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I stood in the kitchen, fiddling with the bottle in my hand, wondering if this was really the best way to tell him the news. I could hand it to him and blurt it out the second he stepped through the door. I could ask him to have a seat and place it on the table in front of him. I could not use it at all.
I just wasn't sure whether or not this was something to celebrate. Would he be glad or disappointed? I wanted to believe that we'd become close enough for me to gage how he felt about things. However, the fact that we'd managed to be so careful about what we discussed, avoiding this specific topic by just about any means, didn't do anything to build my confidence in that.
For the most part, there were only small things between us that highlighted the ambiguity of the situation. Conversations didn't involve anything further out than what we'd like to do the next day. Neither of us wanted to bring up the future with such a big if hovering.
In fact, the last true acknowledgement of it was me admitting to being scared when he'd asked. I was, of course, anxious and worried about what I – we – would do if I did turn out to be pregnant (a word I couldn't even pronounce at the time). However, much of the actual fear, itself, had begun to abate as early as the morning after.
I was too comfortable; too warm. My frugal tendencies had caused me to purchase an inexpensive mattress that typically left my back and neck sore. Furthermore, even during the summer, most city mornings were fairly cold. I felt foolish turning on my tiny space heater in August and opted to just suffer through it. So being this relaxed in my own bed was anything but normal.
Something feather light brushed over the side of my face. My tender hand's reminder of the zombie phone whacking incident prevented me from duplicating that particular reaction. Instead, I composedly opened my eyes to assess the potential cause, wincing against the bright morning, but couldn't see anything out of the ordinary. I started to turn, to have a better look around, but quickly realized I was pinned in place.
I stilled, confounded, just as the quill like stroke returned to my skin. Something told me to be alarmed – that this was unusual and I should be cautious. Yet, I yearned to lean into the delicate touch. I wanted more.
Suddenly, I understood why. "You stayed."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to disturb you."
I tried to turn again and he loosened his hold to allow me. It was difficult to believe what I couldn't see, even if I could feel and hear him. The scene I met on the other side outshined anything I could have imagined on my own.
"Morning." I smiled, still a little unconvinced. I'd never woken up beside anyone in this bed. No one had ever even been in the apartment this early before.
"Good morning. How'd you sleep?" he asked. I smiled wider as he continued caressing my cheek.
"Well. What about you?" I tore my gaze from his peering, sun-twinkled pears and realized he was still on top of the comforter. "Wait, why—"
"I wasn't sure…" he explained, "I didn't want to intrude."
He'd spent the entire night embracing me, above the covers. Edward didn't have an intrusive bone in his body. I placed my hand over his, upon my face.
"Impossible…"I ensured. He grinned and came close enough to kiss between my brows.
"I hate to say this but, I have to be going soon."
"Already?" I complained. Finding him beside me had been such a lovely surprise that I'd almost forgotten what brought him here in the first place. As reality set in, I grasped how unready I was to be alone again.
He swept my hair behind my ear, with his lips still perched over skin. "I pick out my produce and things on Sundays. The early bird gets the worm, you know?"
"Oh." I couldn't exactly ask him to neglect his priorities just to save me from isolation.
"I wish I could stay. Truly I do," he tried to ease. I sulked, silently, assuming he couldn't tell. However, as they say about assumptions… "But I could come back; tonight."
He sounded more like he was asking if he could, rather than offering to. We both appeared to require reassurance at the moment. "I think you should."
He kissed above my brow, once more, palpably relieved. "All right."
"How long do you have?"I solicited.
"There's still a little time." I tried to sit up and was only able to do so because he shifted with me. I tugged at the covers and he rolled away so that I could pull them back.
"Get in," I insisted. He chuckled but rushed to do as I asked. He held me until he really did have to leave and that feeling of calm and security I'd felt before began to piece itself back together.
He'd returned that evening, as promised, and we'd cooked dinner together. In other words, I'd handed him the ingredients he needed and kept him company while he cooked for me. He had let me do a little chopping but he'd cut up triple what I had in less time. I probably slowed him down more than anything.
Cooking was visibly something Edward allowed himself to become enveloped in. He moved so gracefully: dicing, stirring, and tossing. All frown-lines and grimaces – not that there were ever many – dissolved as he almost instinctively created something delectable out of scraps.
We seemed to be in some sort of limbo. It was good to spend the time and be together; much better than being apart. We undoubtedly longed for the sense of surety that resulted locality. However, we were quieter, each of us processing in our own way.
