Beta'd by HollettLA :)


Secrets & Wishes


A few days later, we catch another break when I sign a six-month lease for a new apartment.

In this standstill town, I'd expected it was gonna take time before we found something.

No one is happier than me to be wrong. It's a nice neighborhood, too. Close to the clinic, the post office, the diner, the one pizzeria—which is also a bar—and the police station. It also looks like several families live here, so maybe Mase can find friends.

Peering out the window of my new living room, I look down at the small playground. Four two-story buildings have the playground surrounded, making it feel safe to let the kids go out and play. There's a place for barbeques right next to it, and I wonder if my neighbors all know each other.

"Mom!" Masen runs into the living room with a big smile on his face. "Come look at my room! It's huge!"

I laugh and let him drag me down the hall. It's only a two-bedroom apartment, though it's enough for us, and I gave Mase the biggest room. I don't have a gazillion toys, video games, and sports gear; he does. The kid needs the space.

"And I have the forest right outside!" Masen points out his window.

"I take it you approve of our place?" I tease.

He grins. "It's awesome."

He'll like it even more when we've moved our furniture here from Mom's house. But that will have to wait until tomorrow when Masen is at the church's soccer event. Poor kid has been bored out of his mind these past few days while Mom and I worked to get everything ready at the clinic.

Tomorrow, he's got soccer all day long—and a chance to make friends—and the day after that is the tournament. Mom and I will attend with Esme and Carlisle.

"You ready to hit Port Angeles?" I ask. Mase needs cleats and some clothes. Mom's already there, finishing up some errands.

"Okay—is there a McDonald's?"

I snort a laugh and ruffle his hair. "The town isn't that small, you know. Yes, there is a McDonald's. Come on—let's go."

We leave our new apartment behind and descend the outside stairs. The sun is actually out today, which is nice. As we reach the residents' parking lot, I stop short when I see two silver Volvos. Same model, even.

"Um. Which one is ours?" Mase scrunches his nose.

Since I remember where I parked, it's a no-brainer, and there's also a sticker on mine that says "Soccer Mom," so there we go. But still, funny coincidence.

~oOo~

"Mom!" Masen shouts from our room. "We're gonna be late!"

"I'm hurrying!" I holler back, packing his sandwiches, a piece of fruit, and a candy bar. "You can take your bag to the car, baby!" Running a hand through my sleep-tousled hair, I nod in thanks as Mom adds a couple juice boxes to Masen's lunch bag and hands me a travel mug with coffee. "I really only pressed the snooze button once," I swear.

Mom simply smiles, placating me. "I'll be here when you get back. Shouldn't take more than two trips to bring everything to your apartment."

I nod and grab my thin cardigan from one of the kitchen chairs, shrugging it on over my black t-shirt. Christ, I look like a mess, but it is what it is. It's probably too cold to wear these denim shorts—hell, I wouldn't be surprised if half my ass is on display—but I don't have enough time to change.

With the lunch bag and my coffee in hand, I kiss Mom's cheek then hurry out to the hallway. I stick my feet into the closest pair of boots and walk out the open door—

"Bella!"

I stop at Mom's voice and look back. She rushes down the concrete steps with my phone and car keys, quickly putting them in my back pocket. Then she chuckles at me and returns to the door where she waves to Mase.

"Have fun today, sweetie!" she calls.

Already seated in the car, Masen grins and waves back.

And off we go.

Once in the car, I peel out of the driveway and make my way toward the church.

I give Masen a glance in the rearview. "You have everything?"

"Yeah." His head bobs to the radio. "I think my feet are gonna hurt tonight."

Figures, with new shoes and all. "I'm sure we can find a bucket somewhere."

The first time I watched one of Masen's games, I didn't understand why some of the kids stuck their feet into water before running out on the field. My son later explained to me that the water loosened up the leather on new shoes, thus preventing blisters.

Whenever Masen whines, "They have no give, Mom!" I know to bring out a basin of water.

