A/N: Since it's the holidays, I decided to go with some fluff :) Just know, WE AREN'T OUT OF THE WOODS YET! There are still A LOT of things that these two need to work through, and it won't always be easy (they both know it, but I'm giving them some happy for a bit). Life is like that, though. Just when we think things are finally going our way, we hit another bump and have to cope. Life keeps us on our toes, good and bad.
Eternal thanks to Juliegirl18, happymelt and TheLadyReads for helping me with this mess and holding my hand when I doubted everything. Thanks to the rest of you, as well, for sticking with me through the mess I'm putting these characters through.
When I had woken, I thought I had been dreaming. Everything seemed too right to be real. Yet, the more I blinked my eyes, adjusting them to the light coming in through the window, the more I came to realize that my dreams and my reality had collided. Bella was tucked against my chest, every inch of her body molding into mine. The covers had been pushed down toward the foot of the bed, the air of the room holding more than enough heat and allowing me to see the entire length of her body. Her hair was twisted over her shoulder, although a few strands were resting on her cheek. I listened to the slow and even whispered breaths, her lips parted just slightly as she slept soundly.
I had one arm threaded under her pillow, while my other was draped over her side, my hand resting flat against her stomach. Bella's shirt must have ridden up slightly in sleep or from the unconscious movements of my hand because my pinky and ring fingers were actually resting directly over her warm flesh. I could feel the heat run through my fingertips, a subtle tingle at the connection.
Her skin was so soft, silky even. I couldn't help but marvel at the way the pads of my fingers could just ghost over the flesh under them. I moved my fingers slowly, drawing them lightly over the fabric, pulling the hem of her shirt down to cover her. I watched my fingers move languidly, painting invisible spirals and circles and music notes on the cotton as my memories and this moment met. Bella was pregnant. There was a life just under my fingers. There were two lives held tightly in my arms.
I'm not sure why, but that realization floored me, taking away my sense of being for a moment. Honestly, it took my breath away too. I had missed this with Elise. I had missed all of her firsts: her first breath, her first look at the world, her first smile. And I had missed out on the before. I never felt her kick. I never watched her heartbeat as she squirmed on the screen during an ultrasound. I never got to watch how she grew everyday, changing Heidi's body as she did so. I had a lot of firsts with her, watching her walk and hearing her say "Da" for the first time. Yet this...this part was new.
I held the woman I had fallen so completely for in my arms. Her past would be my past, if she'd let me have it - and her future would be mine, too, if she'd just let me in. I held to no misconception that anything from here on out would be easy. Where we had been already was only a foothill compared to the mountain we still needed to climb. Yet, I was ready. I would climb it over and over if that meant Bella, Carlie and this baby would be there with me and Elise. If they would all be there at the end, it felt like everything would be worth it.
I allowed my fingers a few more moments to simply rest where they were before lifting them to pull Bella's hair away from her neck and face, exposing the soft curvature of flesh. My finger circled a small freckle on the side of her neck, trying to be careful not to wake her. I had found I loved watching Bella sleep. There was something so...so...innocent about it. When she was awake, her eyes told stories upon stories. There was always love and worry there, and I had seen frustration and deep thought as she looked over papers. I had seen pain and I had seen desire lock themselves so solidly in the usual warmth of her gaze, and had my heart ripped open to know I was one of the reasons they seemed so tormented. There had only been a handful of times I could remember Bella looking simply at peace with the world, as she did when she was asleep.
On of my greatest memories of Bella thus far had been the day I had taken her to the Renaissance Festival. It was as if she were a little kid again, wide-eyed and in the middle of this fairy tale world. So many people lose that sense of wonder as they get older, but she just brought the whole experience to life again. I could only wish I could find a way to bring that feeling back to her.
Bringing my head down, I gently pressed my lips over the freckle I had been mindlessly circling, feeling the steady beat of her heart just under the pulse point. I didn't linger, instead drawing my nose across the length of her collarbone as best I could with the angle of our bodies, breathing her in and memorizing the softness that was Bella. She was everything soft and womanly - all curves and sweetness. Yet, she was possibly one of the strongest people I have ever met. She carried the weight of so many lives on her shoulders, and still managed to come out stealing my breath from me with her smile and the unquestionable love she held.