After, we sat on the couch and I turned on the television, mostly to drown out the silence. He cradled me against him and I watched the black and white pictures of An Affair to Remember scroll across the screen, cherishing his heat and affection – needing it to keep me from agonizing over something I couldn't really do anything about. It was easier to pass the time – time that would seem endless as I waited – when I wasn't alone with my thoughts.
As I'd traced over the exposed skin of his arm and he'd repeatedly untangled my tresses, I'd eventually fallen asleep. The uncertain conditions notwithstanding, I'd somehow slept better than I could remember resting since I was very young and much more agile. He must have carried me to my room because I'd awaken in my bed the next morning, with a note on the spare pillow.
I'm sorry you're waking up alone but I promised to have breakfast with Alice. We fell asleep on the couch and I brought you to bed before I left this morning. I'll miss the beautiful flush of your skin as the sun pulls you from your slumber.
Call me when you can.
Things had become slightly unbalanced for us. Understandably, we'd, strayed from the path we were on. It was as if he'd stepped from behind the wheel, handed me the keys, and was willing to take whichever seat I offered him. I appreciated him giving me time and space, if I needed it, but I didn't need or want it.
The next couple of days at work had been busy enough to occupy the more worrisome portion of my thoughts. I'd left earlier than normal so many days the week before that I'd had some catching up to do. Combining the familiarity of my old life with Angela's and my conversation during our meeting, and I'd begun to feel more and more conflicted.
I walked into the conference room, scrambling from all of the meetings I'd been in that day and the deliverables that had come out of them. I was surprised to see that Angela had beaten me for a change. She was sitting at the large oval table, starring into her coffee blankly, and abruptly broke into a yawn.
"Long night?" I questioned.
"Yeah. Seth's teething. He was up all night and then he didn't do so well at the doctor's today. He simply had no patience for being poked and prodded at after getting so little sleep."
"Just one of the many joys of parenthood." With that, I plopped into my seat and fought back a huff. She raised a brow at me and I mentally kicked myself for nearly forgetting about her insightfulness. "So how was your weekend?"
"Fine, thanks." I replied, casually. I responded to an unimportant email on my laptop, trying to appear blasé and unaffected. "You want to get started?"
"Sure; as soon as you tell me what happened."
I looked over to her, controlling my tone. "What do you mean?"
"You can't get all red like that and expect me not to notice."
Naturally, my blush would betray me. "What do you want me to say?"
"I don't want you to say anything you don't want to say, Bella, but…"
"Look, in three years, I've never heard you talk about friends or anyone you were dating. And we pretty much only talk about work. I just figure you might like someone to talk to." She really was the closest thing to a friend I'd ever had and she knew me much better than I might have guessed.
"Thank you. I really am grateful, even if it doesn't always seem that way. And it's not as if I don't want to talk. It's more that I'm not sure if I can."
I didn't know if I was ready. Saying it would make it too real. I hadn't even talked about it with him, yet.
"You can try." In truth, some advice might be helpful. It had to be better than the circles I was swimming in my mind whenever I had enough downtime to flounder.
"Goodness, I don't even know where to start. This is just so awkward."
"Bella, I've heard and seen just about everything that I haven't done myself. There's no judgment here."
I inhaled deep and audibly, gathering the strength I needed to admit this aloud. "All right. You want to know? Here it goes. Edward and I had sex on Saturday and the condom broke."
"Oh." Her eyes fell, uneasily. She was right to react that way. What else might I have expected?
"Yup. I slept with the first guy I've dated in years, after just a week, and now I might be pregnant. It's like a fairytale romance," I added, sarcastically.
"Bella…"She attempted to reach a hand out to me, benevolently, but it was too late. Once I let it out, I couldn't reign myself back in.
"No. It's cool. I mean, I pretty much asked for it. I was being irresponsible and now I'll probably be accountable for another human life for the rest of my own, with a man who may or may not want to stick around for that long. And even if he does, what's the likelihood that we actually work out; that he won't just be hanging around for the kid we created on date three and a half."
"Bella, stop! You're freaking out, which is totally understandable, but let's just talk about this for a second."
My face fell to my palms as I pulled at my hair in frustration. Yes, I was completely freaking out. I didn't even realize I felt this way until it started spilling out of me. Though, it was possible that I was just digging up the worst case scenarios as a punishment for doing something that I thought I knew better than to do.
"I'm sorry. You're right. I guess I'm sort of panicking. I thought I had it under control but clearly I don't. It's just so classic, you know? This is totally something that would happen to me. I meet a wonderful guy that blows my friggin' mind and I find a way to screw it all up."
"Okay. Let's just take a step back. You haven't screwed anything up. Really, this could happen to anyone. And you're one of the most responsible people I know. Seriously, it's almost mind numbing how sensible you are. So I truly doubt you did this unduly.
