**In A Future Age**
I know when he's awake and making coffee because my nose tickles and my feet are cold under the covers. I know when we're out of coffee because the grinder whirrs lonely without beans, and I hear him shuffling in the hall closet for shoes and a jacket, and the front door swings and shuts in 3…2…1.
He hates coffee.
While he's out, I know he'll pick up the paper and a horrible energy drink for himself. He'll leave the front page for me and take the sports page with him into the bathroom. It bothers me that he leaves them there.
Rolling over, I take his pillow and smoosh my smiling face into it and hug it tightly. It's going to be a long day and I hate it. Today we travel.
Our maps are ready. I've researched. I didn't write up an itinerary. That would have made him pissy. He hates schedules, deadlines; he puts things off until the last moment.
I can hear the door open and Edward knock about in another room. He's loud for a quiet guy. This new place has stripped walls, and the creaky floorboards that need to be replaced (along with so much other work we have to do) speak to our whereabouts.
This would be a terrible place for hide and seek, and I smile at that, too.
Some days, when it seems like I'm playing house again – folding laundry, straining pasta, unloading groceries – I wonder why it is so much easier the second time around. The same styled chores have never been quite fulfilling. I can't believe how much I like ironing now; it's stupid. But I like taking his slacks, and dress shirts, snapping them open and ironing them flat, folding the creases, straight and perfect.
I know that I've never been this happy, this certain. I've earned this. I worked hard for it. I moved past a lot of my own insecurities (a constant struggle anyway) to accept this, and Edward, and his way of love.
It was hard in the beginning. I didn't think it was going to be. It was.
We wore a path between his loft and my apartment. Quickly, we shed our stuff in both places, mixing them up - forgetting a hair clip on his nightstand or a pair of running shoes under my bed.
One night, alone, I threw a fit when I saw his shampoo left in my shower. I wouldn't speak to him for days and didn't take his phone calls until he showed up at three in the morning, angry. I stomped through my place, to the back, turned left, into the bathroom and pushed aside the shower curtain.
His face, beautiful and bewildered, took in the dark angular bottle next to my lavender and mossy green shower goods. He dug in his pocket and took my hand. I opened it, and in my palm sat my favorite earrings, glittering up at me. They were left at his place, he had said. His mouth was grim and his eyes questioned me.
I didn't have an answer for him, but I realized right then and there that I was balancing between the newly-independent me and real love.
We talked about it. He was patient with me and forthcoming: "I want no one else. I don't want you to change. I'm not going anywhere."
Now why did I cry when it dawned on me that I could have everything?
True love, earned, of effort: I know the difference now.
There was nothing wrong with Jake. He did nothing wrong but try to make me happy, while I sat idle and unable. Then he gave up. I gave up. I think about it because I have something to set this happiness against. To be content is one thing; to be blaring full-on with sunshine from the inside out is something else entirely.
On those days, I wonder if knowing who you cannot love, opens you up for who you can.
Edward, I've found to be passionate, but steadfast. He's unlike any other, his own brand of man, following no one else's rules. I tell him I love him. He doesn't say it back. He's told me why, and I think he's crazy. But I don't worry; I don't second-guess. He shows, doesn't tell. He's action. He's boutique and specially made for me. Which is good because he thinks I'm made for him, too.
He calls me 'witchy woman' and claims that I've cast a spell on him. He thinks I'm nuts. But I blame him: he likes to walk around in his underwear.
I remember the other night, and I work a palm under me, pressing into my itch. It's delicious, the way he leaves me satiated and wanting all at once. He called me at work and made a joke to keep me from flying off the handle and killing co-workers.
I arrived home – weary – to the dark. He had a bath running, tea lights in mason jars. I followed their flickering shadows from room to room until I spotted him, waiting for me.
We slipped, slid in our clawfoot tub – shaped like a cupped hand. I like being settled between his legs, and no matter how often we do this slippery and sloppy dance, there's a wicked sensation between my legs. I squirmed around to get comfortable, and it was hard and wicked between his legs, too.
