My second of three one-shots for Fandom Gives Back Author Auction. This one is written for ohthosecullenboys, who wanted some sort of secret santa thing, plus a christmas kiss - and then left the rest to me. I hope this comes close! PS: I know you paid for 5K words, but I went overboard... this is over 6K. Hope you don't mind ;)
Thanks to XIX for speedy betaing. I triangle you.
Disclaimer: I don't want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need... - for you to know these recognizable characters are not my own.
Secrets and Santas
"I don't even know anyone," I protested, beseeching Alice with my eyes. "How could I possibly know what to get them for Christmas?"
Alice, President of our senior class and busybody extraordinaire, waved off my concerns with her French manicured hand, the nails perfected with tiny painted holly leaves. "That's the point. You'll get a small biography of the person that you choose, to further help you in your selection." At the look on my face, Alice giggled. "It'll be fine, Bella. I promise."
The student government Christmas party was in a mere two weeks, and Alice had sprung this on all of us in the last minutes of our weekly meeting. Everyone else had looked annoyed, but not panicked like I was. I had only moved here – Forks, Washington – at the beginning of the school year. I had joined the Literature club, along with the French club and the intramural swim team, just to get myself involved and meet new people. It had worked beautifully – I had a lot of great friends, and for some odd reason, after I had quoted more Kerouac lines correctly than Eric Yorkie, I found myself President of the Literature club.
That had catapulted me into the life of student government, and it had been fine – being the president of a club that had seven members was small potatoes – until now, when I was expected to give a gift to a stranger! Christmas was such an important holiday to so many people, and I was afraid to get something stupid, or offensive, or…
"Gather around," Alice called, shaking a weaved basket enticingly. A dozen or so names swam around.
Person after person lined up and drew a name out of the basket. I was third to last, so I had barely any options left. I grabbed the first one I saw, and ignored Alice's goofy, exaggerated wink.
I gathered my books into my backpack, slung it over my shoulder, and walked out into the deserted hallways. It was four o'clock, so the only ones left were the stragglers from various meetings and soccer practice.
Biting my lip, I unfolded the piece of paper. Alice had really gone all-out; there was a picture of my gift receiver, along with what she said – a small biography with a banal list of hobbies and favorite pastimes.
Edward Masen, born in Chicago in 1988, is a senior at Forks High School this year. He is the captain of the boy's baseball team, and the editor of the school newspaper, The Spartan Times. He is also the senior class Vice President. His hobbies, aside from his obvious love of baseball and writing, include most outdoor activities – camping, hiking, and the occasional hunting trip. He plays piano every Sunday at the First Baptist Church.
The picture enclosed was obviously his senior picture. He had on the cheesy tuxedo drape, and his smile was wide and a bit strained. He was handsome, but that just figured. He sounded like a real all American kid – baseball, newspaper, piano playing at the church? What a good Samaritan.
I scoffed a bit, crumpling the paper in my hand. What in the world do you get the kid who has everything?
I had noticed Edward, of course. For all of his talents, he kept to himself a lot. He interacted with his older brother, Emmett, who had a different last name than he did, and that was about it. He, of course, was very friendly to all who approached him. I had never seen him scoff at anyone behind their backs, and that was just sickening to me.
I mean, it was good that he was a nice guy. But it was not good that I couldn't even figure out an angle to get him a gift. His talents didn't help me at all – if he was the captain of the baseball team, he clearly had all the gear he needed. If he played piano, he obviously had his own taste and trying to find him a CD would be so embarrassingly hit or miss.
It seemed my only choice would be to get to know him. The question was how. I wasn't exactly self-conscious, but I wasn't brimming with confidence, either. How do you approach a handsome boy with the guise of friendship, when all you really have in mind is to get inside his head to get this ridiculous secret Santa thing filed away?
When I closed my locker at the end of the next school day, opportunity hit. Literally. He was coming straight towards me, his head bent down, staring at a piece of paper with a V of concern between his eyebrows. His auburn hair was standing on end, and he looked… well, very nice.
