-| Glitch continues |-
I think I'm level-headed. I think I'm so smart.
I am the stupidest person alive.
I proposed a courtship to a proven obsessive vampire who grew up when courting was all the rage. Asking Edward to court me is like giving a heroin addict an intravenous needle.
He throws himself into the Courtship of Bella Swan as single-mindedly as he did The Stalking of the Same. He opens my car door. He "calls" on me in his living room, chaperoned by a pair of delighted parents. We perambulate through his neighborhood, my hand on his arm. We even carry matching umbrellas, me to prevent my fair skin from burning in the sun, he to prevent the sun from burning his fair skin.
Turns out, that snap, crackle, pop that I'd heard—while not enough to burst him into flame—is a little uncomfortable.
The upside of courting?
Conversation. That's apparently all you're "allowed" to do while you court someone. Fortunately, we have not-quite seventeen years' worth to catch up on.
We talk, but we go slow. We start with frivolous things, from the shocking lack of mirrors in the Forks Medical Center to the physics involved in Edward knocking my copy of Jane Eyre open to the first page bearing his name. We work up to more serious topics, like how vampires are supposed to keep their existence on the down-low and the fact that my Gran truly had schizophrenia. Carlisle tells me he reviewed her charts personally.
But we haven't yet worked up to the most serious thing of all—where Edward was the day I jumped from a cliff. Where he was the day I stood in the middle of a forest far from home, lost and alone, screaming at the top of my lungs.
I'm not sure I'm ready for the answer.
When weather permits, Edward meets me after my last class of the day and walks me home. Most days, we wend slowly past esteemed halls in which young minds have expanded for decades, talking about everything and nothing. Normally, we continue straight down the wide path, which eventually bifurcates down to the sidewalk where I live.
But not today.
Today, something is different.
Today, Edward stops and says, "I have something to show you." His eyes glint mischief, and he puts a hand on my back to direct my steps.
He escorts me away from the main campus, down a lesser-used dirt path. When the foot traffic dwindles and then disappears, Edward shifts behind me, cool hands rising to cover my eyes. "No peeking," he whispers against my neck. They're not kisses, but they're the closest he's come.
I walk blind, wholly trusting his nearness and him.
When we stop, I'm acutely aware of his presence against my back, his hands gentle on my face. He rarely touches me, so I luxuriate in the feeling while it lasts.
Then the curtain of his hands parts for the big reveal.
I almost can't breathe. "Beautiful."
And it really is. Edward has brought me to a simple path lined with trees. But these trees—they're not green. The sky bursts a cotton candy pink. And the smell…
"Cherry blossoms," he explains.
It's the smell of Spring, of life and new beginnings. And, quite possibly, of love.
Before I can ask him how he found this place, his arms are around me.
Touching me. Again.
"What are you…?"
He lifts me by the waist and tucks me into the nook of the nearest tree with a stern admonishment of "don't move." I clutch at smooth bark while he kicks off his shoes and balances effortlessly on a nearby branch.
Looking around, I see that he's transported me into our very own Candy Land.
He says, "Trees are even more beautiful when you're in them."
He's not referring to the generic "you."
He says, "This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'pretty in pink.'"
He's not referring to the trees.
I blush from the warmth of his gaze, his cotton candy lips.
My blush doesn't help.
His eyes do that thing where they darken, sun setting below the earth.
The shift is so sudden, so erotic that I gasp.
The spell is broken; he looks away, out into the trees, fiddles with a twig. We're silent as the breeze gently caresses the boughs. I sit and soak it all in.
"Do they bother you?" Edward says at last.
The serious response would be too sappy, something about losing myself in said eyes. So I keep it light.
"Nah. I'm just glad they aren't green," I say. "I couldn't stare into green eyes all the time. We wouldn't have made it as a couple."
The corner of his mouth turns. "Before I became a vampire, my eyes were green."
I stare into his once-green eyes, wondering if I'm going to be able to handle the fact that, behind their veneer of amber, they had once been the color of fresh boogers. After much contemplation, I decide that their current delectable color more than makes up for it. Everything is better dipped in butter, including Edward's eyes.
"Then it's a good thing Carlisle changed you into a vampire."
"I never in a million years—or at least a hundred—thought I would say this," Edward says slowly, "but yes, it is a very good thing."
