THE SILVER LINING
A/N: No, I haven't died. There have been rumors, but they're false. I've been working two jobs and haven't had a weekend free in months, hence I've chosen sleep over writing. I have not, nor will not, abandon this story. There is one chapter and an epilogue remaining. We're almost there! Thank you so much for sticking with me all this time.
Things I own: A healthy case of guilt over the amount of time it's taken me to tell this story.
Things I don't: Anything Twilight. That's all Stephenie Meyer's.
I've been obsessed about the skydiving ever since Bella brought it up, and not in a good way.
The night she informed me about our lunatic venture, I had trouble falling asleep, even though her beautiful body was curved into mine.
I keep having nightmares about jumping out of the plane alone, with no parachute. The dream panic is very real and absolutely terrifying. I have no doubt this will be exactly how I feel in reality.
I can't possibly do this. It's insane. I'm old, I'm anxious and I'm petrified. Bella is going to see me pee in my pants and she'll give up on me. I might even vomit or lose control of my bowels. These aren't reactions that I really want her to witness.
The very worst aspect of this whole affair is that Bella has been practically glowing she's so excited about the skydive. She's been x-ing the days off the calendar like a kid waiting for Christmas to arrive. Every time I see her place an x over the day, I shudder.
What the hell am I going to do? How can I ever explain to her that there are some things you simply can't undertake at my age? No matter what I say, she refuses to believe that I can't do this. She seems to have this notion that I can do anything I put my mind to, but she's going to learn that I can't. What happens then?
When we're one x away from D-Day, I simply have to speak up. I can't let this go without a fight. There's absolutely no way I'm ever going to be able to go through with this. Even worse, I'm torn over going as Bella's chaperone, because it would probably make me just as crazy to see her skydiving than it would to participate alongside her.
I decide to discuss it over breakfast. Somehow, I feel stronger and more capable with a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats in front of me. Since I'm nervous, I decide to stick to regular flavor. Cinnamon is just too spicy for what I have to say. I'm not a crazy man, after all; I don't need to jazz my stomach up any more than it already is.
"So, Bella—" I begin.
I look up from my bowl to see she happens to be eating a banana. Her lips are resting on the banana's surface, but she hasn't yet taken a bite. Naturally, I imagine that the object in her mouth is really my cock, and I stare at her, having a little sexual fantasy moment.
She takes a bite of the banana, and the fantasy ends. That is, it's over for about half a second until she swallows and I watch her throat moving.
"Silverfox?" she says, confused.
"You were going to say something to me?"
I keep staring at her throat then look at the banana again. She has her fist wrapped around it, and wouldn't you know it, I'm back to imagining it's her hand on my cock. What the hell has gotten into me?
I feel her hand on my forehead, and she uses her other hand to lift my chin up so she can look me in the eyes.
"You don't feel like you have a fever, but something is wrong. What is it? Do you feel nauseated?"
The word nausea gets me back on track. Yes, that was it. Sick to my stomach over skydiving. I shake my head to clear the image of Bella and the banana, so I can focus on what I need to say.
"So. Skydiving. Tomorrow."
Her entire face brightens when she hears the word skydiving.
"I know! I can hardly wait. I imagine I won't get any sleep tonight, I'll be so excited."
"Well, that's the thing I need to talk to you about."
"What about it? We've had this decided for weeks now, Silverfox."
"That word 'we'? That's the problem. I never agreed to do this, and I'm also uncomfortable with you doing it."
I can see her entire body language shift from excited to defensive. She even crosses her arms in front of her body. Of course, when she does that, she perfectly frames her tits for me, so I stare at them a beat too long. Without saying a word, she lifts up my chin and with her fingers in a vee, she points from my eyes to hers.
Oh, right. Ogling her tits. What is it that our kids say again? My bad. That's it. My bad.
"Sorry," I say, giving her a sheepish grin with my brief apology, and she gives me a smirk.
Trying to keep my statements objective, I decide to use science as the framework for my argument. I talk about the risk, the insurance. The risk. And then the risk.
Bella appears to be holding back a laugh, but I can't imagine what she finds funny about this objective data. She asks me outright: "When was the last time you read about a skydiver dying, Edward?"
"Don't say it like that, you're going to jinx it!"