"You promise to be nice to the other kids?" I remind him, stopping at a red light. "Remember, they're not all soccer players."

This is supposed to be fun, and kids of all ages are welcome.

"I know. I'll be nice."

He better be. Now, my kid is a friggin' sweetheart; he defends anyone who can't defend themselves and never falls victim to peer pressure, but he's also insanely competitive. It wouldn't surprise me if he views this summer activity like the Champions League finals.

When we finally get to the church, I'm happy to see so many families gathered in the parking lot. There have to be close to fifty kids, at least a dozen of them Masen's age.

"I'll pick you up at four," I tell him. "Do you remember why Twix has two bars in each pack?"

Mase rolls his eyes, thinking I'm totally uncool. But that's how my dad said it to me, only he went with my favorite—Kit Kat. Twix is Mase's.

"Because it's meant to be shared," he mimics in a high-pitched voice.

I laugh as I park the car. "I don't sound like that."

He shrugs and gives me a silly smile. Then he's out the door with his sports bag.

"Your lunch, baby!" I call, exiting the car to follow. He's not escaping me that easily; I'm gonna talk to the people in charge, too. "You know what this means?" I hold up his bag. "It means you don't have to eat twenty hot dogs later."

Masen can eat more than Mom and me—combined—hence packing him a large lunch. So, when they're grilling hot dogs at the end of the day, Masen doesn't have to ruin the church.

"Got it." Masen nods and grabs the bag. "I'll only eat nineteen."

"Smartass." I shake my head, amused, and throw an arm around his shoulders. "Let's say hi to the others."

We cross the lot together, and I do recognize several people. They seem to recognize me too, but maybe they can't place me yet.

"Why are they looking at us?" Mase asks, keeping his voice low. "It was the same yesterday when we were out."

"We're the new kids in town," I say. "People are curious."

And eager for gossip.

"Damn," I mutter, spotting Mr. Weber. I went to school with Angela, his daughter. Guess it makes sense I'd run into him here, seeing as he's the minister. He's dressed casually…for a man of God.

"Bella? Is that you?"

Turning to my left, I see Angela. Should've guessed she'd be here, too.

"Hey." I smile as she walks over with a toddler on her hip. "Long time, no see."

"Understatement!" She beams. "There was a rumor going around that you're back, but I wasn't sure."

Ten bucks say Lily Hale started gossiping as soon as we left the diner last week.

"Well, here I am." What else can I say? "This is my son—Masen." Facing Mase, I explain, "I went to school with Ms. Weber."

"Mrs. Cheney now, actually." Angela blushes. I smirk at the thought of her landing Ben. "This is our daughter—Emily."

"So cute." I grin and stroke her chubby little cheek with a finger. "I assume she's not here to play soccer?"

Angela giggles. "God, no. We're just here helping out. Ben should be around here somewhere, too. He and Jasper are gonna coach."

"Jasper, huh?" I look around to see if there's anyone else I used to know. We're still considered young—especially me since I graduated early—so I can't imagine that everyone in my graduating class has kids already.

"Yup. Which means Alice is here as well," Angela says. "They're married now."

Wow, so I guess becoming Mrs. Whitlock was more important than fashion design, after all. "And they have kids?"

"A daughter." She points toward the church where I spot Jasper walking out with a girl who looks about five.

She looks like a princess, all dolled up by Alice, no doubt. She's very beautiful.

"How old is Masen?" Angela asks curiously.

I withhold my sigh. "Nine."

"Nine-and-a-half," Mase corrects me.

"Really?" Angela's eyes widen slightly, and it's her turn to do the math.

Having no desire for the follow-up questions or any awkward silence that might ensue, I offer a final smile before I steer Masen in the direction of Mr. Weber and Jasper.

Mr. Weber is just happy to see me, but of course, I gotta do the old song and dance with Jasper: That's your son? How old is he? Wow, almost ten? That means…

Yes, dickwad. I was knocked up when I graduated.

