Chapter Nine:

Wrinkles, Blood and messy emotions.

Four weeks later....

Bella came through the door as she always did. In the past four weeks she had become a regular member of the household, eating with us regularly (after my mother discovered her diet mainly consisted of pop-tarts and hot pockets) and she now felt confident enough to just push open the door and make herself at home. Today she threw herself on the sofa opposite me. We talked often, and she had even convinced me to play for her one day. I smiled, remembering the day with fondness.

"So, I've never heard you play this here piano." Bella said as we passed it one day.

"No Bella. I'm not some concert pianist, and I'll probably screw up with you here; I like to play on my own."


"Oh, pleeeeease?" she begged. Bella stretched across my piano.

"Come on. You can play and I'll lie here and be pretty." she grinned. I love it when she smiles, I thought. It lights her whole face up. Whenever she smiled at me, my heart did a 360 in my chest. Which just didn't seem healthy.

I shook my head again. I'd probably get nervous with her listening, maybe even standing behind me, pressing slightly against me, and then I would hit the wrong note and it would sound awful and I would look like an ass.

Bella slid off the piano and stalked her way over to me and placed her hands on either side of my face and looked directly into my eyes.

"Edward, I want to hear you play. If I wanted to see a 'concert pianist' then I would've gotten tickets to a show, wouldn't I? I want to listen to you. I'm sure you very talented." she threw in a smile and I was a goner.

We sat together on the bench, near but not close enough to touch. Never close enough to touch.

I noticed that Bella often avoided contact with people. Yet all I ever wanted to do was touch her. I contented myself with long glances and sly brushes against her; small unnoticeable things like a silky strand of brown hair floating over my hand as she moved past me or a brush of cloth-covered leg. I had no idea what was wrong with me.

Obviously it was lust; I'd figured out that much on my own. But who knew lust was this...powerful? Possessive? It seemed to take root in my body and spread like a cancer infecting every pore of my body until even her hair invoked a reaction from me. There had to be some sort of name for that, right?

In the end, she won and I played for her. It was Esme's favourite song, and when I turned back to her I thought she might cry for a second. Was I really that bad? I wondered. I must've said it aloud, because she turned to me, turned the full force of those amazing dark eyes toward me and looked at me very seriously – which I had come to realise was a rarity for Bella, she was an easy person always laughing.

"Edward. That was-. It... It was amazing. You are the most talented musician I know."

"You know a lot of musicians then?" I joked. It was all a façade. My music – especially my own pieces – were extremely personal and I was self concious about it I suppose. Letting someone else listen to my own music was like opening my heart and showing them what lay there. Waiting and allowing them to examine each intricate emotion and hope that they didn't judge to harshly. Esme's song (for lack of a better title) was a sweet melody, showcasing the love my family had for their partners and my elation at them having found people they could love so much.

"You really like it?" I asked tentatively.

"Edward!" she exclaimed, exasperated, "I said it was amazing and it was. It was beautiful."

"Would...would. Would you like to hear another one? It's very different," I warned, "No one else has heard it before – I couldn't play it for them."

The piece I was referring to was the dark emotions that threatened to consume me. Emotions like the jealousy that they had such loved ones, and the self hatred that I would be so petty and jealous.

The beauty beside me nodded mutely and I placed my fingers across the keys and become lost in my feelings and the world that I had created for myself to retreat to. My eyes closed without concious thought as the notes rang out. This was the opposite of the last song I had played, it was dark and each note was heavy, echoing the heaviness of my heart. It was a monstrous thing, yet I couldn't deny it had it's own...charm.

I finished and kept my head down, awaiting her judgement.

"I think I'm speechless – and I'm never speechless. I loved it." she continued to gush and praise me, and my ego fell a little bit in love with her. Like me.

I was jolted back to the present hearing Bella's voice.

"I'd love to have wrinkles."

