*~* A Love Like That *~*
Brown eyes flashing with happiness, the shiny paper painted her cheeks red. Curled ribbons wrapped around her arms as seven-year-old hands shook the box. Unable to wait any longer, chubby fingers ripped into the packaging, leaving pretty paper scattered around her. Squealing in delight, she held the bracelet up to the light to better admire the delicate braiding and glass beads.
Throwing her slight body at her friend, she hugged him tight. "Jacob! This is the bestest present ever! Thank you! Can you tie it on?" Bella didn't wait for an answer. Shoving the bracelet into Jacob's hand, she held out her wrist.
Brows lowering, Jake poked his tongue between his teeth as he concentrated. His fingers worked to tie the bracelet on his best friend's wrist, diligently tying the strings until it would stay. Stubbing his toe on the tan carpet, his seven-year old body twisted slightly, arms crossed over his chest watching the floor sway. "You like it?"
"No, silly! I love it! It's be-yoo-ti-ful!" Lips stretched into a smile, Bella declared, "Now it's your turn!"
Eyes wide, Jacob stared at the box that Bella thrust into his hands. Taking the time to appreciate the happy penguins dancing on the blue paper, his fingers slid under the tape trying hard not to tear it. When he finally had all the tape loosened, he slid the paper from the box, eyes widening at the sight of a game he'd been begging his parents for. Jake had wrote Santa five letters to make sure he knew Jake really wanted it. Two robots in a ring, battling for dominance.
It was awesome.
Onyx eyes, wide as saucers, met Bella's. "How did you know?" he asked, voice little more than a whisper.
"You told me. Remember when we wrote our letters to Santa? I read yours when you were writing. I told Santa I was going to get it for you."
"But, Bella… this costs lots! How did you…?"
"I saved my milk money and allowance. I wanted to get you something that you really, really wanted."
"Thanks, Bells. I love it." Jacob threw his arm around her shoulders and dragged her into the bedroom. "Can we play my game now? Will you play it with me?"
"O'course, silly!" Bella replied, watching as Jake reverently pulled the game from the box and set it up.
The children played five rounds together. Bella demanded a rematch each time until Jake finally let her win, her fist pumping the air with a victorious cry.
They were called to dinner and ate quickly so they could return to their play. The older kids- Becca, Rachel, and even Leah- didn't want to play with Jake and Bella, so they made a hideout under the dining table after the adults were finished, spying on them and laughing at how boring the grown-ups were.
A delighted squeal pulled their eyes to the doorway leading to the kitchen. Both Bella and Jacob whipped their heads around to see what the fuss was about.
"Harry! Sue! You guys are under the mistletoe! You know what that means…" one of Sue's friends said.
Bella and Jake shared a look of confusion before turning back to the adults in question. Harry leaned down, a look of pure love on his features, and Sue's eyes shone with the same. His hands pulled her tight against him as his lips descended on hers in a sweet, chaste kiss.
Jacob declared his disgust with a loud, "Ewww!"
But Bella couldn't bring herself to feel the same way. Instead, she leaned forward, watching the couple with wide, amazed eyes.
"I'm gonna love someone like that someday," she whispered.
*~* A Few Years Later *~*
Onyx eyes tracked her every movement. Bella could feel them as she spoke quietly with Leah and Seth. Jake was supposed to be talking with Quil and Embry, but every time Bella glanced his way, he was tensed and broody. His face was agonized, brows pulled taut over his expressive eyes.
They hadn't spent much time together those days- Bella was busy with her new boyfriend. Though she wasn't sure she really saw that relationship going anywhere. It was nice to get out of the house.
And she really liked kissing. Kissing was a lot of fun.
She just couldn't talk to Jake anymore, though. He avoided her at all costs, yet he couldn't seem to keep his eyes off of her. It was frustrating, yet there was something intriguing about it all.
"You're stupid if you think he doesn't like you, Bella." The harsh voice startled her and caused to her spin around, sloshing eggnog out of the cup she'd been clenching in one hand.
"Leah! You scared me half to death! What in the world… What are you even talking about?"
"Jake. He likes you. I know you don't believe me- it's written all over your face- but he does. And you're blind. Obviously…" Her words trailed off and she glanced down, picking at her fingernails as if she didn't have a care in the world.
"Yeah, because guys avoid you and completely ignore you when they like you. I don't know what boys you associate with, but the guys at Forks all make it abundantly obvious. Is it too much to ask for a phone call from the guy that used to be my best friend?" Setting the plastic cup on the side table, Bella crossed her arms over her chest, dejectedly toeing the carpet. "That doesn't sound like he likes me at all."