By the time I've spoken to Mr. Weber and introduced Masen, the whispers around me are less than subtle.

I wonder who the father is.

I'm surprised; Bella was such a good girl in high school.

No wonder her parents moved with her after graduation.

Suppressing yet another sigh, I kiss Masen goodbye and head back to my car, ignoring the stares.

"We're already late, Ant," I hear a voice murmur, and I look up, scanning the parking lot. There are plenty of cars, but most people are gathered farther away.

I know that voice.

Narrowing my eyes, I spot the back of a man's head. He's squatting down in front of his kid near a black sports car. And yeah, it only takes me about two seconds to realize it's Edward and his son.

"You can still back out." Edward's voice seems to hold concern for something. "You can do whatever you want."

I tilt my head and pretend to look for my keys, which is stupid. Edward is facing away from me, so it's not like he can see me.

"I should try," I hear the boy mumble. Anthony, Edward's son. "Mom said sports are important."

When Anthony shifts on his feet, his face comes into view, and he's like a miniature version of his dad. He also speaks like a little adult, his coppery hair combed to the side, and he's wearing the cutest glasses.

"I don't care about that, buddy," Edward replies patiently. "I won't tolerate you feeling pressured into doing anything."

Anthony offers a small nod and shoulders his backpack. He looks incredibly adorable in black shorts and a T-shirt with the words, "If you can read this, thank a teacher."

Oh, that's totally Edward. Aunt Kate may teach too, but Edward's the teacher. It's in his blood.

"As long as the other children are nice…" Anthony trails off, squinting toward the gathering of kids and parents. "I might fall, but I think it's best to try."

God, how is that boy only eight years old? He sounds a lot older.

The last thing I wanna do is step on anybody's toes; however, if Anthony is worried about being teased, I'd like to ease his fears. If there's one thing I can count on my son to do, it's to make others feel welcome. Even if Mase is the newcomer.

Swallowing my nerves, I walk over to them cautiously.

Anthony spots me first and takes on a shy expression.

"Excuse me." I suddenly wish I'd had time to put on prettier clothes.

Edward, still squatting down by his son, peers over his shoulder and looks up at my face.

Fuck me, he's just…beyond gorgeous. He's aged really fucking well. The glasses are back too, unlike the time in Seattle when he didn't wear any. Thin, silver-wired frames go perfectly with his deep green eyes and the sparse grays near his temples.

Last time I saw him, his hair was slightly longer and messier. Now it's only a few inches long, and the mess is…neater?

The only thing that hasn't changed is the way he dresses. Slacks are an Edward Cullen standard, as are the fitted V-necks that expose just a hint of chest hair at the top of his sternum.

He frowns at first, a few lines creasing his forehead and the corners of his eyes. Then those green eyes widen, and I'm sure he's recognized me.

"Isabella? Is that you?" He stands up abruptly, letting me remember how tall he is.

"Hi, Mr. Cullen." I smile awkwardly, immediately regretting my words. "I mean…um, I guess it's Edward now…?" I'm such a fucking loser.

Someone remind me I'm twenty-five, not fifteen. Please.

I moaned his name in a Seattle hotel room three years ago.

"Wow—I, uh…" Edward runs a hand through his hair and chuckles, though he's not looking at ease enough for chuckles. "Never thought you'd return to Forks."

I shrug vaguely. "I didn't mean to intrude—" I smile at Anthony, who's standing slightly behind Edward, blushing adorably. "I didn't mean to overhear either, but…" Well, that's a big whopper of a lie. "My son is here, too. He's new, and he'd love to meet a new friend."

"You have a son?" Mr. Cullen—Edward, goddammit!—smiles tightly and looks down at Anthony, his expression softening. "What do you say, Ant? Perhaps you can tell…" He faces me again, and I know what he's wondering.

For the first time in ages, I feel heat creeping up my chest and my cheeks. "Masen—his name is Masen."

Which coincidentally happens to be Edward's middle name.

I guess that shows how badly I was crushing on my teacher back in the day.