This girl said the oddest things. I chuckled and replied, "You're seventeen, you have plenty of time for wrinkles."

An odd look passed over her face, so I changed the subject. I didn't want her to be sad.

"Where did that question come from anyway?"

"Extreme Makeover." She tilted her head towards the TV, which indeed, had Extreme Makeover on and was currently showing the graphic surgery of an ageing woman who wasn't even that old.

"I don't understand. Well, I do, evidently their vanity has got the best of them and they feel the need to change their bodies is such a dramatic and painful way. But I think that may reflect more on today's culture. Anyway, wrinkles are great. Take laugh lines for example, I would love those. A testament to how much you've laughed all those past years."

"What if you haven't laughed?" I interrupted.

"Then, people should notice that you have none and try to make you laugh."

I chuckled and wondered how she could seem so worldly and smart, yet so naïve and innocent at the same time. We fell into a comfortable silence. Sitting in silence with Bella was often more interesting than actually talking to some other people. She expressed herself not only through her powerful words and strong opinions, but through her posture and the habits she had.

Bella had folded her legs under her and leant forward with an intense look of concentration on her face as she watched the 'unveiling'. It gave me a good chance to study the features I seemed to have memorized without meaning to. She was twice as fascinating to watch as any TV show, I thought as her brow furrowed.

"Why do you watch Extreme makeover anyway?"

"I was thinking about becoming a surgeon one day."

"So you watch it for the surgery? Tell the truth Edward, I know when you're lying."

I dropped my voice to a whisper and beckoned her closer.

"I...I have. I have a small phobia. Of blood."

Bella's eyes widened, "So why the hell would you want to be a surgeon?"

How did she know exactly which questions I didn't want to answer?

"My dad. He's a doctor-"

"I know. I also know your dad is super sweet, he wouldn't want you to become a doctor or surgeon to please him. Yet you persist? Are you some kind of masochist? Do mental illnesses run in your family? Answer truthfully or I can't diagnose you."

I smiled despite myself.

"I know he wouldn't push me, but it would make him exceptionally proud. And, I don't really know what I want to do with my life."

"You're seventeen, Edward, you've got plenty of time to think about what you want to do." she echoed my earlier statement.

"Not really. I'm off to college next year, I need to decide some sort of path."

"Well, Jasper's going this year, right? What does he want to do? And what about Alice?"

"Jasper has Alice, so he doesn't really care what happens to him, but my parents sat down with him and he's decided to pursue his love of writing. And Alice is certain she's going to be a CEO some day, and is going to study business. She's very interested in advertisement, which makes sense I suppose - she can be very persuasive."

"Well, I'm sure you'll find something." she consoled, "And we can look into anything you're interested in. But first, you never did say why you watch Extreme makeover."

I smiled and explained that I hoped seeing the blood and the process of surgery on TV would perhaps prepare me and help me fight my phobia.

"It's not really bad. I can just about watch it on TV, but if I see blood I get...erm, woozy." And emotional rock she is, Bella laughed.

"I'm sorry, but I fail to see how my fear is funny in any way." I said this despite the fact I was on the verge of laughing also. Hearing such a carefree noise and seeing her writhing about on the sofa in laughter was making me laugh.

"You have to admit, it is funny. Just a little."

We were still laughing like children about other, equally stupid things ten minutes later when my mother walked in with some shopping, looked at us and shook her head with a faint smile saying, "I don't think I want to know."

"Any more bags you want a hand with Esme?" Bella asked. She only called them Mr and Mrs Cullen in public any more.

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She was a button. A big, red, shiny button. With a 'DO NOT TOUCH' sign above her, which of course, only made me want to press the button more. At least that's what I told myself as I laid awake in my bed, unable to sleep for thinking about the look of pure delight and awe on her face as we had recited Romeo & Juliet together, how she seemed so proud when I played for her. Simply when she smiled. She was a button to me; an infatuation, a crush and nothing more. Definitely nothing more meaningful.

