Chapter 3

Playlist selection: Passenger Seat by SheDaisy

Bella POV

I am standing alone inside of a dressing room, wearing a strapless bra and a scratchy petticoat as my mother and future mother-in-law browse the racks of gowns for my perfect dress.  Apparently, the bride's opinion is unnecessary.  This is the ninth store today, and I am getting really fucking tired of shopping.  I've been dragging my feet about this particular scavenger hunt, simply because I want to pick something on display at the store and have it hemmed or altered, if needed.  No custom, designer gown.  No several thousand dollar price tag.  Just an off-the-rack wedding dress with a penny-pincher's sales price.  There's no sense in spending so much money on something I am going to wear once.  It's ridiculous  how much weddings cost.  Maybe I could forego my perfect wedding and Edward and I can get hitched at the courthouse.  At least there I could wear a tee shirt and shorts while we say our vows.   
"Try this one on, Bella."  Elizabeth's voice calls through the door as the sales associate, Gianna, slinks in to help me put it on.  I roll my eyes at the sight of the bulky contraption of lace and rhinestones.
My mother shouts from farther away, "What do you think about cathedral trains?"  I ignore her question; due to the fact I have told her three times today that I don't want a train on my wedding dress.
Gianna makes quick work of all the little buttons up the back of the dress and turns me around so that I can see myself in the dressing room mirror.  I grimace as I look from my reflection to her face and I see her smirk.
"Just remember this is your day.  Don't let them dictate anything.  Moms can be wickedly manipulative when it comes to their daughter's wedding," she whispers conspiratorially.
"Yeah, try having two moms." 
She offers a smile in understanding.
"What style are you looking for?  Maybe I can save you from trying on more tacky gowns." She looks down at the dress and tugs on the skirt as she smiles at me in the mirror.
I try to describe the style that I've always imagined as perfect for me and tell her what I did like about the dresses that I had already tried on through out the day.  She winks at me and walks out of my fitting room, and I follow her, feeling like she is going to lead me to a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
"Oh, don't you just look like a princess!" my mother exclaims, clapping her hands in delight.  Immediately, I growl at her and spin on my heels, tredging back into the dressing room to rid my body of the offending garment.  I refuse to wear anything that makes me look like a princess...especially on my wedding day.  I hate being called that.
Gianna returns from the cavern of gaudy dresses with an ivory gown - strapless, light embroidery, and no train.  She helps me into it and at first glance, my eyes well with tears.  This is the one.  It's perfect.  A small smile plays at my lips as I look at Gianna's reflection in the mirror and mouth my thanks.  She nods and offers a tiny, smug smile and exits the room, allowing me to present myself to my mothers.
I hear simultaneous gasps as their eyes fill with moisture and wide smiles spread across their faces.
"Bella, it's beautiful," my mother whispers.  Elizabeth nods, speechless.
I turn to Gianna. "I'll take it."
Gianna schedules me for my next fitting and bags up my dress as the cashier rings up our purchase.  Elizabeth argues with my mom about paying for half of the cost of the gown, insisting that I am the daughter she never had.  Renee finally agrees after convincing Elizabeth to allow her to pay for Edward's tux.
We scamper back to Renee's car, stuffing my dress in the trunk, and head home.  After dropping Elizabeth off at her house and a quick "hello-goodbye" to Edward, we pull into our driveway as my dad meets us in the garage.
"Hey, ladies!  How was your trip?"  He smiles brightly, dropping a kiss on Renee's cheek.
"Productive," I say as I pull my oversized garment back from the trunk. "I'm glad we're home, though."
"Hungry!" My mother chimes in, exaggeratedly rubbing her belly.
"Oh, yeah? Well, that's good to hear.  I'm going to throw some steaks on the grill."
"Sounds good, Dad.  What else are we having?"
"I don't know.  What goes well with bear meat?"
Ugh. Fucking great. 
I ace through two final exams and at the end of the day, I clean out most of the junk from my locker.  School will be over in two days, and I don't want to have to bother with it on my last day.  Edward meets me after school and helps cram my stuff into both of our backpacks.  I never realized how much crap one can acquire during a school year. 