So, I did it. I stuck my foot out into his path, and he tripped beautifully. All of his books went flying as he sprawled out on the ground, his hands out to catch his fall. But what I didn't imagine was that he would take me with him.
"Ow," I cried, landing on my backside. I was on the thin side – no more than one-ten soaking wet – so I had very little padding where that was concerned.
"Oh my God," he said, mortification evident in his voice. "I'm so sorry." He scrambled around, picking up our things – he grabbed my books first, I noticed – and tried to rein everything in as onlookers stepped around us, giggling.
"It's okay," I said, laughing a bit. Poor guy. "Edward, right?"
He looked up, and his eyes startled me. They were such a dark green they were nearly black, and his eyelashes were longer than mine even though I wrestled with mascara every morning. The poetic injustice of this world!
"Yes," he said, handing me my books. "And you're Bella, whom I've just bowled over in my behemoth haste."
Oooh, a boy with a vocabulary. "I'm fine," I laughed. "How dare I just have my foot out there, resting in oblivion?"
"Yes," he said, helping me up. "Very rude of you to rest your feet where people could be walking." But he was grinning, and it was very lovely. The smile was completely different than in his picture – it was relaxed, and the corners of his mouth formed wrinkles, as did his eyes.
"Charging is more like it. That could hardly be classified as a walk," I continued, setting my things in my locker.
"Well, you know – things to see, people to do."
I raised an eyebrow, slamming my locker closed. "Don't you mean that the other way around?"
"Do I?" he asked conspiratorially. "Sorry again, Bella." Then he walked off with a wave.
I grinned to myself, pleased. Beginning stages of getting to know him – complete with blatant flirting – phase one, check.
I had flirted with the guy, but I still had no idea about him as a person. I was definitely going to have to do better detective work when it came to Edward Masen. The next day, when I saw him walking opposite me in the locker hall, I gave him a merry little wave. He gave a head nod back with a small smile on his face.
It made me smile all the way to English.
What was I supposed to do, then? I couldn't just constantly bombard the guy with asinine questions, and then present him with a gift that I picked out of his head. That would make it seem like I was using him, and I wasn't… not really. It's not like getting a friend out of this would be the worst thing, but…
He sat alone usually, at lunch. People would come by his table and talk for a minute, but they never sat and he never invited them to. It was strange, like he existed inside his own bubble that the outsiders could only hope to graze.
Well, bump that.
"Hi," I said, setting down my tray opposite him.
He looked up from his homework, shocked. "Uh, hello."
"Is that Banner's AP Anatomy class?" I asked, nodding across the table to the diagram of the human body he was labeling.
"Yes," he said, scratching his head. "I can't even remember the difference between the tibia and the fibula. It's giving me grief."
I peeled back the banana I had in my hand. "You want to know how I always remember it?"
"Sure," he said with a grin.
"It's stupid," I warned.
"What's stupid is the fact I can't remember it."
"I broke my fibula in fifth grade after I lied to my dad and told him I was going over to my friend's house when in reality, I was off with my first boyfriend." I smiled at him. "So… I fibbed… and broke my fibula. Stupid, right?"
"Not stupid," he said. "In fact, I'm impressed that a ten year old had a boyfriend."
"Yeah," I said dryly. "It was love."
Edward nodded. "The only thing is that it doesn't really help me figure out which bone it is."
"Oh!" I laughed. "Yeah, okay." I threw my leg on top of the table, ignoring his bemused look. I pushed my jean leg up to my knee. "See?" I pointed to the big white scar on my shin. "That's where the bone cut through. Gruesome."
He looked at my leg. "Okay, I can definitely remember that." He kept looking.
I drew my leg down, suddenly embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I grew up with my dad, so I kind of have no filter, and no shame."
He grinned at me and resumed filling out his chart. "No one has ever sat down with me before. It's kind of nice."
"Well," I started breaking up the banana and eating it bit-by-bit. "Everyone just kind of assumes you want to be alone."
He looked up again. "Really? Why?"
"You never ask anyone to sit with you," I said, shrugging.