I'm surprised that the man who considers himself a monster has agreed with me. "Why's that?"
"If he hadn't, I wouldn't have met you."
Edward and his little romanticisms. Methinks he put all that solitary time he's spent stalking me to good use. Speaking of which…
"What in the world did you do to pass the time while you were stalking me?"
"Thought. Composed music. Thought some more."
"Didn't that get a little boring?"
He shrugs. "For a vampire, everything is boring. Watching you has actually been the highlight of my century."
"I can't imagine what talking to me must be, then."
"Talking to you is the zenith of my existence."
I repeat: Gah.
Forget butter-dipped eyes; Edward has a butter-dipped tongue. I wonder if it tastes as good as it sounds.
Alone in this faerie world, he tells me his side of our story. Of the first day he saw me. The first time I mumbled his name in my sleep. The first time he tried to leave me.
"You tried to leave me?"
"Many times. Carlisle was livid at what I was doing to you. To myself."
"What did he want you to do instead?"
"Leave you alone. If I wanted to let you live your life, I should have let you live your life."
Carlisle was right but oh. The idea of life without Edward…
"Why didn't you listen to Carlisle?"
"I wanted to."
Edward frowns. "Your bicycle happened."
Ah. Charlie was one of those "minimal interference" dads. His idea of teaching a kid to swim was dropping them into the deep end of a pool. This is why I never learned to swim. So when it came time to learn to ride the bike, he plopped me on it and gave a little shove. Disaster involving a set of metal trash cans ensued. I always wondered how I'd managed not to crack my skull.
"Then Port Angeles happened," Edward continues. "Then the tree house. And oh god, then you got your driver's license." He looks absolutely horrified. "Every time I'd convince myself that you'd be fine, that you wouldn't fall down and break your neck the moment I left, you'd fall down and nearly break your neck. You'd almost get mugged, you'd almost get hit by a car, you'd almost get mauled by a Rottweiler down the street."
I shudder. I had never seen Rocky the Rottweiler again. Charlie told me that he had gone to live in the country on a doggy farm.
Charlie has told me a lot of strange things involving animals.
"You didn't always save me," I pointed out.
Edward doesn't reply immediately, merely hoists himself to a higher branch.
"What about the cliff-diving incident? Were you there, in the water, about to save me if Jacob didn't?"
"No," he says carefully, pausing in a crouch.
"We have an…understanding with the Quileute. We respect the boundaries of their land. I had to trust that Jacob would take care of you."
And he had.
"Where were you?"
"As close as I could get. But it wasn't close enough. It was agony, knowing you were somewhere I couldn't see or even hear."
The image pleases me. "Good. Now you know how I felt all those years."
I watch his feet disappear somewhere above my head.
"Jacob tried to kiss me." I don't know why I throw this out. I just do.
The tree shivers. Blossoms flutter like butterflies.
"Did you let him?" Even though he's spider-monkeying up there somewhere, I can hear his tone go all stiff and formal. Preparing himself, I've come to understand.
"I wanted to."
I shrug. "He wasn't you."
When Edward climbs back down, he brings a sun-kissed cherry blossom and a soft smile. I take his offering and bring it to my nose. As he watches the movement, I draw the velvet petals across my lips.
He looks down at my lips, then up at me. Down at the lips, then back at me.
He doesn't move.
So I do.
Standing carefully, I step to his branch, planting my feet in the space between his. His eyes track my every move, and his hands hover, ready to steady me if I slip. But he doesn't touch.
I reach up, up and up, and pluck a wayward cherry blossom from his hair, which seems to attract errant flora.
"Oh," he says, but it's more of a shaky sigh.
We're caged between two supporting tree limbs, my feet planted on either side of his.
"Kiss me," I say.
He wants to—I can see that—but still he doesn't move.
"Come on. One little kiss."
He seems torn. Only then does it occur to me what I might be asking.
"Oh. Is it too hard? You being a vampire and all?"
"No, that's not it," he mumbles.
"What, my blood doesn't call to you?"
"It does. But I've had years to inure myself to your scent."
"Then what's the problem?"
If he were human, the look on his face would be accentuated by a blush. Edward is embarrassed. For some reason, this delights me.
"Don't tell me that you're a vampire and a prude?"
