A/N: I wrote one of the entries in the FictionPad Olderward/Olderella contest and this story came 2nd in the Best Drama category!
Let's see what you think of it :-)
Title: Forbidden Attraction
Your Fictionpad Profile link: /author/MarieCarro/bio
Word Count: 10, 994 words
Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: To Edward Masen, Bella Swan was nothing more than his daughter's best friend, but that all changed when they both applied for the same weekly writing course. Suddenly, she didn't appear to be the young girl that had played with his daughter since her family moved in next door. What will Edward do when he realizes that he's developing a very forbidden attraction for a woman twenty-five years his junior?
I took a deep breath, filled my lungs with air and held it for a second before slowly exhaling and entering the building.
I couldn't explain why I was so nervous. It was quite foolish actually. I had no reason to be nervous, and I kind of wanted to participate in the writing course held by Ms. Shelly Cope. I had applied for it after all, but I was hesitant as well. It wasn't exactly something I usually did. Writing was something I did in my spare time, not something I had ever thought to develop.
None of my friends or family members had an interest in writing, so it wasn't likely that anyone I knew would be there.
So, it would be somewhat of an understatement to say that I was surprised to see Isabella Swan standing there in front of the door, waiting for Ms. Cope with the others, while I made my way through the silent corridor of my daughter's former school.
She was the last person I expected to be there. Very few knew about my passion for writing. I had never let anyone read what I wrote, not even Mary after twenty-three years of marriage. I had been afraid that she wouldn't understand.
While Alice, our daughter, grew up, I had tried to spark the interest of books and reading in her, but I had only succeeded to an extent since she never initiated reading on her own. It was only when I asked her about the books I shared with her that she had something eloquent to say.
So that was why my surprise was genuine when I saw Alice's best friend standing with the rest of the participants of the writing course. Isabella, or Bella as she'd told me to call her many years ago, had lived next door to my family for years.
I knew that she wrote poetry—I had asked to read her poems several times without success, but I had never considered that a course like this would appeal to her.
At the sound of my steps on the stone floor, she turned her head and her surprised, but happy, brown eyes met mine.
"Hi!" I greeted her with wide eyes full of the astonishment I felt inside.
"Hi, Mr. Masen," she replied enthusiastically.
"Bella, how many times do I have to remind you to call me Edward? We've been neighbors for fourteen years, and you're my daughter's best friend. I believe it's safe to say we're on a first name basis now, don't you think?"
Bella gave me a small smile, which made her eyes glitter, but instead of answering me, she changed the subject.
"I didn't know you would be here. Alice never mentioned it."
"That might be because she doesn't know and neither does Mary."
She raised her eyebrows in question, and I rubbed the back of my neck the way I always did whenever I felt nervous or embarrassed. The situation had definitely fit into the category of the latter.
I knew it sounded strange that I hadn't told my wife or daughter about the course—it wasn't exactly something someone would think to keep a secret—but I'd had my reasons, and I told Bella that.
"I wanted to try the class out first and see how it goes. I might not want to continue."
"Why wouldn't you want to continue? You applied for a reason, right?" she asked.
I shrugged my shoulders. "I'm not sure if what I have is possible to develop."
Bella giggled. "I know what you mean. I never know if what I've written is good enough. What felt good yesterday, is total crap today. Tomorrow it might feel good again."
I nodded, knowing exactly what she was talking about.
When a comfortable silence stretched between us, I noticed the notebook she had in her hand.
"Does this mean that I will finally be allowed to read what you write?" I asked with a small, teasing smile.
Bella blushed and, once again, changed the subject. "What is it that you write, anyway?"
I wasn't a blusher, but even though my face did not get red, it was obvious that I was embarrassed when my hand went to my neck on its own accord. "Poems, I suppose. Mostly."
It looked like she wanted to reply, but when she opened her mouth, nothing came out. I waited patiently, but before we could continue our conversation, the sound of heels on the stone floor clicked through the corridor.
A short, red-haired woman came forward with a huge smile on her face.
"Hello, everyone!" she called merrily. "I'm Shelly Cope, and I will be leading this course."
My reaction to Ms. Cope was neutral, but I believe that was a normal reaction to a person I hadn't met before, however, even though I could not say why I became aware of it, Bella's reaction was something else entirely. She stared a bit and followed the slightly chubby woman with her eyes as if this was not how she imagined Ms. Shelly Cope, the author of Wreck, to look. She continued to stare while the woman opened the door to the old classroom and shook everyone's hand as we entered and found our seats.
I was the last one in, and when I took Ms. Cope's hand, I smiled. "It's nice to finally meet you. Now I finally have a face to place with those poems I have at home," I said.
She laughed with delight. "Oh my! It's been an eternity since I published those. I certainly did not look like this when they were written. Unfortunately, time has placed its mark on me."
"Hasn't it on us all," I joked with her, and she laughed again.
Once everyone was seated, Ms. Cope welcomed everyone again and said that in order for us all to feel more comfortable with each other, we would introduce ourselves and tell what our goal was with the course.
When three of the other participants, Robert Banner, Julia Hammond, and Deandre Varner, had introduced themselves, it was my turn. I stood up from my seat, and when everyone's eyes turned my way, I felt the traces of my old stage fright creep up on me and my neck broke into a sweat.
"My name's Edward Masen, and I work as a carpenter." From the periphery of my vision, I saw Bella frown as if what I'd said was wrong. I turned my head her way, met her gaze, and smiled. "You look as if you want to protest," I said, and she blushed a deep red before answering.
"Alice always says that you're an engineer," she said apologetically and shrugged.
I couldn't stop the laugh that bubbled up inside of me. "She's probably embarrassed that her dad spends his life repairing old furniture, but yes, I guess I'm an engineer. I have my own carpentry, Masen's Carpentry as my younger, unimaginative mind named it when I started it."
I was about to sit down again when Ms. Cope reminded me that I hadn't told everyone about my goal.
