A mess."

 

Edward cracked a smile, and she considered her job complete. Edward opened the passenger door for her, but she hesitated. It wasn't her car, and it definitely felt too expensive for her to sit near anything delicate. "Are you sure? I can sit in the back." 

 

Edward pounced at the comment as if he'd been poised waiting for her to say those words. "Rosalie pinched me so hard when I went to sit in the front. I think she took a chunk off my arm." Bella sunk into the seat as Rosalie's glare met Edward's smirk above her head. She silently put on her belt as they engaged in a loud but nonverbal fight right above her head. 

 

Finally, Rosalie broke the silence and barked at him. "Get in, or I'm leaving you." 

 

Bella hid her smile from Edward as he shut the door and scrambled to get in just as Rosalie threw the car in reverse. His door still opened, he yelled from the back after he closed it. "There were students right by us, Rosalie."

 

Rose rolled her eyes and winked as she met Bella's stare.

 

The first hour went by fast. Edward and Rosalie, for the most part, finished their tasks for the evening and whipped out their respective books. Bella shrugged her shoulders and took her homework out. She quickly lost herself in the mind-numbing assignments.

 

But the sudden sound of the bell on the door brought her out of her work. 

 

No one looked to be inside. Confused, Bella turned to the pair beside her but stopped when she realized Rosalie sat there alone. Rosalie must've noted her confusion, so she clarified. "He offered to stay and help, but Emmett's done with his work, so I told him to spend the day with him." 

 

"Oh wow," Bella rubbed at her eyes and yawned. She hadn't realized how detached she'd become with her homework. "I'm sorry. Are you sure there's nothing you need me to do?" 

 

Rosalie's face twisted before she settled into a relaxed expression. "No, you're okay with working on assignments. Texting is more than okay too."

 

Bella put down her pen before she shut her notebook. 

 

She wanted to get to know Rosalie, but she had no idea where to even begin. Twenty questions was tacky, but not if she didn't say, let's play it. She shook her head. Obviously, Rosalie would see right through her guise.

 

Resigned, she just settled into the comfortable silence. 

 

"What was the first concert you went to?" 

 

Bella looked up in shock at the question. She hadn't expected Rosalie to initiate getting to know one another. Not because the blonde didn't care, but because Bella assumed otherwise. She quickly schooled a smile on her face because she hadn't expected Rosalie to ask her anything. "I've never been to one." 

 

Genuine shock resided on Rosalie's features. "What do you mean? That's impossible." 

 

Bella got defensive before she could help it. "I'm only seventeen, and I'm not exactly the wealthiest. What about you?" She huffed out. 

 

"The first concert I went to was in 1977." Bella laughed in disbelief. "What's so funny?" 

 

"You're a child. Well, you look like one. Just hearing you say 1977 made me laugh. Who did you see? Sorry, continue." Bella zipped her lips at Rosalie's look and pretending to place the key on the counter between them gently.

 

"There's nothing else to it. My first concert was Fleetwood Mac." Rosalie rolled her eyes, but a small smile played on her lips as she picked up the imaginary key to grant Bella the ability to speak. 

 

"First, amazing first concert. Second, why did you wait so long?" Bella doubted money was an issue, but why else would someone that loved music as much as she did wait so long? 

 

"Um, it took me some time to get used to the presence of humans." Oh. "Between all of my family, I'd argue that I am equal to Carlisle in his skill. We both showed exceptional restraint, but large crowds are an entirely different beast." 

 

"So it gets easier?" 

 

"Something like that." Rosalie's head tilted in thought. "More like you become numb to the burning sensation. I'm not sure how it is for everyone else, but in my case, I've had an easier time." 

 

Bella nodded, and she took in the girl before her. "Emmett told me you changed him." Rosalie looked on in curiosity. "Who changed you?" 

 

"Carlisle did." Her body language shifted, and Bella noted how closed off she appeared. Rosalie seemed to hesitate before she looked away. Bella wanted to kick herself for ruining their conversation. So she just changed the direction. 

 

"How did you guys get around the explicit bigotry?" Rosalie seemed less put off by the new topic. So Bella leaned forward to listen with rapt attention.

 

"It's weird." Rosalie's wrinkle-free face scrunched up cutely in concentration. "We fought a lot about what was right or wrong." She laughed. "For example, Edward legit thought he was going to the deepest pits of hell for being gay and a quote on quote monster."

 

"It took him a long time to come to terms with the feelings he felt for Emmett. What really bothered him was the fact that Carlisle changed me with the intent of giving him a companion, but we clashed so much." She looked up into Bella's eyes, and the brunette felt her breath hitch. "Instead, I brought home a beautiful man for him." 

 

Bella could only imagine the stress Edward felt. Suddenly her concerns felt abysmal in comparison to their experience. "How did Carlisle react? Or people in general?"

 

"They spent a lot of time hidden behind closed doors. But with Carlisle, it was touch and go for a while." Rosalie's finger drew a repetitive figure on the countertop. Almos as if lost in retelling their history. "His gift is compassion. He is extremely kind, but all the stuff you learned and was reinforced all your life is hard to shed overnight. It took him a while to come to terms with the boys falling for each other." 

 

Bella nodded as the images flashed through her mind. "What about Alice and Jasper?" 

 

Rosalie shrugged and smiled slightly. "They're too cute it's sickening," she teased. "Alice woke up alone without any memories of her past life. So when she began getting visions of a southern gentleman named Jasper. Alice knew without an ounce of doubt that she would meet us and marry her soulmate." 

 

"Wait, so Jasper is from the south?" 

 

Rosalie's smile turned grim. "Yeah."

 

"Oh?" Bella wasn't sure what the expression entailed, so she waited patiently on the edge of her seat for her friend to continue. 

 

"Jasper was born into poverty, just like Emmett, but they both came from different positions." Rosalie hesitated as she glanced at Bella. "Jasper joined the confederacy and was turned during his time as the youngest major in Texas." 

 

Bella froze. She'd never thought of the ramifications that would have on their family dynamic. And yet it suddenly made sense of their fights and disputes. Rosalie looked at her nervously before she spoke up. 