"Well…" He looked a little taken aback. "No one has ever asked to sit with me, either."
I looked at him for a few seconds. This quiet, unassuming boy who had no idea girls whispered about him, wondering if he was gay or engaged – and all this time, it was because no one had the cojones to just ask.
"Well," I said after a moment. "Can I sit with you, Edward?"
He looked back down at his paper with a smile. "Yeah. All right."
"So, who's your favorite baseball player?"
It was a week until the party, and although I had a gained a pretty cool friend, I still had no idea what to get him. I was getting pretty desperate, shooting all of these crazy questions at him, but he just answered them easily, like he had been waiting his whole life for someone to ask.
We were sitting in the student government room after school, waiting for the meeting to begin. He was throwing a baseball up and down, and I watched the way his forearms twitched every time he caught it in his fist.
"In the league now, or of all time?" he asked, rolling the ball between his long fingers.
"Of all time," I answered. "Unless it's the same answer."
"No," he said. "Right now, it's Alex Rodriguez. But of all time… Babe Ruth."
I rolled my eyes. "Really, Edward? Babe Ruth? That's the best you can do?"
He whipped around, his look the closest to a glare I'd ever seen. Edward was a really mild-mannered person; sweet, almost. He was very slow to anger and always had a kind word leaving his lips, and he was always smiling. He was a great person to be around, and I stopped being so daunted by his long list of credentials. We hadn't been friends long, but it wasn't difficult to notice that Edward wasn't just those credentials – those credentials were just Edward.
"Babe Ruth is the greatest player ever to cross the diamond," he said severely.
"He seems like a whole lot of hype to me," I said slowly.
Edward slammed the ball down on the desk. "And he lives up to every bit of hype ever created! He played twenty amazing years of baseball! He was the home run king!"
He was too busy mentally making love to Babe Ruth to notice that Alice was trying to call the meeting to order.
"Wow, Edward," she said dryly. "That's the most I've heard you say all year, and it's about Babe Ruth, in a raised voice, no less."
Edward flushed the color of his hair. "Ah, just… teaching Bella something important."
Alice crooked an eyebrow. "Right. Well…"
She went on with the meeting, and Edward leaned towards me. His breath was minty and cool across my face, and it tickled my ear.
"Sorry," he whispered. "I get a little passionate about Babe."
"I'm afraid to ask who your favorite composer is," I said softly. "So I won't even bother with that. I'm sure you probably make up the music you play in church, anyway."
He looked at me, puzzled. "How do you know I play the piano in church?"
It was my turn to blush. Obviously that wasn't common knowledge, and I couldn't exactly reveal my source. "Oh… Alice said something in passing."
He harrumphed. "Well… my favorite composer is Bach, who is probably just as clichéd in your mind as Babe Ruth."
"Not so much," I said with a smile, trying to keep my voice down. "You just really surprised me with the Babe Ruth answer. You sounded so much like my grandfather it's scary."
"Yeah?" Edward asked, turning his dark green eyes on me. "Your grandpa a Babe Ruth fan?"
I rolled my eyes. "Was. He passed away a few years ago. And the word 'fan'… that's putting it lightly."
Edward nodded his approval. "There's hope for you yet."
"Do you want to like…"
I looked up at Edward as we exited the meeting. He was stalling, scratching the back of his head. "Do I want to like…"
"Go somewhere? To dinner, maybe?"
I stopped right where I was. He didn't realize I had stopped, and so he had to double back to me.
"To dinner," I repeated. "With you."
"Yeah," he said quickly. "But no, never mind. That was totally stupid of me to ask."
"No!" I said quickly, holding up my hands. "I'm sorry, that was a dick response. I'm just… surprised."
"Surprised," he repeated. "Why?"
"Well…" I said, not sure why I was humiliating myself by explaining. "You're… everything a girl could want. And I'm… an idiot."
He raised his eyebrow at me. "Bella, we both know you tripped me on purpose to talk to me."
