(a Nashville collaboration by AmelieGray and YellowGlue)
Pairing: Edward/Bella AH/AU
Title: Portraits (of Time and Space)
A/N: Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight. We own overactive imaginations. Also, I love Amelie :)
"Love is space and time measured by the heart" - Marcel Proust.
To say I knew her throughout time and space wouldn't be completely true.
To say I wanted her would be more accurate.
Wanted her love, and her smile, her trust, and every precious beat of her heart.
I wanted the back pages, and dog-eared corners, and scribbled margin notes, and all the adjectives and turns of phrases that made up her chapters. Her books. Her anthologies of her lives. The twinkling, tumbling transmigrations of her soul.
I wanted it all, all of her.
I wanted the single, so-small freckle that flecked every one of her left palms, just under her pinkie finger. I wanted it pressed up against my right palm. Her hand in mine.
I wanted her breathing in time and existing in the space next to me - exuberant and exultant, ethereally eternal.
At one time, I adored the torrid air of India; the thick closeness and grime, and sheer humanity that clogged the streets my brigade trudged through on our return to the barracks. It gave me a sense of freedom, something that Elizabeth Masen, with all her affectionate smothering and overdone fears, would have never let me experience if my father had left the decision in her hands. There was no weight upon my neck there, in that place, nothing but eagerness to prove myself, make myself into a true soldier as I wanted.
I thought the General understood my wishes.
Instead, he saddled me with his daughter.
She was not a trouble, at least not in the physical sense. And it couldn't be said that Isabella wasn't beautiful.
Her face was pale despite the burning rays of the sun, and her uneven lips were the distinct shade of ruby-red pomegranate.
If I hadn't been entrusted with her, I might've agreed with some of my less gentlemanly companions, and thought more of her slender white arms and blushing cheeks.
Her naivety frustrated me then. I didn't understand how she could look into the eyes of a withered street-seller and see nothing but good behind the stack of woven lies and rotting fruits. She saw the good in all, all around, where I was taught to suspect everything. And trust no one.
Lifetimes later, she was quiet at the protests she attended.
Protests that were really more like psychedelic dance parties where Haight met Ashbury in the summer of love.
Her shy quiet was what drew me to her then. She was so silent and still while the crowded streets swayed back and forth to Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix in the heart of the San Francisco Renaissance.
She sat in the middle of a blanket in the shade, threading the stems of daisies together into a dainty chain.
Days before, September 14th was the first birthday drawn in the first draft lottery for the war in Vietnam. And it was the first time I'd ever seen my mother cry.
I wasn't about to dodge what I thought were my responsibilities though; my duties. It wasn't even a question in my mind. I underwent the physical and the aptitude test right away, and would receive my orders on where to report in the next ten days or so.
The only thing that even brought me near the melting pot of hippie-poet-activists was sheer curiosity.
She seemed so calm amongst all the bright and burning chaos there, and it drew me in so effortlessly. I didn't even realize I was moving toward her until she looked up.
"You can sit down," she said, chancing a glance up from her busy hands.
She smiled at my stuttering, and that was it. I was hers.
"C'mere," she laughed, all music and midnight blue wonder. I knelt down on her blanket, glancing at the navy threads fraying away from her paisley dress and tickling her knobby kneecaps. She looked down at her twisting fingertips and then back up again and I felt my lips stretch into a curve that matched hers.
She raised an eyebrow playfully. "Are you a lover or a fighter?"
Five minutes before then, the answer would have been so pure and simple.
"I don't know..." I confessed.
Was it really that easy?
Her smile grew wider and she moved up onto her knees, reaching her bare arms around me and tying the chain of flowers loosely around my neck.
"What about now?"
I touched the petals curiously, lifting them from my chest to have a better look at the necklace. The knots were tiny; fragile-looking, and perfect.
It was that easy.
And as she clasped her hand in mine, I fell faster than I ever had before.
