Title: Time On My Hands
Disclaimer: "Twilight" and all related characters belong to Stephenie Meyer.
Word Count: 2,003
Summary: She needs to just be Bella for a while. She's made her decision to be with Edward, but everything is all happening a little too fast. So she gives Edward what he asked for - time.
Warnings: Post-Eclipse, Pre-Breaking Dawn. Some mention of adult situations.
Author's Notes: This made me so nostalgic. Thanks for an interesting prompt, and many thanks to choosetodream for being my beta.
Of all things, it was the stupid, cheesy cell phone commercial that did it, that made me break down in tears.
Okay, the stress of a vampire/werewolf/newborn war and planning a wedding and having my heart mangled more times than necessary probably played a significant role, but I was blaming the commercial.
It was a Saturday morning. Our wedding was still about a month away. Charlie was fishing with Billy, much to his own chagrin. Charlie had been spending too much time searching for a boy who didn’t want to be found and Billy insisted that he take a break. It took awhile, but Charlie finally cracked. I wished there was something more I could do for him, but my own heart had its fair share of cracks.
At any rate, I was glad for him to get out, even if it left me home alone. I wouldn’t be alone for long – Edward was due back from wedding planning/hunting any moment. He was planning the honeymoon stage and insisted it be a surprise. I’m pretty sure there was some dazzling involved in getting me to agree to that. I’m a little fuzzy on the details.
Still in my pajamas (sweats and a T-shirt still; even though it was summer, it was still cold at night, especially with a vampire boyfriend), I’d settled down on the couch with a bowl of Cheerio’s and flipped through the channels.
I’d settled on one of those home makeover shows, only half listening, the other half listening for, well, my other half.
I didn’t expect to be reduced to tears, but 20 minutes later, that’s how Edward found me – sobbing and hugging a couch pillow for dear life, the television and my breakfast completely forgotten.
Before I’d even registered he was there, he wrapped his arms around me, wiping my tears away with cool fingertips.
“Bella, love, what’s wrong? What happened?” He sounded agitated, unable to see any obvious source of my pain.
I gestured wildly at the TV, which was now on a commercial for orange juice. Or paper towels, I couldn’t quite tell.
Edward’s eyes flickered from me to the TV and back again, still clearly confused. “I don’t understand. Please tell me what has you so distraught,” he pleaded.
I felt vaguely ridiculous as I tried to compose myself enough to speak. “It’s stupid,” I managed to choke out.
“It’s not nonsense if you’re this upset about it,” he insisted, gently rubbing my back.
“But it is!” I sniffed. “I have everything I could ever ask for! More! But there was this stupid commercial, and I was already thinking about Charlie and Jake and you and I don’t know…”
I saw how he tried to hide his reaction to Jacob’s name, but even through my tears I could see the way his eyes tightened.
“I’m afraid I still don’t understand.” His voice was gentle, but there was an underlying sense of panic; was he questioning my resolution? Impossible. “Maybe if you told me what the commercial was? What I can do to help?”
I took a steadying breath. “It was just a cell phone commercial. The one where some kid was sitting in his dorm room, calling home, and can’t decide on a message. He’s talking about all the things he’s doing at college and the people and how much he loves his parents for supporting him so he could get there, and I just started thinking. I won’t have that. Charlie won’t have that.” I didn’t look at him as I spoke, the words spilling out from my mouth so quickly it was a marvel he caught them all. “I won’t go to college. I won’t have all-nighters getting last minute studying in. I won’t go broke buying all my stupid books. I won’t have crazy roommates. And Edward… I can’t help but want that.”
I was boring a hole through the floor now. “I want to try to survive on ramen and mac ‘n cheese. I want to freak out about exam papers. I want class with eccentric professors.” The tears were flowing freely again. “I know, I know it’s horribly selfish of me, but-”
I broke off as Edward hooked one finger under my chin and forced me to meet his gaze. I didn’t understand the intensity that burned in his amber eyes.
“Bella,” he chided gently, chuckling. “Did you really think that would upset me? You know I want nothing more than for you to live as much of you human life as possible.” He pressed a chaste kiss to my forehead.
I tried to even my breathing as I searched his eyes, finding nothing but truth and love.
But now came the really hard part.
“There’s more,” I said quietly. “I think…it would be better if…” I took a deep breath, unsure if I could speak the words I knew were painfully true. “I need to be Bella Swan while I do it.”
He inhaled sharply and I hurried o before he could draw any wrong conclusions. “I still love you more than anything, and I still want to marry you, I just need to discover myself, I suppose.” He relaxed only slightly.
“Everything’s just been happening so fast,” I tried to explain. “I’m giving up my humanity – happily, for you – but it feels like I’m missing something, like…I’ve lost myself in this crazy whirlwind of mythology.” I laid one hand on the side of his face, tracing his cheekbone with my thumb. “I need to know who Bella Swan is before I can become Bella Cullen. You understand, right?”
