So, did you want to grab a cup of coffee? I'll be home from school next weekend. We can meet in Port Angeles, or I can come into Seattle, whichever is easier for you.
I stared at the screen, dumbfounded. A cup of coffee? After everything-the tears, the heartache, the years of reliving painful memories, he wanted to get coffee?
Taking in a deep breath, I let my hands hover over the keys of my laptop, wondering if I was capable of doing this. I typed a quick reply, hit send before I chickened out, and slammed the screen shut, as if that would somehow change what I had just done.
Edward Cullen had reappeared in my life via email a month ago. My head felt like it had been spinning ever since.
It had started innocently enough; he knew it had been awhile, was thinking of me, and wanted to know how I had been.
It was a perfectly casual email - except we hadn't spoken in three years.
I got up from my desk, twisting my fingers together nervously as I made my way into the kitchen. I grabbed a beer from the fridge, popped off the top and swallow down several large gulps.
Why did I just agree to that? Why did I tell him I'd go? I mean, we're done. What else is there to say?
I leaned back against my kitchen counter, picking at the beer label with my thumbnail. Bringing the bottle back to my lips, I let my eyes slide closed...I let the memories come rushing back in.
I had dated Edward in high school and into my freshman year of college. In high school, we had been inseparable; we were that couple. He walked me to my classes; I lied to my parents time and time again to sleep in his arms. We had sex in the backseat of his car; in fact, we had sex in a lot of places. We talked about getting married that summer after we graduated; we were both eighteen. In Edward's fantasy, we snuck off to Vegas, and then-forever.
It was his solution to a problem that was bigger than us: three-thousand miles.
Edward had been accepted to Dartmouth, like I had known he would. His father had gone there, and his father before him. Edward had "legacy" stamped right across his smooth forehead. It didn't hurt that his grades were impeccable, and his pitching arm strong. Edward could have gone anywhere he wanted, and he wanted Dartmouth.
I wasn't so lucky.
My grades were good, but neither of my parents had gone to college. I didn't have any extracurricular activities to flesh out my transcript. It was just me, and a few years of work experience at the local diner. I couldn't buy my way into an Ivy, either. I was going to the local state university because in-state tuition was all I could afford. Even then, I did my first two years of gen-eds at the community college in Port Angeles.
Edward had wanted me to apply to schools on the east coast. Insisting I was not to worry about the money, he had filled my father's rickety kitchen table with brochures from Emerson, Brown, Amherst, and any number of other schools throughout New England. He had pleaded with me to apply with him to Dartmouth; he had said his father's recommendation would give me a good shot.
I told him I wasn't looking for a handout-or to be a teenage bride.
It wasn't that I didn't love Edward. I did, with everything my eighteen-year-old heart had to offer. But I was too independent to let him pay my way, and too stubborn to give into his Vegas daydream. I told him I'd marry him when it wasn't his parents' money paying for my engagement ring; I didn't need multiple carats-I just needed Edward.
I told him that if he meant everything he said four years wouldn't be that long. We would finish school, and then we could talk about getting married.
We made it barely six months.
I flew to see him over Columbus Day weekend. It was a fairytale fall weekend in New England, the air crisp and the trees joyfully bright. I had been full of hope, wandering the historic Dartmouth campus with Edward's scarf wrapped around me. Then he came home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it wasn't just us anymore. The moments we got together were snatched between family obligations and time spent socializing with our other friends also home from school. I barely saw him, and when he boarded his flight back east, my heart sank.
By the time spring break rolled around, I knew it was over. When Edward called me from the airport in Boston and said he'd changed his mind about coming home-he was going to Spain with some friends from school instead-I told him I'd had enough.
He told me I was too damned stubborn for my own good, and he was tired of fighting me. He was tired of being without me. In that low husky voice of his, he had given me an ultimatum: accept his offer to come to Spain, or end it.
I hung up on him.
I didn't go to Spain.