Sometime between those two lives, stretched the peckish days of a New England summer. The late days, when the daylight slowly whittled away in favor of crackling leaves and cool ocean breezes.
I looked out over the lake; across the glassy-clear water I'd come to love in my months spent on the coast, and I shuddered inwardly at the thought of how icy it was going to be against my skin, leeching out the warmth and turning my lips blue.
But then she looked at me, all fiery-eyed and chin raised up. She quirked an eyebrow, daring me to back out on her.
I would dive into the sun for her, if she wanted it.
And she knew it.
So, we slipped out there together that night; as Charlie dozed by the fire and Renee tried to remember to knit one, purl two, knit one, purl two, and ocean-born baby Nessie rocked by her foot in her cradle. All silent and content.
When we reached the water's edge, some silent sort of agreement - a connection beyond mind and body, beyond time and space, somewhere deep within our souls - seemed to fasten between us.
The water no longer seemed so daunting.
She shined in the dim light, her cheeks whipped by the cold. I turned my eyes away as she undressed, and for a moment I tried to harness the anxiety I had felt. The fear of the cold and the burn and the hypothermia. Anything to distract me from the fact that Bella; beautiful, irrational, carefree Bella, was discarding her dress onto the sandy soil nearly a foot away from me.
I heard her laughing, her voice high and excited and shivering as she asked me if I planned to swim with my shirt on.
I shucked off my shirt and pants quickly, and then I heard a splash, and she giggled louder at how cold it was. I slid into the water all at once, trying not to look at the curve of her breasts barely visible over the water's edge.
Our feet bumped and she was smiling at me. And even though her lips looked as blue as mine felt and her hair was a tangled black mess, she was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, and I fell again, a little harder.
So many firsts.
So many forevers.
Genesis after palingenesis. We were born, and we wept, and we learned to crawl, to wobble with wide eyes and erudite hearts somehow... Somehow always back together. Bound. Fastened together by something ten times more cogent than time itself.
Greater and more ancient than destiny or prophecy or anything else meant-to-be. We cut our teeth and earned our wings on infinity.
And though quiet kindness was her nature, she stuck out from the pack; the sore thumb in a sea of confident and buoyant girls who added to the war effort with late-night hanky-panky in overcrowded theaters of boys just enrolled into the army. Girls who wrote only a letter, maybe two, before correspondence tapered away altogether.
In a world where all everyone thought of was a conflict hundreds of miles away, Isabella Marie stumbled through with dogged dignity, scribbling equations in the margins of her notebook, nibbling absently on the end of one of two nutmeg-brown braids.
It was easier that time, to fall in love with her. And I was different too. I preferred to spend Saturday nights on the front porch of her parents house, drinking lemonade and drawing diagrams of P-80 Shooting Star cockpits from memory, for her pleasure.
She wanted to be a WASP before the War ended - not for the sake of the war itself, but for the trill of flying. I was her navigator, simply because she trusted no one else with such an important position.
She sat there, in the warm light flowing out of her living room, and her eyes glowed as her sweet voice wrapped me up in visions of cloud banks, the land just a thin stretch of green below us as we went any and everywhere the wind took us.
We married often.
In marble temples at sunrise.
In her father's plantation maison at midday.
In secret, with green rings fashioned from dandelions when we were only 12 and 14 and playing hide and seek from our parents.
In not-so-secret, in front of crowds of hundreds as her father presented his only daughter to me and united our tribes under a burning orange July moon. And instead of rings, we etched our promise to love, honor, and cherish, into our flesh with indigo ink, using a sharpened edge and careful intimacy.
"My Thoughts of Fire," she whispered, her voice shaking as she nervously angled the chisel over the skin, over the bones which kept her heart.
Because my own heart was beating in her chest, inches away from me, behind her twelve ticklish ribs.
"My Little Song," I breathed back. "It doesn't hurt," I assured and reassured her as she marked me with ephemeral scars for our eternal vows.