We meet up with Angela, Peter and Charlotte at Dairy Queen and discuss summer plans over ice cream and chili dogs. We talk about the milestone of graduation, some wedding plans for Edward and I, and Charlotte's up-coming trip to France.     
Edward and I climb into his truck and drive home so we can study for our next round of finals.
"What exams do you have tomorrow?"
"English Lit and Calculus.  You?"  He scrunches his nose when I mention my literature class.  He doesn't understand my interest in books.  If it's not science or bugs, it's of no interest to him.
"American History and Spanish," he grimaces.
I nod my head in acknowledgement, but don't keep up the conversation, feeling the impending depression seep in, knowing he's leaving for a trip without me.  It's stupid, I know, but I am just so lonely when he's away.  I kiss him goodnight on the cheek when he drops me off at my house and watch as he pulls into his driveway, shutting off the engine.  I blow him a kiss and a wave and head into the house to hit the books. 
Taking a break from studying, I recruit my mom to come with me to the grocery store to pick up a few ingredients for the Masens' cookies.  We return a while later, Renee heading to the living room to watch American Idol while I trudge up the stairs and flop down on my bed amidst my school notes and books.
I'm startled awake in the wee hours of the morning by a nightmare.
Edward had disappeared and I got a ransom note from his captors.  They were keeping him hostage deep within a forest, threatening to turn him into a monster if I didn't give them Elizabeth's recipe for chicken gumbo.  I started crying because I didn't know where Elizabeth kept her recipes.  I ran from my room and through the living room - which was a tropical beach - and down the street to the Masen's house.  I tore through their kitchen - which resembled my high school cafeteria - searching for her recipe book when I found nothing but packages of frozen bear meat.  I screamed out Edward's name, knowing that I have failed and he will be turned into a monster and collapsed onto the kitchen floor next to the stove and cried.   
Catching my breath and wiping away the escaped tears, I notice that I'm still in my jeans and t-shirt, at the wrong end of my bed.  My textbooks are spread around me and my lecture notes are crumpled and tangled in my bedspread.  I scan the room for my alarm clock and find it on the floor next to the nightstand.  I must have kicked it off the tabletop in my sleep.  I pick it up and notice it's 4:23am.  There's no way I am going to fall asleep again, knowing I would normally have to wake up in two hours.  Resigned, I stagger into the bathroom and shower, allowing the hot water to loosen the kinks in my neck from my awkward sleeping position. I dry off and dress for the day, gathering my school stuff and relocating to the kitchen table. 
I toss some frozen waffles into the toaster, and as I wait for them to crisp, I reorganize my study guidelines into piles. I settle into a chair and review my notes for today's exam.  An hour later, Charlie staggers into the kitchen to make himself a pot of coffee. 
"Morning, Dad."
"Exams today?"
He doesn't make any further comments but nods his head as he measures the coffee grounds and pours them into the filter.  He heads back up the stairs to get ready for work. Charlie's not a morning person.  Renee comes downstairs in a flurry a few moments later, frantically searching for her work smock.  I point to the laundry room and begin to pack my stuff up and prepare to meet Edward for our daily ride to school.
School is uneventful today.  Exams, goofing-off, lunch, more goofing-off.  Edward hangs out at my house after school and we make out on the couch for a little while in the middle of the afternoon. He's laying on top of me, kissing my neck and chest as his hands swiftly unbutton my denim shorts.  I buck my hips to gain some friction against his hand as he slides his fingers inside my panties and into my wet folds.  I can feel his hardness grinding against my leg, and I reach to untie the drawstrings of his basketball shorts.  He raises his hips so that I can get a firm grip on his gloriously rigid cock, and we begin moving in tandem, creating the sensations that can propel us into ecstasy.  The sound of Renee's car pulling into the driveway thwarts our plans, and I laugh as Edward grumbles about being cockblocked by my mother.  I straighten my hair and clothes as he pulls me to sit on his lap to help hide his raging boner.  We snuggle for a while until he decides to head home and study for the last of his finals.  I walk him to the front door, kissing him goodbye and telling him I'll call him later.
