Author: YellowBella PM
She loves him. He loves her crazy. She's a hopeless romantic. He's just hopeless. She's afraid to let go. He won't let her. A story about a silly girl in love with a foolish boy. Here, forever is a lie. TeamBella23 - the realist and YellowGlue - the poetRated: Fiction M - English - Angst/Romance - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 38 - Words: 409,514 - Reviews: 7,780 - Favs: 3,850 - Follows: 4,023 - Updated: 12-20-12 - Published: 12-21-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7659651
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
We do not own Twilight. Pumpkin spice and French vanilla have flavored this from day one.
All rights and respects to Stephenie Meyer, Simone de Beauvoir, Death Cab for Cutie, and Blink 182.
TeamBella, mop-shopper and heart-stopper. BabyBlue, day-saver and dream-giver, I love you so, so, so much.
Rilo Kiley – Portions for Foxes: There's a pretty young thing in front of you, and she's real pretty, and she's real into you. And she's sleepin' inside you...
And the talking leads to touching. Then the touching leads to sex, and then there is no mystery left. And it's bad news. Baby, I'm bad news. It's bad news, and I don't blame you. I do the same thing; I get lonely too. Baby, you're bad news. My friends tell me to leave you, that you're bad news, bad news, bad news.
I don't care. I like you.
Baby, you're bad news, and I don't care. I like you.
Chapter Thirty One - B
It was a few minutes after four when we turned onto my street.
I wasn't nervous about getting out of the Lincoln at my house. I had prepared myself for the number of questions Mom was going to ask. She would want to know when Edward got back and why he was driving me home instead of Alice. She would wonder why I left my car home in the first place.
But, she was at the garden expo in Port Angeles with Mrs. Clearwater. Dad was home, but he was in the basement. I made it inside completely unseen, and they'll never know.
I lingered in the shower. I wanted a bath. I wanted my bed.
I could handle them, but I didn't want questions.
Putting on comfy sweats, a too-big tee-shirt and a relaxed face, I left my room to avoid all the possible what's the matters, are you feeling okays, and how late were you ups that would surely come with staying in it.
I took the stairs back down just as carefully as I'd taken them up, but my pace hardly mattered. Even after so long in the shower, every part of me ached with the physical memory of my soul's weight . My muscles still tingled and stung. My eyelids burned. Teeth-cuts on my chest and bruise-marks on my hips and legs throbbed heat in dull hums, and between my spread-weak thighs, inside, I yearned. I cried. My body was swelled and sore from allowing love.
With every step, breath and beat, I still felt him. I wanted him . My body was resentful and suffering through physical separation.
How are we ever supposed to be apart at all, now that we know?
How are we supposed to live every day, not bared and deep and pressed together?
Dad's on the phone in the kitchen talking to Grampa when I come in. He's sitting at the table with paint in his hair and on his shirt. He smiles, but I don't miss his eyes kind of questioning my baggy afternoon pajamas.
I force accuracy and awareness into every movement, every look, every thought.
Not only am I exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally, I'm shaken, through and through. I'm past ready for rest and so hungry.
Edward stopped for food when my stomach growled about half an hour outside of Forks. I was starving, but I hadn't been able to finish the tacos he bought me. I was too wound. Too caught up.
Grabbing them from the fridge, I take the foil wrapped food with my phone and a bottle of water into the living room. With a glance over my shoulder to the kitchen where my father is still on the phone, I place my stuff on the end table and turn the television on.
Slowly and so cautiously, I sit down onto the couch.
My legs burn. Between them whimpers and weeps. I grip the edge of the cushion tightly and bite my bottom lip through so many sharp little hurts.
When I'm finally able, I sit back and draw my knees up slow, slow, slowly to my chest.
I breathe. And breathe. And change the channel with the remote.
The time indicator glows in the corner. It's five after six.
I breathe. I press my hand over my chest. I steady slowly, just like time.
My phone buzzes on the side table.
It's six minutes after six. And it's Alice.
I hate him, her message reads. I motherfucking hate him.
My stomach drops and twists. Edward and I have been back a little over two hours, and either he just walked in or she's just now texting me.
I start to type back, ready to ask what's going on when another message from her makes me pause.
He's high as a fucking kite, it says. This is such bullshit.
I stare at the words on the screen. I don't know what to say. I feel sick inside. I braced myself for all of this, but I don't want to lie, and everything I think of to say is one.
Three minutes drag by. I offer the one thing that's as close to honest as I can get.
Want me to come over? Or come get you? Want to get out?
Because being there for her, being present, I can do. Listening, holding her hand, turning the music up and rolling the windows down to let air in and frustration out, those aren't lies. I can be a sounding board. I can make her not alone.
But my girl doesn't want that.
She doesn't want me.
I know, because her next text, two minutes later, reads: It's okay.
And I know.
I know she's either talking to Pete, or going to see him. Ally's lying best friend has been replaced with a lie of her own.
It is what it is, her next text says. There's nothing we can do anyway.
Mom gets home a little before seven thirty. I smile. I'm cool.
I tell her about a night at the roller rink with Alice that never happened.
"We bumped right into each other," I laughed, like I was remembering. "I fell right on my ass."
"Bella!" She's too caught off guard by my word choice to consider questioning what I actually said.
I laugh a little more. It's exactly not, but it sounds so real.
Ignoring little stretches and burns, I unbend my legs and rest my feet in mom's lap. I cuddle-bury my white-socked toes against her stomach.
"It's fine," I tell her easily. "I'm fine."
I don't know what time it is when I wake, but I feel like he's early. Like I just came up from where I'd fallen asleep downstairs and woke two hours later with Gramma's quilt over me. I feel like I only just texted him, the side door's unlocked. I feel like I just barely closed my eyes.
I blink for focus and catch his hands leaving my door handle. I think maybe the sound of locking is what woke me.
Turning onto my back as Edward turns to face me, I push my blankets down and pull my sleep tank off. He comes to me clean-shaved and shower-new too, wearing black low-tops and black basketball shorts. He's lit gold by my night-light and noticeably higher than when I last saw him. His eyes are all black, and I feel like I can see his pulse.
But I need this person. His presence. His weight.
I've needed him for hours.
Love talks to me with his hands around my knees, wordlessly turning and pulling me to the side-edge of my bed. I listen with my fingers under his white tee-shirt, pushing it up and off. I talk to him with my sting-burning legs, curving around and pulling his body to mine. He lets me. He gives me his so warm, so alive, so right weight, and I could die at the contact. It sets my heart rushing. It's too good, too needed to bear silently.
I pull a deep breath before Dusty's palm covers my open mouth. I grip his sides. I dig my fingers in and I arch.
He presses me down with more of his weight.
I push up with my whole body.
He gives me more.
I push so desperately against muscle and bone and pulse that I shake.
Edward drops his forehead from mine and buries his face in my shoulder, groaning so lowly I push and cling and beg with everything I have. He pins my hips under his and presses himself to me so hard I tilt my head all the way back. I turn and twist under his hand, and plead with natural, helpless little circles.
Please, please, please.
I want all of him. I want everything he is.
Granting enough space to move his free hand between us, he tugs my sleep shorts away. I push his down and we touch, and I bend, bend, bend.
My eyelids open wide, and I breathe hard through my nose while love presses and slides and parts my body to hold his.
I curve for him. I burn and circle and shake. I'm bare, scared, trembling-needy and lost in love. I'm pinned under undeniable love, and when he shifts, gripping my right leg just under my backside, making me open all the way, it's all I want in the world.
