Last dance before forever
I don’t want to be here.
I shouldn’t have let Charlie’s words persuade me. I shouldn’t have let Jessica and Angela bring me here.
I sigh and look around the gym. It’s obvious that the teachers tried to do their best to decorate the gym, but the result is still kind of sad. Blue and white balloons are everywhere: hanging from the ceiling, on the walls, on the floor. The whole school is here, having fun.
Except that five people are missing, of course. Five friends are missing. My family isn’t here. I feel a sharp pain pierce my heart yet again as I think of them.
You shouldn’t think of them like that anymore, I scold myself. They left. They obviously don’t think of me as a friend, as part of their family. So why would I consider them still that?
“Bella!” Jessica calls to me. She’s been trying to get me to join her on the dancefloor the whole evening. I merely wave, shake my head and smile as convincingly as I can. It doesn’t fool anyone, of course, but Jessica seems to let it drop.
Suddenly everyone becomes silent. I don’t look up, knowing that the reason is probably someone going to make an announcement. It remains silent, though, and just when I want to look up to see what’s happening, two things simultaneously happen. A cold hand taps my shoulder and his scent is everywhere. I shut my eyes, trying to keep in the emotions that are raging inside of me. Confusion: is this another dream, another hallucination? Anger: why can’t I get over him already? Hurt: will I ever stop remembering?
As I look up to either confirm or deny the hallucination, another emotion joins the party. Relief: he’s real. Even in my best dreams I didn’t do his face justice. I stare at him, not knowing what to say, just rememorising his face. It doesn’t even hurt. It’s like all those months never happened, like he never left. And in that very second, I can’t care less that I’m supposed to be mad at him, that I am supposed to hate him for what he did. In that very second, I forgive him. I don’t even care that the whole school is looking at us, because Edward is here, less than two feet away from me.
His eyes are expectant, waiting for me to speak. I don’t. I can’t gather the strength to open my mouth and form words, so all I do is stare at him.
At last, he breaks our silence. “Can I have this dance?”
I nod, too relieved to see his face again after so long to be surprised, or confused, even. Too relieved to feel anything but the absence of pain in my heart. I take his extended hand and let him lead me outside. I’m glad he doesn’t take me to the dance floor. Once outside, he lays one hand on my waist and pulls me close to him, and I put my hand on his shoulder, inhaling his scent.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” I finally mumble after a few minutes that feel like hours.
He doesn’t speak, just pulls me even closer to him.
“Why did you come?” I ask, not as much because I want to know, as because I want to hear his voice again.
“I,” he hesitates for a moment before continuing. “I’m not sure.”
I try to pull away, to look at his face, but his arms hold me crushed to his chest in an iron grip. I content myself with laying my head back on his chest again.
“Are you staying?” I can’t help but ask. In the seconds that pass when he thinks about answering, I brace myself for the crushing pain that is surely to follow when he rejects me. Again.
“I don’t know,” he finally says.
Those words might hurt even more than his rejection would have, and I fight to keep the tears from spilling over.
“Why...” I start, but my voice cracks and I have to stop talking to stifle a sob.
He notices, as he always does, and he moves his hands from my waist to my face, looking me in the eye for the first time tonight. His hands are cold on my face, but I don´t mind. I never minded his cold. His cold hands feel like home, and I close my eyes in something that is very close to happiness.
“I had to see you.” His words come out fast and I open my eyes again, wanting to see him when he speaks. “I didn’t know how my leaving had affected you, how you were doing. I was sure that it would be hard, the first days, weeks, but it’s been months now and I had to know if you’d moved on, as I’d told you to. I knew you might not have, stubborn as you are, I had to make sure.”
He hesitates again, and I feel a sharp pain in my chest. I want to look away from his eyes, but I’m frozen. I can’t move.
“And then I saw you standing there all by yourself, and even though you tried to hide it, I could see you were still hurting... Hurting over me... And I couldn’t... I know I should’ve walked away, but I couldn’t. I froze. It was like all those months never happened. Like I never hurt you. Never broke you.”
I can’t help but notice he’s using almost exactly the same words I’d been thinking earlier this night. They sound odd, though, out of place. Why does he care that he hurt me? He doesn’t love me anymore. He left me. I try to voice my thoughts, but can’t find the words.
“But why... you didn’t... you left,” I say, trying to form a coherent sentence. “Why would you care?” I whisper, finally, dropping my eyes from his face and my hands from his shoulders.
