:))) Contest entry for the May to December Romance Contest
Twitter Handle: loveperpetually
Facebook Name: Perp Etually
Summary: A jaded artist no longer able to see the colors of life meets a younger man on the brink of greatness. He sees her as the art; she thinks he hung the moon.
Banner: On profile.
Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable characters herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
"How long will you be gone?"
She remembered a time when he used to tell her his business plans ahead of time. But that recollection existed in the furthest corner of her mind, in a windowless place that offered no warmth. If it weren't for the sharp scrapes of his fork against the plate, Bella would have thought that she was dining with a ghost or simply in her usual bubble of solitude.
"I've already given the keys to the boy."
"You didn't think it was a good idea for me to meet him first?"
Mike shrugged his shoulders, ruling Bella's question to be completely absurd as he continued eating. He was used to his wife's unnecessary questions, preferring to shut her out as he often would. Bella watched her husband's movement, eying the way he dabbed the corners of his mouth with a napkin.
She looked at the miniscule, red marks on his neck that he hadn't bothered to hide. They glared at her with blatant mockery, highlighting her inability as a wife.
The first few times, she'd cried herself to sleep.
But a few times after that, she found her heart thumping a little softer until it came to an inevitable stop.
Forever frozen, in its last beating motion.
Bella looked back down at her food, feeling as if the sight of those marks had robbed her appetite. However, Mike continued to eat obliviously. He always avoided eye contact with his wife, preferring to stare at the unidentifiable object that was located just past her ear.
"He won't disturb you at all; he'll just be in the office downstairs."
Bella searched for any signs of consideration on Mike's face before realizing just how fruitless it was to expect that from him. She nodded quietly, not knowing what to feel about having more strangers in the house, as if the man who sat opposite her wasn't enough.
She stared at the bareness of her fourth finger. It held no declaration of the marriage in which she was trapped. It teased her with the temptation of escaping into another realm, away from the chain that tied her to Mike.
She wondered if it was possible to redo her life and begin again; rising from the ashes like a phoenix.
Slowly coming back to her senses in a painful realization, she pushed away her petty thoughts, knowing that they would never succeed in her wretched reality. She reminded herself of why she never pursued such an escape.
Love was a mythical treasure she'd never have.
Bella patted the sponge across the canvas before angling her head sideways, scrutinizing the painting from a different view. She walked several steps back before she grimaced, not entirely content with how the artwork looked.
She was just about to press the paintbrush- dabbed in blue- against the canvas when the doorbell rang. Slowly walking down the double curved staircase, she wondered who was standing behind the door.
Was it the naive boy about who Mike constantly complained?
Or was he just like Mike, a man who had lost his moral compass, out at sea.
She opened the door to see a young man dressed in a long-sleeved, business shirt. Reddish-brown hair accentuated the light green coloring of his eyes as a small smile graced his lips.
Bella mentally cringed at the name, hating the way it sounded. She wasn't sure if it was the honorific title itself or the use of Mike's surname.
She gave the man a welcoming nod, opening the door for him to enter.
An aroma of fresh cologne followed him, permeating the house with a sense of novelty.
It was vastly different to the pungent smell of women's perfume that seemed to be permanently sprayed on all of her husband's shirts.
"Mike gave me a key but I thought I'd ring the doorbell as a proper guest, especially on my first visit," the man smiled.
His clean-shaven face displayed a defined jawline that begged to be appreciated. However, he looked terribly young. Bella was curious about his age; he didn't look a day older than eighteen.
"What was your name again?" she asked.
A look of uncertainty had washed over his features before he replied, "Edward Cullen, ma'am."
"Bella will do," she said, trying not to sound too intimidating.
She led Edward into Mike's office. It was a large room with file cabinets creating a perimeter around the area. Several photographs in their black-and-white magnificence hung on the walls, depicting buildings with utmost perfection.
Her husband had designed them.
Edward had looked around the place before he set his briefcase on one of the desks. He gave Bella another smile, creating small wrinkles on the outer corners of his eyes.
"I won't make a sound; it'll be as if I'm not even here," he said. "There are some renovations going on in the building so Mike thought me being here would be easier to manage his affairs."
"It's okay. This house could use a bit of noise."
Bella left Edward, shutting the door quietly behind her. As she walked back upstairs, she felt nervousness spread through her body in ripples.
Staring at the painting that patiently waited on its easel, she found inspiration coming quicker than the speed of sound.
Even though she didn't know where it was coming from.
She had knocked on the door gently before she heard a muffled reply. Edward smiled at her whilst taking off his black-rimmed glasses.
"I'm going to order pizza and I was wondering if you wanted anything in particular," Bella asked.
She knew there was a mini fridge in the corner of Mike's office, but that hardly contained any decent food for dinner. There were usually bottles of beer and cans of soft drinks as well as a few packaged sandwiches. However, she hadn't been in that office, in a long time.
"I was ... just going to go home," Edward answered nervously and played with the blueprint that was in front of him.
Bella glanced at the Roman numerals of the clock on the wall.
It was nearly six o'clock.
"Yes, of course, you should go home," Bella laughed stiffly, moving to close the door.
Edward yelled before bashfully wincing at the loud tone of his voice.
"I can stay ... I have a bit more to finish off, anyway."
"It's fine. You should probably go home and get some rest. Mike said you'll be here every day."
Edward stared at the woman who stood a few feet away.
He detected a sadness in her eyes- one that shielded her from any more harm that could come her way. Her eyes seemed to dart all over the place when she spoke, as if she was afraid to witness the disappointment on other people's faces.
A strange urge to comfort her pounded through his heart.
When she opened the door this morning, he felt his mouth grow dry and his tongue become tied up in knots. She had to be the most beautiful and most heartbreaking woman he'd ever seen.
Fragility surrounded her very essence, making Edward's head spin every time he made eye contact with the brown eyes of his boss's wife. He wondered what part Mike Newton played in allowing such a tragic look to appear on the face of his reticent wife.
At the very thought of Mike Newton, Edward reeled his head back, as well as the questions he had inside. She was his boss's wife. He had sought after this work experience for so long and only a selected few got to work for the legendary man.
She was the forbidden apple that he couldn't reach, no matter how hard he tried. She was completely untouchable, threatening to destroy him if he got any closer.
Yet, he wanted to.
Flashes of his desires had taunted him all day as he was reminded of the fact that she was upstairs.
He wanted to press her against a wall and kiss her silly.
He wanted to make her forget everything on her mind.
But most importantly, he wanted her.
Even though he knew, he could never have her.
"Okay, Bella," Edward replied. "Then, I'll see you tomorrow."
"Just let yourself in next time," Bella said quietly before she turned and left.
As her hand slipped away from the doorknob, he felt a buzzing in his heart that mimicked the wings of an irksome bee. He looked back down at the blueprint in front of him, feeling a little smile tugging at the edge of his mouth.
She hadn't been wearing a wedding ring.
