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The Other Side of Me

Chapter 3

My apartment was at the bottom of a red brick building on East Twelfth street between First Avenue and A. When I moved in with Jessica, back in 2005, the smattering of small bars and restaurants along Avenue A had recently grown, as had their popularity. Regular drinkers around those parts tended to smoke, and the "no smoking" law had patrons filing outside to brown their lungs. But drunk people outside, late at night, meant a few roamers taking off in search of excitement. Crime had picked up. My first March in the city, while some were anticipating the St. Patrick's Day parade and others were dreading it, our neighbors were met with a break-in at their apartment. James heard about it and insisted that Jessica and I stay with him for a night while he made sure we had a better lock installed. He installed it himself.

James chose to live alone in a one bedroom penthouse apartment in the West Village. It was very high-tech looking, lots of metal and aluminum. Even the stairs and the second floor walkway from his bedroom to his bathroom were metal, and seemed to be suspended from the high ceiling by heavy cables, though I couldn't tell if this was just an illusion. It was certainly solid and stable when I walked around up there. The apartment was wide open, everything easily viewable while standing in the living room. He was proud of his large, stainless steel kitchen, bigger than his bedroom. His plasma television hung like a framed photograph on the wall facing the sofa.

"Spinach pierogi from downstairs," he said, placing the bowl on the counter, and then spooning it out onto our dinner plates. He took a seat on a bar stool next to Jessica. "I don't know why you two have to live on the first floor," he said. "I'd sleep better if you moved up a level, you know?"

"It was affordable." Jessica shrugged. "We only pay $1600 a month."

James whistled. "For that place? That's a good ass fucking deal."

"That's what I'm saying," Jessica said. Jessica had only met James and Edward a few times, but whenever they were around she spent much of her energy and breath in an attempt to trap James in conversation.

"But not if your place is raided and everything ends up gone," James added.

Neither Jessica or I had a response to that.

James gave up his bed that night and let Jess and I share it while he slept on his sofa, one black, furry blanket over him. Jessica hugged him and we both thanked him before heading to bed.

She followed me up the stairs, her boots heavy and clomping against the metal.

Lying under the comforter, Jessica asked me if I thought James liked her.

I turned and faced her—swept some hair behind her ear. "Jess, he likes you, yes, but not in the way you want. He doesn't like anybody in that way. I don't think he can be monogamous."

She sat up on her elbow. "I don't care about that."

"Are you sure?" I may have only known her for seven months, but that was more than enough time to witness the way she clung on to guys, even those who weren't that interested.

"Sometimes I wonder, you know? What he's like in bed. He's so incredibly sexy. Don't you ever wonder? I wonder what he would do if I went back down there and got under the blanket with him."

"Jessica, don't do that."

"Why not? Because you want him?"

"No." I shook my head. "No, I just think it would be best for you if you stopped wondering. I really do."

"Why would you say that about your friend?"

"He's a good friend," I said. "But he's not a good boyfriend. I'm being honest because you're my friend too. I don't want you to get hurt."


Now, just when I needed Jessica the most, she was away visiting her family for the month. Clothes were strewn about my room, dresses halfway on and halfway off my bed, a camisole and skirt on the dresser, jeans on the closet floor. I had no idea what to wear to Shakespeare in the Park. After going through everything twice, maybe three times, I ended up in jeans and a tank top—no different from any other day. But every time I'd tried on a skirt, I felt overdressed for something that had the word "park" in it. This was exactly the kind of thing Jessica would've loved to have helped me with. She'd get a high from it. But she was gone, paying no mind to the fact that I was having my first real fashion crisis in my entire twenty-two years of life. I plopped myself down on my bed, sitting on a pile of shirts, skirts, and pants.

I've never stressed over what to wear around Edward, so why should I start now? I began returning my clothes to hangers.

When I answered my door at 6:00, Edward stood there in jeans and a T-shirt.

"Perfect," I said, relieved that he was so casual.

