This is a continuation of my Age of Edward one-shot, Infamy. Much, but not all, of the first 3 chapters cover information that can be found in the one-shot. However, even if you have read Infamy, I encourage you to read these early chapters. I'm no longer constrained by a word count, and was able to put back some scenes that were originally cut. Also, some of the existing scenes have been altered, and I think it makes for a richer story.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Please see A/N at the end.
I have no memory of my mother; she left my father and me when I was two years old. I don't recall ever missing her; my father and I had an extended family in Carlisle and Esme Cullen, and in their children, Edward and Alice. I never wanted for the love of a mother or the camaraderie of siblings. My father, Charlie, and Dr. Cullen graduated the Naval Academy together, and while Carlisle had long ago left the service, he and my father were as close as brothers. As a matter of fact, I don't remember my life before any of the Cullens, and since Edward and I were the same age, and Alice a year younger, almost all of my childhood memories involved Edward in some way, and he was just as much a part of me and my childhood as my father.
When Edward and I were five, a particularly bad storm blew through Hawaii. Our parents took us to the beach to watch it, and we clung to each other for dear life. Even at five, Edward's arms around me made me feel safe.
The Christmas when we were seven, Edward and I announced to our families that we were going to get married. We even took our Christmas money to the Five and Dime and bought each other rings. They were too big, so we put them on silver chains and wore them around our necks every day.
The summer when we were nine, Edward dared me to swim out to the deepest part of the ocean. The undertow took me and I would have drowned if he hadn't dived in to rescue me. He felt so bad that he brought me penny candy every day after school for a month.
When we were twelve, Edward and I had our first real fight. He was having a birthday party, but didn't want to invite me. He said that we weren't really friends, and that he only spent time with me because his parents told him to. I cried uncontrollably for a full day before Charlie finally called Esme, who made Edward apologize. I didn't accept his apology, since his mom made him do it, and things were never the same between us again. I was so hurt that I even sent my "wedding ring" back to him, but he never said anything about it, and neither did I.
Alice had been working on me since yesterday, and I was starting to wear down. "Please spend the weekend Bella. Edward's going to have Jasper over, and I'll be so bored with my parents out of town. Plus, maybe you could occupy Edward and give Jasper and me some time together. Would it help if Mom or Dad called Admiral Swan?" She looked so hopeful, and I realized that I didn't want to disappoint her. She had been fond of Jasper for quite a while, and I knew this weekend could mean a big step for them. She was my best friend, and it was a small thing I could do for her.
We started walking down the hall of O'ahu High. "No, Alice, don't worry, I'll speak to my father." I gave her a small smile, hoping it would hide my trepidation. I wanted to spend the weekend with her, but things between Edward and I had been strained lately, and I was so awkward around him that I was trying to avoid seeing him at all. Edward and I had gotten along pretty well since the blow up when we were twelve, but the way he had been looking at me lately, and the way it made me feel, had me on edge.
Alice brought me out of my reverie. "Maybe we can start our Christmas shopping this weekend." The only time I had ever enjoyed shopping was during the trip Dad and I had taken to New York with the Cullens last year. That had been an incredible experience; my first time in a hotel, my first time in a restaurant that wasn't the Officer's Club at Pearl Harbor, my first time enjoying shopping. I often dreamed of going back there some day.
"It's only December second. We have plenty of time." I regretted my words as soon as they left my mouth. Shopping would mean getting out of the house and away from Edward. "Come to think of it, that's a great idea. I want to get something special for my dad this year."
Dad had just been promoted to Admiral, and he had been too busy at Pearl to really celebrate. I was hoping to commemorate the occasion when he took some time off for Christmas, right before he took command of the USS Arizona. Dad had been taking shore assignments as often as he could since my mom left us, to the detriment of his career. Assignments at sea fast-tracked promotion for officers, but Dad stayed behind to raise me as other officers leap-frogged over him and got the promotions that could have been his. He had finally been promoted and I wanted him to know just how proud I was of him; I would buy him the perfect gift.
