A/N Hey all! Sorry it's been so long. It's finally moving week and I'm exhausted, but things are coming together. I wanted to post the final outtake of this one from my old place, and start Summer Girl in the new place. Seems right to kick it off with a new story, right? Anyway, I'll have that going soon, but I miss you all (and I'll catch up on reviews soon, I promise)
Can you believe I'm moving the week of the NFL draft and Avenger's Endgame? I'm gonna see Thurs and Friday night draft stuff at least. And Endgame on Sunday (anyone who spoils will suffer dire consequences!) I won't be around enough to see spoilers I don't think. haha
Anyway, how about one more swoon for old time's sake? Our boy is at his swooniest again in this chapter. I hope you enjoy and I'll talk to you soon!
To All the Boys Shopping Outtake
I watched Bella watching us, looking a little reluctant to let us go without her, which was pretty amusing to me, so I sent her a final wave before pulling out of the driveway with Alice. If anyone had told me even a week ago that I'd be taking a ten-year-old shopping for her sister's birthday ,and that sister would be Bella Swan, I would have thought they were nuts. But here we were, and I was surprisingly quite happy about it.
To say things had not gone as planned from pretty much the moment I'd approached Bella about our supposed fake relationship was an understatement. I'd thought I knew what I wanted and just how to get it by making an agreement with a girl who was on the same page. But the lines had blurred when she'd kissed me, and I'd spent whatever time I wasn't with Bella this weekend thinking about her. I'd known going in that Bella was pretty and cool. She never seemed to care what anyone thought of her and seemed content doing her own thing. I admired her, and now the more I knew about her, the more I liked her.
Getting to know her was a lot of fun. She was smart, funny, and kind. Her relationship with Alice floored me. None of my friends would have been so cool with hanging out with a younger sibling as often as Bella did, and Tanya… God, Tanya would have a fit if anyone suggested it.
It seemed wrong to compare the two, but they were the only two girls I'd ever kissed, and the more time I spent with Bella, the less I could understand why I'd wanted Tanya back at all. Tanya had never jumped into my arms after a football game, she'd never have been content to spend a Saturday night cuddling and watching movies, and she'd never made me hard in a cafeteria full of classmates. Bella floored me each and every day and now that we'd kissed, it was all that I wanted to do. Well, not all, obviously, but I was on the lookout for any extenuating circumstances I could find. Maybe if I kissed Bella enough, she'd forget all about our dumb pact and just be with me.
"Are you okay, Edward?" Alice asked, shaking me out of my thoughts as we turned onto Main Street.
I sent her a smile. "Of course. I was just thinking about your sister." It was the truth, after all.
The smile that lit her face at that news was identical to Bella's. "You really like her, don't you?"
"Yeah, I do." It just came out without me even having to think of how to respond because it was true. I did like Bella. A lot.
"She really likes you, too!"
Now that I wasn't so sure about, but I hoped it was true. "Yeah? You think so?" I found us a parking space and pulled in. "This is where you wanted to go, right?"
Ali nodded as she fiddled with her seat belt. I reached over and unbuckled her.
"I know so. You're the only boy other than Emmett that she ever hung out with."
Emmett. Damn Emmett. What did she feel for him, really? She hadn't brought him up since that first day and our tense confrontation with him, but she'd let me kiss her because he might be watching when I'd dropped her off Friday night. Did she care what he thought?
"She hasn't said anything about Emmett in a while."
"They don't hang out anymore. I don't know why."
Right. Like Alice would know what her sister's feelings for Emmett were. She was ten! I shook my head at myself as I got out of the car and went around to get the door for Alice. I took her hand, helping her out of the car, and kept hold of it as we crossed the street to the shopping center she'd requested.
"Which stores did you want to go to?" I asked. And what in the heck was I going to get Bella?
"She loves the bookstore."
I had to smile at that. Of course she did. "Let's go there first, then."
We went inside A Likely Story, our local bookstore, and I chuckled when Ali made a beeline for the children's books. That was okay. I walked around a bit, stopping in front of a section of journals. When I saw the one with the lock on it, I knew I had to get it for Bella. It was too perfect. She could write down her thoughts in there, and this time they'd be safe. Plus, it was kind of a fun callback to her letters and how we got together. Perfect.