Water splashed into the mason jars. Tea candles bobbed up like little ships in the night, and spilled over. We left puddles on the bathroom floor, tracking soapy footprints through our house, and fell on the bed, soaking it wet.
He dried me with his tongue and his hands.
With me on top, his fingers spread me open from cheeks to lips and I felt the night air move through me, and Edward move in me. He likes to go slow and knead with thumbs everywhere. Our whispers were loving and hot. He pressed up and up and in until my skin itched, flushed.
He's more than keen on me. I know this.
It's what gets me up this morning, dreading the long journey, but I'm ecstatic that we're doing this together.
I make the bed. Our bed. Our wrought-iron bed kept from those days colored-in with gray. The bed hogs up a lot of space, but that's okay. What did it ever do to us?
She is still asleep, burrowed under the comforter. She sucks at sharing the covers. I let her sleep; it's going to be a long flight, a long trek. We have miles to go.
Check in, security, coffees, baggage claim, rental car, hotel, road trip, visit with flowers, more road trip, provisions, trailhead, hike, and set up the tent. It will be cold, and I know how she will shiver with that dramatic teeth-chattering of hers.
She'll get over it.
She always does.
I'm better at handling travel stress than she is; we've tested this.
But I'll warm her up. I fit her like a jacket she wants to rub on every part of her skin. Or so she tells me.
When we consolidated our belongings and moved in together, she gave me heartburn. Choose a paint color, let's pick furniture, throw out your this and your that, Edward. I kissed her when we argued about what belonged where, and she shut up. I was amazed that it worked.
I learn something new every day.
Down the street, five blocks, there's a coffee shop. The girl inside knows our order and starts it up with a smile as soon as she sees me. She gives me an extra sugar "swizzle" (her word) that looks like a stem, crystals on a vine. She's beaming at me. I have the sudden urge to look behind me, in case it's meant for someone else.
"To keep it sweet," she says, motioning to my coffees, and I thank her. "She'll love it," I say, because Bella will. The girl looks crestfallen. I want to tell her nothing should make her look that way, but I'm impatient to return to Bella. The coffee shop door chimes behind me.
I head for home.
I know she's waited to hear the words she tells me daily since we've moved in together. She thinks I'm not ready. My goofy, grinning girl. She's wrong. I've been waiting, patiently waiting, for her to catch up to this moment.
Like everything else in my life, I've been fucking certain for a long time, long before we were holed up in that God-awful snowstorm the weathermen are still trying to name.
She likened it to living in a snow globe once. I don't agree or disagree.
My silence only serves as caulking for the cracks in her memories. That's all right, I only care that I am in them.
I only care that she was brave enough for the both of us. How could I have known I was going to fall for her?
I did not.
I let her go and she returned, fiery. She's been aflame ever since.
I don't know what would have happened if she hadn't come back. I like to think I would have gone after another man's girl, but the thought depresses me.
All the implications of it depress me, and I don't indulge nostalgia. For what? Who cares about a snowstorm or an ex named Jake? I've met him. He's old news now.
It's her I have my head together for. She doesn't make it easy. She's tough, but she breaks or tries to make me break. No dice, girl.
She's my madness. At times, I call her while she's at work. Her cell is cradled between her ear and neck, I can tell from the cadence in her voice, the shuffling papers on the other end, the students coming and going. I call her to say hello, see how her day is going, to fluster her.
At least, that's what she thinks.
I don't say much. She complains about parents protesting over lesson plans and administrators loading her up with work. I don't say much, I just want to listen and make sure she's still there. It's akin to pinching myself, except it's her voice on the other end of the line, telling me when she'll be home, and what we're having for dinner.
I don't care about dinner. I like the part where she says dirty shit, quietly, as her students file in.
She thinks I'll blush?
Instead, I remain quiet. When she thinks she has me speechless, I slacken my throat until it's dark and heavy. "I want you on your knees, sucking my cock, baby. Take it all - "
She hangs up on me. I laugh.