 

"He's not a bad person. It's just hard to discuss." She looked torn. "Jasper truly thought he was doing what was best for his family, but he failed to consider the victims." 

 

Bella just ached, knowing Emmett lived in the same household with someone who believed in the cause. "Is Jasper still..."

 

"Oh, god, no!" Interjected Rosalie quickly. "He knows better now. It's just his guilt really does project onto others, and sometimes it is not what Emmett needs." 

 

"It's like when you need someone to apologize, but you don't want to have to ask for the apology in the first place. Is it necessarily their fault, or are they a means to an end? And how long should Jasper repent? That's also leaving out the fact that Emmett's one man and doesn't represent all of his Race. Em feels conflicted because he genuinely cares for Jasper, but how could you ever rationalize what took place?" The silence after implied the 'you can't.'

 

Bella sat there, stumped. She'd never considered the logic before, and it made her feel terrible. Although entirely different, her mind drifted to her Dad. He might not be the most approachable for issues like homosexuality, but at least she had someone vouch for fundamental change in people even if the aftermath was unclear. 

 

Bella felt Rosalie's worried gaze, so she used her best tool to date. Humour. "That's rough, buddy." 

 

Rosalie's stare zoned in on her goofy grin before she cracked a smile. That's all Bella really needed for the time being. So she set her mind and continued lightening the mood. They had time to learn about each other and their families. Bella looked at the beautiful girl in front of her, and she just melted. 

 

"The other day, when you spoke about your parents..." Rosalie contemplated her words before she continued. "Was it that bad?" 

 

Bella thought about it. She combed over her memories, and she could only recall a few, but her parents always made sure to remind her of her childhood. However, a sole memory she cherished with her entire being came to the front of her mind. One of the only memories she could stand behind as a remembered experience instead of relayed from her parents.

 

"No, it wasn't bad. It was just rough. I'm sure everyone goes through their own rough patch with families." Her laughter trailed off awkwardly. "Kinda like you guys..."

 

Rosalie's lips pursed, and Bella awkwardly continued. "I remember when I was ten, my family hit a rough patch financially. My Dad lost his job, and My Mom was working two jobs." She exhaled shakily. "They sat me down and spoke to me candidly weeks before Christmas, explaining that they wouldn't be able to get me anything." 

 

"I was disappointed, but I was angry at myself for being disappointed. My parents did their best, but somehow we sunk into a new low." She felt her throat tighten as she told the story for the first time to someone else. "I woke up on Christmas day sad. Not because of the lack of gifts, but because my Mom was working all day. My Dad picked up a side gig, so I was alone for Christmas." 

 

Rosalie looked at her, and Bella had to look away in fear that she'd see pity. 

 

"But I heard a knock on my door, and they came into the room with their hands behind their back." Bella felt guilt overrun her as she retold her most treasured memory. How could she doubt her parents' love? "I was delighted because they were at home." Her heart clenched joyfully. She recalled her Mom putting her differences with her Dad aside for a holiday. "They came into my room, hugged me, and told me how happy they were that I was their kid." Bella's hands reached to play with the small device in her hand. "They handed me a small box with an old iPod nano." 

 

Bella laughed. "It wasn't the one I wanted or the newest one or even new. But it was new to me, and it was the best gift I could've asked for as a kid." Bella shrugged indifference at the next part. "It was kinda short-lived because that's when I found out my Dad used the last of his savings for my gift."

 

"Then shortly after he took the job here, in Forks." 

 

Rosalie just stared in wonder as she probably tried to picture her family dynamic. At the same time, Bella shoved down her defense mechanisms by shooting Rosalie a nervous smile as she tucked her hands between her legs. 

 

"Wow," Rosalie whispered. "That's super sweet." Bella wondered if Rosalie's parents ever went through similar rough patches, but judging by her last story. Rosalie's family, no doubt, hailed from wealth. Hinting from their previous conversation, Bella predicted Rosalie's family carried themselves cold and aloof.

 

They both sat in comfortable silence, digesting their conversation. When Bella felt a cold hand, settle on top of her hand, interlocking their fingers together before turning it over and pulling the joined hands onto the blonde's lap. 

 

Rosalie's dark amber eyes shone brightly beneath the light of the shop, and Bella felt her heart race. 

 

Every voice in her head screamed at her to stop, but Bella felt the drunk in love feeling overtake her completely. 

 

Fuck, did she just think love? 

Chapter Text

Leah pouted as she sat beside her on the swing. "Why not?"

 

Bella rolled her eyes, but the smile playing her lips gave her away. "I have work." She hesitated before continuing. "Plus, who knows if you're friends want me around. Check with them first, then invite me."

 

Leah huffed as she kicked off into a series of swings. "Fine, I guess." She swung back and forth a couple of times before she spoke. "So, Sam and I are thinking of moving in together." 

 

Bella looked at the glowing girl, her passionate and bold personality inspiring. "That's amazing, Leah. I'm sure it'll be nice to have your own space separate from your family." Leah nodded in agreement. Bella looked down into her grip, the coffee more iced than hot at the point she took an experimental sip of it. The bitter taste remained, but the flavor profiles dulled. Having had worse before, she shrugged, taking a full drink. 

 

"I love them, but sometimes I need my time, plus it'll make having sex easier." Bella's mouthful went down the wrong way. Coughs continued to pour from her, and Leah's genuine concern only caused her to laugh more through the painful wheezing breaths she took. 

 

Bella finally managed to calm down enough to address Leah's bewildered reaction. "You caught me off guard, that's all." 

 

"With sex?" 

 

Leah never ceased to amaze her. The Native American girl held no patience for skirting around the topic of avoiding conversation. "Yeah."

 

Leah's shoulder's shrugged. "So, I heard from my Mom that you work at the hardware store." 

 

"Yeah, it's great. I can do homework and hang out with my friends." 

 

Beautiful features lost their gentleness before they gained hardness. "That's good." Bella felt a considerable shift in ambiance, so she changed the topic. The rest of the morning continued the same. The girls joked in the brisk air outside of Bella's house. 

