Same disclaimer as usual...I own nothing.
Thanks to my beta and my prereaders. This story wouldn't be what it is without you guys.
Bella and I worked together in the kitchen as she fixed her lasagna. She said it was a recipe that Mrs. Hale had told her that her mother loved to make. She did most of the cooking, and I pretty much just kept her company while she ordered me to grab whatever she needed at the moment.
Almost as soon as Bella had dinner out of the oven, there was a knock at the door. Bella finished making the salad while I finished setting the table before walking over to answer the door.
"Hey man. What's up?" Emmett asked as he walked inside. We tried to talk at least once a week, but sometimes it was hard to catch one another. Rose walked in behind him and leaned over to hug me in greeting.
"Not much," I said as Jasper walked in, followed by Alice. I was glad that they had stuck together. Alice might be a little spitfire, but even she needs someone to watch her back sometimes.
"Miss you," Alice whispered in my ear as she hugged me tightly. Alice was the one family member that I didn't really need to try and keep in touch with. She had a way of knowing when I needed to talk to her and when I needed her to back off. We had grown close over the past few years.
Bella came out of the kitchen as everyone was going into the living room. She practically threw herself into my sister's arms. They didn't get to see each other as much as they used to now that Alice and Jasper were living in Los Angeles. Alice was interning with some high society fashion designer while Jasper was working on his music.
"Oh my God!" I heard Bella scream and turned around quickly to see what the fuck was going on. I would have to have been blind to have not seen the rock that was now resting on my sister's left hand.
"I know! I've known all week and been dying to tell you, but she made me promise," Rose said as she joined the girls. They all laughed and hugged as they admired the diamond.
"Come on and help me plate the food. You can tell me all about how he proposed," Bella said as she dragged my sister and Rose into the kitchen with her. Emmett and Jasper walked closer to me as the girls exited the room.
"Congratulations man. I'm happy for ya. I guess Bella and I are next," I told him, laughing a bit as I gave him a quick hug. Rose and Emmett had already been married for a year. I figured that Jasper and Alice would be next. Emmett and Jasper eyed me closely.
"Are you really?" Emmett asked me. I frowned a bit and wondered where he was headed with the question.
"Well, yeah. I mean, I guess," I told them as I rubbed the back of my neck nervously. It was true. I did want to marry Bella. I wanted her to be my wife. It was just that sometimes I felt like I didn't deserve her. I didn't think I was good enough for her, nor would I ever be enough for her.
"It's just that you guys have been together for a while. I just figured it would have happened by now is all," Emmett said as he clapped me on the back and went in search of food. Jasper shrugged his shoulders and walked behind Emmett.
What the fuck? What the hell was that supposed to mean?
I spent the entire meal lost in my thoughts. I kept repeating what Emmett had said to me and that casual shoulder shrug of Jasper's. Did everyone expect me to have already proposed to Bella by now? Did Bella expect me to have already proposed by now? Should I have already proposed by now?
By the time dinner was over, I was a sweating nervous mess. I was breathing heavily and lightheaded. I had spent the entire meal conjuring up horrible images in my mind, mostly of Bella leaving me because she had decided I wasn't serious enough about her.
Emmett and Jasper had both gone into the living room to watch some television while the girls helped Bella clean the kitchen. I was left alone, as always, sitting at the table. After I calmed down and told myself that I was crazy for ever thinking Bella would do something like leave me for that reason, I walked toward the kitchen to check on her.
As I got closer, I could hear the girls all talking quietly. They rarely had the chance to catch up alone, so they were definitely taking the opportunity to do so now. I should have done the right thing and walked away to give them their privacy, but when had I ever done the right thing?
"So, how have you guys been doing?" I heard Rose ask. I heard Bella sigh like she always did when she was frustrated by something. It was funny how I could tell how she was feeling without even actually seeing her.
"We're fine, Rose. He's fine," Bella told her. I should have known what Rose was really asking. She'd been against me for quite a while after the stunt I had pulled before going into treatment. I thought I had finally won her over, but maybe I hadn't at all. I creeped up a little further so that I could actually see the girls as they talked.
"But how are you doing, sweetie?" Alice asked her as she touch Bella's shoulder. Now was one of the times I needed Alice to back off, but she clearly wasn't sensing that at the moment. I could see the tension in Bella's body as she fought to not snap at her friends.
"I said I was fine," Bella told them both as she turned back around toward the sink. I knew she was lying. She was fidgeting with the kitchen towel and when Bella was fidgeting, she was lying. After a few seconds of quiet, Rose finally asked what she really wanted to ask her the entire time.
"So why hasn't be proposed yet?" she asked Bella. My sister gave Rose a harsh look and I heard Bella gasp slightly. I didn't think either Rose or Alice had caught that though. She turned around and faced them as she spoke. I could see the fierce determination in her eyes. I didn't know whether she was trying to make them believe what she was saying or trying to convince herself.
"I know that he loves me. I don't need some damn diamond on my finger to prove that. We're just not there yet," she said before turning back around to face the sink. Realizing they had overstepped and wouldn't get her to open up anymore, Rose and Alice walked out the door on the opposite side of the room and headed toward the living room.
I stood quietly in the hallway and watched my girl. Bella's hands gripped the side of the sink so harshly that her knuckles were turning white. I looked up from her hands to the back of her head. She dropped her chin down to her chest and her whole form began to shake. She tried to hide the sob that fought to escape her mouth, but I heard it.
She was crying.
She was sobbing.
I'd hurt her, yet again.
Would there ever be a time in our lives when I didn't hurt her?
We were actually in a good place right now, but I still made her cry.
I fought back the urge to walk into the room and pull her into my arms and beg for her forgiveness, but I knew that wasn't what she needed right now. What she needed was for me to grow the fuck up. I needed to get over my goddamn issues and move on.
I just needed to figure out exactly how to go about doing that.