But, all the way isn't much, and I cry out behind his hand. I can't help it. I want him, but I feel softer, more tender to the touch than I ever have. He's not inside even slightly yet, but just being spread for him hurts.
Edward covers my mouth tighter and slows his pace. He tentatively takes his palm from my mouth and presses it into the bed above my shoulder. I pant the quietest deep breaths that I can
"Shhh." He shifts his hips. "Shhh," he whispers, lips to lips. "Shhh," he tells me, like a kiss.
I shhh and still, and will myself to be softly strong enough, and I feel him. I feel him sliding and pushing and trying too, and then he's there. He's right there, right where I need him, and it's too much. The pressure and hurt are impossible. Physically, literally... my body can't handle what love needs.
I cut a breath that tastes like blood and I shake my head as he angles his hips. I push at his shoulders and slide my heels along my sheets, trying to move. Edward slows down. He loves my skin with more shhhs and easy kisses. He tries to go so slowly, but I'm too swelled and sore to let him in.
I hold his face. "Stop, stop, stop," I whisper under his lips.
My boy freezes. His pulse is on fire and he's burning insistence and capability all around me, but he stops at my words. His eyes close, and he moans a drawn, aching sound and digs with both his hands. His right scrapes and fists bedding above my shoulder, and his left fingers grip the back of my leg tightly.
He needs me. He needs like I do, even though it hurts. Because it hurts.
"Let me," I tell him quietly, reaching between our hips.
I blink, trying to bring his face into focus. His eyes are clenched shut and his lips pout. His breathing is shallow and uneven at best. Love's gone from a found-look to lost-sounds.
"Shhh," I whisper now, touching him slowly, carefully with both hands.
His breath catches, and I feel his arms strain. I steady my left hand on his hip and my right around him. I love him with a single slow stroke, and when I reach his head, and rub him against where I can't open enough, his entire frame tenses.
He moans. I kiss him to cover the sound and wrap my left leg around his waist. I draw my hand back up and stroke him down to myself again, and it's not enough. It's not, but it feels so fucking good.
Barely holding his body above mine, Edward moves with my touch. He rocks against my hand and rubs against my softness, and I can feel when it's too much for him. When his arms and legs shake, and his rocking goes from smooth to instinctual, I struggle to press the sides of my knees into my bed, to open and accept.
"Love, love, love," I whisper, promise and beg, stroking, palming and sliding him between where I'm slick-soft, so susceptible, and so overwhelmingly full with only the head of him. "Love me, love, love, I love you, I love you..."
"Fuck," he pants. Airless. Falling. "Bliss, baby, baby..."
He comes hard and warm and everywhere. He comes inside me and all over, and he's breathing that he loves, he loves, he loves. He falls until he's found again, and I cling. And kiss. And return love with hums and whispers and soft touches. I hold on so tight while he push-slides against me so right, taking hold, and pulling me under with him.
Love is shirtless in his shorts, and I'm naked next to him. His head is on my chest, and my fingers are in his hair.
"He walked right by me." Edward's voice is warm on my skin.
"He didn't say anything?" I'm listening to him talk about his dad while he fills his heart with the sound of mine.
"No." He brushes his thumb back and forth over my belly button. His other arm is underneath and around, holding on. "He and Al are the same like that."
I know what he means. Ally's tongue gets sharp sometimes too, but not like Dusty's. Not like Esme's. Edward and his mother don't need to shout. Razor-words don't depend on volume. My best friend got her dad's temperament, though. There's no denying when they're pissed, but after that's made loudly clear, they walk. A turned back is the fuck-you of choice for Carlisle and his only daughter. I bet she walked right past the so-spun prodigal son, too.
I curl my fingers through so-long copper brown. Edward's shower-fresh and soft-faced, but his hair is still overgrown, and having your parents disregard you has to hurt, but he fucking worked for it.
There's no surprise in his tone while he talks. He sounds like it went exactly how he thought it would, like he knew his return, like his sins, would be ignored.
Trouble sighs over my heart, and his breath covers today's earlier bruise-marks. It's crazy to think that hours ago we were in a different city. We were a hundred miles from this place, ripping each other apart, and no one but us has any idea. There is so much between us that only Edward and I will ever know.
I swallow it down, but the weight of everything I'm taking to my grave has grown exponentially over the last day or so.
"It doesn't matter," Edward says, taking his arm from under me and turning onto his back. His head rests level with mine and he bends his knees. He pats his shorts where there are no pockets, but he wouldn't smoke in here even if he had his pack. It's just a habit.
I turn onto my side, tucking my burning legs under where his are bent. He looks up at nothing in particular. Maybe just the ceiling. Maybe not. He's here, but he's not. He's in his head, and he's quiet.
I look. I stay. I keep this moment warm for when he comes back.
Some minutes pass.
Edward curves his left arm up and under his head. He draws his right fingertips over blue-purple on my hip that's the same shape as his thumb.
I don't wince. It doesn't hurt at all. His touch is so light it almost tickles. Almost.
Love draws a slow circle around his mark. He swallows before he speaks.
"I told them I'd check into Shoreline, Bella."
His words are almost silent and they instantly give me hope I don't want. I swallow too and push optimism that never learns, down, down, down.
In Shoreline, a medium-sized city just outside of Seattle, there's a rehabilitation center called TLC. I've heard Esme and Alice mention it, and I've researched it on my own. It looks more like a posh hotel than a treatment facility, but results are promised.
Transition, motivation, stabilization – Intensive Phase I.
Relapse prevention, chemical dependency, development of a sober support network...
What the fuck are we going to do?
My head spins. I don't move, but I'm dizzy with uncertainty and fear, and stupid, stupid hope.
This is good, I think. This could be good. This should be good. But it could change so much. It's supposed to change so much.
Edward flattens his palm around my hip and sniffs, dragging his other hand down his face. He rests his fingers over his closed lips. He sniffs again, and out of all my aches, out of everything in me that stings and burns and yearns, in this moment, my heart feels it all the most.
I want this so much.
I want him clean, but his blue's been gone so long the thought of it feels unfamiliar and inaccessible. And say he does clean up, then what? Aside from us, I feel like Edward's given less thought to the future than even I have.
Curving closer, I move one arm under my boy's back like his was around me earlier. I drape my other arm over his chest and wrap around him, keeping him here.
We hold, and hold, and I try not to hope, but he started it.
And I really, really can't help it.
Three days later, sitting at my dressing table with Codes and Keys turned way up, I'm tapping my feet to piano beats and dusting shimmer across my eyelids. Dad's at work and Mom's at the library with this women's book club she joined last week.
It's Thursday, a little after ten in the morning, and I'm waiting for Ally to call. She said she would.
I could just go over anyway.
But, maybe it's more of a family thing.
But, I am family.
Today's the day.
Carlisle has court every morning this week, but when he gets home, they're all making the three hour drive to Shoreline together.
I go back and forth with myself about going and waiting while I pull a periwinkle bubble skirt up my legs and a white tube top over my head, tugging it high to keep my marks covered. Instead of curls or straightening, I let my hair air-dry because the July heat is going to have its way with it regardless.
I rock to my tiptoes and rotate my ankles. It tingles a little, but the ache in my legs and in-between is almost all gone.
"Home, home is a fire," Gibbard sing-says as I cross from my closet to my open door. Tucking my phone in my back pocket, I leave the music playing.
"A burning reminder of where we belong, love..."
I saw Edward for a little while last night. He came over well after three in the morning. It was late, but he was wide awake, and much closer to bitter than nervous about today than I was. And am.
"It's not even ten miles from Seattle," he told me, pushing, like a threat. "You know that, right? You know how easy it would be—"
He cut himself off.
