Birthday (II)

Jasper stood beside Emmett, fumbling with his champagne flute. Before I had a chance to fully process the implications of his presence, Esme came up to me and pulled me into her embrace.

“So here’s the guest of honor!”

I wanted to apologize to her for any trouble she went to and explain that I hadn’t asked Edward to do all this, until I saw Carlisle over her shoulder, thoroughly enjoying a conversation with Rose. As he caught my glance and smiled at me, I remembered that neither he nor Esme were the type of people who would act solely out of perceived obligation. My apology died in my throat.

I kissed Esme’s cheek and spoke quietly into her ear. “Thank you.”

“Really, it’s nothing. Besides, we wanted to do this for you. Happy birthday, darling.” She squeezed my hands before reaching up and brushing her fingers through the front of Edward’s hair. “I miss you already, you know. Both of you. We’ll catch up later, but right now I should see how close we are to sitting down for brunch. Excuse me.”

She hurried off, giving me a chance to survey the room. Alice was nowhere to be seen. I slowly exhaled, as Edward whispered in my ear.

“Who is the blond guy with Emmett?”

I chuckled. Leave it to Edward to be coy about his own orchestration. Before I could come up with a clever retort, Jasper approached us. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed him until he was right in front of me. I jumped into his arms.

“Happy birthday,” Jasper spoke into my shoulder while hugging me tightly.

“I never expected to see you here.” I blinked back tears, before turning to Edward. “How did you even know to invite him?”

“I didn’t,” Edward said dryly. His eyes narrowed and his arms crossed, as if he somehow found Jasper’s presence threatening.

“Actually, Emmett mentioned it to me in passing and I kind of invited myself,” Jasper explained before addressing Edward directly. “I hope you don’t mind.”

Edward responded with a small shrug that did nothing to soften his defensive posture.

“Does Alice know you’re here?” I asked.

Jasper let out a long sigh before answering. “No.”

“Well, she’s nothing if not consistent,” I muttered bitterly.

“It’s not like that, Bella.”

“How exactly is it, then?” I asked. “Because as you know, I’m not exactly in Alice’s good graces right now.”

“Even if I were willing to speak for Alice, this is neither the time nor the place. Besides, this is the first birthday party you’ve had in all the years I’ve known you. I would never ruin it for you by rehashing old news that doesn’t matter.”

“I assure you, Jasper, as far as my falling out with Alice is concerned, the ‘old news’ as you put it, does indeed still matter.”

“Maybe,” he replied, “but not in the way that you think it does. Anyway, I’m not here to discuss your falling out, nor am I here to plead Alice’s case.”

“Why exactly are you here?” I’d never heard Edward sound so cold.

Jasper either didn’t notice Edward’s frigid demeanor, or he chose not to acknowledge it.

“You must be Edward. I’m Jasper Whitlock.” He held out his hand to Edward. “I did Bella, I mean, I did undergrad with Bella. Now I’m at Penn with Emmett. It’s great to meet you finally.”

“Edward Cullen,” he said, tentatively shaking Jasper’s hand.

I had to give Jasper a lot of credit. The Whitlock charm was out in full effect. Too bad Edward was completely unimpressed by it.

“Jasper is Alice’s fiancè,” I explained.

“Excuse me,” Esme spoke from the doorway. “Would everyone please join me in the dining room? Brunch will be served shortly.”

Jasper gave my hand a quick squeeze. “We’ll catch up later,” he said before following Carlisle, Rose, and Emmett into the next room. I was about to join them when I felt Edward pull me gently into the foyer.

“We don’t have time for a quickie,” I joked.

“Did I hear Jasper correctly?” Edward’s voice was barely more than a whisper.

“What do you mean?”

“‘I did Bella?'”

I laughed. “Is that what this is about? He misspoke. We’ve been close friends for seven years, which is exactly how long he’s been in a committed relationship with my best friend.”

“Your former best friend.”

I shrugged. “I guess I haven’t given up hope.”

“So you’re saying you were never intimate with him?”

“No, Edward. I’ve never had sex with Jasper.”

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few months, it’s the ability to interpret the subtle nuances in your speech patterns.”

“I’m not following you.”

“We both know there are many equally questionable acts for which the statement you just made does not account.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Tell me what I should think.” He ran his hand through his hair in frustration. “This guy I’ve never met, whom you’ve rarely mentioned, shows up at your birthday party and seconds later you practically mount him. I don’t care if he is engaged to Alice. How do you think this looks?”

“Wait, do you actually think I’ve fooled around with my best friend’s fiancè?”

His silence confirmed that he did.

“I knew you couldn’t handle knowing my number,” I muttered to myself, looking away from him in exasperation.

“Bella, this has nothing to do with your sexual history.”

“Oh, the hell it doesn’t. “And this right here…” I gestured between the two of us. “…is why I fucking hate birthdays.”

“Don’t make this into something that it isn’t.”

I threw my hands up in the air. “I don’t even know what this is, how the hell do you expect me to make it into something it’s not?”

“You could have anyone. For a long time, that’s exactly what you did. The actual number is irrelevant, it’s the idea that sex means nothing to you and you’re used to doing whatever the fuck you want. Now I’m supposed to be able to leave during the week and somehow manage not to worry how you amuse yourself in my absence?”

