Author: windchymes PM
Some things you never forget, they just hurt too much to remember.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 16 - Words: 115,060 - Reviews: 4,010 - Favs: 2,098 - Follows: 2,760 - Updated: 04-14-13 - Published: 11-18-11 - id: 7562914
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Disclaimer: All things Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
Sorry this chapter took a while. It's a long chapter, lots of info...I hope you enjoy.
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The twin intrusions of ringing phone and door knock startle me and I jerk backwards, almost falling off the sofa. Edward quickly grabs me with one hand, silences his phone with the other and gently pulls me back beside him while my heart hammers and my mind races. That has to have been Alice on the phone. My eyes dart to the door and I know the call must be something to do with whoever is knocking. Adrenalin spikes through me. My body tenses.
And Edward is staring at me, wide-eyed and puzzled.
"What's wrong?" he whispers. "Bella, your heart..." And I'm surprised he has to ask.
My eyes shift from his face to the door then drop to the phone in his hand.
"It was Ellie, from my psych class. You met her in the library last week." Edward holds up the phone showing me the screen that says one missed call - Ellie.
"Not...not Alice?" But it's always Alice. And I am so taken up with surprise that it's only a small part of me that wonders how Ellie has his number and why she's calling him.
"No, not Alice." Edward shakes his head, obviously confused, then looks over his shoulder at the door as another knock comes.
"It's your neighbour again," he says, turning back to me. "Her cat attacked the paper airplane when they got home and her grandson's upset. They're hoping I'll make another one." He shrugs as I stare. "Thin walls. Vampire hearing."
Then he smiles, a shy sort of smile and it is my antidote. My heart begins to slow, my anxiety fades and I take a breath as I give a shaky smile back. With a small squeeze of my hand Edward gets up and goes again to my notepad on the kitchen counter. Taking a fresh sheet of paper he folds two more little planes while I go to open the door.
"So sorry to disturb you again, Bella..."
Mrs Upshot is full of apologies, thank yous and tales of wayward cats. Nicholas' sniffles and tears turn to smiles as Edward sends his pair of new creations flying in elaborate swoops out of the apartment and into the hall. Nicholas runs after them and Mrs Upshot promises not to disturb us again.
"I've put Minerva outside now," she explains.
Edward waves goodnight as he closes the door behind them and I sag onto the sofa.
"I assume Minerva is the cat," Edward smirks. "And Mrs Upshot hasn't just evicted the Roman goddess of wisdom from her apartment."
I giggle and Edward cocks his head, smiling as he looks at me.
"Bella, what happened before?" he asks softly.
He comes towards me, crouching down by the sofa, meeting me at eye level. He hesitates then rests his hands gently on my knees. Though his hands are cold his careful touch sends warmth flowing through my body. "What happened?" he asks again, softer this time.
"Old habits," I shrug. But it's not explanation enough and I know it. Edward's eyes are searching and I sigh as I begin. "Okay. When we were back in Forks, it was always Alice calling. Usually with some sort of warning about a vision she'd had. And I'd just have to wait to see how much you'd tell me. The less you'd tell me the worse I knew it was."
I finish with another shrug and Edward watches me closely but his expression doesn't alter; it's almost as if my words haven't registered.
"Not always major things," I clarify. "We might be in the meadow and she'd call to say that a storm was coming. Or she'd see Charlie come home early on a day when I was meant to be studying and you weren't supposed to be over; she'd warn you to get your car out of the way so he didn't see."
"They don't sound like things to be worried about." Edward's words are cautious, like he's trying to understand.
"But there were other times," I shrug again. "Times when Alice would call and you'd just tell me it was nothing to worry about and then you'd suddenly change our plans. And I never knew why, but I just knew it was bad."
"I wouldn't tell you?"
Edward frowns. "That must have been...frustrating."
"Understatement," I whisper.
He rubs his hand along the side of his jaw, thoughtful. "I probably thought I was protecting you."
"You were," I smile. "I think, you know, after Tyler's van, and the guys in Port Angeles..." Edward's jaw tenses as he nods slowly and then stares down at the floor.
"I can understand wanting to keep you safe, I feel that way now," he murmurs. "The instinct to protect you is like nothing I've ever experienced...or remember experiencing." He lifts his eyes. "It's very strong."
My fingers caress his cheek. His eyes close and he turns his face into my touch.
"But I would have made you more vulnerable by keeping the truth from you," he whispers and gently kisses my palm.
It's a Eureka moment. Well, it feels that way to me, anyway. But I don't say anything. Judging by Edward's face as he looks back at me again I don't think I need to. Instead I reach up now and push the hair away from his eyes.
"And tonight you thought the phone call was related to whoever was at the door? You thought Alice was warning me about something?"
I nod and shift in my seat, drawing my legs up and hugging them now. "Actually, I thought it might have been Jake."
"Jacob Black?" Edward's eyes shoot open as I nod again.
"Because you've been in Forks. I thought the wolves might have picked up your scent and I wouldn't put it past Jake to come and see if I'm alright. He's kind of protective too and I thought Alice might have seen it."
Edward sits back on his heels and shakes his head.
"Unless he visited Charlie's place, or was in the woods around our house, he wouldn't know I'd been there."
There's silence now. It stretches between us and I don't like it. Edward seems lost in thought and I wish I knew what he was thinking.
"Would it matter if Jacob Black knew? Or your father?" he asks quietly after a moment. I lift my eyes and meet his steadily.