I cleared my throat while thinking about it for a few seconds. Then I shrugged. "I barely know myself. Maybe to see what people think of my writing even though it's nothing special. I guess I want this course to shed some light over the words that sometimes make no sense to even myself."
Ms. Cope nodded, and I sat back down, relieved that I was no longer in the spotlight, even though the disagreement with Bella had taken my thoughts away from that matter.
After two more women in their mid-fifties had presented themselves, Rachel Black and Audrey Lowell, it was Bella's turn. Her face was flaming red, and I noticed that her hands were shaking slightly as she stood up. I smiled to encourage her, but she wasn't looking at me. Her eyes were completely focused on Ms. Cope.
"I'm Isabella Swan, and I work at The Five Roses as a receptionist. Before that, I went to high school here. I want to take this course to…to learn something."
Two more women spoke, and then the introductions were over. Ms. Cope immediately began to tell us about the art of writing, its history, about runes, spells, and about how writing had grown through time into the literature we love today.
Eventually, she called for a break and, together, the group trekked down to the school's cafeteria for a cup of watery coffee and sweaty cheese sandwiches. Since it was after school hours, all the "good" food was gone.
While I stood in line to pay for my sad excuse for an afternoon snack, I saw that while the rest of the group split into two groups, Bella sat alone at one of the round tables. She sipped on her coffee and peeled an orange that she had obviously taken with her from home since they did not sell them in the cafeteria.
She probably felt a bit like an outcast in the group since she was the only one there under the age of thirty. Hell, she wasn't even twenty yet. Still, I had never had a problem talking to her when she came over to hang out with Alice. She was an insightful girl, smart, and only slightly immature, but who wasn't at nineteen?
I was the only one there that she had any connection to at all, so I determinedly made my way over to her table even though Robert, or Bob as he said that everyone called him, had hinted that I should sit with him and some of the ladies. I didn't want Bella to feel left out.
When I approached, she looked up and eyed the contents in my hand. "Wow, you spent a whole two dollars on that," she said with a teasing smile.
I sat down and leaned back in my chair without touching the sandwich or coffee in front of me. I had not forgotten that I hadn't received an answer to my question about reading her work before the course, and I was going to get that answer now.
"Well?" I asked with a smirk, and a confused expression came over her face.
"I'm still waiting to hear if I can read what you've written or not." I nodded toward her worn notebook. It had doodles and drawings on it, so it was obviously a very loved notebook. I had no doubt that her writings covered the pages from front to back.
I don't know if she did it consciously, but she moved her hand from around her cup of coffee to the notebook, as if she was afraid I would take it without her permission if she left it unguarded.
I wiped the smirk off my face and leaned forward on my forearms. "Don't look so scared," I said. "I won't read it if you don't want me to. However, that doesn't mean that I'm not curious. I have been ever since I found out that you write."
She relaxed considerably, and I wondered what I could have done to make her think I would ever look through her personal things without her allowing it.
Then again, it might not have been anything I'd done, but rather the other way around. Bella hadn't known me very well at that point after all.
Half an hour later, we were back in the classroom, and Ms. Cope told us what we were going to do during the next ten weeks. We were going to try a bit of everything, especially telling stories from different perspectives, writing about memories, poems, and lyric poetry.
She also told us that we would read everything out loud for the rest of the group and some complained by groaning. I didn't like the idea, but I kept my opinion inside. I was going to participate in the course, and so I was going to do what I was told.
When it was over, everyone scattered off like cockroaches. I walked up to Bella who was lagging behind.
"Do you want a ride?" I asked. It was a freezing cold winter's night, and I knew that Bella had always walked to and from school. I didn't want her to freeze, and since we were neighbors and all, I thought I might as well drive her home.
The ride started out a bit awkward. Bella had her head turned completely away from me, and she was fidgeting with her hands, so to break the ice that I thought was already broken, I decided to talk about the course.
"So what did you think?"
She shrugged. "It's a course like every other, I guess—nothing unexpected. Sometimes it felt like Ms. Cope read directly from an instruction manual on how to lead a course."
I chuckled. Bella was truly Alice's opposite, and maybe that was why they had been best friends for so long. Alice was a girly-girl with a rebellious streak that often appeared during her arguments with me and Mary, and had a tendency to walk around a subject. Bella was a straight-forward girl that always followed the rules.
Her father, Charlie Swan, had often bragged about Bella's excellence in school over the hedge that separated his lawn from mine, and he never hesitated to make it obvious that his Bella never acted out by coloring her hair blue—something Alice had done in their sophomore year—or walked around in too-tight outfits.
Though our wives, Renée Swan and Mary Masen, got along just fine and were often found gossiping during hot summer days with iced tea in their hands, Charlie and I never hit it off. We played the part of good neighbors by lending each other our tools, but I quite despised Charlie since he always tried to out-best me in everything. He just couldn't stand the thought that I made more money than him and could provide my family with a luxury every now and then.
The wheels underneath my car squealed when I turned into my driveway and killed the engine.
"I…" Bella opened her mouth to say more, but closed it and turned away.
I looked at her and waited. "What?"
She cleared her throat and shrugged. "I read a book that Alice borrowed from you—a book by Allison Polly."
"Delirious?" I asked, and a thought poked at my mind.
She nodded. "It was…I liked it. I actually read it twice."
It confirmed the suspicion that was now in full bloom in my head. I should've known that Alice never actually read the books I gave her. The reviews she gave them didn't ever sound like words she would use, but I guess I'd been naïve enough to believe that I had something in common with my daughter.
"Aha," I said.
"What do you mean with that?" Bella asked. It looked like she feared that I'd figured out their secret.
"I knew she couldn't have come up with that by herself."
"Come up with what?"
"A penetrating flow of words, like a magic spell that not even life could resist." I quoted my daughter, and watched with an amused smile as Bella's eyes widened.
"W-we d-discussed the book," she said in an attempt to cover for Alice.
