Thank you for all the lovely reviews! They made me so happy that I thought I'd go ahead and post part two!
Thank you to Cared for rec'ing this on Fic Sisters today, and to Ed Mazin for the shout out on The Lemonade Stand! love you ladies!
I tinkered a little with this before posting, and added a few bits in that have not been read over by the beta... any mistakes are mine.
So, here's part two, and I hope you enjoy...
We get a Starbucks and end up wandering through Central Park. He gets an iced cappuccino and I get a chai tea latte - hot, because cold tea and coffee - just no. Especially on a day like today.
We sit on a bench in the Conservatory Garden and I listen while he talks about art. There's a chill in the air and I pull my coat tighter around me. Edward was wearing just a t-shirt on the train, but pulled a hoodie out of his backpack after we exited the subway station. Still, I wonder how he isn't freezing without a proper winter coat on. At least his head is warm with that beanie on.
Typical of February in New York, there is snow on the ground and the frigid air nips at my cheeks. Edward's face is flushed from the cold, and I can see every breath he exhales as he speaks.
Edward tells me that he works as a bartender in a trendy bar on Madison Avenue by night, and goes to school by day. His face is animated and his eyes sparkle as he talks about art, and I wonder when was the last time I had felt so passionate about something.
I tell him I'm just enrolled in the art class and not taking any other classes, and when he questions me on it, I tell him that's a story for another time.
He shrugs, and chugs the rest of his iced cappuccino.
I sip my latte, grateful that so far he seems to be monopolizing the conversation-it's not like I have anything interesting to share anyway.
"So, tell me about your child. Boy or girl?"
I smile. "A little boy. Sam. He just turned four and he's in preschool. He keeps me on my toes. Full of interesting questions. They're inquisitive at that age."
"So... umm..." he trails off, fiddling with the lid of his cappuccino cup. He seems hesitant, and I think I know what he wants to ask. "The father isn't around, then?"
"No, Sam's dad and I split up before he was born." Simple answer. He doesn't need to know the gory details of my disastrous break up.
"Oh, I'm sorry." Although he doesn't look sorry in the slightest. He kind of smiles as he says it. "Well, I mean, that's unfortunate. But, it's kind of lucky for me."
The butterflies are in full on disco dance mode now, and I bite my lip, trying to hold back my smile.
"Really?" I ask. "Why's that?"
"What do you say to dinner on Friday?"
With an exchange of phone numbers, plans to meet on Friday, and a kind of awkward hug, Edward and I part ways when I realize that I really should get home to Sam.
It's only when I'm passing the small convenience store on the corner of my street, with a window display full of huge red hearts and flowers, that a feeling of dread settles in my stomach.
The realization of what Friday is.
And I feel like slapping my forehead when I realize how stupid I've been, how on earth I could have forgotten what Friday is, and how it's possible that I have unwittingly agreed to a date on the day of the year I hate the most.
I tell my mom all about Edward because, after all I've been through over the years, me and Mom are pretty close now. We weren't really all that close when I was growing up, but both my parents were my rock when James and I split up and I found myself a soon-to-be single mother.
She practically vibrates with excitement as I tell her the story of the heart I made and how he offered to help me make a new one, and our coffee-almost-date at Central Park.
"But Mom, he asked me out on Friday night! Freaking Valentine's Day. God, I hate Valentine's Day." I blow out a breath and push my bangs off my forehead, before leaning over and placing my head on the kitchen island.
"Bella," my mother says, her hand on top of mine as she shifts in her stool to face me. "Would you have said yes to a date if you'd met him a week ago? Or a week from now?"
I think about that one. She has a point. I mean, lately I've been feeling like I might-be-maybe sort of ready to get back out there and date again. But the reality of it is making me feel sick to my stomach.
When I don't reply, my mother pushes a little further. "It's just dinner, Bella. It's not like he's proposing." She rolls her eyes and squeezes my hand, before gathering up her purse from the kitchen island. "Don't you dare back out, Bella. I'll keep Sam overnight. Go out and enjoy yourself."
She gets up from her stool and kisses my forehead, calls out a goodbye to Sam who is on the couch engrossed in Despicable Me 2, and is gone from my apartment before I can even protest.
I guess I'm going on a date on Valentine's Day.
I decided to meet Edward outside the restaurant he suggested. We'd texted a few times throughout the week to confirm our plans. He wanted to pick me up, but I'm trying to keep this as laid back as possible, since it's my first date in I don't know how many years and I don't want to get my hopes up.