Edward tried a half-hearted apology when he got back, but I had already spent a week crying and hardening myself against him. Maybe if he had shown up in Forks, I might have caved, but over the phone, it had been a lot easier to just whisper "good-bye" and hang up. He didn't understand why I hadn't gone to Spain, just like he didn't understand why I wanted him to pay for an engagement ring with his own money.
I had come to accept that he never would.
Yet here we were, three years and some months later. Next weekend I would be a college graduate. I didn't have exotic plans; my apartment and tuition had sucked up any money that might have been left over for celebratory Caribbean cruises or Mexican resorts.
I was curious as to why Edward was coming back to Forks instead of jumping on a plane to Europe once again. I stayed in touch with Edward's sister, Alice, who had never stopped not-so-subtly hinting that Edward and I belonged together. She had told me plenty about Edward's travels. He spent a semester abroad, living in London; he had traveled all over Europe while he was there. And then there were his summers.
He hadn't come home for summer break after that first year, for which I was grateful. I'd spent the entire summer holed up at my father's, avoiding any place I thought Edward might be. Between my summer classes in Port Angeles and my job, I managed to keep from having to see him, with a little assistance from Alice.
Edward didn't come much after that, usually only for quick holiday weekends in and out. It was easy to avoid him then, spending time with Charlie. According to Alice, he had spent one summer in Brazil, the other in India. She'd been suspiciously quiet about his plans for this summer, and I had a feeling the emails I'd been receiving had a lot to do with that.
I drained the rest of my beer with a sigh, light-headed from the combination of alcohol and no dinner. Too bad Alice isn't here, I thought wryly, staring around my small kitchen.
Padding off to bed, I tried to keep my thoughts at bay, but nervous anticipation churned in my stomach. I wasn't sure if I was dreading meeting up with Edward, or looking forward to it, but either way, Edward Cullen was about to be back in my life.
I pulled up to Starbucks, nervously wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans. My heart was hammering in my chest, and I felt like I was going to throw up at any moment. I had pulled over twice on my way there, only to gulp down the cool May air and press on.
I leaned over to grab my purse from the passenger seat where I'd thrown it, and then I saw him.
It wasn't a warm day, but the sun was out. He was sitting at one of the small bistro tables on the sidewalk, the sunlight glinting off the reddish highlights in his messy hair. His right foot was bouncing up and down a mile a minute, his long fingers drumming against the metal table.
I sucked in a deep breath, and slowly got out of the car. My feet were barely on the pavement before Edward saw me.
"Bella!" he called out, standing quickly. He went to take a step forward, and then thought better of it, nervously shifting his weight from foot to foot as I approached.
"Hello, Edward," I said in greeting, putting my purse down on the table. He leaned forward, his arms wide, and I realized he was going to try to hug me. I quickly sat down in my chair, trying to ignore the blush creeping up into my cheeks. I didn't want Edward to hug me; I didn't want him to touch me. Edward's touch had always had the ability to make my pulse race in a millisecond. I didn't want to be weak in front of him; I didn't want to embarrass myself by blushing like an idiot the entire time we were at Starbucks.
Edward sat back down, his leg already jittering under the table again. "I, um, I grabbed you a coffee. I hope that's okay."
"Yeah, it's fine. Thanks." I glanced at the two cups on the table, wondering which was mine. I held back a cringe, realizing it was unlikely Edward would know how I took my coffee these days. As a teenager, I had dumped spoonfuls of sugar into it, but late-night study sessions had me going for less sugar, and more caffeine these days. "Um, which one?"
"Carmel macchiato, extra caramel," he said proudly, holding the cup out. "I remembered."
"You remembered what I liked when I was eighteen," I said quietly, looking down into my lap. I didn't want to see the disappointment on his face; it was bad enough I would hear it in his voice. I would have just sucked it up and drank the damn thing to keep from upsetting him, but I cringed when I thought of how it would taste. "I haven't had one of those in years. Too sweet."
"Oh." An awkward silence fell over us, and I sighed, standing. "I'm just going to go grab my own, okay?"
"I can get it for you." Edward was on his feet again, already moving toward the door. It irked me; he would never learn I was capable of taking care of myself, would he?