Bella dove into the pool, feeling the bubbles tickle her skin as she found herself suspended in peaceful oblivion. She floated like a starfish as she watched the clear blue sky through the skylight.
Edward had finished most of the day's work, and with Bella's permission, he strolled around the house. It had been a few days later and she hadn't offered to give him a tour, but he figured he didn't really need one anyway. The light in her eyes dimmed every time she talked about her husband or her house.
He thought about what she could possibly do upstairs all day.
He wondered if she thought about him the way he replayed her face over and over again in his head.
It was not long before Edward walked into the location of the indoor pool. The crystal, clear water and the array of cushioned, pool chairs were not the only things that brought beauty to the room. The woman who was floating in the water made Edward swallow thickly as he tried very hard not to stare at her body for too long.
He walked to the edge of the pool where Bella caught sight of him. She gracefully floated closer, staring up at him from under her lashes.
If Edward weren't already having a hard time telling his body to stop pumping blood to his groin, he would have had a civilized, but angry, talk with his penis.
However, his other head was adamant about listening to Bella, instead.
"Would you like to join me?" she asked quietly.
Edward fumbled for words, wondering what the right answer should be.
He settled on an excuse.
"I don't have any swimming trunks."
Bella pushed herself out of the pool as Edward stepped back. Her skin glistened with droplets of water that managed to cling to her, teasing Edward as one slid between her breasts.
As Bella brought a towel over her shoulders, Edward noticed her pebbled nipples sticking out through the thin fabric of her bathing suit. His eyes followed the curves of her body down— belly, hips, legs, ankles.
Then they moved up to stare at the area between her inner thighs. He swore he could hear himself gulping.
He felt rather hot.
On second thought, he might as well dive into the pool.
"Follow me," she said.
His mind was busy maintaining eye contact with her face to oppose Bella's words, but he lost that battle, too.
He suddenly found himself walking up the stairs, being sure that he looked at his feet instead of her backside like an indecent pervert. He had waited for her outside one of the rooms before she returned with a brand new pair of swim shorts.
"I'll need to cut the tag off," she murmured. "I bought these for him but he's never even gone swimming in our own pool."
"Too busy?" Edward asked.
Bella paused, looking at Edward as if she was searching for understanding. As if she was trying to convince herself that she wasn't going crazy. Pursing her lips, she nodded. But Edward knew that some secrets were too hard to say out loud.
"You can go in there to change," she offered.
A few minutes later, Edward climbed into the pool, shivering as his skin made contact with the water. Bella laughed at his expression as his shoulders hunched and his teeth chattered.
"You'll get warmer if you swim around," Bella said, smiling.
Edward was momentarily stunned by the radiance of her smile, forgetting the temperature of the water altogether.
Luckily, if his erection did decide to show up and ruin his day it would remain hidden underwater.
"What's your story, Edward Cullen?"
"The son of two doctors. Needless to say, they were heavily disappointed when I decided to pursue architecture," Edward replied.
"My father was a doctor," Bella said.
"And your mother?"
"She was an engineer. My grandparents weren't too happy with her career choice either," Bella said, looking into the distance. "But that was a while ago."
"Life's too short to live for another person, don't you think?"
Edward's words weren't meant to insinuate anything, but a chill crept down Bella's spine as the intensity in Edward's eyes glowed.
They were vivid.
They penetrated through the safe that was located in her heart, unlocking her secrets with a spin of the combination wheel.
She didn't even think she understood herself anymore- let alone, Mike.
Nevertheless, the unease that she got from the mysterious Edward Cullen petrified her to a great extent.
"I think I'm going to call it a day," she quickly said as she moved away.
She was about to raise her arms out of the water when Edward caught her wrist, pulling her towards him. Her breath quickened as she glanced away from his naked chest. When she got close enough, he also ensnared his hand around her other wrist, capturing her as his.
"Please don't run away, Bella," he murmured.
"Why do you think I'm running away?"
"The look of panic in your eyes. The way your lips tremble."
Bella's eyes widened at his observations.
It had been too long since she felt this vulnerable. He looked through her as if she was made of glass. She wondered what her insides looked like to him. Were they too ordinary and boring? Perhaps, she seemed like a damsel in distress who he felt inclined to help.
She couldn't paint with him in the house. She found that she wanted to go downstairs every hour to see what he was doing.
She wanted to see him.
They called out to her, encouraging her to befriend him and find a cure to her undying loneliness.
People used to tell Bella that first impressions were deceiving; that good people could come off as bad, whereas, bad people could be trusted too easily. However, when Bella had first laid eyes on Edward, he was nothing like anyone else she'd ever met. With every conversation they'd had, she found herself being more interested in what he had to say.
He was the polar opposite of Mike in so many ways.
He was young.
He was beautiful.
While she was shackled to the walls of a meaningless marriage, he was chasing his dreams of being an architect.
He was the silent inspiration that showed up on her canvas.
He was incorporated through her brush strokes.
Through the colors that she mixed.
Through the art that she created, in which words failed to convey.
Nevertheless, she felt as if she was being unfairly judged by a stranger in her own house. No matter how much desire she felt for him, in the most forbidden of ways, she accepted the annoyance that grew in her stomach.
"How dare you? You don't know me. You don't get to come into my house and tell me what to do."
"Tell me that what I said isn't true."
"That's not what I'm talking about, Edward."
The sound of his name on the tip of her tongue always brought shivers down his back. His eyes grew darker as he appraised the flustered woman in front of him.
"I know what you see in me, Bella. You think I'm too young to understand anything."
Bella gritted her teeth as she glared at him.
"I'm twenty, if you must know," he said, answering the question that would repeatedly dance inside her head.
"Edward, I wasn't implying that you weren't mature-"
"Who said anything about maturity?" he asked with narrowed eyes.
Bella's mouth moved, but no words came out. He smirked at her, pulling her even closer. She gasped as her hands touched the muscles of his stomach.
"What are you doing?"
"I'll show you just how mature I am," he whispered in a deep voice.
Bella didn't get to say another word- or even inhale another lungful of air before Edward had captured her lips, teaching her that there were better things to do besides talking.
"Bella," Edward breathed.
He sucked on her lips, not giving up until she returned his kiss.
"I-I'm scared," she whispered timorously. "It's been so long since I ..."
"I'm not going to hurt you," Edward growled, wondering what Mike had done to her. "I'm never going to let anyone hurt you."
"I've only just met you," Bella muttered in a timid complaint.
She hesitantly started to move her lips against his, finding it hard to stay still in the water with his intoxicating touches. She moaned as his hands moved to her sides, tracing her skin before they grazed the sides of her breasts.
Edward's lips had moved to her chin before they descended on her neck. He'd never felt happier to have followed Mike's instructions. Although he didn't see his boss all the time, he'd been allocated Mike's unfinished duties. As he was on a paid internship, he still managed to make a bit of money but not a lot. It was more of the company's reputation that people sought.
They were eager to have had a connection with the business, in any way.