She snorts. "Okay, Mr. Science. I'll remember that jinxing is part of the scientific method."
"I'm serious. We never said things like slow or die at work because it always jinxes you."
She shakes her head at me. "Honestly, that's just beyond silly. I can't even believe my Silverfox is talking about jinxes," she scoffs. "And don't think for a second that you've deterred me from getting my question answered. But that's okay, because I can answer it for you: you can't remember the last time someone died skydiving, because crashes are so rare. So just suck it up and prepare yourself. Everything is going to be just fine."
I pout my lip and grumble, but it doesn't change a damn thing.
"You know if we die, our insurance won't cover it."
"Silverfox, honey, in that case we'll be dead, and it won't matter anymore."
"Jesus, Bella, there you go again! You can't say stuff like that. It makes me so nervous."
"Well, that's actually a good thing, because it means I've made you focus on something else besides being nervous about skydiving," she grins at me.
I scoot my chair away from the table so I can pull her closer to me. I make her set down the banana and pull her into me, holding her as tightly as I can. She makes a little "oomph" noise when I squeeze her, so I try to back off just a bit. I want to hold her like this forever, to keep her safe and by my side always.
"I love you. You're everything to me. I'm already disappointed that I didn't find you until I was 65. I don't want to waste a second of the time I have with you. To think of something happening to you, it just makes me crazy. Please don't do this. I'm begging you. Please."
She pulls away from me, and my arms involuntarily tighten around her for a split second. I feel as though if I let her go, she might never come back. She moves her arms to my chest, pushing lightly for me to release her. I close my eyes and let her go.
I feel Bella's hands on my cheeks and open my eyes in response. She smiles and kisses me on the lips.
"Oh, my beautiful, gentle Silverfox," she coos to me. "Helen Keller once said, 'Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.' We're meant to live life, not hide away in hopes that nothing bad ever happens. Look at your Jessica—she got cancer, and there was nothing you could have done to stop that from happening or to keep her safe from it. I know that my adventuresome self both intrigues and scares the crap out of you, but that's what life is all about. Hiding away, staying safe, it doesn't guarantee anything. So we need to embrace every single moment we have left together, because we have no control over what's going to happen, when it's going to happen, or how it's going to happen. Does that make sense?"
I'm quiet for a few minutes, just sitting here, thinking about her words, feeling her hands on my cheeks. While I think further, I remove her hands so that I can hold them in mine. Closing my eyes, I move my face close to hers, just rubbing it over her cheeks, her forehead, her chin. Relishing how incredible her skin feels next to mine.
"I love you," I whisper into her ear. "I never want to be without you, so I'll be damned if I let you jump out of a plane without me there with you."
I can feel the energy in her body change, tension turning into relaxation. I can feel her smile on my cheek, I don't even need to see it to know that it's there.
"Thank you so much. I love you and there's no one else I'd rather have by my side, especially when I'm jumping out of a plane."
It isn't until she says the words, "by my side" that I realize I just willingly agreed to go skydiving. I make note that whatever tension Bella felt during our conversation didn't go very far; it just settled into my body instead of hers.
What have I done?
Before I even open my eyes, I'm aware of Bella's warm, soft body snuggled up into mine. A smile blooms on my face and I pull her closer, kissing the top of her head. I love our lazy mornings and waking up with her in my arms. I was never much of a cuddler before, but Bella has changed just about everything in my life as I once knew it. I lie there, simply enjoying the feel of her, when she starts to kick and wiggle. Surprised, I finally open my eyes to see what's going on, and find her with the biggest smile on her face. That's when I remember.
I agreed to jump out of a plane today.
She sees me awake and pushes me onto my back, easily straddling my hips. She bends over to give me a huge kiss. I get distracted for a moment about how incredible it feels to be able to kiss Bella first thing in the morning. Jess would never have allowed morning breath to come into the equation. She also insisted on going to the bathroom, brushing her teeth, putting on deodorant before I could touch her in the morning. It's no wonder that morning sex and I never had a good relationship. All that prep work takes the fun out of it. While I might not embrace spontaneity often, one should be able to have sex when the mood arises. Jess was a morning sex killjoy.