She started to stir, shifting in bed and pressing herself against me. I could feel every curve of her body fitting against my own - her back molding to my chest, her head nuzzling down against my arm and even her toes pressing coolly to the tops of my feet. I didn't dare move. I was afraid of startling her, but more afraid of my own body's reaction. This closeness, although sublime, was pushing the little control I still held over my own body. My attraction to Bella was just as intense physical as it was on an emotional level. And I was very much attracted.
I shifted my hips, trying and barely succeeding to put distance between us. This whole situation was new. I had obviously been attracted to other women, but not a single one had ever elicited the same type of primal reaction that Bella did in me. I want her - without a doubt. I have wanted her from the first day I had seen her, remembering so clearly the shape of her as she walked ahead of me up the ramp. And that train of thought was getting me nowhere good fast...
Closing my eyes for a moment, I ran my free hand up and down her sides just enough to barely tickle her and trying to think about my next piano piece. My fingers moved more and more, dancing and pressing lightly as I played the notes going through my head against the supple contours of her body. I only stopped when I felt Bella move again, opening my eyes to see her brown gaze watching me with her face turned slightly.
"Morning," I whispered next to her ear, placing a small kiss to her cheek. I didn't let myself stay curled up behind her for long, not knowing what her reaction would be to this closeness now that she was awake. Last night, falling asleep together was a step. I didn't want to push it. Instead, I ran my fingers down her arm until I could grab a hold of her hand, squeezing her fingers gently and guiding Bella to roll to face me as I scooted backwards. This worked, too. Here, laying like this, I could see her beautiful face more clearly and memorize the way the morning light played off the flecks of gold in her eyes. She was so much more than beautiful. I'm not sure I would ever get over the effect she had on my senses.
I never let go of her hand as we laid there. I didn't want to lose even the simplest connection with her. "How'd you sleep?" I asked, voice soft as my thumb moved in slow random circles over the back of her hand.
Bella took a moment before she spoke, her eyes moving over my face. "This really is real," she mused, instead of answering my question. I nodded, smiling at the almost astonished look she held to. "You know, I thought I had still been dreaming."
"Is this okay?" I asked, suddenly unsure of everything. I had promised both her and myself I wouldn't push her anymore, and here we were cuddled in my bed. Forget that she had been the one to ask me to stay last night. It very well just could have been her exhaustion talking.
She barely took a breath, holding tight to my hand before answering, "Yes." It was a simple answer - one word, one syllable, one meaning - and it had me breathing normally again. This...us...it was still okay in the morning light.
"Good." I brought her hand up to meet my lips just as I had last night, kissing the back and lingering there for just a moment, feeling the softness of her skin.
I wish I could have laid in my bed with Bella all day. Things seemed perfect right there, like we were in our own little world that nothing could touch. There, things were right. Yet, the clock was telling me I should get Bella back home. Poor Elli had been home alone all night. Honestly, I was proud of myself for remembering that. Next time, I'd just need to bring the dog over as well.
Next time. Those two words tumbled over and over in my head and no matter how many times I thought them, each time sounded sweeter than the last. Next time. I liked the sound of that.
Bella was up first, excusing herself to use my bathroom. I watched her walk away from me, memorizing the sway of her hips, yet again, before she disappeared behind the closing door. I tried not to think of it too much for fear I'd have more of a problem to work through than I already did. There was no doubt about her power over me. I was a goner.
I pulled myself from bed after a moment of closing my eyes, going over my lesson plan for the coming week. It was mundane, but effective. I noticed my reflection, running my hand through my hair and quickly giving up when I realized I was only making things worse. Not that I truly expected differently, but I could hope for my hair to cooperate one day. I ran my hand over my face, feeling the scruff along my jaw and momentarily tried to decide if it was even worth bothering to shave today. It wasn't. I'd just be shaving again in the morning. With that decision made, I headed out to the kitchen, figuring Bella would find me when she was ready.