Edward gives me an odd look for just a second, then addresses Anthony once more. "Perhaps you can tell Masen all there is to know about Forks."

Anthony chews on his lip. "This town is small, but telling Masen everything there is to know would still take quite some time, Dad." He pushes up his glasses. "Forks's history is interesting."

Fuck that! There's no way this boy is only eight, even if he looks the part.

"If you get along, maybe you'll have more time," Mr. Cullen reasons, grinning.

"That's true." Anthony nods. "Is Masen good at soccer? I barely know the basics. Could he teach me without teasing?"

Aww, my heart melts. "Of course, honey," I say. "He's the monkey right over there—" I point toward the church where I can see Masen laughing about something with Jasper. My son's at least a head taller than Anthony; he can be intimidating at first—until he opens his mouth or flashes one of his silly grins. "And if anyone's mean to you, he'll do something I would never really approve of out loud." As in, kick bully butt.

"Well, that sounds good to me." Mr. Cullen dips down and kisses Anthony's forehead. "I like knowing you'll be safe. What do you say, buddy? You wanna give this soccer thing a try?"

Anthony takes on an expression of determination, hikes up his backpack, and nods firmly. "Yes."

I grin at him, thinking he's too stinking cute, this tiny adult. "Go to Masen and tell him Bella Swan sent you."

"Okay." Another nod from Anthony. "Thank you, Ms. Swan."

"It's Bella."

He flushes. "Okay. Bella." Giving his dad a quick hug, he walks hurriedly toward Masen, leaving me alone with the star of my kinky fantasies.

Too bad said star is wearing a wedding band, which he sure as heck wasn't the night we shared in Seattle.

Maybe Lily Hale doesn't know what she's talking about. The rumors could be false. In a town like this, a mere argument could morph into talk of divorce. If a kid shoplifts, the gossipers will say it was armed robbery.

Focusing on Anthony, I smile to myself as he reaches Masen, formally holds out his hand, and introduces himself to my son. There are words, but we're too far away to hear, and Mase handles everything casually. He shakes Anthony's hand, grins at something, some gesturing in my direction and then the church, and I can sense Mr. Cullen relaxing next to me. Edward, Edward, Edward. He's not my teacher.

"Thank you," he says quietly after a while. "He's always been more comfortable around books than people. His best friend is Huckleberry Finn."

I smirk and stick my hands into the pockets of my shorts. Friggin' things are riding up my ass, they're so short. "Good choice. And having heard your son speak, I'm sure he's opinionated about the book."

"Don't get him started." Edward faces me with a wry grin. "I thought he was too young at first, especially with some of the heavier subjects in the book, but he proved me wrong and actually did research."

Jesus. "Are you sure he's only eight?"

He cocks his head. "I never told you his age."

Shit. I turn sheepish. "I may have heard about Anthony through the grapevine."

He snorts a chuckle. "Esme, no doubt." Yeah… "Funnily enough, that grapevine must be awfully one-sided. Otherwise, surely I would've known about your son, whom I'd mistake for being your brother if I didn't know better."

Forward.

"Good thing you know better, then," I quip.

He raises a brow. "Isabella…?"

I sigh. "He'll be ten in December."

"Ten…" He nods and stares at his feet, mirroring my stance by sticking his hand down in his pockets. "I see."

It's officially awkward.

"Um, I'm gonna go." I jerk my thumb over my shoulder and take a few steps backward. "It was nice seeing you again, Mr. Cullen. And don't worry about Anthony. Mase is a good kid."

I turn around and hurry to my car, ignoring my name—Isabella—being called. Shit, I haven't felt this out of sorts in years. I'm all flustered and fidgety, the hard-working veterinarian nowhere to be seen. I mean, seriously, I'm Dr. Swan. Not the fumbling schoolgirl with a crush on her teacher.

My parents took loans so I could go to Brown—friggin' Ivy League.

I bet Dad's rolling in his grave now.


-cara