I was at a book-signing in Seattle when I saw him again.
I smiled at everyone, the glasses that I needed to see up close these days making their faces clearer, but there were so many that I had no way of recognizing them.
The books flew off the table, and there were stacks by the door, and I tried to at least smile and ask who they wanted it made out to before they were hurried on by the Borders staff. Some, I could tell, wanted a bit more, wanted a chat, and I whispered to those ones that I planned on having coffee at the Seattle's Best next door after the signing. I wondered if Seattle's Best had a conference room. I was giving my secret away to way too many people.
The line had started to thin, and then it trickled down to nothing. A few stragglers who had already had their copies signed, but were sticking around for when I was allowed to leave the table sat in plush armchairs chatting. I couldn't help but smile – making friends over books wasn't the worst way to go about it.
I leaned back in my chair and stretched, yawning, one hand over my mouth. I leaned forward and pushed my glasses up, shaking my head to clear the fatigue – it was just five minutes of eight – almost time to escape. My fingers were cramped, and I cracked a few knuckles, trying to get the feeling back in them.
"Have time for a couple more?"
"Yeah," I said, and looked up.
He stood there, looking seventeen.
I don't know if there was any color in my face to drain. I barely had the saliva to swallow.
He handed over the first of two copies he had in his hand.
He wasn't smiling, not quite, but he didn't look completely depressed either.
I cleared my throat, and looked around, trying to gauge my situation. The people in the armchairs still chatted quietly, and one of the cashiers up front closed her window. No one seemed to think there was something odd about the boy standing in front of me. Maybe this was a dream, maybe it wasn't. I didn't particularly want to find out.
"Who do you want it made out to?" I asked, pulling the copy towards me, and opening the front cover, looking down, trying not to blush, trying not to give myself away.
I swallowed audibly and licked my lips. Then I put pen to page and wrote: Dearest Esme, didn't think this was your sort of book, but I'm glad I'm on your reading list. Love you always, Bella.
I closed the cover and slid it across the table, and he slid the second copy across in exchange.
My fingers touched his, just for a second, and I was sixteen all over again. My heart jumped in my chest. I felt betrayed by my own body – I was supposed to be done with this. I had replayed a scene something like this hundreds, billions, gajillions of times.
I cleared my throat again.
"And, this one?"
He didn't reply, and my pen was poised over the flyleaf, ready to write. I looked up.
His eyes were still golden, his skin still shimmered, even in artificial light. I doubted anyone else noticed, unless they knew what they were looking at. I swallowed hard, trying to break the stare, but he just let it go on. His lips were still pale pink, and I felt a visceral memory sweep through me – the feel of his lips on my lips, the feel of his lips on that place on my neck just below my ear, the feel of them on my hair.
"Who would you like this made out to?" was all I could come up with.
"Me, if you wouldn't mind," he said, his eyes, his entire face, was gentle. I almost couldn't stand it. He was apologetic in glance, in stance, and I had already done it – I had forgiven him long ago.
I spent several seconds, and wrote almost a paragraph, handing it back to him.
He didn't open it up to read it, he set it on top of Esme's copy and curled them under his arm. He smiled at me, and then he leaned down over the table, and kissed me lightly on the temple.
"Sir, Sir! What do you think you're doing? Please step away from the author! We're closing, it's time for you to leave!"
The manager looked particularly unhappy that I'd allowed someone to touch me while I was on their clock. I wondered if they'd had a problem with lawsuits or something. She was awfully sensitive.
"Yes ma'am," he said, and gave me one last smile, and turned and walked out the door.
He didn't look back.
# # # # #
Edward, you are my forever, and my always. I will love you til the day I die. I'm sorry I didn't fight harder – I should have. But now I know why you had to leave. Just so you know, even with the spectre of you on the edges of my days, I am happy. Love you until the end of your days, numbered beyond mine and into eternity, your Bella.