Come January, he would be taking off to sea, and I would spend my last few months of high school living with Dr. and Mrs. Cullen. I usually spent part of every year with them when Dad had to be out of town or at sea for one reason or another. I sometimes resented the disruption in my life, but when I really thought about it, he had done better by me than most dads, especially those in the military, and especially those who had no wife. It wasn't always easy to finagle a shore assignment in the Navy, and we had been in Hawaii for the last 15 years, something almost unheard of for a naval officer.
Just a few months ago, my father was away training on a new class of battleship, and I stayed with the Cullens for four weeks. One of the days I was there happened to coincide with my eighteenth birthday, and Alice decided we should go out to a jazz club that she had heard about. She invited some of the kids from school, and as we got ready to leave, I found myself growing excited at the prospect of a night out.
Edward had decided not to come along, complaining to his parents that he wasn't a baby sitter. However, when Alice and I came downstairs after spending a few hours getting ready, he stared at me for a few minutes before he told us to wait for him while he got dressed to go with us.
I looked at Edward as he drove us to the club. His bronze hair was a mess as usual, a consequence of his hands constantly running through it. I knew this was a nervous habit if his, and I wondered what was making him so anxious. He seemed to be gripping the steering wheel a little too tightly, his face was set in a determined expression, and his deep green eyes never left the road, but he was still the most handsome boy I had ever seen. I sighed lightly, wondering if I would ever find a boy like Edward. He wasn't only handsome, he was brilliant, he played the piano flawlessly, spoke Italian and Spanish fluently, and has an easy smile that few could resist. Maybe tonight I would dance with a boy like that; someone who was handsome and smart and who held my interest.
To say that Edward was impossible that night would be an understatement. Every time a boy tried to dance with me, he would shoo him away, sometimes with a menacing look, sometimes with actual threats. He was like some looming, brooding bodyguard that I never asked for. It was also incredibly charming, but I couldn't tell him that; I could barely admit that to myself.
After the seventh boy was scared away by my would-be protector, I started to get annoyed.
"Edward! He was a perfectly nice boy. What is your problem?" He had the gall to look angry. I was the one who should be angry.
"He's not good enough for you, Bella. None of these boys are."
"I don't want to marry any of them, I just want to dance. Is that so hard for you to understand?" He needed to stop with the big brother act.
"You want them to put their hands on you? You want them to hold you that close?" He looked so angry, and I wasn't far behind.
"How dare you? Alice has danced with three boys tonight and you're not giving her a hard time. It's my birthday and I came here to dance and have fun."
He took me by the hand, and walked to the dance floor, pulling me gently behind him. Just then, the orchestra switched from Chattanooga Choo Choo, to In the Mood, and I could see the conflict on Edward's face as he faced me on the dance floor. He seemed to come to some sort of decision, because his look of confusion turned to one of resolve. He took me in his arms and we began to dance.
His closeness made my head swim a bit. My God, he smelled so good, like cinnamon and leather and boy. I hadn't been this close to him since we were children and that experience had been nothing like this. This was intimate and powerful and the most pleasurable thing I had ever experienced. His hands on me made my body hum with electricity, and I tingled all over. I wondered if Edward felt the same thing I did and when I looked up into his eyes, he looked a little stunned. He met my gaze only briefly before pulling me closer and leading me in the dance. Edward's hand rested on my back as we danced, and it made me want more of him. My thoughts made me blush, but also made me a little excited, and made me want to move just a little closer to him, which I dared to do. He stiffened a bit at first, but almost immediately, I heard him sigh and pull me to him. I could feel every inch of him pressed to me; he felt strong and lean and sexy and exactly like I always imagined a man would.
I hesitantly put my face close to his neck and inhaled slightly. When I "accidentally" brushed my lips against his neck, his reaction was immediate. He moved his lower body away from mine, and growled lightly. I hoped I hadn't ruined the night by being so forward and that he wasn't angry with me.