When Bella grinds herself over my morning wood, my lucid thoughts flee my brain and all I can do is focus on how good she feels on my cock. I groan in reply, placing my hands on her hips to help her grind harder. With a smirk, she leans over to her bedside table and grabs the lube. I love watching her do this—her hands on my cock, preparing me. When she touches herself to get lubed up, I have a brain cramp. I'll never be used to watching her do that. Her pussy is so beautiful and she handles herself like the knowing master she is. Again I marvel at just how different she is from any other woman I know. Until her last dying breath, Jessica never uttered a word about masturbation. In fact, I'm convinced she never touched herself at all.
Bella starts to slide herself over my hard cock, never allowing me to enter. I maintain my hold on her hips, moving along with her. When she finally crooks her hips just enough for me to slide inside of her warmth, I groan. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to how incredible it feels to be here like this with her. She works me slowly, taking her time, investigating my body with her fingertips and lips while she rides me. All I can do is watch her move and enjoy her attentions.
While sex used to be fevered and harried when I was younger, it's bloomed into something sweet and drawn out. Neither one of us is in a hurry to climax and the point is moot, because that's not how our bodies work anymore. Remarkably, it's not my orgasm that I'm chasing after anyhow. To have this time to relax and simply enjoy the sensation of my body in hers is nothing short of a gift. When you've been given something so extraordinary, to do anything less than cherish it is inherently wrong.
When Bella gets close, she always shuts her eyes as if to savor the moment, make it more concentrated. This time, she happens to have her hands on my chest and unknowingly starts to pinch my nipples as her orgasm begins. I move to take her hands away because the feeling is so intense, but right as I'm about to do that, she twists them and stops moving. It's that twist along with the surprise that does me in; I gasp aloud.
Her eyes pop open with my words.
"Oh—are you okay?"
I can't answer her because I'm lost in the sensation that's washing over me. My hands are glued to her hips, pulling her as closely as I can.
Once my spasms are over, she leans forward onto my chest, hooking her arms under my neck so that I'm wrapped in a hug.
"Oh, Silverfox. No need to thank me. That was very selfishly motivated, I assure you."
"I'm grateful for every second I get to spend inside of you, so yes, I do need to thank you."
"Well, if we keep thanking each other, this could go on all day."
I turn my head to whisper into her ear. "That would be fine by me."
With those words, she sits up, suddenly alert.
"You! You're as bad as the sneaky little fuckers at the Laundromat!"
I grin at her. "Damn, you found me out. That almost worked."
She rolls her eyes and pokes me in the chest with her finger to emphasize each word. "We. Are. Going. Skydiving. Mister."
"I mean it. Haul that gorgeous ass out of bed and into your clothes."
I'm resolved to do this with her, but that doesn't mean I'm excited about it. In fact, I feel like Indiana Jones looking into that den of snakes and knowing that he has to get through them if he's going to survive.
"Um, Bella? What does one wear when skydiving?"
"Oh, they give you a jumpsuit. We've gotten that part taken care of. Don't worry."
"Don't worry. Right. As if that's going to ever happen," I smile.
Bella walks over to me and takes my face in her hands. "It's going to be all right. You'll see."
"Yes, it is. Especially after I land on the ground and vow to never skydive again."
She just shakes her head and giggles at me.
Skydiving Port Angeles isn't far from Bella's house, so it only takes us all of ten minutes to get there. When we arrive, they make us sit down to review a videotape about the dangers of skydiving and what we can expect. They describe the freefall, which lasts 50-60 seconds, mentioning that we can fall at speeds up to 120 mph. They assure us that it's not like a stomach-churning thrill ride, but more like floating in the water.
I don't buy that for a second.
I have to keep wiping my palms on my jeans and I notice that it feels like I have sawdust in my mouth it's so dry. I look over at Bella, and she looks like she's experiencing the rapture. Her eyes are wide and she's smiling broadly. Fucking hell, I'm such a pussy. I'd be embarrassed if I wasn't so petrified. The last line of the videotape mentions things like "exhilarating" and "peace and tranquility," and I snort. I'm certain there will be nothing peaceful about it for me.
Once we're done with the video, we have to sign our lives away on the liability waiver. I'm grateful to have years of experience requiring the steady hand of a surgeon, because it allows me to sign away my life without betraying my nervousness. I'm really struggling with being so afraid while little Bella is giddy with excitement. While I'm not a proponent of machismo, it's still humbling to know that she's so much braver than I am.
