This was my entry in the Fictionpad Olderward/ Olderella contest. It won second place for Best Angst. Don't worry, I think it's very light on angst; I classified it as romance.
Big thanks to lellabeth for betaing:)
Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary:Edward had all but given up on finding success, happiness, love…until a young woman he meets in the park shows him it's never too late.
Edward Cullen was in a funk. He'd come to the park hoping to enjoy some peace and quiet, and maybe shake off the melancholy that seemed to have become a permanent fixture in his life. He sat on a bench, alone as far as he could tell. He'd brought his favorite Moleskine notebook, black and a bit dog-eared. He had dozens of the same at home, all filled with the thoughts and ideas that clamored to get out of his head. He'd yet to write anything today, though. He'd hoped something would come to him in the serenity of the park, but all he'd done was reflect negatively on the path his life had taken so far. He was truly in a black mood and couldn't seem to get out of it.
As he contemplated leaving, a young woman walked past him and set up a small easel and a stool not too far from his bench. He watched her with little interest until she took out a set of colored pencils and began sketching the trees and the pond in front of her. He found himself mesmerized by the scratching of her pencils over the heavy cream paper. They left behind a perfect rendering of the scene before her. Edward had never been able to draw; his creative outlet had always been writing. Not much of an outlet these days, he thought sourly.
As he watched the girl's drawing come to life, Edward felt compelled to see it up close. He stuffed his Moleskine into his messenger bag and walked toward the girl. As he got closer, he cleared his throat, not wanting to scare her or seem like a creeper. She turned her head, and Edward smiled and said, "Um, hello."
Immediately he felt a hot rush of embarrassment. She was young, probably not more than twenty-five, and very beautiful. Long, chestnut hair framed a lovely, oval-shaped face. Her dark eyes crinkled at the corners as her full pink lips pulled up into a smile. "Hi there." She looked him up and down and, apparently deciding that he wasn't an immediate threat, went back to her sketching.
"I was sitting over there"—Edward gestured to the bench he'd just vacated, even though she hadn't turned her head—"and saw your drawing. It's quite good." He scratched at the back of his neck, feeling more and more awkward, yet wanting to engage the young woman.
Finally she turned. "Thank you. I don't mind people watching me. If you like, you can sit here on the grass and we can chat as I work."
"Oh, I didn't mean—I should—ˮ Edward floundered, feeling like some kind of sleazy pervert. Didn't she know better than to invite strange men to sit with her?
She glanced up at him, then pointed at the grass. "Sit. Unless you're afraid of getting your pants dirty?"
"Oh, um, no." Startled by her directness, Edward sat. He didn't want her to think he was prim in addition to possibly being a pervert.
"I'm Bella, by the way."
"Edward. Edward Cullen. Do you sketch here often, Bella?" This was the by far the most interesting and pleasant thing that had happened to him all day, so Edward decided to go with it.
"I try to get out here at least once or twice a week, if the weather's nice, of course. I paint murals to pay my rent; mostly for kids' rooms, stuff like that. Painting is my real passion. I have a small room that I use as a a studio. I'm hoping to be able to show my work one day." Bella put the finishing touches on the drawing. "What about you, Edward? What's your passion?"
Edward wasn't sure how to answer. There wasn't much he felt passionate about lately. "I'm a writer. I freelance, mostly for sports and outdoor magazines. It gives me time to work on my…other writing."
Bella stopped packing up her easel and peered at Edward with interest. "Your 'other writing'? What kind of writing is that?"
"Well, it's nothing really. Just a novel I'm working on. I'm stuck at the moment, and came here hoping it might clear my head, but..." Edward looked away, uncomfortable with confessing his failure.
"It can't be 'nothing' if it's what you love. Ah, the creative process. It can't be forced, as I'm sure you know. You'll get past it." Bella's earnest words almost made Edward believe it.
Bella stood, her easel and supplies under her arm. "This is it, I guess. I'll be back tomorrow, if you're around and feel like company. I was thinking I'd head over to other side of the park, where the fountain is?" She watched Edward, waiting for an answer.
"Okay," Edward said, without really thinking about it. "I'll see you tomorrow, Bella."