Her eyes flickered Jake's way, only to pull away quickly when he met her eye. Forcing her head up, Bella stepped away from Leah, "I'm gonna go get some air. Excuse me," she said, brushing past the older girl, in search of her coat.
Heart heavy, she shoved her arms in the sleeves of her coat after finding it in the back of the closet. Turning the handle, she opened the door and stepped out into the whitewashed world.
Snow covered everything. It continued to fall - tiny flakes drifting down from the sky, covering the scars that marked the world. If only it were that easy to cleanse away hurt and scars inside her soul… the ones that crisscrossed her heart.
Sighing, a puff of air visible on the wind, she sank to her knees in the cold, wet snow, not caring when it seeped into her pant legs and chilled her bones. It didn't distract from the feelings of losing her best friend. For years, she and Jake had done everything together. Then it was like a switch was flipped overnight. So much changed - he cancelled all their plans, quit answering the phone, and avoided her at all costs.
Reaching up, a cold finger swiped at the lone tear that fell from her eye. Her heart longed for the boy from childhood, the one she could tell all her secrets. The boy that used to tease her mercilessly, but threaten anyone else that tried to do the same.
Bella couldn't figure out what changed…
Why it changed.
The sound of snow-crunching footsteps made her glance over her shoulder, eyes widening slightly at the sight behind her. A warm arm was laid across her shoulders and her head tucked into a strong shoulder.
"Bells… I'm sorry…" the deep voice said dejectedly. "I'm just - I can't…"
Pulling away, Bella stood and faced the boy she'd once considered friend. "You can't what, Jacob? You can't be my friend? You can't stand me anymore? What the hell is your problem?" Chocolate eyes burned with anger and hurt. Arms were rigid at her side, in her effort not to lash out at him.
"No, Bella… it's not like that. Can't you see it? Don't you know?" His words were low and almost reverent as he spoke. He stood slowly to his feet, reaching to trail a finger down her cheek.
A surprised gasp leaving her throat, she turned her face into his hand. "See what? Jacob, the only thing I know is that I miss my best friend…" Looking down at the fluffy snow, her arms crossed tightly across her chest. "What happened, Jake?" Glancing up, Bella met his gaze.
"I...I… Dammit, Bella," Jake paused, trying to gather his thoughts. "Why can't you let things go? You've got everything you wanted - a boyfriend, a life, a real home… And I'm not jealous, I can see your mind working. I just… I miss you and how it used to be. We used to be the most important people to each other, but it's different now." He paced back and forth in front of her, his agitation apparent in the way he kicked the snow, hands flailing in frustration as he spoke.
"I can't just be your friend, Bella. I-"
"You what, Jacob? Just spit it out already! I can't take this back and forth with you right now." She took two steps toward the house before turning back to face him, "Just stop, okay?"
Watching the emotions cross his face for a moment, she turned back to go into the house, but his words stopped her cold in her tracks.
"Bells… I love you."
Turning back in surprise, Bella walked over to stand in front of Jacob, a billion thoughts speeding through her mind- only one finding its way to the front, demanding attention.
Had he really said what she thought he said? Surely, she'd mistaken his words.
Heart pounding, she begged, "What did you say?"
"I said… I said I love you, Bella." Swallowing, he shoved his hands deep into his pockets, meeting her stare. Daring her to deny the truth of his words.
"Wh-why are you telling me this now? Why not before? What… I…" Bella floundered for words, heart beating so fast in her chest she thought it might explode.
Pulling a hand from his pocket, he reached for her again, capturing her fingers with his own. Tugging her toward him until he could wrap her in his arms. "It's okay, Bella. You don't have to say anything right now. But, you just… you needed to know." Resting his chin on top of her head, he held her in his arms until she finally pulled away.
"Do you mean that?" her whispered words were so quiet he almost didn't hear them.
"I wouldn't say it if I didn't mean it. Look at me, Bella." He waited until she finally lifted her eyes, confusion and a spark of something that resembled hope stirring within each one.
It filled Jacob with hope.
"I. Love. You."
Watching her eyes again fill with tears, his hopes deflated.
"Come with me, Jake," she insisted, pulling him lightly back into the house.
She led him through the small groups of people. When they reached the little doorway between the dining room and the kitchen, she stopped, turning to face him.