I drove her home after we had a quick breakfast at my house. It was just simple scrambled eggs and toast, but working around the kitchen, looking over to see Bella sip a glass of juice at the breakfast island, felt as if I could do this every day of forever. Now, sitting in the quiet car with her in the passenger seat, felt just the same. That thought kept coming back to me since I had woken up - I wanted this as my future. I wanted simple mornings and car rides where the silence was comfortable and warm. I wanted the laughter of several little kids, day in and day out, echoing through the halls of a house. I wanted more than a house, I wanted a home; I wanted our home.
My thoughts kept revolving around what the future might hold until I found myself parked along the curb beside Bella's house. I didn't want to say goodbye to her just yet, but I knew I had to. It wouldn't do any good to sit in the car the entire day. Getting out, I rounded the front and opened the door for Bella. I offered my hand - a simple gesture - and she took it without protest. I loved doing these little things for her - opening doors, helping her up, carrying something and so on. I never once thought that Bella couldn't do them herself, I just wanted her to know I was right there...that I would always be right there.
We walked side by side up the walkway to her door and she never once let go of my hand. It felt like another small victory. We were getting somewhere today. We weren't getting there fast, but it was still sweet progress. She unlocked the door and I turned her slowly, my lips repeating the same motions as last night. I kissed the small freckle on her forehead before moving my lips to briefly kiss the tip of her nose, finally ending by pressing my lips to hers. We stood there kissing for longer than I had expected, Bella's lips moving in a steady rhythm with my own. When we finally broke apart, we both tried to right our unsteady breathing. I watched as Bella slipped inside her house with a small wave and a long look back at me, cheeks still beautifully flushed.
When I got back home, I still had a few hours to myself before my mum was supposed to bring Elise home. I kicked my shoes off at the door, heading to my bedroom to change into a pair of shorts. The days were still holding to the late summer heat and I was dying. Rounding the corner into the room, I stopped to look at the still-unmade bed, letting everything from the last night come back to me.
Sleep is something so simple. I mean, we need to sleep to survive. Yet, I couldn't help but think that last night was so much more. I honestly thought that I had imagined her words when she asked me to stay last night. That was why I had to ask again. I needed to make sure she realized what she was asking. Nothing happened in the stereotypical sense of sharing a bed, but it was a huge step for Bella to let me in. With those quiet words, she was letting her walls down and opening herself up to try again. There was no way that I wanted to mess this up again.
I changed quickly, feeling instantly better and left my bedroom, leaving the bed unmade. I kind of liked it that way. I made my way into the living room, not really sure what I wanted to do with all this time on my hands. I finally decided that I at least needed to turn some music on to cut the silence of the house. Opening the lower cabinet of the entertainment center, I pulled out several albums, sliding them back in until I settled on The Beatles 1967/1970 hits LP. I slid the first disc slowly from the protective sleeve and turned it to side two before lowering it onto the turntable and setting the arm at the very edge, adjusting it until John Lennon's voice softly flowed out from the speakers.
I really wasn't sure what I was doing as I sat down at the piano bench. I stared at the keys, hands in my lap, as I listened and let my thoughts consume me. Song after song, all I did was sit there, for once unable to feel any music. This wasn't me. I always had a song flowing through me - one that I could bring to life, one that would speak my thoughts. But now...nothing.
My ears finally caught the opening verse that was playing.
Hey Jude, don't make it bad.
Take a sad song and make it better.
Remember to let her into your heart,
Then you can start to make it better.
Hey Jude, don't be afraid.
You were made to go out and get her.
The minute you let her under your skin,
Then you begin to make it better.
I sat completely still on the piano bench, simply listening. I listened close to all the lyrics, letting them sink in, their meaning so much more than the words. The chorus repeated over and over, each time becoming more imperative to my very being.
Hey Jude, don't let me down.
You have found her, now go and get her.
Remember to let her into your heart,
Then you can start to make it better.
Let her into your heart, I thought. Start to make it better.