I turned beet red. "That's not true! You're so clumsy, don't blame that on me – "
He grabbed one of my flailing hands. "You're kind of cute when you've been caught red handed. Come on, Swan. I'm not talking Tavern on the Green, here. I was just thinking the diner for some greasy ass cheeseburgers. I'm starving, and I like your company."
I wrenched my hand back, trying not to smile. "It's just because no one else will hang out with you."
"I wonder why that is," he said, taking my hand again. "Since I'm everything a girl could want."
I let my hand rest in his, surprised at how nice it felt. His palm was warm and a bit scratchy, and it made me feel feminine and wanted. He smiled at me and linked our fingers together more thoroughly, and I felt the spark rush through me, like two candy canes being struck together.
"So what about you?" he asked over our greasy ass cheeseburgers.
I was in the middle of dropping a stray piece of tomato in my mouth, so I could only look at him questioningly. When he didn't elaborate, I asked, "What?" through my food.
He wrinkled his nose. "Manners, Bella."
I shook my head, swallowing. "I told you. I was raised by Charlie, who burps the alphabet after drinking a six-pack of Vitamin R's. I have so little couth it's disgusting."
"Well, that's what I meant," he said, picking up a fry covered in bright yellow artificial cheese. "I know nothing about you, yet you ask me all these questions. I feel like you could write my biography."
Already have one, I thought. "Well, what do you want to know?"
"Everything," he said so simply that it made me smile.
"Well, Charlie and I just moved up here. My parents just finalized their divorce, and my dad's dad left him our house up here. They had a spot open for Chief of Police, and since Charlie's dad had been Chief of Police before he died, and Charlie was Chief of Police in our tiny town down in Arizona, they kind of just grandfathered him in, which is cool. Usually it's this hierarchy thing, but… whatever. So, we live here now, and mom lives in Jacksonville with her new young boyfriend."
"Do you miss her?" Edward wanted to know. It was such a common question that I almost gave him the regular answer.
"Yeah," I said, surprising myself. Usually I just kept that information private, not really one to air my dirty laundry, but I really did miss Renee. "She's crazy, but she's my mom, and she's great to talk to. I miss her a lot."
"So, why did you pick Charlie?" Edward asked, watching the snow fall outside.
"Eh," I said slowly. "It was just always Charlie and me. He and I got along from day one. Like I said, he pretty much raised me. Renee loved the hell out of me, don't get me wrong – she's great. But Charlie and I always just kind of… got each other. You know?"
Edward nodded, and turned to smile at me. "That's great. I mean, what a dumb response… but it is. So many kids take advantage of their parents, and it's awesome that you love them like that… and aren't afraid to let people know."
"Yeah?" I asked. "What about you?"
He was about to answer, but the waitress came up and asked if we needed anything else. I ordered some hot chocolate, and so did Edward.
"Want a candy cane in those?" she asked, gathering up our dirty plates.
I did; Edward didn't.
"So?" I prodded.
"Well, I'm adopted," he said slowly.
That threw me for a loop. I never once considered that the golden boy could be adopted – he never mentioned it, never acted sad or forlorn, like he was missing a void. He was one of the nicest people I had ever met, and he was always grateful for everything.
"Yeah?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said, running a hand through his hair.
He was so handsome, and I was almost bored of myself for always observing that, but he just was. Everything about him fit together, even if he didn't have the most perfect features – his nose was a bit crooked and his arms were kind of gangly like they were waiting for his body to grow up. He was lanky and tall and walked with a bit of a hunch like he was ashamed of it. His hair was never tidy and he had a few freckles dotting his face, but he was the most handsome person to me, and that's when I knew.
I liked him. I really, really liked him.
"I mean, I was adopted as a baby. Apparently, my birth mom was really young and didn't have the means to take care of me. And my parents now, the Cullens – they definitely have the means. Carlisle and Esme, they're really something. They give me brothers and everything, and they're just… they're great, like you said."
"That sounds like a clinical observation," I told him, smiling at the waitress as she set down our hot chocolates.