"You too," he said. He kissed my cheek and I relaxed, forgetting that I had nearly hyperventilated over clothes. "Are you already ready? Let's get a cab."

"You didn't have yours wait?"

"Bella, you're a woman. I didn't expect you to be so... punctual."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I adjusted my bag on my shoulder, frowning, awaiting his answer.

"That sounded bad." He lifted his fingers to his forehead and he held them there—tapped a little, as if tapping could bring the right words to mind. "What I meant to say was every date I've ever been on, I've had to wait for the girl. I'm just surprised I don't have to wait." He may have continued talking, but my brain stopped working at the sound of the word date. I smiled.


"Get a cab," I said, turning to lock the door.

Shakespeare in the park was The Taming of the Shrew. Tall gray brick turrets and cobblestone paths gave the feeling that we were actually outside an Italian villa. Looming, full trees in Central Park became a natural part of the set. The play, the stage, the park, all of it, so beautiful. I wasn't sure this wasn't better than a Broadway show. We sat in one of the back rows, where Edward pulled a bottle of red wine from his backpack, corked it, and poured it low, well hidden, into plastic cups. We sipped it before the play started.

Throughout the play, I found myself staring at Edward. He turned and caught me looking a few times. He didn't say a word, just stared back.

The sun set during Act 4, Scene 3, and the last words from Katherine's lips before the sun reined in the last of its light were:

The more my wrong, the more his spite appears:
What, did he marry me to famish me?
Beggars, that come unto my father's door,
Upon entreaty have a present aims;
If not, elsewhere they meet with charity:
But I, who never knew how to entreat,
Nor never needed that I should entreat,
Am starved for meat, giddy for lack of sleep,
With oath kept waking and with brawling fed:
And that which spites me more than all these wants,
He does it under name of perfect love;
As who should say, if I should sleep or eat,
'Twere deadly sickness or else present death.
I prithee go and get me some repast;
I care not what, so it be wholesome food.

I know this because, even though the lines and actions were filled with hilarity, I thought that Katherine's acknowledgement of her mistreatment was beautifully timed as the day went from sienna to violet, so I wrote down her lines to preserve the moment. By the time I'd ended with the period, night had been pulled down like a stage backdrop. As I slid my journal back into my bag, my eyes met Edward's. He raised his hand to his hair, his fingers raking through it. When I found myself wishing that was my hand in his hair, I looked away, back at the stage.


His hands in his hair. That was how he'd stood, under the August sky, the first time I saw him.

As Alice and I pulled up to their house, there was just a sliver of sun bending its way through all the trees. Edward smiled when he saw us, brought his hand down and waved. Alice had given me a lift since James was meeting us at the Masens' house that morning. I had bid my father goodbye twice already—once the night before because he was getting up at the crack of dawn to go to work, and a second time at the crack of dawn because I was already awake in a concoction of nerves, sadness, and excitement all at the same time.

"Pop the trunk," Edward called to Alice, and he was pulling my bags out before I even had my car door open, before we had even officially met.

"I'm Bella." I tried not to sound as nervous as I felt. He was so good looking, it was hard to look directly at him without blushing or stuttering.

"Edward Masen," he said, taking my hand, smiling eyes penetrating mine. As soon as he smiled, shook my hand, and spoke, my nerves disappeared, blew away on the wind into the trees. There was such a warmth to him—his voice, his smile, his touch—I felt instantly at ease.

"Nice to finally meet you, Bella. Alice never shuts up about you."

"Funny," I said, "she rarely mentions anything about you."

Alice interrupted our laugh. "I can't believe you two haven't met. Seriously? My two favorite people. How is that possible?"

Edward and I just shrugged. "We're meeting now," I said.

"Sure, now that you're leaving." She wrapped her arms around me, squeezing my breath away. "What am I going to do without you? Don't go, Bella. Come to San Francisco with me. Don't go all the way to the other coast. You're going to get all rude. You know they're rude there."