The agony is clear in his voice, and I understand. He feels guilty. He came back because he felt guilty, guilty for hurting me. I shake my head. I have to let him know that it’s okay. I have to try and make it seem like I’m not falling apart, like I’ve moved on, like he wants me to. He doesn’t want me, but I know that as long as he thinks I want him, he’ll stick around to not hurt me any more.
“Edward, listen to me.” It’s the first time I’ve spoken his name in all those months, and it’s a relief to be able to do so without falling to pieces. “I’m fine.”
Does he notice the lie? Of course he does, I scold myself. It wouldn’t convince anyone, it doesn’t even convince myself. But I have to convince him, so he won’t beat himself up over hurting me and just move on.
I take a deep breath. “Edward, you don’t have to come back just to make me feel better. Because you staying here while you don’t want to wouldn’t make me feel better. It’d just make me feel guilty. And,” I try to smile at him. “I’d feel better knowing you’re out there somewhere, living a happy life, than if you were here, being unhappy, with me.”
It’s a relief to have him know how I feel, to have said it, but I’m also afraid. Afraid, because this might be the last minute I will ever have with him, the last time I see his face, hear his voice, smell his scent. I can feel the hole in my chest opening again, and I softly gasp for air, hoping he doesn’t notice that I’m falling apart. I cross my arms over my chest, trying to stop the pain.
Only then do I notice the silence that has fallen between us, and I look up to make sure he’s still here and hasn’t run off yet. Such stupidity it would be, to not see his face one last time before he leaves, forever this time.
But he’s still standing in the exact same spot, his golden eyes looking down at me, full of agony.
“Bella. Guilt is not the reason I came back to assure you’re okay. Do I feel guilty? Of course I do. Hurting you like I have is unforgivable, and I can never suffer enough to make up for behaving so. But still, guilt is not the reason.”
I look at his eyes, trying to understand. I imagine the confusion is obvious on my face, like the open book it is. “But why-”
“I love you,” he interrupts me. “I love you, Bella, and I am so, so sorry. I thought leaving you was the right thing to do. I wanted you to have a chance at a normal, human life. I figured you’d move on, forget about me, in time. But you didn’t, and now I can see that you aren’t going to.”
I realise my mouth is open, and I quickly close it. I look away from his eyes. I want to believe him so bad. I want to believe that he loves me and that he’s back for good, but I can’t. I know he doesn’t love me and he isn’t back.
“Say something,” he pleads.
Shaking my head, I look down at my feet.
“Please,” he whispers. “I have to know...”
Know what? I want to ask, but I keep my mouth and eyes shut. It’s easier to prepare myself for his departure now, than to get too carried away in the illusion that he’s back.
“Am I too late?”
At that I have to laugh. How can he even think that? As if he could ever be too late. “No,” I whisper.
He sighs, part relieved, part still agonized. “Bella, look at me.”
I shake my head. I can’t look at him, not now.
“Please, Bella. Please look at me.”
“No,” I whisper again. I see his hands reaching up to my face, and I flinch back ever so slightly. He drops his hands.
“Bella, I’m not leaving.”
I should’ve known he’d guess the reason for my behavior. I just shake my head again.
“Unless... Unless you want me to leave, of course.” There’s an unspoken question in his voice.
My head snaps up at its own accord. “No!” I almost shout. “No,” I speak more softly now. “I...” I don’t know how to finish my sentence, but he seems to understand.
“Listen, Bella. I know I’ve hurt you terribly, and I shouldn’t be asking you for your forgiveness, because I know I do not deserve to be forgiven. Yet, I cannot live without you, because, Bella, you are my life. Therefore, I will still ask you. Can you forgive me for what I’ve done, and let me back into your life?”
I let his words sink in, not fully comprehending what he’s asking me.
“I don’t understand,” I finally say. “Do you... Do you want me back?”
He laughs softly. “I do, Bella. You’re all I’ve ever wanted. All I want. All I ever will want.”
Needing no more confirmation than that, I nod and fling my arms around his neck, burying my face in his chest. “I love you, Edward,” I manage to get out before tears start rolling down my cheeks. I feel his arms snake around my waist, pulling me closer to his chest.
“I love you too, Bella, more than you can imagine.”
It’s then that it finally sinks in. Edward is back, he’s home, and he’s not leaving again. He’s staying here, with me.