Bella seems to attract every queer person within a ten mile radius. Vampires, werewolves... She's seen it all. But what she's missing is a human friend. And of course, Bella wouldn't be Bella unless that person was strange and possibly dangerous, too. Mythical creature expertise doesn't always help with humans.
There are a few things to say about this story : Amelia often thinks about drugs, drinking, suicide, etc. Although the actual act is never shown in my story, I suggest you don't read on if those topics make you uneasy. It's nothing major, though. I would like to thank my beta, bloodredskies for editing my work. She went through each chapter for me, and has been a great help. And lastly, I'd like to remind everyone to review. It's honestly the best gift you can give to any author, and how else could I improve if I don't know what you're thinking? Just spare me a minute once you're done.
17. Toasts & Small Talk
Rating 5/5 Word Count 3227 Review this Chapter
If the Cullen mansion had been grand before, there was no word to describe its state now.
Alice had done a marvelous job. Every tree was draped in colorful ribbons: gold, silver, red, blue… all colors imaginable glistened in the afternoon light. The vivid appearance of the usually white house replaced the missing sun, and I could almost imagine the clouds clearing away from the sky, and a deep blue heaven taking their place. No rain fell, either; Alice had chosen the day well. She knew what she was doing.
I could see the true quantity of the guests now that we had all escaped the crowded church. The front yard of the house was swarming with people, and I briefly wondered where Alice had even found this many friends to invite. Forks didn't offer much variety.
I didn't recognize many of the guests; apart from the Cullens, I only knew a couple of Jack's police friends, and some families that I'd met at school. In short, I was all alone while my father passed time with his buddies, as nobody wanted to talk to the girl who had been suspended after her very first school day. I crept to the side of the party, and waited for the reception to come to an end.
The bride and groom hadn't arrived yet, and I wondered how long I would have to wait until Bella came to free me from this discomfort. I knew she wouldn't leave me standing alone, no matter how many other guests she had to attend.
"Would you like a drink, miss?"
A well-dressed waiter stood before me, holding out a tray that carried the different juices they were offering. I took one of the multicolored drinks without a word, and continued my sulking.
I raked my eyes over the party to waste my time. I decided to guess whose friend or family member each of the individuals were, to see if Alice had invited only Cullens and neglected Bella's side of the family completely.
Most were rather difficult. After scrutinizing face after face, I found no resemblance whatsoever to either family, and started getting fed up with all the overly cheerful expressions. The majority of the guests were simple teenagers – Bella's and Edward's school friends, I supposed. They laughed and joked around with the drinks, here and there spilling some juice on the perfectly green lawn. I knew I didn't want to spend a minute with any of them, and thanked the wisdom of my choice to move out of their way from the very beginning.
Only one group of people was easy to identify. They stood at a small distance from the rest of the party, and chatted together with neutral faces. They held no drinks in their hands as they stood there, and I started wondering if they wanted to be here at all. Alice bounced over to talk to them every few minutes, but otherwise they were rather isolated from the rest of the celebration.
I knew whose side of the family they were on the second I saw their faces. These women and one man were Cullens.
I knew I was right; no other explanation was credible. Their flawless, white skin; tight, rounded bodies, and stunning features resembled the characteristics of the Cullen family much too closely for them not to be related. Other than their looks, they also had the strange aura of discretion around them; a feeling of immense power and grace that found no competition in the other guests.
But once again, I found myself questioning my own assumptions. The Cullens were adopted, weren't they? They, too, looked all alike in their skin color and manner, but were so different when you looked closer. Yes, they shared the butterscotch eyes, but what else? Not even their hair colors were the same. Each of them was a different height, and differently built.
In this group, too, I noticed slight differences in their looks. One lady – and lady was the only description suitable for this woman – had somewhat darker skin than the rest; the pallor remained, but there was a certain tan undertone beneath it. Her long, brown hair poured down her back beautifully, and her full, red lips reminded me of a porcelain doll. This lady was Spanish, no doubt.
Another woman of the small party was shockingly blond, and her golden locks glittered in the little light of the gray afternoon. Her cheek bones stood high, and her slender body glided over the ground elegantly as she strode to the other side of the group to whisper something into another lady's ear.
The latter lady was taller than the rest, and held her nose high in the air as she watched over the crowd. Her posture was slightly arrogant, but seeing her face erased all negative thoughts about her; a kind pair of butterscotch eyes looked down at me from the distance, and a tender smile spread across her face. She was so beautiful that I nearly tumbled down in awe.
Only one male was among the little group, and judging by his possessive stance next to the Spaniard, I knew they were a couple. He was handsome, too, and had an air of exoticness about him with his dark hair and thick eyebrows. A muscular chest was visible under his chic suit and shirt, and I found myself drooling, yet again, for a man that I had never even talked to.
Somehow, the Cullen family had been blessed with good genes. This level of beauty was abnormal.
I was about to continue my scrutiny when the hum of a car engine brought me out of my thoughts. I twirled around to face the long driveway of the Cullen house.
A long, black limousine glided towards the mansion, its hood decorated with white flowers and other ornaments. Its tires hardly rattled against the gravel.
