I know Bella Swan only in name.
I see her in the minds of others, shy and soft spoken, with sharp eyes that belie her gentle demeanor. She is absurdly kind but won't be taken advantage of. I admire her for the calm, resolute way she speaks and the boundaries she isn't afraid to set. She is a dichotomy of timid and self-assured and I am intrigued.
Over the course of the semester, I wish for nothing more than to be able to read her thoughts, have all of her secrets open to me like a book. I want to know her inside and out, what makes her happy, sad, and all of the in between.
I know only what can be gleaned from her poetry. Every Friday of our three-day-a-week Creative Writing course, Bella, like each of us, stands at her desk and recites an original poem. Unlike our classmates, she does not stammer embarrassedly, though a fragrant blush sets fetchingly on the apples of her tawny cheeks.
The first time I fall in love with her, she is clad in blue, her hair is in braids, and her eyes are lined with brown. It is the first of many times I fall hard, my dead heart coming to life again in my chest. Just one beat, excruciating but in the best way possible. I feel alive.
The assignment is "writing into an image," to be interpreted any which way we can support with a definitive argument. An image of Pierre-August Renoir's Odalisque is splayed on the projector. Bella's hands shake, a subtle, barely-there sign of her nerves.
Despite her reticence, her voice is strong and earnest as her lips wrap around the lines of her poem.
Will you still be there for me, now I'm ours to obtain?
Now fruits of the taking and your fingers are stained.
Do you still think I'm beautiful, when you light me in flames?
My love was so bountiful,
For a man who can follow his heart
And stand up in my holy terrain.
Even now, weeks later, I fight the urge to sigh like a love-struck fool at the memory of that first poem. I have become addicted to her words, have since fallen for her voice and her body. Somehow, she is simultaneously real and tactile yet unreachable. I am terrified of rejection because, for once, I have no way of knowing she is attracted to the real me, not the imperfectly perfect shell that encases me.
Because I know Bella Swan only in name. Her mind is completely her own. Between scrambling to write something to impress her and fantasizing ashamedly of her gossamer hands and the gentle rise and fall of her chest, I find the time to blame the god I don't believe in that her mind, being the only book I want to read, is the only one closed to me.
Underneath my pale white skin is a multitude of sins and shame for things I have done that will never wash off. Would she forgive me? Could she accept me for my worst if I showed her my best?
When I stand to recite my own poem, too-strong fingers crinkling the paper and suddenly feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my lumbering body, I avoid her eyes. Warm and rich though they are, they are also heavy with my uncertainty. Does she like my words? Does she find me attractive? Do I cross her mind the way she never leaves mine?
You are the rite of movement.
Its reasoning made lucid and cool,
And though it's no improvement
When you move, I move.
You're less Polunin leaping,
Or Fred Astaire in sequins.
You're Atlas in his sleeping.
And when you move, I'm moved.
I feel the touch of her gaze, a live wire on my cold skin. With purpose, I steal a glance at her, obstructed by my eyelashes though no less beautiful for it. The heat in her eyes sets me off, and I forget what cold feels like. A cocktail of anticipation, shyness, lust, and fear floods me. I have never felt so alive.
She is the exact opposite of me in every way but this: like twin flames we are inexplicably drawn to each other.
The vulnerability of being with another physically, whether it be fucking, making love, or having sex, is something I have never experienced. The very real possibility that my Sire turned me too young has always been at the forefront of my mind, as over the years neither the soft curves of the most beautiful women or the rushing, heated blood of the hunt had any sort of sexual effect on me. I have felt neither physical nor emotional attraction to any woman or man in my century of life post-human.
I remember little else of my life from before other than an obsession with war and an unhealthy dose of abject fear of my biological father.
After class, as our fellow students file out of the room, she brushes against me. Bella, in all her Dyonysian, poetic lure, smells like earth and the tension in the air just before a thunderstorm. Our eyes meet again.
The shock of lust and arousal hits me like a freight train and I am so far out of my experience I have no idea what to do. Warring parts of me vie for opposite action. Do I supplicate myself at her feet, right here in front of these humans, and beg her to use my body however she wants? Or should I grab her, run to a secluded place where no one can find us, and take her with a century's worth of desperation?
I need her.
Before she turns away, her pink, full lips quirk in a smile. Her light is blinding.
I sit in my little shoebox apartment, barren save for an unmade bed, my old turntable, a handful of records, and stacks upon stacks of literature. Just a few blocks away, surrounded by Brown University's proud red bricks, I imagine Bella Swan bent over a notebook, the tip of a pen between her lips as she lets raw words trickle from her stubbornly reticent mind onto paper.
Bafflingly I am weaker than ever at the thought.
What is this hold a strange, silent twenty-something has over me?