Edward found himself walking home in a better mood than he'd expected. Meeting Bella had definitely been a bright spot in an otherwise dark day.
They met at the park the next day, and again two days after that. Edward loved watching Bella work, but it was their conversations that he craved. Bella was so open and easy to talk to, and she had a perpetual optimism that was infectious, at least while Edward was in her company.
The third time they met, Edward persuaded her to let him buy her dinner. He took her to his favorite Thai restaurant. When Bella thanked him for inviting her out, his reply was more honest than he'd intended. "You're more than welcome, Bella. Believe me, I should be thanking you. Meeting you has been the best thing to happen to me in a while."
She graced him with a sweet smile. "What's got you down, Edward? I mean, I know you've been having some difficulties with your writing, but surely you've experienced that before. You've got to give it time."
Edward leaned back in his chair and blew out a breath. "I don't know, Bella. This time feels different. Plus there's…I'm…I'll be forty in a few weeks." He was embarrassed to be revealing so much to Bella, who was so much younger yet so much wiser. She probably thought he was a pathetic old fool.
Bella was surprised at the despair in Edward's expression. She'd taken him for maybe thirty-five, but even so, forty was hardly over the hill. She looked him over scrupulously in light of this information and didn't find him lacking in any way. In fact, he was quite handsome. "I don't understand."
"Half of my life is over, Bella, and what do I have to show for it? A bunch of notebooks filled up with stuff nobody cares about reading, yet I spend my time writing more. What's the point?"
Bella chose her words carefully. "But you love writing, right? I mean, it is your passion?"
"Well, yeah. I mean, it's what I do. It's all I know how to do, really. It's not just my writing, though. It's everything. I've never had a really successful relationship, let alone been married. I don't even have a dog. Shouldn't there be more to life at this point? A family, a house, success? I just feel like…I'm almost forty. Where is my life going, you know?" Edward peered down at his hands, embarrassed not only at the pathetic state of his life but that he'd actually admitted to it.
He sighed. "I don't know…I've always been the black sheep in my family. My brother, Emmett, followed in my father's footsteps and became a doctor. He's been married for fifteen years and has three kids. Nobody understands why I'm still alone, why I waste my time doing the things I do. Why I don't have a career, like Emmett."
Bella considered his words. She quipped, "Well, seeing as I'm only twenty-six, I can't speak from personal experience, but I get what you're saying. I think you need to focus less on your age and more on just doing. You want to write? Go ahead and write. Don't worry about what other people think—write for yourself. You want a relationship? Well, that takes a little more work, but you can still have that, Edward. Nothing is off-limits to you just because of your age. And actually"—she leaned across the table and spoke in a low voice, a grin playing at her lips—"I think you're pretty sexy for forty."
Edward felt the blood rush to his face. He was hot all over. "Well, that's nice of you to say, Bella, but… Christ, I've got grey hair."
Bella would have found Edward's distress comical if he wasn't so serious about it. She reached across the table and combed her fingers through the little bit of grey that peppered the dark auburn hair at his temples. "Hardly any," she scoffed. "And I think your hair is one of the sexiest things about you. That, and your glasses."
Edward fingered his heavy black frames dubiously. "I was thinking of getting contacts, actually."
"Oh, no! The glasses are much sexier. Trust me." Bella winked. She was enjoying getting Edward flustered, and she was still processing the fact that she found herself attracted to him.
Edward went home that night feeling marginally better about his upcoming birthday, and wondering if Bella really thought he was sexy or if she had simply been trying to raise his spirits.
Over the next several weeks, Edward and Bella spent more and more time together. They met at the park, where Bella would paint or draw. Edward found that his writing came a bit easier on these days, and his heart felt a bit lighter. On rainy days they explored museums and galleries. They shared a mutual love of bookstores, and learned one another's favorite authors and books. Edward had asked her out to dinner several times, although he never characterized their dinners as dates. He knew he was falling for Bella, but found it impossible to believe someone as young and vivacious as her would want someone like him. Bella was sweet and giving and kind, but since their first dinner together, she'd given no hint that she was interested in anything more than friendship with him, so Edward resolved to keep his feelings to himself in order to preserve their friendship.