But Edward had something even better.
Something even more beautiful.
He was connected, mouth-to-mouth, body-to-body, to a woman who surpassed everything that Mike had ever offered.
But Edward had never done this before. He felt a slight sting of guilt at what he was doing. She wasn't his to take; she was Mike's.
"How old are you?" he asked Bella.
"Thirty-one," she replied softly. "Too old for you?"
"No," he smirked confidently. "You look even younger than me."
"I'm not sure if I should feel flattered or concerned."
Edward had smiled before he reattached his lips to Bella, kissing her on all the places he could reach. Lifting her so that her legs encircled his waist, he maneuvered to the pool steps where he climbed out. Bella's arms slung over Edward's shoulders as her lips moved to trace the jawline she'd been eying for days.
Edward hastily pressed a towel against her back, before he left the poolroom.
"You've got to give me instructions," he mumbled as she continued kissing his face while he carried her. He wasn't sure if he was supposed to go to the same room as the one he'd been outside, before.
"Up the stairs. Turn left. Last door."
Edward placed her gently on the mattress as soon as he entered. He wondered whether or not this was the master bedroom, feeling slightly awkward if this was where Bella and Mike would routinely have sex. But then he recalled the words she'd said earlier. He couldn't forget the fearful look in Bella's eyes.
"You have nothing to be scared of," he said determinedly, as he kissed her collarbones. "I don't know what he's done but I'm not like him."
"I know," she mumbled.
"You're perfect just the way you are."
He licked the top of her breast, causing Bella to mutter something incoherent.
He pushed the fabric away; her nipples greeted him excitedly. He palmed her breasts before he played with them, tweaking and rubbing, latching onto them with his mouth as he sucked on her until she moaned for him never to stop.
Pushing them together, he alternated quickly between both nipples as Bella cried out, the sensations in her body on overdrive.
"You're no ordinary man," Bella murmured.
"And you're no ordinary woman."
Edward kissed his way down her body. He pulled off her bikini bottoms, staring at her womanhood with unadulterated desire. A strip of hair was present, making her seem like the most natural woman he had ever seen, with the pinkest and wettest core that yearned for a good tasting.
He flattened his tongue against her as he licked all the way up. His hands pressed down against her inner thighs, opening her like a butterfly that couldn't stop fluttering her wings.
Her legs thrashed; her toes curled.
Her mouth opened; her words, muted.
Dipping gently into her, he eased his tongue into a steady pattern that encouraged more groaning from Bella. Her arms were extended above her head where she grasped several pillows in an attempt to endure her rocking arousal.
Just as she was about to release, he let go of her thighs, allowing her legs to wrap around his head.
Until everything came to a halt when she reached the peak of a mountain with a view she would remember for days.
"How long has it been, Bella?"
Edward had kissed her lower lips one last time before he dragged himself up to her dazed eyes.
"I'm on the pill," she said quietly. "Not because of you know what, but because my menstrual cramps demand attention."
Edward nodded, kissing her forcefully to show her just how serious he was about what was happening. His eyes held a tenderness that Bella hadn't seen in anyone else. At the same time, they twinkled with mischief as he grinned.
"Milady, may I now enter your castle?"
A delighted smile lit up Bella's face as she giggled. Her cheeks were flushed and her smile was genuine. It felt alien to laugh like this but strangely enough, it didn't feel odd when she did it with him.
It was so tantalizing and new.
Forbidden yet sinfully right.
"The gate is open," she breathed.
The smile on her face was wiped off and replaced with a look of pleasure as he pushed into her- pleasing her and him as one unit.
Edward kissed her lips and muffled the loud moans that escaped her mouth. His hands pushed Bella's into the softness of the bed as he pounded purposefully but also caringly. Her ankles were crossed around his back as she moved with the cadence of his strokes.
He erased her messy, pencil marks.
And painted her into a masterpiece.
She ran out of words to say, only managing to whimper at the sight and feel of his determination.
He grunted as he watched her gasp. Occasionally, she'd bite her bottom lip and stare up at him. He found himself pumping a little quicker.
He could see everything from here, soaring, as he was ready to let go.
"Come," he whispered huskily.
Just that single word
Was all she needed.
She clamped her legs tighter; she opened her mouth.
The sweetest sound escaped past her lips as Edward watched with a mesmerized look. She flung herself into hopeless surrender as Edward continued to move inside her, feeling his own ecstasy approaching.
She clenched tighter and tighter.
He moaned louder and louder.
Then, all at once, they were catapulted into a phenomenal climax.
Like the frictional heat caused by a match striking flint to create a bright flame.
At that moment, Bella expunged everything she thought she knew best.
Since the best thing was already lying next to her.
"Where did you learn how to do that?" she asked as they held each other under the blankets.
The second and third round had been just as superb.
"You're not only asking that because of my age, are you?"
"It's a general question. However, I guess your age is another topic we need to discuss."
"Bella, I'm an adult. I can make my own decisions," Edward said as Bella rested against his chest, feeling more relaxed than ever.
"I know. I just … don't want to hold you back," Bella replied cautiously.
"How do you mean?"
"Look at yourself, Edward," she said, propping up on her elbow to gaze at him. "You're so understanding, warm ... sexy."
"You think I'm sexy?" he smirked.
"I thought that was clear as soon as I granted your entry into my castle," she joked.
Edward smiled, kissing the tip of Bella's nose.
He looked at her with a serious expression before he said, "I don't want anyone else, Bella."
"Did you murder someone? Arrange a kidnapping? Serve a prison sentence?"
"No," Edward answered slowly.
"Enlighten me as to why you're still single."
"Not all of us want the same thing. Some guys love to party, favoring their bachelor lifestyle of a twenty-something year old. But others ... Well; they have the hots for elegant women."
"But you're still young. You should be having fun and experiencing the world."
"I am," he said quietly. "It depends on how you define 'the world.'"
"Mike will also be back," Bella sighed, feeling her mood deflate.
"And we'll spend every moment before his return doing something that you love," Edward replied kindly.
He kissed the top of her head, enjoying the tranquility that they were feeling.
But Bella's nervousness piqued again.
"What are we, Edward?"
"Anything ... And everything."
She would have never expected to find comfort in the arms of a twenty-year-old. He made everything feel so real, enabling her to escape the hysteria of isolation in which she seemed to be constantly trapped.
Angling her head, her lips searched for his. She peacefully closed her eyes, reveling in the kindness of a man who had been delivered to her by sheer luck.
As her eyelids lowered, she saw flashes of what seemed to be lightning. They flitted across a backdrop of black, waving around her stream of consciousness in a bedazzling manner.
Post-coital epiphanies weaved through her mind and she welcomed them.
Edward was experienced and inexperienced at the same time. He had traits of both boyish humor and masculinity; her husband carried neither of these and could never measure up to him. He was young and so, so handsome.
But she felt too selfish to share, wanting him just for herself.
She wanted him because he was perfect on so many levels.