It has been over fifty years since I entertained the thought of mating. I never cared for Tanya romantically, but she was kind, fun, and made me laugh. Desperate as ever to fill a hole only companionship could alleviate, I wanted to be good for her. It wasn't difficult to come to the conclusion that I could never give her what she craved.
I left the family days later.
Bitterness has ruled my heart and my head since. Arrogantly, until the moment I heard Bella's uninhibited poetry, I believed I'd cast out those baser instincts. Despite the splenetic despondency beneath the surface, I felt lucky to be free of the debility of sexual conquest.
The phantom beat of the dead heart in my chest is enough to make me do a volte-face. Lounging on my bed, I absent-mindedly brush my chest, marveling at the sudden tightening of each nerve ending.
I have never been in love before, but even this feels somehow more, encompassing and rewriting every instinct I have. A month ago I didn't believe I had a soul, and now it is mated to a stranger. My body, mind, and soul yearn for someone I have had only a handful of interactions with, who I have never spoken to directly.
I would be frightened, but, completely willing to submerge myself in her warmth, I find that my need far outweighs my reluctance.
The first time she speaks to me, I am caught off guard by her singular focus. She looks me straight in the eyes, something I haven't experienced in many years. I consider that she may very well be able to see into my soul if she truly is my mate.
Which could potentially be a very bad thing.
Her voice is soft but potent. "You're Edward Cullen, right?"
The breath I normally don't need is nowhere to be found. In a reply that is more choked than I care to admit, I nod and manage "You're Bella."
Her wide, benignant eyes search my face, its auburn stubble and its crooked, aquiline nose. After a long moment she smiles. I can't believe I have lived so long without the sight of her joy.
"I like the way you write," she says, the apples of her cheeks peach bright and delicately glowing.
I like the way you write. I like the way you watch and the way you smile. I like your body, the sweet golden reflection of the sun on your skin. I like your long legs and the bird-like fragility of your hands. I like that you make me think of things I never have before, like how hot and wet and tight you must be. I like that you humble me, make me want to kneel at your feet.
"Thank you," I reply. It's a poor response compared to the litany of adulation I have prepared.
I know Bella Swan intimately.
She rooms in the upperclassmen residence hall, where she takes me after class. It is the afternoon, the sun stubbornly avoiding the clouds, and I have Narrative Theory in an hour. I would rather spend the day with her, though. Her hand is warm in mine as she leads me upstairs to her dorm room.
Her walls are covered in film posters from Wyler's 1939 Wuthering Heights to Preminger's film noir Laura. I want to ask about the framed photo on her bedside table of a little girl with braids and a uniformed policeman, but I am distracted by the soft hand on my cheek. I have to look down at her, am moved by the difference in size between the two of us. What could a small creature like her want with a lumbering animal like me?
When she takes my hands and puts them on the gentle flare of her hips it is clear. She guides my head down and I can't help my eagerness when our lips touch. The simplest brush of her skin against mine and I am possessed.
Hot blood pumps throughout my body, the back of my neck, where her fingernails dig into unrelenting skin, prickles with anticipation, my skin feels tight and I feel that any moment I will burst at the seams.
I push her onto the haphazardly made standard issue dorm bed and follow on top of her, the pillow sliding to the floor. The two of us, panting like animals, bite and suck and lick at each other's mouths. I remember only one other time in my life, the several dark months before I left my family for good that are like a black hole, in which I felt completely and totally out of control.
I wonder if I bite her, thrust my fangs into her butter-soft throat, would it make the same sound as a bite into an apple? The crisp sound of satisfaction when her skin punctures under my sensitive teeth echoes in my head, and along with it a quiver deep in the pit of my stomach. The spreading surge of warmth in my body, centered in my groin, frightens me with its suddenness.
A shudder wracks my frame and I pull away from her with a gasp, her pink lips swollen and plump. It is an abrupt, almost harsh movement that makes her blink at me.
I sit on the edge of the bed and avoid her eyes, trying to reign in my frantic breaths. Her hands, sensuous on my shoulders, distract me from my bid to control myself. Already the path of her small fingers tingles and warms down to the pit of my stomach. I never want us to stop touching each other, but how else can I keep from embarrassing myself?
"Are you okay?"
Her voice is hushed, soft in our embrace. I feel her warm breath on my neck, the contours, slopes, and curves of her body against my back. My nerve endings are on fire.
How do men survive this?
I swallow thickly and nod, not quite trusting my voice not to crack yet. She lays her head against my back and I close my eyes at the painful intimacy. I have never been so close to anyone in my life before and while part of me wants to run and hide, an even larger part is yearning to give in.
I clear my throat. "I'm sorry, I haven't…" I turn to meet her eyes. "I'm not one to lose control like that."
Her wide eyes crinkle and a soft, mischievous smile graces her blushing face. "'I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair. Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.' You aren't?"