We were in the backseat of the Lincoln, pajamas and jeans with holes in the knees. Bare feet and heavy Etnies. Sleepy blue-green and restless black. Pressed palms and fingertip touches. Kisses. So many, so-chaste and unsteadily given forehead, cheek and chin kisses asking for any and every assurance.
"You know I can't take my phone?" he asked a few seconds later, slighted and sour-sounding as he brought me up to his lap, cupping my face in his too-warm hands. I watched his eyes go from my mine to my nose, to my lips, my hair, and come back to my eyes.
"I can't even take reading material that isn't recovery related." He bit the last two words and pressed his lips tightly together. He shook his head, but his hands remained.
I covered them with my own and leaned my face closer to his. "I know," I told him gently.
Edward scoffed. "Do you? It'll be a month at least," he went on, still shaking his head. "It's not like..." His frustration was tipping. His nerves and his habit had his moods flipping quickly.
"I can't take my fucking phone, Bella."
He mentioned it twice.
And it is going to be hard not being able to reach him. Knowing he can't reach me.
But it's not like I don't know what a month without him feels like. And at least this way I'll know he's safe. I'll know she isn't within reach either.
"I know," I whispered, cupping his face too, wanting him to stop and look up. I needed his eyes on mine. I needed him to hear me. I brushed my thumbs along his cheeks, and dark brown stubble was rough under my palms. "I'm not going anywhere, Dusty. You'll never be without me. I swear."
He curved his fingers slowly around the back of my neck, gripping me tighter. He brought my face the smallest bit closer and the rest of my body followed.
"Can you do it?" he asked, searching my eyes as he brought our hips and stomachs together. He was hard, but he didn't press me down as much as closer, more near, completely against. He brought us exactly heart to heart and lowered his lashes. He licked his lips and his eyebrows wrinkled. "Can you live on nothing for that long?" he asked, low between hurt and nervous.
I didn't know what to say.
I didn't know if I could. I still don' t.
So, I borrowed words from him that had brought me comfort days before, because we had to try. We had to at least try.
"We'll make it work," I told him, wrapping myself tightly closer, even more near, most completely against. "I don't know how, but we will."
Edward swallowed and slid his hands down from my face. Holding me by my waist, he pressed my body to his, onto his hardness.
"I'm coming to get you," he said, tilting and kissing the side of my neck. "Before we go. I'm going to come get you."
Love tilted my mouth under his and kissed me deep, until that was that. There was no questioning his request. I didn't have a clue what I was going to say when I show up with him today, but I'll figure it out. For him, for us, for this, I'll try my hardest to make anything work.
In truth, it's the furthest concern from my mind. Tensions in Esme's Mercedeswill be high enough, and in reality, I grew up with Edward, too. I care about him, and if anyone needs more than that, I think well on my toes, anyway.
I have lived without him, differently, but I have. And I feel like this could be so good. I feel like... this is important.
I'm willing to try.
Downstairs, there's a bowl of fresh red nectarines and anjou pears on the kitchen table. There are plums too, and strawberries from Mom's garden.
I grab organic powdered sugar from the cabinet and two of the strawberries. I dip them one at a time, right into the bag. I think about my boy, crunching ice in his mom's kitchen almost a year ago, black-eyed and spiteful, and back home after killing me for two days over Kills tickets. I count broken desk chairs and think about his rebuilt how-many-times room. I think about the made-new basement below my bare feet, and about years of effortful marriage, and how do you do that? How does it work?
How do you not let love consume you whole?
Grabbing and dipping another strawberry, I think about calling Alice and just telling her I'm coming over now. That way, he won't have to come get me. I'll already be there, just like I should be. I'll be there for my best friend and I'll be there for love, and I won't have to explain anything.
I set the bag down and head toward the stairs because that's where my shoes and purse are, still in my room. I don't make it ten steps before I hear trouble's low rumble, hours before I expect him.
My heart flutters doubles. My stomach dips and does flips for the unknown. I listen for the horn or my phone as I step back to the kitchen, sealing the powdered sugar and putting it away. Hearing neither, I grab my keys from the post near the stairs and turn to get my things.
I'm one step up when knuckles tap the other side of the front door.
My heart flutters in triple.
What if my parents were here? Their cars aren't, but they could be in the garage—
Edward is reckless when he's anxious. He's one-tracked. I should probably be more wary of his inconstancy, but it's so him. And I sort of crave it. I kind of love it, and what kind of future does that lay plans for?
Keys in my left hand, I set the strawberry between my front teeth and open the door.
True love stands tall in brown cut-offs and a faded black Used tee-shirt from when he was sixteen. He starts with cut-short hair, new aviators and a clean shave, and ends with old, stepped-into low-tops, sockless and untied. He's showered-fresh and coke-straight, and he open-mouth laughs as soon as he sees me.
Remembering the strawberry between my teeth, I roll my eyes and bite down. I toss the green top outside, away from the porch while Edward quiets to a smile.
"Hi," he says, pressing his hands into the door frame on either side of me. He leans down and has to bend his knees a little because he's a good five or six inches taller than me when my feet are flat.
"Hi." I smile back, tiptoeing up.
"Hi," he says again, leaning his weight into the frame as he kisses me. Just once. Lips barely parted. Slick pretending to be innocent.
I lick my lips. I can taste my strawberry and his Crest, and it's too sweet.
"What are you doing here?" I ask curiously.
Edward nods behind me, toward the stairs, and steps inside, making me step back. "C'mon," he replies, cool and relaxed, leaving his shades on. "Go get your shoes."
I turn and start up the stairs, taking them in quick rhythm as he shuts the door and follows. I'm a few steps ahead, but I can feel him behind me. Energy, presence and proximity radiate.
"Where are we going?" I ask, glancing over my shoulder as we enter my room.
Edward picks nail polish up from my dressing table while I grab sandals. He reads the back of the light blue filled bottle and smiles.
I buckle my sandal and wiggle my bluebonnet baby toes.
"Port Angeles," he says casually, setting the bottle back down.
My stomach goes from flipping to falling, because I know.
I should have known.
Maybe I did know all along, but it doesn't matter. Either way, whether I knew or not, we're not going to TLC with his family.
But we are going somewhere.
I scrape my teeth over my bottom lip while Edward picks up an eye shadow compact. He looks it over for a few seconds as I stand on one foot to buckle my other sandal, but it's difficult. My bearings are all off now.
I hop on my left foot, trying to keep steady, and I end up closer to him. The punk motherfucker, all frustrating and disappointing and so out of place in my day-lit, girlie-girl room, laughs. He brushes hair out of my eyes while I hold onto his arm for balance.
"What's in Port Angeles?" I ask, refusing to keep my resentment from my voice. I secure the tiny buckle around my ankle and stand on my own.
Edward laughs, handing me the sunglasses from my table. I glance up at him before I put them on top of my head and step away to grab my purse.
"Absolutely nothing," he says. He smiles, but there's sharpened edge in his tone.
I raise my eyebrow and even though I don't understand, I take his hand, because it doesn't matter. I told him I wasn't going anywhere. I told him he'd never have to be without me, and I meant it. Shoreline was his idea, and he knows it made us all feel hope we were scared of. He may not realize how much, but he knows it affected me, and I want to believe wherever we're heading instead will mean something too.
"Miles and miles," he continues as we take the stairs hand in hand. "Of bullshit, small town nothing."
Then why are we going? I want to demand. Alice is going to be so mad when you're not home, and Esme—
I close my eyes and bite back the thought.