With John's words playing over and over in my head, pushing me forward toward something - something more - I began to play. For her. For us.
After that night at Edward's, the next three weeks flew by. Life was so chaotic as we tried to settle in to the routine of school and home. Every morning seemed like a mad dash to get myself awake and ready before doing the same for Carlie. Yet, we were getting the hang of it now, leaving Carlie calm and me entirely less frazzled and worse for wear.
The first day of school had been a mess, to say the least. I had my first real bout of morning sickness that actually hit me in the morning and Carlie was an excited, bouncing little powerhouse, chattering off the wall. I had barely gotten us out of the house and to school in one complete piece, having forgotten so many things the first four trips out to the car. Edward had been my savior that morning. Both he and I had brought our respective girls with us instead of relying on the bus and wanted to be there for them that day. I remember basically hoping and praying that he would be in his classroom when we got there. Carlie had run ahead of me, pulling on the door handles to the music room and I, in turn, thanked whatever powers that be when it swung open. Edward had took one look at me, pointed Carlie to the empty seat next to Elise, who was coloring, and approached me with a look of intense concern.
I could have laughed then, and looking back, I do. I knew that I looked about as crappy as I felt - splotchy and stressed - but seeing his reaction was almost comical. He had taken me back into the hall, sounding like a broken record, asking me over and over if I was alright. I somehow placated him and he finally let me go to my office with a gentle squeeze of my fingers and a promise to check on me during his first break.
I had somehow gotten myself together enough to walk Carlie to her classroom with Edward and Elise. They were lucky enough to have gotten into Ms. Stanley's class together, making this transition easier on all of us, I think. I had gotten more than a little teary-eyed when she gave me a hug and told me, in the most sure little voice, that she was going to have fun, before running off hand in hand with Elise. Edward had even kept his promise, sneaking into the library with a cup of tea a bit later just as I was finishing up giving the third graders a refresher lesson on the library.
Days passed much the same. One of us would usually take both the girls to their classroom in the morning before returning to our own. During the day, Edward always seemed to find an excuse to visit me at least once, often showing up more than that, and I excitedly waited just to see him. On Tuesdays and Thursdays when the girls only had half-days, Esme would usually pick them up and spend the afternoons with them. Carlie loved that time and so did I.
Things had progressed slowly between Edward and me since I had stayed the night. We texted and called one another. We watched each others daughter throughout the afternoons and evenings, depending on our schedules. We had even taken the girls out to dinner one night. Most of all though, we talked. And it was good - nice, actually. Yet, I couldn't help wanting it to be more. I was impulsive in that way. There was still a part of me that wanted to jump headfirst to where we had left off, but the more sane part knew that we both needed this. This was the time to find out all those little things that we had neglected to uncover the first time around.
I mean, last night, I had just found out that Edward had been invited to play at Carnegie Hall when he was still in high school. He had even been offered a spot at Julliard, but somehow said no. Then life brought - well, kept - him here. Who gives up Julliard to end up in Minnesota? I had yet to find that part out.
I also found out that he and Emmett played competitive soccer when they were younger back in London, or I guess, football, as he was still determined to call it. Something about that little tidbit stuck with me though. I could only imagine what it would be like to watch him play. If he only put in an ounce of the concentration he gave his music, I swear, he'd be unstoppable. I'm also not sure that I would survive it. I'd be a fool if I tried to convince myself that Edward didn't elicit any reaction from me on a physical level. He was undeniably gorgeous, leaving my knees weak and my heart skipping beats.
Yes, Edward definitely garnered a reaction.
Talking with him also made me realize even more that he had a very understated warmth about him. He was all about the small, everyday things, inviting Carlie and myself over to dinner or bringing me a cup of tea just out of the blue. It was like he always wanted you to know he was thinking about you. It was nice.
Honestly, it was nice to have someone care about you just because, no pretenses behind it.