The poem she quotes is my work, written after a particularly shameful night of surrender and depravity. That night, for the first time since I could remember, I not only touched myself, but I did it to the crystal clear image in my mind of Bella. I spilled onto my hand, hissing and spitting her name like a tomcat into my empty apartment. It had never been so apparent that I was more animal than man.
As ashamed as I am of that night, her pretty pink lips wrapping around my words moves me like nothing else. Still, I don't want to frighten her away with the depth of my feelings.
The self-deprecating laugh that falls from my mouth sounds choked even to my own ears. "Fantasies. I'm painfully inexperienced."
My heart, which hasn't stopped its sluggish beating since her earlier poem, drops when she lies back onto the bed. Her braids spread around her like a halo. I can't stop staring at her.
"Me too. So what?"
I exhale a shaky breath. "I don't want to disappoint you."
She laughs, joyful and light. "How can you disappoint someone who's never had anything to compare it to?"
My eyes are glued to her fingers that drag back and forth across her stomach. I file away the rhythm and direction that her green painted fingernails take before I surrender to the soft look in her eyes.
I try to keep my hands gentle as I part her strong thighs, dancer's legs, but I can't help the bite of my fingers as I settle between them. She is hot, feverish, and I am in love.
Between each kiss I spill to her all of my secrets. At least the ones that matter.
"My real name is Edward Anthony Masen," I scrape my front teeth against her collarbones, "I stay Cullen in case my adoptive family ever needs to find me," she sucks a bruise onto the base of my neck that will heal in minutes, "I haven't seen them in years. I'm from," I groan at the minute movement of her hips under mine, "Chicago, and I'm Catholic but n-not a very good one. I'm constantly afraid of losing control — Jesus, Bella."
The heels of her feet dig into the back of my thighs and there is no way I can stop myself from grinding against her. We freeze, thrown by the sudden and new sensation. Her wide eyes stare at me and for the first time in my life I feel truly seen.
Slowly, with great care, I push my hips into her again, reveling in the way her jaw drops and her head falls back. She can feel all of me this way, tumescent and rude against her perfect softness. The long, thin skirt leaves little to the imagination when we are pressed so close, but greed from some repressed well deep inside me floods my senses. I slide my hands from her ankles to her calves, bunching the hem of the skirt with them up and over her thighs. When I see the pretty white and pink bowed underwear covering her, the thread of my restraint comes dangerously close to snapping.
I press my body down on hers and move against her with reckless abandon.
When she speaks I have to focus more intently than I ever have to hear her hushed, exhaled words.
"My name is Isabella Swan," she threads her clever fingers through my unkempt hair, "I'm from Washington. I have, um," she bites her lip and closes her eyes when I move her hips faster, "abandonment issues. My parents are divorced, I have a parakeet named Abed back home. Oh, God," I drop my head to her shoulder, "I'm constantly afraid that I'll never feel at home in either of my parents' worlds."
I press my forehead to hers when I feel the telltale building of fizzing pressure in my stomach. The two of us pant, her voice pitched higher and higher while mine drops low. Her warm hand on my cheek registers vaguely under the distracting heat at the apex of her thighs against mine.
"Sweetheart, I'm, I..." I stammer and swear and gasp and groan into her shoulder as the shudders wrack me, my entire body tightening and relaxing over and over again. As if from miles off I hear her whimper like a struck kitten, mewling and writhing under me. The fact that she mindlessly struggles, pinned down by my harder, stronger body brushes something deep inside me that I'd rather not examine.
I am mindful to keep the majority of my weight off of Bella once I come back to my senses, shaking and vulnerable, and collapse next to her on the tiny bed. She squeezes my hand while we both pant at the patchily painted ceiling. I have never felt so wrecked before, so unalone. My eyes sting, tears I haven't cried in many years behind my vision, but I refuse to be that guy.
It lasted only a few minutes, but it is a defining moment in my life. It is the moment to decide once and for all to make Bella mine, in any way she will have me. It is when I realize that I have mated to a human.
Bella and I look at each other, our eyes hooded.
"I've never done anything like that," she whispers bashfully. It is incredibly endearing how she can blush after coming in my arms. "I don't know what came over me. You're really good at that."
I shudder at the exhaustion in her voice. I resist the urge to refute her words. "You are, too," I reply instead.
I bite my lip before I say anything else. Declarations of all encompassing love, I remind myself, are frowned upon during first encounters. Instead, I turn on my side, prop my head on my fist, and gingerly lay my other hand on her stomach. The gentle swell of her lower belly under my palm causes my chest to tighten and my breath to catch. She is so feminine, all soft curves and tender shapes against my hard angles and unyielding flesh.
"Will you let me take you out?" The words tumble from my mouth so inexpertly I almost cringe. My pride keeps me from showing any sign of embarrassment. She doesn't seem to notice my blunder, instead nodding and smiling shyly.
I shiver. I know Bella Swan intimately.
holy terrain - FKA twigs
Movement - Hozier
Love Sonnet XI - Pablo Neruda