She could see the uncertainty tainting the purity of his onyx gaze - one that could turn her stomach upside-down.
"Jake, do you realize where we are?" Jacob's arms were crossed over his chest- an attempt at keeping his defenses up- but Bella pulled on them loosely, urging him to let go.
Seeing them under the mistletoe, Bella's dad, Charlie, raised his eyebrows. At the same time, Quil called out, "Hey, Jake! You got her under the mistletoe!"
Blushing, Jake leaned down to place a chaste kiss on Bella's lips.
But all thoughts of keeping it quick and simple flew out the window when she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer.
The laughter of those watching ended the kiss too soon. Before Jake could straighten, Bella whispered in his ear.
"I love you, too, Jake."
*~* A Few Years Later *~*
They'd skipped the party the Clearwater’s held every Christmas Eve. It seemed more important to spend their first Christmas living together alone. They would go see their families on Christmas day, but had their own memories to make that night.
They'd fixed a simple dinner together and eaten it in front of the fireplace, the tiny tree with glistening lights and blaze in the hearth the only thing illuminating the room. They leaned into each other, the sound of carols playing lightly in the background.
Bella loved how they didn't have to speak a word. It was a comfortable silence.
After a few minutes of cuddling, Jake finally spoke up. "Bells… I want to give you your present tonight."
Curiosity burned in her eyes and she tilted her head to look at him, answering, "Okay…"
"Just wait here, okay?" he asked, standing up and walking from the room with a light step. Unable to keep her eyes from following him, she admired his physique. The way his broad shoulders gave way to muscled arms. How his t-shirt did nothing to hide the way his sculpted back rippled with each movement.
She loved every bit of his body, but not as much as she loved him. The sweet personality he had, the way he cared about everyone else. Despite the laid-back persona he embodied, Bella knew he would always fight for the good of those he loved - for their protection- and for the safety of those he didn't know.
She loved the way he smelled - like sandalwood and sea salt after a shower, and either motor oil or fire smoke when he returned home each night from work. While his passion was mechanics, he also volunteered on the reservation's small fire department.
There really wasn't a thing Bella didn't find attractive and desirable in Jacob.
Hearing his footsteps in the hall, she met his eyes - both hopeful and leery at the same time. She could sense his anticipation in the way his body tensed. She could see the fear in his eyes, though he tried to mask it.
Fear of what, Bella didn't know.
Sitting back down beside her, Jake took her hand in his. "Bells… I have loved you every day of my life. I love your smile, and the way it lights up your eyes. I love the way you are always looking for someone else to help. I love the way you blush when you're embarrassed, and the way you scrunch your nose when you laugh. I just… I love you.
Reaching a hand up, he cupped her cheek, tilting her head to better look into her eyes. "I want to spend forever with you. We've lived together for several months now, and I've never been surer of anything in my life. I want a commitment. I want forever, Bella." His fingers rubbed down her cheek to curl gently around her shoulder. His other hand delved into his pocket and pulled out a small black box.
Bella's eyes glimmered with unshed tears, her happiness palpable inside of her. It threatened to never release them, to well up and swallow both of them whole.
"Bells, what I'm asking is… will you marry me?"
He held his breath, the words suspended between them, while his thumb flicked open the lid of the jewelry box. The silvered band looked aged and worn, a small solitaire diamond glittering in its center.
Breath catching in her chest, Bella managed to squeak out a tearful, "Yes!" Her arms wrapped around Jacob's neck before he could pull away, lips meeting his in a passionate kiss that left them both breathless.
Chest heaving, Jake pulled back slightly, grinning as he looked down at the ring. "I, uh, I know it's not much, but it was my mom's. I know she'd want you to have it."
Crystalline tears spilled down Bella's cheeks, leaving salty, wet tracks in their wake. "That just makes it all the more perfect, Jake. I love you, too. I can't wait to marry you!"
Jake stood and pulled Bella to her feet. Picking her up in his arms, he carried her to the hall, stopping in the archway. Glancing up, he eyed the little plant Bella had made him hang there. "You know, it was under mistletoe that you first told me you loved me… I think we need to mark this night with mistletoe, too, don't you?"
Bowing his head, he lifted her a little higher in his arms and crashed his lips to hers.
The night ended with a clothing trail down the hallway and pictures hanging crooked from their nails.
*~* Two Years Later *~*
"Bells, please… don't do this."
The pleading in Jacob's voice - the way his eyes begged, the tears trekking down his cheeks - almost made her stop. It almost made her rethink her decision.