"How oxymoron of you."
"I just wasn't planning on kissing you until year two," he blurts.
"I thought you knew. Courtships last at least three years."
Three years? I've created a monster. Correction, I've unleashed a monster. Monsters have no right to be so pretty.
Fortunately, I have a solution.
If he won't kiss me, then I'll just have to kiss him. He trembles like a little lamb as I lean in. But he doesn't move, doesn't pull away.
I'm close enough to see the striations in his irises. Then I'm close enough to feel his breath. And then…
I knew it.
He does taste good.
The kiss breaks the dam. Before, he barely touched me. Now, he can't seem to stop. The one little kiss turns into more—lots more. Together, we push the zenith of Edward's existence to new heights.
But what goes up must come down.
Later, as we sit in our tree (this time not K-I-S-S-I-N-G), he tells me at last about the woods near my house. How the agony in my voice, the blood nearly unraveled his tenuous sanity along with mine. He'd had to twine himself around a tree to prevent himself from taking even a single step.
If he'd come to me, if he'd cracked even a single twig, the ending was always the same: cold ruby eyes fluttering open after endless hours of fire.
But if he stayed, if he leached himself to the tree until I was spent, I would live.
"How did you know?"
Alice has seen it. Alice is only human; she doesn't always know what she sees, doesn't always remember her dreams. But he does. He spent as much time watching Alice sleep as he did me. Alice's gift is more constant than she knows. Her human mind is but a fickle antenna in the tempest of her gift.
Night brought Edward visions of me dressed in white, pledging myself to a groom whose identity no longer matters. He watched me bounce babies on my knee. Watched my hair streak gray and my laugh lines deepen. Saw Future Me on a porch swing surrounded by a second generation of younglings with my brown eyes.
"And now?" I whisper against his cheek. "What does Alice see now?"
He doesn't know yet; his eyes are dark, this time for a different reason. I have a sneaking suspicion that Alice is seeing rubies, if I have any say in the matter.
But for now, we have a three-year courtship to attend to.
Spring Break, I introduce Edward to my parents. Thanks to Edward, I can introduce him to parents plural.
"Forks grew on me," Renee says from where she's wrapped around a glowing Charlie's waist. "It's just so unbelievably green, you know?"
Edward goes by Masen now. He and Carlisle concocted an elaborate back story, replete with a trail of detailed records that Charlie will no doubt thoroughly investigate. My contribution was to suggest that Masen play baseball for Princeton.
"Charlie will eat that up," I say. But really, I just like the idea of Edward in those tight little pants.
We're working on our "me time." Being alone is not easy for either of us, given our history, but we're getting better at it. I read a lot of books. Edward composes me a new song, one that's less melancholic than the one I'd heard through the trees that day.
And when we come back together, it's good.
Fine, fine. You want the whole truth and nothing but the truth? It's out of this world. I don't think anything could make this better.
But then Edward says something that does.
We're sitting on my bed (i.e., tangled in each other's arms). Edward came over to (allegedly) help me with my American History homework, given that he lived through most of it. We, um, haven't started yet. He may have arrived three hours ago.
"I almost forgot. Carlisle and Esme want us to come for 'dinner' Thursday."
I smile because I know why it slipped his mind.
"What's the occasion?"
"They'd like to introduce us to someone."
"Another you-know-what?" I stage-whisper.
"Yes," Edward stage-whispers back.
"His name is Jasper."
"You know someone named Jasper?" I say faintly.
"I will shortly." And Edward smiles a small smile. "He wandered across the Canada border recently. Seemed lost, so Carlisle took him in."
"Has he ever been to Forks?"
"Not yet." Now his eyes are dancing. "I think a visit to Forks is in order, though. A relaxing summer vacation, perhaps?"
Would you look at that.
Alice and I had both been right all along. I really can see dead people. Alice really can see the future. And there had never really been a glitch in my brain after all.
Right now, I can see the future myself. My future involves me telling Alice a story that will put the dance back in her step, the color back in her cheeks, and the zest back in her life. My future involves introducing her to a vampire with a delightful Southern drawl.
And Alice will tell him, "You've kept me waiting."
But as for my present, I plan on enjoying it to its fullest. My present involves lots of necking, as it were, with my very own vampire.
Final note: This story was tangentially inspired by The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.