"No. Not at all."
The corner of Edward's mouth lifts - the beginning of a smile that slowly grows in brilliance until he's beaming at me. I lean forward and kiss him, my lips moving slowly, gently with his - tasting, discovering. His hands come up to weave through my hair, holding me. When I pull away to breathe he sighs, and I lean my forehead against his. His hands trail over my shoulders and arms and come to settle on my waist. I close my eyes and listen to the sound of my heart as it pounds for both of us.
"So, Jacob is protective of you, too?" Edward murmurs.
I open my eyes and meet his brilliant golden gaze. And though he doesn't speak I can see the question there. The question he will never ask me, but will no doubt always live at the back of his mind.
"He was a good friend to me when I needed one. It was never anything...more." But it was almost something more and I realise I'm fidgeting and my voice is hesitant. And of course Edward has picked up on this. He cocks his head slightly, and the new question in his eyes is joined by a flash of something else. I bite my lip, unsure what to do now, but because I don't want to leave Edward in any doubt, I decide to talk.
I tell him about the night Jake and I sat parked out the front of Charlie's house in the Rabbit.
"I did think about it," I whisper. "You'd been gone a while, and Jake filled a part of the hole that you left behind. It was just a small part, but I thought maybe if..." I shrug awkwardly, trying to read Edward's expression and failing. "When he leant in to kiss me that night I thought maybe I could move on...but it wasn't right. He wasn't you. So I hugged him instead and told him he was my best friend."
I bite my lip as I watch Edward's eyes, waiting for his reaction. Still, he gives nothing away, though the grip of his hands on my waist becomes firmer. He swallows, holding my gaze. After a long, long moment, he speaks, but the words are not what I expect.
"Sounds like me and Kate," he whispers.
Edward's eyes are wary now as he watches me.
"Um...is...was..." My mouth has gone dry and the words stick in my throat.
"Kate is like me," Edward confirms. "She's part of the Denali family I told you about earlier and we stayed with them for a while last year." He lets go of my waist and sits back on his heels, watching me as he pulls a hand through his hair.
He had someone else. My heart feels like it wants to curl up and die. I try to keep my face neutral as my jealousy smoulders and I tell myself I shouldn't feel this way...we weren't together last year; Edward didn't even remember who I was, but even so...
My hands crush the edges of the sofa cushion.
"For months my family had tip-toed around me," Edward goes on and his voice is so soft. "Everyone walked on egg shells and it just made me feel worse...it emphasised what had happened to me. But Kate didn't tip-toe. We've known each other for a long time and she treated me like nothing had happened and I liked that. I could talk with her and laugh and when we were together the things I'd lost didn't seem to matter quite so much. After a few weeks I began to wonder if our friendship could become something more."
My stomach is starting to twist itself in knots and I wonder now when he said our kiss was his first did he mean his first human kiss? And a masochistic part of my brain wants to know if he's still a virgin. Oh, I don't know if I want to hear this.
"Nothing happened," Edward says quickly. "Nothing." His eyes are huge, almost surprised, as if he's just realised how his words might sound. Slowly, relief trickles through me and begins to douse the jealousy
"Nothing?" I squeak.
Edward shakes his head slowly.
"But...you came close?" Like I did with Jake?
There's a beat before he nods.
"We'd go running together," he says. "And one day I took her hand. After feeling so lost and isolated for so long the contact was nice. I leant in to kiss her and for a moment I thought it was what I wanted. I think I knew, on some unconscious level, that I had been happy before. I think I was looking for that happiness again. I just didn't know where to find it."
"But you didn't kiss her? Or anything?"
"I turned away, like you did with Jacob. It felt wrong." He gives me a cautious half-smile and shrugs a shoulder. Now the relief crashes over me like a wave, drowning the jealousy and washing it away. "So I hugged her instead and offered her first go at the next bear we found."
My mouth drops open. "You offered her..." A surprised giggle escapes me. Edward's cautious smile gains confidence.
"It's the vampire equivalent of saying 'you're a good friend'," he says. Then he reaches out and takes my hand, threading his fingers through mine.
"Only you," he whispers and I smile, just as my stomach rumbles.
"You've not eaten?" Edward says suddenly. "Did you have dinner?"
My head spins with the sudden change of subject.
"Um, oh...no. No, I wasn't hungry before."
"But you are now?"
"I guess I am, yeah."
He stands quickly and goes to pick up his coat from where it lies across the stool.
"What are you doing, Edward?"
"Taking you to dinner."
"After you've changed into something warmer."
He shrugs into his coat and I smile at this small familiar sign of the old Edward, taking charge.
"Just give me a minute," I say and go to wipe the freckles off my face and change my clothes.
We walk to a small restaurant called Knife, Fork, Spoon, just a few blocks away. Edward's arm is around me and he holds me close, tucked into his side. When I burrow closer I feel the sigh that rises and falls in his chest.
As we walk I try to get my head around all that has happened in the last hour or two - his return, his declarations. Kate. Again his admission comes to mind, but it merely flickers and then fades away. He knew all along he loved me - even without the memories, he knew.
I snuggle deeper and almost trip over my feet. Edward's arm tightens around me and I feel his lips in my hair.
Edward has said that all the decisions are mine and now I wonder exactly what he meant by that and whether it extends to my being changed. I open my mouth to ask but shut it again. It's too soon. And right now even I can't think about that. This surprises me. There was a time when being changed was all I wanted, I thought it was the answer to everything - but at this moment, with Edward beside me and his arm holding me close, I realise that for now this is all I need. I just want to enjoy having him back. So I let those thoughts go and pick up another.