After a dinner of pizza delivery and soda, I decide now is a good time to make the cookies. 
"Jesus fucking Christ.  Why can't people stop moving shit around in here?" I grumble to myself as I shift items around in the kitchen pantry.  "Come out, come out wherever you are..."
"Bella, what are you doing?"
"Looking for the bottle of vanilla extract that I bought last night and put it on this shelf, but now it's gone."  I rise to my tippy-toes to look over the top of the various boxes of stuffing mix and Hamburger Helper on the shelf in front of me, but don't find what I'm looking for.
"You mean this?"  I crane my neck to find my dad holding up a small box and giving it a little shake, rattling the tiny bottle inside.
"Yeah. Where was it?"
"Next to the flour."  He nods towards my baking paraphernalia spread across the countertop.
"Oh. Thanks."
Charlie stands quietly, watching me as I mix the ingredients from memory.  I've been making these cookies for years and it takes me only a few moments to toss them together and scoop onto a cookie sheet.  I slide the metal pan in to the preheated oven and set the timer on the stove. 
"So," he draws out, "tomorrow is the last day of high school, eh?"
I don't say anything, just nod my head as I dunk the mixing bowl into the sink, cleaning the remnants of the cookie mixture from the sides and place it in the drying rack.  The kitchen is silent other than the sounds of splashing water.
A few minutes pass, and my mother enters the kitchen to join us, sliding a chair across the linoleum. "Bella, we have a little graduation gift for you."
I turned to face my parents, finding they both look sheepish, knowing I don't particularly care for gifts and surprises.  Renee outstretches her arm towards me, in her hand sits a box wrapped in Class of 2010 paper.
"Just open it," Charlie complains. "We thought you could take it to school tomorrow and get some pictures or whatever."
"It's not a camera, Charlie," my mother corrects.  "It's a camcorder, Bella.  Open it!" Her eyes dancing with excitement.
I smile and hug them, thanking them for the very thoughtful gift.  Charlie suggests I take it to any graduation parties I may go to, to thwart any illegal activities amongst the party-goers. Renee slaps his shoulder and tells me to get some footage of my friends, and then she will record the graduation ceremony next week with it.  I smile to myself as I think of things that Edward would like to use it for and quickly shake my head to dispel those thoughts, especially as I am standing in front of my parents.
Later on, I take a quick shower, throw on my pj's, and duck under my covers.  I grab my cell phone and make a quick call to Edward.
"Hey, lover boy."
"Hey, sexy beetle," he purrs into the phone.  "You ready for tomorrow?  This is it... our last day!" 
"I know," I reply wistfully.
We are quiet for a few seconds, both of us lost in our own thoughts.  I suddenly remember my parent's graduation gift and I tell Edward about the camcorder.  He teases me about all the videos we will be making once we move to Tucson.  I quickly change the subject, and we talk about his camping trip tomorrow and the plans for me to feed the Masen's bird while they are gone.
After a few minutes, we make lovey-dovey kissing noises in the phone at each other, and I tell him I will meet him in the morning. 
The alarm blares, and I dart out from under my blankets as if my bed was on fire.  I feel excited...thrilled...ecstatic that today is our last day.  I dress quickly and tumble down the stairs, practically running into Renee in the kitchen.
"Looks like someone's excited to go to their last day of high school." Renee is smiling brightly, small tears forming in her eyes. "My little girl is all grown up!"
"Aw, mom, don't cry," I choke out as she squeezes me in a hug.  We stand in front of the refrigerator as she starts to sway slightly, like she's rocking a baby.
"I'm a proud mother, Bella.  Let me have my moment." She embraces me tighter and relents with a sigh as I feel a warm drop of wetness on my arm.
Thankfully, she releases me and shoves me toward the front door, pushing the camcorder and a large container of cookies into my hands, and tells me tonight we will go out for a celebratory dinner.  I smile and nod, afraid if I speak I would cry along with her, and exit the house. 
I fumble with the video equipment as I amble over to Edward's house.  As I reach their driveway, I finally get the signal that it's recording, and I aim the lens towards their garage.  Ed Senior is stealing a kiss from Elizabeth just before climbing into his police cruiser.  He rolls down the window and waves at the camcorder as he drives away, and I pan back to Elizabeth as she closes the door to her minivan, headed out for last minute errands.