"No," I protested, proud of myself for how firm I sounded. "Edward, I can get it. You don't need to do it for me. You already paid for one coffee. I'll get this one."
"Oh. Right. Okay." Edward sat back down, his fingers drumming away. "I'll, um, I'll just wait."
I rushed into the coffee shop without another word, forcing myself to take deep breaths. I got into line, digging through my purse for my debit card, trying to take the moment away from Edward to calm down. I had half-expected him to follow me into the coffee shop, and I was grateful he hadn't.
It's so awkward! Why is it so awkward? We've never been awkward before. I gnawed on my lip, sneaking a glance over my shoulder at him through the windows. I debated escaping out the side door, but my car was parked in Edward's direct line of sight. I would have to endure the awkwardness, at least until it was polite to leave.
But what wasn't awkward was how Edward looked. His shoulders had broadened, and his entire upper body had filled out. The hoodie he wore couldn't conceal that he had outgrown his lankiness; his height suited him now. His hair was still the artfully tousled mess I'd loved to run my fingers through, but his jaw was stronger, more angular.
Edward had been an attractive boy; he had grown into a beautiful man.
You can't think things like that, Bella. It's just coffee. And he hasn't changed. He ordered coffee for you; he presumed after three years that he still knew how you wanted your coffee. Doesn't seem he's changed one bit.
"Miss? Can I help you?"
I jerked my head up, realizing that the annoyed-looking barista was talking to me. "Sorry!" I blurted out, glancing up at the menu board. I didn't know why; I always got the same thing. "Um, venti soy vanilla latte with the sugar-free syrup please. No foam."
Waiting for my drink, I snuck another glance out the plate glass windows. Edward was still tapping away on the table top. It was a nervous habit he apparently hadn't lost. I grabbed my coffee with a sigh, trying to tell myself it would be over soon. I would find out what he wanted, why he had been so insistent he see me that he drove all the way to Seattle for a cup of coffee, and then I would go home and have a good cry with a bottle of wine.
"I'm sorry," Edward apologized as soon as I sat down. "I shouldn't have presumed. I just..." He trailed off, shrugging his shoulders and fiddling with the cardboard sleeve on his own coffee.
"It's fine, really. You didn't know."
As the silence began to grow, I sipped tentatively at my latte. Over the years, there had been a million things I wanted to say to him, and now, sitting a mere two feet from him, I had nothing to say. I felt like someone had reached into my chest and grabbed my heart, holding on with a vise-like grip. My throat was thick with anxiety.
"So...how was graduation?" Edward finally asked, the tapping resuming. He wasn't looking at me either, his eyes darting around our surroundings.
"Fine. Renee cried. Charlie got me some flowers," I replied automatically. I fidgeted with the hem of my shirt, examining the cracks of the sidewalk. "How was yours?"
"Good. Mom was beside herself. Alice went completely overboard decorating this really hokey card for me." He chuckled, the same throaty laugh I had heard so many times before. "I went out with some friends the night before, though, and I was a little hungover. Alice is great, but she's a tad high-pitched."
"Yeah, she is." I fell quiet again, at a loss for what to say.
This was a mistake. We're strangers to each other.
"Edward, why did you come back to Washington this summer?" I finally asked, staring down at the white plastic lid on my coffee. I couldn't look at him; looking at him made me wish I had made a different decision three years ago. "I mean, why not just jet off to whatever exotic place it is this year?" My voice reeked of bitterness.
"Alice told you."
"Did Alice tell you what I was doing?"
"Getting drunk with your friends and having a grand ol' time?"
Edward winced, then leaned across the table. He reached out for my hand, and I jerked it back. He sighed heavily, settling back into his chair. Squinting into the sunlight, his eyes fell back on me, his expression pained. "Bella, after Spain...I didn't go on anymore trips like that. It cost me too much."
"What are you talking about?" I asked aloud, while my thoughts raced frantically. What was he talking about, the trip had cost him too much? Edward's parents were so wealthy it was unlikely he would ever run out of money.