 

When Leah departed for her plans, Bella readied for work.

 

It's been three weeks since Bella began working with her friends, but it still felt as exciting as the first time. The weekends no longer felt long or stretched out with no end in sight. The only issue standing for Bella came in the form of Rosalie Hale. 

 

She'd hit a wall with the blonde. 

 

After their shared kiss and shared moment during her first shift, they kind of existed beside one another. Granted, Bella felt the palpable tension between their joined hands, but it kept growing.

 

Unless she'd imagined it on her own, and Rosalie regretted their budding relationship.

 

Bella groaned in horror. What if the blonde regretted their relationship developments. No, that couldn't be it. Emmett made sure to assure her that Rosalie had never acted like that before. Bella just wondered what exactly he spoke about because Rosalie seemed as poised as ever. 

 

So when the red car pulled up her driveway, Bella ran down the steps. She'd worry about the what-ifs after her shift.

 

Bella ran down the porch steps before skidding on a half-melted patch of ice. 

 

Holding her breath still in her chest while her heart pounded furiously, she managed to find her footing. She looked up and stared into Rosalie's mirth filled eyes before she shot her a scathing look. With added caution, she finished her journey to the car. 

 

"Very funny." Bella tried to glower, but it came off more like a pout. So she huffed as Rosalie giggled more. "Get it all out of your system."

 

"I just never realized how dangerous everything really is to humans."

 

Bella rolled her eyes, again with the small digs at her mortality. "So nothing kills you, glorified mosquitos?" 

 

Rosalie halted, and her look frightened Bella, but she would never admit it. "What's your obsession with calling us everything but what we are?"

 

Bella shrugged, "I don't know. It makes it less awkward for me. I feel like a conspiracy connaisseur when I say vampires, but when I use synonyms, I guess it makes it easier for my fragile human mind." Bella schooled her best serious expression.

 

Rosalie just sat stock-still rivaling a statue. 

 

"You're so frustrating. You know that?" Bella just shot her a grin. "Anyway, yes, we can be killed. Fire will do the trick." 

 

Bella tried to hide her horrified expression. "So is that why you all don't go into the sunlight? You'll just go up in flames?"

 

Rosalie testily roamed her eyes over Bella's features. "I can't tell if you're serious or not in asking that, but it has to do with our plans today."

 

Bella stared, confused. "Our plans to work?"

 

Rosalie shot her a smile that melted Bella to the leather seats. "I asked Jasper and Alice to cover for me. So, I could take you somewhere." 

 

Okay.

 

That's totally cool. Very typical and friendly. 

 

Or was it romantic?

 

"Where are we going?" 

 

Rosalie winked at her before revving the engine, so Bella ignored her nerves before falling into their routine. There was no use panicking over what-ifs. She could do that before bed. Grabbing the auxiliary cable, she plugged her phone in before pressing play on her playlist. 

 

The ice melted off the branches slicking the roads. Green trees glistened with the crisp hydration the ice provided. 

 

Bella watched intently as the winding road tapered off before the red car. Bella knew from glancing at the speedometer Rosalie disregarded every posted speed. So they only drove for what felt like a short time before the dirt road began. Bella watched as they approached a small parking area. 

 

Bella barely had time to think about opening her door before Rosalie opened it. She blinked rapidly to reorient herself. Rosalie patiently waited for her to unbuckle herself before offering her hand. 

 

She never got over the feeling she felt when Rosalie held her hand, but she was curious as to why the blonde drove them here? She was not mentally prepared to hike in the climate or even dressed in a thick enough coat. 

 

Rosalie spoke up from in front of her. "Can I carry you?" 

 

Bella felt her cheeks warm significantly. She thanked her parents for her complexion and the brisk weather. At least the blush was masked. 

 

"Yeah." Except it came out more like a question. Rosalie gently crouched down and motioned for Bella to jump on her back. 

 

Bella felt fear seep into her mind. Emmett carried her with ease, but could Rosalie? She hesitated because what if she hurt the blonde goddess. 

 

"What's wrong?" Rosalie turned to stare up at Bella. On any other occasion, Bella would be salty that her 5'11 companion could easily meet her sight crouched, but at that moment, she was preoccupied with other thoughts. 

 

"I don't want to hurt you." Bella wanted the ground to swallow her. Rosalie's confusion shone on her perfect features before realization. 

 

"Bella," she stood and gently clasped her chin, "I'm a vampire with an abnormal amount of strength. Even if you did suddenly gain upwards of a thousand pounds, I would gladly and easily carry you." Bella moved to take her chin from Rosalie's grasp, but the hand didn't budge. "However, if you're not comfortable with me carrying you, we can figure something else out." 

 

Bella shook her head. She knew she wasn't fat, but she also knew she wasn't the smallest. Years of snide remarks and random criticism prompted her hyper fixation on the imperfections of her body. One of them that she was too soft and curved. Nothing like her Mom. A thin athletic petite picture-perfect image of the 80s woman. 

 

"No, sorry. I just forgot superstrength and all." She shot Rosalie a reassuring smile because she feared Rosalie would push to ask about the moment of silence, but her nod put her fears to rest. 

 

Uncertain, Bella hooked her arms around Rosalie's neck and exhaled when she stood suddenly. Legs dangling for a moment, she relaxed when firm hands grasped her thighs, bringing them forward to wrap around her middle. 

 

"Are you comfortable?" 

 

Bella nodded before shakily speaking. "Yeah, sorry if I'm holding on too tight." 

 

Rosalie laughed. "You can hold on tighter if you want, Bella." She tapped her thigh. "Incredibly indestructible." 

 

Bella huffed into her hair but discreetly did so for her peace of mind.

 

"Oh yeah, you should close your eyes." 

 

"Close my e--" Bella didn't even have the chance to finish before she felt her stomach leave her body. She had half a mind to turn back and locate it, but the wind and force of Rosalie moving fast would've injured her. So she just tucked her face into her neck with her eyes tightly shut. "Oh, no." 

 

She wished she could glare or engage her in banter, but Bella could barely overcome nausea to remain attentive. Resigned, she shivered against Rosalie's back as the blonde continued to chuckle.