The owner of the shop swaggers over to us, cocky as hell. He's clearly an adrenaline junkie and, for some reason, he has honed in on my Bella.
"You look awfully young to be doing your first dive, miss," he winks at her. "I'm going to need to see some I.D., or get your father's permission at the very least."
Hang on a minute—her father?
I can hardly blame him for flirting with her, of course; Bella's excitement and enthusiasm are irresistible. Still, I'm royally perturbed by his attitude. If I weren't so afraid, I'd be in his face about flirting with her.
"Buzz Zydesky, at your service," he says, bowing in front of her.
Buzz? BUZZ? Dear god in heaven, I want to hate this man already.
"I'm Bella, and this is my Edward, not my father," she answers, giggling. He merely gives me a half nod in my direction to indicate he's aware of my presence.
Asshole, I think to myself.
"This is really your first jump, Bella?"
She nods. "Yes, and I'm so excited. I've been counting down the days for a few weeks now."
"Well, I'll be sure you have a great ride," he waggles his eyebrows at her, emphasizing the word ride.
Oh, come on. Is this guy for real?
"In fact, I'm so determined that you have a great experience, you're going to be tandem with me on this one," he tells her.
By this point I'm so annoyed that I'm trying to think of ways to sabotage the jump before we can get off the ground. I don't really want Bella anywhere near this slimeball.
Buzz starts going through all his credentials, the number of jumps he's done, how awesome he is. As much as I already hate him, I have to admit that Bella will be safe with him as his tandem partner. Well, at least for the jump portion of the experience.
Almost as an afterthought, he looks over at me, then toward the rest of his dive instructors who are sitting around drinking coffee.
"Edwin, you can dive with Roadkill."
"It's Edward," I correct him.
"Uh-huh," he says absently, his attention having shifted back to Bella.
Wait a second. Roadkill? I'm going to hurl myself out of a plane at 11,000 feet and travel at 120 miles per hour with someone whose name is Roadkill? I honestly didn't think this could get any worse, but apparently I'm in hell, and it can only keep going down from here.
The youngster who appears in front of me is covered in tattoos and has something in his ear lobe that is so big I could drive a truck through it. I'm staring at it, realizing that it looks just like something out of a National Geographic magazine. I can hardly focus on anything else, his ear is so distracting.
Roadkill gives me a half nod—which seems to be the preferred greeting method here—and then pulls his fist back in such a way that I'm sure he's winding up to hit me. I take a step away from him and flinch slightly in response.
"Whoa, dude, slow down!"
He grabs my hand and bumps his fist on it. "I was just giving you a bump. Chill, man. It's cool."
Oh, jesus, I'm going to jump out of a plane with someone whose IQ is negligible, possibly even single digits. I glance over at Bella, who is giggling and being charmed by Buzz.
It's now confirmed. I am in hell. I glower at Buzz and ignore Roadkill.
Buzz throws a jumpsuit at me and starts to help Bella get into hers. I walk over to him and simply say, "Allow me."
Bella picks up on my displeasure right away and naturally starts to tease me about it.
"Silverfox, do you even know how the jumpsuit works?"
"Bella, it's a jumpsuit, not a Halloween costume. Step inside and I'll zip it shut for you."
As I help her get her feet into the legs, I glance over at Buzz who is now glaring at me. I just smirk, knowing that at least I'm the one who gets to help her into and out of her clothing. Once I finish zipping it up for her, I give her a big kiss, mainly because I want Buzz to know that I'm the one who goes home with Bella at the end of the day, not him.
She looks at me and shakes her head, mumbling something about alpha males and peeing to mark their territory.
Damn straight, Bella Swan. I have no problem at all showing the other males here that you're all mine.
Bella nudges me with her elbow. "Settle down," she chides.
I give her a look then intone quietly, "Maybe you should say that to Buzz."
She crosses her arms in front of her body and gives me a look. I just shrug my shoulders.
Buzz gives Bella and me the lowdown on what we're going to do on the jump, including how we're to be attached to our tandem partner's body. That does little to calm me down—I'm certainly not happy to know that he's going to be all over her. When I learn that Roadkill is the one responsible for packing our chute and getting us geared up, my panic renews in earnest. I'm going to trust that a tattooed man whose name is Roadkill has the mental capacity to handle a process that requires more than two steps?
