A/n: I wrote this for Fics for Nash a while back and never posted. Yesterday was a year-to-date that I posted my first o/s, so I thought why not? Thank you to quothme, as always, for the beta work, in addition to being wholly awesome. Also thanks to twistedcoincidence for pre-reading, post-reading and contributing towards the Edwards. Thanks also to Goldenhair & also to famouslyso for my wonderful banner: http:/ / (dot)com/ albums/xx179/whatsmynomdeplume/-1-2(dot)png
Silly fluffiness. Or maybe fluffy silliness. I don't know, you pick.
The Importance of Being Edward
We're smiling at each other and I swear, it's like a scene out of Dawson's Creek or something. There's butterflies, not just in my stomach. Everywhere. He's so cute that I almost can't stand it. So, so cute. I keep on wanting to pinch myself to make sure this is real, or maybe slap him. No, that's not right, I don't want to slap him. I want to do lots of things to him but not slap. No, no, no. Not slap. Why did I say slap? I'm not thinking very well. Whoops. I just tripped over my own foot but that's okay. Just like in the movies, he's caught me. It'sssss all very romantic and he's ssssssso tall. So, so tall. How do boys even get that tall? Oh, but now he doesn't seem so tall because he's leaning down, closer and closer and closer. And now he's right in front of my face and I can smell him. He smells like beer and boy—then again, the beer may just be all me. He's so close now, closer than anyone ever before. So, so close. And wonderful. He says he just wants to try one thing...
I wake up feeling like I have been run over by my rusty, red truck. This is impossible, I know, because my truck is in the garage at home in Forks, and I am on a lumpy bed here at the Port Angeles Preparatory High School. As I open my eyes, the light pierces my skull, and I recognize the unfamiliar but not unknown sight of my new dorm room.
Then a steaming mug of hot cocoa appears in front of my face, and I remember once again that I really had the luck of the draw in getting Alice Brandon as my roommate. I've only been here for about twenty hours, but she's been kind of awesome for every minute of them.
"Hey there, party girl!" Although her words are exuberant, she's careful to say them quietly enough in her tinkling, falling glass voice.
"No way. Last night was the first time I've ever gotten drunk. There's no way you can call me party girl after that." At fourteen, I'm more sheltered than some teens, less so than others—but for better or for worse, I guess I now can commiserate over the misery of a hangover.
"Yeah, but what a way to pop the maraschino cherry on your vodka tonic, Bell!" She's laughing at me a little but it's okay. While I may have learned about the first part of drinking, the hangover, I have yet to delve into section two: tolerance and pacing. "You disappeared at the end of the night. Where did you go? I thought you left to pass out in bed, but you came stumbling in after me."
And suddenly, it all comes back to me. No, that's a lie. Snatches come back to me, flashes and pieces of the most earth-shattering, toe curling kiss I have ever received. Okay, so it is the only kiss I have ever received, but I still know, in my bones, on my lips, through my soul, that this kiss was special. If every kiss was like this one, we wouldn't have wars; we'd all kiss and make up and have world peace and probably a whole lot of babies.
This kiss was… the kiss. The one that you've read and re-read in books, where the sky commands the world to stop and everything between his lips and yours, including the non-existent space, is perfect. This is the kiss that you're not even sure exists until you're in it, so deliciously, hopelessly, wholeheartedly in it.
There's only one problem. Not so much with the kiss itself—but with the fact that I can't remember whom I kissed, this boy who changed my world and spun my head and jumpstarted my heart.
"Alice!" I say, sitting up and grabbing her arm. My head pounds and my stomach quakes but this is so much more important. I'll have plenty of time to be hungover after I find out whom I kissed last night. "Was I with someone? Or did I mention whom I had been with?"
Alice grins so wide I can see her pearly white molars. "Yes! When I asked you who you were with, you just said 'Edward'…" she adopts a dreamy, high pitched tone "…and then flopped into bed and passed out. Why? What happened with Edward?"
Edward. The name floats around in the sea of muddled images and it... fits. Yes, I was with Edward and I was kissed by Edward, even if I don't remember what he looks like.
