I apologize for the extreme delay with uploading this chapter. I hope it was worth the wait! :) Please review; comments, critiques, I want to hear it all!
"I promise," those words echoed through Bella's mind for a full two weeks after what she began to refer to as The Thanksgiving Fiasco. Though her life was busy, filled by her ever-demanding job, caring for Melanie and decorating for Christmas, her mind was always drifting back to Edward and his question.
In a perfect world, Bella would have been just any other 24-year-old woman. Edward would have asked her out and she would have said 'yes' without any hesitation. A year of dating, a proposal and a wedding later, they would have welcomed Melanie into the world. But this wasn't a perfect world, this was a world where Bella was a single mother and Edward, extremely attractive, kind and available Edward, was her daughter's teacher.
No matter how she tried to reason with herself about the ethics of dating the person who should be known to her only as Mr. Cullen, she kept reaching the seemingly inevitable conclusion: "what's the harm?" She asked herself this question sleepless night after night, and night after night there never seemed to be a viable answer.
Finally, after those full two weeks of agonizing and questioning, Bella could take it no longer. She hadn't had a full night's sleep in all that time. There were dark circles under her eyes, she felt herself falling asleep as she worked and she barely had the energy to interact with her daughter. Summoning up all her courage, Bella reached for her phone. She quickly selected Edward's contact information before she could lose her nerve. He answered on the second ring.
"Hello? Bella, is everything ok?" he spoke into the phone, sounding out of breath.
"Oh, yeah. Everything's fine. Am I calling at a bad time, I can call again later," she replied, feeling uncomfortable and nervous about how far Edward's feelings towards her extended.
"It's fine, I was just finishing up my run at the gym. Give me a sec to turn off the machine and then I'm all yours." She heard shuffling sounds and what sounded like a herd of elephants before Edward returned to the phone. "Sorry, gym's mobbed at this hour. This guy's been eyeing my treadmill for the past 10 minutes, I guess he finally got what he was waiting for."
"I'm sorry to have bothered you at such an inconvenient time, you know I really can call you back later. Mellie will be asleep around 8 and then—"
Edward cut her off, "Bella there is never a bad time for you to call me, when will you realize that?"
Bella didn't know what to say in response, after a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, Edward spoke again, "So what can I do for you today Ms. Swan?"
"I've been thinking about what we were discussing at Thanksgiving. I've been thinking about it a lot, actually. And though I'm still nervous about possible repercussions, I really like you."
"Is that a 'yes'?" hope filled Edward's voice.
"It's a 'yes'," Bella whispered, smiling as she heard the words spoken aloud for the first time. "But until Mrs. Thompson is out of the hospital, I don't exactly have anyone to watch Melanie."
"Why don't I make you both dinner Saturday night? She'll go down pretty early, and then we can watch a movie or something."
Bella was filled with so many emotions that she could not at first respond. Edward took this silence the wrong way. "Of course I understand if you're not comfortable with that. I was being too presumptuous—"
This time, it was Bella's turn to cut him off. "I'm just so…grateful. No one has ever tried to date both Mel and I before. This sounds like the perfect date, for both of us. Thank you, Edward."
"So I'll see you Saturday. Your place or mine?"
"Let's do mine, that way Melanie can sleep in her own bed and I won't have to explain as much. You've already been to our home, it shouldn't be too strange for you to come over again. Why don't you come over at 6?"
"6 it is. I can't wait to see you then."
With a few last friendly words, they ended the call. All Bella could think upon its conclusion was that there were but three days left to go. Three days until she went on her first date with Edward Cullen and from there…well, who knows.
Those three days passed in a blur for Bella. Between work, Melanie and cleaning the house, she barely had enough time to collapse into bed for seven hours of sleep before repeating the cycle. But when Saturday finally arrived, the Swan residence was squeaky clean.
Bella and Melanie spent the day playing in the den. It was far too cold to be playing outside, snow had been falling all day. Mel's favorite game of all was dress-up-tea-parties, she had invented it herself, she told Bella with pride. So wearing a tiara and boa over her jeans and sweater, Bella threw herself into the party with gusto. At 5 o'clock, however, the festivities were put on hold. Melanie turned her attention to her doll guests and Bella went into the kitchen.
In an hour, she had prepared a simple meal that was suitable for both kids and adults: homemade macaroni and cheese, fresh bread and green beans. With a smile on her face, she set the sturdy oak kitchen table, putting the food into large dishes in the center. It was nice to have another person to cook for, a person whose diet did not center around pasta and chicken nuggets.
At exactly 6 o'clock, the doorbell range. Bella smiled, sensing that she was not the only one excited by the prospects of the night. At the sound, Melanie came racing to the hallway.
"Mommy, can I answer the door? Please please please? I want to show Mr. Cullen my new dollie!"
Bella laughed, acquiescing to her daughter's enthusiasm. She leaned against the door and watched the scene unfold with amusement.
Melanie dashed to the door, flung it open and began to talk a thousand miles an hour.