I grabbed that and made my way over to Ali, who was curled up reading a book. "Somehow I don't think that's for your sister."
She smiled and shrugged. "She likes to read those, but I'm not sure what ones she has."
She pointed out the romance section, and I had to laugh at the cheesy covers with men with bulging muscles gripping onto their beautiful women. Bella read those? I had to admit, I felt myself getting a little excited wondering what exactly she liked about them, and what she might have learned from reading them. She was already a fantastic kisser. Who knew what else she might be good at?
And that was a bad road to go down with her little sister nearby. I'd leave that thought for my shower later.
"What are you reading, Cat?" I asked, sitting next to her.
She showed me the cover, and I grinned. "Harriet the Spy? I read that book." It was hilarious, if I remembered correctly.
"It's funny." She stood up and headed over to put it back, but I stopped her before she could.
"I'll get it for you."
"You will?" Big brown eyes, so like her sister's, peered up at me in surprise. "We're supposed to be shopping for Bella."
"Yep. You need something to remember our shopping trip by, after all." I put it on top of the journal.
"It's a book where Bella can write down her thoughts. It has a lock on it, so they'll stay private."
Ali looked down at the floor. "Oh."
Why did she suddenly look so sad? "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." But she didn't meet my eyes. "Bella will like that."
"I thought so." I took her hand again. "What store should we go to next?" I asked as we headed to the register to pay.
"There's a candy store…" Ali started, making me laugh.
"Candy? Is that for you or your sister?"
"Bella likes candy!"
I watched her, and she shrugged. "Well, she does!"
I just shook my head and glanced at the glass case in front of me. And there, right in front of my eyes, was a silver book necklace. I could easily see it on Bella.
"Can you show me that necklace?" I asked the clerk before she finished ringing me up.
"Sure." She opened the cabinet and took it out. "It's a locket, actually. See?" She opened it and showed me where the picture would go inside. I could already imagine one of the pictures we'd taken together inside.
"It's sterling silver. The chain is…" She went on and on, but I didn't need to hear any more.
"I'll take it."
"Bella's going to love that!" Ali did a little twirl in the middle of the bookstore. "It's so pretty! And she'll think of you when she wears it."
Yeah. I definitely hoped she would. Shopping for Bella had been surprisingly easy, not at all like it'd been shopping for Tanya.
I paid the salesgirl and turned to head out of the store. Ali was staring down at a big book in the sale display.
"What are you looking at, Cat?" I looked and saw that she had her eyes on The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe. "I think that might be a bit advanced for you."
"What's that bird?" she asked.
"It's a raven," I told her.
"Oh, I thought it was a crow."
"Well, they're both black birds, but I think ravens are bigger." I shrugged, because I honestly had no clue. I took her hand again and started to head out.
"What does 'the crow flies at midnight' mean?" she asked, stopping me in my tracks. There was no way she'd just come up with that on her own, was there?
"Why do you ask?" I asked, pushing the door open. Surely Bella hadn't told her sister about my notes, had she? She hadn't even said it to me, so I was almost sure she wasn't reading them. Why would Alice know, though?
A look of what I could only describe as guilt flashed across her face. "I, uh, heard it somewhere and wondered what it meant."
Uh-huh. Sure she had. I steered her over to one of the wrought-iron black benches outside of the bookstore. I gestured for her to sit down and I put the bag next to her on the bench, crouching down in front of her so I could look her in the eyes.
"Cat. I thought we were friends."
Her brown eyes widened. "We are!"
"Friends don't lie to each other, do they?"
She shook her head slowly.
"Then tell me where you heard that saying. Did Bella show you the note I wrote her?"
Another slow shake of the head.
"I took the letters out of the trash! I saw her name with the heart on it, and I had to see what it was! Please don't tell her that I read them!"
And with that, she threw her arms around me and burst into tears. Well, hell. I didn't mean to make her cry.