He turned and kissed my thumb before ever-so-carefully kissing my lips, once.
“Yes, Bella. You’ve only discovered what I was so afraid you’d ignore. If this is what you want, this is what I want, too.”
I relaxed significantly and hugged myself closer to him, my head under his chin, snuggling comfortably on the couch.
He chuckled again, “And all it took was a cell phone commercial.”
I let Edward break the news to Alice; to my surprise, she wasn’t upset, now she had more time to make everything perfect (her words). I’d hugged her tightly, thanking her for understanding.
“Just take care of yourself. I’m still expecting you to be my sister someday,” she’d replied.
The rest of his family had been equally wonderful. Rosalie, especially, had been pleased with our announcement. Not that she ever said anything to me about it, but she was much less hostile.
The most surprising reaction had come from Renee. Even though I’d suspected she still thought I was marrying too early, despite her many protests, her genuine disappointment and concern at our news proved otherwise.
“But why, honey?” She’d asked when I broke the news to her over the phone. “Everything seemed to be going so well.”
“It was, Mom. Everything was perfect. But it was too perfect, too fast. I realized I needed some time to be me, to be a kid before it was too late.”
She said she understood, but I had a feeling she didn’t. Not quite.
I moved into my third floor dorm room a few days before my first semester at Dartmouth began. I insisted on carrying my share of boxes up the three flights of stairs. Edward protested, but I beat him down in the end. However, my share was suspiciously light…
My one roommate was named Ashley. She seemed like a smart girl, but I rarely saw her as she balanced two jobs, 17 credits, and her first boyfriend. Somehow she still found time for late night chats and the occasional party.
My first college party was like something out of a cheesy teen movie. The basement of my building had been turned into a dance club to welcome the freshmen that first weekend. I could hear the music and feel the bass clear up to my room.
“You sure I look okay?” I tugged at the hem of my skirt, nervously peering in our floor length mirror. I’d wanted to make a good first impression, consulting both Ashley and Alice, but I was still a little apprehensive about this tight black number.
Edward wrapped his fingers around mine, brushing against the skin of my thigh and sending shivers up my spine. “You look wonderful,” he whispered in my ear. “I have a feeling you’re going to be turning heads tonight. Would you mind terribly if I killed anyone? I don’t know if my self control will be able to handle all the inevitable improper thoughts about my fiancée.”
I rolled my eyes and turned away from the mirror to face him. “Behave, please. I don’t need you to defend my honor and unnecessary deaths would certainly put a damper on the evening.”
He grinned and stole a kiss from my lips. “I’ll be on my best behavior then.” He grinned.
He was true to his word. Save for his arm tightening around my waist and pulling me possessively closer, I wouldn’t have suspected a thing.
Then, of course, true to teen movie drama fashion, someone spiked the punch. Or, in my case, what I had thought was water was most definitely not. It burned on the way down and had a funny way of relaxing me completely. So much so that I’d thought why not, and had another couple glasses before Edward could stop me, preoccupied as he was with growling at some boy under his breath.
He turned back to me finally, took one breath, smelled the alcohol on my breath and narrowed his eyes. I started to sway a little as he hissed at me, “Bella! Are you drunk?!”
“Yes sir!” I told him happily, wrapping my arms around his neck for support and pulling my body flush against his. His cool skin felt so good in the sweaty, overheated crowd.
I didn’t remember much more (though I did distinctly remember someone dancing on a table), but I woke up in my own bed, naked, with a throbbing headache. Edward swore I had nothing to be ashamed of, or embarrassed by, but with the way he kept running his hand through his messy hair led me to wonder just what had happened.
At the end of my freshmen year, I’d felt as if I’d had enough human college experiences to last a lifetime.
I’d managed to survive a whole week on nothing but ramen, macaroni and cheese, and microwave pizzas, despite Edward trying to sway my resolve. He insisted that we had more than enough money for me to eat properly, but I was unmoved. He’d given in and lived off chipmunks in commiseration. I would have felt bad for the poor little things, but they were everywhere and stole my food when I wasn’t looking.
I’d pulled more all-nighters that I could count – some fueled by Edward’s Red Bull runs to the store so I could finish my paper, and some fueled by Edward himself; it was really hard to sleep when your extremely handsome boyfriend could not. I think he spent more nights with me crammed on my twin size than he did in his own (huge) private apartment on the other side of campus.
I’d also given Edward his share of human experiences. I insisted on getting a job, and he agreed only on the condition that he would work with me. We found ourselves selling fruit smoothies on campus weekday afternoons. Sales soared whenever Edward was at the register, much to my amusement. He refused to admit any connection.
It was when we moved back to Forks for the summer that I’d told him I was ready.
“Are you sure? It’s only been a year.” His eyes gave nothing away as they searched mine.
“Positive,” I assured him with a soft kiss. “I’m ready to grow up. To be your wife. To be with you always.”
It was surprisingly easy to convince him this time. I think he was ready now, too.
“Always and forever.”