I did a lot of thinking this week. I almost canceled on Edward so many times, but I just couldn't. As much as there was a little nagging voice in the back of my head telling me I would only get hurt again, there was an even bigger voice telling me that I would regret not getting to know Edward.
Because what if I didn't get hurt again?
There are so many what-ifs, that I realized I couldn't base my decision on what had been in the past. I had to base it on the possibility of what could be in the future.
Best case scenario, I've found a potential partner, worst case scenario, I've made a new friend.
So here I am, approaching a cute little Mexican restaurant in Lower Manhattan, and my heart dances a little when I see him waiting at the door for me.
It's been doing that a lot lately.
"Bella," he says as I approach, his smile lighting up his face. "It's good to see you." He pulls me into a hug and kisses the side of my head and I realize that it doesn't make me sick or queasy or panicky or any of the other things I was worried about tonight. He's touching me and he looks happy to see me, and that makes me happy.
"It's great to see you too, Edward." And it is. He's wearing dark jeans and smart dress boots, with a thick wool coat and a green scarf around his neck. The beanie is absent, and a thick shock of glossy bronze crowns his head. He is clean shaven, which only highlights the strong, masculine cut of his jaw line.
It's a shocking contrast to the guy I met on the train just a few days ago, and I find myself wondering which look I prefer.
It's a tough call.
He opens the door and leads me into the restaurant. It's not overcrowded but it's not totally dead either. I'm pleased to see that it's not covered in heart-shaped balloons or streamers. In fact, there doesn't seem to be anything Valentine's-related at all and that puts me at ease.
We are led to a booth in the corner where Edward slides in opposite me, shrugging out of his coat. He's wearing a simple black ribbed sweater, and he looks good enough to eat.
I love Mexican food, but I've never been to this restaurant, so I'm excited to try something new.
We order Mexican Hot Fruit cider on the waitress's recommendation, and Edward suggests we share guacamole and chips as a starter.
"So, be honest, Bella," he begins once we are alone again. "How many times did you think about canceling?"
I flush at his question, but decide to be frank with him.
"Only like, twenty times," I say with a smile, and I'm rewarded with a smile in return. He puts his hand over his heart.
"You wound me," he teases, which earns a giggle from me.
"How did you know I thought about canceling?" I figure we might as well get the awkward parts of of the evening out of the way.
"Your eyes give you away, Bella. You wear your feelings so openly on your face. It just changed completely when I asked you out. I mean, did I read the signs wrong? I've been watching you for weeks in class, and you've been watching me on the train. I thought it was a no-brainer, but then I honestly thought you were gonna say no when I asked you. It was the same when I suggested coffee."
His words make me think for a minute before answering. I thought I'd been doing a pretty good job of keeping up a certain facade when around people, but obviously not.
"Honestly, Edward, I was just surprised. It's been a while since anyone asked me out. I wasn't expecting it."
He frowns. "Why?"
"Why weren't you expecting it?"
I decide to get it all out of the way now.
"Okay, here goes. I've been single for four years. My ex had been cheating on me and we broke up just before I found out I was pregnant with our child. I've had my heartbroken, had postnatal depression, gained weight, lost weight, gained it again, lost it again. I'm a single mother. I moved back in with my parents until a year ago and I have major trust issues. I take the art class as a way of dealing with some of my... frustrations."
I get that all out in one breath and just when Edward's about to speak, I decide I'm not done.
"Guys don't ask me out, but I'm not really surprised given that I don't really make much effort with them either. Oh, and I haven't had sex in over four years either which is really embarrassing and I'm sure I have a Post-it with "born again virgin" on it stuck to my back, which is enough to put any guy off."
The waitress chooses that moment to deliver our drinks and starter, and I wonder how much of my little speech she heard.
Edward just stares at me, mouth agape. Considering he did most of the talking the other day, it's the longest he's been quiet for since I met him.
I dig into the the chips, honestly not caring what he thinks.
This is what I've become. I'm a little bitter and a lot jaded, but I'm realistic. I'm honest, and it's got to the point where I don't care what people think anymore. I've also come to the conclusion that if a man is going to cheat, there's nothing I can do to stop him. There's nothing I can say or be to prevent it.
I'm open to a new relationship, but I guess there will always be a small part of my heart that I will hide.
"I… uh..." Edward trails off, rubbing the back of his neck again. It must be a nervous reaction. "Well, Bella, that's interesting, and honest, and real. Thank you for telling me."