He didn't break up our dance, and for that I was grateful. I didn't try anything else so forward as we finished the song.
When the song was over, the band played a slightly more up tempo song, but Edward didn't release me immediately. I thought I felt him kiss the top of my head before he pulled back and looked at me.
"Happy now? You got your dance." He looked angry, and I felt confused, but his face softened a little when he looked at mine. As he started to walk away, he kissed my forehead and said, "Happy birthday, Bella." He walked away, leaving me more than a little stunned and slightly off balance.
That had been in September, and our interaction since then had been limited. I thought it might be purposeful on his part, but I couldn't be sure. The dance we shared and the electricity between us had sparked my imagination and filled it with possibilities I hadn't considered before. The only problem was that there was no way Edward would feel the same way about me; I was ordinary and plain and he was extraordinary and stunning.
When we got to the cafeteria for lunch, Edward and Jasper were already seated at our usual table. Edward was looking down when I greeted him, and he didn't look up as he mumbled something I assumed was a hello. Now he was avoiding me altogether. Great.
"Bella's staying with us this weekend," Alice said, practically jumping out of her chair.
Edward's head snapped up and I blushed. "I said I would talk to my father. I'm not making any promises." I looked down, not wanting to meet Edward's gaze for some reason.
Edward pushed his chair back and stood from the table. "I'm going to get some air." He turned and walked out of the cafeteria.
We all looked at each other, confusion on our faces. I felt like I had done something wrong, but I hadn't and I was beginning to get angry. "What's your brother's problem, Alice?"
"I have no idea. He's a grouch at home too. He's been this way for months, and it's been worse since the Halloween party."
I thought back to Halloween. The Cullens have a house right on the beach, and every year they throw a huge Halloween party. This year, Alice had convinced me to wear a witch's costume, but this particular witch's costume was more revealing that I was used to. The skirt was short in the front, with a long tulle train in the back. The top was more modest, but very form fitting. The dress showed every curve I had, and I wasn't sure that was a good thing. It was also my first time wearing high heels, and I felt a bit like a little girl playing dress up.
So, I went to the party, fully prepared to make a fool of myself. I was completely self-conscious, and it was made worse by Jasper's rude whistle when I walked in the door.
"Is that little Isabella Swan under that witch's hat?"
I turned toward Jasper and was about to retort when Edward emerged from the kitchen.
"Who...?" I turned back toward the sound of Edward's voice, and he looked momentarily confused, and then recognition dawned on him.
"Bella?" Edward looked shocked and I blushed 4 shades of red.
"That's it, Alice, I'm going home to change."
"You will do no such thing. You look fantastic. Don't pay any mind to these two. Let's go outside and help my parents."
I spent most of the evening having fun, despite my discomfort. There were lots of kids from school and from the naval base, most of whom I either grew up with or knew by association from my father.
I had a steady stream of male attention that night, as boy after boy brought me glass after glass of punch. Some sat and talked with me for a while, but none held my interest for long. We talked about school, or the war in Europe, or mutual friends. It wasn't necessarily boring, but I found my mind wandering time and again. More and more, it was wandering to Edward.
It seemed that every time I looked up, Edward was staring at me. Sometimes the stare was angry, sometimes intense, sometimes amused, but always there. Edward was dressed, as usual, in an old uniform that once belonged to my dad. He hated Halloween and refused to put any effort behind his costume aside from going to my house to raid my father's closet. This year he was wearing Charlie's old enlisted man uniform of white pants, white shirt, and blue neck scarf. I had been noticing boys for a while now, but Edward was different. I knew him, better than any boy I'd ever met, and I was still interested in him. I lost interest in most boys the minute they opened their mouths. Mostly, they thought that they had to talk to me like I was an idiot simply because I was a girl. Edward had never done that to me, ever. He might ignore me and be angry with me most of the time, but he respected the fact that I had my own ideas and interests. I kept trying to find someone like Edward, and was always left disappointed.