"So it was you," I stated. It was so blaringly obvious now. I couldn't understand why I hadn't figured it out before.
"We discussed the book," she said again stubbornly. "I just wanted you to know that I liked it, too. I'd never heard of her before…Allison Polly, I mean."
"I have more of her books if you want to borrow them. We don't have to go through Alice this time."
She blushed, but nodded and said that she would love to borrow them.
After that we said good-bye, and she got out of my car.
I don't know why I did it, but I stayed in my car and watched her until she disappeared inside her house. It was only then that I got out myself.
Everything was just as usual inside my house.
Alice was inside her room, playing some god-awful music on the highest volume, causing the walls to vibrate. I felt the urge to walk upstairs, knock on her door, and ask her to turn it down, but I knew that would only start up a fight I did not have in me right now.
Mary was on the phone, her left leg, which was crossed over her right, was bopping up and down in time with the music Alice was playing, whether it was an unconscious movement or not, I couldn't tell.
She smiled when she saw me—it wasn't unusual that I stayed late at the carpentry, so my absence that evening wasn't something she questioned—and I walked up to her and gave her a kiss. She hummed to whatever the person on the phone said and mouthed to me that there was dinner in the oven for me if I wanted it.
I gave her another kiss to show my appreciation and made my way to the kitchen.
I saw a dish covered in aluminum, lit up by the lamp in the oven, and I raised the temperature to heat it up some more without checking what it was. I was too hungry to care. Mary always cooked delicious food anyway, so I would be happy with whatever.
Soon, the smell of spices and cheese filled the kitchen, and when I took the dish out of the oven and revealed my wife's lasagna, I almost had to wipe drool of my chin when my mouth began to water; it was that good.
After I'd enjoyed half of it, the blaring music was turned off, and Alice came down the stairs. When she entered the kitchen, I almost choked on the food I had in my mouth, and I had to clunk down an entire glass of water to clear my throat before speaking to my daughter.
"What the hell have you done with your hair?" I spluttered out without really thinking about what kind of damage my words would do, but Alice's hair had shocked me.
Gone was the shoulder-length, dark brown hair and in its place was a black spikey hairdo that was shorter than my own. I thought she was done with the extreme hairdos after the blue hair ordeal
Alice knew exactly what I thought of her hair—I completely hated it—and it was obvious that she didn't care. "Mom cut and colored it at the salon today. Don't you like it, Daddy?"
When she called me daddy, I instantly knew it was an act to rile me up. She never called me daddy otherwise, so instead of giving her what she wanted, I took a deep breath and smiled. "Yes, I do. It looks good on you."
The defiant glint in her eyes disappeared, and she left the kitchen with a huff. I groaned and buried my hands in my hair. I knew Alice was just acting out, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why. She refused to tell me or Mary.
Mary had repeatedly tried to assure me that it was only a phase Alice was going through.
The only thing we could do was encourage her in whatever she did, and she would snap out of it eventually. I prayed that she was right and that it would end soon.
The next Thursday, I arrived at the old high school, carrying two books written by Allison Polly that I thought Bella might like.
When I handed them to her, she eyed them for a few seconds before she held them against her chest. "Thank you," she said with a sweet smile.
"No problem. These were the next books I hoped to get Alice to read, but…" I let the rest of the sentence trail out in the sand.
"She does read some of the books you give her," Bella said, defending her friend. "It's just that some of them—"
"I know." I held up one of my hands to stop her. "I've always tried to force things on her that I hoped she would like. It's a weakness of mine, I guess."
We continued to converse until Ms. Cope came clicking down the corridor. She asked us all how the homework had gone and smiled when some of the others enthusiastically replied.
We were supposed to take a memory and reiterate it by writing a poem about it. It had not worked for me at all. I was pretty sure that my poem would be one of the worst, but I couldn't do anything but endure the torture and read it out loud.
Bella walked next to me inside the classroom, and her grimace told me that it hadn't gone well for her, either. Still, what she read out loud about a particular memory she had with Alice, I had to say that it was better than most. She truly had a talent.
During the break, Julia and Audrey joined Bella and me at our table. They immediately started up a conversation with me while completely ignoring Bella. To be polite, I continued talking with them, but in my periphery I saw Bella cross her arms over her chest and stare at the two women. It looked almost as if she thought they had interrupted our time together.
It wasn't until we got in my car after the course that I got a chance to ask her about it.
"It was rude of them to sit with us and not talk to me. It was like I didn't exist. They only had eyes for you."
I may have heard it wrong, but it almost sounded like Bella was jealous, although what she had to be jealous about, I didn't know. But the feeling it evoked in me, although pleasant, was anything but good. I should not have felt pleased about something like that.
"What did you think about my poem?" Bella asked, interrupting my thoughts.
"It was very well written," I replied, thankful for the distraction. "And so much better than mine."
"No way! Yours was great, but we got a boring subject. This next one seems more interesting."
I nodded. "I agree, but I also have a hard time writing on command. Maybe I'll get used to it."
"Have you told Alice that we go to the same writing course?" she asked, suddenly changing the subject. "She wants to know how last week was, but I'm afraid to tell her that you were there. She might get mad if she hears that you've been there this whole time, and I didn't tell her."
I laughed at the simplicity of the problem Bella had, but knowing my daughter, she could refuse to speak to Bella for weeks if she found out about the fact that her best friend attended the same course as her dad without telling her about it.
"What a situation I've put you in! I'll tell her tonight, I promise."
"Thank you," she said appreciatively.
For almost an hour, we remained in the parked car and just talked. Mostly about the course, but also about personal stuff, books we had enjoyed, and the people we attended the course with.
Bella seemed to enjoy my way of observing the people around me—how I could somehow see their core by simply hearing them talk for five minutes.
I also got to know Bella on a new level. She was still all of the things I already knew, but I found out that she was also curious and thirsted for knowledge. She had never had the desire to go to the parties Alice had always gushed about through high school, even though she'd gone to some of them just to please my daughter.