"You said you were curious about something in my room in Forks," I remind him as we walk. "You were going to ask me about it before your phone rang."
"Oh...that." There's a smirk in his voice but he doesn't say anything more.
He chuckles and squeezes his arm around me.
"Later," he whispers, sending my curiosity soaring.
His phone buzzes in his pocket and he groans a little as he pulls it out and looks at the screen.
"I thought so," he mutters, and hits end call.
Edward nods as he stows the phone back in his coat and I realise that I never thought to ask him before why she had called him. And suddenly it's like Edward has read my mind, because he answers my silent question.
"I would guess she's drunk dialling from a party somewhere."
"Oh? Has she done that before?"
"I'm not used to people calling you. Except for your family."
"It happens," Edward smiles down at me. "Study groups mean swapping cell numbers."
He holds the door of the restaurant open for me and I walk inside.
I've never been here before but the intimate feel and soft lighting instantly appeals. Edward speaks quietly to the waitress who blushes and flusters. She shows us to a quiet table in a corner, hands Edward the menus and asks him if there's anything she can get him to drink. He frowns and turns to me.
"Bella, would you like something?"
Now the waitress realises she's been ignoring me and goes into instant damage control, dragging her eyes away from Edward, plastering a smile on her face and focussing on me. She scribbles down my request for coke and bites her lip when Edward asks her to make it two. Then she scurries away, looking back over her shoulder at us twice before she disappears into the kitchen. The whole scenario reminds me of Port Angeles and that night in the Bella Italia restaurant. Our drinks arrive, along with a jug of water and two glasses, and Edward studies me as I stir my coke with the straw.
"This is surreal," he says quietly. "Being here with you like this."
"Never taken a human to dinner before, huh?" I give him a wink and he smiles.
"Not that I remember, no. I'm sorry."
"It frustrates me."
He shakes his head. "No, you don't."
I sigh. "You're right, I don't."
The mood has shifted. Edward folds his hands on the table in front of him and stares at them.
"Everything you told me on Sunday, the things my family told me tonight...there's not even a flicker of recognition. Nothing."
His hands clench into fists and I reach over to cover them with mine. I can see the frustration in his face, I can feel it in the strain of his knuckles beneath my palm, but I don't know what to say. The waitress comes with our drinks and asks if she take our orders. Immediately Edward straightens, his hands relax and his features are smooth now, impassive. His mask is in place. I withdraw my hand and choose the first thing on the menu - avocado chicken parmigiana.
"Nothing for me, thank you." Edward offers the waitress a polite smile and she's flustered again.
"Um, you...you have to order something," she stammers. "It's restaurant policy."
"Garlic bread," he answers without missing a beat. He looks back at me.
The waitress' eyes are drinking Edward in but her voice is shaky. "Er, it's supposed to be a meal."
There is the barest eyeroll from Edward as he pushes the menu towards me.
"I can't decide...what looks good, Bella?"
I scan the choices, aware of what he's doing, and I pick something light that will go with my chicken.
"The summer salad with croutons sounds nice."
"I'll have the salad." Edward hands the menu back to the waitress.
"Just the salad?"
"Yes, thank you."
She nods, frowning a little, and hurries away to the kitchen. She doesn't look back this time.
"Was it like this other times I've taken you out to eat?" Edward leans forward as he asks.
"Sometimes," I smile. "We didn't do the restaurant thing very much."
He smiles and reaches out to take my hand. His mood has changed again, the conversation has taken a new direction and I can almost feel the familiar whiplash returning. His foot nudges mine gently under the table. I nudge him back.
"What are you smiling at?" he asks.
"You. You're still you, but you're different."
He cocks his head, waiting for me to elaborate, and those golden eyes drink me in. I feel myself drowning in them.
"Mm? Oh...um, you're different."
"You said that."
"Stop smirking at me."
"Was I smirking?"
"You know you were."
He chuckles and sits back in his chair and again he nudges his foot against mine.
"You're more relaxed," I finally say. "But relaxed is the wrong word. I don't know what the right one is."
His head tilts to the other shoulder.
"It's like you've let go of something," I frown, almost speaking to myself now. "It always used to seem as though you were fighting something, fighting yourself, I think. You were so...intense before. You still are, but not so much."
Edward shrugs and looks away towards the kitchen. "I still have my moments," he murmurs.
"Oh, I'm sure you do." He hears the smile in my voice and looks back at me, smirking again. "You could win gold medals for brooding, Edward."
My words are a risk but the risk pays off. After a momentary look of surprise Edward throws back his head and laughs. And it's beautiful.
"I probably could," he says as he leans forward, elbows on the table now, face cradled in his hands.
I grin at him and lean forward too, mirroring his pose. "So what is the opposite of intense?"
"Moderate," he answers and I snort.
"Moderate? Okay, you seem more moderate now, Edward."
He gives me a bittersweet smile.
"Losing your mind will do that to you," he whispers and his words surprise me.
"You didn't lose your mind."
