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"...and tonight the stars'll be out, and don't you know that God is Pooh Bear?"
-Jack Kerouac, On the Road
She has been ready for an hour.
She told herself it was because it had been so long since she curled her hair and she wanted to make sure she had enough time. But really, it was because she had to do something before she crawled out of her own skin.
And she had already baked three dozen cookies.
So she sits at a stool near the kitchen counter, hair curled and clipped to the side like Mrs. Greene showed her, and she tries not to look at the door. Again.
When she hears the rumble of a car outside, she tells herself to stay put, but it's too late and she's flying to the door to look out the peephole.
It's not him, and she turns to rest her back and head against the door. She tells herself to breathe, and hopes that this time, her body will obey.
Seconds or minutes later, the doorbell sounds—was it always so loud?—and she clamps her hand over mouth so she doesn't scream.
That's how Edward Cullen sees her when she opens the door. Hand over her mouth and eyes wide.
She expects him to laugh, but his eyes are wide, too and he's looking at the dress she bought just for him.
And then he's looking at her, and his hand comes up and gently pulls hers away from her face.
"Can I move this?"
She nods and keeps telling herself to breathe, but he's wearing a tie and a jacket with his jeans and it's like every boy she fell in love with in every movie she ever watched is here, in front of her, and it's hard to remember things like breathing when he's holding your hand and you're not sure if anything happening to you right now is real.
"Can I kiss you?"
It's the way he says it, and the way it was the last thing she expected that snaps her back to reality.
She nods, but she's only half way there when his hand is on her neck and in her hair and his thumb is on her cheek and finally, finally, his lips are on hers. They are just as soft and just as warm as when she felt them on her skin, but so much better this way, and her hands grasp the sides of his jacket, close to his waist, and squeeze.
He shivers, and he lets her go.
But she holds on to his jacket because it's the only thing keeping her on the ground.
He says "I'm sorry" but he's smiling so she doesn't believe him.
"I think I was supposed to wait until the end, but you opened the door and I couldn't wait anymore."
And while she never expected that kiss in that moment, it's always his honesty that surprises her most.
He takes her hands from his sides and holds them in his own.
"Are you ready?"
For this, for him, she can be honest, too.
He opens the car door for her, and when he climbs in, he turns on the heater and makes sure the vents are pointed in her direction.
She doesn't think she needs them, but she doesn't tell him so.
"Where are we going?"
He smirks, and her lips tingle at the memory.
She doesn't know what to do with her hands, so she clasps them in her lap and looks out the window, hoping that the changing scenery will distract her from his tie and his mouth and the way the car smells like him.
But then his right hand is on her left, pulling it off her lap, interlocking their fingers before coming to rest between them.
"You don't like surprises, do you?"
"Not usually. I never understood why people like them so much."
His face falls a bit.
"But I get it now."
When he turns on the radio, he doesn't let go of her.
When she squeezes his hand, he squeezes back.
They pull off the main road and on to a dirt path, and she's still not sure where they're going, but it feels familiar.
"If I asked you to close your eyes, would you do it?"
I think I might do anything you ask me.
"Will you close your eyes?"
She looks at him and smiles, and even though this is the part about surprises that she hates the most, the achy awkward moment before the thing you think is going to happen actually happens, it's the way he glances between her face and her dress and the road ahead and the way his hand gets sweatier the closer they get to wherever they're going that makes her obey. Happily.
Not a minute later and they're stopped and she hears him open the door, then it's cold air and his arms as he lifts her out of her seat.
"Keep them closed."
His arm is warm across her shoulders and his other hand is wrapped tight in hers, but she still trips over rocks before they get to something like pavement.
He releases her hand and she feels him move beside her, then the sound of a lock and a door opening and then warmth as he takes her inside.
She smells him and feels his breath on her ear before he whispers.
"Stay right here."
She feels kind of silly, standing there by herself with her eyes closed, and without him to ground her that achy feeling starts to creep back in to her stomach.
So she crosses her arms around her waist and focuses on the sound of his feet as they run from one side of the room to the other. The air that surrounds her feels heavy and smells like earth and petals.