I told her it was a little late for that and that I promised not to turn rude. She sighed and let go of me as a big, yellow Escalade growled its way up the hill.

"I didn't know they came in yellow," I said.

"With the right amount of money they come in any color," Edward said, brushing his thumb and first two fingers together in a sign for money.

The big yellow thing barely stopped before hitting us. We all took quick steps back and James exited his car laughing. He didn't have his low ponytail back then. His hair was cut short, close to his head. He actually looked clean-cut, which was misleading. The longer hair certainly suited his personality better.

"Look at that. Sexy does exist in Forks." When he smiled, one of his eyes squinted more than the other. It was a little bit charming and a little bit devious. "Which one of you delicacies is Isabella Swan?"

"Bella," I said and held out my hand. He didn't take it. He stepped forward for a hug.

"Sex in cutoffs. I like it." he said when he released me, slipping a finger under the frayed edge of my shorts and tugging on it. I slapped his hand away, taking a step back, bumping into Edward, nearly tripping and falling on my ass, but Edward caught me.

"Whoa," he said.

"Just kidding," James said. He laughed and turned to Alice. "So, you must be..."

"Alice," she said as Edward moved between them and simultaneously said, "My sister."

"Relax, Masen." He reached around Edward to shake Alice's hand, but instead he brought the back of her fingers to his lips and winked at her. Edward shook his head.

"This is going to be a fun drive," I said, my voice flat.

"Hell yeah, it is." James grinned, completely ignoring my sarcasm.

Edward and James grabbed our bags and tossed them in the back while Alice and I hugged goodbye.

"Edward!" Alice called. "You watch out for Bella. She thinks she's tough, but this is New York we're talking about."

"If it's okay with Bella, I'll watch out for her." He looked at me.

"I don't know anyone there, so yeah, I could use an extra set of eyes."

"We'll both look after her," James said. "Now hop in. Daylight's burning."

I didn't bother reminding him that it was barely 9:00 AM as I started for the car.

James stopped me with a hand out as I began my way into the backseat. He opened the front passenger door for me. "Entrez, mademoiselle."

I tried to argue that Edward would be more comfortable in the front since he was so much taller.

"There's a lot of room back there," James said. "Our girl sits in the front."

I stared at him, surprised at his chivalry. It was so unexpected; I hadn't guessed he was capable of it. I knew then, that wouldn't be the last time he'd surprise me. I turned to Edward, who held an arm out and nodded, agreeing that I should sit in the front. I climbed in, deciding that our road trip might not be so bad after all.


Admission to Shakespeare in the Park had been free, but they sold t-shirts and sweatshirts afterwards. Edward bought me a sweatshirt that was a little too big because they only came in one size. I put it on to show him the size was fine.

"See," I said, holding out my arm, the end of the sleeve dripping off me. "My hands fit all the way inside the sleeves to keep me extra warm." But then I had to take it off because, even with the night nearing 10:00, it was just way too hot in New York in June for a sweatshirt. As I lifted the sweatshirt, it caught the bottom of my tank top, pulling it along. I spotted Edward's glance at my bare stomach, and I tugged the shirt down.

His eyes met mine. "Sorry." He laughed and shook his head, embarrassed.

The sky was dark and vast, no moon, the only lights around us those of the stage. We followed the tree-lined path through the quiet park toward the street. I stopped before the street was in sight and faced Edward.

"Emptiness like this is so rare in this city. Such quiet." A wind blew through the trees then, shaking the leaves, disrupting the silence.

"There's quiet here, Bella. You just have to know where and when to look."

"Yeah," I said, "but quiet in this city is ominous."

"Let's go." Hands in his pockets, he nodded a head toward the path, and I fell into step with him.

In the cab, we reminisced over the play, how the acting had emphasized the humor in it, bringing near-constant laughs from the audience. It seemed only minutes had passed when we pulled up alongside parked cars in front of my apartment. The only time I ever walked out of my apartment and not seen cars parked out front was in the early morning, early enough to still hear the birds.