"Maybe not, but it felt like it. I think I might have come close." He shrugs. "My ability had made me lazy and arrogant and losing it was hard. I knew how much I figured in the thoughts of humans when they were around me and when I couldn't read those thoughts it was terrifying. For the first time I feared humans, and that fear verged on paranoia." For just a fleeting moment I see an echo of that fear in his eyes. "I feared what they were thinking, their motivations. I couldn't know if someone suspected what I was. I couldn't ward off unwanted attention. I was used to manipulating situations because I knew what people were thinking, but I couldn't do that anymore. I had to learn about trust. And how to use my instincts." He reaches over and touches my hand. "That's probably why I seem more moderate to you." He smirks now. "Because I'm trusting my instincts and my instincts tell me this, you and me, is right."
My fingers curl around his.
"So, do you think your instincts didn't tell you that before? About me? Us?"
He frowns. "I think I probably didn't know how to listen."
The waitress returns with our meals and I watch Edward poke at his salad with a fork.
"Alice said you're more impatient now, though. That doesn't seem to fit with the more moderate you."
The words come without thought and for a second I wonder if Edward will be offended. But he seems okay as he stabs a cherry tomato. "I am more impatient. And easily frustrated. Just not with you."
"With your family?"
"Sometimes. They're used to me. And they're always quick to put me in my place. Especially Emmett." He rolls his eyes and I giggle.
"Good for Emmett."
Edward grins and holds out his fork with the cherry tomato on the end. I lean in and take it between my teeth.
"It feels strange, you knowing my family."
"Makes it easier to take me home to meet your folks."
"True," he smiles. "Was it awkward that first time? Were you afraid?"
"Only that they wouldn't like me."
I take a bite of chicken as Edward smiles and shakes his head. "You were worried they wouldn't like you," he mutters.
"Yep. And you made some unflattering comments about my sanity, if I recall."
"How rude of me."
"I thought so."
Edward holds out another tomato.
"And that was the first time I played the piano for you? The day I took you home?"
I lean in and take the tomato and this time when I bite it squirts juice all over the red and white checks of the table cloth.
"Crap," I mutter and quickly wipe up the mess with my napkin.
"You said it was a lullaby." Edward is frowning and I know he's trying to remember.
"Bella's Lullaby," I smile and scrunch the napkin into a ball. "It's beautiful."
He nods, setting down his fork then looking up suddenly.
"Do you play an instrument?"
"Er, no. I'm not musical."
Another nod. "So much to learn," he murmurs.
On Sunday in the clearing, when the world was falling down around both of us, I told him everything about our relationship; everything from the moment I saw him in the cafeteria until Alice and Carlisle knocked on my door three weeks ago...but I kept to the facts, I hadn't gone into any depth of detail.
Edward wants that detail now. Not just the facts, but how I felt, what I thought, what led me to make this decision or that one.
Our voices are hushed, barely audible even to me as we lean across the table towards each other. Edward's elbows are on the table, his hands cupped around the back of his neck as he asks question after question and I answer. His eyes are hypnotic as he listens, drilling into me as if he'll find his lost memories in my words or my face. My meal begins to grow cold but I'm not hungry anymore and though my cutlery is in my hands my chicken sits mostly untouched on my plate.
Edward doesn't keep to a timeline. His questions are all out of order and my memories jump back and forth between the middle, the end and the beginning. It's draining, and I wouldn't have chosen a restaurant as the location for this conversation, but I'm not going to stop him. He wants to know. He needs to know.
My mouth becomes dry and as I finally stop talking to take a sip of coke Edward asks, very gently, if I would tell him exactly what happened the night he sucked James' venom from my wrist.
"But I understand if you'd rather not…"
"It's okay," I smile. And I tell him everything I remember; not just the facts which he already knows, but about the fear, the pain, and I tell him about the angel whose voice comforted me and whose lips pulled the fire from my veins.
"You said you were stronger than you thought," I whisper and reach out to take his hand.
Edward tries to smile but he doesn't quite make it. He drops his eyes as his hands come down from his neck and his fingers curl around mine. He watches his thumb strokes over my wrist. He is quiet. Very quiet. Around us the noise of the other diners seems loud all of a sudden. I take another sip of coke. The waitress is watching us, her eyes pinned to Edward's back, her admiring thoughts painted clearly across her face. Edward's eyes stay down, his hand gently squeezing mine, over and over, as though he needs to reassure himself against the details I've just planted in his brain. Under the table I nudge his foot gently. I see his lips quirk in a smile but his eyes are hidden beneath the hair that tumbles over his forehead.
"The spring dance!" he hisses suddenly and looks up. I can see his eyes now and they are huge with shock. Then I watch his eyes narrow and he cocks his head in that way he has…that vampire way.
"What about the spring dance?"
"Your leg would have still been in a cast." He's aghast. "And you told me tonight that you don't like dancing...so Bella, why did we go to the spring dance?"
I bite my lip and watch Edward's eyes widen again.
"I made you go, didn't I? Oh, dear Lord, I didn't make you dance with a cast, did I?"
When I don't answer he exhales sharply, lets go of my hand and sits back in his chair, staring at me.
"Why?" he mouths. "Why would I do that?"
"You didn't want me to miss out on anything by being with you," I say quickly, leaning forward and gripping his hand again. "You said it was an important part of being human." I shrug and Edward continues to stare.
"But you didn't want to go."
He blinks at me, mutters something to himself and shakes his head.
"Did I know you didn't want to go?"
"Edward, it doesn't matter now. It was years ago."
"Did I know?" His eyes are burning into me.
"Yes, you knew."
He watches me for a moment. His eyes harden.
"But you still got dressed up and went with me?"