It works every time. She's too easy. What crazy parents and overbearing co-workers? All thoughts are on me now, and how she probably wants to fuck me and smack me.
It's stunning how one minute she owns the conversation, and the next she's shaking. I picture her trying not to laugh or be conscious of her wet panties while greeting her students, chalk screeching on the board.
We do this all the time, tease, have fun, make light. Ever since we opened up our baggage, took stock, looked at each other and burned what could be burned, salvaged what needed remembering, the world loosened up. We loosened up.
Here we are. She is up and about – readying her face, her tits and her ass for a flight – in loungewear that's meant for me to eye-fuck. It works, but I'm not always that easy. I keep her on her toes, too.
It rattles and infuriates her and I take amusement in it. She over-thinks, but much less now that she is with me.
She lets me think for her, the little things, like where are her shoes, her keys.
Here we go. We're always delayed looking for them as she mumbles to herself, putting on her earrings, her sweater.
I know where her shoes are. They're under the bed because I took them off her feet last night before I pushed her into the mattress with my body.
Her keys are in the pockets of her jeans, also under the bed. This, after I tugged them off of her and pushed her open, putting my face directly over her cotton panties, where I breathed into her like she was a balloon. Her mouth squeaked out these brilliant noises that made me smile.
I held my breath and let my tongue do the work. I used my fingers then exhaled so it came out like a hot wind directly where she likes it. I did it on purpose and I don't think she knew this. I did it some more.
I adjust myself because there's no time for that. I have plans. She's in those plans. She doesn't know this.
Just like she does not know that I watch her frantically look in all the wrong places for her things until it's almost time to go. I take pity and find them for her, put them in her hands, and usher her out the door with a smack on her tush.
She fakes irritation but lightens up when she sees I have our bags ready and her coffee in a mug. She asks me why I "hate" her because I don't think she's entirely sure if she uses the other word, I'll say it back.
I'll say it back, Bella.
I turn her around before she reaches the door. My brother pulls up outside, ready to take us to the airport and send us on our first vacation to the place where we should have met, but didn't. We're going to pay respect to her parents, and then I'm taking her to the spot I've dreamt about making love to her.
Knowing her, she'll turn it filthy. I'm counting on it.
She's surprised when I snatch her by the coat pocket and put my arms around her.
Her eyes accuse me of being up to no good. "What's up? Hey, you didn't shave." She's easily distracted and rubs her forehead on my chin.
"I want to try something." She cringes back suspiciously, waiting for teasing words. She squirms and I hold her closer. "Hold still."
At first, she listens with her ears. I lean in and kiss her softly. Then her body listens when I whisper, "I love you."
She pulls back in my arms and regards me with what must be her dad's cop-eyes, and cracks a beautiful crazy-girl grin. I beam my own. She's fucking infectious.
"No!" I laugh, trying to pull her in, but she's resisting me.
"Really, Edward. You're not joking? Cause you can't take it back, you know."
Ever the fighter.
"Oh, I know."
"I mean you really, really can't!" she emphasizes with her fists.
I twirl her around and she squeals and runs out the door, yelling that she loves Edward Cullen, and jumping on a startled Emmett like she's been told she won the best pony at the state fair.
A while back – I don't care how long it's been – a while back I would have had a heart attack thinking about those words and the implications. But she makes it easy. Easy to do everything we've done together: the family, the awkward dinners with her old friends (we've given up on those), the move, the house.
We're in this together. Just Bella and I, and I feel fucking powerful for it. Powerful.
Emmett gives me the look. "Yeah?" he confirms while she climbs in the back seat so she can lie down and chat away.
"Yeah." I tell him. He shakes his head. I know what he's thinking before he does. Mom's going to lay in on him even more now. She wants mates for both her sons.
"Figures," he mumbles and hugs me. He taps me twice on my fast beating heart. "Let's do this."
We climb into the car and pull out of the driveway where mid-Autumn leaves litter the street. They match the color of the sky and my girl's laughter.