Edward asked the driver to wait for him again while he walked me to my steps.

"Goodnight, Bella," he said.

"Goodnight." But I didn't move to go inside and he didn't move to get in the taxi. "Goodnight," I said again.

"Goodnight." He laughed and took my hand. "Tomorrow. I'm sure we can think of something to do tomorrow." Light from the lamppost slanted down his face, only brightening half of it, the other side hidden in shadow.

"Okay. I have to work, though. I don't get off until ten."

"I'll come visit you at work. I'll bring you dinner." He still made no attempt to leave or drop my hand.

"Um, your cab's waiting."

He nodded. "I know, but… doesn't tonight feel… unfinished?"

I smiled and felt my cheeks heat up. "Edward, do you want to kiss me?"

He sighed. "That depends. If I do, will you stop me again?"

"No, I promise I won't."

He took a step closer to me, a hand moving to my waist. "You kiss me," he said.

I looked into his eyes, brought my arms up around his neck, stood on tiptoe and gave him a light kiss on his lips.

"See?" I said.

He nodded, eyes closed. "Again."

I kissed him lightly again, and this time, he fisted my shirt, pulling me closer. Our lips moved together slowly at first, then picked up speed and strength, and when I felt his tongue, I was relieved he was holding me because I don't think I could have stood up. I would have sank to jello on the ground. I held tighter around his neck, my fingers in his hair. I arched my back and he leaned toward me, his arms wrapped around me, one hand at my neck under my hair.

"Wow," I said, accidentally.

"Yeah," he said, still kissing me.

"Did you feel it too?" I whispered when our lips parted, our faces centimeters away from each other.

"Fuck, yeah, I did." His eyes were still closed. "I've been waiting all day to feel that. I want to feel some more." He kissed my lips, my tongue, my chin, along my throat to the back of my neck, behind my ear, my jaw, and I could barely breathe or I was breathing too hard. Either way, there wasn't enough air for what he was doing to me right on the street as the taxi driver waited. And then he was back on my lips. Edward moved his hand from my waist, fingers feeling their way under my shirt, tickling my ribs, stopping at my bra and then fingertips just under the edge of my bra. I pulled back. I don't know how I did it, but I did. It took all my strength, and some I didn't know I had, to step away from him.

"That's all you're feeling tonight," I said, still out of breath, and we both laughed. I loved his laugh. The way he smiled with his whole face. His eyes, his eyebrows, even his chin seemed to smile. As nervous as I'd been around him lately, this was so easy. And as I thought about it just then, things had been easy between us since the moment we introduced ourselves. He could always make me laugh without even trying. We had the same sense of humor, the same views of the world, and as it turned out, possibly the same views of each other.

"On the street..." He shook his head at himself. "Sorry, Bella. I wasn't thinking. I couldn't think." He smiled again, covering his eyes.

"It's okay. My thoughts were not exactly coherent either." I pulled his hand from his face and held on to it, trying to ground myself because my mind was still somewhere in a haze of Edward, somewhere in our kiss.

"Edward, really, thank you for the last two days. This has been the most fun I've had in a long time."

"Me too," he said, my hand still in his.

I turned to descend my steps.

"Wait," he said, keeping hold of my pinky. "Um… one more kiss? I promise I'll be good. No hands." He held them up to prove he meant it. I stood on tiptoe, held his T-shirt at his stomach and reached up to give him the kiss he asked for. It was impossible to say no. I wanted it, too. He kept his no hands promise. I thought he could've at least held my waist, my shoulders, my face, but he didn't.

"Good night," he whispered in my ear, then kissed it.

He headed for the cab but turned around when he reached the car door. I was still standing there in a daze, staring at him. "You're addicting. I can't leave," he said.

I walked over to him, kissed him again, and opened his door for him. "Get in," I said.