I squirm in my seat, feeling uncomfortable now and with my free hand I pick up my fork and push my food around my plate.
"I didn't know that you were taking me to the dance until we were almost at the school." The words spill quickly from my lips. "You had Alice get me dressed and ready; hair, make-up, everything, and I didn't even realize what was going on until we were in the car and on our way."
"I don't understand. What did you think was happening?"
My face flames with embarrassment. I don't want to tell him, but I know he won't let it go.
"I thought you were going to change me," I whisper.
Edward's mouth drops open but he shuts it again quickly.
"You thought that?"
I nod, picking at my napkin, tearing it to tiny shreds with one hand. My other hand is still in Edward's and I know he understands my embarrassment when his fingers squeeze gently against mine. He's very quiet and when I look up I see his eyes are bright, his lips almost smiling.
"And you thought being changed was a black-tie occasion?"
He's amused. And even though his words are gentle I am engulfed by exasperation and a familiar, burning embarrassment. I throw up my hands.
"You said that last time!" I hiss. "Yes, alright, it was very funny, Bella thought being changed into a vampire might have been marked as a special occasion. Lets all..."
"Ssh please..." Edward glares at me and suddenly I realise where we are. We both look around to see if my outburst, hushed though it was, has drawn attention. It seems it hasn't. No-one is looking. Edward and I turn back to each other.
"Sorry," I mumble.
"No, I'm sorry," he says quickly and his eyes are gentle now. "I didn't mean to laugh."
I wave away his apology.
"No, don't be. It was stupid of me to think that." I sigh and rub my hands over my face and a smile starts on my lips. "Looking back now, even I can see the funny side." I roll my eyes at the naivety of my seventeen year old self. Now Edward lets his smile free. And we're leaning in towards each other again.
"Do you mind if I ask…what did I say when you told me this?"
"That you wouldn't turn me into a soulless monster."
Edward frowns. He looks down as his fingers trace the pattern in the table cloth.
"Was that all I said?"
There is silence. My breathing shallows, my scalp prickles. I wonder where this is going.
"You said on Sunday that you had wanted me to change you but I wouldn't."
I nod. My foot is tapping nervously under the table - I don't think I want to talk about this right now.
"Was that always the way the conversation went?"
"Mostly, yes," I whisper. "You believed you were damned and you didn't want that for me."
Edward lifts his eyes. "What did you believe?"
"What did I believe?"
My foot stops tapping. My breath stills.
"The question surprises you?"
"Um, yeah. You never asked me that before."
"I never asked you?" He's incredulous.
"Then there was no discussion?"
"Not really, no."
He looks away and mutters under his breath again but I can't catch it this time.
"What do you believe Bella?" He turns back to me and his eyes change, piercing and determined now. I'm not sure where to start and it takes me a moment to gather my thoughts.
"I always believed you had a soul," I say quietly and speak what's in my heart. "It always seemed so obvious to me because of the way you loved me, and the way you loved your family. And because of your conscience, your decision to stop hunting humans." I watch him, trying to gauge his feelings, but I have no clue. "And I always believed I would keep mine if you changed me. But you thought differently."
Now Edward and I are like two sculptures, fixed in position, unmoving; only inches between us as we stare into each other's eyes. Even though my heart races it feels like a lifetime between beats as I wait for his response. Will he give me the same old argument? Or a new one?
"I was wrong," Edward says quietly after a moment. "You would keep your soul if I changed you."
His simple statement shocks me. The words bounce around in my head - they're unfamiliar and strange, almost like another language, and I'm not sure if I've heard right. I try to form words of my own, questions...but they just don't come. Instead I keep staring, my mouth hanging open like a guppy out of water.
"I know you would," Edward goes on. "Because I kept mine."
Now it feels like the air has been sucked from my lungs. From the room. I almost sag onto the floor and as my head spins I grip the edge of the table.
"You believe in your soul?" I finally manage to choke out, and Edward nods. I feel like there has been a shift in the universe - like some ancient truth has been proved wrong. Or maybe it's been proved right. I take another second to register Edward's news and now my questions come quickly, the words tumbling over each other in my haste to get them out. As I lean forward across the table and wave my hands Edward looks almost alarmed.
"But all that angst…and the …the angst…and the drama…we could have avoided…are you…? Seriously? Are you…when? How?" In my shock the words almost sound like accusations and Edward's eyes widen as he blinks at me. At last I manage a coherent sentence.
"When did you find your soul, Edward?"
"When someone stole my Volvo."
The words hit me like a freight train and I jerk back in my seat. They don't make sense. None at all. My mind is all disarray as I try to find the connection between Edward's immortal spirit and a luxury Scandinavian car. Edward still looks alarmed, he watches me with wary eyes. His last sentence is on repeat, going over and over in my head until, suddenly, it makes me angry.
"That's not funny, Edward!"
"Funny?" Now he jerks back in his chair.
"I believed you! How could you do that?"
"I'm not joking!"
"Don't treat me like an idiot!"
Edward's eyes flash. "I would never treat you like an idiot!" The hiss and anger in his voice pulls me up. I gape at him as he glares at me across the table.
"You're saying you're serious?"
I blink at him.
My anger fades, and apparently so does Edward's. He reaches out now to hold my hand and his eyes soften. "I know it sounds ridiculous."
"You're right, it does."
"If I can explain?"
Edward nods and takes a heavy breath. My heart tightens in anticipation.