"He's in the kitchen, Bella," she informs.  "Go on in."  
I waltz into their house and find Edward bent over in the kitchen, his head in the refrigerator.
"Hey, mom, where's the sliced turkey?  I want to take a sandwich for lunch?"  He doesn't notice that it's me who walked into the house, and I quickly activate the camcorder again, zooming in on his glorious behind as his head is inside the fridge.  He looks up quizzically, wondering why his mother didn't answer him, and smiles once he realizes it's me...with the camcorder.
"You know, Bella," he lowers his voice seductively, "if you wanted to stay at home all day and make videos, I would gladly skip school."
"Not a chance, Romeo.  I want to get some footage of our friends acting crazy and stuff today.  So, hurry up with your turkey sammich and let's get a move on!"  I toss the plastic container of cookies onto the counter and turn toward the front door.
He shrugs his shoulders passively. "Okay... your loss."
We've climbed into his truck when I power-up the camcorder again.  I shoot video of the front of his house as we pull out of the driveway - the blue, country style shutters on the front and the colorful flowerbed by the mailbox.  I pan the view to include the interior of Edward's truck - the dashboard, ancient stereo, and torn vinyl seats.  Finally, I aim the lens at the beautiful, young man sitting to my left and I smile uncontrollably.  His face is serious as he concentrates on his driving, but a small grin plays at the corner of his mouth as he tries to ignore me watching him through the view finder.  After a moment, I pan down his body, and zoom in on the tattoo on his wrist.  The skin there is still healing, but the image of the letters stand bold against his flesh.  I reach my hand out and pull his wrist toward my lips and plant a tender kiss there. 
I continue shooting footage as we drive, passing the park at the end of our street, the convenience store on the corner where we used to get slurpees as kids, and our elementary school.  As we sit at a stop light, Edward leans over to kiss me, and I attempt to angle the camcorder toward our heads, as it makes noises, trying to automatically refocus.  I make a mental note to check it later to see if I got a good shot of our kiss, or if I inadvertently zeroed in on my forehead or his nostrils.  The light turns green, and Edward turns into the parking lot of our high school, pulling into his usual parking space.  I hit the power button, wanting to save battery life, and cram the device into its protective bag.
Edward wraps his arm around my shoulders, pulling me to sit next to him on the bench seat of the Chevy and kisses my hair tenderly.
"I love you, lovebug."
"Love you too, pookie." 
"I hate it when you call me that," he whines.
"I know. That's for calling me 'princess' the other day."  I stick my tongue out at him and smile, exiting the truck.  He meets me at the back of the truck and walks me to my first class, as he has everyday since our first day of school together - twelve years ago. 
Angela and I reach the courtyard and spot our friends sitting at the same patio table during lunch that we've sat at all year.  Edward's back is to us and Peter is across from him, talking to Charlotte.  I sneak up behind Edward and wrap my arms around his head, covering his eyes with my hands.
"Guess who?" I ask in a creepy, deep voice.
He laughs and pulls me around to sit on his lap, kissing my lips and telling me he always knows it's me.  Angela strategically sits next to Charlotte so she can get a better view of her life long crush, Ben, who sits at a nearby table.  We tease her every day about her stalking tendencies, but she denies it vehemently.  Edward pulls the camcorder from it's bag and films our friends - and in Ang's case - the object of her obsession.  We pass it around, giving each of us a few moments to play with it, recording various people and views of the school from our usual place in the courtyard. 
"Oh!" Edward exclaims. "Before I forget... here, Bella." He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his set of keys. "My mom is picking me up after my final exam next period, so you'll have to drive yourself home."
"Oh, yeah," I mumble, the depression already setting in. 
"Don't forget to feed Carrumba tonight."