One night as they were leaving the park, Bella seemed uncharacteristically shy. She turned to Edward after they'd walked a few blocks. "Come home with me. I'll make us dinner."
Such simple words, but they made Edward's stomach flip. Come home with me. He smiled, tamping down his desire to pull Bella into his arms and press his lips to hers. "Okay."
Bella was a natural in the kitchen. She quickly cut up vegetables and chicken for a stir fry, while Edward sat at her small table watching in awe.
She had been rather quiet as she worked. Suddenly, she laid down her knife and smiled impishly at Edward. "I have something to tell you. I was going to wait, but…I got a call from a gallery downtown. They're interested in putting on a show of my paintings!"
Edward knew that Bella's real passion lay in the large-scale, abstract canvasses she painted in her small studio. This would be her first show, and he was thrilled and excited for her, though a small part of him burned with jealousy that her dreams were coming to fruition while his remained elusive. He pushed those thoughts away, ashamed.
"That's amazing, Bella. I'm so happy for you." Edward's smile was warm, his gaze affectionate. He truly was happy for her, it was just hard not to compare her good fortune with his ongoing frustration.
She returned his smile, coming over to wrap him in a hug. "Thank you. It's not finalized, but I'm almost certain it's a go." She looked into his green eyes earnestly. "Never give up on your dreams, Edward. If writing is what makes you happy, keep doing it. Write your novel, the way you want to write it, so you can be proud of it. Promise me you won't give up."
Edward felt his throat close up with love for Bella. It was as if she'd read his mind and was able to look past his selfish concerns. He nodded, adding a hoarse "I promise" once he'd got a hold of his emotions.
As they sat in Bella's eclectic living room, finishing a bottle of wine and chatting, Bella regarded Edward seriously. "Have you ever thought that maybe you've taken a wrong turn with your novel, Edward? I mean, I'm sure you have, but it's probably hard to look at it with a completely objective eye. I'd be happy to take a look and offer my opinion, for what it's worth."
Edward grasped Bella's hand and squeezed. "Your opinion means a lot to me, Bella. Without you in my life these last weeks, I might have already tossed the thing. I'd be happy to have you read it."
Bella turned their hands over and stroked Edward's palm with her thumb. Impulsively, she leaned up and captured his lips in a slow, sweet kiss. She heard his sharp intake of breath and pulled away, unsure whether her advance had been welcome.
"Bella..." Edward's gaze was intense, his lips slightly parted. His hand came up to stroke her cheek.
Tentatively Bella leaned in again, and this time Edward met her halfway. They shared a few tender kisses before Bella sat back, panting. She curled into Edward's side with a shy smile. "You mean a lot to me, Edward."
"You mean a lot to me too, Bella. More than you know." He stroked her hair, his heart galloping in his chest. He was afraid to voice his next question, but he couldn't allow more to happen between them without knowing. "Doesn't it bother you that I'm so—so much older than you are?"
"No." Bella's response was immediate and firm. "We have lots of things in common, more than I have with most people I know who are my age, actually." She searched his face. "Does it bother you?"
"No, well—I don't know. I feel like a dirty old man. I'm not sure what you see in me." The words tumbled out before Edward could stop himself. He sat forward and leaned his elbows on his knees, mortified. If Bella didn't have doubts about him before, surely she must now.
He turned when he felt Bella's warm palm on his shoulder. She didn't look upset. He closed his eyes as if that would rewind and erase his ramblings. "I'm sorry."
Her voice was quiet and soothing. "This is what I see in you, Edward. You're kind, sweet, talented, handsome…Look, do you want to try this? Us?" She gestured between them. "I do. Do you believe me when I tell you that I want you, just the way you are, grey hairs and all?"
Edward looked up to see Bella grinning. Her obvious sincerity made him smile too. He spoke past the lump in his throat, an earnest whisper."I do want it. Just—no jokes about the grey hair, okay?"
She pretended to pout. "You mean I can't call you my silver fox?"
He groaned, scrunching up his face in distaste. "Oh, God ..."
Bella giggled and kissed his cheek. "It's a deal. Bring me your manuscript tomorrow, okay? Let's see if we can get you moving in a forward direction again."
Waiting for Bella to return his novel and offer her critique was excruciating. When she finally called to say that she was finished and would bring it over, Edward felt like he was going to be sick.