I'm silent, fiddling with my silverware as I wait for him to continue. I'm fully prepared that he still might bolt out of here the first chance he gets.
"It doesn't matter, though," he continues, laying his hand over mine, effectively stilling my fidgeting hand. "I've watched you for weeks in class and I've wanted to get to know you since I first saw you. I don't even live uptown, Bella. I've been getting the same train as you just to be able to see you more."
He breathes out a nervous laugh with his words as my eyebrows meet my forehead. I know I should be a little freaked out-he's just admitted to following me. But I find it sweet and kind of adorable, especially since he seems so genuinely nervous.
"I'm not a stalker, don't worry," he says, shaking his head. "Shit, I just really like you and I was working up the courage to talk to you."
His cheeks are pink and his eyes are roaming all over the room, looking anywhere but at me, and I suddenly realize he's as clueless at this as me.
I squeeze his fingers. "I think that's really sweet, Edward. And you didn't read the signs wrong. I've been wanting to talk to you for weeks too. Although, I'm really glad you made the first move because I probably never would have spoken to you first. That's just me."
He smiles like he understands why, and links our fingers together across the table.
Stuffed full of guacamole, nachos, enchiladas and deep fried ice cream, we take the subway back uptown to Central Park. Edward wanted to take a cab, but I thought a subway ride would be nice for our first date, since that's how we met.
The evening has been perfect so far. Conversation flowed easily after we got the awkward moments out of the way at the start of the night, and I'm pleasantly surprised to discover how much we have in common. Edward is the same age as me and has had one serious relationship which burned him too. He tells me he loves kids and talks about things he could take Sam and I to. My mind wanders more than once, and I have to catch myself before I have our wedding planned in my head.
The thought should terrify me, but it just feels... natural.
Edward says he has something he wants us to try at Central Park, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I know what it could be. When he pulls me by the hand through the entrance on 5th avenue, my suspicions are confirmed.
"Edward, I really can't skate." I shake my head in protest and start backing away, but he just laughs and pulls me closer.
He pulls me so close that our bodies are flush and our faces are inches apart. He sweeps the hair off my my face and my skin tingles from his touch. He snakes his arms around my waist and rests them on my lower back and for a second I think he might kiss me.
"Don't worry, Bella." His voice is so soft and his eyes are so intense and I feel like time is standing still in this moment. With flurries of snow falling around us and the buzz of excitement coming from the rink, the hum of music and people's laughter, my heart stutters a little. I almost feel like it stops and when it starts again, it's pounding a different beat. Singing a new tune.
"Don't worry," he repeats, his lips so close to mine I can't breathe. "I won't let you fall."
There's absolutely nothing else I can think of to say to that.
Other than: "I think it's too late for that."
My legs ache from skating and my cheeks hurt from laughing as we stumble up the stairs of my apartment block. The buzz from the cider and margaritas we had with dinner has long worn off, but I'm giddy, flying high with pure elation, the after-effect of a wonderful date with a wonderful man.
Edward held me up, gripped my hand tight and guided me around the rink with firm hands and encouraging words. True to his word, he didn't let me fall on the rink.
My heart, however is another story.
I still have no idea what his intentions are, but I do know that I've never felt anything like this in my whole life. He could be gone from my life tomorrow, and I know that I could never feel anything like this again. It's not like me to invite a guy home on a first date, but I just want one night with him. I want one perfect night where I can pretend that my life is good again. Where I can pretend that I have a wonderful man who cares for me and would never hurt me. A night where I can pretend that my heart is whole and that I'm capable of giving it to someone else.
Even if he takes it with him when he goes.
I'm prepared for that. I'm prepared to deal with the fall out if he's a fuck and run.
Feeling bold and resolved, before I lose my nerve, I invite him in.
"Yes, Bella. Yes," he whispers, as he covers my lips with his.
It's too hot. My body feels clammy and sweaty and a heavy pair of limbs weigh me down. But it's the most delicious feeling. My dream fades as I open one eye.
I'm cocooned in white silk sheets, a warm body pressed against mine. A single digit circles my nipple and I feel warm breath on my back, followed by soft, wet kisses trailing down the side of my neck.
I shift in the sheets, arching my back and pushing my hips out, and Edward groans as I feel his hard length pressed against me from behind.
We shift and grind and rock like that for a minute or two as he runs his hand up and down my body, teasing from my nipple to my belly button, his fingers dipping lower with every pass. My heart beats with the speed of wild horses as he dips his fingers into my underwear, circling and sliding and teasing against the wetness there.