So many things had gone wrong in the last months.
So many things had changed.
She knew Jacob still loved her - that somewhere deep inside, he still had feelings for her - but she would be hard pressed to forgive him for what he'd done.
No, she didn't talk about the elephant in the room - the thing that had broken her beyond the point of fixable. She didn't like to think about it, even if it was everything that consumed her thoughts. Something about putting a voice to it made it more real.
Bella wasn't ready to deal with the pain and devastation of the past six months.
Even knowing that Jacob needed to talk about it couldn't change her mind.
Gulping in a great breath of air, she spun to face her husband. "Jacob. Stop. Telling me… pleading with me to change my mind isn't going to fix this." She gestured between the two of them. "I saw the texts. I know. I. Know." Tears overflowed down the apples of her cheeks. "You can't expect me to forgive so easily."
Turning back to the boxes she worked diligently to fill, she added, "I need time. Time to think. To process."
Reaching a finger out, he swiped at the wetness on her cheek, halting when she flinched back.
"Jake, please, don't do this. I can't. I can't be here right now. I can't even look at you without wanting to hit you. To scream at you."
Holding her hand up, she silently implored him. Hearing his resigned sigh, she waited for his footsteps to retreat from the room before she resumed her chore.
But he stopped in the doorway.
"Bells, even knowing you hate me… doesn't change that I still love you."
The sound of his steps in the hallway was drowned by the choking sobs that shook Bella's shoulders, her cries heaving from her chest so fast it was hard to draw a breath.
Sliding to the floor, she rested her chin on her knees, hugging her legs to her.
He thought she hated him.
How would he know what I feel when I haven't told him in so long?
When her eyes refused to leak anymore tears, she wiped her cheeks with her shirt sleeve, standing slowly on trembling legs.
Stepping into the closet, she reached for the few keepsake boxes located on the top shelf. The shoebox on top teetered and fell, crashing open on the carpeted ground. Folded pieces of paper tumbled from the container. They held memories - each one a different note she and Jake had passed between them in their youth. As she piled them back up to return them to the box, the shine of something red caught her eye.
Spying the black braided band, her fingers slipped the small bejeweled piece from the stack of paper.
The glass beads still shimmered beneath the light, just like they had when Jake gifted it to her at seven years old. The colors weren't quite as vibrant, and the braided ties had worn through after three years of continual wear, but Bella could remember the way it felt on her wrist. She remembered the excitement she'd felt when she pulled it from the shiny red paper. The way Jacob's fingers had worked so hard to tie it.
Glancing back to the top shelf, she spied something else… Rock'em Sock'em Robots. They'd played that game for hours that same Christmas. Each time she bested him, Bella knew Jake had let her win.
Stretching on tiptoes, she slipped the box from the shelf and carried it with her to the bed. She sat on the edge and thought back over the years.
So many memories.
The memories of childhood and playing together, building forts and baking mud pies in Billy's kitchen. Hunting for seashells and watching life in the tide pools. Building sandcastles together and watching the waves knock them over.
Memories of their teenage years - awkward romance blossoming by the bonfires held on the beach. Hiking through the forest together, Jake ever the gentleman by helping her over the roots and rocks, and holding back branches. Watching the sun set and rise on the beach over the waves. Relishing each kiss… every touch. The awkward first time and each time after. How practice really did make perfect.
Memories of their adulthood - when they moved in together, figuring out how to seamlessly combine their lives. Every fight that led to making up and clothes strewn down the hallway, or all over living room. Cooking together in the kitchen. Making love on the kitchen table… or floor. Waking up to his smiling face. Falling asleep to the sound of him breathing.
Each moment was etched on her heart. In her soul.
And when she found out she was pregnant…
The excitement on his face - the way he trembled with joy when she told him. The tender way he'd laid his head on her stomach and talked to their tiny peanut. How each night, he would read a story or tell the baby one of the tribal legends of the Quileutes.
It wasn't just the good times though. Each painful experience, every heartache of the last year was chiseled in her memory, like the commandments on stone.
How it felt to bury her child, stillborn with no medical reasoning for it. The way she'd had to stand over the open grave. The way she clung to Jacob, her heart breaking with each shovelful of dirt that was thrown atop the tiny casket. The way he'd held her up despite how he was breaking, too. The way she'd shied away from his touch after that, the fear of loving another as much as she'd loved her baby driving a wedge between them.