I try to breathe through my frustration and be patient for him to just fucking talk to me already, but I'm so mad. I'm so angry at him for making us all think we had a chance in hell.
We get down to the front door and I stop walking when he opens it. He turns from the sunshine outside to face me, and I slip my hand from his.
What? I ask him with my look, so furiously hurt that I'm scared my voice might break if I try to actually speak. I open my eyes wider and cross my arms. What the fuck are we doing?
Cynicism curves the left side of his smile up. Edward doesn't have to lift his sunglasses for me to know he rolls his eyes. He steps to me and takes my hand back.
" Peninsula College," he says. "That's what's in Port Angeles."
Love gives my hand a little tug. It's a light touch, one I could easily resist, but I don't. I step willingly. I lock my parents' front door behind us and drop my shades, following him to the Lincoln where he opens my door first.
I reach over and open his as he walks around.
Inside, I'm racing with thoughts of what his absence is going to do to his mother and father, of how much more ground it's going to give Alice's hatefulness. I'm wrapped around my own hurt and worries about what this means for us. I'm torn as usual, between my conscience and my heart.
He starts the car and drapes his arm across the bench seat.
"What are you going to tell them?" I ask as he glances over his shoulder, backing out.
Edward pouts his bottom lip and shrugs unguiltily. "The truth," he says, like it's that easy. Like what's the big deal? Like what's so fucking wrong with the truth?
I buckle my seat belt.
Almost an hour later, we've stopped for slushies, agreed to disagree on White Blood Cells versus Icky Thump, and taken two wrong turns. My boy laughs, but it's bent and sort of brackish, and it doesn't escape me that just because this isn't rehab, it's still nowhere near his first choice.
He's doing this for me. For us. He's staying here another year because he can't let me go that long, and I don't want him to.
And even if he had checked into treatment instead, who's to say that was going to last any longer than this? When I first realized we weren't going, I was crushed. It still kind of stings, but when the initial hurt wore off, I remembered that everything with Edward is a risk. Everything is vulnerable to his moods. He's staying. He's trying, so why not let him do it his way?
Thinking about the future in any capacity sets me on edge. It always does. My own. Alice's. Edward's. Ours. We can all make choices—we do every day—but there's so much we can't control. So much of what we choose is dependent on things other than our own wants and needs. And loving someone only increases those variables, because everything they want and need and choose affects you, too.
This is becoming more and more clear to me as my last high school summer passes. Alice wants me to go to California because that's what's right for her. My parents want me to go to UW because it's close and they want to keep me in range. And if Edward had his way, we'd leave right now. We'd drive right into the sun and never look back. Being together would be and is all that matters to him.
The only person taking any actual interest in what I want, in what's right and best for me, is Garrett.
"Have you thought about what to major in?" he asked a couple weeks ago, before Edward was back.
"Well, what do you like? It's all up to you, y'know? That's part of what's so cool about it."
It is cool to think about what I want, what I like, what I could be...
Across the middle seat, Edward takes my hand from my lap and brings it to his grin.
Then, I think, looking over at love as he kisses my left palm. Then, there's reality.
And instead of thinking about lounging on the beach with Alice between folklore and ancient mythology, or getting lost for hours on end in French poetry in some far away library, I'm thinking about what I could be that would make the most money.
Because facts are facts.
Edward's inheritance was huge for an eighteen year old, but there's no way it's going to carry us forever. Not even close. Especially with—
I stop that thought.
I have no idea what he wants to do, and that in itself is stressful enough when I think about it. So, maybe this whole college-classes-for-a-year thing isn't just okay. Maybe it's good. Maybe it will open ideas neither of us has had yet. Maybe it could be a really good thing too, if he gives it a real chance.
I look over at Edward as he turns into Peninsula's campus. We spot the main office, and I unbuckle my belt as he parks. He cuts the engine off and leans back, rubbing his nose with the back of his left index finger.
He sniffs. He can't help it.
His smile is still half-there, but he looks unsteady.
While my optimism h as been growing, his anxiety's been increasing.
I turn to face him, bending my leg under me while he pats his pockets and takes his pack out. He taps it against his left palm, but cigarettes aren't what he wants, and I know it.
She's in his other pocket. She's calling him. She's crying for his attention so loudly I want to tell her to suck my dick.
I blow a breath out and look around the semi-crowded parking lot, weighing pros and cons silently.
If he doesn't use, he'll be twitchy and distracted, and so quick to flip both his middle fingers. And if he does use, he'll be detached, condescending, and all the more audacious.
I take another breath in slowly, hating how unable I am to make the decision. Both options are twisted fucking sick, but we can't change where we are now, and if I, sober, can't tell him which choice is better, how can I expect him, spun, to know what's right?
All I can do is be here.
All I can do is support him no matter what.
Edward's eyes are out the window while he continues packing his cigarettes. I smile softly, sincerely. This decision is his, and either way, so am I.
"I'm going to go inside and grab a number or a place in line, or something," I tell him, in love and loyal-hearted, willing to accept him in any condition as long as he's there for me to accept.
"I'll see you inside?" I ask gently. "Unless you want me to wait?"
"You're okay," Edward says, looking over and smiling tightly, like he wants to, but doing so pinches.
I lick my lips. I need chapstick. I need a drink. I need something for my nerves, too.
"Okay," I say softly. I move onto my knees and lean over to kiss his cheek before I get out.
Nine minutes, six excuse me's, and one clipboard sign-in later, I'm sitting in a lobby with my legs crossed and my purse in the orange plastic chair next to me. I'm swinging my dangling foot a little nervously and unwrapping a roll of SweeTarts when one of the double glass doors to my right opens. I feel my heart before I see him. I turn, and the wind blows his tee-shirt against his skinny side. For a second the sun makes his skin shine.
Inside, Edward walks toward me, leering at skirts and ties as he passes. He doesn't lift his shades or unsmirk his lips for anything, and I know he used. I don't need to lift his sunglasses to prove it, but when he moves my purse and sits down next to me, I reach for them anyway.
He lets me. He doesn't stop me anymore, but when I nudge his aviators to his forehead, his smirk tightens up. His jaw tenses a little and his eyes narrow.
I don't look away. I remind myself that either choice he'd have made would have been hard. I keep my eyes open and let his pierce because he's here. He didn't bail, and that's fucking small, but it's something.
It's not really okay, but what is?
I take Edward's hand and curve my lips around sorely impossible wishes.
"We're number twenty-three," I tell him, recrossing my legs and resting the side of my foot against his calf.
"What number are they on?" he asks in turn, low-toned and turning slightly, stretching his legs out. Our contact holds and even increases a little while Edward brushes his thumb over the top of my hand.
"Fifteen," I say with a shaky breath in, hoping so hard the wait isn't long.
Edward just laughs, mostly breath underneath more breath. He nods. He checks out the room and the people around us.
"Okay," he says easily, not letting go of my hand.
It's been a little more than twenty minutes, but you'd think we've been sitting in these cheap plastic chairs for hours.
The secretary lady just called number twenty one, and my crooked love is ready to walk. His left heel tap, tap, taps on the tiles. He keeps shifting in his seat, and he hasn't put my hand down. He's tracing my knuckles, my cuticles, and the lengths of my fingers like maps, but his touch is absentminded. His dark eyes dart and wander, and his breathing is anything but a pattern.
But we're so close.
"Hey," I whisper, covering his skin-and-bone-blueprint-tracing fingers with my own.
Edward tilts his head toward me to listen, but he faces forward. His eyes don't focus and his heel doesn't stop.
I trace his knuckles like he did mine while he rearranges our fingers, interlacing them together. Him, over me, over him. I lean in so I can whisper. I lean so close my nose and lips brush his arm.