"Yeah," he said, scratching his head. "I've been with them for almost eighteen years, and I don't know that much about them. I've always kind of… kept to myself. Not intentionally. I guess I just don't know how to ask people to like… take an interest in me. So I just… I mean, I just stick to myself."
"You shouldn't have to ask people," I said, sipping the sweet chocolate with a hint of mint. "Just open yourself up. I mean, god, you're involved in like everything. You can't tell me you don't have friends."
"No, I mean," he said after taking a swig of his drink. "I have friends, the kids you say hey to in the hallways and ask if they did the homework, or whatever. I know people and people know who I am, like my name. But no one has ever just sat down and demanded my attention. Until you," he said with a smile.
I could tell how truly happy it made him that I took a vested interest in him. It didn't matter to him that it was completely and totally (seemingly) random. Guilt gnawed away in my stomach as I realized that eventually, the truth would come out as to why I sought him out.
But for now, I was just going to enjoy his sweet smiles and let him take my hand as we walked back to our cars.
I knew shit was going to hit the fan, but I refused to face the facts. Every night I would go to bed with this awful feeling in my stomach, only for it to evaporate when I saw Edward's smiling face in the morning at school.
I had only known him for a week and a half at this point, but we talked every chance we got. It seemed like once someone took an interest in him, he never wanted to shut up. He asked me my opinion on everything, and then would tell me his own in great detail. There was so much that I liked about him, and so much more that I wanted to know.
The party was in three days, and I still had nada to give to him. I was becoming more and more worried about the party in general, because my little charade would be over. Not that it was a charade anymore – I truly, genuinely liked him, butterflies and sparks included, but he said so much how my taking an interest in him meant, and I just… I couldn't help but shake the feeling that it was all going to go to hell when he realized my initial reasoning for getting to know him.
"Hey," he said, walking up to my locker after his last class. He had gym last, and his cheeks were still flushed from exertion, and he smelled like a fresh shower and it was wonderful.
"Hey, Edward," I smiled. "Can you hold my backpack?"
"Yeah," he said, grabbing for it. I dropped it too soon, and it went right through his hands, and the contents scattered everywhere.
"Flashback," I laughed, thinking of the first time we had talked. "Here, let me help."
We gathered up the loose paper and pens and shoved them back in my orange backpack.
"Hey, what's this?" he asked, opening up a piece of paper. "Oh, is this the stupid secret Santa thing? Ugh, I got Angela Webber… oh."
I couldn't look at his face, especially not after the way his voice sounded. I felt hot around the ears and my underarms prickled with adrenaline and embarrassment.
"Edward, I – "
"So, you got me, huh?" he said, smiling sadly. "The baseball, the questions… it totally makes sense now."
"Well, you see – "
"I just…" he folded up the piece of paper. "I mean, have you figured something out to get me?"
"It's not like that – " I protested, balling my fists, ready to fight him to make him listen to me.
"No, it's fine," he said quietly. "You're beautiful, Bella. I've kind of… harbored this thing for you all year, and I thought maybe my good juju was paying off, and… but no, this makes way more sense."
I was totally struck dumb. "You've what? Me?"
"I know," he said quickly. "I know you're way out of my league – "
"Have you looked at yourself?" I demanded.
"I just wish," he continued, "that you would have told me. So I didn't have to get my… my… my heart, or whatever, involved – "
"Edward," I whispered. Shit, I had really messed up. "It's not like that. I promise. I really – "
"Would you have talked to me if it wasn't for this secret Santa thing?" he asked quietly.
The truth was, I had never really noticed Edward Masen outside of the brief musings I entertained about most people of the school. But this secret Santa thing had brought us together, and it had made me notice him, and it had allowed me to get to know one of the most amazing people I'd ever met. I tried to work up the words to convey this to him, but he interpreted my silence differently.
"Okay," he said quietly, definitely not looking at me now. "So I'll just… I'll see you later?"
"Edward, please," I said. When I found my voice, the words that came out were tiny and pathetic.
"It's okay, Bella. Just give me some time, and I swear we can be friends. I just… need some time to get over this, that's all, to push myself back into reality." And he smiled at me, that beautiful, stupid boy that I cared so much for, and then he walked away, and left me there, and I had no idea how to make it better.