So why couldn't I sleep because of her?

Eventually I was pushed by exhaustion into a light, fitful sleep.

And along came another dream. Yes, another dream. I was having them frequently now, almost every night – and always about her.

Often it was the same as the first, Bella leading me to my demise, some nights – like tonight – they changed. They became more...personal.

Sometimes Alice would 'steal' Bella for the night for a sleepover, Rose even joined in sometimes now, and I would see a flash of her shoulder in her large, old t-shirt, a snippet of her thigh in the well-worn shorts – hey, I'm a teenage boy, it doesn't take much. Also, those innocent, minute gestures on her behalf just made everything more...well, sexy. She seemed so unaware of my presence sometimes, just oblivious to me which was equal parts frustrating and endearing, yet with any other girl I would be mad.

That's why tonight's dream featured Bella in a barely-there outfit doing some very indecent things. And also why my sticky sheets needed changing. Being a teenager sucks, I thought, that however, led me down another train of thought and back to my dream – and the cause of me having to do my own laundry a week before laundry day.

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In true Forks fashion, it was raining. Pouring actually. School had finished and I was riding to school alone. Alice and Jasper took her car at my request – I wanted to be alone for a while. That is such a lie, you don't want to be alone, you just don't want to be with anyone but Bella. My mind was tormenting me. Taunting me. I found reflections of her in everything, and if there wasn't a similarity, then my mind would point out an obvious difference. My treacherous head wasn't my own any more. One of it's favourite taunts was that soon my heart would be invaded in a fashion far more brutal than the war I fought in my head.

Thoughts of her had sneaked in, quietly like assassins. Then more came, and more and then before I knew it, my head had been infested with no nook to myself.

I sped up, and hoped the speed would shut off my brain for a few precious seconds. I opened the window a crack for the same reason, hoping the air and furious droplets of water that fought their way through would startle some sense into me. I drove fast through a huge puddle. There had been a wide, shallow hole in that spot for years. I remembered it well because my siblings and I jumped in whenever we got the chance. I also knew it was that puddle because I heard a feminine scream a second after my tires hit it.

I was in such a bad mood, I thought about driving off, but I knew I would feel guilty later if I did because my parents had raised me better than to drive off when I had done an injustice to someone.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realise that any one would walk on a day like this; it's wet even by Forks' standards." I stopped as soon as I saw a drenched Bella glaring at me.

"What the hell, Edward?!"

"Why are you walking?"

"I'm saving the environment," she answered. I raised an eyebrow and waited, "And I don't know how to drive." she finished.

"Seriously?" I gaped.

"I've never needed to know."

Another mystery for me to sort through. More ammunition for the war of my sanity versus my own mind. Was that the definition of crazy? I wondered. Fighting yourself and losing. Bella coughed and brought me out of my trance.

"Sorry, I, erm, wandered off there I guess. Do you want a ride?"

Please say yes. Please say yes. Please say yes. Please say yes.

"No, I want to walk." Damn.

"You can't walk; you'll catch your death! It's raining and freezing." she looked at me oddly, with that hurt look in her eyes. The almost confused one that made her look so vulnerable, I just wanted to catch her in my arms and hold her till it went away. You are such a loser. See? No rest from my own mind.

"I'm fine Edward. Besides, I wouldn't want to get your seat wet."

"Bella, you're soaking and it's pouring."

"It's not."

"It is!"

"IT'S NOT!" she roared, and right on cue, a huge hailstone hit her in the right eye.

"Christ that hurt! What was that?" She put a hand protectively over her injured eye. It was awful seeing her hurt, but hilarious to see her grumpy face look up to the sky reprovingly.

"Bella get in the car!" I laughed as the heavens opened and more hail poured.

"Ow! God these hurt!" she laughed back and ran around to the passengers side and jumped in.