Love smells like Tide and vanilla and warm, warm summertime.
"Do you remember when I didn't know you were in the bathroom, and I opened the door?" I ask quietly.
His fingers trace and his heel taps, but he turns his head. He gives me his ear, but I need more. I need him to really hear me. I need him here.
"You pulled me in with you, remember?"
The corner o f his smile twitches and I know he's remembering setting me on the counter and touching my knees. I know he's remembering stepping between them and tugging at my dress, feeling my legs and telling me to stay away from the most harmless boy ever.
"I knew then," I tell him quietly, holding his hands, listening for his heart. "I didn't understand, but I loved how it felt to be with you. I wanted that. I wanted more..."
I pause with a quick breath in as Edward moves his hand with both of mine to where my right leg is bent over my left. He presses between and I open, letting him cover the top of my knee before I cross my leg over his hand.
His heel keeps tapping, but he shifts, leaning a little further back in his chair.
I breathe out against his sleeve and back in with him. "I didn't know what to do with my hands," I whisper, "but I wanted you..."
Edward sits up, nudging my right leg from my left. I play it off, and he squeezes my knee, and I know I'm playing with fire. I know it, but I need his focus here. I need him to not walk away.
"Twenty-two," the secretary calls, prompting a mother and daughter to our left to stand and shuffle.
I only have his profile, but I see love's nostrils flare and his jaw tick. He swallows, and breathes through his nose. His eyes close and his left heel has stopped tapping.
My left knee though, under his grip, has started.
Seven minutes later, we were called back.
Mr. Hughes, the counselor person for matriculating students with last names from A to E, keyed in paperwork Edward filled out, printed some more paperwork out for him, and sent us down the hall, to a computer lab.
Edward's focus is misplaced though. He's got his hands in my hair and his eyes on my legs. We're sitting down in front of this computer, enrolling him in school, making choices, and he's not paying a stitch of attention to his future.
Not that I blame him. I don't. I want to ditch all this serious business for his backseat just as badly as he does, but here we are. He just wants to play ball for a year, but he has to take classes in order to do that. He chose this. We're here. We have to try.
How will we ever know if we don't try?
"Look," I tell him quietly, moving the mouse over all the different entry level classes.
He doesn't. He stays slouched back in his chair and doesn't look up from where his fingers are curling 'round and 'round my summer-blonde ends.
I swallow, turning to face him. "This is important, Edward," I say, pointing to the screen when he finally looks up. "What do you want to do?"
He smiles, half-sly half-careless. He scans the screen for a second, but his eyes are all mine.
"Be with you," he says, lifting my hand from the mouse and kissing the open bend of my arm.
My heart flip, flip, flutters and the precious-soft place between my legs feels no pain. None. Just need. Just want. Just now.
I push him away with a huff. I seek composure. We just have to get this done. "English?" I suggest, looking back at the computer, trying to ignore my pulse.
"Fine," he whispers, leaning in and kissing my neck. His voice is soft and his lips are softer, and he knows. Love always knows. Love is knowing.
I click on English Composition 101 and scroll down the page, kind of looking, tilting my head just the littlest bit so he can kiss higher. I blink slowly. My heart beats.
"Be serious," I say quietly.
Edward places another kiss just below my earlobe. I feel him smile. I hear him breathe in as his lips curve up right before he asks:
My pulse, pulse, pulsing heart swells like a scream in my chest. I try to swallow but I can't close my mouth because what?
Edward can't even keep his shit together long enough to enroll in school, and he's somehow going to last an entire engagement? A ceremony? A marriage?
And like this? This is how he asks me?
Love tries to turn my chair to face him. I don't want to freak out, but I am freaking out. Against logic and everything experience has taught, my swelled-full heart longs and feels like it blooms. How unsound and irrational the idea of marrying him is pales in comparison to how much I want i t.
My ring on his finger.
His last name next to my first.
Him, promising, vowing, holding and kissing me in front of our families and friends.
For everyone to know and not laugh, or judge, or fight... but to just be there in joyful support.
To look up at Edward, blue-eyed and forever-swearing himself to me.
Black eyes and so many lies squeeze my bloom-like-heart. I feel it writhe, because we can't.
How can we?
I can't fucking do this right now.
It's everything that I can do just to force my lips together, swallow hard, and push Edward away. I roll my eyes and make a scoff sound like he's beyond crazy, because he is, and start reading the first thing I see.
"Statistics? You'll need that if you want to transfer to a -"
"Sure," he interrupts, shaking his head, looking down at our feet, and I know. I've lost him. "Pick whatever. I'll take whatever you choose."
I have no idea how we made it through the rest of enrollment. The next thing I know, we're in the back of the Lincoln pulling at belt loops and pushing at light blue bubble-cotton.
We're burning up, and I can't stop playing with fire.
"Ask me again," I tell him, bone-shaken and breath-stolen, pulse-throbbing and desperately out of control. We haven't been able to be together since we've been back. I've been so sore. My body hasn't allowed us, but here and now, yearning consumes. Necessity urges. Love pleads, and needs, and requires too deeply to be denied.
Edward leans up from where he's above me and takes my top with him. He creases his eyebrows, confused looking while daylight coming through the windows makes him squint.
I return him to me, keeping him close where no one can see us. I kiss his lips, and he opens, kissing me hard, and so sincerely deep it almost hurts.
Arching, I press and slide myself along his half-unbuttoned fly. I pull at his belt, greedy like a flame for him.
"Ask me again," I whisper once more against his lips, holding his face while our semi-undressed hips rock together.
My half-undone boy squeezes his eyes closed. He breathes through his nose like it hurts and grips at the seat, the door, and my arms to steady himself. He looks like struggling, like drowning.
"I want you so much," he says lowly and painfully, stripped and straining like he's admitting, confessing. "I've always fucking wanted you, Bliss."
He settles our bodies together, pressed and firm and completely covering. "Always, always, always," he whispers against my cheek, kiss, kiss, kissing his way to my neck.
I wrap my arms and legs, and glow so hot I think I could die under this touch. I want this so much. I want him forever.
"Ask me," I demand almost silently, kissing his flushed-pink cheek, his creased-up forehead, his cut-short-again hair.
Edward moans into the bend of my shoulder and lifts his weight long enough for our hands to work together. I hold his arms and part my legs wider for him as he slides and slides, and soaks, and soaks, and finally presses himself against me. I find his low-hooded eyes and fasten mine to soul-baring black as he brings his right hand to my face. Sort of cupping my jaw, he places his thumb in the corner of my parted lips, making my mouth open, open, open to give him the sound he covets most as he pushes into me.
Love burns just like fire: inescapably, and inevitably. Our half-heart carrying bodies are its natural habitat, and unity that devours is its proper fate. We are nothing if not grateful, devoted and wholly impassioned kindling.
"Marry me," Edward whispers from inside. His voice is scratchy-soft in his throat, so like smoke as he starts to move. He doesn't lift. He just rocks, deeper and deeper.
I blink. I breathe. I lift.
I grip. I open more. I need more.
It hurts so much. It feels so good. It's dark and hot and deep, and red, red, red.
"Marry me," he says again, shifting his hand from my jaw to the back of my neck, tilting my head, using his hold for leverage as he pulls back just to drop his hips harder.
I close my eyes and call his name.
I bend my back and raise my hips, gripping his neck and shoulders so tightly he hisses. But I don't let go. I clench my fingertips in, and doing so gives me what I want. It makes him fuck me.
Never, ever enough.