"I spent my summers volunteering with the Red Cross," he said quietly, his gaze holding mine. "I've been working on getting my priorities together."
"Yes. And this summer, they brought me here."
"I don't know what you mean," I choked out. He was looking at me the way he used to, the way he'd looked at me the first time he'd come home from Dartmouth. The intensity in his eyes sent tingles down my spine. He stared at me as though I was the only woman he ever wanted to look at again.
"Bella, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for not coming home during spring break. I'm sorry for not respecting your opinions on marriage. I'm sorry for not being a good enough man for you. But I've been trying, Bella, I've been trying to make myself good enough for you all these years."
"You can't be serious."
"I am. I know I don't deserve your forgiveness. But, please, Bella, let me try. Let me show you I've changed." His tone was pleading, the words urgent.
I gaped at him, shocked. I had wondered what on earth Edward wanted to say to me after all this time; I had wondered if he had spent the years thinking of me the way I thought of him, but never had I imagined this.
"I'm not the same girl, Edward," I finally managed to say, staring over his shoulder at a couple walking down the sidewalk, hand-in-hand. The woman leaned into the man, her hair falling over his shoulder. It made me ache; it made me want to believe Edward's words.
"I've changed, too, Bella." He tried to reach for my hand again, and this time I let him. Being so close to him, I craved his touch more than I cared to admit. I closed my eyes as his fingers wove through mine, his skin soft and warm. His fingertips were slightly callused, just as I remembered them; he must have stuck with his music, even while pulling the long hours I knew his pre-med program had required. It made me remember him playing his piano while I sat beside him, my head on his shoulder, just like the couple walking down the street. It made my breath catch in my throat as the pain of his rejection came flooding back.
I stared at our hands, his long fingers completely engulfing mine. It was just like our relationship had been; Edward overshadowed me, completely.
"Edward, I'm really happy for you that you've done so well at Dartmouth. But I'm not who I was. I've got my own life here, and I've learned how to be alone."
"Do you want to be alone?"
I shrugged, trying to pull my hand away. His grip only tightened. "I don't know, Edward. You hurt me." I didn't want to tell him that I had been alone, because no one could live up to what I'd had with him; I didn't want to tell him I had to be alone, because he had burned me to the core.
"I know," he whispered, sorrow pooling in his eyes. "Bella, please. I'm not asking you to forgive me, right here, right now. I'm asking you to let me try and show you that I've changed."
"I do forgive you, Edward. I forgave you a long time ago." I took a deep breath, tugging my hand out of his grasp. This time he let me, his brows furrowed in confusion at my statement. "That's not my problem. My problem is that I'm just not sure I want you back in my life."
"I understand if that's your decision," he said stiffly. His jaw tightened again, his expression going blank, his eyes flat.
But he didn't understand. I could hear it in his voice; his words said he understood, but his tone was the same one he'd had when I had refused to let him pay my tuition. He couldn't comprehend where I was coming from, and he didn't want to. He wanted me to go along with his plan. He didn't want to fight with me about it, but he thought I was being stupid-again.
That just made angry.
"No," I began, rising out of my chair. I looked down at him, determined to be strong enough to tell him what I had to. "You don't, Edward. You don't understand. You never have. You didn't understand why I wouldn't take your money, and you don't understand now that I just don't know if I want you in my life."
"No, Edward. I spent our entire relationship listening to what you wanted, and when I finally put my foot down, you lasted six months before you picked Spain over me. Do you think it was easy, being here in Forks while you jetted off to Europe? How do you think I felt, knowing that you were choosing some new college friends over me? After you told me you wanted me to marry you."
"I asked you to come with me."
"No, you told me to. There's a difference. And if you can't see that, then you haven't changed at all."
I turned on my heel, digging my keys out of my purse as I hurried to my car.
"Bella, wait." Edward chased after me, his long legs allowing him to easily overtake me as I stormed away. He put one hand on the driver's door, blocking me from getting into the car. "Bella, please. I...I just want five minutes, okay? Please sit back down."
