I write slow. But, I write. Some days that's enough. This chapter may be tough for some people to read. I guess that's the disclaimer. :) I haven't been keeping up on reading reviews lately, and I haven't been on twitter, so it's possible that people hate this and by extension, me, but regardless I'm pressing on.

Thank you to ShearEnvy, bashfulfan, roglows and livie79 for all the love and support and for harassing me juuuust enough. I love you all.


"Seriously?" she yells, rubbing the spot with her palm after she turns.

Edward pulls his hat down but I can tell that he's laughing.

"Sorry!" I yell back. She throws it back, with aim that is far better than mine and I catch it easily. We've been playing for a while now and my arm hurts and I'm hot. Edward claps his hands and holds them out, ready for the next throw.

"I suck!" I yell to him.

"You do," Jasper says from behind me. He grabs the frisbee out of my hand. His throw is practiced, and I'm amazed that he seems steady on his feet again, even though an hour ago he looked like he was about to pass out. He holds a red plastic cup in the hand with the ace bandage, and I wonder if it's all for show.

Despite the fact that Ben screwed up, I'm annoyed at how he talked to me the other day. I decide to grow a pair and say something.

"You know, you were a real jerk the other day."

Edward throws the frisbee back to Jasper, his eyes narrowed as he watches the two of us from across the beach.

"You're going to need to be more specific," Jasper says. He's not kidding.

"You, like, threatened me."

He turns and for a second he seems drunk, swaying slightly on his feet as he throws again. "That's ridiculous."

It occurs to me then that he really may not remember and it makes me wish I hadn't said anything. He grabs my arm as I start to walk away. Out of the corner of my eye I see Edward pause, poised to throw the frisbee. There's liquor on Jasper's breath and his grip is a little stronger than he probably intends, but I don't flinch.

"I'm sorry," he says.."You don't have to answer for your brother. I know I would never ask Rose to answer for my shitty behavior."

So he does remember.

He lets go as Edward walks up behind him. Edward looks at my arm and then at Jasper.

"Apology accepted," I say. Edward's eyebrows go up and I give him a slight smile that lets him know everything's okay.

I walk back to where I've been sitting. A crowd had formed when I wasn't looking.

"You want to smoke this?" Mike holds out a bowl and I shake my head.

I'm high already- on kissing and touching and Edward's close proximity. I'm high on our secret and even though he's across the beach I can feel his draw. Every few minutes we lock eyes and I smile but I'm trying to be nonchalant. If it's not working, no one seems to notice.

When I get up to walk to the edge of the river, he ditches Jasper and follows me, beer dangling easily from his fingers and his shirt discarded somewhere. I let the water run over my toes, still cold despite the hot weather. The river is always that way.

He mimics what I'm doing and we both look down, tan toes in the sand.

"Look at your little feet," he says, half a smile on his face.

I roll my eyes but I'm grinning.

"So...what are you doing tonight?" I ask, squinting against the sun when I look up at him. I bite my lip and it's a cheap move but he holds his breath for a second so I know it worked.

"Eating whatever your mom makes for dinner and playing MarioKart?"

"Then what?" I ask.

His smile changes. It's hiding but it's still there, in his eyes.

"Just say what's on your mind, Swan."

I can't. I look down, digging my toes in the sand. When I look back up he's waiting, an amused look on his face.

"Do you think you'll spend the night?"

He takes a minute to respond. "I don't know. Why?"

By now I can tell that he knows what I'm asking and is just messing with me. "No reason," I say, lightly.

"You're a bad liar."

"You're a tease," I shoot back. His jaw drops.

"Oh, I'm a tease?" he asks. He brings his hand up to tug on the tie to my bikini top. He raises his eyebrows.

"This old thing?" I look down, shrugging.

He laughs, shaking his head. His eyes are shaded by the brim of his hat. "If I sneak into your room tonight I can't be responsible for what will happen."

I have to look away because the expression on my face is going to reveal too much, because for the first time in my life the idea of doing what he's alluding to doesn't sound scary and awkward. If I could push him down in the sand and do it right this second I would.

"Maybe that's not a bad thing."

He exhales heavily and looks out at the water. One hand pulls his hat down. "There's nothing wrong with going slow." He sounds like he's trying to convince himself, more than he had to the first time we had this conversation.

"Are you afraid of what Ben will think?" I ask.

He shrugs, but after a few seconds he nods and takes a swig off of his beer. "Yeah."

I stare at the water. "Me, too," I admit. It's unlikely that he'll make a big deal out of it, but I really do care about his opinion.

I hear my brother's laugh before I see him. He and Rose are hand-in-hand and both of them are a little flushed. A little too happy. Edward follows my gaze and laughs when I say "gross."

Our eyes meet for a second and for a second he's serious. He's about to say something, but he turns to them instead, bringing his beer up to his lips.

"I should probably take him home," Rose is saying, looking over her shoulder at where Jasper is back in the same chair. There's a girl sitting on his lap but he seems almost unaware of her as he talks to the guy sitting next to him.