 

Looking back at it, Bella surely knew it was worth it because when Rosalie gently helped her down and steadied her, she could hardly believe her surroundings. 

 

A blast of bright colors greeted her. 

 

The dreariness of Forks forgotten for the time being because all Bella could see was colors, and whether it was the light reflecting off the snow or the sky losing its cover of clouds, she didn't care because it felt euphoric.

 

"Are you too cold? Alice said you'd be fine, but I wore a warm jacket in case." Bella turned toward Rose. Her mouth parted in awe at the radiating beauty. 

 

Her blonde hair shone perfectly in the light, not a single strand out of place. The silk strands of hair wrapped around her shoulders and Bella noted that frizziness really didn't exist for her.

 

However, what really struck her was her eyes. 

 

Usual amber eyes resembled ink-black splots spreading outward into the iris. Her eyes swirled with an animalistic characteristic she couldn't place. Her beauty haunted everyone that laid eyes on her. Rosalie's beauty, immeasurable for anyone, only heightened by the fright inducing appearance she gave off. 

 

"I've never met anyone that had a more fitting name." 

 

Shocked, Bella scrambled for words. "What?" She wanted to wildly gesture at the girl and spell it out for her that Rosalie was a legit rose among weeds, but the blonde continued. 

 

"I understand why I reacted the way I did when I first met you." Intrigued, Bella waited patiently. "Emmett said it was a schoolyard crush, but I disagree. You walked in, and it's like I sobered up." 

 

"I spent my human life like a prized pig going to the highest bidder. When Carlisle turned me, I reveled in truth because although it only enhanced my appearance, it eliminated my need to emote. I didn't care about eternal suffering because  dictated my life.  Not any man or anyone ." Pink lips hesitated. "When you walked in, it is like you administered a dosage of naloxone. I felt phantom flutters in my chest, discomfort in my face, and my emotions resurface. My body wanted to react to you, I wanted out of the numbness, and I mistook it as a threat." 

 

Rosalie moved closer, giving Bella time to step back if desired. The brunette just stood planted, not willing to leave or back down. Black eyes bore down into wide hazels. 

 

"It's been decades since I bothered with appearances." Bella gasped softly as Rosalie's hands cupped her face. Her breath washed over her, and Bella's eyes fluttered engrossed in the presence of Rosalie Hale. "You're beautiful, but you're also a conundrum." Bella's face twisted at the comment. 

 

"Well, you're not exactly easy yourself." Bella huffed. Rosalie's answering dark chuckle prompted a shiver down Bella's spine. 

 

"I meant more mysterious than difficult." Bella frowned. She never really hid stuff from people. "Everyone likes you as soon as they meet you. You're just a radiant person, and I've never believed that to be true of any person until you walked into my store." 

 

Bella's hands hesitantly made their way on top of Rosalie's. The cold seeped into Bella's palms, but the warmth radiated into Rosalie's. Bella's body, already flushed due to the cold, deepened from the commentary. 

 

"I'm certain that if my heart were to beat still, it's tandem with yours." Bella stared at Rosalie in shock. "I don't expect you to feel the same way, but I want to make myself clear." Rosalie's pointer finger repetitively glided across her cheek in a soothing stroke. 

 

Bella felt her uncertainty crumble. She'd never heard her speak more than a few words at a time, but the absolute way in which Rosalie delivered her inner musings made Bella feel like she was experiencing a phenomenon. One that she somehow was special enough to gain entry into Rosalie's thoughts. 

 

Bella couldn't formulate the words and thoughts in her head. The words Rosalie spoke in the air hanging between the inches of space before them. Her fear of impending adulthood, her fear of disappointing others, and her existential terror on pause. 

 

Rosalie's small nervous smile appeared on her face. 

 

Without thinking, she launched herself forward and embraced the taller girl. Her arms wrapped around her midsection underneath her unzipped jacket. She latched onto the knitted sweater she wore, and Bella ground herself for fear that she'd dreamt the past few months. 

 

Rosalie's arms hesitated before they wrapped around her shoulders and clasped her head gently. 

 

They just stood there, basking in each other's company and embrace. 

 

The sounds nature created in the wilderness served as their very own personal score. The wind whistled instead of howled. Small rodents squeaked as all the sounds blended into a song that personified the relationship's very essence. 

 

Inevitable joy. 

 

Bella hid her smile in Rosalie's chest, and unbeknownst to her, Rosalie did the same in Bella's hair. However, Bella frowned when she felt an alien sensation against her ear moments before it sounded out loud. The noise continued for seconds before Rosalie broke off the embrace. Bella looked up curiously as Rosalie looked away embarrassed. 

 

"What was that?" Bella asked. 

 

"Sometimes, when we become excited or content, our body lets others know." Bella's confusion must've been apparent because she continued after a brief silence. "We're animalistic in many ways. One of them is we resemble wildcats in our instincts. So we growl, hiss, and sometimes purr in response. It's our baser instincts." 

 

Bella thought back to the night when they first kissed. She remembered the fear she felt that she'd upset or gone overboard when she initiated their kiss. The panic that shot through her at the sound and faces Rosalie made. 

 

"So, during the Halloween party, I did offend you?" Bella stared at Rosalie, horrified. "I'm so sorry. Emmett insisted no, but I should've just apologized to you first." Her palm covered her face. Rosalie's silence after confused her, but she understood the reason for her hesitation when she spoke. 

 

"It can mean many things. Anger is one of them, but that night it was more attraction."  Oh.  "Right now, I was purring because I felt happy." 

 

Bella looked around. Those dark eyes peered into her soul, and she needed a moment away from their intensity. The ground held melted patches of snow. Although it was cold, a giant rock blocked the wind behind them. They were facing a small clearing with trees, but more importantly, the view was breathtaking. 

 

"Wait, why are we here again?" Bella whipped her head around, eyes widened. "I didn't mean I'm not enjoying playing hooky from work. I just meant from earlier you said you'd show me what happens when you go into the sun." Bella sputtered out. 