"You've already had much more than five minutes, Edward."
"Please?" he asked again, his hand dropping to my arm. "I swear, five minutes. Then, if you want to leave, I won't stop you."
I stared up into his eyes, soaking in the pain buried in their depths, the tense set of his jaw, and the way his Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed. He drove nearly four hours for this, Bella. Give him five more minutes to say whatever it is he wants to say so badly, and then you can leave. Your couch isn't going anywhere.
Nodding reluctantly, I shook off his touch as I made my way back to the table. I sat back down gingerly, positioning myself on the edge of the chair. I wanted to be able to escape at a moment's notice; the look in Edward's eyes was beginning to spook me. He was far too serious for a simple apology.
He eyed my position in the chair, obviously hesitant to begin when I was so blatantly prepared to dismiss him. I forced myself to relax my shoulders, leaning back a little bit. It seemed enough to satisfy him. He took a deep breath, and then said in a pained voice, "I never stopped loving you."
His eyes were fixed on the top of the table, his hands clasped in his lap. Without looking up, he continued, "I'm back in Washington because of you. I'm doing my residency, here, because I want to be close to you. Alice said you're planning to stay in Seattle for your Master's. Please. I'm not asking you to run away to Vegas again, okay? I'm just asking you to let me try."
My heart constricted in my chest as I listened to his words. His eyes were filled with fear and panic, his shoulders rigid with tension. I could tell he was wringing his hands in his lap by the way his shoulders jerked.
"Why did you go to Spain?" I asked, looking out at the road instead of him as I wondered what sort of answer he was going to come up with. He had never given me a reason, other than "because"; I wanted the truth, now.
"Because I was stupid!"
"I want the real reason, Edward."
He slumped back in his seat, his hands now visible. He was playing with something, but I couldn't tell what from the way he was holding it. "Bella, I went because I wanted to have a good time. I went because I wanted to get drunk and party, not sit in shitty little Forks. And when I got there, I was miserable, because as beautiful as Barcelona was, it didn't have you."
"Then why didn't you come home, Edward? Your parents would have paid for it."
"I told you, Bella. I was stupid. You hung up on me. You've never hung up on me. I was afraid, and by the time I got over my fear, it was too late. I could hear it in your voice, that you were disgusted with me. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized you were right. I couldn't believe that going to Spain had become more important to me than you. I realized that you were right, about us not getting married. I realized that you had been right about a lot of things."
"So why have you waited three years to tell me all of this?"
"Because I was still at Dartmouth. I wasn't going to leave; I couldn't. I didn't want to fly home and tell you all of this, only to fly back to New England."
"I wouldn't have cared," I whispered, looking across the table into his eyes. He had been watching me while I had been watching the cars pass by. "I always thought we'd survive the separation. It was you who seemed to think we wouldn't."
"So prove me wrong, Bella. I would love so very much to be wrong here. Let me show you how wrong I was."
"Even if I say yes, it doesn't mean we can pick up where we left off. You know that, right? You need to listen to me, Edward. I'm not rearranging my life for you. I'm not moving into some fancy penthouse apartment. I have a place. It's small, but it's mine."
"I know, Bella. I understand. But I do have something for you." Edward smiled, his lips forming into the crooked smile only Edward could give. His hands finally stopped moving, and he reached forward, pressing something to the tabletop. There was a soft chink as metal hit metal, and the color drained from my face.
Edward watched me as he lifted his hand away. Sitting in the middle of the metal table was a thin silver band, tiny diamonds set along it. It sparkled as the sunlight hit it, giving off tiny arcs of light in the afternoon. I looked up at Edward, my face full of questions.
Did he really think that some piece of jewelry was going to win me back? Some flashy piece he'd put on his parents' credit card? I didn't think so. It was all I could do not to slap him.
"It's not what you think," Edward said quickly, seeing my expression. "Please, five minutes, okay?"
"You're down to three," I told him, eyeing the ring. I didn't want to touch it; I didn't want to know what it meant.