Sometimes she twirled; pirouetting and pique turning across the stage of the Bolshoi Theater, the prima ballerina of Moscow ballet. And I watched from the front row, regretting every time I had to blink.
Other times she swirled around me, right in front of me, in the quiet late nights/early mornings spent in our too-small flat in Berlin.
The Wall was high and very visible from our one window, but she made music in a city where no music was allowed. She made us both forget about the countries locked in Cold War all around us.
She spun left and right, backwards and forwards, all bare feet and tippy-toes as she waved our sheets like streamers round and round herself, and danced sultry circles, truly sui generis and splendid with joy between bouts of slow lovemaking. She sashayed into a blur of brunette hair and columbine white sheets, wrapping the cotton around me, hypnotizing and memorizing and pulling me back into her warm arms. The only place that was safe from Nasser and Nixon, Krushchev and MacArthur, the Stasi, the KGB and the cold world at large.
Sometimes she frolicked; skipping with bells around her ankles and flowers in her hair, striping the May Pole with garlands and gold ribbons, singing and swaying with the other lovelorn virgins.
They celebrated the Festival of Flora and the new season of fertility in long white skirts, and every so often she'd let her eyes stray from the jubilant circle to find my own.
And she would blush, her desire innocently curious and twice as natural.
Other times she swayed between the endless, black sky and matching black ocean, on bare feet across the deck of my ship. A captive, my captive, my cut of the pillaged treasure and I her captain. My circlespinning nightingale whose ankles were only unchained to dance under bright white fullmoonlight, or to be taken down. To my quarters. Where sometimes, I rechained them. Just to make her heart race.
We were from two different worlds then; old and new. And when she spoke, only to me, only in secret, it wasn't her words that I understood, but the pitch of her whispers. The tenor of her outcries. The feel of her panting against my chest. The catch of air in her throat when I pulled my name from her lips with every thrust of my hips... Because of all that was foreign to us, there were three words that were familiar.
"Edward..." she would plead.
"Mia cantante..." I would praise.
It was time and space that proliferated between us, not the other way around.
She was time, and I space, and we measured love in intrepid, intricately transcendental increments. Made love. Were love.
She is the Loana to my Tumak, the Julia to my Winston, only I would never doublethink her, or give her up to the Perpetual war or to Big Brother no matter how many rats caged my face...
Because the song; the song like the freckle under her pinkie, is always there. Calling and comforting me, confessing her love and confirming my own and consecrating my faith in her. In her and I.
In our infinity.
She's only a matter of a few feet away now, in the bathroom to my left.
I can hear the water still running, can close my eyes and see the drip-droplets of soapy, honey-almond water rolling down each of her ribs and over each hipbone.
Boxes are piled high in this our bedroom, and in every other, all around.
We've been up since before dawn. Loading the U-Haul, driving, unloading our lives from the back of the truck, carrying them up the four steps of our new front porch, and through the blue front door of our new house.
Our home only the second her Dr. Marten's crossed into it.
The rest of the furniture is set to be delivered tomorrow. The California King, she'd insisted with shining eyes we buy before the move and set up ourselves.
We pieced together the frame and the rails and the headboard, and as she showered, I fixed the sheets over the mattress and the pillows into their cases; patiently waiting for the sound of the shower shutting off and for the door to open. For her puckered fingertips and damp, towel dried hair and still warm skin.
My Calliope in cream coloured terry cloth.
I leaned back on the bed, resting on my elbow, waiting with the patience only Time herself could have taught me. For Isabella to finish and finally return to me so that I could love her with all of the brevity of space.
So that I could whisper secrets only we shared, only we possessed and preserved.
So that I could kiss that perfect and perpetual freckle.
So that I could worship her, and seek to know and hold tightly to all of her spirits, her sonnets and ballads, her sacred Vedas and the sparks of all her lives lived and still to come.