"Yes, Pie?" She crawled up into my lap and held my cheeks in her hands. We'd been hanging out in the living room, wearing pajamas and watching movies.
"Are you sad?"
I frowned and took in her serious face, her lips were blue from a lollipop, her hair a mess of tangles.
"No way, Punky. Why would you think that?"
"'Cause we didn't go to the park this morning."
"You wanna go to the park?"
Pie nodded and a smile lit her small face. "YES!" She squealed.
"Alright, let's get moving then. We need to brush your hair and your teeth, you look like you're turning into a blue candy monster."
"You look like a hairy monster." Her small hands rubbing over my jaw and chin before jumping down from my lap. Giggles followed behind Piper as she ran down the hallway to her bedroom to get dressed.
To say I was avoiding even the slightest chance of running into Bella was an understatement. But when your four year old starts to notice that things aren't running as they normally would, you know you're fucking up and really, at twenty-nine, I shouldn't be hiding from anyone or anything.
I hadn't seen her in two days and the last time I had seen her at the diner, her dad gave me the 'don't touch' look. Like I needed to anger the Sheriff any more than I did as a kid growing up. Not that Charlie and I were on bad terms, but obviously he'd be protective of his daughter. I got that loud and clear and understood it better than most single guys my age. Just another reminder that even though I found Bella attractive, it wouldn't work.
"I'm ready!" Pie sang out as she skipped down the hall ten minutes later. She was wearing jeans and a plain black tshirt with her orange shoes. I sometimes worried that I should be buying her more dresses and pink and shoes that had glitter, but I wasn't good at that and so far, I'd been lucky; she was more interested in Ninja Turtles and music to care about dresses yet. Not that she didn't have them, my mom supplied her with a few, but she never chose to wear them. The closest she ever came to a dress was this insane tutu thing my mom bought her that Pie wore with regular tshirts. I loved that little girl the way she was, and knew that all too soon she'd be giggling at boys and twirling her hair and wanting nothing to do with her old dad.
"Let's brush your hair real quick. How about a pony tail?"
"How about two?" She held up two fingers.
"Sure. Two it is."
It took me about ten minutes to dig through the bed head and separate out two equal and even chunks of her hair to tie back separately.
"I love it, Daddy!" She shook her head around, her hair whipping across her face and wrapping around her neck.
"I'm glad, Pie. You look beautiful. But now we need sweatshirts and I need my shoes and then we can head out."
Since we didn't have Fozzy, we went straight over to the park by the school where they had the best swings and an awesome jungle gym. There was a large soccer field on one side of the park that lead out into the forest.
"Push me, Daddy!" Pie scrambled to get herself up on a swing, her small hands clutching at the metal chains.
"Hold on tight." Gripping the chains in my hands, I pulled her back toward me until her squeals filled the silence around us. "To the moon, Pie!" I let go of her and stood behind the swing ready to give her an extra push when needed.
There were only a handful of other kids at the park today, all older, probably around twelve or so. They were hanging out on the jungle gym, laughing and talking. It brought back memories of summer time, first kisses, camp fires and sleeping out in the backyard in a tent.
"Hey Pie, you wanna camp out tonight? We can get the tent and make a fire in the pit."
"Yes! And shmores?"
Laughing I nodded, "Of course, lots of s'mores. But we'll need to go to the store to get all that stuff."
"I see Bella!" Pie's shout came out of the blue.
Oh fuck. Not now. I looked out toward the soccer field and saw Bella, but she was with someone, sitting on a large blanket. She had a ring of flowers in her hair and her feet were bare.
Piper slid off the swing and started running in her direction.
She kept running.
"Piper Elliott. Stop."
This got her attention, she came to a complete frozen halt and stared at me.
"What Daddy? Let's go see Bella. She's my friend and she's nice."
"Pie," I crouched down in front of my daughter so that we were closer to eye level. "Remember when we had that talk the other day?"
"Bella doesn't live here, sweetie, she has to go back to her home soon, I don't want you to think that she's going to be here forever."