"It's a promise ring." The tips of his ears were red, and he looked down at the table for a long moment before looking back to me. "I know it's a little high school but...it was the only thing I could afford."
"The only thing you could..."
"I got a job, on campus. At the coffee shop," he said, nervously laughing. He was twisting his hands together in front of him, rubbing the palm of his left hand with his right thumb. "Ironic that we're at a coffee shop, right? But I remembered what you said. About the ring. And I swear to you, I didn't use a cent of my parents' money to buy that. I saved the money I made, so I could buy you this. So I could start to show you, I have changed. I swear I have, Bella...please."
"I don't understand you," I whispered, staring at the ring glaring up at me from the table. "I've thought about it, so many times, what I would say to you if I ran into you. And then you sent me that email, and I wondered what you could possibly want after all this time. Now you're telling me that not a day has gone by that you weren't thinking of me. How is that, Edward? How did you never tell me any of this?"
"I wasn't ready. That's why I didn't come home. That's why I volunteered for the Red Cross. You were right, about the money. My parents do give me a lot. I didn't understand what it was like not to have whatever I wanted at my fingertips. I grew up spoiled, and I suppose it took me a long time to realize just how much so. I get it, Bella, why you wouldn't take the tuition money. I get why you got so upset about the expensive gifts.
"I just want to be with you. It's all I've ever wanted. I was too stupid to appreciate the beauty of just being with you when we were together before. I've spent the last few years with nothing but my memories to hold on to when I go to sleep, and I don't want that anymore. I want to fall asleep together like we used to." His voice had gotten husky, and when I looked up, his eyes were glassy.
My heart cracked in my chest, sending waves of pain radiating out through the rest of my body. I wanted to pick up the ring; I wanted to tell him he could come back to my apartment with me.
But Edward still seemed to think that buying me something-even with his own money-was the way to make amends. To me, that meant he hadn't learned a damn thing.
I got to my feet, my eyes still glued to the ring sitting in the middle of the table. Edward didn't look up; he had known me long enough to know what it meant, to know that I wasn't taking the ring.
"I've thought about you every day, Edward," I said quietly, my eyes shifting to his face as I spoke. I figured I at least needed to look at him while I did it. "I've thought about what I would say to you if you wanted back in my life. I've never known what I would say, because not a day has gone by where I didn't miss you. But you hurt me, Edward, and you hurt me badly.
"When I saw that you had ordered that damn coffee for me, I wanted to tell you to fuck off. This ring...it's beautiful, but you still don't get it. The point behind me telling you I wanted you to buy the ring yourself was that I wanted something heartfelt; I wanted you to work for it. The gift wouldn't have been the damn ring. You should know by now I couldn't give a shit about fancy jewelry."
"But I did work for this!" he protested, looking up at me with glassy eyes. His voice was choked when he spoke, and I looked away, unable to stand the pain I saw reflected back at me.
"It's not an engagement ring," I said sadly, shaking my head. "It's you buying me a present, and wrapping it up in good intentions. We just started talking again, and already, here's something flashy and expensive you want me to accept. You haven't learned anything, and that's why I can't take it."
My eyes burned with tears ready to spill over. With one last look at Edward, I turned away and hurried to my car. My hands shook as I unlocked it, my vision blurry. I started the car quickly, but not quickly enough to miss the heart-breaking scene I had left behind.
Edward hadn't moved. He sat with his elbows on the table, his chin resting in his palms. His shoulders were hunched, and I could see that he was blankly staring at the table. As I pulled out into traffic, he was still there, his eyes glued to the ring sparkling dully in the afternoon light.
I cried the whole way home, and I kept finding myself in tears throughout the next week. I couldn't erase the look in Edward's eyes when I had told him no; I couldn't erase the forlorn image of him sitting at the table on the sidewalk.
He didn't call. He didn't e-mail.
I decided I had to get out of Washington. I didn't want to take the chance of running into Edward back in Forks when I went to visit my father, and I didn't want to risk him showing up at my job. I started looking through travel websites, browsing last-minute deals and discounted student-travel; I still had a valid college ID, after all.