"I kissed Edward last night, Alice," I tell her. In a testament to the speed at which teenage girls can bond, she takes one look at my face and grins. She gets it.
"You kissed Edward last night? Oh my god. Not just, oh I kissed Edward but I kissed Edward with a capital 'k', right?" She's a soprano in the school choir so her voice is high pitched as it is, but she's so excited she squeaks at the end of her sentence. She's also dead right—I didn't just kiss Edward last night. I Kissed Edward.
I nod and she squeals and says, "Oh my god, Bella! And it's only your first day here! And look, you've already got a boy." She jumps off the bed and grabs her laptop. "Let's look him up on Facebook. What's his last name?"
"Uhhh, I don't know," I tell her. I'm hoping the picture will come up, it will all come screaming back to me and no one will have to be the wiser that I don't remember the boy who Kissed me.
Alice shrugs it off as she begins navigating to the webpage. "Well, I don't know anyone named Edward, but I've only been here a few months. And I run with the music crowd so whatever. Anyway, it's not like 'Edward' is a hugely common name. I bet there's only one Edward at this school."
There are two.
"Which one is it, Bella?" she asks, turning to look at me expectantly. They both have profile pictures that are not obscured in the least so I can't say I can't tell which one it is… I'm going to have to tell Alice the truth.
"I don't know."
"I don't know. I didn't even remember that the guy was named Edward until you told me I had said his name!" I wail. Alice looks like she's torn between laughing hysterically and giving me a hug. She does neither, simply asks, "But you remember the kiss."
I sigh. "Alice, I would forget my own name before I forget a kiss like that."
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure last night, you did," she mutters. She's clicking through the photos of one of them—Edward Cullen. He's tall but not large, with close-cropped brown hair and thick eyebrows. A lot of pictures are of him in a Spartans jersey; he's on the football team. There are no crazy pictures of him doing keg stands or body shots like I saw some of the other members of the team doing last night, so I'm a little relieved. And under his date of birth, it lists clearly that he is 'single.' This makes me doubly relieved—in high school, you only put single if you absolutely are; otherwise, 'it's complicated.' For a football player, he's got very few friends on Facebook, and his profile isn't littered with a ton of information about him. Alice looks at me questioningly and I shrug back. Nothing is ringing any bells.
She switches to the other guy's profile. Edward Masen also doesn't have much written in his 'About Me' section, but he's also 'single' and seems to be president or founder of about eight different clubs, including lead features writer on the school paper, something I've wanted to join. His hair is wild and the oddest rust color, he's got glasses and it's easy to tell he's outgoing from his ease in front of the camera.
Hear that ringing? Neither do I.
"You still can't remember?" Alice asks incredulously. I glumly shake my head. "Well… you could just ask him. Them."
"And say what? 'Hi, do you remember if you kissed me and changed my life last night?'" I ask her. Luckily, Alice speaks my exact dialect of teenage hyperbole.
"Yeah! What guy doesn't want to be told that he kissed a pretty girl, and it was the most amazing thing ever?" she shoots back.
"How about the guy who didn't kiss a pretty girl," I tell her. Therein lies the problem. If I take a confrontational approach, I have a 50% chance of picking the right boy… and a 50% chance of coming across as the slutty, drunken new girl. I have no desire for anyone at this school's first impression of me to be the latter.
"Yeah, you might come off like a skank. Even if you pick the right one to ask, it's still sort of skanky," Alice decrees.
"No, I'm not saying you're skanky, Bella. Just that, you know… this guy doesn't know you like I do. It's not a very good first impression." My fleeting indignation melts away and I decide I love Alice because, despite knowing me for all of a day and despite this mishap being one of her first impressions of me, she's defending and protecting me. "Fudge nuts, this is bad, Bella."
I giggle. "Fudge nuts?"
"Yeah, we used to have a swear jar at home, so I began replacing all my swear words with food names. Haven't been able to break the habit yet," she says, shrugging.
