A/N: This is the original Chapter 20, but I ended up not liking Bella's POV so I changed it to Edward's.
Scanning my to-pack list, I double-checked that I had everything and then zipped up the duffel bag. Exams were over, presents were bought and wrapped, and I was on my way to Edward's for the next week.
And not in the least nervous about meeting his parents for the first time.
Nope. Not in the least.
Except for the fact that I was. A lot.
But I wasn't thinking about that. I was focusing on spending the week with Edward, without having to worry about attending class, meeting any deadlines, doing any homework, or working at anymore sorority-sponsored events.
"Okay, I'm gotta here," I said, turning to Alice, who was sitting on her bed after helping me pack for the last hour. She had been my voice of reason during the clothes selection process, stating several times that 'comfort triumphs over flash when dealing with parents of a boy you're sleeping with'.
"Alright..." she said sadly, holding her arms out and pouting.
I hugged her tightly. "Drive carefully and I'll call you soon."
"Merry Christmas, Alice." Swinging my bag onto my shoulder, I waved good-bye, headed downstairs, and then out to where Edward was waiting for me in the parking lot down the street. He got out of his car and took my bags before I had a chance to argue that I could get them.
Emmett appeared across the car and started walking around. "Bella! I hear we get the privilege of your company for the next three hours."
"I don't know how much a 'privilege' my company is. I'm still kind of out of it from my exams," I told him dryly, letting him sweep me up into a full-on hug. We had hung out enough that I considered him a true friend and not just someone I knew because of my relationship with Edward.
"Please don't talk to me about exams," Emmett groaned when he set me down. "I'm pretty sure I failed all of them and won't graduate in May."
I looked over at Edward and had to stifle a laugh when he rolled his eyes. "I'm sure you did fine," I assured Emmett before sliding into the front passenger's side seat. Emmett climbed into the back as Edward walked around the car. "But even if you don't graduate in May, you have to think of the bright side of things."
"Not having to get a job?" Emmett guessed.
"No, silly. Freshmen girls."
Emmett settled in his seat, a dreamy expression on his face, as he contemplated another round of fresh meat as his disposal. I shook silently with laughter at how easily he'd been distracted.
"That should make for a quiet car ride," Edward commented as he glanced over at me.
"Oh, shoot. You figured out my devious plan."
"Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it wasn't that devious."
"Shush you," I shot back. He just grinned and grabbed my hand from my lap.
My grip tightened on Edward's hand as he turned into his neighborhood three hours later.
"Relax, Bella. They're going to love you," Edward said soothingly as his thumb stroked the back of my hand.
"Yeah, Bella," Emmett piped up from the backseat. "If anything, they'll love you too much and decide they'd rather have you as their kid than Edward."
Ridiculous as the suggestion was, I suddenly imagined Edward outside in the cold with his sad, pouting face plastered to a window as he watched his parents shower their love on me.
"Remind me again what they do," I prompted Edward.
"My mom's an art teacher at the local high school and my dad's a physics professor at the community college," he rattled off quickly.
"But the thing your dad came up with… it didn't have anything to do with physics."
"True. As he puts it, physics is his passion, but puzzles are his curse."
"I wouldn't consider 'Cullen's Maze' a curse," Emmett muttered behind me. "It's more like what they use to determine if you're Major League material or doomed to be stuck in the Minors."
"It's that hard?" I asked. I'd heard a vague description of the IQ test Mr. Cullen had designed from Edward before, but still had yet to see what it was.
Edward shot Emmett a look. "Tell her," Emmett said.
"Mensa uses it on their preliminary quizzes for potential candidates," Edward said with a sigh.
My mouth dropped open. "Are you kidding me? Your dad's a freakin' genius?"
Edward shrugged. "He doesn't advertise it, if that's what you're worried about."
It wasn't, actually. If I were being rational about this, I would know this didn't change anything. Of course at least one of Edward's parents was uber-smart. It made sense. But no one's completely rational.
Hell, even Spock lost it every once in a while.
The car turned onto a driveway and the house that Edward grew up in loomed ahead. It was a classic looking two story house with a wrap-around porch. I fell in love with that porch at first glance.
Oh! Maybe they have a porch swing in the back!
Emmett shot out of the car before it had fully stopped and quickly disappeared through the front door. I blinked in astonishment. "What's he so excited about?"
"He loves my house more than his own," Edward answered. "I'm sure my mom is feeding him cookies by now while he spills his heart out about how he'll never find a girl as great as her."
"Seriously?" I asked, eyebrows raised.
"It happens every time he comes over. I don't see why today would be any different." Edward smiled. "Ready?"
"Will I get a cookie, too?"
He laughed. "I'm sure you will."
"Then yes, I'm ready."