She was no longer simply Alice's friend in my eyes. During that hour, she grew into something more. She became my friend—a person I could share my passion with.
In the following weeks, our friendship grew stronger, but only when we were alone. When she was with her family or Alice, she reverted back into being Alice's best friend only, but I got to see her being animated over a movie or book she'd recently read on those Thursday evenings we spent together.
I took an immense liking to Bella Swan, and I found myself yearning for her company more than once. On those occasions, I always reminded myself of the fact that she was only a nineteen-year-old girl, especially when my thoughts drifted to her during conversations with my wife.
I sometimes felt incredibly ashamed of what I was thinking, but I couldn't seem to help it. My want for her company was soon not only on a mental level, but a physical as well, and it scared me to my core.
One Saturday afternoon in March when Bella was hanging with Alice in her room, I fought the urge to knock on the door and ask to talk with Bella for a few minutes. Alice knew that we were going to the same course by now, so she wouldn't think it was weird if I said that I needed her friend's opinion on something.
The reason that I was fighting it was because I didn't really need Bella's opinion. I only wanted to talk to her. I wanted to see if I could make the Bella I liked come forward even though she was hanging out with Alice at the moment. I needed her to come out, because I needed to know if she felt the same way I did.
At the same time, I didn't want to know, because what would I do if she did?
I lost the battle, though, and I found myself standing outside of my daughter's room with a few pieces of paper in one hand and my other knocking on the door.
I peeked inside, and when Bella smiled, I knew that she didn't mind me interrupting her time with Alice. "Bella, since you're already here—"
"Dad…!" Alice sighed deeply and rolled her eyes at me.
"I am terribly sorry for the interruption, oh great daughter of mine," I said teasingly, and Bella giggled. "But if I can borrow Bella for two minutes, I promise that I won't utter another word for the rest of your eve together."
Alice rolled her eyes again. "You are so lame, Dad," she snorted out. "Besides, you can talk as much as you want tonight, because we're going to the movies," she stated.
Bella, who was walking toward me, stopped in her tracks. "We are?"
I felt an ache in my stomach when Bella followed me out into the hallway. It was an ache I hadn't felt in fifteen years at least, and the thought had me rubbing my slightly sweaty neck.
I handed one of the papers to Bella. "Do you think this is good enough?"
Bella's eyes widened, and then a big grin stretched across her face. She accepted the paper and began to read. While doing so, her mouth formed the words quietly, and I found myself focusing on it, almost losing myself in the process.
I swallowed thickly when she looked up and tried not to let my face reveal my inner thoughts. How I could even have those thoughts about a nineteen-year-old girl in the first place was beyond me. For a second, I actually felt disgusted with myself.
"It's beautiful," she said. "Although…"
"Although what?" I asked, genuinely interested now in what she thought about the poem.
"It feels like you're saying the same thing twice in the end."
I stepped closer to her and read what I'd written. During those few seconds, the smell of her shampoo invaded my nose, and I held back a groan.
Even though I couldn't concentrate on my own text, and I had no idea what she meant about the ending, I agreed with her. We smiled, and for a moment, we didn't say anything. We only looked at each other.
Alice chose that moment to stick her head out from her room and state impatiently that they had to leave soon.
Snapping out of the trance that had been created in my mind, I took the poem back from Bella. "I'll re-write this," I said as I backed away from her and toward the office. "Thank you for the help."
I turned around, but before I closed the door, I wished them a fun time at the movies. I heard Alice mutter a 'whatever' before the door closed behind me, and I exhaled with relief.
What the hell was going on with me?
I practically stood on the brakes as I parked my car outside of the school.
I was almost twenty minutes late, but I was held up by a customer with very specific requirements for an old coffee table he wanted me to work on.
With fast and shallow breaths high in my throat, I made my way with long steps through the corridor toward the classroom where the others were probably already sitting down.
It was so typical that I would be late tonight since it was the last week of the course. It was the night that we would read our own personal poems that we had written without any directions or instructions from Ms. Cope.
I knocked on the door before opening it, and everyone turned their heads to look at me, but it was Bella's gaze that I noticed the most. Her eyes were slightly watery, as if she had been about to cry, but the brown depths also showed relief over my presence. My heart made a strange double beat at the same time as Bella's cheeks reddened.
"I'm sorry I'm late," I said and forced my eyes away from Bella to Ms. Cope. "But I was held up at work."
Ms. Cope smiled at me reassuringly. "Don't worry. We've barely started."
After some shuffling, I sat down in my seat with my poems in front of me and waited for my turn. I was nervous to read them out loud, not because the group would hear them, but because Bella would. She was probably the only one that would really know what they were about.
When Bella stood up to read her poems, I leaned forward so that I wouldn't miss a single word. She stood with her legs slightly apart, and her eyes lowered toward the paper in her hand. I could see that she was nervous, but as soon as the words started to flow from her mouth, I forgot all about that.
The depth and insight in her words, as well as the youth apparent in the text, mesmerized me. She read about a confused young woman like herself that didn't know which path to take as she made her way toward adulthood.
To someone that didn't know the art of poetry, the poem would have sounded like gibberish, but I knew that Bella had been talking about herself.
When she finished, I wasn't the only one that was spellbound. Almost everyone in the room sat with their mouths slightly open in shock. No one had known that a talent like Bella's was residing inside that young body of hers.
Eventually, it was my turn, and I started to nervously go through the pages of my notebook. I mumbled to myself that I didn't know if they were good enough but that I'd read them anyway.
As I read, I took comfort in the fact that nobody in there, apart from Bella, knew about the admissions I made in that moment, admissions about how my relationship with my daughter tore at my heart and how I wished it could be better. I admitted that my life felt like a big fat routine: squared and boring.
I also told about my marriage. Even though it was a loving one, it was seriously lacking. I barely had anything in common with my wife, and our love-making was just like my life: squared and boring.
Passion hadn't existed between us since Alice was two.