I had to remind myself, again, that despite the stares and the electricity I thought I felt between us, someone as interesting and smart and gorgeous as Edward would never be interested in someone like me.
The only downer of the evening was when there was talk of the war in Europe. Most of the talk centered around when, not if, the US would get involved. I followed the news and world events, and I also thought our involvement was inevitable, but that would mean my father going to war, and that was something I was ill prepared to deal with.
Late that night, Mike Newton asked me to take a walk with him on the beach. Mike's dad was a good friend to my dad, and Mike and I were in the same class at O'ahu High. He was nice enough, and a walk in the ocean air might help me clear up the punch-induced fog that was beginning to envelop my brain.
As I was about to say yes, Edward came up behind Mike.
"Beat it, Newton." He looked angry, but Mike didn't seem intimidated.
"You beat it, Cullen. Bella and I are about to go for a walk on the beach." Edward stood a good 6 inches taller than Mike and used the height difference to his advantage. He stood as close to Mike as possible without actually touching him, looked down at him, and said, "I'm not going to tell you again. Stay away from Bella, Newton. I don't even want to catch you looking at her for the rest of the night."
I had ever heard Edward so angry or menacing. I was scared, and Mike seemed to take the hint. "See you at school on Monday, Bella." He stalked off in a huff, and I turned to look at Edward. The angry boy was gone, replaced by, I wasn't sure what. His eyes were wide and almost pleading. Pleading for what, I didn't know.
"Edward, I'm eighteen years old. I don't need you to play big brother anymore." I wasn't necessarily interested in Mike, but I didn't appreciate Edward making decisions for me. "This is the same garbage you pulled on my birthday. What is your problem?"
"I..." He ran hid hand through his hair, and I couldn't help but notice how alluring that simple gesture was. "Damn it, Bella. I know how old you are. I just...ugh!" He cried in frustration.
He seemed to be angry, but I wasn't sure if he was angry with me, with himself, or with the boys that dared to talk to me. This was becoming maddening. Was there something between us? Maybe I hadn't imagined it at all. Maybe it was real and we were both just too afraid to say anything.
"Is there something you want to tell me? Because if there is, you should just spit it out or leave me alone." I knew I was challenging him, but I needed to know what was behind his behavior, and if he was feeling some of the same things I was feeling. I just hoped I didn't push him too far.
He opened his mouth to say something, but just then, Alice ran up to me. "Bella, I have to talk to you. Now." She grabbed my arm and started pulling me away, so the only thing I could do was mouth an "I'm sorry" to Edward before Alice pulled me out of his sight.
I thought maybe we had something that night, that maybe we would talk again and figure this out, but my relationship with Edward reverted back to what it had been previously: brooding stares from him, confusion from me.
While Dad and I ate dinner that night, I asked him if I could spend the weekend with Alice.
"Aren't Carlisle and Esme going to a medical conference?"
He knew everything. "Yes, and that's why Alice wants company. Edward will be there with Jasper, so she wants me there too." I swallow audibly. Why was I suddenly nervous? We really weren't planning anything beyond painting our toes nails and girl talk. I was hoping my father hadn't noticed my agitated state, but I should have known better. He saw right through me, as usual.
He took a long drink of his wine as he regarded me. "Bella, is something else going on this weekend that I need to know about?" He looked stern, but had a gleam in his eye.
"No Daddy, I promise. Just Alice and Jasper and Edward and me." Oh hell, my voice cracked when I said Edward's name. My eyes shot up to my father's face and I thought I saw something there, but it was gone before I could identify it. I put my head down and ate a forkful of rice, hoping he wouldn't see the panic on my face.
"So, is this Jasper boy the one Alice likes?" I was immediately suspicious; Dad had never taken an interest in Alice's love life before. Besides that, how did he even know about Jasper and Alice?
"Yes. How did you know?"
"Oh, I hear things." He smiled at me. "This is a small house, and when you talk on the phone, it's hard not to hear you."