" .I'mreallyexcitedthatyou' .Wannasee? ' ."
Edward looked stunned, but allowed himself to be dragged into the den where the doll family's residence had been established. Melanie ran around the room, introducing him to her precious toys. Once the introductions were completed, Melanie allowed Edward and Bella to speak to one another. She returned to her toys, allowing them a few moments of privacy.
"Hi," Bella said, feeling shy now that their 'date' was actually beginning. "Mel's a little excited that you're here."
Edward laughed, putting her at ease. "So I can see. But to tell you the truth, I didn't understand half of what she was telling me."
"Don't worry, I doubt she'll test you on it later. Why don't you come in and have a glass of wine. Can I take your coat?"
The two made their way into the kitchen, where Bella had put out two glasses and a bottle of her favorite red wine. The two talked quietly for a few minutes, enjoying each other's company as they spoke of trifling matters. Seeing the clock, Bella called Melanie in and the three sat down for dinner.
As Edward helped Melanie scoop some macaroni onto her plate, he couldn't help noting how natural it was to sit down with the Swan girls. He felt as if they had always eaten dinner together, that he had always spooned green beans onto a little girl's plate, that Bella had always glared at him when he didn't give Melanie enough healthy food, that he had always laughed his way through a meal.
Once dinner was devoured, Melanie ran from the room towards the living room. "Mommy, you coming?" she called.
"After dinner, Melanie and I read together every night. It's something my dad and I did when I was little and I thought it would be good for her too," Bella explained to Edward. "She's even starting to read a little to me."
"Bella, that's wonderful!" Edward replied. "Would it be alright if I joined in?"
"But of course! I hope you like Harry Potter," Bella replied.
"You're a fan of magic, are you?" Edward quipped, following Bella out of the kitchen.
Upon entering the living room, Bella settled onto the welcoming couch, Melanie jumped onto her lap, handing a well-worn book to her mother. Bella kissed her head, hugging her daughter close, before looking up at Edward. She motioned for him to join them on the couch and, opening to the bookmarked page, Bella began to read.
At once, Edward understood why Melanie loved reading with Bella. She was captivating; her love for the work could be felt in her voice. She gave each character their own unique voice and held the child close during the 'scary parts'. After three chapters, Bella having acquiesced to the "one more Mommy" plea, Melanie gave Edward a hug goodnight and followed Bella up the stairs. Edward waited on the couch, while Bella changed Melanie into her pajamas and tucked her into bed.
Returning downstairs, Bella rejoined Edward on the couch. Instead of watching a movie, they began to talk.
Bella ran a hand through her hair, sighing in exhaustion. "Sometimes I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. Half the time, I just make things up as I go along."
"Bella, you're doing a wonderful job. Melanie is growing into a wonderful girl, just like you," Edward replied, wrapping an arm around her.
Bella snuggled into him, her exhaustion outweighing her worries. "Edward," she mumbled sleepily. "Why did you want to go out with me?"
Edward pushed her away, successfully jolting her back into reality.
"Bella, how can you even ask me that? You are an amazingly kind, caring, and beautiful person, inside and out. And if you can't see that, then you are not the woman I asked out."
Bella blushed. "While I'm flattered that that's how you see me, that wasn't why I asked. Why do you want to date me? You know I'm a single mom, it's not exactly something a young, good-looking man like you would normally do. So, why? Why are you being so nice to me, so nice to Mel?"
Edward felt himself start to get angry. "I don't know what kind of man you think I am, Bella. But believe it or not, I asked you out because I genuinely like you. You're a forever kind of girl, Bella. The kind of girl you bring home to your parents, the kind of girl you marry. And no matter how many kids you have running around this place, I want to get to know you because that's the kind of girl you are—you will be someone's forever, not someone's one-night-stand."
Bella flushed a deeper shade of red, "I didn't know you saw me that way."
"I don't think anyone can not see you that way, Bella."
"Tell that to the guys who've ran out of here."
"Their loss, I'm not planning to make the same mistakes."
After that, the conversation became lighter. They were flirting and just speaking about sweet nothings, the way new couples do. Bella's eyes began to close as the night grew later. Seeing this, Edward realized that it was time to end the night.
"Well," he said, struggling to his feet, "I think it's time I head home."
"Are you sure?" Bella asked, unable to suppress a yawn.
"I'm sure," Edward replied with a chuckle. "But I had a wonderful time tonight, thank you."
Bella stood up then and placed a chaste kiss on his cheek. "Thank you," she whispered.
She walked Edward to the front door and held it open. "Promise you'll call," she said questioningly.
"I promise," Edward vowed, hesitating at the door.
Deciding to throw caution to the wind, he whirled around and caught her surprised lips in a long, chaste kiss. It was sweet and innocent, but full of promise. He could feel her lips curve into a smile as she kissed him back, before pulling away.
"Good night, Edward," she spoke shyly, touching her lips with her hand.
"Good night, Bella," he replied.
So, what do you think? I promise there will be more to this relationship than it seems right now! Please review!