They spent the better part of an afternoon going over the notes Bella had made as she read. She was very complimentary about Edward's writing, and had some surprising and well-thought-out insight. After several hours however, Edward had reached the inescapable conclusion that a large portion of his novel would need to be rewritten. He'd been in such a slump, tried so hard to move forward, that he'd neglected to see that it was what he'd already written that was holding him back. He sighed.
Bella smiled encouragingly. "Hey, it's better to figure this out now rather than later, right? I know it's a lot of work, but you're back on track. You're moving forward. You don't know how many times I've painted over something and started from scratch."
"I know. Maybe I knew all along, you know, and just didn't want to admit it." He shook his head. "Thank you, Bella. I appreciate all you've done."
"It's no trouble at all." She cupped his stubbled cheek, turning his face toward her. "Why don't we take a break? I feel like we've been sitting here for days."
Edward was distracted. His mind was already working, mapping out what needed to be done in order to get his novel moving again. "Oh, sure."
Bella stood and took his hand, pulling on it and giving him a pointed look. "I thought we could take our break in your room."
With those words, Edward's mind stopped working, grinding to a halt as he stared at Bella in surprise.
It had been two weeks since they'd first kissed, and in that time they hadn't seen one another often enough to advance their relationship much. Bella had been going over his manuscript, so they'd spoken on the phone every day, but had only been together a couple of times. Edward was not in a great hurry to move their relationship along physically; although he wanted Bella desperately, his own doubts and insecurities made him apprehensive about that aspect of their relationship.
Bella, however, was feeling a little frustrated. She understood Edward's reservations, his self-esteem issues and his anxiety about their age difference, and she didn't want to injure his pride by implying that he was moving too slowly. So today, she decided to move things along herself.
She pulled on his hand. "Come on, I just want to be with you. No pressure."
Edward could feel the flush creeping up his neck and into his cheeks. He was no prude, but it had been a while, and he hadn't been expecting this today. Nonetheless he stood, kissed Bella's temple, and allowed her to lead him into his bedroom.
She motioned for Edward to sit, and when he did, she straddled his thighs, her arms draped loosely around his neck. "Hi." She pecked his lips, pulling back to look in his eyes. "Is this okay?"
"Of course," he murmured, one hand on her hip, the other caressing her back. "We haven't had much time to ourselves lately. And I suppose once I get started reworking that manuscript—ˮ
Bella's mouth was on his before he could finish his sentence. He groaned as her tongue swept over his bottom lip, encouraging him to open to her. Bella pushed on his shoulder and he dropped back on his elbows, groaning as she focused her attentions on his neck, biting and sucking. Edward moaned, feeling himself harden as Bella continued her ministrations on the sensitive area. Finally he pulled away, panting. Eyes tightly closed, he struggled to get himself under control. "Give me a minute," he whispered.
When he opened his eyes a few seconds later, the look in them was predatory. He rolled Bella onto her back, pressing his body up against hers and pushing his tongue into her mouth, kissing her with fervor until she turned her head to the side, gasping for air.
"Sorry," he murmured, not sounding sorry at all.
Bella smiled, a slow, lazy, satisfied smile. "Mmm, I like you like this, so confident and … uninhibited."
"God, Bella. You make me feel like I can do anything. You make me forget the grey hairs and the writer's block." Edward held her gaze, stroking her face with reverence. "I'm in love with you, Bella. I love you."
The look of pure affection on Bella's face made Edward's heart clench. "I love you too, Edward."
Edward threw himself into reworking his novel. He approached it with a vigor and zeal he hadn't felt in years. He attributed his creative burst to Bella. Her optimism and enthusiasm were infectious.
Bella was thrilled to see this side of Edward emerge. He was excited about his work again, but more importantly he was excited about life. There was no more moping, bemoaning his age and worrying about things he hadn't done. He'd embraced Bella's way of thinking and was looking to the future.
The only downside to Edward's feverish desire to finish his novel was that Bella had hardly seen him for weeks. They spoke on the phone, and got together every few days, but most of that time was spent discussing his progress and going over the changes he'd made. There had been more kissing and touching during their time together, but Edward had clearly been distracted and eager to get back to work, so the physical aspect of their relationship had stalled.