"I guess I'll have to whisper from now on." I looked at him curiously. "So why are you so interested in Alice and Jasper all of a sudden?" He pushed his plate away, nothing left on it, as usual. Having recently lived through the Depression, my father was very appreciative of everything we had and never let anything go to waste.
He shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe I should call Carlisle and make sure he knows about the boy that's going to be sleeping under the same roof as his daughter this weekend."
It was my turn to shrug. "I'm sure he knows. Besides, Edward will be there. There's no way he's going to let Jasper be inappropriate with Alice, he didn't even let any boys dance with me on my birthday."
He looked at me in surprise. "What do you mean he wouldn't let boys dance with you?" My hands twisted in my lap. Perhaps I shouldn't have said anything. I pushed my plate away, my appetite gone.
"It's just...well...he kept scaring the boys away from me at the club." I waved my hand in the air, dismissing the incident. "It was no big deal. He danced with me and I had a good time and I didn't really like any of those boys anyway."
"You and Edward haven't really been close in a long while. Why do you suppose he would act like that?" Uh-oh.
I shrugged. "I don't know. Just acting like a big brother, I guess." I rolled my eyes for effect. "Really, it was no big deal."
He took a deep breath. "Look, Bella, I know you and I have never really talked about boys before-" I tried to cut him off, but he put his hand up to stop me. "Let me finish, baby girl." I nodded. "If you ever want to talk to me about boys, I'll be here. I can't say that I'm happy about it, but truth be told, I expected it much sooner and I've been a little concerned that you haven't shown interest in any boys before now."
Before now? He must have seen the confusion on my face because he answered my unasked question.
"Edward. I've seen the way you two look at each other. I'm just surprised it's taken you both this long." I started to protest, but he just put up his hand again and I quieted. I couldn't believe I was having this conversation. My stomach was in knots. I fully expected to talk to my father when I became interested in a boy, we talked about everything, but for him to see something between Edward and I was shocking.
"Dad, I..." I had nothing to say. I couldn't refute what he was saying with a straight face. Dad and I didn't lie to each other, it was one of our rules, so I looked down and sighed.
"Has anything happened between the two of you that I need to know about? Well, besides dancing." He smiled.
I mumbled. "No." I hoped he would still let me go to Alice's this weekend. Despite my nervousness, I felt energized by the possibilities.
"Okay, Bella, just be careful. I'll be calling to check up on you." He leaned over and kissed me on the forehead. "I love you, baby girl, and you can always tell me anything. You know that, right?"
I did, without a doubt. "Of course, Daddy. I love you, too." I didn't even mind his checking up on me. Nothing exciting would be going on and if it put his mind at ease, that was fine with me. We were all we had, after all.
Dad and I did the dishes in companionable silence, and the subject of Edward wasn't brought up again. As I drifted off to sleep, I hoped that I would have something to tell Dad about after the weekend.
As the weekend got closer, my nervous energy was through the roof. I found myself daydreaming about Edward, and the way my body reacted to him when he touched me; I wanted that feeling again, I just didn't know how to go about getting it. Girls just didn't go up to boys and touch them, it just wasn't proper. In some ways, I wished Edward and I could go back to the way we were when we were children. Our relationship had been so easy and carefree, without the worries of adulthood looming over us. We had been best friends, completely at ease with each other and free to be ourselves. I had never felt more lighthearted than on the lazy days Edward and I would spend on the beach, building sandcastles, swimming in the ocean and just being. My heart clenched as I realized that I wanted that for Edward and I now. I didn't long for my childhood; I longed for Edward.
And I wasn't sure I could have him.
A/N: Big thanks to brighterthansunshine, my beta and ficwife, to Daisy3853 for being my cheerleader and for the late night chats and reads, to jstarrh for reading, commenting and encouraging, and last but never least, to the BATgirls, for their unyielding support and enthusiasm.
I have a thread on Twilighted. What is the world coming to? Stop by, we're in the AH forum.