I was deep in thought, standing at the desk as a class was filing out and waiting on my lunch break. My stomach rumbled loudly at the thought. I watched the last little kid, a small blacked-haired girl named Leah, move out the door, following the rest of her class and I was finally alone again. Well, almost alone. Tanya was crouched down over by the Boxcar Children books. I had forgotten that I was supposed to have a library aid when I started and had been more than a little surprised when she showed up the first day of classes. Tanya was a bubbly senior at the high school helping out for a couple hours most days for credit. She was literally a godsend, keeping me focused when I was all over the map, as I was still getting used to working at a school and dealing with my own life. I had also come to realize she was a sweetheart of a girl, always friendly and rarely frowning. She was magic with the kids that came in, helping make the stories come alive during reading sessions. The selfish part of me also saw her as a potential babysitter, but I wouldn't admit that out loud just yet.
I pulled out my cell to check the time and saw it was almost 11:30. Leaving my post at the counter, I went to check on Tanya. "Hey," I said softly, trying not to scare her. "Are you going to be okay if I head out for lunch for a bit? Mrs. Uley is just next door like usual if you need anything."
She turned to me, smiling brightly. "Of course, Ms. Swan. I'm just finishing up reorganizing these few shelves and then I still need to add the new shipment of books to the database. I have a lot to keep me busy."
"Sounds good, Tanya," I said, returning her smile. She went right back to work and I headed back to my office to grab my purse, picking up my phone as I went by. My purse was tucked under my desk, so I set my cell down on top and crouched down, trying to reach it from it's hiding spot. My fingers grasped around the shoulder straps just as my phone skittered across the desk as it vibrated and the screen lit up with a new message. I stood and grabbed for it, moving my fingers quickly to unlock it and view the text. I hadn't even bothered to check who it was from, already having a pretty good guess.
Lunch at Gilly's?
I couldn't help but smile and my stomach couldn't help but growl again at the prospect of food. I was hopeless. I was hopelessly hungry. I was hopelessly giddy. I was hopelessly allowing myself to fall head over heels. And I was now hopelessly giggling at myself.
I started to type out a response, but was interrupted. "So? Is that a yes?" My head snapped up to find Edward standing in my doorway, leaning casually and smiling slyly. My smile morphed in turn, feeling like it was taking over my face. As I said before, it was the little things with Edward that hit me the most.
"It's a yes."
He nodded, still smiling and watching me. "Shall we?"
Gilly's was a little cafe on the corner, a block over from the school. A good deal of teachers actually ran in and out of here during their lunches. It was convenient for all of us and definitely a welcome break from the continuous energy of the kids that filled the school.
"Alright, here's your turkey on rye," the waitress said, setting a plate in front of me. "And here is your chicken panini." She finished setting Edward's plate in front of him and asked if we needed anything else before leaving us in peace.
We talked here and there as we ate, but I kept getting sidetracked as I watched the flow of people go in and out of the door. I saw teachers I was getting to know from the school. I saw an older gentleman that lived two doors down from the shop. He was always digging around in this little flower garden in front of his porch. I loved watching him. The people in and out of the door were a complete eclectic mix. There were moms with little children, a small group of older women having a quiet lunch together, and several business men and women grabbing lunch to-go as they were on their way to whatever the next destination was.
I had always been a people watcher, growing up feeling like I was on the outside. Not that I had been treated as such, but with a sister as outgoing as Alice, it was hard to be noticed, too. I had found my footing in college, branching out to become the person I am now, happy with both the simplicity of a few friends and the energy of a room full of people. I never lost that tendency, though. People wore a lot more of their lives on the outside than they realized, which actually terrified me, given even just the last few months.
Finishing the last bite of my sandwich, I sat back in my chair and looked up to find Edward watching me closely with a soft smile. "What?" I asked nervously, trying to nonchalantly rub my face in case any of my lunch remained there. That would be my luck.
"Bella...," he snorted, trying and failing to suppress a laugh "...you're fine. I just...I just like watching you." He finished with a sheepish look, a light pink tinting the tops of his cheeks. It wasn't as if I didn't know that. He was always watching me, even when I slept. I felt that should bother me, but it didn't. It wasn't like he watched me as if I were something to eat. Edward just...he just watched me like he didn't want to miss a thing. It felt nice to actually be wanted.