She smiled at the residue of naivety that was left over from her younger years.
She was infatuated with him- a dream, he was.
She wondered where this dream would take her. Perhaps somewhere far away or maybe just on a short road trip to an insignificant town, nearby.
Would she keep climbing the Penrose stairs if she could never keep this happiness?
Would she live in her optical illusion if things didn't work out for them?
She realized that he had a lot to teach her and twenty would not be a number to get in between them, nor would the idea of being separated by eleven years.
They were sure of it.
They had to be.
As the last epiphany slid away, Bella finally fell asleep- cleansed of her worries. Listening to the heartbeat of a man who was currently making an appearance in her vibrant dreams, she was revived.
Her frozen heart resumed its duty, beating stronger than ever.
"Don't you feel like this is happening too fast?" Bella asked.
"Perhaps," Edward replied. "But some things are out of our control."
Bella held his hand as she led him into her painting studio. Edward grinned at the sight. There were dirty aprons blotched in different colored paint. Canvases, in various sizes, sat against the wall. Some were completed, whereas, others still had untouched areas.
"It's like abstract meets surrealism," Edward murmured, staring at the paintings in awe. "Your inspirations?"
"I have too many to count," Bella replied bashfully. "Picasso, Dali, Magritte ..."
"Did you say you finished that one, yesterday?" Edward asked, pointing to the one in the corner. Bella nodded.
"You were the inspiration behind that," she stated.
"Well, I'm awfully pleased."
Bella had laughed at his gleeful expression before she kissed him on the cheek. Sometimes, she felt ten years younger when she was with him. She was light, carefree and hopeful.
It was a wonderful combination of emotions to feel at once.
"But I'm stuck on this, now," Bella said, jutting out her chin at the one displayed on the easel.
"Well, do you need more inspiration?" Edward mumbled as he kissed the back of her neck.
"M-maybe," she whimpered.
"Get down on all fours," he ordered in a husky voice.
He bent over her, kissing the top of her spine before tracing down each vertebrae- one at a time. He brought a hand around her hip so that he could touch her swelling lips, rubbing smooth circles that made her breathless within seconds.
He didn't go any quicker.
He didn't go any slower.
His long fingers moved in a hypnotizing motion that brought her to a scream as her muscles tightened simultaneously.
Before she could voice her appreciation, Edward slipped inside.
Fully and deeply.
However, unlike what he did before, he changed the speed of his movement.
She moaned as he whispered dirty things in her ear.
He talked about pressing her against the window while he made sweet love to her.
He talked about sexual denial, promising multiple orgasms to hit Bella.
He grazed the tips of her swinging breasts as he thrust in synchronization with his words. He emphasized his point with every insertion and withdrawal.
He even pulled out completely, just to tease her with the tip of him, loving the mewling that would involuntarily come from her.
As he picked up his pace and ran towards the ribbon at the finish line, he moaned for Bella to come join him, wanting to end the race in a tie. She groaned blissfully at the force of his actions as he cooed for her to make it to the end.
Plummeting to her release, she sighed as she felt Edward shudder behind her. He massaged her hips and her breasts before he leaned over to kiss her shoulders.
As the next few days went on, Bella started to have a skip in her step and a permanent smile etched on her face. Edward hadn't gone home in days, apart from picking up a few things from his apartment. He spent his spare time in her room, one that she didn't share with Mike. They made love every morning and every night, with both of them equally confused about their feelings towards each other.
But the excitement provided the distraction that they needed.
She'd visit Edward in Mike's office, bringing him lunch, and at night, they'd cook dinner together. Bella found it easy to deceive herself into thinking this life could be hers forever. With only the two of them in this gigantic place, she was able to pretend that he was hers. And she was his.
She couldn't explain to him how much she wanted to keep him or how much he was growing on her.
So she painted it.
Through the colors and textures, she painted a story that could never end in a happily ever after.
Her eyes would water every time she got to the new project.
In a moment of emotional turmoil, she'd even thrown her paintbrushes on the floor.
The Bella Newton before Edward Cullen would never have done that. She would've sucked it up and cried tears that could never find their way out of her eyes. The lid of her bottle would always be screwed shut, unable to relinquish her unhealthy feelings.
However, Bella Swan was different.
A new rawness to her art was pronounced as she painted with a passion she had thought was long dead.
She was fervent and vigorous.
Spontaneous but careful.
The more she cried, the more she laughed and the more she created, she found herself healing at an abnormal speed. It all had to do with a certain Edward Cullen.
They cuddled after every single sexual escapade, unwilling to let go of each other. Bella also started to wear more lingerie, feeling her sexuality crawl back with an air of confidence.
She felt her jaw hurting, as she'd laugh at Edward's vocabulary. Internet slang did a good job at tickling Bella's funny bone, making her beam at his never-ending hilarity.
They did what she loved to do, but also what he loved.
They swam and played tennis.
They watched classics in the home theater, usually missing half the movie due to their state of constant arousal. They did many things together, to the point where Bella often asked Edward if he was still doing everything that needed to be done for Mike.
She didn't know what she'd do if Edward suffered the repercussions of their affair.
He was young and bright.
He had a life to wonder about and a future to ponder.
However, no matter how hard she tried to remain ignorant to the clock face that taunted her with the very notion of time, Bella knew their adventure would be short-lived. She also knew that that wasn't a problem she could resolve. Time was the inevitable measurement of their affair.
The problem that bugged her the most was a simple one. And one that resided within her.
She wasn't sure who to listen to, anymore.
Her heart or her brain.
"Why don't you leave him?"
Bella didn't reply right away, but Edward knew she heard him just fine as her eyes started to focus on her fingernails. In a matter of days, he found himself understanding Bella more than he could ever understand himself.
"Won't you answer me?"
"I don't know what my response should be," she replied quietly.
"Tell me you'll leave him," he urged, holding both of her hands. "For your sake."
"Everything I have is with him ... I wouldn't know how to live another life," Bella stated.
"You told me stories about your parents. You seemed to be close," Edward said, kissing her temple.
"They practically disowned me when I married Mike," Bella said. "I was young and stupid. We ran away to Vegas, thinking we could make it. But just like all marriages, ours crumbled within the first two years."
"Not all marriages fall apart," he whispered. "My parents have been married for thirty-four years now."
"No, I suppose not all marriages are bad," Bella corrected.
She looked into Edward's eyes, daydreaming.
What would their children look like?
Would the girls look like their daddy and the sons have her brown hair?
"If there's nothing left in your marriage, why hasn't he divorced you?" Edward asked, cringing at his bold question.
"He likes a little housewife. I'm an artist, and not a successful one, so I hardly make much money. He knows I won't be able to survive out there, especially when I've had this lifestyle for more than ten years."
"Maybe, if you left him, your art might start to shine and improve as well."
She smiled at his optimism. "Perhaps."
"When were you married?"
"At your age, Edward," Bella whispered sadly.