The bride and her groom had arrived.
A pang of emotions washed through me as I watched them get out of their vehicle. One very prominent one was relief, as I knew that I would now have someone to talk to at the dreary party. I was sure that Bella would devote her attention to me, at least to some degree.
Another sharp emotion was envy. I couldn't find a rational explanation for the sour acid that dripped down over my whole body, and had to clench my fists together to gain control over myself again. Something about the way Bella clung to Edward as they walked across the lawn to the cheering guests had triggered the emotion.
As the crowd applauded and ran over to congratulate the young couple, I examined Bella's face to see how she was doing. Her cheeks were burning a fiery red, and I could distinguish a few dried tears on her face, but the beam that radiated off her chocolate eyes suggested that all those details were signs of joy, and not distress.
She smiled timidly at the guests and spoke a few polite words with her friends, obviously not completely comfortable with all the attention she was getting. All along, she clutched her new husband, and he grasped her back more possessively than ever before. I grimaced at the sight, but quickly composed myself. I had promised not to grimace during the wedding and reception.
It took a long while for Bella to finally free herself from the many guests. When she and Edward had finally escaped the clutches of their friends and family, they didn't approach me at all, and only stared at each other deep in the eye.
I had to look away when Edward started running his hand down Bella's cheek. I figured puking was just as inappropriate as grimacing.
After a few minutes, Alice appeared on the highest step of the porch, even then not quite rising above the other heads in the crowd. She gestured towards the white tables in the backyard and shouted with a bright, cheerful voice, "Now that the bride and groom have arrived, we can proceed with the celebrations! Please join us at the table for lunch."
I reluctantly followed the mass to the tables, and picked a seat at the very edge of the row. I pulled the chair back, and was just about to sit on it when a low voice shouted from somewhere behind me: "Hey! That's my place."
I span around with my teeth clenched tightly together to meet the interrupter. "Oh, really! And what makes you think that? Is this spot labeled or something?"
"Actually, it is." I shrank back when I saw the young man who was talking to me. He was huge. "Look, right there. Unless your name is Jacob Black too, I suggest you go search for your own seat."
Indeed, a small violet card sat on the plate, and the golden words sprawled over it claimed their owner: Jacob Black.
I switched my gaze to the huge man before me, and tried to save my last bit of integrity. "Sorry. I didn't know we didn't get to pick our seats."
I sounded pretty polite, I must admit.
"Sure. No problem." Jacob stepped around me, and grabbed the chair I was still tightly holding. "So, do you mind?"
Surprised by his height and rudeness, I studied the man next to me.
His tallness wasn't the only feature that made him so huge. Jacob's arms were thick, almost burly, and his russet skin only emphasized his impressive muscles as he flexed them slightly, obviously annoyed that I wasn't moving aside. His face was kind enough, I supposed; he was good-looking, but definitely not in the striking way that the Cullens were. He seemed more… natural.
But his face hid more than his pleasant looks. There was a mask over his expression, a mask that I recognized only too well. Edward had the same air about him whenever he tried to hide his dislike, only he was much better at keeping the veil over his head. Jacob looked like he was struggling with his composure.
"Are you all right?" I was surprised by my own interest, but the heartbreaking sadness behind his eyes reminded me of my last years without Alex.
He was startled by my question too, and hesitated before he answered. His tone was somewhat warmer when he did. "Yeah. I'm fine."
Jacob stared at the table as he spoke, denying me the chance to read his eyes.
I wasn't satisfied with his response. I recognized a liar when I saw one; Jacob was not fine, and I thought I knew the reason for that. Perhaps we were both mourning over the same thing…
"Why are you at the wedding? How do you know Bella and Edward?"
"Why should you care?" His hard tone was back, but at least he glanced up at me when he spoke, and continued when he found my persistence. "I'm a friend of Bella's."
"A good friend?"
"Yeah, I guess. Or I used to be, anyway. Now she has Edward."
My heart jumped in glee when he spoke Edward's name in disgust. I could see a tight bond forming between us already. "Me too. I mean, Edward was always around when I first met Bella, but she forgets that I exist each time he appears. I'm glad to find somebody who hates him as much as I do."
Jacob looked taken aback. "You don't like him? But... doesn't everybody like the Cullens?"
"Well, I don't," I sneered, peeking to my side to see Bella and Edward already seated at the front of the tables. "And neither do you, apparently."
Jacob cast his eyes down again, and whispered his answer. "No. I don't."
Still holding the chair, I threw my head back to briefly look at the gray sky, and decided that Jacob was one of the more bearable guests at the party. Maybe I could let my frustration out on him. "They're taking Bella away."
Glancing at the young man again, I turned my gaze in time to see him close his eyes. His voice was still no more than a whisper. "I know."
"I have a feeling it might be permanent," I continued my prying, wishing to hear someone else's views on the issue.
I was heavily disappointed. "Do you mind? We'll soon be the only ones standing."
Annoyed that I hadn't gotten the gossip I needed, I finally stepped to the side and left Jacob alone.
As I turned my back to him, I could swear I saw one single tear roll down his tan cheek.