I was coming to realize it felt nice to be with Edward in any capacity.
But I had to tease him for my momentary panic. "Well, warn a girl next time before you bring out the bedroom eyes in public. Those are dangerous, in case you wondered." Edward's jaw went slack, surprise clearly written in every feature from his wide eyes to his eyebrows raised high on his forehead.
"Th-those...those weren't...I mean, I didn't...I'm not..." He hopelessly floundered for his words, either not quite sure what to say or too embarrassed. Maybe it was both, but it was enough to have me laughing now.
"Edward, I was joking," I managed to say between giggles. "Honestly, I thought I must have had a piece of lettuce hanging from my chin and you were trying to find a nice way to tell me."
He shook his head, smiling freely again as he watched me, cheeks still bright red from the moments before. "You are evil, my dear."
"You love me that way." The words had slipped out before I could put much thought behind them. They just came naturally and that surprised me. We didn't talk much about love, whether in passing or an actual thought out conversation. We both knew where we stood on the topic, Edward having admitted to me his feelings and mine almost truly ready to voice. I watched as he simply smiled back, his eyes crinkled in the corners with a look just as happy.
"That I do, Bella."
Edward paid for lunch. I had learned the very first time we came here to eat to just not complain. Lunch was his thing. He wasn't deluded enough to insist on paying for everything we ever did together because he knew I'd fight him tooth and nail. It wasn't so much that I was on a feminist high horse, but that I just wanted to do my part. I wanted to feel like his equal in this. As we walked out, Edward slung his arm over my shoulders, pulling me against his side as we started back toward the school.
The action surprised me every time, but not in a bad way. Edward had been so cautious since we had started working things out, going at my pace or whatever he thought it was. Yet, I couldn't help but get the butterflies in my chest pulling out the battering rams when he'd take the initiative to do something more. I needed the push, making me pick up my feet to keep up with his heart.
My own arm snaked around his back, holding myself in place and reveling in the closeness. It was nice to be near him and to be held so tightly in his arms. I felt safe there - protected and wanted. His voice was quiet when he spoke. "Would you want to do something this weekend? I mean, all of us?" Edward's fingers twirled their way into my hair as we walked, weaving through the waves with quick but delicate motions.
"Sure," I answered quickly. "You know, how about the zoo? I haven't been there in forever and I'm sure the girls would love it before fall actually hits."
He slowed our pace for a moment, turning to look down at me for the briefest glance. If I hadn't been forgoing watching where my feet were going, I would never have caught the look. "I like the sound of that."
"Actually, how about we make it a big group outing. I feel like I never get to see my sister and I really want to get to know Rose and Emmett more."
Again, Edward didn't say anything right away. However, this time I honestly got a bit nervous, as time seemed to drag on after my suggestion without so much as a peep from the man next to me. "Bella," he finally started, pulling me closer, though I wasn't sure that was even possible. "I love the way you think." I felt his lips press firmly to the top of my head as we continued to walk. Edward dropped his arm from my shoulders as we got closer to the school, putting a distance between us until we were merely walking side by side, our hands brushing every so often. We were defining ourselves all over again and until we knew for certain just what we were, the rest of the world didn't need to be let in.
There wasn't really a crowd at the zoo yet, which was nice. It allowed for the kids to run a little ways ahead of all of us, without anyone fearing that they were going to get lost. The freedom of the morning was welcome. It gave Edward and I a chance to talk and interact without drawing the attention of the girls. We still had the adults to contend with, but between Alice, Jasper, Rose and Emmett, I really didn't care what they did and didn't know at this point. All that mattered was Edward and I were right here, right now.
We were coming up to the tiger exhibit when Alice grabbed my hand and pulled me down until she could whisper in my ear. "How are you, Bells?"
How was I? I was still beyond tired. I felt insanely bloated, my pants having gotten a bit tighter as my belly had swollen slightly. I was already getting warm. I was already regretting not trying to tame my frizzy hair before walking out the door this morning. I was trying to remember why I wore flip flops instead of sneakers today. I was wishing I could grab to Edward's hand - it was so close. And I was happy.