Edward grabbed his bags and mine, but left Emmett's by the car. I trailed after him as he walked inside and those damn nerves appeared again. I took a deep breath before stepping over the threshold and then let it out with a 'whoa'.
The foyer was open and minimal, but it made a striking picture with wide stairs leading to the second floor just to the left and large arches marking different rooms in front of me and to the right. The total impression gave off a homey, lived in feel, but everything was immaculate and, upon close inspection, looked very expensive.
Edward dropped the bags next to the stairs and took my hand, leading me down a hall.
"Mom?" he called out, sticking his head around the corner.
"In here!" a woman replied.
We rounded the corner to find Emmett scarfing down cookies as an elegant middle-aged woman was standing up from the kitchen table. I could see pieces of Edward in her, from the dark hair to her (green?) eyes. She was classically beautiful. One of those women that would turn heads regardless of her age.
"Edward!" She smiled, enfolding her son into a hug. "I know you were just here, but it still feels like it's been too long since I've seen you. And you must be Bella," she said, looking at me.
"Yes, ma'am. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Oh, honey," she replied, waving her hand in the air absently. "Call me Esme. You're practically part of the family anyway. Edward talked almost non-stop about you when he was here for Thanksgiving."
"He did?" I smirked at Edward, who had turned a dark shade of red.
"Yeah, he does that at school, too," Emmett interjected between cookies.
"I think he's smitten, my dear," Esme loudly whispered.
"Well, it's reciprocated. I'm pretty smitten myself."
"Isn't that the sweetest thing," Esme murmured. "Let me get Carlisle down here and then we can discuss dinner, okay?" She patted Edward on the arm and then walked briskly out of the kitchen, heading to wherever Mr. Cullen was located.
"So… you talk about me all the time, huh?" I grinned as Edward turned red again.
"Shut up," he mumbled, bumping his hip against mine. "If you want a cookie, you'll have to risk having your hand chewed off in the process."
"Mine," Emmett barked, glaring at us as he tucked the plate of cookies closer to his body.
"Oh-kay then." Edward shrugged. "Maybe my mom will bake some more later."
"No big. I wasn't that hungry anyway. But I would love to see your room," I suggested, smiling. Subtlety wasn't one of my strong suits. Of course, the moment was ruined with Esme and Mr. Cullen walked into the kitchen.
"Well, hello! I'm Carlisle, Edward's father." We smiled at each other and shook hands. "It's so nice to put a face to a name. You're all Edward talked about during Thanksgiving."
"Is that right?" I grinned again at Edward, who was ignoring us by looking at the clock on the wall.
"Gosh, I'm hungry," he interjected. "What's for dinner, Mom?"
"I thought we could go out. Is Italian alright? Bella?"
"I love Italian," I replied.
"Um, Emmett?" Carlisle said.
"Yes?" he answered between chews.
"You're more than welcome to come with us, son, but I think your parents are expecting you at your own house."
"You can take those with you, of course," Esme offered when Emmett started pouting.
"Thanks, Mrs. C! I'll see you guys later, then." Emmett hopped up, cookie platter tucked under his arm like a football, and waved before disappearing down the hall.
"Shall we go?" Mr. Cullen asked of the group.
"I told you they would love you," Edward pointed out for the fifteen-billionth time. We were sitting on beanbags in his spacious room watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Honestly, bean bags! Who had those anymore? Edward called them "gamer chairs". Regardless of their title, they weren't designed for girlfriends who wanted to snuggle.
"I know. They were wonderful. I'll be signing the adoption papers tomorrow."
"If you think having you as a sister would stop me from dating you, you are sadly mistaken."
"First of all, eww. Incest is never sexy. Second, if we moved to Arkansas, we'd fit right in! Yay!" I said sarcastically.
Edward laughed. "Wow, way to burn everyone in Arkansas."
"Hah. You didn't know I was a statist, did you?"
"I don't think that means what you think it means," Edward replied.
"Whatever," I said, rolling my eyes. "You know what I meant."
"Yes, you don't think highly of the people in Arkansas. Are there any other states you have prejudices against?"
"Mmm. No, I think that's it." I smiled at the scene playing on the screen, the one where Ferris crashes a parade and starts a dance riot. "I sometimes wish I could be Ferris Bueller."
"I think that's a common wish," Edward responded.
"Yes, but does everyone shampoo their hair into a Mohawk in order to emulate him?" I asked.
His eyes widened. "You do that?"
"Maybe," I replied cryptically. "Wanna take a shower with me to find out?"
Edward grimaced and looked pointedly at the door. "You are a tease."
"No." I slipped off the beanbag and kneeled next to him. "A tease is someone who doesn't follow through. I'm not a tease."
"Bella, my parents are home," Edward stressed, his voice pleading.