"I hear you." And then I groan and fall back into bed. "Fudge nuts, Alice, this is bad. We've got to figure this out because I don't want to forget about that kiss or the boy who gave it to me."
"Yeah, well in order to be able to forget about the boy, you'd have to remember him in the first place," Alice teases. "This is more than fudge nuts bad. This may be wienerschnitzel pudding bad."
"Tofurkey cheesecake bad, even." She gives me a strange look, and I blush at the lameness of my attempt. She bursts out laughing.
"No, it's not. Tofurkey cheesecake bad is for things we can't do anything about. We can do something about this; we just need a game plan."
"Okay," I mumble. I want to join in Alice's optimism, but I can't. There's too much at stake for me here. I have this deep need in my bones to be kissed like that again, or I know, I just know, that I'll waste my life away wondering if I'll ever regain that kind of perfection. (One of the dialects of hyperbole I speak is called hysteria.)
"Oh and we are never letting you drink that much again," Alice adds. As I nod my head enthusiastically at the idea, my hangover, kept at bay first by the excitement of Edward, then by the mystery of Edwards, careens into me with double the force. I drink my hot chocolate and it makes me feel a little better but I crave a shower.
I get out of bed and begin gathering my toiletries when Alice says, "Unless you asked for the wrong size, that is most definitely not your sweatshirt, Bella." I look down and see that I am wearing a school sweatshirt over what I wore to the party last night, clearly belonging to a tall boy, because the hem reaches my knees. "You weren't wearing that the last time I saw you at the party." A few more pieces begin to click. The sweatshirt must be Edward's! The correct Edward's! I feel like dawn has broken after a deadly, drunken rainstorm. A jolt of delight goes through me as I realize that I may be able to work around this problem just by looking at the Edwards in person—whosever build matches the sweatshirt is my Kisser! No ugly confrontation that will paint me in a slutty, drunken light!
The force of thinking with exclamations makes me feel even worse, so I jump in the shower. By the time I'm done and feeling human again, Alice has schemed. She fills me in and drags me to the administrative office today to pick up my revised schedule and handle some other paperwork.
When Mrs. Cope, the school secretary, asks me if there's anyone in particular I'd like to request to be my guide for tomorrow, I open my mouth to speak but Alice beats me to it and says, "Yeah, Mrs. Cope, Bella would like Edward Cullen. They're old friends." She shoots me a smirk.
"Okay, let me just see if that works—yes, it does. It looks like you have your first class with Mr. Cullen, so I'll let him know to meet you here about fifteen minutes before classes start on Monday, okay?" Mrs. Cope types a couple of things furiously into her computer and picks up a piece of paper. "Alright, here's your schedule, Bella. Alice should be able to help you with anything you need, and of course, you can always ask your friend Edward." Alice snorts.
"Yes, Mrs. Cope, I was wondering about the school paper, I'm interested in joining. Do you know when it meets?"
"Oh yes. You'll have to sign up with the extra-curricular activities coordinator, Mr. Banner, but you can just go to the meeting on Tuesday at four and do that." We both thank Mrs. Cope and run out of the office grinning at each other. By Tuesday, I'll know, for sure, which Edward is my Kisser.
But before Tuesday is Monday, and when Monday morning comes, I am a mess. I hate the school uniform—I feel lame and they most definitely do not allow us to accessorize the way they do on Gossip Girl. Not that I would have. My palms are sweating and I debate just playing sick but then realize that playing sick at boarding school is a lot harder than doing it at home. I'm supposed to meet Edward Cullen in the office in five minutes, and I think I'm going to puke up the banana I had for breakfast. I turn to Alice for encouraging words.
"Creamsicles, Bella, stop fidgeting or you're going to shred your cardigan," she scolds. "Just take deep breaths and repeat after me: I will meet Edward and if he is the rightful owner of the sweatshirt…" I try to stop her to tell her this oath is already too long, but she shushes me "…I will be cool and charm him so that we may get over our drunken, slightly slutty start and ride off into the sunset together." I scowl and she cackles. "Go get him, you creme brulee-ing hussy."