Though I’d always questioned his ability to remain monogamous, it never once occurred to me that he would doubt mine.

“I only want you,” I whispered, stopping when I noticed him looking over my shoulder. I turned to see Esme in the doorway.

“We’ll be right in,” Edward explained, pulling me against him. “I’m sorry, Mom. I’m just not ready to share her yet.” The ease with which he lied to his mother astounded me.

Esme rolled her eyes at him before disappearing back into the dining room. I continued speaking when I was sure she was out of earshot.

“Even if I had hooked up with Jazz at some point —and I assure you I have not —how would that diminish what I have with you?”

“Jazz? Even his nickname screams sex.”

“Are you really that insecure about us?”

He looked away from me.

“You don’t have to answer,” I continued. “But I would like to know what it is going to take for you to trust me.” I glanced down the hallway toward the dining room. “I’m going to sit down now. Are you joining me, or do you want to stay out here and sulk?”

Edward took my hand and led me to the dining room where we were greeted with cheers.

Edward smiled sheepishly at his parents as he pulled out my chair for me. “Sorry to monopolize the birthday girl.”

Although there was nothing about his demeanor that would indicate we’d been arguing, he was still avoiding eye contact with me.

“What? Can’t go an hour without fucking?” Rose’s whisper brought me back to reality.

I just shrugged and smiled. Her assumption was better than the alternative.

Edward stood in front of his seat and raised his champagne flute. “I’d like to thank everyone for being here on such short notice, and my mother for pulling everything together so quickly.” He smiled down at me before raising his glass. He didn’t seem angry, but if I’d learned anything from this morning, it was that he was capable of putting on quite a performance.

“To Bella,” he said, before sitting down and touching his glass to mine.

The meal passed uneventfully enough. The conversation never lulled, though of course with Rose and Emmett present, witty banter was abundant.

Emmett and Rose left soon after we ate, and I settled into the living room with Carlisle and Esme. Several minutes passed before Jasper and Edward joined us. Surprisingly, there appeared to be no tension between them.

I walked Jasper to the front door.

“It meant so much that you came. I can only imagine the story you had to tell Alice.”

“I’m going to tell her I saw you and I met Edward. It’s not like I can keep secrets from her. You know how she is…” Jasper trailed off. “She misses you.”

“I miss her, too, Jazz. You know I love her to death. I’m just not sure how I can continue to be friends with someone who thinks so little of me.”

“I’m not the person who needs to hear this.”

“Right, Jazz, like you’re not going to tell her everything I just told you.”

“Word for word and then some, Bella.” He kissed my cheek. “I’ll see you Saturday.” He opened the front door and stepped out on the porch. “Tell Edward I’ll be in touch.”

I closed the front door and stepped out of my heels. I bent over to pick them up but Edward beat me to it. He put his arm around my waist and squeezed.

“I’m sorry, Bella,” he whispered.

“For what? Doubting me or being a jealous prick?”

“All that and more?” He offered me a half-smile and it was impossible to stay mad at him. I put my arms around his neck and pressed myself against him.

“We’ll never make it, you know. Not if we constantly question the other’s ability to remain faithful.” I hated my words as soon as I said them, but I knew they were true.

I wanted him to tell me I was wrong, that he had no doubts, that we could do this and that my fatalism was our only obstacle. That’s exactly what he’d said in the past after spats like this. As he tightened his hold on me, he exhaled but said nothing.

I’d never realized silence could be so crushing.

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  1. on 01 Oct 2010 at 6:48 amlisa89

    :( I hate that Edward has doubts, though I can hardly blame him. And it was actually quite refreshing to see his jealousy, to see that he can fall out of that self-assured demeanour sometimes.


  2. on 12 Nov 2010 at 11:28 amkng1986

    It’s good to see this side of Edward. Being perfect all the time can take it’s toll.


  3. on 25 Nov 2010 at 3:49 pmBooksgalore/Bookishqua

    I’d never realized silence could be so crushing.
    Favorite line of the story so far.
    Loved Edward freaking out on her birthday.


  4. on 09 Dec 2010 at 1:42 pmNKubie

    I don’t want to be the fatalist, but I sense the end is coming. Maybe not the final end, but the end in some way. The inevitable separation.


    Colleen reply:

    very astute. ;)


  5. on 29 Dec 2010 at 8:27 pmFancastride

    It’s going to be hard.


  6. on 04 Jan 2011 at 11:33 pmSea4Me

    Her new ‘real life.’. Puppy love advances to worry & doubt. But, at least she’s stopped differentiating real life from edward time.

    This is perfect:
    “I’m just not sure how I can continue to be friends with someone who thinks so little of me.”


  7. on 29 Jan 2011 at 4:48 pmJanice

    Wow . . . Edward’s jealously finally hits the scene. Who would have thought he’d have insecurities. He doesn’t come across that way. Although, Bella doesn’t exactly tell him her feelings of undying love. I think she keeps a lot of things to herself. We get to hear them, but he doesn’t as much.


  8. on 17 Mar 2011 at 4:31 amNHJO100

    Dun dun dunnnn….and here we go. Let the real life relationship begin, folks…..