"I know that, Daddy. But she can still be my friend right now."
Dammit. Pie and her thirty year old logic and shit ruining my plans of staying the hell away from that woman.
"Well, she's with someone. We don't want to interrupt."
"It's just Uncah Sam." She pointed, eyes squinting.
Oh fucking wonderful. That makes it all better.
"Come, Daddy." And with that, my bullheaded daughter took off running across the field.
I pinched the bridge of my nose and breathed deeply. I needed a little fucking piece of control here and my four year old just ran off with it.
"Bella! Uncah Sam!"
I heard the loud greeting right before a small body hit my back, wrapping little arms around my neck.
"Hi Bella! It's me, Piper. Don't be scared."
Sam was laughing, but I couldn't help but feel a small sense of trepidation with Piper's presence; it meant that Edward was on his way as well. Just what I needed today, an encounter with the grumpy bastard.
I quickly shook off the anxious feeling and pulled Piper around me, tickling her until she fell on the blanket next to me.
"You sneaky girl."
She just giggled and rolled over to Sam, who scooped her up into his large arms. Sam and I had met up for a picnic and to hang out for a while. Lauren was working and my dad was catching up on the dvr with a few of his buddies.
A long shadow moved over me and covered part of Sam and Piper.
"Hey Ed." Sam jumped up and he and Edward proceeded to fist bump each other and do some weird finger-handshake thing. Boys.
"How did you make this?" Piper touched a flower in my head. I'd been weaving flower jewelry while Sam and I enjoyed the sunshine.
"I can show you, if you like."
"We have to go over there, by the trees, and get some flowers." Twisting, I looked up at Edward; his long lean legs were encased in jeans that looked well loved and worn. "Do you mind if Piper walks with me to get some flowers?"
"That's fine. Piper, behave."
The little girl grabbed my hand and we walked to a small cluster of wild flowers.
"We have to be sure to pick the ones with long bendy stems, so we can weave them together."
Piper squatted down, pushed her bangs back with a quick shove and began examining each flower, each blade of grass as if the world depended on her to make the correct choice. She really was a pretty cool kid.
Sitting next to her I pointed to a few wild daisies. "Those would be good, they have really long skinny stems."
"Okay." She bit her bottom lip and the tip of her tongue came out as she concentrated on picking just the right ones.
It took us a good five minutes, but we found a nice bundle of purple and yellow wildflowers to go with our daisies.
"Look, Daddy. I got the flowers, now Bella is going to show me how to do it."
Edward smiled at Piper, something I hadn't seen him do since we ran into each other at the grocery store. That smile really did amazing things for him.
"Looks awesome, baby."
Piper and I sat and built a wreath for her head and a small bracelet for her wrist.
"Look, now I'm pretty like you, Bella." She said once we settled the flowers around her head, carefully pulling her pigtails over the crown to help keep it in place.
"You were already pretty, Piper. Silly girl."
"But now I look like a girl."
Edward frowned at her comment and internally I flinched, just waiting for him to glare at me for having done something wrong. But he never looked at me.
"You look beautiful, Pie." Sam stood up and bowed in front of her. "May I have a dance?"
"Yes you may, Uncah Sam."
Off they went, twirling through the grass, Sam singing an old Van Morrison song at the top of his lungs, leaving me alone with Edward. I refused to be the first to start a conversation. I didn't want to punish myself.
Edward stood up and I cursed the part of me that was sad for him to go.
"Will you do me the honor?" His large hand came at me to help me stand.
"Um. What?" His back and forth was giving me whiplash.
"Do you wanna dance or not?"
"Well, when you put it that way, how could I not?"
His sigh was overly exaggerated.
"I'm trying, okay, Bella?"
"Trying to do what, Edward? The last time I saw you, you shot daggers at me, the time before that you chastised me for being nice to Piper. So exactly what are you trying to do now?"
"You haven't changed at all. You are such a bullheaded woman, you can't even see when someone is trying to be friendly toward you."