Get him I do not. When I first see Edward Cullen, I am almost sure he is my Kisser—in that I-really-want-it-to-be-him way, not in the I-actually-know-it's-him way—because boy, is he nice to look at. He is taller than he seemed in his photos, but his build would definitely fit the sweatshirt. He's wearing a football jersey over his uniform, instead of a blazer like the rest of us, and I half expect him to give me a fist pound when he sees me, like his team captain did on Friday night. Instead, all I get is a shy smile.
And in the fifteen minutes we spend before sitting together in Biology, he says exactly five words to me.
"Hi" and "Class is this way."
It's the strangest thing—lots of people in the hall say hello to him or congratulate him on a great game the week before, his teammates punch his arm and slap his back and girls giggle and coyly wave at him, but other than a tiny smile in acknowledgment, he says nothing to them and spends most of the walk staring at his feet.
I would throw out the notion of him being my Kisser because I can't imagine how someone so shy could have mustered the courage to kiss me like that. But I don't. Firstly because my actions on Friday night are a clear indication that drunken behavior has little to no correlation with sober behavior. And secondly because he's got these beautiful, pouty lips that definitely look like they could have kissed me that way.
After sitting at our desk in Biology for five very silent minutes, I decide to break the ice. "So what position do you play?"
"Cool. Do you like it?"
"Yeah, it's cool." He shrugs. This is actually the most expressive he's been yet. I want to beat my head against the desk. I feel like he's normally shy, and if I'm right, being faced with the girl he kissed on Friday night may not be the best way to bring him out of his shell. "You like school? So far?" His voice is gentle, but it does seem to take him effort to get the words out.
"Yeah. People are really friendly. Everyone's been nice to me," I say. As if to demonstrate this, a couple of our classmates say hi to both of us by name before taking their seats. The quixotic romantic in me really likes the way our names sound together—"Bella and Edward." "Edward and Bella." It's got a nice ring to it.
"You know a lot of people already," he says. Yes, drinking your weight in beer doesn't just break the ice—it sends you crashing through it.
"Yeah… I met a lot of people over the weekend," I equivocate.
"Oh yeah. The party in Mike's dorm on Friday night," he says. My heart beats in triple time, and this would be the perfect segue to bring it up, except that Edward is staring intently at his hands and can't even look at me. I've just got him talking, and I think that if I ask him if we Kissed on Friday night, whether I am right or wrong, I'll never hear another word out of his pretty mouth.
Before I can skew this conversation to my benefit, our Biology teacher comes in and starts the lesson, distracting me to pay attention to what being taught—Bio is not my strongest subject, but I pride myself on working hard.
Edward Cullen doesn't say much to me for the rest of the day—but after every class, he's dutifully waiting outside to escort me to my next one, he holds every door open for me and even puts away my tray after a very silent lunch—that is, he is silent. Everyone else at our table chatters away, including Alice, who nudges me just about every time he blinks and winks at me when he takes a gulping drink from his water bottle. When we are between classes, Edward walks beside me at my pace and darts looks at me every few seconds. He doesn't speak sweet words, but he acts sweet actions, and I adjust to his quiet chivalry, noting all the things I want to tell Alice about at dinner.
At the end of the day, when I assure him that I know my way around the dorms, he gives a small smile and says goodbye. I'm just about to head to my dorm when I hear his gentle, silky voice.
"Bella?" he asks hesitantly.
"Why'd you request me to show you around today?"
Forget fudge nuts, this is definitely tofurkey cheesecake, split pea parfait, cashew nut steak bad. How am I going to answer this?
"Umm," I hem and haw, trying to buy myself some time.
"I mean, not that I mind or anything. And you don't have to tell me. It's just… I was just wondering." He's unfailingly kind and polite as well, and I really like the way the tips of his ears and the tops of his cheeks blush a sweet pink. It makes my mouth go a little dry and my brain go a little fuzzy, and before I know it I'm speaking with no idea as to what exactly I'm saying.