"One of my first outings back into the real world after my accident was to see a performance of Bach by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra," he begins. "I was hoping it would be a distraction for a while and maybe I'd find enjoyment in listening to the music without the intrusion of hundreds of thoughts. And I did. Those two hours were the most...restful I'd felt in weeks. But when I came out of the theatre afterwards my car was gone." His jaw tightens and I don't need to be a mind reader to know how that would have made him feel. My hand grips his harder and Edward's eyes drop to our clasped fingers. "People have thought about stealing my cars before, but I had always read their plans in their minds. But not this time, of course." I see the muscle in his jaw twitch as he lifts his gaze back to my face. "I had been able to read minds three miles away," he whispers. "The Volvo was five hundred feet away."
His face darkens and my heart twists. I know what this would have done to him. My eyes sting and burn as he continues.
"The anger I felt was frightening, but the humiliation was crippling. I didn't handle it very well."
"I got home…" he rubs his free hand over his face. "And, to use Emmett's words…I lost my shit." He shrugs apologetically and I squeeze his hand. "I had put my family through hell since I'd lost my memory and my gift. I was angry and bitter and they put up with a lot from me...far more than they should have. But that night…" he bows his head. "That night was bad."
"But their love for me has never wavered, even when I was at my worst. And that's what made me realise - looking into Esme's eyes that night after I'd put my fist through another wall." He stops and shakes his head. "Where I should have seen anger and reproach or even pity there was only love and compassion. It was more than I deserved." His head stays bowed, his eyes are closed. "She put her arms around me and held on. She told me that I wasn't alone. And I realized that night that there was no way Esme was a monster. All of my family, their love for each other, and for me...none of them were monsters."
"And if they weren't monsters?"
Edward raises his eyes. "Then maybe, neither was I."
Suddenly I'm out of my seat and climbing into Edward's lap. Relief and joy bubble through me as I throw my arms around his neck and I barely register his startled expression as he pushes back his chair to make room for me. His arms close around me as I press my face against his neck. Tears burn at the backs of my eyes.
I feel Edward's hand as it rubs over my back.
"Now people really will stare," he chuckles.
"Don't care. Let them," I mumble then pull back to see his face. His beautiful face that is smiling at me. His beautiful eyes. I touch his cheek.
"It was always so clear to me...you have a beautiful soul, Edward."
He actually looks shy, almost embarrassed as he gives the slightest of eye rolls.
"I don't know about beautiful," he mutters. "But there's something in there."
He pulls me close again.
Over his shoulder I see people are staring. The waitress scowling. A couple at a table in the far corner are watching us closely. A young guy asking for a table at the front desk is snickering.
I climb shyly off Edward's lap and he looks disappointed to see me go.
"Um, I'm not usually one for such outrageous public displays," I mumble.
Edward's eyes twinkle. "Pity," he says. "I rather liked your outrageous public display."
My lips part in surprise and my face heats. Edward is holding my hand and he squeezes it before he lets go.
As I sit down again I'm grinning, shaking my head in glorious disbelief...he believes he has a soul...but Edward has become serious
"I hadn't anticipated this conversation," he murmurs. "At least, not now. Not tonight."
"I hadn't either."
"We don't need to talk about it now, Edward." I don't want to think about anything but the fact that he's back, and he loves me. "This is enough right now."
His expression warms and he takes my hand; his thumb strokes softly over my skin.
"But we do need to discuss it," he whispers. "And when we do, I promise I'll listen." He pulls his free hand through his hair and there is a flash of anxiety across his face. "It seems I wasn't a very good boyfriend to you when we were back in Forks."
The simplicity of his statement hits me. I'm about to disagree with him but I also realise there is some truth in what he has just said.
"You had your good points," I smile and Edward's lips quirk. "And I wasn't exactly perfect. I wasn't very good at listening, either."
Edward lifts my hand and kisses it, then turns suddenly to look over his shoulder.
"The waitress is coming," he frowns.
The waitress takes our plates and begins to talk about dessert but Edward asks for the check. She brings it to him a moment later and he pays, ignoring the way she flusters and blushes around him. I understand the Edward Cullen effect too well and I almost feel sorry for her. Then he helps me to my feet, curls his arm around me, and we walk out the door.
The night is milder now and we take a slightly longer route home so we can look at the some of the elaborate Halloween displays on the lawns of houses nearby. My head is spinning after our dinner conversation. Edward has given me so much to take in, and it's good now to be out in the fresh air. My mind begins to clear and while I know there is more to discuss I'm just taking each moment as it comes. And right now, at this moment, we're looking at Halloween decorations.
We walk slowly, easily, hand-in-hand. We talk little, only commenting here and there on some of the more elaborate displays. The smile never leaves Edward's face. Every now and then I feel his lips in my hair.
Most of the younger trick-or-treaters are home sorting their candy by now, but the streets still bustle with older kids in costume, laughing and having fun. We watch a battle of water balloons and flour bombs between Count Dracula and the chainsaw guy from that massacre movie and we laugh when the Count cops a bomb to the face and his fangs fly free. We watch as they bounce across the footpath to the gutter.
"I always hate it when that happens," Edward grins and tows me out of the path of danger.
We stop outside a house where the lawn has been turned into a very convincing grave yard and the front door is the shape of a coffin lid. A ghostly sheet, strung up by wires, appears suddenly from behind a head stone.
"Boo," Edward whispers in my ear and I giggle.