We both fell into each other in fits of laughter for absolutely no reason. Amazingly, there were no snide comments from my brain and I felt...at peace. More peaceful than I had in weeks actually. Months, even.

"I think I need to go home and change." Bella said when she finally caught her breath.

"Let's go," I replied, with traces of mirth still in my voice.

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We were late for Biology. Bella had become Mr. Banner's star pupil winning the 'golden onion' each time we had a test or quiz. Recently the onion had morphed into the more budgeted 'magic tin'. Basically, he picked up a can that was reduced by 75% because the label had been peeled away. Apparently, the not knowing what it was the magic part.

"Hello class, we have another magic can up for grabs!" aforementioned class groaned, "Come on, you might win it!" More groaning. "Right. Well. I guess I'll save this for that test tomorrow." Mr. Banner was such a child sometimes, if you didn't play what he wanted, he would have a temper tantrum and punish you.

"We'll do blood typing today instead. There's going to be a chance to donate blood in a few weeks, and it'll be good to learn what blood type everyone is. Who wants to go first?"

I paled at the word "blood". A whole class of people blood typing? My stomach churned and I wondered how I would ever get out of this one. Then I recalled Mr. Banner was looking for a volunteer. Please not me. Please not me. Please not me. Please not me. Please not me. Please not me. Please not me. Please not me.

"Mike Newton!" Ah, I should have known he'd pick the person who groaned the loudest.

But that still didn't get me out of my fix. I would be called upon sooner of later.

"Catch me." Bella muttered under her breath. What did that mean? As the needle slid into Mike's skin and I saw the first sickening drops of red, Bella fell from her stool and hit the floor with a loud thud.

"Bella!" I crouched down on the floor with her as the rest of the class looked on.

"I said catch me you moron." she muttered, "I fainted and you have to take me to the nurse."

"I think she's fainted," I told Mr Banner who looked concerned, "She mentioned getting a little sick at the sight of blood...I'd better take her to the nurse."

"Yeah, go."

With his consent I scooped Bella up from the floor and felt her surprise at being lifted and smirked slightly. What did she think I was going to do? Drag her?

"Mike, get the door for Edward." Mike sullenly - and reluctantly - did as he was told.

I took Bella to the small courtyard where students would eat lunch if there was no rain and rested her on a picnic table. She looked so beautiful lying there with her eyes closed and white skin. Like a fairytale princess. Snow White! Red lips, skin as white as snow and dark hair. I let myself indulge in a fantasy of kissing her awake.

As this fantasy was playing out in my head, I had leaned nearer and nearer to Bella. And her blood red lips.

"Can I open my eyes yet?" Without waiting for a reply her dark eyes opened and stared into my green ones. Our lips were so close to touching I felt her cool breath on my lips, which only added to my desire.

"Edward." she breathed. Her voice was slightly lower than usual. Did she want me to kiss her? How should I kiss her? If she even wanted me to? Did she? Should I just press my lips to hers anyway? A soft kiss? Harder?Did she even wantme to kiss her?!

Her eyes flickered to my lips before moving back to my eyes. SHE WANTS ME TO KISS HER! My brain was practically throwing confetti.

"Hey, Cullen! You don't need to give her mouth to mouth!" And so the spell was broken by the ugly ogre.

"Mike." I almost growled, warning in my tone.

"Edward!" Bella said shocked and... delighted?

"Bella." I said in return playfully.

"Jessica!" Mike's patient said angrily, "Now we're all BFF's, can we please go to the nurse and get me a bucket before I puke on my new shoes!" Funny, she didn't sound nauseous at all. Just pissed.

"Sure, Jess. Let's go." Mike strode ahead towards the nurse's office, leaving Jessica about 3 feet behind him. Her glare only got worse as I lifted Bella back into my arms. Where she belonged.

"Edward, you don't need to hold me; I can walk."

"It's fine, I'll carry you Snow White."

"Snow White?" she smiled, "That's a new one Romeo. So, are you my Prince Charming?"