I practically laid out my entire life for the small group of people that I'd only known for ten weeks, and I made myself especially vulnerable with the last poem that was solely about the intimate times between Mary and me, although it was reworded to make it seem like any pair of lovers that had lost something on their journey together.
Maybe it was a bit too erotic, but I hadn't been able to put it in any other way.
I automatically looked toward Bella's form when I was done, but she wasn't looking at me. She was stubbornly staring at the folder in front of her, but I wanted her to look at me. I needed to know what she thought of the poems since she knew my family, and now she knew of the depth of our problems.
My focus was only on her, even when Julia wondered why I didn't write so that it would be easier to understand the poems. I didn't reply to that, but Ms. Cope took the opinion in and seemed to agree.
"I do believe that you would gain more by simplifying your writing. Try to pinpoint what you want to be said with every poem, but other than that, it was different and fun."
Bella's head snapped up, and she stared at Ms. Cope as if she'd grown another head. In that moment, I knew that she'd understood every word, and now she was questioning Ms. Cope's sanity.
I didn't care that the others hadn't liked my poems. What was important to me was that I had finally relieved my heart from some of the heavy stuff that resided in there. I had been carrying it around for too long.
For the remainder of the class, I sat quietly in my seat, but when I felt a tingling on the side of my face, I turned to see Bella staring at me with brown eyes full of question.
I already knew what she was wondering, and I planned to talk to her after, hopefully in the car ride home.
However, when she quickly looked away from me, as if she suddenly realized she was staring, I frowned. There was something in the way she held herself that was off.
Ms. Cope called for a break, and I waited for Bella to stand up from her seat so that we could go to the cafeteria together.
"Ms. Cope?" Bella called to gain the older woman's attention.
"I'm sorry, but I don't think I can stay. I don't feel well, and I think I need to go home and rest." This statement shocked me and I frowned. She seemed fine only moments before, so what caused her to suddenly feel unwell?
"I'm sad to hear that, dear, but if you don't feel well go home and rest. I will email your evaluation to you."
"Thank you," Bella mumbled quietly in response.
When she walked past me, I tried to ask her if she was okay, but she refused to look at me.
I watched her walk down the corridor, and I felt a strange pain in my chest.
I read the words that Bella had written me again and then folded the letter so that I could tuck it back into its envelope.
Every word confirmed that she knew exactly what my poems had been about, but she needed some time to let them sink in and "build up a few walls again" as she'd put it in the letter.
I should have known what those poems would do to her. It couldn't have been easy for her to hear how life was for her best friend's father, a figure girls her age often barely thought about. That figure was supposed to remain in the background, in the shadows. You weren't supposed to know about that person's intimate fears and desires, but now she did, and she needed time.
I could understand that.
But at the same time, she had reached out her hand through the letter, telling me that if I ever needed to talk, she was there to listen. That wasn't a responsibility a forty-four-year-old man should put on a young girl's shoulders, but she was the only one that had ever offered me this, and so I couldn't resist it: the offer.
I reached for the phone and dialed the number to Bella's workplace. I just had to talk to her.
"The Five Roses Hotel, this is Isabella speaking. How can I help you?" I heard her say, and I took a deep breath before revealing that it was me.
"Hi, it's Edward," I said and waited for her to reply.
It took a few seconds, but then I heard a timid "Hi" in my ear.
"Thank you for the letter."
"I…I don't know if it's anything to thank me for," she mumbled, and I could almost see her in front of me: her blush and how she nervously pulled her hair behind her ear.
"Of course it is," I argued. "It was really sweet of you, and I was so happy when I got it. I've read it at least ten times."
"Good…I was a little…I mean, I thought that Mary might read your mail, and…"
It was quiet between us as I pondered what she had said. She had obviously thought a lot about her letter after she'd posted it. She had thought that if Mary got her hands on the letter, and if she read it, it would drive a wedge between us, so that meant that the meaning behind the letter was deeper than I first thought.
I read it again and tried to see it through a teenage girl's eyes, and I knew, I just knew that she was trying to tell me something of importance, but I couldn't see what it was.
She couldn't possibly feel what I felt for her. What I felt for her was wrong on all levels, and I wouldn't act on it, no matter how much my body wanted to.
Eventually, I said lowly into the phone that Mary didn't ever read my mail.
There was silence again until Bella did her thing and changed the subject. "I don't think Ms. Cope really understood your poems."
I smiled. This was something we could talk about freely, and I was happy to hear that Bella and I could possibly remain friends even though the course was over. "No…they weren't that good, I guess."
"I thought so," Bella replied fiercely. It warmed my heart to hear.
"Your poems on the other hand, they were beautiful! Would you mind if I borrowed them to take a closer look? I need to see if they're as good as they sounded when you read them or if it was only because you read them so well."
"I-I'll print out another round."
We continued to chat for a few minutes before hanging up.
I looked at the letter on my desk again and then picked it up to read it one more time while my heart was beating fast inside my chest.
The next letter I received from Bella wasn't only the poems, but also a longer letter than the first. I couldn't keep count on how many times I'd read it, but it was for a different reason than the first time.
Nothing had gone as I'd planned. Not that I had planned anything, but everything was slowly growing into a bigger mess than I had anticipated.
In the letter, Bella practically confessed to having romantic feelings for me, and that was not something I could handle at the moment. I'd felt that way for her for weeks, but I had promised myself that nothing would ever happen. I would let the juvenile crush pass and continue on with my life. I didn't want to deal with Bella reciprocating my feelings. It made the entire situation so much more complicated.
I was married with a daughter for heaven's sake, a daughter that was three months older than the girl that had starred in my dreams several times. It couldn't be more messed up than it already was.
I felt like I didn't have a choice, so instead of calling Bella and telling her that this couldn't go on any longer, I didn't do anything.
I ignored it like the coward I was, but I did keep the letter in the bottom drawer of my desk in the carpentry.
A week after I got the letter, Mary invited the Swan's over for lunch since the sun had finally decided to show.