"Very scary." I nudge him in the ribs and he chuckles. "Did you trick-or-treat when you were a boy?"
"People didn't really do that then. There were parties, though, sometimes. And decorations. I think I remember..." he stops for a moment, frowning, clearly reaching back into his human past. "I remember carving a pumpkin with my father." The frown melts into a smile. "It had two faces, a scary one and a happy one."
"That sounds cool," I beam at him.
"It was. Very cool. But back then I would have said it was swell."
He grins down at me.
I giggle as we walk on and when we come to the corner Edward looks in both directions.
"There are some more displays to the right...you want to take a look?"
I look up at him and grin. "Sure," I say. "That'd be swell." And I laugh when he rolls his eyes.
Back in my apartment Edward drapes his coat over the stool again and I drop my jacket on the sofa. I put some music on – some soft jazz with a mellow clarinet. As the warm notes fill the room Edward comes towards me. He pulls me gently to him, my back to his chest, and winds his arms around me. Before I realise it we're moving gently in time to the music.
Edward rests his chin on my shoulder and I hear his voice, like velvet, in my ear.
"Is this alright? We're not dancing," he assures me. "We're swaying."
"Mm..." I sigh as I rest my hands over his. He chuckles softly and it rumbles in his chest - I can feel its vibration through my back.
"Remember the jazz festival on Sunday?" he whispers and his breath is cool against my neck.
"I wanted to hold you like this then, when we were listening to that band with the guitars."
"You could have held me."
I feel the shake of his head as his chin moves against my shoulder.
"Not without telling you who I was."
I squeeze my hands over his.
"I think that was one of the things that angered me most," he whispers and I turn, facing him now, and his arms pull me close.
"What made you angry?"
"Not having the chance to tell you myself." He lifts one hand to caress my cheek, his eyes a mixture of sweet and sad as he smiles. "I knew I loved you. I'd already decided by then to tell you the truth. Of course I was terrified of what your reaction would be, but I was so ready to have you know me. All of me."
"Tell me now," I say quickly. "Tell me what you were going to say."
He frowns. "But you know."
"No," I shake my head. "You've never actually told me. I worked it out myself the first time. And it was a tense conversation and you were angry and confused." I pause and smile up at him. "I want to hear you say it. Please? I've never had that."
Edward's lips tug into a smile.
"I'm a vampire, Bella."
The words are barely a whisper. They caress his tongue and if they had been my introduction to the truth I know I wouldn't have been afraid.
He touches my cheek again. His eyes are so bright, so intense, burning with his admission.
"And I love you." He leans down, I feel his breath on my throat as his lips press a kiss over the pulse point. "You have become the most important thing in my world." His nose runs along my jaw, up to my ear. "You are my life." He kisses my temple. "I will never hurt you."
My eyes are closed, I'm barely breathing and it's only Edward's arms that are keeping me upright. I lean against them, my head back and Edward presses more kisses along the arch of my throat. When he reaches my collarbones I feel his smile against my skin. Then he straightens slowly, bringing me with him and cradling me against his chest.
"Wow," I breathe. "Well, that went better than last time."
Edward chuckles, low and deep.
"So, is that how you were planning to tell me?"
"There was some improvisation involved there."
"I like your improvisation."
I sigh and settle against him. The music swirls and flows and Edward sways us gently in time. Even when the CD ends we continue and make our own rhythm in the silence. Finally, my eyes feel heavy.
"You're tired," he whispers.
"I am. How do you know?"
Will you stay with me?"
I look up into his face and he gives one slow nod, and then scoops me into his arms.
In my bedroom he sets me down and then pulls his hand through his hair as he looks around. His eyes take in the pictures on the wall, the mess on my dresser, and then land on the red ribbon that came with my snowglobe. It's tied around my bed post and he smiles.
"Um, I'll just be a minute," I tell him. I grab my camisole and sleep shorts from the drawer and wish they were fancier as I head towards the bathroom.
I shower quickly and brush my teeth and comb my hair. My heart is hammering, my blood is singing and the thought of falling asleep in Edward's arms again fills me with such bliss I could almost cry. It's almost too much.
When I head back into the bedroom I feel shy. The old Edward has seen me dressed like this before, but the new Edward hasn't. He is sitting on the end of the double bed, smiling. Shoes, socks and sweater discarded, he is wearing just his jeans and a plain white t-shirt. His hair is more tousled, no doubt from dragging his sweater over it, and he looks so beautiful in the soft light that my knees actually feel weak.
"Hi," he whispers, and he seems shy too.
He stands as I move to the bed and I see he's pulled back the covers for me. I climb between the sheets and Edward's fingers find his hair again. He frowns.
"Do I...I know you said that back in Forks..." He stops when I hold the covers open for him, answering his question. He smiles and slides in beside me. As he lays down he pulls me to him and tangles his feet with mine, just like he used to. It's so natural, so smooth...his body remembers, even if his mind doesn't. I smile and he seems to realise what he's just done. He smiles too.
"This feels...right," he says. "Is it okay?"
"Mm...this is okay."
We share the same pillow, our faces close and his breath mingles with mine as his eyes fall to my lips. I inch closer and he moves in too, ours noses touching and nudging and we smile before his eyes close and he kisses me softly, tenderly, his lips moving over mine and my arms winding around him. I kiss him back, my body arching into his, my fingers twisting in his hair. He moans. The sound hums on my lips and resonates deep in my body.
"Bella..." he breathes before he takes his lips away and nuzzles against my neck.