"It's okay, Cat." I stood up, holding her to me as she cried. I had no idea what to do, but I knew I needed to get her to stop. I swayed a little and patted her back. The sobs quieted, but she still clung to me. "I take it your sister doesn't know you read them?" A little shake of the head was her answer.
Hell. I didn't know what to do with this. She shouldn't be reading her sister's stuff, but I didn't want her crying either. I sat back on the bench and waited for Ali to look at me. Her little tear-stained face had me wanting to just forget it, but I knew Bella would be pissed if I did.
"You need to tell her that you read them."
Ali shook her head. "She'll be so mad! I didn't mean to be bad! Why did she throw them away if you gave them to her?"
That was the question. I was fairly sure she wasn't reading them since unlike Alice, she hadn't uttered the phrase to me. Maybe because I'd told her that I was doing it because Tanya wanted me to? It kind of made sense. Bella had every reason to hate Tanya.
"I don't know, but they were hers, not yours."
"But she's going to want them someday! I saved them for her."
Well, I couldn't say I was sorry about that. I wanted Bella to read my notes. The ones I'd given her today… ugh. They weren't exactly for little eyes. I was going to have to be more careful with what I wrote until Bella actually started reading and hopefully keeping them herself.
"How about we make a deal?"
She looked at me with those trusting brown eyes. "Okay."
"You continue to save the notes but don't read them. And you have to tell your sister."
"Now?" she asked, sounding panicked and looking like she was going to cry again.
Jeez. "I'll give you until right after the dance. How does that sound?"
"Dance? What dance?"
"Homecoming. It's in a couple of weeks."
"And you're taking my sister?" Her face lit up again, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was so glad she wasn't crying any longer. I was helpless to girl's tears, especially a cute mini-Bella's.
"Yep." Even if she didn't want to go. She'd agreed, and it was on the list. So was the no-kissing rule, but I was more than happy to forget about that one and keep the ones that I liked, like taking Bella to dances and parties.
"She has to wear a pretty dress! I can get her one for her birthday! Let's go to that store!" She pointed and scrambled off my lap at the same time.
I caught her hand before she could run off because I had another question. If she'd done one, she'd probably done the other. "Alice, did you send the letters?"
Her lower lip started trembling again as she nodded. "Sissy needed a boyfriend! And her letters were so good! And it got her you!"
I didn't want the tears to start again, and I was afraid they might. "I'm not mad at you. If you hadn't sent my letter, I wouldn't have gotten to know Bella." And that would really suck. "But you need to tell her that as well when you come clean about the notes. Can you do that for me? And can you please stop reading your sister's private things? It's not right."
I knew I should tell Bella myself, but I wasn't sure how she'd react, and I didn't want her to end this, whatever it was. The thought of not talking to her every day, not seeing the way she lit up when she smiled, not getting any more of those extenuating circumstances…. No. I didn't want to risk it. So I'd give Alice a couple more weeks to come clean and myself a couple more weeks to show Bella that I really did like her more and more each day. Starting with her birthday. I was going to go big and show her how I was feeling.
"Let's go find that dress." Dress shopping wasn't exactly something that excited me, but it had Ali grinning like she'd won the lottery, and the tears were no longer threatening. That was a win in my book. Plus I wanted Bella to get a dress so I could hold her in my arms all night and maybe get a few more extenuating circumstances.
I held open the door to Sew In Style, shaking my head at the cutesy names for the Main Street Shoppes. Ali practically skipped inside, and I had a feeling that she was going to be one scary teenager when it came to shopping. She'd probably give Tanya a run for her money, minus the ridiculous designer prices.
She dragged me over to the formal dress area-at least I assumed that's what it was, since most were sparkly as hell.
"Look at all the pretty dresses!" Ali touched a sparkly one almost reverently. "Edward?"
"What are dances like?"
She was beaming at me, her eyes sparkling just as much as the black dress she was touching.
So far, for me, they'd been a lot of standing around while Tanya gabbed with her annoying friends, dancing occasionally, but with them it was mostly about seeing and being seen. I hoped it would be different with Bella.