 

Rosalie's pitch black stare looked amused. However, the look passed, and in place, a stressed appearance took over Rosalie. She gently took Bella and walked with her to the small section of the clearing covered in an abundance of sunlight. 

 

Bella gasped. 

 

Every step Rosalie took into the direct light, her slightly inhuman characteristics shed off her image. As if a filter removed itself slowly. She could barely believe her eyes. 

 

Rosalie's translucent like complexion gained life. Her skin, warm and pink, sprung to life. However, much to Bella's horror, the skin slowly began to redden. Rosalie's jaw clenched as if in pain, and Bella quickly yanked her back. "Are you trying to hurt yourself?" 

 

Rosalie just lifted her arm up for Bella to see the severe sunburn, but the skin quickly cooled before her eyes. The same pale and porcelain-like quality returned to her features. "We can be out during daylight, but direct contact to sunlight for an extended period burns us. Almost like a sunburn, but depending on your skin tone, it takes longer." Bella looked in amazement at her uninjured arm. 

 

"So does Emmett burn too?" Bella asked as her hand traced where the red was moments before. 

 

"He does, but it takes him a longer time than us to feel the effects or see the results. Carlisle conducted some studies and experiments. We realize that you're susceptible based on your melanin from before you turned." 

 

Bella looked up without realizing Rosalie's face sat close to her. Her eyes still deep black. Lips inches from one another, Bella's filter left the vicinity. "Why are your eyes black?" 

 

Rosalie's words traveled across the small space. "It means I'm hungry, angry, or aroused." 

 

Bella's breath hitched as Rosalie finished. She'd sported those eyes since she'd picked her up so deductively she was starving. "Should we go back so you can--"

 

"I'm not hungry right now ." 

 

Bella felt her mouth dry up, the proximity becoming more apparent every second. 

 

"Can I?" Bella nodded at her silent question. 

 

Rosalie's hand cupped her cheek before leaning in the two inches. 

 

Pink lips ghosted across her parted mouth. 

 

Bella sighed when Rosalie firmly pressed their mouths together. She melted into the caress. Rosalie's gentleness mimicked that of intimate lovers whispering amongst one another. 

 

Bella somehow lucky enough to be the lover. She returned the emotions best she could but gasped when Rosalie's tongue testily swiped at her lips. Bella's heart raced in her chest, caged between the confines of her ribs, a strong contrast to the sweetness of Rosalie's gestures. Bella leaned in further, the fear that her heart would tear itself from her chest and present itself in an offer to the woman before her no longer the worst death imaginable. 

 

Rosalie's hand trailed to her neck as her tongue retreated. Bella felt her knees nearly give when Rosalie's other hand wrapped around her middle. 

 

Rosalie pulled away, and Bella nearly followed, but the blondes' look made her hesitate. 

 

"It's intoxicating." 

 

"What is?"

 

"You."

 

Rosalie looked at her with an intensity that Bella didn't quite understand. However, instead of fearing it, she dove headfirst into it. 

 

"I like you a lot too." 

 

Rosalie's smile pushed Bella's heart into her throat. She could only imagine the ailments Rosalie's smile could cure. 

 

The early afternoon gave way to the chilled temperatures of the evening. The girls sat in the car side by side, but the small enclosure of space prompted an electric-like current between them. The car engulfed in a variety of music, but Bella couldn't focus entirely on the moment. 

 

Rosalie's hand rested on the gear. Although Rosalie typically did that, Bella noticed something off. The only indication something was different was Rosalie's knuckles protruded boldly ontop of her fisted hand. 

 

Her eyes followed the hand up the arm. Rosalie's forearm displayed her soft muscle, and Bella acted without further thought. 

 

She lifted her hand, and gingerly placed it on top of Rosalie's. Black eyes turned to face her. Bella gently pried the death grip open before she carried their hands onto her thigh. Cold digits slid between hers, and Bella felt the building pressure leave the car. 

 

Both girls looked ahead and at their passing surroundings, but unbeknownst to each other, stole glances of the other. 

 

It was finally all starting to fall into place. 

Chapter Text

The blonde's personality shone through as the months progressed. Bella understood a flower's immeasurable beauty as they blossomed, but Rosalie was the template from which mother nature recreated the glorious act. How she would, without hesitation, sneak her hand inside Bella's. Brush small kisses alongside her cheeks with excitement that spilled out onto the surrounding people. 

 

Jess, Angela, and Lauren all teased her endlessly, but their smiles conveyed their true feelings. And, if that wasn't enough, it was their constant inclusion of Rosalie regardless of their lack of interactions beforehand. Jess directly invited Rosalie to their outings, Lauren engaged Rosalie in book discussions, and Angela offered her photography as a service. 

 

Their group extended past the girls, and within the first month of dating, the entire family trickled into their social sphere. Jasper became friends with Eric instantly, and they all watched as their unique friendship bloomed. 

 

Bella's happiness grew larger than her fears. 

 

That was until her dad, fed up with feigning patience, cornered her one evening after dinner. 

 

Bella's world teetered on the precipice of chaos as her dad's words hung around the air between them in the small living room. She avoided his stare, utterly self-aware of her inability to lie. She knew she'd give herself away. 

 

However, as she came clean to her father, she hadn't expected him to react as he did. 

 

She nearly laughed in shock when he'd come up to her and crouched at eye level before her. The seriousness on his aged features prevented her laughter from escaping, and the tears in his eyes left her wide-eyed. Her heart pounded in her ears as she waited for a glimpse into the person her mom claimed her dad was before they'd separated. 

 

But when his rough hands encased hers, and she looked up again into his red eyes, it all clicked. She swallowed the lump in her throat and felt her breath escape her in a wheeze when her dad's words registered in her mind. 

 

"Te quiero mucho, Mija." 

 

That's all she needed before she burst into tears. The fear of rejection leaving her faster than she'd anticipated, she watched as her dad broke down right before her. 

 

Guilt tore at her chest when she could only sit there hand in hand as he cried. The first time she'd ever seen him cry, Bella realized as she felt the warmth of his palms travel into hers. 

 

Her dad's brown eyes opened, and Bella felt her breath catch. 