The Masens bought an Amazon parrot several years ago.  Edward Senior refused to allow Elizabeth to get a cat, and they both denied Edward's suggestion of a terrarium for his beloved bugs, so when I piped up and suggested they get a bird, it seemed like the perfect solution.  Ironically, the bird has, for lack of a better term, fallen in love with Edward and gets angry when Elizabeth or Ed Senior tries to get near her.  She occasionally tolerates me, but only when Edward isn't around.  Thankfully, when I come to their house to feed her when they are camping, she stays quiet in her cage and I can clean it and replenish her water and food supply unscathed. 
"Yeah, sure.  You guys are coming back on Sunday, right?"  Lord knows I don't want to deal with that crazy bird for very long.
The sound of the bell ringing signals the end of our lunchtime.  Edward packs my camcorder into its bag, holding the handle out for me.  He gives me a tight bear hug and kisses me breathless before whispering that he will miss me and to take good care of his baby - his truck.  I roll my eyes and smile, kissing him one more time before heading toward my fifth period class.
"I LOVE YOU, BELLA BUG!" Edward shouts across the courtyard as he enters the science building.  I smile and shake my head at his silliness and make my way to English class.
The final bell of the day sounds and an explosion of students enter the halls, cleaning out their lockers and hugging friends, wishing them a great summer.  I escape to where Edward's truck is parked and hurl myself up into the cab.  I've driven it before, but I'm always nervous.  It's so large and bulky and the clutch is very sensitive.  I crank the key in the ignition and pull out of the space, nearly clipping the car next to me and running over two freshmen. 
I make it home without any further incidents and settle into Charlie's favorite recliner, turning on the television.  A while later, I hear the faint chirp of my cell phone indicating an incoming text.  I fish it out of my bag and find that it's from Edward...
Miss me yet? ;)
Nahh. =P  
U miss me yet?
Even when u r with me.
I smile and press the phone to my chest, clutching it close to my heart.  He always knows exactly what I need to hear.
Almost to cabin - so no service.
Love you. See you Sun.
Love you too.
Have fun.
I power down my phone and snuggle into the recliner, lifting the footrest and pulling the afghan off the back to cover my body.  I imagine it's Edward's arms wrapping around me, holding me against his chest as we both inhale deeply, breathing in each other's scent.  I close my eyes to revel in my daydream and drift off into a late afternoon nap. 
An hour or so later, Renee wakes me up as she clambers into the house, returning home from work.  We plan to meet up with Charlie at my favorite restaurant for dinner, and then the three of us will go bowling, much to my dad's disappointment.  Charlie sucks at bowling.  Renee, on the other hand, bowls a near perfect game every time.  The woman may not be able to figure out the washing machine cycles, but she's a genius with an eight pound ball and ten pins.
On Thursday, I spend part of the day talking with a realtor in Tucson, scouting rentals for when Edward and I start at the University of Arizona in the fall.  In the afternoon, I spend a few minutes at the Masens' house feeding their bird, washing the few remaining dishes in the sink, and tidying up Edward's room, separating his worn clothes into color piles for the laundry.  I chuckle to myself as I pull his socks from the pant legs of his jeans.  This is a wifey thing to do.  I'm going to be someone's wife in a few short weeks.  Edward's wife. 
The thought both thrills and terrifies me.  What if one day he wakes up and doesn't recognize me as the same Bella he's known all his life?  What if he decides that he doesn't want me anymore?  A sharp pain stabs me in the chest as my worry starts to escalate into paranoia again.  That's when I glanced up at the mirror above his dresser and notice a small piece of paper taped to the reflective surface.
I know you miss me.
Quit cleaning!!
See you Sunday.
Edward  =) 
I smile uncontrollably, knowing how well he understands me.  I clean when I'm anxious, worried, or have something on my mind.  It doesn't surprise me that he's picked up on that after all these years, and he knew I'd be contemplating a complete over-haul on his messy bedroom while he was away.
Saturday evening, I find myself in my bedroom, standing in my underwear and wavering between the flowery sundress and the blue one, when Angela knocks on my bedroom door.
"Yo, ho!  You ready to go?" 
"Gimme one minute!" 
I can hear her theatrically tapping her toes against the hardwood floors, pretending she's getting impatient for me to exit my room.  I snatch the blue dress, fling it over my head, slide into my favorite sparkly flip flops - for added flair - and meet Angela in the hallway.