"And you don't even know if you're pregnant. Most condoms have spermicide and do you know how hard it actually is to get pregnant? Timing has a lot to do with these things. I know it doesn't appear that way with all of the teen moms and accidental pregnancies but it's actually a lot more difficult to have a successful pregnancy than not. Not that I want to worry you about that but I'm just saying, you don't know."
"It's the not knowing part that's so hard. Waiting to find out…It's only been a couple of days. There are still so many more."
Wednesday and Thursday were a repeat of Sunday night, with the only difference being that Edward made sure I saw him before he left in the morning. It was never actually stated that he would stay over but he didn't attempt to leave and I certainly wasn't going to ask him to. When I caught him trying to sneak away Thursday morning, I wouldn't let him go until he'd agreed to my terms. It took a lot to convince him to wake me up if he needed to take off, emphasizing that I was a morning person and preferred saying goodbye to him over an extra fifteen minutes of sleep.
As a result, in just one short week I'd become attached to sleeping with someone. Of course, it couldn't be just anyone. It was Edward: the rise and fall of his chest against my back, the scent of his skin as it heated through the night, and the warmth of his breath along my neck.
Everything was colder and far too quiet when he wasn't around. I honestly did feel safer with him, something I'd never missed before he came along. Be it the circumstances or the barrenness, it was simply becoming more and more difficult to spend the night alone.
Friday night, after unsuccessfully trying to convince myself that I could make it one short night, because I'd done it for twenty some odd years just fine, I finally bit the bullet and asked him to come over after work. He'd offered the previous two times, claiming that he wanted to make me dinner, again. Thus, this was the first time I'd actively invited him.
I didn't even have a plan. I said we could watch a movie or something and he agreed, without the slightest ounce of hesitation. It led me to believe that he was thankful I'd asked. He even brought a bag, understanding what I meant without me having to say it.
So much had changed over a relatively short period. My entire world seemed to turn on its axis the day I'd met him. And it had somehow sped and slowed, all at once, after we'd slept together. That day altered everything for us.
He took me to the beach Saturday, saying that we should get out of the house. Really, I gathered that he was nervous about being in an enclosed space with me all day, with a bed and so many other conveniently located places to get carried away in. Conversely, that thought was ridiculous considering he'd hardly touched me over the past several days.
There were soft kisses of my cheeks and hands. He'd peck me goodbye before he left, nonverbally utilizing morning breath as an excuse. And he held me, often. But it was all very virtuous. He was adoring, as always, but detaining his fervor.
I followed his logic, whether we'd had a conversation around it or not. The whole ordeal had forced us to take our time. We couldn't hop back into bed together with so much being unknown.
But if I couldn't have all of him, did I have to settle for so little, when there was so much more to be had? Being with Edward was one of the most enlivening experiences of my lifetime. I'd never felt with anyone the way I did with him. I missed just being able to feel him, even a little.
The waves tumbled in with a low roar and the water skated in a few feet away from where we sat. Because it was a relatively cool day, there weren't as many people on the beach as was common of this time of year. There were maybe two other small groups, on distant and opposite ends of us, and a few surfers in the ocean. It was peaceful.
"It's wonderful out here."
"Haven't you been to the beach before?"he pestered. It was nice to see him joking, again.
"Sure I have." Once or twice, for corporate photo shoots, I didn't bother to say. "I guess I just never took the time to appreciate it."
"I spent a lot of time at the beach growing up; several summers with my parents and Alice." The fond memory had only brought sadness to his features. I rested my head on his shoulder, in an attempt at comfort.
"I can't say I spent much time at the beach as a kid. There are lakes and rivers in Phoenix, though, if you're willing to get out early enough to evade the sun. Oh, but my mom did get me a sand box for the back yard."
"I can easily imagine a tiny Bella with her bucket and shovel in the back yard; big brown eyes and long ringlets. I'll bet she was adorable." I looked over and saw him far away, as if really seeing it play out before him. He seemed almost wistful and I wondered if he wasn't so much imagining as he was hoping.
"Not nearly as cute as a little green eyed, golden mane Edward, chasing the waves," I whispered back. He met my eyes then, admiring. Something passed between us in that moment – some level of acknowledgment or acquiescence.
I'd decided there was little point in having some serious conversation about the future when it very well could have turned out to be nothing. I didn't want him making promises to me based on a possibility. I also didn't want this to shape us, especially if it didn't have to. Yet, feeling that shared adulation and the silent understanding between us was consoling, all the same.
I fell back on the blanket, soaking in the sun that had decided to part from the clouds and grace us with its presence. Edward looked back at me and smiled. It was the most relaxed either of us had been in days. Regardless to his reasons, he was right to bring us outdoors.