Edward didn't know how to respond to her confession. He could have never seen himself marrying at such a young age. But now that he met Bella, he was questioning all of his preconceptions.
"That's why I'm always worried about your choices," she laughed dryly. "I'm not trying to mother you. I've made my fair share of mistakes. If I can prevent you from making some, I'll feel pretty thrilled inside."
"But you don't know if something's a mistake until you see the consequences later. By then, it might be too late. You could have stopped something terrific."
Bella knew that he was starting to integrate their situation into his hypothetical statement. She nodded her head with a small smile, agreeing with his logic. But life operated in an unreasonable way, providing an obstacle course with no strategies, rules or winners.
"I wish I knew what to do," Bella whispered.
"Divorce him. The night is young. You still have so much ahead of you."
"That sounds like what I should say to you," Bella pointed out. "Your future is waiting for you to fall into it, like a pit of foam cubes."
"I'm not going to jump if the beautiful woman beside me won't jump with me," Edward whispered, knowing that all it took was a leap of faith. "You deserve so much better. Mike is an asshole. And you don't need to keep cleaning up his shit."
"Your lame humor is showing again," Bella mumbled.
"My humor's awesome," Edward replied as he pecked Bella on the lips.
Bella felt something stir within her, churning until she couldn't hold it in any longer.
"You make me feel young again. You make me feel twenty."
A single tear slid from the inner corner of her eye as she looked at Edward, feeling a prickling in her nose and a continuous thumping in her chest. When she looked into the greenness of his eyes, she saw the world.
The grass, the trees, the forests.
It scared her, as that was how she'd once looked at Mike.
"You make me feel like a silly girl in love again," Bella said, starting to weep. "You make me feel as if anything is obtainable in life."
"Because it is, Bella," Edward murmured, brushing away her teardrops. He could feel his eyes stinging with an inexplicable sadness, simply by watching her.
"I wish I had married you instead," she said, breaking out into a sob. "I wish I could have married you when I was twenty. I wish both of us could've-"
Edward kissed Bella passionately, cutting away her sorrows through a reinforcement of his affection towards her. He cradled her head as his fingers absently played with strands of her hair.
"I love you," he whispered, his voice cracking.
Bella sniffed, squeezing her eyes shut as she cried.
She didn't know how they could possibly make this work without ruining each other. She was not going to stomp on his dreams just to make her wish come true. Selfishness knew no bounds, but this was love, and love would mean putting him before her.
There was no going back.
"I love you," she replied, smiling shyly.
Edward carried her up the stairs- bridal style- before depositing her on the bed. Their clothes were quickly removed and all current concerns were thrown out the window.
They wouldn't matter, tonight.
They would live to see another day.
After Edward had made love to her in the traditional, missionary position, both of them were amused at how much they turned each other on. They were ready for another go. This time, they would be tapping into their adventurous side.
Bella rested on her stomach, pushing up on her hands to form a cobra pose. Moving one of her legs away from the other so that it was aligned with her hip and bent at the knee, Edward was able to bring the goods to her castle.
The friction that was caused by his thrusting as well as her center rubbing against the mattress and his fingers playing with her perky buds granted Bella moans that quickly turned into shrill cries of pleasure.
She'd never experienced anything like this in her life.
As he pushed into her, he pulled on her nipples, playing a sensual game of tug-of-war with her body.
He pressed kisses on her shoulders as she panted, feeling his thumbs and forefingers leisurely pull on her. They teased her, asking if it was time to come. She whimpered, answering that it definitely was.
"Not yet, love," he groaned. "A prolonged one might even guarantee you several more."
"E-Edward," she whispered.
He placed the side of his face against her head as he rocked, pumping ceaselessly until his results correlated to his input. She felt the mattress shift as he moved behind her, pushing her along like watercolors on canvas.
She felt everything move-
Until everything halted, freezing in its candid glory.
With a loud gasp that was accompanied by wobbly arms, she fell, face-first onto the pillow as she felt the moat around her castle experience some peculiar high tides. She laughed to herself as she realized just how adorable Edward's jokes were; they stuck to her. Edward had grunted behind her before he stilled.
"Now, I really want to know how many sex partners you had to have had in order to learn that."
"If you haven't heard of this thing, I'll still love you," he said, rolling her against his chest as he lied on his back.
Bella eyed Edward carefully as he ate cereal without looking at her. Her nails tapped against the kitchen counter, waiting for him to say something.
"One person, ever."
"I don't even believe that for a second."
"Why do you keep thinking that I'm an inexperienced twenty-year-old who doesn't know how to seduce older women?"
She could hear the hurt in his voice.
"Well then, maybe if you read some harmless Kama Sutra books, you'll see that my ideas aren't that original," Edward mumbled. "I've only altered them."
"I'm sorry," Bella said as she walked around to his side. Apologetically, she placed a kiss on his shoulder. "It's just so new to me."
"Another reason to divorce that jackass."
"And marry you instead?" Bella said with a bright smile.
Edward grinned at her before his face fell.
"Don't joke about it, Bella. I really might take you up on that," he whispered. "I'm in love with you but I don't know how you actually feel about me."
"I love you. I'm head over heels in love with you," she declared, feeling her voice thicken with emotions. She leaned her head against his shoulder as she inhaled his scent, never wishing to forget it. "And that's why I'm scared."
"That it's happening too fast?"
"That I'm falling in love. I never thought I'd live to feel this. I'm alive when I'm with you. You teach me all these refreshing things and it makes me wonder what I've been doing with my own life."
"I learn every day when I'm around you, Bella," Edward said, stroking her cheek softly. "I guess we've established a mutualism."
Bella laughed as she kissed the stubble that was scattered across his jaw. With the five o'clock shadow that was present on his face, he looked much older.
The illicit nature of their affair wasn't lost on her. She often wondered what would happen if Mike returned a few days early from his business trip and found the two sleeping in.
What would happen to Edward's career?
What would happen to them?
"I can hear your worries again, love," he chuckled.
"Three more days."
He wanted to soothe her suffering, obliterating her fear of Mike's capacity for their demise.
"You're always taking care of me," she whimpered with defeat in her voice. "Sometimes, I feel as if I'm the younger one in this relationship."
"The day that you stop bringing age into this, I'll design you a real castle, princess," Edward said, amused.
Bella shook her head, feeling the return of a smile.
"Also, it's my job to take care of you. You've taken care of me, too. You just haven't realized it," Edward said matter-of-factly.
"By giving me the best sex I could have ever imagined."
Bella couldn't help but laugh at the cheesy look on his face.
She knew, then and there, she had never felt love in its truest form.
He gently pressed her against the full-length mirror as she gasped at the coldness of the glass, which made her nipples respond instantly. He touched her from the back, as if it were her own hands pleasuring herself.
Exploring Bella with his fingers, he searched for what she had to offer. He was eager to bury deep within her, but right now, he'd scout her surroundings.
He wanted to evoke lightning and thunder from her.
He wanted to create a tornado of feelings every time he made love to her.