I was really and truly happy.
With a squeeze of her fingers, I let go of Alice's hand and instead brought my arm around her shoulder, pulling her in for a hug. "Right now, I'm perfect."
"Good," she answered, hugging me tighter. "That's what you deserve, sweetie."
I could have stood there, hugging my sister for much longer than we got before Emmett's voice was calling out to all of us. "Hey!" We turned toward his voice, trying to figure out what he wanted. "Yes! All of you! We so need to do this," he called again, beckoning us forward with his finger as he stood next to one of those giant, painted boards with the face holes cut out. He ran around the back, poking his head through one of the holes and smiling like a little kid on Christmas morning. "Come on!"
Facing Alice once more, we just giggled. I dropped my arms from around her shoulder, instead offering out my elbow with a wink. "This should be fun."
"Tons," she agreed with the wide smile that was so distinctly my sister, threading her arm through mine. Edward went and wrangled up the girls and Ty, as Ali and I made our way over to meet up with everyone else, pulling out our cameras.
"Who's up first?" Emmett asked excitedly, finally emerging from behind the wall again. With that, we were all taking our turns posing in different groups and having entirely too much fun with the cutouts. It was fantastic.
The cutouts were a menagerie of zoo creatures: a monkey sitting on a zebras back with a lion standing proudly off the the side and a giraffe standing above the rest. It was comical, especially when you add our cast of characters to the mix. Emmett, Rosalie and Ty did a family portrait, as did the the rest of us respectively. We mixed it up too, a mass of people trying to shove their faces out. The kids had a blast, laughing loudly and reminding us just how silly we all looked.
Edward and I even did one with the girls. It felt like we were our own little family. In a lot of respects, I think we were and if nothing else, we were getting there.
We hung back from the rest of the group, leaning against the railing about twenty feet from where Jasper was crouched down, telling Carlie and Elise a story about the caribou we were in front of. Their eyes were wide as they listened. That man could hold anyone's attention. There was just something about Jasper that made you stop and listen when he spoke. I mean, I was entranced and I could barely hear him. Edward lightly bumping into my shoulder brought my attention back. Turning, I met his face just inches from mine as he rested his elbows against the rail.
He smiled, the action relaxed and warm as he flipped his hand over, empty palm facing up. Edward didn't have to say anything before my hand was slipping into his, my fingers curling to hold him tightly. It never ceased to amaze me how right things felt with that simple connection between us. I watched our hands, marveling how mine fit so securely in his - Edward's strong and capable grip holding to my small palm.
We stood there in relative silence for a while, watching the caribou in the exhibit and just simply being together. I leaned my body against his shoulder, taking a moment to rest my head there and relax into him. Simple moments like this made me believe that anything was possible. I felt Edward's head move as it ruffled my hair, his lips pressing lightly to the top of my head. His voice was soft when he spoke. "Bella, I know this is going to sound childish...," he squeezed my hand "...considering we're both as old as we are, but I want to do things right this time around."
I watched his arm flex as his thumb rubbed against the back of my hand for several beats, entranced by the rhythmic motion. "Yeah?" I finally asked, not really knowing where he was going with that statement.
"Will you go out with me?"
Really? It seemed almost silly to ask that. I mean, what had we been over the last month and a half, if not two people starting out in a relationship? I know we had never defined ourselves, but I never thought we needed the titles. I finally turned so I could look at him. His face was so close, that I could see every fleck of color in his eyes as they watched me. They had a soft edge to them, almost as if they were smiling with the way they creased upwards at the very corner. I caught myself before I hopelessly analyzed his features further, instead asking in disbelief, "Edward...are you serious?"
"Very," he answered quickly and simply. "In all the time we've been together so far, I have never asked you that." Edward shrugged his shoulders, running his free hand over his slightly stubbled jaw and taking a moment before he continued. "So? Will you, Bella, agree to go out with me?"