"Good morning, my beautiful," he whispers, rolling me onto my back and shifting so that he's hovering over me. His green eyes shine with adoration and I wonder how the hell I got so lucky.
I raise my lips to his and kiss him softly.
"Good morning," I whisper, hardly able to continue speaking when he lowers his head and pulls a nipple into his mouth, sucking hard. The sensation is right on the border between pleasure and pain and I realize that no matter how many times he does this, no two times will ever be the same.
He moves his lips lower, tracing a path down my body, kissing me over my underwear, before sitting up on his knees to slide my panties down my legs. He spreads my legs wide and presses light kisses up my thighs, getting closer to my center with each kiss.
I gasp as his tongue comes into contact with my slick entrance, and he loves me with his mouth and fingers. He teases light then presses hard, over and over again until I'm a panting mess, begging him for more. He gives me two fingers as I ride his hand shamelessly, calling his name as I come hard, pulsing against his fingers.
I'm still clenching as he moves further up and presses his lips to mine. I can taste myself and I can feel his hard cock teasing my opening and I realize that I will never get enough of this.
His tongue enters my mouth at the same time as he pushes inside me and we groan in unison at the sensation.
"Always so good, Bella," he whispers, as he sets a slow, steady pace, savoring each thrust, making love in the truest meaning of the words.
I nod, unable to speak as the sensations wash over me. I grip his upper back, pulling him closer, lifting my legs and wrapping them around his waist as he starts to move faster.
We move together in a frenzied pace, knowing exactly how the other likes it, a familiarity that can only come from being together this way as many times we have.
It's been a whirlwind of a year since our first date, but this beautiful man has taught me so much.
"Babe, you close?" Edward rocks into me faster, his lips on my neck and his hand gripping my hips. I shift, meeting him thrust for thrust as he rides me harder, his fingers digging deeper.
"Almost," I whisper, feeling the tension coil deep in my stomach. "Kiss me."
He does, his soft lips molding to mine, his tongue slipping inside. It slides against mine as our bodies slide, slip, slide against each other, getting closer and closer to the edge.
"Oh God, Bella." Edward groans as I start to contract around him. He pushes deeper and hits that spot deep inside me that no one has ever hit before, and I explode around him.
"Fuck, baby, that's it," he whispers. "God, I love this, I love you coming. I love you." The last few words are groaned out as he pushes deeper than ever, reaching his climax and coming hard inside me.
He collapses on top of me, his breath warm on my neck, and I've never felt so full. My heart is pounding, it's so loud and fast and it's never been this strong.
Not ever, with anyone before Edward.
"Happy Valentine's Day, babe."
I snort. I tease Edward that I still hate the holiday, so he always teases me by saying it. And I do hate it. It's a bunch of over-priced, over-hyped crap. But I don't hate the date. I could never hate the date.
Our first date, first kiss, our first time together.
It was the start of something I never thought I would have. I've been scared, I've been unsure, and I've tried to walk away so many times out of fear, but Edward has been persistent.
He chased me when I wanted to run, continued to call and call and call when I wouldn't pick up the phone, and almost knocked my door down when I sometimes refused to answer.
He showed me his small art studio in his loft apartment downtown, where he helped me mold and shape a new clay heart.
He showed me his heart, the whole of him, and shared the things that he feared, too.
He fell in love with Sam the moment he met him, and from that moment my own heart healed a little bit more.
He showed me that it was okay to take risks in life, and that life was too short to live in constant fear.
And although sometimes I still have moments of fear and little bursts of insecurity, and still feel sometimes like I'm falling to pieces, Edward is always there to catch me. His words from our first date are his constant mantra.
"I won't let you fall."
But this is the greatest fall of all.
So it's with a full, happy heart, and only a little bit of snark in my reply when I tell him,
"Happy Valentine's Day, baby."
And it's with pride and joy and a heart that's so big it's about to burst out of my chest, that a year later I tell him, "I do."
And it's with laughter, tears, the gurgles of a newborn baby and the buzz of big family holidays, and so much love, that he tells me a year later, and for many years after that, "Happy anniversary, baby."
~ The End ~
All together now: "AWWWWW!"
I hope you enjoyed this!
Thank you to everyone who read, reviewed, and pimped my little story.
Happy Valentine's Day! I hope this gives everyone who doesn't have someone to share today with, a little hope :) See you next time!