It wasn't long before she cried out. Her yell of pleasure was the bugle call that signaled the start of his adventure, like a trumpet sounding the commencement of a major event. He kissed her back, shoulders and neck. Pushing into her, she was pressed tighter against the mirror.
Her breath fogged up her reflection.
But he didn't need the other one when the real one was where he was currently in.
Pulling in and out, he panted whilst she moaned at their position.
With two versions of each other.
"I love you," he whispered as he awakened every nerve in her body.
"I love you, too," she breathed, unable to say anymore as her cheek rested against the glass.
He kissed the side of her head as he sped up, effectively rubbing her breasts sensually against the mirror. It felt as if the Edward and Bella in the reflection were having just as much fun as them. It had seemed strange for Bella to watch herself experience so much pleasure. But he wanted her to experience everything to the fullest, determined to receive his commendation.
She'd watched him disappear and reappear as if it was all so easy.
She wondered how he could control her body as if it was made out of a few pieces of string.
Edward stepped through the wilderness as another explorer in search of treasure. He began to sprint- faster and faster. He was going to make her moan for the umpteenth time as he claimed her treasure for his own, marking her as his.
"I'm going to-"
"Come," he whispered, urging her to let go and let him have a taste of what he'd earned.
He rubbed the hood that sheathed her release until a tremor washed across her skin. Her eyebrows were pulled together and her legs were shaking, furiously welcoming the euphoria that pumped through her.
Edward yelled as he found what he was looking for, succeeding in his quest.
It wasn't long before he recovered, making Bella smirk as she realized they would never stop if they didn't have to. His hands were stretched out before him, resting against the mirror. She spun around to look at him.
"That was a quick comeback," she laughed, staring at his erection.
"You're seriously just listing more reasons to divorce him," he smirked. "For your information, I'm young and my endurance is at its peak."
She hummed before kissing away that smug, little look.
Wrapping her fingers around him, she saw his pupils dilate as she pumped up and down. Lips parting and shock registering, he found it hard to say what he wanted.
"Why don't you watch yourself?" she whispered as she sank lower.
With his hands touching his own reflection, a pleading look was shared between him and his mirror self.
Both didn't know what to do.
They didn't know what to expect from the woman who had regained so much courage.
Swirling around him gently, she tickled just the very tip. He whimpered, realizing that this was only the start. The tingles quickly traveled up from his toes and all the way to his head where he was driven crazy.
She slowly took more of him into her mouth- sucking, licking and kissing.
Staring up at Edward, she knew she was provoking him to look away from his own reflection. She dared him to stare at where they were attached. Just as he glimpsed down at her and groaned helplessly, she pulled away.
"Eyes on the mirror."
He nodded, knowing words would only fail him again.
But Edward didn't just watch himself; he stared at Bella's reflection as her backside was proudly displayed while her head moved in sync with everything he could feel.
It was a surreal experience and one he could imagine Bella painting.
He thought about their future together. Would inspiration come so easily, just through making love?
He knew she didn't need to create art; she was art, herself.
Curves that governed her figure.
Breasts that fit in the curve of his palm.
She sucked him harder, moving with vigor as he felt himself slipping in and out. He could feel the back of her throat as she continued her repetitive actions. When she suddenly touched his balls, he jerked, catching the crazed look in his eyes in the mirror.
That was how she made him feel.
He couldn't last any longer. She was coaxing it out of him-
Gasping, he started to thrust a little faster as he desperately chased the gift she was offering him. Keeping his hands against the mirror, he was helpless in every single way, except for the movement of his hips.
Bella moaned, creating ripples that traveled through him at a speed that knocked him over. Unable to stay oblivious to the eyes that were staring up at him, he turned his gaze towards her.
All at once, he saw a combination of wonder, lust, and love.
He fell into a hole and he knew he'd never get out.
She watched him as he came.
A resounding boom sounded in his ears as he felt himself achieve an ecstasy that couldn't be measured in time or words. It was only measured by the length of her tongue and the hollows of her cheeks.
Everything she gave, he chased.
And everything he returned to her, she devoured.
"Bella," he murmured, only capable of that one word.
She stood, leading him over to the bed where they rested for many hours to follow. He held her close as his dreams carried him to a hopeful world that he wished he could stay in permanently.
There were no evil husbands and damned internships.
There was no such thing as place, time, and age.
They simply existed.
Their love was enough.
It was a quiet night when he sat in the living room with Bella as the television played something insignificant to both of their interests. She'd made it clear that it felt as if they were a married couple who lived in this mansion.
He'd agreed, feeling as if he finally belonged with her.
But he knew this was transitory.
Everything would be dashed with Mike's return.
Although he knew Bella and Mike shared nothing in common having understood the emptiness of their relationship, he wanted her to do something about it. He wanted to see Bella show her love for him in a manner that would perpetuate the connection they shared.
What would happen when Mike did return?
Would she forget him, pretending that nothing had happened?
His heart ached at the thought of Bella's eyes returning to their blank state.
He wondered where he would go on from there. This was the path he never wanted to leave, yet it would be so easy for her to return to the safety of her net.
She was braver than she used to be.
Just not brave enough to come to a decision.
"What's going to happen to us?" he asked.
He was the scared one now.
Would she still remember him? Remember the way he kissed her or made her squeal with pleasure.
"I don't know," she whispered quietly.
"You can't run away from this, Bella. Everything comes down to you," he said, pained.
"Can't we just enjoy the last day we have left?" she asked sadly.
Edward sighed, feeling his stomach twist.
She was begging him and he knew he couldn't deny her.
She climbed onto his lap. There was a nervousness to her actions as if she was going to break down and cry, frightened to see him vanish into thin air.
Edward held her hands as he kissed her gently.
"There's nothing to be afraid of," he muttered, trying to assure himself as well.
She didn't say anything back, choosing instead to sink down on top of him- engulfing what he had to offer. He moaned at the sensation of her rocking as she altered the tempo as a skilled musician would. Throwing her head back, she let out a moan.
She felt herself become whole for what felt like the last time.
He played with her breasts, persuading her to follow him- wherever he'd go.
She knew she could do it now. But she didn't know about tomorrow. Or the day after that.
Slowly, she realized she had begun to cry as she came to a release, finding the moment to be both a bittersweet greeting and a farewell. Edward groaned as he felt her clenching around him, driving him to a faraway resort that he only visited with her.
He kissed her tenderly, silently begging for her to listen to what his heart was whispering.
"Dr. Seuss once said, 'don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened,'" Bella mumbled quietly, relaxing against Edward's chest.
Her fingers played with the hair at the nape of his neck, imagining that this was only the beginning of their two weeks together.
She never realized how far they'd come.
Both of them.
She couldn't even recognize who she'd become.
She was happier.
Because of him.
"Thank you, Edward," Bella whispered, knowing that the end was drawing closer. "For everything."