I found my own seat rather quickly, for most of the guests were already seated when I searched the room. I was only a few seats away from the bride, and if I stretched my neck out, I was sure I'd be able to talk to Bella from where I was. It would be uncomfortable, but at least better than the awkwardness of being silent and all alone.
Bella smiled at me when she saw me approach. She had to shout over the loud chattering of the guests. "You met Jacob?"
I ignored the strangely hopeful tone, deciding the reason for it was something I didn't want to know. "Yeah. He's all right."
Bella looked slightly disappointed.
As I sat down, I met Edward's eyes. He beamed at me and smiled, this time more convincingly than ever before. This time he seemed to mean his polite words. "Thank you for coming, Amelia."
I mumbled my congratulations, not entirely sure if he could hear them.
The loud chattering of the crowd made any further conversation impossible, and I felt relieved when Alice finally stood up and silenced the party with a tap on her crystal glass. She smiled hugely as she spoke. "Hello, everybody! I'm glad to see so many happy faces here today to celebrate the union of my dearest brother and my best friend. I would like to thank you all for coming!
"I would also like to congratulate the bride and groom. You see, Bella? Was the wedding really that bad?" A wave of polite chuckles followed, and Bella smiled as she turned a light pink and shook her head. "The food will be served shortly. We will have two different main dishes – lamb with rice, and a vegetarian alternative for anyone who asks for it. But before we begin eating, I'd like to pass the word to my brother Emmett."
Alice sat down, and all attention turned to her robust brother, who was sitting right beside the bride and groom. He, too, had a huge grin on his face. "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen."
Despite Emmett's serious tone, he just sounded too comical to be taken seriously. I choked back my hysteria.
"It's a great honor to be the best man to such a great brother as Edward. Seeing him happy after so many years is all the reward I need. The young couple in front of us has come a long way, and I think only the fewest understand what a tremendous achievement their love is. Bella and Edward are different in so many ways, but they found a method to overcome these dissimilarities and to concentrate only on what connects them – their love. Some skeptics will say they're too young, and that their relationship won't last over college. I say they are perfect for each other, and that their love will survive forever. I am honored to welcome Bella into our family. Thank you for making Edward happy."
A round of applause followed.
I sank down on my chair, trying to ignore the everything-is-so-perfect ambiance around me. The reception was turning out even tackier than the actual ceremony, I realized in horror. Toasts were the least bearable element of festivities, especially if they centered on love and relationships. Didn't every best man say the same things?
Just like I had feared, the toasts didn't end there. A rather nervous looking Charlie stood up next, and held a short speech about how oh-so-wonderful his only daughter was and how happy he was that she'd found someone to grow old with. I almost felt sorry for the poor man as he stood there, shaking from head to toe and flashing from one red tone to another. Alice had forced him into this, no doubt.
Carlisle stood up last, and made the most sensible toast of the afternoon. In just a few sentences, he congratulated the bride and groom and voiced his great approval of their marriage. No more was said, and once he was done, the party had calmed down remarkably.
The calm, of course, was only a temporary state. When Alice gestured the waiters to bring the food out, the chattering began again.
As the meals were being served, I realized just what an inopportune seat I'd been assigned to – I sat right between the family and the rest of the guests, and was caught in the crossfire whenever something was shouted from the other side of the tables to the bride and groom. Sitting next to Renée was extremely inconvenient, as I soon noticed just how little she resembled her daughter; her mouth never seemed to stay closed for more than a few minutes at a time, and her laughter was loud enough to be heard over all the other noises in the room. Not only was she annoyingly cheerful, but the topics of her conversation never excited me the slightest. First it was the weather, and then she would suddenly start talking about the "good old days" when she'd been Bella's age. I tuned her out quickly, hoping that she would choke on the broccoli she was devouring.
The voices quieted towards the end of the meal, and I figured the guests had finally run out of subjects to discuss. The new calm made talking to Bella possible again.
She seemed to notice it as soon as I did, and was soon addressing me from her spot next to Edward. "Hey, Amelia. I didn't get a chance to say hi earlier."
She smiled. "Hi."
I could tell she was feeling awkward, and that she didn't know what to say to the girl who had just witnessed her funeral. There was nothing left for us to discuss, but at the same time many questions bubbled inside my head, questions that I knew would never be answered.
Bella was still smiling at me warmly, but I could read the sadness in her eyes clearly. This day was both the best and worst of her entire life.
"Thanks for coming."
If Bella was trying to distract me, it sure wasn't working.
"Don't thank me. I begged to be allowed to come, remember?"
"That's right. But thank you, anyway. It means a lot to me."
I just nodded, and continued to gulp down the lamb chop on the porcelain plate with my silverware.
Soon after our short-lived conversation, the music in the background grew louder, covering all other sounds of the party. The guests had finished their meals, and were now tapping the corners of their mouths with their white napkins and turning towards the bride and groom again. I, too, laid down my knife and fork, and glanced at Bella to see what would happen next. Maybe we finally got to go home.
But my heart shot up into my throat when I realized what the next activity was.
It was time to dance.
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