When a deal popped up for travel within the next fourteen days for hotel and airfare to Barcelona, I decided that was going to be it. I hadn't intended to go overseas, but since I needed a passport to go to Vancouver now, I had one at the ready.
Spain had been the final straw between Edward and I; Spain was where I would go to find closure.
I said a prayer to the gods of credit cards everywhere, booked the trip, and vowed I would stop remembering Edward every time I thought of Spain. I would make my own memories, and they would replace the harsh tone of his voice as he'd delivered his ultimatum...they would replace the look in his eyes as I'd turned away from him outside Starbucks.
That didn't stop it from haunting me for the next week.
By the time I boarded my flight at Sea-Tac, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Was I any better than Edward, running away from my problems? I had spent hours on the phone with Alice, second and triple-guessing my trip. She had been patient, but in the end, she had told me I needed to go; I was right, I needed closure. Spain was where it started. Spain should end it.
Thankfully, Alice had never once brought up her brother, or his plans for the rest of the summer. It made me feel guilty for all the times I had been annoyed with her for pushing me into getting back together with him over the years; when I needed her, she was my friend, not my ex's sister. She even called up her college friend Antonio, who was now living in Barcelona, and convinced him to show me around town. It sounded a bit like a pity date, but I'd never been out of the country, and it would be nice to have a guide of sorts who spoke the language. Though Alice assured me everyone spoke English, I had my doubts.
I slept fitfully through most of the flight, dozing in-between reading and watching movies on the tiny screen set into the seat in front of me. The sleep didn't help how exhausted I felt by the time I made my way to my hotel and collapsed on the soft bed. The flight had been long, and the taxi ride terrifying, the driver shouting in Spanish as the cab bumped down the pitted streets.
Alice's friend had work obligations the first day I was in the city, so I explored the area I was staying in by myself. My hotel was in the older part of the city, the Ciutat Vella, and I spent hours just staring at the architecture, taking in the history surrounding me. I wandered all through the neighborhood, Barri Gòtic, walked up to the Picasso museum, and strolled outside the massive cathedral, staring up at the spires that seemed to nearly touch the sky. The area was mostly closed to traffic, though occasional taxis and delivery vans lumbered by, brief modern interruptions in the historic setting.
The day was hot, but even sweating and stumbling over the old paving stones, I was at peace. I was in a foreign city, and I had gotten there on my own. Edward hadn't bullied me into a first-class plane ticket, or a hotel room bigger than my apartment. It was just me, my cheap digital camera, and the sprawling city. I went to bed excited to meet up with Alice's friend.
I woke up early, anxiety over meeting a complete stranger by myself setting in after the excitement of my first day had worn off some. I wondered if he would indulge me by going up on the roof of the cathedral; no one had told me that a woman wasn't allowed to wear a tank-top into the cathedral until I was nearly through the line and seen a sign posting. I'd had to walk back to my hotel without going into the cathedral, feeling stupid and uncultured.
Not wanting to be late to meet Antonio, I hurriedly showered and dressed. I made sure to grab the scarf I had purchased from one of the street vendors on my way out, shoving it into my purse just in case I was able to convince Antonio to take me inside the cathedral. It was too hot to wear something with sleeves, but I had seen plenty of women using scarves as shawls.
I gave myself one last look in the mirror, confident I at least looked presentable. I wasn't one to fuss over my appearance, but I didn't want Alice's friend to think I was a slob. I was wearing a jean skirt and simple blue tank-top, my hair pulled back to ward off the heat, and I'd even put on a little bit of makeup.
Though it was early, the air was already warm and heavy around me as I walked through the streets toward the cathedral, where I was meeting Antonio. Alice had told me he would be wearing jeans and a green shirt, so he should be easy to find. Looking around the sprawling square in front of the entrance, I wondered if Alice had lost her mind. There were lots of people around, a number of them wearing jeans. How was I ever going to find him? Why couldn't she have given him the name of my hotel? Or given me a photo? It was unlike her not to consider any of this.