As Edward kissed the beautiful woman in his arms, being fully aware that he should thank her for the joy that had been bestowed upon him, he felt a sense of worry intrude on his peace.
He didn't know what tomorrow would bring.
But hope was all he had left.
Bella closed her eyes, sinking into the love that embraced her. Whilst Edward reveled in frantic optimism, Bella's pessimism flickered back to life, like a neon light that could be seen from miles away.
She was able to see the end of the tunnel.
There just wasn't any light.
Everything reverted back to ordinary.
An overcast sky of foreboding doom arched over them, forcing the uncertainty to make their hearts teeter on edge.
Edward stayed in the office, tidying up the blueprints as he tried to remember the way he'd acted before he encountered Bella Swan.
His past looked like a different world from the vantage point he'd been appointed now. Its geographical properties were different, bordering vast lands of emptiness. There was a barren feel to the scenery, bearing sharp contrast to the fertile garden in which they had resided.
Sinful, at best.
But temptation was a difficult desire to suppress.
It possessed people, making their eyes shine brightly as if they came to life at the midnight screening of a sci-fi film. It encompassed the yearning for an eternal love, stamping everything as trivial when viewed through comparison. It was an abstruse feeling with its existence only proven true by the tangible nature of longing.
Though he didn't fully understand the immensity of his love for her, he was sure that it was pure. At room temperature, it stayed in its liquid form, pumping through his veins as it sourced his very survival.
But Edward knew everything would come crashing down like the sweeping collapse of a house of cards. The cards that had always been stacked against him.
With the sound of the doorbell, he felt his lungs exhale their very last breath.
Bella walked down the stairs, pausing in front of him.
"I love you," she whispered.
Quickly looking away, she opened the door.
Mike strolled in with his luggage, completely oblivious to the electrifying tension in the house.
"Hello Bella," he greeted before he saw Edward standing there as well.
He clapped him on the shoulder, treating him like a boy who had just earned his approval. Edward's eyes lingered on the spot where Mike touched him as he coldly looked at him.
The man seemed to be all foam and no beer.
Bella shuffled her feet, looking at the ground as Mike and Edward went into the office. Edward turned around to give her a reassuring smile, but it didn't reach his eyes at all.
They worked all day until Bella popped her head in to tell them that the takeaway was on its way. Mike nodded without looking at her.
But as her eyes glanced over at Edward, she felt her heart sputter in its closed space.
She remembered the first night when she'd asked Edward what he wanted to eat.
Two weeks had passed and now they were here.
His last night.
She didn't think Edward was going to stay all day, but Mike had insisted there was still a bit more to finish. She ruminated about what would happen when that little bit was indeed completed.
Would she see Edward again?
Would they carry on their affair, behind everyone's back?
Bella shut the door quietly before leaning against it, wondering whether there was a book full of answers somewhere in the nooks and crannies of the world.
She wished for a panacea to her heartache.
Soon, she found herself eating dinner alone as she sat with her unfinished paintings.
She looked at the ones she'd painted before ever knowing Edward Cullen and her heart broke at the amount of pity she felt for herself.
At the time, she didn't know any better.
But that had all changed when he walked in, that very day.
She knew a magnetic field had been set into place, encasing her house in a dome with his presence.
Walking downstairs to discard her rubbish, she saw Mike talking to Edward by the foyer.
A condescending look was plastered on Mike's face as he listened to what Edward had to say. Just as he noticed Bella, a bored expression was replaced with relief.
"Bella," he said, gently touching her on the arm. He was still putting on a show. Little did he know, he didn't have to. "Will you please see Edward out?"
Bella nodded curtly as her husband walked away.
Edward gave her a small smile after she glanced at the check that was grasped in his hands. It was a payment for his hard work, but also for their time together.
After leading Edward outside, she closed the door behind. It had been hard resisting him all day and not seeing him. There were many times when she was about to shout Edward's name, wanting to tell him something, before she realized just how suspicious that would have sounded.
"Leave him, Bella," Edward whispered as he cradled her cheek. "Be with me."
Tears gathered in Bella's eyes, adding a useless filter to the perfection that was in front of her.
Her lips quivered as she cried.
"I can't," she croaked, shaking her head sadly.
Edward let out a frustrated sigh before he looked at her, demanding an explanation.
"He'll ruin you, Edward," she cried. "He'll demolish your dreams, your future. He's got the largest architecture firm in the country. He'd crush you if he realized what we've done."
"Let him crush me then," Edward growled.
"I can't let that happen. You're young-"
"Age is just a number, Bella," Edward argued, scoffing at her concern for him. "You're obsessed with these numbers. Two weeks, twenty, thirty-one; I may be young, but I feel more sensible than you, right now."
"I am sensible. I know leaving Mike will raise his suspicions, but it doesn't mean I've stopped loving you."
"I won't be your dirty secret, Bella," he whispered angrily.
"You won't be that-"
"Yes, I will. I'll always be a second choice to you. You'll live there," he said, pointing at the door, "in this pretty, little mansion. You'll be married to him, living his life with him. What about me? What about my feelings?"
Edward's voice broke off at the end as he started to sob. Bella felt her chest constrict at the sight of Edward's torment.
"I love you," she whispered with firmness in her voice.
"That's not enough," he snarled, feeling betrayal sink into his heart. "After everything that we've done- that we've felt, you're still going back to him even when you know that he cheats on you as if you're not a living, breathing human.
"Did you see the way he treated you? You're his servant. Are you blinded by his money, Bella? How come you don't see everything I'm seeing?"
"I'm not greedy about money," she snapped. "How can you even say that? I'm doing this because of you."
"You're doing this because you're scared," Edward said coldly.
Her eyes widened at the sharpness of his words as they glided across her skin, with the intention to hurt. She felt her wound expand until blood oozed onto the paleness of her skin, reminding her of just how much the truth could burn.
"I'm not ... scared," she said fiercely, ignoring the shivers that fluttered through her body.
"I'm not scared."
"The look of panic in your eyes. The way your lips tremble."
He had uttered those words a few days after they had met, when they barely knew each other.
Bella was aware that there were many things in her that had changed since then; the way she walked, the way she dressed and the way she seduced Edward. She felt lighter on her feet, healthier in her body and happier in her mind.
However, some things would never change, no matter where life decided to take her. It would never change even if a gust of wind scooped her up and threw her into a twirling frenzy.
Delirium would always take her whenever she was with him.
And love would always guide her, telling her what to do next.
She'd once thought that love was a mythical treasure, existing only at the beginning and end of time but lost in the middle—through the cruel existence of humanity. But now, as the threads of her realization dangled in front of her, she knew that love was … Edward.
Love replaced the hemoglobin in her bloodstream, offering her the protein that she needed.
It came in the form of Edward's silly jokes about castles and her love for the abstract.
It was a joint force of his care, his compassion and his kindness.
"I love you," she whispered earnestly, desperate for him to believe her. "And because love makes people do stupid things, I'm not going to leave him, Edward."
