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Word Prompts: Budge, grudge, smudge
"Yeah." I tug on my tank top, smoothing it. "It's, uh...I'm getting into it. Like Rose said I would."
He nods. "That's good. You should take care of yourself."
Shrugging, I look down at my shoes. "I'm trying."
He reaches for my hand and tugs me closer. "You busy later?"
"Just finishing up an order for Friday. My friend Maggie's coming over; she's our pinch hitter when things get hectic." I give his hand a squeeze. "Why?"
"I'd like to take you to dinner."
Not what I was expecting, but awesome nonetheless. Smiling, I nod. "That would be nice. Can we maybe...try for Saturday?"
Inside my purse, my phone vibrates. I let go of Edward's hand to retrieve it, peering down at the screen. "That's Rose...class is starting. I have to go. Call me or something."
"Can I get your number?"
"Oh, right." Laughing a bit, I scroll to my keyboard. "Give me yours; I'll call you right now."
"I'm really sorry," Alice rasps.
"Aw - it's okay! I hope you feel better."
She mumbles a good bye and I hang up, sighing. Maybe this is a sign. Alice was my last hope for a babysitter and she's pretty sure she has the flu.
Emmett, Rose and the kids are at the shore for the weekend and Sue took Dad to her family's annual reunion. Alice is the only other person I'd ever ask to watch Charlie, and now she's puking her guts out.
My eyes slide to the clock. Edward is picking me up in an hour. At least, he's supposed to be.
"Hey...so, I don't think I'll be able to come out tonight after all. I'm really sorry."
He's quiet for a moment. "You standing me up?" he asks, teasing but maybe a little disappointed too.
"I'm so sorry, Edward. All of my regular babysitters decided to leave town at the same time and the one friend who'd agreed just called to say she was sick."
"You've got no one to watch Chuck?"
"So bring her."
Images of spilled juice, tantrums and irritated restaurant patrons spring to mind. "Oh, no. I couldn't. That's sweet of you to offer, though."
"Come on; what's the worst that could happen?"
Well, there was the time she upchucked at IHOP because she didn't like the sausage touching her pancakes.
"I don't want her to...ruin things."
"She won't. I'll be there soon, okay?"
"Where are we going?" I ask, but he's already hung up.
Ignoring my growing sense of trepidation, I peek in on Charlie, who's playing with her stuffed animals. "So, Miss Alice got sick. She can't come over."
Charlie scowls, holding out her hand. "But she was gonna paint my nails. Yellow, Mom."
"I know. Sorry, Kiddo." I sit beside her on the bed, tugging her braid. "But guess what?"
"Edward's taking us out to dinner."
She beams up at me, pleased as punch. "Okay."
"Okay. Let's change out of our jammies."
Charlie pushes her way to the closet, yanking several dresses from their hangers. "This one, Mom." It's a yellow sundress.
"This one's getting a little small," I say, tossing it aside in favor of a purple My Little Pony shirt and matching skirt. "How about this?"
"Come on, Charlie."
"I want this one," she insists, pointing to the sundress.
"It's too small."
But she won't budge, folding her arms and pouting.
"Fine, we'll just stay home," I say, rolling eyes.
"I wanna go!"
"Then get dressed, Charlie. I don't have all night." I hang the fallen clothes before leaving her room, trying to switch gears and think about my own outfit.
I've just pulled on a maxi dress and denim jacket when she appears in my room, wearing the too-small sundress and a pair of backwards purple leggings. It's silly but cute, and I reward her with a smile, unable to begrudge her sense of style. "Okay, I like that."
"I like that," she echoes, pointing at my outfit.
"Yeah, I think we look nice. C'mon, let's fix your pants."
Getting Charlie's carseat into the backseat of Edward's two door Aston Martin is entertaining, to say the least. I offer to do it, but Edward insists he can manage, and spends at least five minutes struggling before I clear my throat and gently push him aside. "These are tricky. Let me do it."
He makes a face. "Are these always so ridiculous?"
"Unfortunately. Charlie, hands on the car." She obeys out of habit, doing what we always do when we're in busy parking lots.