The distance grew until they were on opposite sides of the chasm, a lava pit daring them to try to bridge or jump it.
They no longer shared a bed. They no longer shared a life. They were two strangers passing in the night with almost nothing in common besides memories and shared pain.
Jacob started working late at the mechanic shop and volunteering for extra shifts at the fire station. Avoiding the cold distance - the insurmountable wall that Bella had erected between them. Drinking with the guys more often.
Bella remembered when she found the text messages from her.
The home-wrecking whore, Jessica.
How each message asked Jacob to meet her. To leave Bella, professing her undying love for Jacob. How she told him she understood his predicament and pain at losing a child.
How each one built the wall higher, driving Bella and Jacob further apart.
Shattering whatever pieces Bella had managed to heal.
Jacob still claimed that he'd done nothing more with Jessica than talk. And while some part of Bella believed him, another part couldn't see why he wouldn't have when they'd both done so much to push each other away.
He'd tried for weeks to explain, but she was tired of listening.
Had she really tried to listen though? To truly hear what he was saying?
Could she blame him for seeking solace in someone else?
She had been so wrapped up in her own pain and selfishness, she somehow forgot that Ephraim was not just her son. She'd forgotten that Jake had a reason to grieve, too - just as much as she did.
He'd felt him kick. Watched him move inside her womb and heard his heartbeat. He was just as broken as she at his passing.
Standing from her position on the edge of the bed, the box and bracelet slid forgotten to the floor. Bella raced from the bedroom, tears running unheeded down her cheeks.
"Jake? Jacob? Where are you?" her frantic cries filled the house.
Hearing his car start in the driveway, she ran out the door, slipping on the ice on the porch. "Jake!"
She watched as the car slammed into park and he emerged hesitantly from the car, eyes meeting hers across the way. "Bells, are you okay?"
His hesitant steps carried him to where she was sprawled on her knees. Some part of her acknowledged the twinge of pain in them, but it was pushed from her mind. There were more important things to do.
More important things to say.
Jacob leaned down and held his hand out for her - an offer of help. The kind of offer she'd rebuffed and ignored the last few months. Gently slipping her hand into his, she gripped it tightly, letting him help her up before pulling him along behind her. Into the house and down the hallway, she led him to the bedroom. Picking up the game and bracelet, she put them into his hands.
"I miss you," she said tearfully. "I miss who we used to be - the kids without a care in the world. How we used to play this silly game for hours…" A choked laugh fell from between her lips.
"I don't hate you, Jacob. I still love you, and…" Swiping at the salty teardrops still cascading down her face, she hesitated. "And I'm sorry. I should have listened to you. I should have given you the benefit of the doubt. I should have done so many things differently."
"No, Jake, I need to finish this." Drawing in a fortifying breath, she continued, "I should have remembered that I wasn't the only parent that lost Ephraim. I should have cried with you, not pushed you away."
"Bells…" Shoving a hand through his hair, he took a moment to gather his thoughts. When he continued, his voice was low and quiet. "I'm sorry too. I should have stayed with you - stood by you. Tried harder - I don't know - anything but confide in someone else." Sucking in a lungful of air, he finally said what Bella had been waiting to hear. "I'm so, so sorry."
Taking the game and bracelet from his hands, she placed them on the nightstand and fell into his arms. Lifting her head, she placed a kiss on his chin before burrowing further into his embrace. His chin ruffled her hair when he settled it atop her head.
The rumble of his chest as he spoke was soothing. "You know what we need?"
Pulling back, Bella gazed up at him. "What's that?" she asked.
With a small smile, he replied, "Some mistletoe…"
Laughing, they settled in for a night of reconnection and love.
*~* The Happily Ever After *~*
Ten years later
The seven-year-old child watched her parents happily as they danced around the kitchen. She knew they were going to be late to the party at Grandpa Billy's house, but she knew they didn't care.
She was mesmerized by them gliding around the room, lost in each other's eyes, oblivious to the fact she watched them.
"Hey Kaylyn!" her five-year-old brother hollered, barreling toward her.
Her frantic efforts of shushing Matthew were ignored. "C'mon! Silas and me are lookin' at the presents! You should come shake yours, too!"
"I'm busy, Matt. Go away." Her pleadings caused a confused look to flit across the other child's face.
"You're just watchin' Mom and Dad. They always dance like that. I don't see what the big deal is," he muttered, walking back to the living room.
"The point is, dodo brain, I'm gonna love someone like that someday."
*~* The End *~*