He slowly pushed away from her, retreating to a world that had been imperceptible from the bubble in which they'd cohabited.
"That's it then," he whispered with hurt in his eyes. She cared more about his future than himself. "It's all come down to your love for me."
"I won't forget any of it," she said, crying softly.
"I fell in love with you, Bella Swan. I don't think I can ever fall out of it."
Without another word, Edward noiselessly disappeared into the shadows.
Out of Bella's sight.
Out of Bella's life.
The Cuban Emerald was a beautifully incorporated specimen.
Its wings were altered, creating a surreal effect.
Its feathers consisted of miniscule words.
She remembered being incredibly amazed at herself for capturing such a decent photo of the little bird. It was also a rare one to spot, yet this one just kept coming back, as if it was keen to assist her in any way. She could have simply searched different types of birds through an online engine, but this had made her efforts seem much more personal.
She closed one eye as she moved the paintbrush in front of her, trying to picture what other colors to use. Her tongue peeked out of her mouth, moving in harmony with the speed of her ideas.
The sudden ringing of the phone reminded her that she had to cut this art session short.
"Miss. Swan, the gallery has just called to notify us that you'll be here this afternoon. The auction will be at two o'clock."
"Oh yes, I'll be there," she replied.
"See you soon, Miss. Swan."
After hanging up with the representative at the auction house, she still had time to clean up her brushes so she washed the ones that were left in the murky water of her jar.
Then she got dressed.
She applied a fresh coat of lipstick and ruffled her hair, hoping she didn't look too disheveled. After gathering everything she needed, Bella locked her apartment and went downstairs to the waiting taxi that she'd called earlier.
Her mind danced to the experiences that had shaped her into who she was today.
She thought about the past year; how she had grown as a person, evolving into a contributor to society. She participated in a few fundraising auctions before the local gallery became interested in her work.
The media caught wind of her progress and a few newspapers conducted interviews with her. They'd asked her if there was a muse that inspired her work, but she never gave them a response. The topic of her personal life was constantly an interest of the media. However, she avoided talking about it at all costs, preferring to live privately out of the critical eyes of others.
She never had any regrets about leaving him.
About leaving Mike.
A few months before she'd moved out, she had told Mike she was divorcing him. He seemed stunned, heartlessly telling her that he had never loved her anyway. But because of everything Edward had taught her, she was quick to detect a look in his eyes.
It was something she knew well.
It was something she herself had felt, a long time ago.
Seeing how Mike hardly did any housework and Bella wasn't into the idea of having servants, she knew where everything was kept. Bella figured he wouldn't miss the antiques she'd collected over time or the vases that she adored.
As she walked away, she'd peeked over her shoulder one last time at the house that only held ghostly memories of the two people she once knew.
She had to remind herself that the place wasn't solely filled with unpleasant experiences. It was where she'd met the man who saved her from falling into an eternal state of despair.
She often wondered where he was.
Maybe, he was in a relationship.
A sad smile tugged at her lips as she felt a bittersweet emotion overwhelm her. She thought about Edward's words, remembering the clarity of his thoughts as if their love affair had only begun yesterday.
"But you don't know if something's a mistake until you see the consequences later. By then, it might be too late. You could have stopped something terrific."
She wondered if she was too late.
After paying the driver and hopping out of the vehicle, Bella walked into the building of the independent auction house. Bella didn't always sell her paintings in this manner. Many artists preferred not to show numerous pieces of their work at one time; fearing the value would be lowered due to the abundance.
Instead, she earned money through private commissions.
Bella opened the glass door, walking into the exhibition but also getting a side-peek of the main hall where rows of seats were situated. On the stage, different paintings that were to be sold would be displayed next to the auctioneer.
"Miss. Swan," a voice called.
Bella turned around to see James Napre walking towards her. His white hair was gelled back as his blue eyes sparkled underneath the ceiling lights.
"We've just finished the exhibition for the guests," he said excitedly. "It'll be starting soon."
Bella smiled as he led her to the main hall, motioning for her to sit in the front row with several people she already knew. She talked to a few who corresponded with her from the gallery as they told her just how stunning her art was.
Bella blushed as she accepted their compliments.
She wished she could thank the inspiration himself.
In a matter of minutes, the auction was underway, with many of the paintings being sold for a couple of thousands. She felt her nerves spike when her artwork was brought to the stand.
It was a piece that had been extensively shown in the gallery and had garnered a lot of attention through the competition Bella had won.
"Painted in oil on canvas, Bella Swan's painting depicts fragments of a human body in its surrealist context. Standing at thirty by forty inches, this phenomenal artwork will be sure to make both art lovers and dealers happy. Half the sum will be donated to the International Child Art Foundation. Starting price at one thousand."
Bella looked around the room where people held paddles, ready to bid.
"The woman in front, fifteen hundred.
On my left, two thousand.
Two thousand, five hundred to the gentleman at the back.
Three thousand, going at three thousand."
The auctioneer pointed the tip of his hand at someone in the back.
"Four thousand ...
We are looking at seven thousand for the lady on the right.
Gentleman on my left, eight thousand."
Quiet chattering echoed as people discussed among themselves.
"Eight thousand, five hundred.
Nine thousand, to the gentleman at the back.
Going at nine thousand."
Bella held her breath as the murmurs buzzed in her ears.
"To the gentleman in the far corner.
She arched her head to see who the potential buyer was.
Through the sea of people who were sitting down and conversing with each other, she couldn't see that far back.
"Sold to number eighty-nine, the gentleman at the back."
Applause was given for the successful sale as Bella was kissed on the cheek by beaming women.
After the auctioneer had thanked the participants for joining him today, there was a commotion of people starting to make their way to the exit, and others staying behind to discuss the events of the day.
"Kate, isn't this simply superb? Miss. Swan's techniques are astonishing," James said as they walked onto the stage, towards the painting.
"Did you see who bought it, Bella?" Kate asked her as they faced the surrealist work.
"No, I didn't-"
"Ah, eighty-nine! Hello, Mr. Cullen," James said, turning around to greet the purchaser.
She felt time move a little slower.
She felt the world tilt a little further.
She felt a kaleidoscope of butterflies flutter into her stomach.
"Hello Edward, I'm Kate Parker. Oh, and this is the artist herself, Bella Swan."
She turned around slowly, until she saw the shade of green she knew she could never forget. Every time she saw the friendly, little Cuban Emerald, she thought of him. And every time she worked on that painting, she felt a little closer to a presence that was never there.
The corners of his lips curled, into a shy, boyish smile.
One that made her heart beat like a wild hummingbird, soaring through the grassy wilderness.
From their two weeks together, to their two years apart, she knew Inspiration would always be with her.
So she smiled, not listening to the gentle voices around her.
"What do you think of the painting, Mr. Cullen? It's rather-"
As he stared into her eyes with a tender look that reignited all the hope in her body, she felt a tremble in her bones.
Not because she was afraid.
But because she was brave.
Edward Cullen responded with just one word,