Finally, the day arrived when Edward felt he was finished. He'd read and re-read, and in his heart he knew that this was his novel as it was meant to be. He knew it might not set the world on fire, but it was his. It had truly been a labor of love, along with a good deal of frustration, and he was proud of it, whatever happened.
When Bella opened her door one evening to see Edward standing there, an enormous smile on his face, she knew he'd done it. She threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly, and whispered, "I'm so, so proud of you."
Pulling back, she beamed up at him. She was practically vibrating with excitement. "Now we have two things to celebrate."
Edward looked at her in confusion for a moment, then his eyes widened in realization. "Your show—you got the show! Oh, Bella, that's wonderful. God, I'm sorry. I've been so caught up in getting this done I never even asked you how it was going."
"Don't be sorry. We've both got something to be proud of. Come on, I've got dinner cooking." Bella looked him over with a disapproving eye. "I bet you've been living on takeout, when you've actually taken the time to eat."
Edward ran his hand through his hair, flashing her a guilty smile. "You'd win that bet, I'm afraid."
"No matter. It's done now, and I'll make sure you're fed and properly taken care of." Bella winked at him, and Edward knew she wasn't just talking about dinner. He felt an excited stirring in the pit of his belly.
Edward's hopes were realized when, after dinner, Bella took a bottle of wine in hand and perched on his lap. Curling a hand around his neck, she leaned in to nuzzle his ear and whispered, "Let's take this upstairs." She raised the bottle of wine to clarify, but her demeanor made it clear that they would be doing more than just drinking wine.
Edward stood abruptly, with Bella in his arms, and moved towards the stairs. He said nothing, merely gazing at her with adoration.
Once they were in Bella's room, clothes were removed slowly and with reverence, in between heated kisses. Edward led Bella to the bed and gently laid her down, resting his body on top of hers and feathering kisses on her eyelids, her nose, her lips. He sucked and licked at her tight pink nipples, marveling at the way her breasts seemed to fit perfectly in his palms. He made his way down her body, leaving her burning with need everywhere his lips and fingers touched.
He knelt between her spread thighs, running his fingers along the soft skin, watching goosebumps burst forth in their wake. When he moved in toward where Bella was warm and wet, her hips bucked up to meet his fingers. He pushed two in, watching as her eyes closed and her fingers clutched at the bedding.
Her voice was a fervent whisper. "Oh…Edward, please. I don't want to wait any more. I want to feel you, now."
Edward swallowed hard, clenching his eyes shut against the fear that he'd disappoint her.
"It's just us, Edward. I want you. I love you. Please." Bella's eyes shone with love and vulnerability.
Edward pushed his own insecurities aside and kissed her temple. "I love you too, Bella. So much."
Taking a deep breath, he slowly entered her, feeling as though the air was being sucked from his lungs as he pushed into her tight, lush heat. Bella's hands roamed from his shoulders, down his sides and to his firm backside, settling there as she rolled her hips against his.
They moved together, exchanging whispered words of love and adoration. Edward pulled back to look into Bella's eyes, awed that this amazing woman was here with him. Wanted him. Loved him. He moved his hand between them, desperate to see Bella fall apart before his eyes.
As Bella's orgasm began, Edward felt his own approaching. He buried himself deep inside her, his eyes pinched shut as he felt his balls tighten, and he let go with a guttural moan.
"Oh, Bella..." Edward rolled to the side and wrapped his arm around her, burrowing his face into her sweet-smelling hair. He felt a profound sense of peace and happiness.
A soft hand stroked his damp hair. "That was perfect." Bella's big, brown eyes shimmered with emotion. "We're perfect together. I love you, Edward."
Edward bit back the protest that rose to his lips. He knew what Bella meant, and her acceptance and love were a gift that he was still learning to receive.
He gazed at her warmly. "My beautiful girl. I hope there are many more things that we can celebrate like that."
Bella smiled. "Every day we have together should be celebrated, Edward."
Edward could find nothing to disagree with there, and so he simply took Bella's face in his hands and kissed her senseless.
Thanks for reading—I hope you enjoyed it! Please let me know what you thought in a review.