I reached out and took his arm, lightly tugging him down. He laid adjacent to me, on his side, and smoothed the back of his hand over my face, like he'd done so many times before. I lifted my head and caught his lips with mine. He kissed back but pulled away just as quickly.
My feelings weren't hurt. He'd spent enough time with me that I was fairly certain he wanted to be here. He was most likely being precautious. Furthermore, I'd been the one to separate from our last real kiss. So I knew it had to be me to initiate the next one.
"Edward, will you kiss me?" He smiled, concurring and then grazed over my lips, placing a delicate but slower kiss upon them. It was warm but still controlled. "Thank you, but that's not what I meant."
"Bella…" he nearly pleaded. He frowned, obviously knowing but having a hard time meeting my request. He was asking me not to push but I needed to feel that he still wanted me, even if it was entirely irrational.
"You're not going to break me and I'm not going anywhere. I get slowing down. With everything…" I sighed, realizing that bringing up the hurdle that had caused the change probably wouldn't work in my favor. "I'm just asking for a kiss. I need you…"
"Oh, Bella." He ceded then, almost pained as he returned to my mouth and pressed his firmly against me. I whimpered at the feel of him, so close and raw, again. My hands wrapped behind his neck, wordlessly begging him not to let go.
As his tongue massaged over mine, I swear I almost cried. I'd never forget his taste but my memory would by no means accurately do it justice, either. Each time I consumed him the flavor went straight to my head, leaving me fuzzy and tingling.
He cupped my face in his hand and moaned, faintly, when I pulled him even closer. I could do this for hours. It wasn't the same as being joined with him but it was nearly as good – in some ways better. I could have as much of this as I wanted and not worry about what might result from it. As long as my breath and lips allowed, I could have this piece of him.
Though, ultimately and like all good things, our kiss came to an end. Like he often did, Edward broke away, but this time only at the lips. He pecked around my ear and the cheek opposite the one he held, in between his pants for air, pricking me with waves of chills. Would I ever become accustomed to being touched that way by him?
"God, I missed that," he confessed.
"Me, too." I curled to my side, facing him. He brought his pointer to my puckered lips, outlining them with the pad of his finger.
"Let's not wait that long, again," he said, apologetically. I nodded, as he brought his lips back to mine and picked up from where he'd left off.
The following week reflected the prior one, closely. He spent almost every night with me and the couple he didn't were difficult. Then, Saturday – yesterday – we watched movies and made out on the couch until he had to leave for work. I spent the night alone and he was now on his way over for dinner.
It was strange feeling so connected to someone, after I'd spent a great deal of time on my own. So much of my days were now filled with him, in one way or another, that he was a near constant presence in my life. I simply couldn't imagine ever tiring of him or having had my fill. Though, in spite of that, I felt a little silly thinking of ever and never so soon.
Everything about the thought of forever screamed impractical, even if it was something I could easily see myself wanting with him. I just couldn't picture Edward thinking in such absolutes, given his past. Still, senselessness seemed to become less of an issue as I spent more time with him. So, while I stood here trying to decide whether or not to set the table or have us eat at the couch, I found comfort in knowing that everything had only served to bring us closer.
Upon hearing his light taps at the door, I decided to let him choose. I obviously wasn't going to be able to make up my mind on my own tonight. I opened the door and was greeted by a fretting expression.
"Hey. Is everything okay?"
"Yeah. Hi." He smiled but it seemed to fizzle before it got very far.
"Come in. Where do you want to eat tonight? Couch or table?" Might as well check that box, early.
"Couch?" We'd both become fond of it since we'd spent so much time there, sleeping and kissing. It felt wiser than going to the bed but it was still comfortable enough to unwind.
"Okay. Is that dinner?" He held a large brown bag and I guessed he'd brought leftovers from the restaurant.
"Great. Can you take that in the living room and I'll get the plates and things and meet you in there?"
His head bobbed in agreement and he went to pull out the containers. I poured our drinks, collected everything, and returned to where he was waiting for me.
"Here, let me help you with that," he volunteered. He took the glasses and sat them down on the coffee table while I spooned food into the plates. "Bella, can you sit with me for a second?"
"Of course." I dropped the utensils and settled beside him. He took both of my hands in his, rubbing them with his thumbs, and stared into his lap.
"Are you sure everything's okay?" I queried.
"Yes. I don't mean to worry you. I just…" He looked up then and I thought I finally understood what was behind the expression. "I know there are a lot of things we haven't discussed but I want you to know that I'm here. You're all I want and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make this to work for us.