"I can..." Tentatively, Edward holds out his hand. She grabs it, staring at a group of tattoos inches from her face.
It's a tight squeeze, but I finally snap the carseat, and Charlie, into place.
"Maybe we should have taken your car," Edward jokes, side eyeing me as I buckle my seatbelt.
"Yeah, this isn't exactly family friendly," I say lightly.
"Not exactly." He downshifts, bringing us to a stop at a light.
"So, where are we going?"
"I thought we could try Benihana downtown. Have you been?"
"Not in a really long time," I say, grinning. "That's actually perfect. I think Charlie will love it."
"Emmett suggested it," he admits, glancing at me. "When I told him she was coming."
"Did he say anything else?"
"About us going out?"
"Just to have fun."
And we do. We have so much fun. To my intense relief, Charlie behaves herself at the restaurant. She's totally charmed by the chef who comes to our table, and he in turn plays to her, giving her special tricks and treats.
It's not exactly the best setting for deep conversation, but that's all right. Instead, we chat about other things - first date things like hobbies and favorite foods and childhood shenanigans. I tell him about Emmett as a kid; he tells me what really went on when they were in college.
Edward has one beer before switching to water, and I limit myself to just two drinks, not wanting to be too fuzzy. By the time we leave, I'm so stuffed I'm almost uncomfortable. Wearing this dress was wise, even if I did put it on for aesthetic reasons.
Charlie passes out on the way home, which is great, but then perks right up the second we park, which sucks. I should be glad I don't have to carry her inside, but I haven't kissed Edward since the first time and I really, really want to.
"I'm going to try to put her down real quick," I say, flipping the lights on once we're inside.
"Cool. Where should I put this?" he asks, holding up the carseat.
"Right there by the door is fine."
Charlie's usual independence is dulled by exhaustion tonight. I make sure she uses the bathroom and brushes her teeth, then help her into her jammies.
"Mm not tired, Mom," she sighs as I bring the blanket up.
"I think you are." I kiss her face, wiping a smudge of chocolate I must've missed before.
"No." Her eyes flutter shut.
"Love you. Good night." I kiss her again, her eyelids and nose, until she pats my face and kisses me back.
"Love you, Mom."
Making sure her night light is on, I edge out of the room.
Edward's still standing by the door when I emerge, hands in his pockets. "She asleep?"
"Want me to head out?"
I wrap my arms around myself, maintaining what I hope is a neutral expression.
He reaches out, touching my arm. "Okay?"
Shrugging, I nod.
"Remember the other night? When you told me to stop being so polite?" he asks suddenly.
"I remember." I remember everything about that night, doesn't he realize?
"Stop being so polite, Bella."
"You are. Do you want me to stay or to go?"
"I want you to make a decision," I say, feeling nearly cornered by his directness.
"I will when you will." He says it like it he's messing around, but I think he means it.
"Oh, so this all rests on me?" I laugh.
The smile playing at his lips fades. I stare at him. He seems so far away, leaning against that wall. "Yeah, it does."
We're a little old to be playing these games. I don't get where he's coming from, so I take a deep breath and open the door. "I had fun tonight. Thanks for taking us out, Edward."
I think he's going to walk out, but he just stands in front of me, in the open doorway. "Talk to me," he says quietly, tangling his fingers in mine.
"Don't play games with me," I say to the tattoo on his neck. A lotus, maybe? "Not the way you just were."
"I wasn't playing. I'm sorry you took it like that."
"You meant it like that."
He tilts my chin up, making me look at him. "I meant it like...I'll follow your lead."
"Maybe I don't want to lead."
"You'll have to. You're not like other girls I've dated."
"Because I have a kid?"
"Because you're sweet, and things are up in the air right now and...I don't know really what I'm doing."
"Did Emmett say something to you?" I whisper, rubbing my forehead.
"He didn't have to."
A car passes on the street. I watch the taillights disappear around the corner, blurry in the light rain. "Well. I like you. I'm probably always going to want you to stay."
I stare up at him, willing him closer. I know there's a risk. I know. But I want it. I want him.
"I like you, too. A lot." He leans in and kisses me, deepening it just slightly before pulling back. "And I'd really like to come inside."
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