That night, Charlie and I sat in the living room, each with a present in our hand. Every three days, starting the fifteenth of December, we each opened one gift. It had been a tradition ever since I was young, so the "excitement could be spread out" – at least that was always his excuse. I suspected it was because Charlie loved presents almost more than was decent, and he always got a big smile on his bushy face when presented with brightly colored packages.
Our dinky tree glowed in the background as we settled down, and as always, I let Charlie go first. Really, he was like a six-year-old.
But even Charlie's excitement as he ripped open the present couldn't keep the awful feeling from my stomach. I couldn't get Edward's face out of my mind, and his quiet, dejected voice. I wanted to text him so badly, but I had nothing to say at that point. I needed to regroup. I needed a plan.
"Thanks, Bell," Charlie said happily, cutting me out of my reverie. He was holding up the camo pajama pants I had ordered for him from The Bass Pro Shop. "These are something else. I bet they're warm."
"The description online says they're insulated," I told him, unable to stop grinning as he ran his hands up and down the fleecy material.
"Your turn," he said after a detailed perusal of his new pajama pants.
I shook my package. "I wonder what this could be. It's not labeled."
"Oh," said Charlie, looking over at it. "That's from grandpa Swan. He left it for you before he died, and gave me instructions not to give it to you until Christmas."
"Grandpa was great," I said sadly, smiling at the small package before tearing into the paper.
"He loved you like crazy, Bell," Charlie said, watching me open it with excitement in his eyes.
I opened the box, and pulled out what was inside. In my fist sat a very old, very dirty baseball.
"Ew," I cried, throwing it out of my hand. "God knows where that's been!" I shot a dirty look to my ceiling, meaning it to go to Grandpa. "That's gross!"
"Bella!" my dad bellowed, scrambling after the ball as it rolled across our living room. "You idiot child, that thing's worth a ton of money!"
I looked at him dubiously. "Oh yeah?"
"Yeah!" Charlie groaned, handing it back to me carefully. "Take a closer look."
I did. My mouth fell open.
I was a total wreck the night of the Christmas party. I stabbed myself in the eye twice with the mascara wand, and I snagged my green sweater on the door handle of my truck as I got out of it. I walked up the driveway of Alice Brandon's home, my whole body internally jittery. I was so afraid that Edward would both be there and wouldn't be there. I had no idea what to say to him; all I had was the gift I finally found and the hope that he could maybe understand I was just a stupid girl who was stupidly crazy about him.
I looked around for Edward's Volvo but I didn't see it, so it was with a heavy heart that I rang the doorbell.
"Hi, Bella!" Alice chirped as she opened the door. "Come on in, it's freezing out there. Here, let me grab your gift. This is for…" She checked the name on the tag. "Edward. Hmmm, he's not here yet. No big deal. Come on!"
So he wasn't there. But I knew him – he was such a decent person that I knew he would show up, because he had a gift to give someone else. I clung to that belief all throughout the awkward dinner, and even stubbornly believed it when the gift giving started and he hadn't shown up.
Mike Newton, the president of the Mathletes, had me as his secret Santa. He had gotten me a body wash set from Bath and Body Works that I actually loved, so I was pretty pleased with that. I was thanking him when Alice's voice rang out.
"Oh, Edward! I didn't think you'd be here!"
I whipped around, my heart pounding furiously in my chest. He looked so wonderful in a dark grey pea coat and jeans, and his hair had bits of snow melting in it. He had an easy smile on his face and a gift bag in his hand, and I was so crazy about him I could barely look at him.
"Sorry," he said, his voice a balm to my ears. "I had to shovel the driveway before I could leave. My brother was MIA, and it was supposed to be his job… anyway, I'm here now. I'm sorry I'm late."
"It's no big deal," Alice said, gesturing him in. He stripped off his coat and revealed a cream colored sweater and he was so ridiculously beautiful.
"It was just about your turn, anyway," Alice said, coming back into the room after hanging up his coat. "Secret Santa, reveal!"