We fuck until we're red-cheeked and sweating. Until I'm trembling and his hand is over my mouth because I'm screaming. Until I know someone, somewhere has to know what's going on and has surely called security by now, but I don't care. I don't. I can't even. There's nothing in the world but how right this feels.
"Give me your hand," Edward pants, kiss-bitten lips hot against mine as he moves his palm away. He rests his heavy forehead on my own while he digs, and digs, and digs for home.
I blink and breathe quick, too-small breaths, moving with him. I bring my shaking hands up from his sides and hold his face.
He shakes his head though. He closes his eyes and tight little frustration lines crease together between his eyebrows. "Give me your life, B," he whispers, digging and reaching and finally finding.
Flickers tingle and tighten in my stomach. My fingers and toes all curl, and there isn't a single part of me that doesn't glimmer and throb and rush with my pulse.
Love feels. Love knows.
Love is home.
"Marry me," he prays, nestling so deeply, pressing and rubbing and losing himself all the way inside. "Give me your heart, Bliss. Give me your soft, precious little heart, baby..."
It's not enough, but it's too fucking much.
"Marry me," he asks again, killing me with forehead and temple kisses while I come apart underneath him. Around him. For him.
I can't answer, but he doesn't stop.
"Give me your soul," love whispers, over and over and over. "Marry me."
Just like Edward expected, Peninsula classes were a passable replacement for rehabilitation. Esme accepts her son's choice with more wine and new prescriptions, while Carlisle endures by spending more time at the office. They don't like it, but they allow it.
Their daughter, as usual, is a different story. Alice does not accept, nor does she pretend to for anyone, even for a minute.
"Cocaine," she says, declaratively disgusted and loud, loud enough that I know her brother hears her down the hall. "Seriously?" she says even louder, her volume increasing with caustic sarcasm as she sifts through mail on her desk.
It's August eleventh and a few minutes after noon. The air conditioning is set on on fucking freezing, but we're in swimsuits under shorts and long sleeves. She's wearing a fluorescent green zip hoodie and has her purple-pink-sea foam green hair pulled into a messy bun on top of her head. The bite marks over my heart are faded, but still visible. I had to buy a new bikini with a tank-style top to keep them hidden.
Sitting on her unmade bed, I tug my cardigan sleeves down around my hands and pull the two open sides together, over my chest while Ally tosses issues of Spin and AP to the floor. She drops all her other mail in fact, save for a large, cream-white envelope.
"Really ?" she squeaks, every bit as loud as she was just a moment ago, but excitement-filled now instead of frustration-edged.
The envelope she turns and tears open is stamped with a UCLA blue and gold emblem, and I know what's inside it. It's not thick enough to be an acceptance packet, but I know. I know they want her. While my best friend was doing my homework when I was constantly up too late, she was also slaughtering her own, and then some. My girl has scholarships coming to her like crazy.
Alice jumps up and squeals, laughing out loud while she reads the letter. Sure enough, it is a scholarship. They do want her. Of course they do. She'll get others too. For all of her decadent insanity, baby bright is brilliant.
"Oh, my fucking holy... fucking shit... yes!" She beams. She fist-pumps with the letter in her right hand, and shimmy dances her pride and joy like a neon maniac.
I laugh with her. I smile and clap, and love her, and really, truly am happy for her.
"It's not nearly enough," she says, looking over the letter again, "but, it's a start."
I'm thrilled for her. I am, but I know what comes next.
"Have you filled out your applications yet?" she asks, sitting down at her computer, clicking and searching, and clicking some more. "If you apply to all of them, we can just choose one together."
I press my lips together and pick her Rolling Stone up off the floor.
"Not yet," I say, lying back on her bed, holding the magazine above me.
"Baby," she starts impatiently, turning around to face me.
"I will," I tell her before she can finish. "I haven't yet, but I will. I promise."
Not a lie.
I'll fill out applications to huge west coast universities for her, but I'll do so knowing I won't get in, and knowing further that even if I do, I'll never be able to afford it. My grades aren't bad by any means, but they're not Alice's. I haven't pushed myself like she has, not for school.
I let my mind wander to the boy down the hall, and I cross my legs just to feel the sting.
Love is finding comfort in love-made soreness. Love is assurance in a so-familiar ache.
Love is still feeling him, two days later.
"Okay, but like, soon," Al says, still looking at me. Seriousness has sharpened her glad voice. "Like, the sooner the better," she continues. "Like, c'mon, let's do it right now."
I roll my eyes. I laugh.
I do not want to do this.
"I thought we were going to the beach," I remind her as I sit up, hiding every tiny little hurt that comes with doing so, knowing already I'm not getting out of what she wants.
"The beach can wait, princess kid. This is our future."
No, this is your future.
I bite my tongue.
"Are you..." Alice starts to ask something, then stops mid-question and gets up from her chair.
"What?" I ask, confused and crinkle-eyed, and more than slightly anxious as she walks toward me.
Then, she's reaching, tugging my cardigan open and pushing my swim tank down.
Panic replaces all my blood.
I flip out. I push at her and pull at my clothes, wincing through all the stings that struggling with my best friend brings.
No. No. No.
My girl laughs. I'm on my back with every defense I have all the way up, fighting frantically to cover the marks over my heart, and she's laughing.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Ally asks above me, jaw dropped, cracking up, fierce.
I have my hands on hers and I'm trying so hard to stop her prying, and keep her away from my bruises, but she's wiry and wriggly, and stronger than me. Like it's nothing, Alice tugs her right hand free from mine and pokes her pointer finger right into the bruise on my chest.
Like, spitefully fucking hard.
"Alice!" I scream, louder than she did earlier. I push her off me and sit up, pulling both sides of my sweater all the way together, wishing I could wrap it completely around my whole self. I wish I had a hood I could pull up. I wish I could curl into a ball.
I'm shaken and anxious-scared, and what the fuck?
Al sits up too, still laughing. It's a real laugh, but there's bitterness underneath it. It's in her blues when she looks me over, studying me.
"You dirty, secret-keeping little freak," says one to talk, tugging the edge of my cardigan over my shoulder like she's looking for others.
I pull away. My mark throbs and burns. I feel violated.
Alice shakes her head. "Are there more?" she asks, incredulous. "Are you fucking Garrett?"
I laugh loudly.
"No," I say, swinging my legs over the side of her bed, trying to focus on that hurt instead. I rub my bite-bruise through sweater-soft cotton in an effort to soothe the hurt out. "No." I say it again and shake my head, like Garrett would ever touch me with his teeth, in a million years. Like he's even capable of such a mark.
"It's okay," Alice tells me, her tone softer, even maybe a little bit apologetic. "You can tell me," she says. "I won't be mad."
She's so much like her brother sometimes it's outrageous.
"I'm not," I assure her. My legs scream as I stand up, but I don't let it show. I guess I should be thankful we're not talking about the future anymore, but now I just want to go home. I want to run down the hall, crawl under his blankets, hide in his arms and sink into love's pitch dark, so hot heartbeat.
Home, home, home, my pulse drums, loud and demanding in my ears. I breathe to calm it, but it only half-works, just like I expect it to. It won't settle until I'm home again, and I know it.
"You really can tell me, Bliss," Ally insists. She's behind me and I can't see her face, but her tone is even more genuine now. I know she means it, and that's what makes it so fucked up. There's so much she's not telling me that she really could too.
"The truth shall set you free," she offers with an audible smile.
I snort. My mark still hurts, and I swallow the urge to turn around and say out with it then. Tell me you're blowing your brother's best friend and have been for how long now?
I stand instead and lean into love's burn.
