Summary: "You keep giving me excuses and lashing out at me, but you know what? Not once have you said, 'Edward, this could never work because I don't even like you.' Which means," he leans in conspiratorially, "that you do. Like me."
Prereaders: Cejsmom, Modernsafari1, and _ss77_
Beta(s): Perry Maxwell (one shot)
Author's Note: As One Does was originally written for the May to December Romance contest. It won 5th Place Public Vote, the Romeo (Best Younger Edward), and Judge's Choice from Planetbluefic. This is an expanded version of that one shot. I added roughly 4000 words. You're welcome. Thanks to all who read and voted and to my team of snarky angels who love my silly Edwards and sassy Bellas and tolerate me. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable characters herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
Playlist: Blank Space by Taylor Swift, Something in the Way She Moves by James Taylor, Give Me Love (cover) by Alex and Sierra, Butterfly by Jason Mraz, Better Together by Jack Johnson
As One Does by Purelyamuse
"You are so late," Esme says, not even turning to look at me as I push through the side door to the great room. Sisters are the worst. Only paying attention to you when they need something.
My arms are heavy laden with bags and the ice she begged me to pick up. "I didn't realize I was needed so badly for a run of the mill barbeque."
"No party I ever throw is run of the mill." She squeezes some mayo over a bunch of potatoes and uses her large blue spoon to stir it.
I dump my bags on the floor and set the ice on the kitchen counter next to her. Her hair is different. Bad different. She has botched highlights. She keeps going to her "friend" to get it done. What a terrible idea. Two things: one, I'm glad I have a stylist I can trust, and two, I'm glad my dad has a full head of dark hair. Her dad's hair went gray when he was twenty.
"What did you do?" I ask, lifting a chunk of her hair off her shoulder.
"Don't judge me. I couldn't take it anymore."
"I am judging you."
"When you're in your early thirties—"
I cough a laugh. She is so not in her early thirties.
"You will try to stay young, too. By any means possible."
"Whatever. So where is everyone? I thought this place'd be hoppin'. Didn't you say Jasper and Rose could invite their little friends?"
"I did. That's why it's quiet, actually. They're all outside. Lots of Carl's colleagues came. More than last time, anyway. Some are single." She scoots closer to me and nudges my shoulder with hers.
"That sounds promising."
"Too bad your hair looks like crap," she says.
"Too bad you're so old."
"Too bad you no longer have a place to stay this summer."
"Like you'd ever throw me out."
"If you bring back that stinky guy friend of yours, I totally will."
"We had just been hiking," I whine.
"Is that what you call it?" She raises an eyebrow.
I pull her hair, and she pokes me with the end of her spoon. The play fight's over then, and she turns her attention to the eggs she needs to chop. She pushes the celery toward me with a do-something-useful look.
The sliding door screeches open, and my eyes flit up to see a guy drying himself as he enters. I follow the towel curiously as it roves over his defined abs, then his chest, then his face, ending on his hair. My brown eyes meet his green ones, and he grins.
"Hi," Towel Boy says.
"Hey," I say back. Towel Boy is cute. And cut. I give him a flirty smile and almost forget how disgusting I look. I just came from cleaning out my dorm. I'm sweaty and wearing grubby clothes, and my dull brown hair is fancy enough for mopping the floor. But I don't care because Towel Boy has just thrown his towel over his shoulder and his pecs flexed as he did so.
"Carl said you needed us to bring some stuff out," he says to Esme.
"Um, sure. Grab the drinks, and Bella can get the ice," she says.
"I'll get the ice," he says. "I need to cool off."
"Didn't you just get out of the pool?" I ask, pointing foolishly to the backyard.
"I did. But it's a bit hot in here." He looks me over from head to toe.
I turn to Esme, like did he just do that?
She swipes a hand over her face. "Pay no attention to him. He flirts with all the girls."
"Just the pretty ones," he says, winking.
"What the heck? I don't even know you."
"But I know you. You're Bella. Esme said."
"Sure she did," I say, giving Esme a glare. I'm going to kill my sister. Is she trying to set me up?
Towel Boy throws the bag of ice onto his empty shoulder and cocks his head to the side. "You coming or what?"
I grab the two liter bottles and follow him outside. Immediately, I'm greeted by my blue-eyed, blond-haired niece and nephew with hollers from the pool. Rose has grown up a lot this year. She'll be starting high school in the fall, and Jasper will be in his junior year. It seems like just yesterday I was babysitting them.
A few of their friends are scattered around the yard—two boys playing Frisbee and a girl sidled up next to Rose, whispering. Probably about the boys playing Frisbee. It's nice to see them in their element. They're usually broody at family functions because they want to get out of the house. Esme and Carl keep their family close, which I admire, but it bugs their kids. This seems like a good compromise, though. Everyone is happy.
Towel Boy dodges as Jasper skims his arm across the pool top, splashing us. "Get in!" he yells.
"Maybe later," I say, laughing as Towel Boy shouts, "Amateur."
We set our items on the red checkered tablecloth, and I peer around, spotting Carl and a bunch of dudes I've never met.
"You know anyone?" he asks, nodding across the way.
"That one with the red hair and red trunks is Garrett; he's an accountant. Don't talk to him. Boring. The guy in a suit shall remain nameless because who wears a suit to a swim party? And the one losing his hair is James. He's Carl's right-hand man, seems pretty cool, but he misses his ex-wife, and I'm pretty sure he has halitosis. Everyone else belongs to Jasper and Rose, so I'm pretty much the only person worth talking to at this party." He shrugs, like what are you gonna do?