"You guys are disgusting. Get a room already." Jessica said, giving Bella a particularly ferocious glare before stomping off after Mike.

I carried on walking to the nurse's station and passed Jessica– Mike would probably tell if we didn't at least check in.

"Where are we going?" Bella asked as we turned into the nurse's office. She looked panicked as she saw the sign indicating what room we were going into.

Bella groaned and flopped her head over the side of my arm, so everything looked upside down to her.

"At least put me down and let me walk."

"Nope." I said cheerfully. I greeted the nurse who looked up from her book with shock as I burst in the door. Our pose almost mirrored the one on her book. The hero had the heroine in his arms as she stretched herself out. Both, of course, had minimal clothing.

"'His thrusting desire'" she read. "Ms. Lander, you shock me!" Bella chuckled. Was there any member of staff she didn't know personally?

"Ha ha Bella. Trip again?"

"Nope. But, as usual, I'm fine. Is it a good book?"

"Sweetheart, I wish you'd let me check you over sometime. You fall so much, you must be covered in bruises! And yes, it's a good book.."

"It's okay Maggie, I'm made of tough stuff!" she giggled. "Are you still folding the corner of the juicy pages?" she laughed.

'Maggie' laughed back and I went from prince to utterly redundant.

"You can put me down now, Edward."

"Bella," I said tentatively, "Can I talk to you a second please?"

"That'll be my cue to go." said Maggie, she was about to leave as she bumped into Mike and Jessica. "Who needs a nurse?"

When Jessica motioned to herself she said, "Mike, you go back to class and tell your teacher Jessica's with me."

"Okay, come on Cullen." Now I wanted to kill Mike and rip up the pieces.

"He's helping Bella. Back to class Mike. Jessica, you follow me." No wonder Bella loved Maggie so much, I was ready to marry her myself.

When we were finally left alone I began to speak.

"Thank you for that Bella. I don't know what I would've done if you weren't there. Thank you." I caught her eyes with the last sentence, so that she could see my sincerity. This created another intense moment between us though, like the one earlier except now there was no Newton to interrupt. I leant forward slightly, and Bella did the same so our lips were only a millimetre apart. We stood there for what felt like hours, but I enjoyed every second.

The smell of her breath, being so near to her, yet still not touching. It was torture, but it was amazing. I decided I would not let this chance escape me. I leant forward in a quick movement and pressed my lips to hers. Bella responded instantly, her hands went to my hair and she pushed me against the wall so my body was flush with hers, each contour of her body moulded to mine.

She was freezing. I had noticed earlier when I carried her, but it didn't register with my brain, or maybe my hormones just over rid all sense. (it was highly possible) Was she ill? Was that why she seemed so naïve? Because she didn't have an opportunity to go out because of treatment or surgery. So why was she out now? Was it terminal? The thought hurt my heart. Bella must've realised something was wrong because she pulled away as soon as my body tensed. She looked at my face, saw the anguish there and ran. Again.

I was left contemplating the fact that there could be a world without Bella. Who smiled so frequently and so beautifully, her who was amazing inside and out and who I l- liked....a lot. And I just hurt her, I thought, I just caused her pain. I didn't allow myself to think any more, I just mechanically went to my car and started to drive. The last thought that escaped me was, you are such a dick Edward.

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A/N – Sorry if this was awful, it was pretty hard to write as I have no idea what it's like to be a normal teenage girl (highlight the 'normal') let alone a boy. Also, this is going to be completely smut-free, so I'm trying to keep it at it's rating and not make people think that's something that may be on the cards for the future.

And if you did want something like that – trust me, it would be awful. Bella would fall off the bed and ask if it's in yet (the answer would be no), Edward would be a nervous wreck and screw (←haha, I made a pun) everything up on his part and it would be, well, crap. And extremely not sexy.

That being said, hopefully you liked it.

-Melissa