She had been saying that every time it was someone's turn to give a gift, and it had really been starting to irk me. I barely heard her, though, as I stood up and smiled at Edward. He gave me a small smile back, and it was so warm that I wanted to cry, and I was not a crier.
"Here," I said, handing him the small package. "I hope you like it."
"I'm sure I will," he said quietly, going to open it.
"Have a seat!" Alice cried, shoving him towards one of the cozy chairs. "Stay a while."
"I really can't," he said apologetically. "I have to gift and run, I'm afraid."
My heart sank, but I smiled. "Got big plans?"
Edward continued opening my gift. "I have a big family dinner to get to," he said. "My parents are kind of… well, society," he made a face, "so we have to put on airs and get dressed up and you know, stupid stuff." He looked down at my gift when it was unwrapped. "Hey, Bella. This is great, thanks."
I had gotten him a twenty-dollar gift card to a local sporting goods store, knowing he could use it when baseball season rolled around.
"Sure," I said quietly. "I'm glad you like it."
He gave Angela his gift to her – a concert CD of a band I knew she liked – and then Alice was giving him his coat again, and he was waving goodbye and telling everyone to have a good Christmas.
I reacted so quickly, I'm sure I left everyone's heads spinning. I grabbed my coat from the closet and ran after him like a bat out of hell.
He was almost to his car by the time I got to him. "Wait, Edward," I panted, coming to a stop in front of him.
"You shouldn't run like that on the ice," he said. "We both know how clumsy you are."
"Whatever!" I shot back. "You totally tripped over my foot, not the other way – okay, you know what? I didn't come out here for this."
"So, why did you?" he asked.
"Can we talk?" I questioned, looking him in the eye.
"Okay," he said after a moment. "Let's get in the car and start the heater up. It's freezing."
We did, and the heater kicked on, and my lips opened up, and I talked.
"I should have told you from the beginning, Edward," I sad quietly. "And I'm so sorry to have deceived you like that. But you have to know – being forced to get to know you is the best thing that's happened to me since I've moved here. I may not have talked to you without a nudge – but you know what? I needed that nudge, because even if I had noticed you, I would have never come up to you because you're gorgeous and I'm gawky and you're so good and I'm kind of an asshole sometimes, and well, I have another present for you."
He was smiling tentatively. "You do?"
I took it out of my jacket pocket. It was wrapped badly – I have two left thumbs. "This thing, it really means nothing to me. I mean, I know it should… but it doesn't, and I – well, I want you to have it."
He took it from me slowly and unwrapped it with his long, beautiful fingers. When it opened into his palm, his whole hand shook.
"Are you serious? Don't joke with me about this, I can't accept this," he said, his voice actually trembling a bit.
"No," I said forcefully, shoving his hand back towards him. "I want you to have it. Please."
"Bella, this thing – it costs a fortune, and I'm sure it's a family heirloom…"
I scoffed. "Please. I don't care about the money, and it has no emotional value for me. It'd just sit on a shelf and collect dust. But you… I mean, it's Babe Ruth, you know?"
My grandfather had passed on to me a baseball he had signed by Babe Ruth himself. It meant nothing to me as far as material things went. Yeah, it was worth a lot of money and yeah, it was a family heirloom but it's not like I'd ever sell it and I had tons of heirlooms from my kooky old grandfather.
"I don't know what to say," he said, holding the baseball reverently. He looked over at me, his eyes as green as the Christmas tree glowing in the light of the Brandon's home, and he was so sweet and wonderful.
So I leaned across the console and kissed him. He gasped against my mouth, a short burst of warm air, and then the baseball dropped into his lap and he was kissing me back. His lips were chapped but his mouth was soft, and it was perfect.
"I was an idiot," I said, backing up slightly from his lips. "I want to move past this. I've missed you so much. I'm totally insanely crazy about you, and I – "
This time, he kissed me. It was forgiveness and thank you and yes, we can move past this. But most importantly, it was Edward, and it was me, and we had all the time in the world to get to know each other.