Then his hands are uncrossing her arms and he's leading her across the floor.
They stop and before he can say anything, she's running her hands up his arms to find his neck and standing on her toes to kiss him. She feels him smiling beneath her lips as his arms come around her waist, but then she's tasting him with her tongue and he's not smiling any more.
When they both pull away to breathe, he rests his forehead on hers and she whispers,
"This is the best date I've ever had."
She hears him chuckle and feels him trace her cheek with his fingertips.
"You haven't even opened your eyes yet."
He kisses her again.
"Can I open them?"
She does. They're blurry at first from being closed for so long but then she blinks and then she gasps.
Because she's standing in a nursery with makeshift rows of twinkle lights above her head and a table with two chairs and candles in front of her, and a handsome boy she's known for two weeks or maybe two lifetimes is holding her hand.
"What—how did you do this?"
"This is job number three."
He laughs, leads her to a chair, and pulls it out for her.
"Working here in the nursery. And I promise I'm not seducing you."
She sits down and tries not to sound disappointed.
He pushes her in and leans next to her ear.
"I think it's been a long time since someone took care of you. So that's what I'm doing."
He sits across from her, opens a paper bag and pulls out two deli sandwiches.
"Sorry. This is all I had time to get. The lights took longer than I thought."
He smiles bright and takes her hand like he's done it a million times before, and then he starts saying something about turkey and begins searching through the bag for napkins.
Bella Swan knows a lot about tears. There's the kind that creep up slow, squinting out of the side of your eyes before you catch them. There's the kind that hit without warning, a punch to the gut, and suddenly your face and neck are wet. There's the kind that last through the night and dry on your cheeks and your pillow and make your eyelashes stick together when you wake up. She knows them all well, considers herself an expert, even. And before this moment, she would have told you that "tears of happiness" are bullshit, and strictly reserved for overwrought romance novels and old movies.
Now, it's something else she's beginning to understand.
Something else he's beginning to teach her.
"Chicken parmesan. You?"
"Pizza. It's a cliché, I know, but if you ever go to Chicago, you'll understand."
His eyes glance at her dress.
She glances at his eyes.
"So I finally met Rosalie. She seems…interesting."
"She's incredible. Don't let the boots and spikes fool you. She sees a lot. Cares a lot."
"It's been a long time since I've heard Emmett talk so much, so she's fine by me."
"Did he always have difficulty speaking?"
"No. That didn't start until he was eleven or so. There was this one group home—"
He breathes deep.
"He was getting bigger and the other boys were afraid, so they gave him hell. It took me six months to get him transferred somewhere else."
"He's getting better. That's what matters."
When she takes both of his hands in both of hers, they both look down at the way they fit together.
"Will you tell me about your father?"
She nods, knowing this was coming.
"He was the Chief of Police here when I was growing up, but he started having a lot of back trouble and had to retire early."
She inhales and he squeezes her hand.
"The trouble turned out to be cancer. I was in college and left to move back here and help him."
He squeezes harder.
"He died in December."
When she looks up, his eyes are sad and kind.
"It was just the two of you?"
"Yeah. Just us. He was—"
"He was what?"
"He was my best friend."
He nods his head like he knows, because he does.
"Is this Mr. Greene's nursery?"
"Yeah. He's such a cool guy. He hired me even though I didn't have any experience with plants and stuff."
"His wife is sweet, too. She owns the dress shop."
He gestures toward her and asks, "Is it where you got that dress?"
"I'll have to thank her."
When his eyes get dark, she squirms in her seat.
"Not possible. You?"
"I only really read the stuff they gave us in high school."
"I can teach you."
He smirks, slow and steady.
"I hope so."
It must have happened somewhere between the moment he rang the doorbell and the moment he walked her home. Maybe when he stood on the step beneath her and their lips lined up when they kissed, when his arms came around her and picked her up off the ground. Somewhere between her giggle and his laugh.
It must have happened before they said good night three times each and kissed with his palms against her door and their bodies pressed together.
Before she hung her keys on the hook in the entryway and heard him start his car.
She closes her eyes, rests her head and back against the door, and tries to remember who she was four hours ago.