Bella leans over and whispers in my ear, "Edward, he's going to be fine. He has a vested interest in making sure he did everything properly to make it back to ground safely."
I'm not so sure about that.
On the other hand, I've been so preoccupied trying to keep an eye on Bella and Buzz that I've almost completely forgotten about my fear. That all changes the second we have to step into the plane.
Bella is so excited she practically leaps onboard. I'm just trying to stop shaking long enough to be able to lift my foot into the plane.
Once inside, Roadkill motions to me that I need to come sit in front of him. We're sitting on the floor of the plane; the only seat inside is the one for the pilot. Once I sit down, Roadkill scoots me close to him and starts to hook us together. He hands me the end of a belt and instructs me to clamp it, but my hands are shaking so badly I can't get it together. Everything about this moment has me terrified and concerned.
My fear is momentarily forgotten once I focus my attention on Bella. I've never seen her look more buoyant or happy. She has a grin plastered on her face and it makes me wonder what she looked like as a child. I can imagine how adorable she must have been. Usually, her joy is infectious, but today, it can't wipe out my concern for her. Or myself.
Seeing that I undoubtedly look like I'm going to be sick, she reaches over and touches my cheek to reassure me.
"It's going to be fun, Silverfox. You'll see."
I wish I could share her blind faith. After all, I'm about to jump out of an airplane and plummet to earth strapped together with a young man whose name is Roadkill.
Buzz decided that he and Bella will jump first. The airplane has a plexiglass door that opens like a garage door to make it easier to exit from the plane. When we get up to 11,000 feet, he allows Bella to open the door by herself. She squeals and claps her hand in excitement. It's beyond charming, but I'm also about to wet myself I'm so nervous.
Before I even have time to think, Bella and Buzz lean out the hole and they're gone. The roar of the air moving past the plane is deafening. Rather than shout out commands, Roadkill taps me on the shoulder and points toward the door.
Oh, hell no. He thinks that I'm going to be the one to jump? Is he fucking nuts? Wait a minute, I don't really want to know that answer just yet. I'm sitting on the floor, shaking my head in refusal when Roadkill gives me the thumbs up and starts to lean out the plane.
Sweet jesus, Roadkill is fucking crazy.
I squeeze my eyes shut and scream as high as a 3 year-old girl. I'm ready to feel my stomach drop, to be dizzy, to feel completely out of control. Roadkill taps my shoulder and I open my eyes in response. He's trying to motion for me to position myself properly, arms spread out and my legs between his. Once I'm able to do that, I take a moment to feel the G-force. My face is wrinkled into a perma-smile. My mouth, already dry from my nervousness, feels like it's made of cotton. My eyes are watering even though I have on protective goggles. I thought I'd feel the same kind of vertigo that you get when you look over a cliff, but there's actually none of that. What I feel is exhilarated. It's an incredible feeling to be weightless. I'm completely surprised that I don't feel even remotely out of control.
Before I know it, Roadkill pulls the chute release and we're yanked back up into the sky. The change of transitioning from freefall to floating is intense, but amazing. We float slowly over the Olympic peninsula, taking in the sights. It's magnificent. I can't wipe the smile off of my face. I hate to admit this to myself, but I'm actually having a blast.
Before I know it, Roadkill is instructing me to lift my feet up into a sitting position so he can handle our landing. It's such a smooth process that he lands and takes a few running steps as we slow and then roll. I look back up at the sky, marveling that I just fell to earth. I fucking did it. Before Roadkill can get me unhooked, Bella leaps onto us, giggling and squealing.
"Oh my god, Silverfox, we did it! We did it!" she keeps chanting over and over, in between fits of giggles.
All I can do is beam a smile at her. God, she's an amazing woman.
"Um, dudes? Could you like, just not do that for a sec?" Roadkills breaks us apart.
"Oh, yeah, I'm sorry," Bella apologizes as Roadkill gets us unfastened from each other.
Once I'm finally free, Bella straddles me, giving me a deep kiss. My hands find themselves on her hips, and it reminds me of where we were just this morning. Not wanting to give Buzz and Roadkill the sight of their lives, I pull back from the kiss. Bella looks at me, confused, and I gently motion toward our company and she just grins and shrugs her shoulders. I get to my feet and hold out my hand to help her up. Hand in hand, we stroll back to the bunker, too keyed up and happy to actually form words or sentences.