"Truth," I say. "I am so not fucking Garrett.
Not a lie.
Alice smiles. "Okay," she replies easily, standing up too. "Good," she continues. I raise a brow while she grabs her sunnies and steps into her Vans without socks. She grabs my hand. "You're my girl today. No boys."
I smile. I mean it. I'm relieved and I'm glad.
Then she kisses my cheek, giggling under her breath.
"Don't make me mark you too, baby Bliss."
The last three weeks of summer pass a lot like that day.
Alice and I don't talk about what my heart marks meant or what they made her think and feel, but her finding them shows in our friendship. It's in her wanting to hang out one on one more than before. It's her hand in my back pocket when we walk side by side on the beach, and her foot hooked around my ankle when we sit on her mom's living room floor. She tells me she loves me more often and reminds me I can tell her anything. She's a mix of possessive protection, constant curiosity, half-honesty, and attachment.
She wants me to talk, but never presses when I hold back, and I know it's because she's keeping a secret too. It's this really weird mix her wanting to know I'm loved, and simple resentment, and I can't blame her. There's almost nothing I know better than that combination. The other half of my heart makes me feel the exact same way.
He's still here. He's dark eyed and he goes out a lot, but he hasn't left since we returned from Seattle.
We're every bit as much a secret as we ever were, but it's… different. The pull has existed for as long as I can remember, but I lean into it more often now, most of the time without even thinking. Our work used to be in finding ways to steal looks and touches, but I gravitate with love now. I feel love wholly, and that's come to mean less trying to sneak, and more being constantly careful not to reach for my soul every time he's near.
As August stretches out, we see one another when we can. I work on summer assignments in the meanwhile and talk to Mom about the books she's reading. I sun my days in La Push with my girls, and fill out every application she sends me, but there are places that definitely feel more like me to me than anywhere she's shown me in California.
Whitworth in Spokane.
Saint Martin's in Lacey.
Northwest in Kirkland.
Miles from fucking, I sat with Garrett last Tuesday at his mom's kitchen table, laptops side by side, eating fruit roll-ups while he helped me look and find places I might like, programs that drew my interest.
"You don't have to know yet," he said when I told him I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do. "It's okay," he shrugged and smiled. "It's okay not to know."
The paint streaks on his black cut-offs were ocean-blue and new-grass-green. His smile was calm and unpresuming, and his tone was as truly patient as ever.
"You can go in undecided. Maybe just start with what feels right to any part of you and go from there."
So, I did. We did.
We took virtual tours of a few different schools and in narrowing it down, I realized I liked smaller, closer-knit campuses and the thought of classes that were more discussion-based than lecture-driven. I liked that these same, smaller, private colleges also offered more grants and tuition negotiation. And Northwest is so, so pretty.
It's also close enough that Edward could come, and we could figure things out much easier than we could in California.
Mom was excited when I told her about it. She wants to make plans for a visit in a few weeks. I wasn't lying when I told her I'd like that.
I have yet to tell Alice any of this.
Pushing tops and dresses around in my closet, I tap my bare foot on my carpet. I've been trying stuff on and not finding anything I want for almost an hour. Fat curlers are in my hair and hard at heated-work, and I'm still standing here in black lace and dark maroon demi-cups.
I breathe out.
Letting alone everything after graduation, the coming school year itself has me more than kind of uncertain feeling. I start my senior year the day after tomorrow, and it's going to be so different with the boys gone. They're still here now; nothing's over yet, but Ben is leaving for UW next week. Pete's spending all his days working with Easy, in his car shop on the edge of town, and my boy's going to be driving to and from Port Angeles on the daily. I don't know what Vic and Mixie are going to do, and while their absence is more than welcome, it's also going to be... strange.
Kim and Charlotte will still be there, though. Rose and Leah, and my secret-keeping best girl. Garrett will be there. It will just be so different with no locker notes or stolen white milk, no hooligans with their hoods up in the hallways, no punks watching my back, and I can't help but wonder if everyone else feels it, too.
I breathe in, pushing more clothes around, frustrated with everything I own.
In not even two days, the beginning of our end is going to start bright and early, but here and now, I'm stuck on tonight.
It's Saturday afternoon, August thirtieth, and it's Carlisle's birthday.
Esme is going all out as usual. She's having Le Fou Frog catered in, and the back yard is going to be filled with their friends, minus my parents, who aren't going because Gramma and Grampa are here for the weekend.
Mom's letting me out for the night on the condition I'm home for breakfast Sunday morning, which is Mom-speak for I'd really like it if you were here tonight. She didn't actually say that though; so, we'll see.
I sigh. I wish I was getting ready with Alice. I texted her this morning, but I haven't heard from her all day. For as much as she hates her brother's habit-black eyes, she apparently doesn't mind his best friend's.
I shift my weight on my feet and bite my pointer fingernail. You don't know that, I think. You don't know that's where she is. And if she is, so what? Maybe she's good for Petey. Maybe he's stronger than Edward. Maybe he's actually willing to quit for his girl.
This brings no comfort.
It's all so messed up. Everything about everything is ridiculously convoluted and so, so, so not fair.
Stepping away from my closet, I grab my phone.
This world's an ugly place, I type out and send to Edward.
I sit down at my vanity and stretch my legs out, wiggling my bare toes against the carpet. I'm brushing powder across my cheeks when my phone vibrates.
But you're so beautiful to me.
It doesn't change the world, or any part of anything really, but it does make me smile, and that helps.
My phone vibrates again on my way back to my closet.
You should come over, his text says.
And it doesn't matter that it's still hours before the party, or that I don't know what to wear, or that my girl hasn't called and invited me yet.
Love says I should, so I do.
The catering van is parked across the street and there are two other cars parked in front of the house. Esme's and Carlisle's cars are in the garage, and Ally's Jeep is nowhere to be seen.
I pull in where no one will question, right next to the Lincoln.
I smooth down my honey and sunshine plaid dress as I get out, pushing my curls back with one hand and carrying Carlisle's card in the other.
Petrified about turning forty-five? the front reads.
Relax, the inside finishes. You're not a fossil yet!
It's a few minutes after four, and the end of August is warm, but it's sort of cloudy. The breeze blows through my dress while my little black ankle boots click, click, click across the driveway. The porch swing tightens my chest as I step, step, step, but I swallow. I breathe. I've become a professional-expert-virtuoso-wizard-Jedi Master of just breathing.
Exhaling steadily, I turn the handle and the door's unlocked, just as I expected it to be. I don't hesitate to open it.
The Cullen house smells like warm bread and fresh flowers. Esme's walking by with two kind of, sort of big gift boxes when I step inside.
"Hi, sweetheart," she says, stopping and smiling a smile that could melt ice caps. It curves my own up effortlessly. "Alice isn't home yet, but Edward's around here somewhere. Want to help me with these?"
"Sure." I tuck Carlisle's card into my purse and take the box on top. I follow Esme through the living room and kitchen, and out the back door.
Lantern lights that don't yet glow hang from the awning and around the gazebo. We set the boxes on one crisp-white linen covered table, and there's another table with hors d'oeuvres, and another of wines, some chilling, some not. White folding chairs line up here and there, and there's another smaller table where Esme tells me the cake will go.
I smile. Smooshed chocolate birthday cake.
Where's my best friend?
How in the world did we get here?
"That's good," I tell her. "Everything looks really amazing."
"Thank you, Bliss," she says, one-armed hugging me and kissing my forehead while she opens the patio door to let us back in.
"I need to help finish setting up and go get ready. You know this house is your home." She opens her hand toward the kitchen and gives me a wink before heading back to the living room.