"Let's get this party started!"  She whoops as we speed past Renee and Charlie in the kitchen.
"Bella!" My dad calls from the pantry closet. "Don't forget to take your camcorder. And keep it clean... no convicting evidence, ok?  And no drinking and driving!"
I smile at Charlie's attempt at a PSA, kiss him on the cheek, and grab my video recorder's bag from the countertop. Angela and I climb into the car, where Peter waits in the backseat with a case of beer under a blanket.
"Where'd you get the beer?"  I ask, eyeing the neighborhood pastor's children warily.
"Stole it from our dad's not-so-secret-anymore secret hiding place under the stairs.  He's got about twenty cases in there!"  Peter's eyes light in excitement at his newly discovered treasure.
We arrive at Charlotte's house, an adobe-style two story in a fancy, gated community, and hear the music thumping through all the open windows and squeals and splashes coming from the pool area of the backyard.  We walk through the house, surveying the debauchery, while Peter confiscates my camcorder and films our classmates as they enthusiastically wave at the camera in their inebriated states.  Angela and I make our way out to the back patio, finding a few of our fellow students jumping from the low rooftop of the house into the pool below. 
"Those dumb fuckers are nuts!" I thumb over my shoulder in the direction of the jumpers.
"What do you expect, Bella?  They're jocks," she deadpans.
We find a couple of lounge chairs and settle in to watch the morons do "cannon balls" and "nut-crackers" into the pool, and I notice a few classmates snuggled together around the patio - kissing and groping, blissfully unaware of others around them.  I sure wish Edward was here with me.  His warm arms would be holding my body close to his as his soft, wet lips travelled down my neck, placing tender kisses against my skin.   
I must have groaned out loud, lost in my own thoughts of Edward and me, because Angela abruptly asks what's wrong.  Before I can even form an answer to express the emptiness I feel when he's not around, she concludes that I miss him and tells me to look at the bright side: he'll be home tomorrow and we'll never have to be separated again.  Her kind words break through my emo-ness, and I make it my goal for the rest of the night to enjoy myself.
An hour or so later, a shit-faced Peter passes off the camcorder to Angela, and she and I squish onto the loveseat in Charlotte's living room, watching the footage on the small video screen.  Keg stands, horrific Karaoke attempts, roof-jumping jocks, and public gropings are mostly the evidence filmed of the party, but one part in particular hits me like a ton of bricks.  It was a shot of me, from across the pool.  My face was slightly blank, my lips turned downward in a frown, as I was thinking of Edward and missing him terribly.  This evidence has me feeling so completely alone - even when surrounded by fifty drunk and disorderly people - seeing myself so down and sad, knowing Edward was spending time with his family away from me.  I know it's childish and extremely selfish to want him all to myself, but I just wish he was here with me tonight to celebrate our high school graduation with our friends and not slumming it in a cabin with who-knows-what lurking in the woods.
We leave the party a half hour later, pouring Peter into the backseat of Ang's car and rolling the windows down in case he decides to hurl on the way home.  He sings Pour Some Sugar on Me at the top of his lungs and rubs his hands up and down his body like he's washing himself in the shower.  I can't deny it, it's some funny shit, and I pull out the camcorder to document his foolishness.  Ang and I are encouraging his hilarious, drunk behavior by playing DJ with the stereo and joining in on the singing.
Angela pulls into her driveway and shuts off the car, turning to look in my direction.
"What are we going to do?"  she asks, nodding her head towards a passed-the-fuck-out Peter in the backseat of the car.
"I say... leave his ass here."
"We can't leave him in the car, he'll suffocate or something."
"Ang, it's warm outside with no chance of rain. We'll leave the windows down."
So that's what we decide to do.  We roll the windows down, cover him up with his beer case blanket and close the doors.  Smirking at each other, knowing that he will be pissed and confused when their father finds him asleep in Angela's car the next morning before church.  I say good night  to Angela, offer a quick, longing glance at the dark Masen house, and amble over to my house, next door.  Once inside, I scramble up to my room, slip in to my pj's, and tuck myself into bed, relishing the thought of being in Edward's arms again tomorrow.   


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