Back at the bunker, we both order copies of the pictures they took of us in freefall. I'm grateful that Roadkill waited to take a picture so that my eyes were open and I didn't look petrified. As for Bella, her smile is one of the best sights I've ever seen. She is the very picture of contentment.
We ask Buzz to take a picture of us standing on the ground in our jumpsuits, and I lean in to kiss Bella as he clicks the camera. Okay, so that might have been my way of reinforcing to him that Bella is my girl, but I'm certainly not going to apologize for that.
Arm in arm, we make our way back to the car happy and completely satisfied. Another item off of our bucket list. Feels so damn good.
"Now we need to look forward to crossing Tahiti off of the list, too," I remind her.
"I know. Edward, I'm very proud of what you accomplished today."
"I'm proud of myself, too. I honestly didn't think I could do it, and I certainly didn't expect to enjoy myself. You keep proving me wrong about nearly everything."
"Oooh, a man who admits he's wrong? Music to my ears. Say it again, Silverfox," she nudges.
I poke her back as she gets into my car. "Let's get home. I have a bunch of adrenaline I need to burn off."
"Don't have to ask me twice," she says, hopping into the car as quickly as she can.
"That's my girl," I smile and lean over to kiss her.
I've never been the kind of person who waits until the last minute to pack for a vacation, but this time, I feel like I'm rummaging around my bedroom like a madman to finish packing for Tahiti. For most of our stay, we'll be on a cruise ship around all the islands, so there isn't much we'll need, but I'm concerned that I might forget something important. Most of our luggage is ready to go, so I move my suitcase off of the bed. That's when the smell hits me.
I breathe in deeply. Cookies. I make a beeline for the kitchen.
"What are you doing in here?"
"Hmm? Oh, baking cookies."
"Oh god, I haven't had homemade cookies in years. I might have to sample the dough to make sure you've done it right. You look a little bit shifty. Can you be trusted?" I grin. I have no doubt that her cookies are going to be phenomenal.
Bella puts her hands on her hips and attempts to look stern, but it just doesn't work. I know she's far too charitable of a soul to ever look malevolent. She can't pull it off, not even close.
"It just so happens that I'm making cookies for the yoga girls, and most definitely not for you after that crack," she explains, swatting my hands away. "I found some yoga-shaped cookie cutters and couldn't resist trying them out."
"Why would the yoga girls get cookies and not me?" I pout. "They're the ones who tried to steal me away from you, after all. If anyone deserves cookies, therefore, it must be me."
I reach down to scoop up a baked cookie when I notice the positions of the yoga-cookie-people. While they're supposedly doing yoga, but to the untrained eye (like mine), it looks like an erotic orgy is occurring on the cooling rack.
"Um, Bella, the cookies? They're doing all kinds of kinky things over here."
She rolls her eyes at me. "No, Silverfox, they're doing yoga, not having sex."
"I don't know; it looks awfully suspicious to me."
"That's just because you're a horny bastard."
"Says the woman who entices me daily with her pink box of magic toys."
"Nevertheless, the cookies are not for you."
I take one of the cookies that's doing a Downward Dog pose and put a Warrior pose underneath it. I don't care what Bella says—you know that the creators of these cookie cutters had an ulterior motive. They're trying to pass off erotic cookie cutters as yoga. I'm totally on to their subversive tricks.
I press myself against her back and lean in close to whisper into her ear. She shivers in response to my breath against her skin; I love I can do that to her so easily, every time. In fact, I might even do it on purpose, just to get that response.
I drag my finger down her arm, leaving a trail of goosebumps in my wake. "Okay then, how about I Downward Dog your Warrior Pose? Like the next time we're naked? In fact, we could even engage in some naked yoga together, right now. Hmm?"
I can tell she's caught off guard by the sudden shift in mood, because the only thing she says is a breathy, "Oh."
Oh, yes. I shake my fist in the air, victorious.
"Go grab your yoga mat, hussy," I swat at her ass. "I have some poses I'd like to show you."
END NOTE: Bella's yoga cookie cutters are, in fact, real. You can find them at acacialifestyle dot com.