I don't see anything heavy left to be carried or moved anywhere. So, Edward is probably in his room.
I take my time peeking through the kitchen on my way. There are no dirty dishes or any paperwork piled up. It's spotless-perfect, just like it used to be, just like before.
There are, however, a few small boxes on the counter next to the sink, and I know there's candy in them. Pretty sure everyone else is in the backyard, I'm opening one of the boxes and reaching for a dark chocolate nonpareil when I feel him.
I know he's close. I've always known, but it's stronger now. More than just my heart, my entire body, from my fingertips to my toes, senses his proximity.
Smiling to myself, I reach in and take a tiny-pretty piece of chocolate. I stand still. I let my presence make him come to me.
Enclosing trouble doesn't lift his heels as he walks. He takes his time across the tiles. His steps sound like an at-ease siege.
I turn on instinct. Leaving my hands on the counter behind me and my lower back leaned against it, I face him. And when I do, I'm so glad I did. Lawlessness on long legs looks so good in a plain white tee and dark slim denim.
With each unhurried step, Edward's nearness draws mine. His eyes are lightless, but they're zeroed in. I'm all he sees, and his focus grips like I know his pocketed hands want to. His regard is all over me, and his look is just like his kiss. Dark. Spreading. Territorial.
My heart tickles and my legs tingle. My lips curl just a little, but I keep most of my cool.
Edward half-smirks, half-purses his lips. He stalks with a saunter and slowly closes our distance with a sense of certainty and pride that even Ares couldn't get away with. And I know. I know I'm in too deep. I know it. Just this boy's walk lays knowing-better out, and sweet-fucks it with every unrushed step.
I lick my so-ready-to-smile lips as I look up. "Hi, swag," I tease, meeting his black with confidence that matches his own.
He laughs a little. His Adam's apple shows the air it takes, and his lips curve into a full grin. For as different as so much feels, he's the same as he's ever been when he looks at me, all disorder and daring, all barely buried craving. He's still trouble. He's still too wrapped up and bound to stay away.
My hoodless-hoodlum smiles higher, playfully lowering his lashes over shameless, undernourished and needful black as he stops close to me, tilting his head down over mine.
"Hi, sway," he says quietly.
I smile sky-high. I maybe giggle, just like a kid.
Love can't even help it.
Hours later, we're all on Edward's floor, sore-cheeked, low-lidded and smoke-surrounded. We can't stop laughing for anything.
To my left, Dusty's sitting against the foot of his bed with his head leaned against his mattress, lazy-laid-back grin easily and not insincerely in place. He looks good. He sounds good. He smells good, but I don't let my senses pull me too close.
Semi-across from me, Pete has the blunt. He's cracking up so hard he has to pause the story he's telling every few seconds because he can't not laugh. To my right, Ben's laughing twice as hard and blushing even harder. He's falling over and covering his open-mouth, whole body amusement with both hands.
I'm in my spot between my boy's nightstand and bed, cracking up, too. I can't help it, Pete's embarrassing Benny something crazy, and it feels so good to laugh like this.
Things are different here too now. Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber are taller. Their voices are deeper. Their mischief is dirtier and their eyes are darker. Not as dark as Edward's; they may not have used today, or in a few days even, but she's in them. Just like she is in him. Pete's keeping secrets now, and who knows? Maybe even Ben is. We're not the same, but we're still us, and we're here. We're together, and it feels so good to be here, just like we used to be.
There's another difference in the room, and it shouldn't bother me. It shouldn't make me feel awkward or out of place, because this has always been my place, but it does. And I don't understand why, but it feels like an even more complicated change than any of the others.
Across from me, next to Pete and holding the bottle of rum we're all sharing, Alice laughs too, and it's so fucking weird.
She's my best friend. Her presence should never be weird, but it really, really is.
Petey puff-puffs and passes Ben the blunt. Ally pull-pulls and passes the bottle to her brother.
I hadn't been here very long, maybe half an hour or so before the boys showed up. We'd already smoked one blunt between the four of us, and were downstairs dipping into Esme's fridge and pantry when we heard the front door open.
Alice stepped inside with sweat on her forehead and her board under her arm. Her purple ponytail was wind-tangled and her baby blues looked heavily thoughtful.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, looking right at me. Not mad. Not bad. Just confused.
Peanut butter in one hand and a spoon in my other, I shrugged. "I was bored. Where have you been?"
"Just riding," she said easily, also shrugging.
Maybe it was the pot, maybe not, but everything felt really awkward.
For about two seconds.
Ben opened the fridge behind me then, and tossed my girl a can of beer. She caught it with both hands. And just like that, the tension broke.
"I'm going to go shower." She smiled, wiping her forehead with the back of her forearm as she turned toward the stairs.
I giggled. Not because anything was super funny, but because she was taking her beer with her to shower. Pushing the peanut butter and my spoon into Pete's hands, I took off to follow pink wheels and sweat-tangled purple.
"I'm coming too!" I called.
And it was fine. We were fine. We were good, as good as we could be anyway.
"Wait, wait, wait," Alice says, holding her hand up, looking at her brother and Pete. "Remember that Saturday when we were having breakfast, and Ben called at like eight o'clock in the morning to tell you he got his first pube?"
All of my friends laugh harder.
I do too, even though I wasn't there for that. Even though my girl is making this kind of, sort of, not so comfortable for me I laugh too, because that's what we do when people are watching. We go with the flow.
And because I'm high.
It's hard not to laugh at just about everything when you're princess-pie-in-the-sky high, as Ben said earlier.
So I do. Even though with every second, deep down, I wish she'd go to sleep and let me have this, I laugh and I breathe, and I'm me. I'm Alice's best-friend-Bliss in the one place I've never really had to be.
And even though I shouldn't, even though it's not her fault, with every second I resent her a little bit more for it.
I want to help it, and I can't.
My unease doesn't finally let all the way go until it's almost four in the morning and I'm wrapped in love's arms.
The boys all went out for a little while, but when Edward came back, I left his sister passed out in her bed for a cream-soda float and his open right hand. Next to us in the grass now, the float goes untouched, but we do not.
Stars light us and the early morning breeze kisses my skin while our arms circle, and our heavy heads lean - mine back against his chest and his on my crown. I hear early birds waking and calling good morning to one another. I smell rain.
We don't speak, not about the doubt and disappointment that hardened his black when I mentioned Northwestern earlier, before his friends showed, and not about how crazy I felt having his sister in our bubble. We don't talk about the future, or the past, or the ever intricately and impossibly more-fucked-up-by-the-day present. We don't fill the precious little time we have with unworthy words.
We just lean.
We just hold.
We just love.
I start to drift just as the sky starts to glow. Edward presses a kiss to my temple, and I know we have to go soon. I know, but I nestle back into him anyway, all smoke and vanilla, and a heartbeat that's so like home I want to tuck myself into it.
"I have to be back at my house by breakfast," I tell him, rubbing my nose over the left of his chest, letting fabric softener, clean cotton, and his pulse tickle my senses.
My boy nods, wrapping his arms a little tighter. He kisses the top of my head and I don't want to go.
"Grits and granola, and veggie bacon await me." I make a grossed out sound against his chest, wrapping my arms over his, holding him holding me. "Who the fuck eats veggie bacon?"
Edward's sternum vibrates with his laugh. I love it. He kisses the top of my head again, and I close my eyes.
Just a few more minutes.
Just a little bit more.
"Take some chocolate cake with you," he says.
I giggle over his heart.
Bad choices, I think to myself.
For as twisted as everything is, for as much as so much has changed, some things never do.
The important things never do.