She put out plates for six people, but when they arrived, it was obvious that only five would be used, because Bella was not with them.
I was the only one that really knew why.
Another two days passed and then a third letter arrived. The tone was different in that one: crushed and defeated.
She asked me to forget what she'd written before, that even though every word was true, they were obviously not supposed to be shared. She would lock her feelings inside and hope that we could at least remain friends.
What jumped out at me the most was her compliment on my looks in the end. She said that it would be almost unbearable to look at my handsome face without an aching heart, but if it meant that we could be friends, she would take it.
It was incredibly flattering to have such a young woman yearn after me in that way. I knew that we had to talk; so once again, I dialed the number to The Five Roses and waited for Bella to pick up.
"The Five Roses Hotel, this is Isabella speaking. How can I help you?"
"Hi," was all I said, but by Bella's sharp intake of breath, I knew that she heard that it was me.
"Yes, of course, sir! We're located not far from the city. Would you be interested in booking a room?" she said cheerily, and I understood that I'd caught her at a bad time.
"You're not alone, are you?"
"Bella, I…" I didn't know how to continue. How did you talk about something like this? Did things like this really happen in real life? Was I seriously finding myself in a situation like this? "We need to talk in person," I eventually pressed out. "I'm not indifferent on this."
She didn't reply to that, and after several seconds, I had to check if she was still there.
"Yes," she croaked out.
"Can you come by the carpentry at lunch tomorrow? We need to talk about this one way or the other."
"Okay, good. I'll see you then," I said, ending the conversation awkwardly.
We hung up the phone, and I rubbed my hands over my face in frustration as I tried to figure out how to solve this.
As the clock closed in on lunchtime, I felt my nerves settle in my stomach, almost making me nauseous.
What was I thinking inviting Bella here? We would be completely alone, and I already had a hard time controlling myself when she was close by and there were other people around.
But it needed to be done. We had to talk about it, whatever it was that was happening between us, and end it. We couldn't pursue anything because it was wrong.
She was more than half of my age; she was Alice's best friend and our neighbor's daughter. I had seen her grow up from the age of five. I had been married since before she was born. And I was still married.
My time to think was up, though, because I heard the entrance door open out in the shop, and I took a deep breath to calm myself before exiting the office. It was now or never.
I had barely laid my eyes on Bella before I felt the need to curse out loud.
She was dressed in a tight, black mini-skirt, and it looked like she was wearing one of those push-up bras that I'd seen Alice wear occasionally. She had also put on some makeup. In other words, she did not look dressed to talk, but to seduce, and I swallowed thickly.
All of this went through my mind in only a few seconds, and when Bella met my eyes with her brown ones, I knew that no matter what I tried to tell myself, I wouldn't be able to end it.
Bella had become a huge weakness of mine.
In order to hide my thoughts from her, I cleared my throat. "I was just wondering…," I started, but did not continue.
"What?" she asked weakly. It was obvious that she was just as nervous as I was, if not even more.
"If you were going to show up at all."
She shrugged. "Of course! I would never ignore you," she said, and it felt like she was hinting to me that she would never treat me the way I had treated her. I felt like an ass. I was supposed to be the adult here, but it was me that acted like the immature teenager.
"Come on in. We can sit in here and talk." I gestured toward my office, and Bella walked inside with a straight back and sat down in the chair opposite of mine across the desk.
I watched her look around the office before her eyes settled on me. "I don't understand any of this," she said genuinely, and I understood that her feelings for me confused her. She had never expected to feel this way for me, her best friend's father.
I smiled slightly since I could see how innocent she truly was. She was so young and already in a deep mess that she had no idea how to handle. Not that age mattered there since I didn't know how to handle it, either.
"My feelings aren't exactly new," I admitted, and she blushed adorably. "But I have to confess that I was quite surprised and shocked to hear that they are reciprocated."
Her blush deepened and she looked down at her hands. She looked so vulnerable, and I just couldn't keep my distance any longer, so I took a step closer to her and placed my hand gently on her arm in hopes of comforting her.
"What do you want with this?" I asked.
"I…I don't know," she said, and it sounded like the truth. She still kept her eyes on her hands. In order to make her more comfortable, I stepped away from her and turned toward the coffee maker to pour us two cups of coffee.
I thought of the letters that she'd sent me, how she'd put herself out there and admitted her feelings before I did, and I sighed lightly before turning back around. Bella was now looking at me, probably a reaction to my sigh.
"You know what I told you about reading your letter at least ten times?" I asked and she nodded. "Ten times," I snorted. "I had accomplished that before lunch." I cast a glance at her to gauge her reaction to that.
She seemed to almost grow in front of me. Suddenly, she sat up straighter in her chair, and she wasn't avoiding my eyes any longer. She squared her shoulders and waited for me to continue.
I shook my head incredulously. "I thought I had left all this craziness behind me decades ago, and then you show up."
"I've been here the entire time," she said with a steady but low voice.
I sighed again. "Which makes it even worse."
I handed her one of the cups of coffee, and when her hand enveloped around the steaming mug, the tips of her fingers grazed my knuckles. The feeling was like being electrocuted, and my heart started to drum violently in my chest. My neck broke out into a sweat, but I refrained from rubbing my hand over it.
"What do you want?" she asked after a moment of silence, and my head snapped up to meet her now completely steady gaze.
"I don't know, either." That was a complete lie. I knew exactly what I wanted, but if she knew even a small portion of it, she would turn her back to me and run as fast as she could because my desires were just sick. Still, I couldn't lie straight to her face, so I corrected myself. "Well, I do know, but…" I let it trail off and allowed her to interpret it however she wanted.
She stood up gingerly from her chair and walked up to me so that we were face to face. Bella had to bend her head backwards to accomplish that, though, since I was at least a head taller than her. I could feel her body heat through my clothes, and when she got close enough, I felt her warm breath waft over my face.