"You should check him into rehab," I say, regretting the words as soon as they're out of my mouth.

Edward saves me from having to backtrack. "Any one of us could probably use rehab." He and Ben clink their beer cans together and it's probably true and it's definitely messed up. I don't miss the way Edward looks at the ground after that, and it reminds me about his mom. I wish I could grab his hand, or even just stand closer to him, but I stay where I am.

Rose rolls her eyes at them and turns to me. "Want to lay out?"

I don't but there's something on her face that tells me I don't have a choice. Ben grabs at her hip but she's back to being cold. She slips out of his grip and walks away, glancing back to make sure I'm following. I glance back at the boys. Edward puts his arm around Ben's neck and they walk back toward the fire pit, purposefully avoiding Jasper, or that's what it looks like to me.

Rose and I shake the sand off of our towels and lay them out again. Rose lays on her stomach, her head propped on her crossed arms so she can look at me.

She stares long enough that I get uncomfortable.

"What?" I ask, brushing my fingers over my mouth. "Do I have something on my face?"

"No." Her expression doesn't change, though. "You didn't know, did you?"

I blink. "About Ben and…" I don't say her name. "No. I didn't know until after you did."

She nods, chewing on her bottom lip before she turns her face up to the sky. "So, you guys won't be friends anymore, right?"

I gaze upward, mimicking her position. That hadn't occurred to me. My hesitation is enough to make Rose sit up on her elbows.

"You can't be serious."

"We've been friends since...always."

"So what? She's a lying skeeze."

I want to shrug but I'm afraid she'll think I'm being dismissive, so I don't. I don't disagree, though.

She stares at me intensely for a long moment before she visibly forces herself to take a deep breath. She looks down. "I don't want to end up like my mother."

Rose and Jasper's mother is beautiful. She's also the frostiest woman I've ever met. After what Ben told me by the pool the other day, I can understand her a little bit more now.

"She caught my dad in a Bill Clinton situation a few months ago." She glances at me. " Not the weird cigar thing. Just the...other stuff. And that's just what I know about. I'm sure he's done worse."

I cringe at the mental image. She says the words without passion, like she's run through the scenario so many times that it doesn't sting anymore.

"She didn't speak to him for a month. But she didn't leave him either."

"Did you want her to?"

She shrugs. "I just wanted a reaction, I guess. Any kind of reaction. Maybe my dad did, too."

Rose takes after her father in personality. He's charismatic. He lights up a room. I don't really know what he's like behind closed doors, though. If I've learned one thing it's that most people aren't exactly as they seem.

"I love Ben," she says. "But I don't want to turn into this resentful, bitter person, and I can already feel it happening. I don't know if I can forgive him. Someone told me I should sleep with someone else. Like we would be even then."

"Was that someone...Jasper?"

She laughs, but it fades off quickly. "No. If he had his way, Ben would be castrated or something. He might be projecting my parent's situation onto mine a little bit, if you can't tell."

I nod. I guess I can't even imagine what that must feel like, so I decide not to judge Jasper too harshly.

"No matter what, I hope you and I can stay friends," Rose says, running her fingers along the red and white stripes on her towel.

"That sounds kind of final, Rose," I say.

She shrugs and smiles. "Who knows what will happen? I mean, we're in high school. We have our whole lives ahead of us, you know?"

It sounds like she's repeating something my mom would say to me. It makes me smile.

I look around for Edward and Ben. Ben catches my eye and nods for me to come over.

"I'll be right back," I tell her. She nods and lays back on her towel.

"Let's smoke that joint," Ben says, as I walk up. I roll my eyes. Typical. I pull it out of my bikini top and hand it to him, though. Edward stands a little further away from me than he was earlier, but he smiles when our eyes meet. "What were you guys talking about?" Ben asks before he puts the joint between his lips and lights it.

"Guess," I say.

He exhales heavily, the smoke almost blue it's so dense.

"Do you think she'll forgive me?" he asks, and I think he's serious.

I don't have the answer he wants, so I don't answer at all.

He hits the joint again before passing it to Edward. He stares at Rose, across the beach, laid out on her towel. Before we can say anything else he walks over and sits next to her. Edward tries to pass me the joint but I'm not in the mood.

"Hey," he says, ducking so he can look at my face.

I sigh. "Why do good things and bad things have to happen all at the same time? Like, my whole life nothing happens and now it's like the best and the worst all at once."

He's looking at me weird when I look up at him, but he covers it up with a smile. "What's the best thing that happened?" he asks.

I roll my eyes. "Whatever."

"No, really. Tell me."

There's no one around to hear us talking but I check anyway.

"You. On my bed. In the car. Just...you."

He smiles widely but I can see tension in his jaw. He takes a deep breath and runs a palm up over his chest and stomach, like he's trying to maintain composure.

"You…" he shakes his head and my cheeks go red.