"So?" I leaned in and then nipped at his bottom lip. He groaned and I went in for the kill, covering his lips with mine. Hands burrowed in his hair, I straddled him on the bean bag and then yelled when we toppled backwards, spilling onto the floor.
Note to self: bean bags or gamer chairs (or whatever they're called) are not meant to hold two people.
"Are you okay?" I asked, laughing at our continuing combined klutziness as I rolled off him.
"Yeah," he groaned. "I think I might have a slight concussion, though. You'll probably have to wake me up every hour tonight to make sure I'm alright."
"I don't know… wouldn't your parents wonder why I keep sneaking in and out of your room?"
Edward sat up, rubbing the back of his head. "Not if you just sneak in once and stay," he said, grinning like a little kid.
"Oh, now who's the tease?" I started leaning in again, but stopped when I heard footsteps coming down the hall.
"Edward?" Esme called out, knocking on his door. "Are you and Bella alright? I thought I heard something fall."
I scrambled back into my bean bag as Edward stood up to let his mom in. "Hey, we're fine. I fell over in my gamer chair and hit my head," he explained.
"Oh, dear. I wish you'd be more careful." Esme took this chance to peek in and see what we were doing. "Bella, sweetie, would you like some hot chocolate? I was about to make some for myself."
I was about to say 'yes', but Edward interrupted me. "Why does Bella get offered hot chocolate? Why not me?"
"Because you're not a guest and you can make your own cup," Esme quipped back and then smiled sweetly, patting him on the cheek. "But if you want some, I'll make extra."
"Thanks, Mom, I'd love some. Bella?"
"Yes, please," I answered. They were so cute together. The height difference seemed to disappear when he was near his mom, making him look around ten. I bet he was adorable at ten. And since I was used to doing everything by myself after living with my clueless father for years, I volunteered to help. Edward followed along when he realized I was abandoning him.
"Bella, I know I said this at dinner, but I'm so glad you're here. It's so nice to have another girl in the house," Esme said as she stirred the milk in the saucepan.
"Thanks, Esme. I'm glad I'm here, too."
"Now, I don't want you to worry about a thing while you're here. I mean it. You're our guest. We want to make sure you come back at some point."
I laughed. "I'll try to remember that, thanks."
"No problem, sweetie."
The next day was a whirlwind of activities. Esme had to work, unfortunately, but Carlisle had finished his semester the same time we did. Edward showed me around town, pointing out all the spots he used to hang out at and the stories that went with them. We stopped at the only comic book store in town and Edward's entrance set off a chorus of his name and shouts of 'Hey, man!', which I found very amusing. He was like the king of nerds. And his status elevated when he introduced me as his girlfriend.
"Holy shit, man, how did you pull this off? Did you bribe her to come in here and pretend to be with you?" an older guy asked.
"No, nothing like that. She just couldn't resist the charm, I guess," Edward replied, making me raise my eyebrows in surprise. Someone was getting an ego.
He snorted. "Wasn't sure you'd stop in during your break."
"Please, Alan. You know I can't resist the friends and family discount here." Edward smiled and then introduced me. "Alan, this is Bella. Bella, this is my old boss, Alan. He owns the store."
"Oh, I didn't know you worked here," I said lamely, realizing this explained why he was hailed a returning hero. "It's nice to meet you, Alan."
"You too, Bella. Nice to see Edward actually making friends outside of this store."
Edward frowned, Alan smirked and I tried to cover my laughter with a cough. I had a feeling I'd like Alan.
"Anyway. Alan, do you have that package for me?" Edward asked.
"Ah, yes, the package," Alan said mysteriously, disappearing behind the counter. He returned with a small, sealed box, which he handed to Edward.
"Thanks. I'll be by again before I leave."
"Anytime, Edward. Bella, it was nice to meet you. Don't be a stranger." Alan shook my hand and waved at Edward before we left the store. The door hadn't even closed before I pounced.
"What's in the box?" I asked, trying to sound calm and collected, but dying to know if that was for me. Not that I really wanted something from a comic book store, but c'mon, a gift is a gift and who doesn't love getting one?
"You know I'm not going to tell you," Edward replied, unlocking the car.
Sliding into the passenger seat, I tried to give him puppy eyes and pouted a little. "Pleeeeeeeeeease."
"Cute, but no."
Damn. That usually worked with Charlie.
"Fine," I sighed heavily. "Be mean."
Edward snorted. "I'm not mean. I'm just not ruining the surprise."
"A-ha! So it is for me."
Edward rolled his eyes, backing out of the parking space. "I can neither conform nor deny that."
We went back to Edward's house to eat dinner with Carlisle and Esme and then watched another movie before going to bed. Separately, unfortunately.