A Singular Moment
They're in a bookstore, browsing. She reads a line from a favorite love poem: "Some have won a wild delight/By daring wilder sorrow/Could I gain thy love to-night/I'd hazard death to-morrow."
He nods dutifully, though he thinks it's a horrible poem. But what does he know?
He heads for Non-Fiction.
"Wait, don't you like it?"
"Sure, it's pretty," he lies. What's the point of being honest when it'll delay getting her to his loft? She'll want to talk about it.
A man in a three-piece suit powers by with last-minute miscellaneous gifts in his arms. He slows down when he walks past Bella. Edward takes her hand and pulls her into the Travel section. She yelps in surprise; she picks up the pace.
His fingers trace along the spines of trade paper stories belonging to other people.
"It's pretty," she mimics him, displeased and aware he doesn't share her love for it.
He hears her, but continues to ignore her. He thumbs through a chronicle of a crashing plane, glass flying, and turbulent wind.
He's on page: "The last horror he witnessed was the gaping hole in the plane. The jet stream pulled his little girl's smile into the ether."
It makes him shiver.
"There's a 'but' there."
She won't drop it and he puts the book back, in the wrong place, and regards her for a moment before answering.
Why not, he thinks. What's the harm?
It's their fourth or fifth encounter, he doesn't care to remember, but every time it's like he's coming home to a concentrated version of himself – a pinpoint of a dotted line.
He came straight from the airport, and although a bookstore is not where he wants to be after a long flight, he finds that it doesn't matter, so long as he gets to see her.
His parents want to see him, they've called enough, and Jasper's left him a few messages. His editor wants a re-write of his expedition, the failed one, and the deadline is in a matter of days. He hardly cares; he's so caught up with her.
And what's the harm, this isn't forever. She is wholly transient.
He's convinced himself into buying one truth, since he can't afford the one he wants.
Today, her hair is up in a scientist knot speared by two chopsticks. She wears a turtleneck, and he tries not to stare through the wool. She told him she just got out of work. She does look tired and other unidentifiables that have nothing to do with him.
"There's no 'but'."
"But," she presses, leaning back against a cherry wood table, crossing legs over ankles, arms over arms; challenging.
The sky behind her is a stream of inconstant blues on a sunny, cloudy day.
"I've never told a woman I loved her."
"What do you mean? Everyone says 'I love you' at some point. Their high-school sweetheart or a childhood friend." She speaks to him patiently and with an undisguised level of amusement.
Although she is not entirely surprised, most men hold back on the words for fear of commitment. But everyone wavers and throws an 'I Love You' out into the world at least once, hoping for it to latch on to someone worthy of it.
But not Edward. In the short time she's known him, she's learned that he keeps his emotions in check. She can't help wanting to draw them out of him, but if she's honest with herself, she's happy not knowing everything about Edward. The way he looks at her.
He tells her. "I don't have a problem with it, if that's what you think. It's a personal choice."
But Edward is not most men, and thinking of the words 'Edward' and 'commitment' both thrills and frightens her all at once, in the way one gets at the top of the roller coaster.
"Why hold those words so dear?" She shouldn't be so curious about the private man, but she can't stop picking at the splinter of his confession.
She sits in a chair.
He squats on his haunches to be closer to eye-level. Her chest stares back; he looks into her eyes.
"I figure," he starts slowly, "if I ever feel like I need to say those words, it has to mean forever. Otherwise, what's the point? Otherwise, why bother? They're not meant for anyone else. Just the one."
Her silent smile is slow to spread. She still doesn't really understand, but it's him and he's so sincere. She runs a hand through his hair.
He takes her hand and presses it along his cheek, wishing he weren't explaining this to the one he loves.
He closes his eyes. Her smile is sad.
The poem Bella reads is "Passion" by Charlotte Bronte
'In A Future Age' is a song by Wilco. Check it out.
I thank my betas for everything and I thank you for reading. Send me a note and let me know you were once here.