"Well, they decorate the gym at the high school with lights and balloons and stars and stuff like that."
"Is it pretty?" she asked, sounding so wistful it made me smile.
Not a word I'd generally use for it, but I supposed it worked. "Very pretty. And they have punch and cookies and brownies all set up at tables off to the side. The dance floor is in the middle of the gym, and people mostly chill in the bleachers until they dance."
"What's it like to dance with a pretty girl?"
God, the kid was killing me with how cute and excited she was about the dance. How to answer without making it sound sexy? Because when I thought about dancing with Bella, I thought about feeling her body pressed to mine, seeing her beautiful smile as I leaned in and kissed her... I didn't really think it was appropriate to tell Ali that, even if she had read some of my more suggestive notes.
A brilliant idea hit me when I thought about a wedding I'd been forced to attend when I was a kid. Some friends of my parents or something. I knew Ali would love it.
"How about I show you?"
"Show me?" Her eyes got impossibly wider. "How?"
"Well, you're a pretty girl, and so is your sister. I need some practice before I get her out on the dance floor. It's been a while since I've been to a dance." And I really didn't want to think about the last one I'd been to anyway. "Will you dance with me, Ali Cat?"
I didn't think it was possible for her to get any more excited, but somehow it was. "Really?" Her voice was so high-pitched I expected any dogs within a mile to start howling. "But I'm too little to reach you right."
I laughed because it was true. She was a tiny little thing. "You can stand on my feet, and I'll move us."
I held her hand as she carefully placed her feet on top of my sneakers. She was light, so I knew movement would be easy.
"Now, normally a girl puts her hands on the guy's shoulders, but you aren't high enough for that, so you put them on my waist or I can just hold your hands."
"Like this?" She held on to me and I nodded. I put my hands on her back to keep her steady.
"Perfect. And then you move, really. It's just kind of swaying in place." I moved my feet lightly, smiling as Ali gasped when we started to dance.
Her gasp wasn't the only one. A couple of women who worked there were watching us, smiles nearly identical to Ali's lighting up their faces. I heard one of them say it was "the cutest thing ever."
I chuckled to myself. Who knew girls were so easy to please? Tanya never had been. Maybe that said it all.
"Edward?" Ali asked after I did a little turn so she'd know what it was like to twirl around. I smiled, thinking of her sister's face when I'd twirled her in the cafeteria using her jeans pocket. That whole getting to put my hand in her back pocket thing had turned out to be awesome. Bella had a fantastic ass, and I'd had free rein to touch it from day one. I don't think she'd thought of that when she'd come up with that idea.
Right. Focus. Little girl in my arms. Not appropriate. "Yes, Alice?"
"If you weren't my sister's boyfriend, I would want you to be mine."
Well, damn if that wasn't the sweetest thing I ever heard. I didn't have much experience with little kids, but I was pretty sure Alice was the coolest of all of them anyway.
"If you were a few years older, she'd have some competition."
Ali giggled as she stepped off my feet. "No. You like Sissy too much."
It was starting to seem as if that were really true. "I think I do."
"I know you do." She beamed at me. "What's your favorite color?"
"Because that's what color dress we'll get Bella, silly! She'll want to be pretty for you."
"She's always pretty. I like how she dresses in those cool old shirts."
Alice nodded. "I know. She looks good in old stuff." She started going through the clothes and let out a little shout. "This! It's blue and kind of old-looking with this lacy stuff."
I looked at the dress she was holding and had to admit it looked like Bella to me. It wasn't sparkly or poofy like a lot of the dresses. It was classic, I guess. And that was Bella all the way.
"I like it. Do you think it will fit?"
"It's her size! It was meant to be, I think. Just like you and Sissy."
Could be. More and more I was starting to wonder if that were true. Maybe Alice had done more than just send me her sister's letter.
"So, you want to get that and then see about some food?"
She shook her head. "No, silly! We need to find matching shoes, and maybe a bag, and then there's her cake, and you should get her a balloon and maybe some flowers…"
I laughed as she started spouting ideas right and left. The Swan sisters were going to keep me on my toes. I think I liked it.