 

A memory resurfaced and settled before her eyes. 

 

The words her mom spoke to her following her coming out echoed in her mind. A sentence she tried endlessly to expunge from her thoughts due to the burden it placed on her well being. 

 

This is going to kill your dad-- 

 

"I'm sorry."

 

"What?" Bella gaped at him. 

 

"We're okay. Everything's okay." 

 

And she truly believed that as her father enveloped her in his embrace. As his beard tickled her cheek in a rare display of affection, she held him tighter in fear he would rescind his declaration. 

 

Bella felt everything fall into place as her dad met Rosalie. 

 

She rolled her eyes at his reservations after meeting the girl, but in the back of her mind, Bella cried in relief. Her dad's concerns were rooted in personality and not intolerance. She almost wept as her dad tried to give her a talk on being safe. Torn between wanting the ground to swallow her whole and hugging him stupid, she just smiled goofily.

 

All highs eventually come crashing down, and in Bella's case, it all came crashing down a month later in the spring. 

 

In her defense, she never expected it to happen this fast. 

 

Rosalie and Emmett raved with excitement when Alice notified them of an incoming thunderstorm. Bella watched the pure delight bloom on Em's face, but Rosalie's features appeared confident. Smug, but without the touch of arrogance, she would've expected. 

 

The entire week leading up to the event, the family practically vibrated in place. The thrill of competition without reservation rushed through the group to the point where Esme even joined in on their appointed spirit week. 

 

Bella watched happily as the family teased each other with small jabs and threats in Rosalie's case. Emmett's petition to let Bella play, against Bella's request to remain a fan on the sidelines, was struck down by Rosalie (backed by Esme) within moments of its proposal. She giggled at the outraged look on Emmett's face as they drove up to the land. 

 

"C'mon, guys." He shook his head as he drove. "It's only fair we let Bella play to counter Rosalie's skill." He shoots a look back at the girls in the review mirror. "They're pretty much matched in skill." 

 

Before Bella could interject with a counter or ask to please sit out again, Rosalie spoke up. "Don't even compare us. We're an entirely different species, and I would never expect her to play with a bunch of cheaters." 

 

Bella's mouth dropped as she turned to Rosalie in mock outrage. Betrayal decorated her features. "So you do agree? You think I'm weak." Amber eyes turned toward her in mortification, and she fought the smile from her face. 

 

Emmett cackled in the front as Bella gave into her laughter. Rosalie's eyes narrowed, Bella momentarily panicked, thinking she might've offended her, but the mirth in her eyes told her otherwise. So she settled for watching Rosalie flick Emmett's ear. 

 

The drive was relatively fast.  She thought as they unloaded the car. 

 

The clearing was elaborate. The trees created a canopy toward the opposite end, and the fog traveling in fostered a mysterious atmosphere. 

 

She'd quietly steeped in anticipation the entire week. She'd yet to see any of their unrestricted abilities, and their constant one-upmanship made her more curious. She observed as Edward and Emmett fought playfully in the far end, and she realized in amazement that they'd just arrived moments ago, and they somehow sped to the other end in the blink of an eye.

 

Rosalie approached her from beside. "You already know we're unreasonably competitive." She looked at Rosalie, her uniform a replica of the one she wore on Halloween. The cap emphasized her features, and Bella felt herself grow warm at her appearance. The sportiness of Rosalie unlocking another buried attraction. 

 

Her flush worsened as gold eyes swam with worry. "Are you alright?" Rosalie took her cap off and placed it on her put up hair. Bella tried to adjust it but decided on letting her hair down to fit it better. "You know they're joking, right?" She looked worried. "You know I'm joking? You're amazing--"

 

Bella leaned up to place a small kiss on the corner of her mouth. Rosalie stilled and relaxed into the hands Bella dug into her vest. "I know, Rose." With a small smile, the duo joined the rest of the family. 

 

The air shifted around them as the wind picked up, and the clouds traveled to cover the field. Alice called for them to join her as they went over the rules. She saw blurring figures before they all stood on the makeshift mound center of the field. 

 

Bella walked over to Esme as she waved her over as if the others didn't just defy the laws of physics and science by traveling faster than the human eye could detect. 

 

"We're going to make sure there's no cheating and that no fights break out." Esme's warmth emanated the small gap of space between them. "Alice and Edward are the biggest cheats." She whispered to Bella.

 

Hiding her giggle, she heard the cries from the respective people.

 

Fascinated, Bella watched as the family played a sport that held no interest to her normally. The difference? That the family possessed superabilities that made this boring past time exhilarating. She couldn't look away in total excitement and in fear that she would miss something important. 

 

Nothing prepared her for the image of Rosalie's batting stance or her scathing look as she slid home moments after Esme tapped the base. Bella reflected momentarily as Rosalie's face woke something dormant within her. 

 

She grew mortified as she realized she found angry Rose attractive enough to thirst after her. She felt her mouth go dry as blonde hair whipped her in the face with the wind. Esme watched the interaction with amusement before interrupting Alice's attempt to cheat. 

 

Bella felt her hair raise as the wind shifted down with ferocity. The shift in Esme as she pulled her behind her without warning. She slightly tilted forward, disoriented when arms wrapped around her middle. 

 

She watched as Rosalie's demeanor shifted from playful aggression into something wild, feral almost. Within the blink of an eye, Rosalie appeared beside Esme. 

 

Emmett's arms tightened around her, and she winced as the strength of his grip dug into her stomach. Edward mumbled something under his breath, and within seconds, Emmett's hold on her lessened. 

 

Her relief was short-lived. Bella's eyes picked up on the stress present across the entire family. 

 

What happened after felt like a fever dream. 

 

Emmett rushed her from the field as Edward growled something unintelligible to Bella's ears. The entire family crouched as Emmett and Bella fled the area in a blur of colors. She felt her breath wheeze out of her as he buckled her in the seat beside him. He ripped the car into drive, and Bella looked at him in concern. 

 

"What happened?" She managed to choke out in nausea. "Why are we leaving?" 