"Really? Wow. And what makes you so interesting?"
"Well, number one, I'm pretty funny. I like music. I play guitar. And I'm going to kick your ass later on the Wii."
"Hmm. That is interesting. Only you can't beat me at the Wii. I've been playing with Jasper and Rose since they were teeny tiny. I may be old, but I'm not so very old that I'm bad at video games."
"You're not old. You're still in college. You're just a babe."
What? "Did you just call me a babe?"
"Yep. Dr. Pepper?"
I laugh. Why not? "Sure."
He pours us both a drink, and we sit side by side at the picnic table, his long legs stretching out much farther than my own. "So what do you do in the company?"
He chokes on his drink, smiling.
"Wait. Let me guess. Janitor?"
He laughs and sets his drink on the table, placing his hands on the bench beside either of his thighs. His pinkie's nearly touching mine. He swivels his head so he's looking at me straight on. "You know, your family talks a lot about you, but you're cooler than I thought you'd be."
"Oh," I say, taken aback.
"I just mean, most college girls I've met are kind of putting on a show, wearing a ton of makeup like they're going to prom."
"Prom's overrated," I say. "Besides, yoga pants are much more comfortable than a strapless dress."
"I wouldn't know."
"I hope not. Otherwise, I should walk away right now."
"Please don't. This is by far the best conversation I've had all night. See? Rose has a little crush and has been following me around since I got here."
I chuckle, keeping my mouth closed and glance at Rose. Sure enough, she's staring at Towel Boy.
"She was trying to get me to play chicken with her earlier."
"Chicken can be fun."
"Well, yeah sure. I mean, we could play it later." He raises an eyebrow, but I'm not taking that bait.
"Yeah, Jasper's been working out. He almost looks like a man now. I'm sure he could hold me up, and you could definitely carry Rose on your shoulders."
"I'm no longer amused by this conversation." He turns his head toward the pool, and I laugh.
Esme pokes her head out the door. "I need help. Come help."
"I'm coming." I give Towel Boy a smile and go to save my sister.
Once inside, she beams. "I told you."
"He is so cute!"
"I know! Too bad about the hair."
I picture Towel Boy's close-cropped reddish brown hair. It's a bit short, but it looks fine. Good on him. "I think it's hot."
"You think balding in your twenties is hot."
"He's not balding."
"What? Are we talking about the same guy?"
"Towel Boy," I say.
Esme blurts, "James."
"Ew. I'm young and gorgeous. I'm not even going to bother to talk to a baldy. Especially not when Hard Abs McAbster is chatting me up."
Esme's shoulders collapse as she bends over the island laughing.
"Well, it's true. And he is cute," I reiterate.
"Yeah, really, I expect more from you. Like covert shots of him in the copy room on Carl's phone."
She grins wide then turns around to pull a mixing bowl from the cupboard. She hands me a pint of strawberries to cut up. I turn around and catch Towel Boy sitting on the diving board. The lines of his body mesmerize me.
I laugh, caught. "Where have you been hiding him all this time?"
"In Jasper's room."
I give her a skeptical look. "That's a bit creepy."
"So is pedophilia."
"What are you talking about?"
"That's Edward. Jasper's friend."
"Edward? The Edward I keep hearing about?"
Esme nods as my mouth gapes.
The sound of the sliding door catches my attention, turning me around. My eyes go wide as I stare at Carl. I'm pretty sure I'm in shock.
"What's with you?" he asks.
"Don't mind her," Esme says, "She's just ogling her nephew's best friend. You know, as one does."
I turn to face Esme. She's smiling, but I am gutted, grossed out, and embarrassed. I drop my head to the granite and groan.
"It's okay." Esme comes around to my side and rubs my back. "We'll find you someone with all their hair. A real man."
"Someone needs a real man?" Towel Boy's voice—Edward's voice—resonates behind me.
I snap up and glare at him. "I don't see one," I spit out.
"Ooh." He puts his hand over his heart like he's been shot.
"This isn't funny."
"What's not funny?" he asks, coming up beside me, stealing a strawberry from my cutting mat.
"You. You're not funny."
"I'm a little bit funny." He takes a large bite, his lips wrapping around the strawberry. The red brings my attention to the plumpness of his lips.
"Not even the slightest. What's your deal anyway? I'm in college."
"And I like strawberries." He grabs another, unperturbed.
"You're in high school. And what? Sixteen?"
He leans in close, whispering, "I'm seventeen."
I throw my hands up in a stop motion and head toward the exit.
"I think she likes me," I hear him say.
"You just pissed off my sister," Esme says.
"Your sister's hot," he says, and I close my eyes, trying to forget I just heard that.
Esme barks some orders at him.
I close the door behind me, but I can still hear them vaguely, and they're laughing. Laughing. At what? My expense? I just flirted with a teenager. A kid. And I liked it. I am sick and depraved.
I sit hard on the bench and gaze up into the sky, its orange and pink hues doing nothing to distract me from the cute boy inside my sister's house.
And I find myself wondering . . . when will he be eighteen?
A/N: Hi. I wrote something. The chapters are short (as is the story), but I will update quickly and regularly. I hope you like it. TwistedLea made me a pretty banner! I adore it! Check it out! Love you! Purely