"Excuse me? I know very well when someone is trying to be friendly toward me. What I don't understand is you. You're absolutely against me being around Piper, to the point where you make it very clear with not so subtle glares when she's not even around. I don't know why you're so angry at me, or why you can't just enjoy life and embrace it for what it is, but this," I waved at his hand. "...isn't just a smooth over. Either we're friends or we're not. I'd like for us to be friends, but I would respect your wishes and stay away if you're that worried about Piper becoming attached."
"Dance with me." His fingers wiggled and I raised an eyebrow. "Please."
My stomach shamefully fluttered when I grabbed his hand to help pull myself up. We stepped off of the blanket and I nearly put my foot in a plate of half eaten brownies.
"You really haven't changed." Edward's low, quiet laugh curled my toes.
"Just because a girl trips once or twice doesn't make her a lost cause you know."
"Oh, I know." The intimate tone in his voice, as if we truly were great friends who shared a past and memories, made me want to dance circles around him. But that would be presumptuous of me. I hardly knew this grown Edward and he was proving to be damn wishy-washy.
Piper squealed loudly and I looked over to see Sam running her around like an airplane in circles.
Edward chose that moment to spin me through the grass, my toes barely touching the cool ground as he lifted me. The laughter left me before I could keep myself in check, the skirt of my dress flared around my legs and it finally felt like summer.
Edward put me back down, but settled my bare feet on top of his booted ones, our legs moving together as he waltzed around a large tree. His right hand engulfed mine and my left hand gripped the back of his other arm to stay steady when I felt his fingers curl into the fabric at my lower back.
He smelled amazing like clean soapy man and mint. I was suddenly very glad that I had decided to wear a little perfume, not that I should just assume he'd even noticed, but it was nice to think he did. He still hadn't shaved, his lips full behind more growth and a piece of his too long hair hung over his brow.
"How's your dad?"
I looked up into his clear green eyes, caught off guard by his sudden willingness to talk.
"He's okay. Healing up really well and if he flunks physical therapy it's because he likes hanging out with Sue."
Edward grinned. "Sue was my pt nurse when I broke my arm a few years ago."
I felt my eyebrow raise at his comment.
"I've not yet been able to really meet her. Apparently my dad asked her out on a date after he's well enough to drive again."
"Sounds like he's happy."
"Yeh, I guess so. I mean, besides being shot."
Edward danced me around the tree once more. The cool grass tickled my heels that hung over the toes of his boots, the breeze blowing through my hair. I still had the strangest urge to touch the hair on his jaw, my eyes traced the lines of his mouth. Edward's hand tightened at my back and I quickly shifted my gaze.
"Daddy!" Piper yelled from across the soccer field. Sam had her on his shoulders; she was clutching another batch of flowers. "Do it again, twirl Bella."
Edward looked down at me, dark eyes unyielding and I struggled to swallow.
"For the kid?"
I nodded because my voice decided not to work at that point. Before I could think twice, I was being spun, laughing when Edward dipped me.
Stay with me, heart. Don't go running off without me.
It's after 1am and I am now two days late on delivering for you wonderful people. Please accept my deepest apologies and if I could, I'd buy you all a scoop of ice cream with whatever toppings you love most.
Who love Van Morrison as much as I do? What's your favorite song by him? It is so hard for me to pick just one, I fell in love with him in the seventh grade, (thanks mom) and never looked back. While writing this chapter, the songs that I was listening to were:
And you shall take me strongly
In your arms again
And I will not remember
That I even felt the pain.
We shall walk and talk
In gardens all misty and wet with rain
And I will never, never, never
Grow so old again.
And if somebody, not just anybody
Wanted to get close to you
For instance, me, baby
All you gotta do
Is ring a bell
But the song that Sam chose to sing at the top of his lungs while dancing Piper through the summery soccer field was the ever loved classic...
"Into The Mystic"
And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will flow into the mystic
Come on girl...
Too late to stop now.
I hope that you all enjoy the picnic.
Until we meet again,