"What?" I ask, hating that I sound like I care. I'm way, way past acting aloof here, though.

"You kill me. With like, one sentence you've got me all…"

He doesn't need to say it. I do, though.

"Horny?"

He looks away, laughing. I laugh, too.

We both see Ben walking towards us at the same time. He looks upset.

"Can we take a walk?" Ben asks Edward. Edward's smile falls and he nods.

"Are you okay?" I ask him, hating the way his shoulders are hunched over. He looks like he's carrying the world today.

"Yeah. I'm okay."

Something in the way he says it makes me think, for the first time, that he's keeping something from me. He glances at Edward and that feeling is reinforced. When Ben sees my face he throws his arm around my neck and rubs his knuckles on my head, though.

"You suck," I say, trying to squirm away.

"Did she tell you she likes some guy? She won't tell me who, little shit."

When he releases me the tension is gone from his face and his smile is genuine.

"We'll be back. I want to go up to the cliffs."

I kind of want to go along but I glance back at Rose and know I won't. Plucking the roach out of Edward's hands, I grin as I back away from them. Ben calls me a thief but Edward just smiles back at me. My stomach does flips.

"Be safe, kid," Ben says, both of them turning before I can respond. I stop and watch them walk toward the woods. Edward glances back once, but they're too far away by then for me to see his expression.

I walk back to Rose.

When I sit, she's laying down with her eyes closed. Before I can even ask her about what she and Ben talked about she stops me.

"Let's talk about something else other than my tragic love life. Anything else," she says, her voice flat.

I bring up the swimsuit Lauren Mallory is wearing today and she sits up. "Right?" We talk about that until it gets boring then she lays down again. The frown returns to her face.

There's a splash downriver, around the corner by the cliffs. It sounds like summer.

I look down, picking up a handful of sand and letting it sift slowly through my fingers. I shouldn't say what I'm about to say, but I'll do just about anything to distract her from how awful she must feel right now.

"I like someone," I say, with a completely contrived casual tone in my voice.

Her head snaps toward me and I'm relieved that the melancholy look is gone from her face, even if it's temporary.

"Who?"

I bite my lip, hard, because his name is on the tip of my tongue. His name is on the tip of my everything right now. I grin widely.

"Tell me, you little brat!" she says, swatting at my arm.

I'm about to say it when I hear Edward yell Ben's name. Rose and I both turn to look toward the sound.

She frowns, but I'm ready to tell her my news, even though I'll have to swear her to secrecy until we tell Ben.

"So, it's not, like, a big deal but-"

Edward runs down the path, toward the river. He throws his sunglasses on the ground and runs into the water.

"Ben!"

My whole body goes still at the panic in his voice. Rose starts to run toward where Edward is swimming, diving under the water and coming back up. He screams his name again and I finally react, connecting the name, the person and the splash with the way Edward is searching the river.

He's searching the water.

The splash.

He yells my brother's name again.

I'm on my feet.

"Someone call 911," I say. When no one reacts I scream it and I see Mike Newton run up toward the cars.

More guys jump in the water and I try to follow but strong arms hold me back. Everyone's at the edge of the river, a frantic line of bodies that grows quiet as the minutes pass. Mike runs back to tell me he called 911 from his car phone. I don't respond. I scan the bank across the river, because he would do that. He would hide and freak everyone out as a joke.

It's a joke.

The fire department, cops and ambulance get there fast but I'm counting seconds and it's been too long.

I count to one hundred. Then one hundred and fifty. Then I stop. I wait. I wait patiently to yell at Ben because he is going to be in so much trouble for this.

Rose is crying, but I'm not. They pushed everyone back except us. I heard someone tell them that I'm his sister, and I grabbed Rose's hand before they could take her away.

A fireman starts to lead Edward out of the water, his arm around him, pushing him toward the shore. His feet seem heavy like he doesn't want to get out.

Rose sobs, her mouth open. The sound echoes across the water and bounces off the rock face on the opposite beach.

When Edward sees me his face breaks and he tries to pull me to his chest but I'm looking past him, at the river and the way they're moving in lines, everyone connected by rope, yelling instructions that I don't understand.

"Where is he?" I ask Edward. He looks down at me, his eyes red from river water and tears.

It's then that I start to cry, so hard that I can't breathe. I gasp for air, pulling at my chest. I'm still watching the water, though. I'm still waiting for him to walk out, smiling, playing the meanest prank he's ever played. He'll see how scared I am. He'll see how angry I am and he'll be sorry.

I try to tell Edward that my mom is going to be so mad but the words don't come out right, my teeth chattering and the words heavy in my mouth. I pull at his arms to try to make him understand.

There's no hope in his expression. I stop talking.

Another ambulance drives down the service road and pulls up with its lights on, siren silent.

Edward picks me up, tears on his bare chest as he carries me away with my eyes closed, past people who hush as we pass. For a second I wonder where we're going but then I realize that it doesn't matter.

Nothing matters.


See you all soon. xoxo