I settled back against one of the gates, clutching the coffee I had grabbed from a café along the way, and waited. I was supposed to meet Antonio at ten, and it was already quarter of. I sipped my coffee and scanned the square for a tallish man wearing a green shirt.
By ten-thirty, I was ready to give up. I had seen lots of men in green shirts and jeans, but none of them had so much as given me a second glance, never mind that half of them looked to be in their forties. I glanced down at my watch, giving myself another fifteen minutes before I was going in the cathedral alone.
Closing my eyes, I leaned back against the gate, the sunlight streaming over my face. I was done scouring the square for him; he could find me. I was hot, annoyed, and suddenly very lonely. If I could have afforded to have a cell phone with me, I would have called Alice and chewed her out.
My eyes snapped open at the sound of my name; the voice was too familiar. Standing in front of me, wearing a green T-shirt with a pair of jeans, was Edward. He had his hands shoved in his pockets and a wary expression on his face, almost as if he was waiting for me to start screaming.
"What are you doing here?" I was too stunned to say anything else, but I knew what he was doing there. He was wearing the outfit Alice had told me her friend would be wearing, and I suddenly realized I had been played. Edward's middle name was Anthony. "Did you put Alice up to this?" I demanded, my eyes narrowing as realization dawned.
It all makes sense. This is why Alice pushed me into coming to Spain. She knew. Edward orchestrated all of this! How dare he!
"No!" Edward said immediately, his eyes pleading. "No! Bella, no, I didn't plan this. Alice said..."
"What did Alice say?" I demanded through gritted teeth.
He sighed heavily, looking around the square. "After I came back from having coffee with you, I was really upset. I wanted to get out of town. Alice said if I was going to run away, I better not come back again until I was sure how to make it right with you. I told her I was coming back here, because I don't know...this is where it all went wrong. I thought maybe I could find the answers in the cobblestones or something." He kicked at the stone under his feet lightly, then pulled his eyes back to mine. His expression was earnest, and I could tell he wasn't lying. Edward had never been a good liar.
"I got a call last night from her. She told me you were here, and that she had lied to you about her friend. She told me to put on a pair of jeans and green shirt, and to come find you. I've been standing in that alley," Edward gestured over his shoulder to a shadowed alley on the far side of the square before continuing, "watching you. I almost didn't come over here. I didn't want to interrupt your trip, and I don't want to piss you off. I was going to just go back to Forks, or somewhere else or...but I didn't want you to be standing here, waiting for someone who was never coming."
"Stop." I put my hand lightly on his arm, taking a deep breath. I looked over his shoulder, staring at the cathedral spires. I was silent for a long moment, weighing whether or not I wanted to say what I was about to. This city had been the end of our relationship before; could it be where we started to fix it? Or would it be where I buried it, once and for all?
I turned to Edward, smiling tightly. "Do you want to go up on the cathedral roof with me?"
"What?" He stared back at me, confusion painted all over his face.
"Do you want to go up on the cathedral roof with me?"
"Edward. I don't know, about us, right now. I don't know if we have a future together. I came here for closure. I don't know if it's going to be closure to what we were, or if it's going to be closure on you in my life. But I came here for answers, and you're here. So right now, I don't want to talk about us, or have you holding out promise rings, or any of that. I just want to know if you'll go into the cathedral with me, because I didn't get to go yesterday."
His expression shifted, the crooked smile working its way across his lips as he took a step closer to me. The color of his shirt reflected up into his eyes, making them more intensely green than usual. "Do you have something to put over your shoulders? They won't let you in without."
I nodded, pulling the scarf out of my purse to show him. "I found that out yesterday."
Smiling up at him, I reached for his hand, looping my fingers through his with a light squeeze. His hand was warm, and deliciously familiar. Surprise coated his features for a quick moment before he squeezed back, his thumb running along the palm of my hand. His touch sent a thrill through me, and I luxuriated in the familiarity of having Edward so close. I could smell his cologne, mixed in with his soap and sweat from the hot morning.
"Okay then, yes, Bella, I would love to go up on the cathedral roof with you."