 

Emmett didn't spare her a glance as he got them off the rough path. "Some nomads found us playing baseball. They could smell you all the way from the canopy of trees. Edward heard their thoughts."

 

Bella registered his words while trying to remain calm. "What does that mean?" She tossed him a curious glance. "Why'd we have to leave?"

 

Emmett's silent but intent gaze shut her up. "We're vegetarians, Bella. It's not the standard." His dark eyes looked frantically over the wildlife. "Heads up, Rosalie's behind us," as he said this, the back door opened and shut with minimal resistance. 

 

Ice cold hands brushed her curls from her face as they analyzed her for any injury. Bella gasped as Rosalie's amber eyes from earlier resembled pools of ink. A feral look in her features took her aback. 

 

"We lost one of them." 

 

Emmett glanced over with a look Bella had never seen on his features before. 

 

"The redhead." 

 

He faced forward and drove with renewed velocity. She looked over to Rose, her hands never left her face, but her eyes seemed unfocused. 

 

"Rose?" Dark eyes narrowed in concentration. "What's going on?" Bella started to feel her anger resurface. The conversation was happening above her head. Fed up, she placed her hand on the blonde's cheek. 

 

Pink lips paused in their rapid speaking. Their owner looked distracted. 

 

"Tell me what's going on."  

 

Bella listened as they retold her. She asked for Emmett to pull over as her sickness reared its head. She puked on the side of the road, wondering how they managed to kill two people-vampires, in less than ten minutes. 

 

She made it until the point where she heard a third vampire escaped their execution and, according to Jasper, planned on hunting her down. 

 

Rosalie assured her they'd handle it all, but as she spoke, Bella felt her belief dwindle. Every word, every murmur, every caress, Bella realized served as more reassurance for the blonde than for her. 

 

The look from Emmett solidified this as they arrived in front of the Cullen household. Rosalie basically carried her from the car inside, Bella protested the entire time, but the blonde seemed unaware of her protests. 

 

Carlisle spoke from beside Edward. His appearance immaculate as always seemed disheveled, hair windblown, and jersey ripped. "We tried to reason with them, but Edward and Alice saw through their lies. We had the redhead, but she escaped us," he sat on the steps in the house, "right after we dealt with her mate." 

 

Everyone looked at the girls, and Bella wasn't sure as to the reason. That was until Emmett spoke up.  

 

"Just turn her, Rose. Please." She jumped back as Rosalie's chest rumbled in upset. The arms wrapped around her kept her in place. 

 

"Wait--" Bella was cut off. 

 

"Enough," Rosalie growled out. "We can find the nomad."

 

Jasper spoke up from his corner. "I don't understand how she got away." Alice rubbed his shoulder, soothingly. "Give me some time. I'll find her." 

 

"Ha," Rosalie barked out. "We don't have time." She glowered at him.

 

"What?" Bella looked on in concern. Time for what? 

 

"Edward said her mind wasn't focused on revenge," Alice spoke up from helping soothe Jasper. "So, she probably escaped the maker's bond--" 

 

"Alice is right," Carlisle interjected. "We need to focus on monitoring the environment for any sightings or scents." He looked to Emmett. "It's not our call to make. Rosalie and Bella need to have this discussion on their own." 

 

"What discussion?" She sputtered out. 

 

"So what--"

 

Bella finally had enough, and she lost her patience. "Excuse me? I'm right here. I've been asking what the hell is going on?" She moved away from the embrace, strangling her. "Am I in danger? Is my dad? What is going on? and I would love it if you spoke to me and not above me." 

 

The family turned in her direction as if realizing the girl indeed stood there. 

 

Emmett was the first to speak. "Sorry, Nena." After that, everyone followed suit. 

 

She couldn't believe the words that came out of their mouths as they sounded across the foyer. Esme's absence made all the more sense when they explained she sat watching the perimeter of her house.

 

The understanding that not only the man would've hunted her down if given a chance, but that also the partner survived and could look for revenge prompted a surge of panic to rush through her veins. Her concern rose as she understood her predicament. 

 

"There's no reason to believe she'll do anything, right?" Emmett nodded in response along with Edward and Alice, but the rest looked solemn. 

 

Jasper responded. "We're not sure." He looked around. "Even though some of us are convinced, we're not sure if she'll look for vengeance. If she cares enough or even knows you're mated." Bewildered, Bella glanced around the room as the word mate was used to describe their relationship. 

 

"Mated?" Bella realized in absolute terror the mistake she made when Rosalie tensed up from beside her. Everyone in the home stood stock still as her question echoed. The silence swallowed them in its bubble. She watched as they all trickled upstairs one by one. Dread settled into the pit of her stomach as Emmett shot her one last glance. 

 

She turned to face Rosalie. 

 

She patiently waited for her to speak, but Rosalie's pursed lips confirmed her refusal to speak. She broke the silence. "Mated?" Bella then understood her fear. Even after months of getting to know the girl, her best friend Emmett, and their entire family, she knew nothing about their world. 

 

"Can we discuss this later?" 

 

Bella stared open-mouthed at the girl's audacity. Would there even be a later? "Are you being serious?" 

 

Rosalie's grim nod told her something changed. She watched as Rosalie's body closed off from her as she walked them back to the truck. Rosalie's nostrils flare on occasion as if scenting the air to determine if the redhead returned. 

 

Bella's mind reeled as they drove. 

 

The silence was enough to suffocate them in its waves. The radio off, Bella wanted to reach and switch it, but it felt wrong. Everything did. 

 

Music always filled their silence, but not then.

 

Rosalie's hands clutching the steering wheel, her hand off the gear, and away from Bella's grip, she spiraled. Bella feared the worst as they approached her house. She sat in the silence, waiting for the blonde to speak, to do anything other than shut her out. 

 

Bella just sat in her disappointment. 

 

"We're going to take care of Victoria." Someone named Victoria apparently might kill her. "It's going to be alright." 

 

"What are you talking about?" Exasperated, Bella tossed her hands in defeat. "Everyone said she wasn't a threat." 

 

Rosalie turned to face her. Bella felt her breath hitch at the dark look on her features. "No. A few of them think she won't be a problem." She pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. "You don't understand how grave this is, Bella." 