It caused every single rational thought in my head to fly out the window, and I put down my coffee before I started to move my hands up and down her arms, an action that caused goose bumps to break out on her skin. Then I let them travel up over her shoulders and her neck to eventually settle on her, now red, cheeks.
In slow motion, I bent down and touched her lips with my own, and the second they met, every nerve ending in my body started sparking like electric wires that had come in contact with water.
Everything inside me was ablaze, and it all came from the one focal point of our mouths pressed together.
The taste on my tongue and the smell of her skin made my head swim with lust and desire, and I enveloped her with my arms.
"Bella…!" I moaned, and her hands started to discover my body in a manner that felt too good. I instantly woke up from the spell that had been placed on me. I pulled away from the kiss and released her from my hold before taking a step back.
My thoughts screamed that I was completely insane. What the fuck was I doing? She was Alice's best friend! Charlie Swan's daughter!
I ran my hands through my hair repeatedly and down my face while pacing back and forth in the small space that was my office, but nothing could erase the memory of the passion that the simple kiss had awoken inside me.
I cast a glance in Bella's direction and saw her looking slightly dazed, her breathing labored, and her lips slightly parted.
I stopped pacing. "Are you all right?" I asked, concerned about what the kiss would mean to her.
Bella nodded in reply to my question, but for once I doubted if she told me the truth. I turned my body so I was fully facing her, but I made sure to keep my distance now. "I meant what I said before, Bella. We need to talk about this! I never imagined something like this would…or well, of course I've imagined it, fantasized about it. That was unavoidable after your letters, but I didn't plan for it to really..." I stopped my own word vomit, took a deep breath and looked her right in the eye to make sure that she understood every word of what was about to be uttered from my mouth. "Bella, I don't think you have any idea how flattering it is for a man when a woman over twenty years younger shows interest. Honestly, I don't understand how or why you feel this way. I really don't."
My little speech caused her to blink in shock, almost as if she hadn't thought of it that way, and maybe she hadn't, but that didn't really matter.
I started to pace again, but I could feel Bella's eyes on me the entire time. "I need to clear my head and think rationally about this," I said. "Because right now, my body is telling me to uproot my entire life and run away with you." I could instantly see what my words did to Bella. She obviously had not imagined that I could be so drastic and dramatic, but there was something in the girl that brought it all out of me.
"Y-you're out of your mind," she stuttered. "You would regret it terribly, and just think of Alice and…" she said as if I had actually considered the thought for real. Well, I guess I had for just a short second, but I would never be able to really go through with it.
We looked at each other for a few seconds, and her mouth hypnotized me. I couldn't stop myself from minimizing the space between us and stealing another kiss. This one was less passionate with closed lips, but it still set my entire being on fire.
I pulled away again, but she remained in my arms this time. "I think it's best if you go now," I whispered to her, and she nodded before leaving me alone in my office.
Later that night when I was home, I sat in the living room and pretended to watch the evening news while thinking everything through just like I told Bella I would.
It was so much easier to think rationally when I was away from her. She was so intoxicating that it bordered on ridiculous. The whole adventure in the carpentry had proved that.
I had still been in a daze when I first got home. During the first part of the evening, I had truly considered pursuing a relationship with my young neighbor. My head had swum with images of her and me together, and how good I was positive it would be.
When I kissed her, it had felt as if the delicate creature in my arms had been made for me. The only thing that had actually stopped me from ravaging her on top of my desk was the immoral part of the situation. I barely cared about the age difference anymore; it was the least of my problems.
My main problem was that I wanted to be with her with my entire heart, but if I were to give in to that longing, I would commit a crime, and not just against my wife, but against my daughter. Adultery was frowned upon on its own. Add to that, acting out adultery with someone who'd just barely reached legal age.
Technically, I had already committed a crime by lusting after Bella, but as long as I hadn't acted on my feelings, everything had been fine. Now I had acted on it, though. We had shared kisses, secret and forbidden kisses that were full of passion, passion that had been non-existent in my marriage for over seventeen years.
But it wasn't just that. I shared something with Bella that I hadn't with anybody else before: an interest, a hobby of sorts. We had so much in common, and before this entire ordeal, we'd had no problem talking with each other for hours.
There was a reason that Bella and I happened to be in the same writing course. Fate wanted us to meet and get to know each other on a deeper level, become friends, but I don't believe that fate had taken this attraction into the equation. I refused to believe that Bella was meant to become my mistress, no matter how much I secretly wanted it. She was too good, too innocent for that.
And I wasn't really prepared to do what I had told Bella I'd wanted in my office. I couldn't leave my wife and daughter, hell, my life, behind all because of how this teenage girl made me feel. I couldn't imagine abandoning what I had built up, my company, my family, and the normalcy of my existence, for the chance of a physically, and probably mentally, satisfying relationship. I had no guarantee that it would last, though.
I couldn't destroy my family for a shameful impulse. Bella deserves better and so does my family.
I had to forget about her, and she had to forget about me. In the end, even a friendship would be unlikely. It would be too tempting to be that close to each other.
So, my solution to all of this was exactly what I had done the first time. I decided to act as if nothing had ever happened and continue my life.
Bella would be hurt at first, but she would get over it eventually. She was still young. As soon as the next attractive guy came her way, she would forget all about her little crush on me.
I should have known that it wouldn't be that easy.
As the days pass, everything started to change.
Bella stopped coming over to our house, something that did not go unnoticed by Alice. One afternoon, I sat in the kitchen with a cup of coffee in front of me. The window that faced the front was open, and I could hear the two girls discuss this very issue.
Bella claimed that they used to hang out in this house all the time before, so what was so wrong with wanting to take a break from that and hang out at her place instead.
Alice did not buy that explanation and left Bella alone by our two mailboxes. I barely had time to greet my daughter before she had her cellphone pressed to her ear. She called Bella to ask what was wrong, but the conversation did not end well, or so I could tell by the slam Alice made with her bedroom door upstairs.