He got in and I bent down to kiss him one more time. I nearly fell into the cab with him or maybe he was pulling a little. We both laughed while we kissed. I shut his car door, hit the top of the cab like they do in movies, and headed for my apartment. I heard the cab drive away but didn't turn to watch it go. I couldn't.


Edward went to Little Italy for a big linguini pasta salad and brought it to the market for us to share. He said that it was better to have something cool on a night as hot as this. We faced each other sitting on crates in the back storage room as we ate, Edward holding the salad on his lap.

This was our third night together without James, and if this continued, which I was hopeful it would, I'd have to tell James. I had no idea how I'd go about that or how he'd take it.

The night in the library when I turned James down wasn't the last time he asked. It happened again the Saturday he showed up at my apartment last spring, nearly ten months ago. He took my hand, pulling me along with him, requesting, or demanding, that I help him find a new shirt for his date. We walked a few blocks to a men's clothing store, the clothing designed and sewn in New York. He searched through the racks, picking up shirts, giving them a once over, then returning them.

"If you were going out with me, what would you want me to wear?"

"It doesn't matter. You know I don't care what you wear."

He placed the hanger back on the rack without taking his eyes off me. "Are there more like you?" he asked. "Because I've met a lot, a lot, of women, but none come close to comparing to you, Bella."

"I don't see what's so different about me. I'm just me." I shrugged.

"And that's exactly it," James said. "You have this way about you, this acceptance of people. It's hard to explain, but your acceptance or even your support and honest fascination with other people's interests, other people's quirks, it… it feels good just to be around you. Edward and I have talked about it. Being around you, there's nothing else like it."

"James," I said. "I don't even know what to say to that. Thank you."

"It's true, Little B." He brought his hand to the clothing rack and leaned against it. "You know what?"

"What?" I smiled.

He reached out and touched my chin. "If you said you'd go out with me, I'd drop my plans. With anyone, anytime, I'd drop them for a chance with you. If you'd just give me a chance, Bella. Be my date tonight. An official date, not a hang out."

I looked down at the floor, down at my tattered sneakers, and then at James's nice shoes, the bottom of his black pants, already partially dressed for his date. What would it mean if I went out with him? The only thing I saw in him was a friend. Even the thought of kissing him didn't appeal to me. If I agreed to a date only because I didn't want to turn him down again, only because I didn't want to hurt him, wouldn't that give him false hope? Wouldn't that hurt him more in the end? I looked up at him, met his questioning, almost pleading eyes.

A woman came between us, smooth dark arms reaching for a shirt. James took my hand and led me around to the other side of the rack.

"I think you're afraid. Because we're friends. Don't be. Come out with me."

"I-I can't go out with you, James. You're right, it is because of our friendship. I want you as my friend. Always."

Relief swept through me when he smiled. "I'll always be your friend, Little B, you know that." He sighed and looked down at my waist, his hand coming to my hip. "But I'm not, I'm not going to give up on you." His hand lifted up, pushing at my shirt until his fingers met my skin. "One of these days, you'll see it. You'll see what we have."

I moved his hand away. "James."

He laughed. "Okay, pick a color, any color."

Now, sitting across from Edward, shoveling lettuce, tomatoes and pasta into my mouth, I wondered how on earth I would explain to James that though I wasn't willing to give him a chance, I'd given Edward that chance. Would James understand or would I lose him as a friend? Was losing James as a friend something I was willing to do to be with Edward? I couldn't find an answer to any of my questions.

"What's wrong?" Edward asked, pausing, fork in his hand, midway to his mouth.

"Nothing. I was just thinking about what's happening between us."

He let his fork fall to the carton, then removed the salad from his lap, placing it on the floor. He took one of my hands in both of his. That simple gesture felt so good. I felt it in my stomach, like quick butterflies flickering through my body and then gone.

"I like what's happening with us," he said. "I don't want it to stop. But are you okay with it? Because if you want to slow down or-or stop, just say the word."

I looked at him, frozen for a second. Would it be that easy for him to stop?

"What?" he said, "You want to stop?" He shut his eyes and his mouth seemed to tighten.