 

On instinct, she lashed out. "Oh yeah? Whose fault is that?" She instantly regretted her words as Rosalie seemed more worked up after. 

 

"It's late, Bella. You should get inside. Your dad is near the door." She watched as Rosalie got out and walked to her door to open it for her. Bella tried to catch her attention or to think of something fast enough, but she fell into inaction. 

 

Rosalie walked her to the door but maintained a wide berth of space between them the entire time. Bella felt panic surge through her as they neared the door. Just when she prepared to rectify her lash out, Rosalie walked ahead to knock on the door. 

 

"Goodnight, Bella." 

 

She watched as her dad opened the door and greeted Rosalie. After their quick exchange, Rosalie excused herself, citing her parent's curfew as a reason for her departure. 

 

She tried to stop her, but her dad's watchful eye left her frozen in place as they looked at the blonde drive off. 

 

Chapter Text

Three weeks. 

It took twenty-one days for everything to return to some normalcy before it all fell apart.

Bella stood by, watching everything happen before her, unable to stop it from taking place. She noticed Rosalie cave in on herself, agonizing in her silence, unwilling or unable to listen to the words of her friends and family. Emmett assured her it had nothing to do with her, but Bella felt blindsided. As if the entire family had failed to prepare her for their world or she'd simply fallen short of their expectations, letting everyone down. 

Bella avoided catching their gaze in the school, mostly because of her easy to decipher expressions, but also the fear bubbling in her chest. It burned into her mind and threatened to consume her as the weeks passed. 

Rosalie's reserved behavior put her on edge and was cause for concern. The blonde refused to spend time alone with her or even look her in the eyes. It all came crashing down right before the summer. 

Bella asked Rosalie to spend the night, something she refused to do for her pride's sake, but received a gentle shake in response. She spent the entire time during school, thinking over her actions. Had she done something to upset her? 

The bell rang, and Bella left her last period of the day heavy with dread. Would Rosalie still be upset when she picked her up? Swept up in her thoughts, she failed to notice Alice fall into step beside her. 

"Bella!" Alice sang into her ear. She immediately jolted, but an arm stopped her from slamming into the person on her other side. "Rose asked me to drive you to your house." 

The dread weighed heavier in her stomach and the sudden urge to vomit overcame her. Alice's eyes trailed across her face, nervously. Emmett's absence during the last two days weighing on her mind. She wondered if asking her question would backfire.

Getting into the sleek black vehicle, she wondered why the family had drifted. Emmett's offroading car nowhere to be seen or even Rosalie's red car. In their place stood Carlisle's car. 

A loaded silence filled the vehicle. Bella's blood pounded in her ears. The pressure built until finally, she snapped underneath it.

"Alice, is everything okay?" The purring of the engine filled the silence. Her gaze took in the strained grip on the wheel and Alice's forward stare.

"They're leaving, Bella." 

"Oh." 

"Rosalie wanted them to say goodbye. Emmett couldn't work up the nerve. He and Jasper left a week ago." She sounded neutral and apathetic. The rare disposition she'd never witnessed on the petite face. "It'll just be Edward, Esme, Me, and Carlisle." 

Bella slid down the leather, sunken into the seat, she grew hyperaware of every sensation. "I understand." The efforts she went through to deny the inevitable was happening. It was only a matter of time.

She should've known the last sleepover with Emmett was out of pity, a goodbye before disappearing. 

"I voted for us to stay together, but--" 

"You don't have to tell me." She got up from her seat and leaned her top half into the car. "I'm assuming that we won't have contact too, so it's been real." Fighting back the tears of astonishment, she shut the car door and walked inside her house, completely ignoring Alice's words countering her assumption. She heard the car remain idle before it purred to life as it left the driveway. 

A throat cleared to her right, and she knew no matter how prepared she was, she'd be hurt. Rosalie came up to her and gestured for them to sit. The space between them minimal but significant.  

Her eyes roamed across the beautiful face of the only person she'd loved to this extent—Rosalie, with impressive features but an even more magnificent persona. 

Love, a visceral feeling she'd hoped would never turn bitter, was on the verge of crippling her with pain. The neutral features and the impressive apathy Rosalie displayed rendered her speechless. 

"I'm sure Alice spoke to you." She paused, pursing her lips together. Those perfectly bowed lips only angered her further. "I don't know how to do this because you're the only person I've ever been with since I turned." 

A numbing sensation traveled from her head and into her limbs. 

Rosalie continued in her detached monologue. "I think we're better off as friends." Pink lips pursed together. "I love you so much, but right now, the three of us who graduated need to go off on our own for some time. With what happened in the spring, I decided it's for the best." Shoulders squared back, she continued. 

"Some space--"

Unable to stop herself, she spoke, refusing to let the silence sit. "Okay." 

Rosalie momentarily froze before she continued speaking. "Wait, are you--?"

Bella watched from the recesses of her mind. She got up as if doused with fuel by the blonde's words and stood with her anger ignited. And yet, she felt the proximity of the flames, not the direct burn. "Nope." Her calm facade in place, she continued. "Thank you for asking, though. Also, thank you for being honest upfront and not dragging this out." With a wave, she grabbed her dad's car keys off the counter and left the house. 

"Wait, Bella, where are you going?" She looked ahead, not noticing the arm jutting out to stop her from fleeing before it landed on her arm. Bella flinched away. She wanted to kick herself. Why would she shrink away from Rosalie? The adrenaline from earlier oozing out of her pores, leaving behind a familiar jitter and numbness. 

"Don't. You don't just casually get to do this and ask me what I'm doing. You're leaving. So go ahead, but don't expect me to beg." Bella slammed the car door shut and drove in no particular direction. 
 
Her shock wore off the further she got from the house until finally, her mind went blank. Tears burned her vision and made it impossible to drive to the point that she parked on the nearest available road to avoid swerving. 

The sky opened up and poured over the town. 

But Bella's tears wouldn't fall. 

She couldn't do much of anything: mind, body, and nothing. 

And just like that, summer began.