I'm breathless. Edward clings to me like it would kill him to let go and I cradle his head to my chest now so he can feel the raging of my heart beneath his cheek. He curls his body into mine and I blow softly on his hair, watching the strands flutter and lift.
Edward has come into my bed before, but never quiet like this. There is something different - a quiet surrender, his own silent acceptance of his feelings; there is no guilt here, no doubts, no fear. I scratch my fingernails over the back of his neck. He moans again.
"You always liked that," I whisper and he sighs.
We lay very still and I give myself to the bliss of the moment. I feel the soft in and out of his breath against my skin. I close my eyes and let myself drift.
"I was wondering about something in your old room."
I'd almost forgotten about that and my eyes open as curiosity takes over and I wait to hear what Edward is going to say. He reaches up and nudges my hand that sits still now on his neck.
"More scratching," he whispers and I giggle.
"Only if you tell me what has you curious."
He grins and slowly opens his eyes. They blaze gold as he stares up at me.
"It was your bed."
"My bed had you curious?"
He nods and I think of my bed - wooden bed head, purple quilt, nothing remarkable.
"It's a single," Edward murmurs. "Was it always a single?"
"Oh, um, yes."
He nods and shifts, moving up the bed a little so he's back on the pillow, his face just a breath away. But his legs are still draped over mine, his arm still curves around my waist. I watch his throat as he swallows.
"When I used to stay all night with you...I stayed in your bed."
"We would have been very close."
Our eyes are locked. There are barely inches between us. Edward takes a slow, deliberate breath.
"Bella, were we intimate?"
His eyes never stray from my face and suddenly my heart is thundering like it will burst free of my chest any second.
"No," I whisper. "We weren't."
He nods again but doesn't say anything.
"I did ask you about it," I whisper. "But you said it wasn't possible for us. It would be too dangerous for me."
There is more silence. Edward's expression gives nothing away. Every beat of my heart is heavy now as I wait for him to speak. After a moment his words come slowly, carefully.
"If your scent affected me as you've described, then yes, it would have been very dangerous."
His hand grips me a little tighter and he frowns, his eyes fixed now on a point over my shoulder...the window perhaps. "So I would have been prepared to let you live your life without sex." It's like he's talking to himself and I'm sure he is when I hear him mutter something under his breath. It sounds like selfish bastard.
Edward's eyes close again and I'm not sure what to say.
"I don't think you thought we would last that long," I admit softly. "Looking back, I get the feeling that, even before we broke up, you thought I would eventually want other things and
Edward nods, eyes still closed and there is a question burning on my lips.
"Um, so, if my scent is different now..." I leave the thought hanging between us but gasp softly when Edward opens his eyes. The desire there is unmistakable and I feel the heat scorch through my veins. Beneath the sheets I rub my legs against Edward's.
"There would still be risk," he whispers. "That doesn't change just because your scent has. My strength is an issue. I would always have to be so careful with you."
I can barely form words, but manage to nod my head.
Edward's eyes move back and forth between mine. His hand squeezes softly over my waist.
"But my instinct tells me I would never hurt you."
My heart somersaults in my chest. My lips split into a grin. And my body feels like there is fire blazing beneath my skin.
Edward leans in and kisses me sweetly, chastely, which, of course, does nothing to calm me.
"It's hard to explain," he smiles, pulling back and stroking his hand along my side. "I've only just met you, yet here I am, sharing your bed and...it doesn't feel too soon."
I don't think my grin could get any wider. He leans in and kisses me again, not so chastely this time. His hands move over my back, my side. His feet glide over my bare legs. His kiss consumes me, it tastes of freedom and life and joy.
I'm so caught up that without thinking I slide my fingers under the hem of his t-shirt and just barely graze the skin of his torso. Edward hisses and I gasp, pulling back and withdrawing my hand quickly. He opens his eyes and they're dark, almost to black.
"I'm sorry," he whispers. "Did I do something wrong?"
"You? No, not you...I thought I did something wrong. Did I go too far?"
Edward blinks at me. "I don't know. What's too far?"
I feel my face flaming and I know that even in the dark Edward will see my blush.
"I don't know either," I whisper. "You never let me touch you under your shirt before."
There is a moment of perfect silence and then Edward's next words send my heart rocketing through the roof.
"It felt good."
He nods slowly, his hair mussing up against the pillow.
"It's been quite an evening," he muses. "It feels like we've gone from zero to sixty when we should just be getting out of first gear."
"You're having trouble keeping up?"
"No," he shakes his head. "No, I'm keeping up just fine. I think that's what is surprising to me...how quickly things have moved, but how right they feel."
"So, you think one day we could take this further?"
Edward's eyes burn as he nods. "I want to be with you," he whispers.
My gasp fills the room, and is then overtaken by the frantic pounding of my heart.
"But there are things to consider," he adds.
"Mm, like what?" Perhaps the coldness of his body? Or safe positions? My face flames at that thought. Maybe location?
My eyes snap wide and I stare at him, not sure I heard right.
"Did you say birth control?"
He nods and suddenly seems self-conscious. I sit up quickly, the sheet rumples around my waist as I stare down at him, lying on my pillow.
"But I thought you couldn't..."
Edward gives an apologetic smile.
"Actually, there's a possibility I can."
A/N: Thank you to everyone who is reading, reviewing and recommending this story. I appreciate your support so much :) And thank you to Melanie for betaing and lots of laughs :)