"…Whatever you need – decide – I'll support you. And I'm happy to take this slow but the way I feel about you… I can see it, Bella; all of it. I see you in my future, more clearly than I've ever been able to see it before. And I'm going to do things right this time."
"Edward—" I was getting choked up but I didn't want to grow attached to his words if he was only going to take them back once he knew. It was easy to speak with conviction when things were up in the air.
"Please, I'm almost finished. Bella, I want you as my girlfriend and hopefully, someday, you'll let me make you more. I want my family to know you and I'd like to know yours too. But even if you aren't ready to talk about any of this – if it's too soon – I still need you to know that I think we can do this, together."
I was biting my lip and my stomach seemed to think it was auditioning for the Olympics. I wanted him to mean it, so bad. I felt it all too – every word of it. I wanted to dive into his arms and show him better than I could tell him, but he needed to know first.
In a weak and tight voice, soaked with unshed tears, I said, "Edward, I'm not pregnant."
"You're not?" His voice was almost as low, and timid. I picked up the glasses, filled with sparkling champagne, which he'd completely overlooked in his determination, and handed one to him. He took it, looking down with confusion.
"No, I'm not."
"How do you know?"
I swallowed, loudly, past the lump in my throat and fighting down the nausea that only intensified with each moment I waited for his reaction. "It's that time of the month – right on schedule."
"You got your period?" I guess he needed to be certain. I nodded, rapidly losing my control over my ability to speak. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I mean, this is what we wanted, isn't it?" One tear trickled over, and I couldn't pinpoint exactly where it stemmed from. I was touched by his speech and that had initially created the excess of emotion but now I was also worried. What was he thinking?
"Bella…" He took the glasses and put them on the table. Then he pulled me into his arms. "Why are you crying if you're okay?"
"Because… Are you okay?"
"Of course I am," he answered, chuckling against me. "I'm a little in shock but, I meant what I said. I want to do this right and now we'll have the chance to." I eased away to look him in the eye. I was so annoyed with the whine in my voice but it seemed beyond my rule.
"Really? You want me to be your girlfriend? Because if you were just trying to make me feel okay about having a baby… If that's not really what you want—." He took my face in both of his hands, trying to stop me.
"No," he said severely. "That's not it at all. I want you, if you'll have me."
I nodded and let the tears fall. Wiping them away, Edward pulled me to him. He kissed me like he had the first time. Supple and deliberate at first, then the fire grew with each breath we traded and pass of our tongues.
We weren't desperate or lacking. We were complete within each other, yet somehow no less eager or frenzied. I could sense that there'd be no end to this need for each other.
This was definitely a day for celebration.
Prompt: Sparkling Champagne
A/N: In an effort to raise money for Haiti relief, MsKathy is compiling a book of author works (over 200 entries long, so far) for anyone who donates at least $5.00 to the cause. I will be contributing a work, as well. Please visit http://mskathyff(dot)blogspot(dot)com/2010/01/haiti(dot)html for more details.
I'm sure you see now why I saved the prompt for the end this time. I know it was longer than the past chapters have been (and that you had to wait ages in comparison for it) but I felt there was a lot that needed to be covered/wrapped up. Here's hoping I did this situation and finale justice.
I'm going to start EPOV this week. It will be posted under Courtiser Incité. I must reiterate that if you'd like to be notified when the new story has posted, you must AUTHOR ALERT me. I'm beyond grateful for every single fave and story alert but I don't want you to miss out on the notification due to any confusion.
Because wrapping this story up took so long, I'm going to do my very best to update 3 times a week at first. It's less often than I was updating before but I'm hoping this frequency works better for everyone. I have some catching up to do timeline wise but expect to end up posting twice a week at some point.
Thank you SO much to einfach mich, my amazing content beta, and juliebutterfly, my brainstorming buddy, for all of the chats, slaps around when I needed it, and pre-reads. I swear on everything that this story would have been much lamer without your help. Additionally, thanks again to my sis Dahlia Black for making me a beautiful banner (check the profile). I'm absolutely in love with it!
Thanks to BriannaMarley (PIMP of the century) and ChloeWhitlock01 (Review Queen) who have been with me from the beginning, reviewing every chapter almost like clockwork and keeping me motivated on Twitter. I can't tell you what it's meant to me. Also to, charmizane and StarNoble13, for giving me that extra push I needed to finish this chapter.
And thank you to all of my wonderful readers. I literally bounce and squee over every single review, PM, and alert. Authors often say that they write for themselves, and it's true that we try to, but I know there were many days that I wrote for you. You gave me the drive I needed to do my very best work and not slack off. You're all beyond awesome!
My apologies for the longest A/N ever!