The strain between Alice and Bella caused my daughter to withdraw into herself. She wasn't communicating a whole lot with me and Mary before, but now, she blankly refused to say anything at all. Her behavior worried Mary, and fights between us erupted more often than before.
She couldn't stand how passive I was. When she was at her worst, she yelled that I only cared about myself.
It didn't exactly help her temper that I let her throw these words and accusations at me. She wanted me to react, to yell back, and claim that she was wrong, but I couldn't. Deep down, I knew that I was responsible for what my life had become.
So, it was with reluctance that Mary and I agreed to have lunch at the Swan's house that very Saturday. Renée wanted to give back since we invited them over a couple of weeks before, and she also said that she hoped it would help the girls find their way back to each other.
That we agreed with reluctance was because lunch with the Swan's meant pretending, smiling when you felt like screaming, constant bragging from Charlie, and incessant gossiping between our wives. It was not a play I enjoyed partaking in, but as it was, I had no choice.
I would have to meet Bella. I would have to interact with her.
My hands shook as I buttoned my shirt and began tying a marine blue tie around my neck. It didn't help to repeatedly take deep breaths, either. All I could do was hope that my intense desire for Bella would not be visible to the others.
When we arrived at the Swan's, they were in the middle of exchanging their old, wooden garden furniture with new, plastic ones. They were horrible, boring, and sterile, but it was obvious Charlie was pleased with them, and I immediately understood that he had bought them for this occasion. It made me want to throw up, but as the good neighbor I was, I complimented them, and a smug smile stretched across his face.
Inside, I shuddered at the whole display.
I felt a prickling at the side of my face and turned my head toward where I knew Bella was standing. For an infinite second, we are locked in each other's gaze, but I think we were the only ones that noticed.
"Hi," I said politely.
"Hi," she replied, and she succeeded very well with sounding unaffected, although, since I had gotten to know her quite well during the course, I could see she was anything but that.
"Hi, Bella!" Mary greeted her and went up to kiss her cheek. "How pretty you look today!"
"Thanks," Bella mumbled.
Renée went around and handed us drinks before we all went to the backyard where she and Charlie welcomed us with a simple dinner.
In the background, I heard giggling and two girls making fun of us boring adults as we clinked our glasses together and thanked our hosts for the invitation. The corners of my mouth twitched in amusement at the thought.
The next hours dragged by as we talked about mundane things like the weather, politics, and our jobs. I smiled and laughed at the right places when Charlie said something he deemed funny, and the whole time, I was able to avoid Bella.
There wasn't much to avoid. Alice did a pretty good job at keeping her away from me, and I thanked my daughter for that.
However, my luck couldn't last forever. Toward the end of the night, Alice's cell rang and when she squealed before answering, I knew she would be occupied for a while.
Renée and Mary began to take all the dishes inside to the kitchen, and Charlie had disappeared a few minutes before without saying where he was going, so it was only me and Bella left in their garden.
Bella gave me a look before standing up and making her way toward the south end of the hedge where a huge apple tree created a shadow that hid everything from view. I knew for a fact that Alice and Bella had used that same space many times when they were looking for trouble, but I tried not to think about what kind of mischief Bella had planned for us before I followed her.
I couldn't, not follow her. She was like a magnet.
Bella stopped just where she would be completely concealed, but she remained with her back to me.
Suddenly, I felt the urge to explain why I had reverted to ignoring her.
"Bella," I started lowly, and her shoulders tensed up as if she was expecting me to yell at her or something. "We need to take it easy, don't you think?" I asked her, but she did not answer me. "I mean…it would be impossible to…" I couldn't find the right words to explain it. I didn't know how to phrase it so that she would understand. For her it was probably as simple as me not liking her enough to take the chance—if she only knew.
"If we were to meet in that way…" I had to be careful not to say anything that would spark hope inside of her. I only wanted to explain it once, and I needed her to understand what it was she was asking of me by staying silent. "It would be hard for our families to associate, and we would constantly have to play theatre. I already am in a way, and I don't think I can handle adding another level to the character I already play. And I can't do that to Mary. I would feel like an ass."
Bella remained silent, but I knew she was soaking up every word, and I also knew that she didn't believe that to be the entire truth. She didn't have to say it out loud. I could hear it in her silence.
"I don't want to do this with you, Bella," I said truthfully, but the words came out harsher than I intended. "I can't start a relationship that might not have a future. It makes me feel like I have no control. Emotionally, I mean. Not now. Not at my age. Do you understand?"
I wished that she would turn around so that I could see her face, but it also made it easier to say all of this to her back, but I would have appreciated it if she said something to me. All she gave me was a shrug.
"I have too much to lose, Bella. Who knows what you'll feel for me in six months?"
"I haven't exactly asked you to marry me," she finally snapped at me. I flinched at the hurt in her voice.
"No, no, I know that! What I'm trying to say is that I don't want to take any risks with what I've got. I don't want to even think about what would happen if Alice and Mary suddenly found out." I sighed deeply. "I know it's difficult for you to understand. Mary and I have been married for twenty-three years, and—"
"I know exactly how long you've been married," she said and defensively crossed her arms across her chest. "And you don't have to explain anything. I understand better than you think."
She huffed slightly, and it tore at me, but it was for the best.
"I'm sorry, Bella," I said genuinely. "I never meant for any of this to happen."
I took a step closer and gently placed my hand on her bare shoulder. I let it remain there a second before removing it and backing away from the girl that had succeeded in capturing my heart, returning to what my life had been before her.
A/N: I never promised a happy ending ... Sorry if that upset you, but I wanted to write a realistic story as things like this do happen in real life.
Now I have considered continuing the story, but then I must warn you, our couple will spin a web of lies and cheating will be involved, more so than it already has, and I haven't decided if it should have a happy ending then between the couple because that would most certainly mean that Bella would completely lose Alice as a friend.
So it's up to you! If you absolutely want to read more drama, then tell me! Otherwise, this is it.
Thanks so much for reading!