"I don't want to stop or slow down." I shook my head. "That's not it."

His eyes opened and mine were waiting. Minutes of silence must have passed between us.

"Bella, I'm going to level with you here. Whenever we've hung out in the past, after you were gone, you've sort of lingered in my mind, like I could still feel you near me, but nothing like last night. I thought about you all night. And this morning. And all day. I even called our assistant Bella. Her name's Sandy. I just think you should know where I am."

"I thought about you, too."

"Yeah?" He smiled.

"All night and day."

"This," he said, pointing at me and then himself. "It feels real, doesn't it?"

I nodded.

He smiled and nodded, too. "Good." He leaned over to kiss me.

After we ate, Edward waited around at the market for me for three hours. He kept the boredom away, kept me laughing. He took out his sketchpad and when I had a customer, he would sketch something about the interaction. Once it was my hand holding change over someone else's hand. Another time it was just the top of someone's head and her nose as she looked down, searching her big purse for her wallet. The customers would notice him lurking, glancing up at them and then back at his sketchpad, working the pencil. It seemed to make them nervous, make them shift and fidget.

When my shift ended, we walked the short distance from the corner market to my building across the street. Nearing my apartment, we passed a group of girls, all mismatched in height, but matching in black mini skirts and heels.

I turned toward Edward before heading down my steps, expecting a kiss this time, wanting one and not feeling uneasy about it at all. He put a hand on my back, pulling me close, kissing my lips. It was another goodnight kiss that should never end. Against my lips, he whispered, "What is wrong with us? We could have been doing this the whole time."

"The last four years," I whispered back.

He groaned at that thought.

"Edward, do you have to go? Do you want to come in?"

"Is that okay?"

I laughed. "Well, I think it is since I just invited you. It's just that…"

"What?" He swept his thumb over my cheekbone.

"I don't want to sleep with you. Have sex, you know? Not yet. If this is real between us, we can wait right? Take our time? Be sure."

He turned his head, looking down the street. I kept my eyes on him, and when he turned to me again, he said, "I can respect that, Bella. I promise."

In my apartment, we made out against the wall, Edward's hands in my hair. And then on the sofa, lying and facing each other, he drifted his hand up my shirt toward my breast, and I wanted it there. I tilted my head back and his lips fell to my throat. He moved his hand under my bra, the strap digging into my back because of the stretch, but I didn't care. I let him touch me until I felt such a want for him that I longed to be touched by him everywhere. I had to push his hand away to ground myself, gain my senses back. His hand fell down my side, my waist, over my hip to my thigh and he pulled my thigh over him. I felt his want for me through his jeans.

"God," I said.

"Too far?" he breathed, lips at my neck.

I shook my head and then I nodded.

"Which is it?" His breathing was heavy, his mouth lowering toward my chest.

"I'm not… I'm not going to want to stop. I don't want to stop," I said.

Edward pulled back some, but didn't let me go. "I'll stop," he said. "I don't want to either, but I will."

He sat up straight on the sofa and pulled me in close and just held me. His heart was racing.

He stayed until after two, when we both began to fall asleep against each other.

"You can sleep here," I said.

"I can't sleep in the same bed with you. It'll be too tempting to touch you. It'll drive me out of my head."

"You could sleep on the sofa."

"Bella." He brought a hand to my face. "I don't think you get it. I want to be near you all the time. If we're in the same apartment, but different rooms? I'd never be able to handle that."

I nodded, understanding what he meant, feeling it, too.

"I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" He kissed my temple and then my lips before he left.

We spent time together every day. Whenever we weren't working, we were together.

Each night, I wouldn't let him get any farther than second base because apparently I enjoyed not only torturing Edward, but also myself. And when my self-restraint failed, Edward's had to be strong enough for the both of us. And that, that made me want him even more.

I just thought that what we had was special and something we should take our time with. And by take our time, I mean I held out all the way until the following Saturday night before I gave myself to him completely.