"I just… heard you were a nice guy." He actually looks up and meets my gaze, and his beautiful amber eyes burn into me, searing the look in them onto my girlish, giddy heart. In just one day, I feel like I've gotten to know him, just a little, and he's so much more than nice; he's sweet, right to his core.
We part ways after he says softly, "See you tomorrow, Bella." And all I can think of is how I think, even if I can't remember, that he is the right Edward. He fits.
And then I see Edward Masen, walking away from me at the far end of the hall. I recognize him because of his insane forest of hair and glasses and… his build. He is the same height as Edward Cullen, more slight in build, but he could easily wear the sweatshirt. I groan inwardly and then later outwardly, when I relay that my sweatshirt-as-a-glass-slipper plan has failed to Alice.
"Edward Cullen is really nice, Alice," I say again, just to emphasize my point. I am slightly besotted by his niceness. And his shy smile and long lashes. "Damn, Mr. and Mrs. Masen. Couldn't think of another name than Edward for their son?"
Alice is quiet for a few seconds. "Bella, if Edward Cullen is the right Edward, wouldn't he have given you some indication that you and he kissed?"
I've thought about that. "No way, Alice. First of all, if it's Cullen, then he's way too shy to ever do something like that sober. I bet he was really drunk. And if it was the other Edward, who's to say he remembers it? He could easily have been as drunk as I was… or drunker."
Alice snorts. "It'd be hard to be drunker, lightweight."
I stick my tongue out at her. "Whatever. I'll just go to the meeting for the school paper, and then everything will be straightened out by this time tomorrow," I say. I catch the look on Alice's face. "What?"
"I'm not trying to keep questioning you or anything, Bella… but if you like Edward Cullen so much, why are you even bothering with Edward Masen? What does it matter which Edward you kissed when you know which Edward you like?" she asks. I look at her for a moment and think about what she's said. She's right but she's also not right.
"I don't know. It's just… that kiss. I have to be sure, Alice. I have to be with the boy who kissed me like that. And now, if I don't find out which Edward it is, I'll wonder for the rest of my life what could have happened if I had found out which one was my Kisser for sure. It'll haunt me forever, Alice."
"I understand, Bella," she says solemnly. "Some things are just… meant to be. And therefore, they have to be." Alice and I are very wise beyond our fifteen years, and I tell her so. She smiles and says, "I know! I think that's why we get along so well."
At fifteen, crushes, true loves and great heartbreaks can occur within a day. So can the best of friendships, and Alice seems to be proving that to me over and over again. I give her a hug and when we separate, she says, "Bella, just out of concern as your BFF, can I ask you another question?"
"Once you find out which Edward it is for sure, what are you going to do? I mean, are you going to tell him about all this?" I have no answer for her so I shrug, but I mull over this for the rest of the night, through my homework and brushing my teeth.
As Alice and I are getting into bed, I suddenly pick up the thread of our conversation again randomly, but Alice is an excellent Bell-inguist and immediately knows what I'm talking about. "I don't know what I'm going to do, Alice. I guess... I don't know. Depends on the situation. Maybe I'll tell him that we kissed at the party—but probably not. I'll just charm him or something." I say this with false confidence.
"Oh my god, you totally could, Bella! Go all girl power, exercise your feminine wiles until he can't resist you," she says excitedly. Every girl should have a friend like Alice. "Or you know… you could just grab him and lay one on him."
Ooh. I fall asleep with this delicious plan on my mind.
The next morning I give myself a mental pep talk as I get ready for school. This 'Edwards' thing has taken over my life, my thoughts, my dreams even. Last night, I dreamt that I was playing tug of war against myself and when I lost, I landed in pumpkin jello. I blame Alice for the food part, but my not-so-subtly symbolic dream is proof that I am thinking about this boy, whichever one he is, way too much. It's only my second day at school, and so I go into it determined not to wonder too much about the boy I'll see in the meeting after school and the boy who showed me around yesterday.
Of course, the minute I step into the main hall, this gets shot to hell.
"Bella!" I turn to see Edward Cullen striding toward me. His walk and body are at completely at odds with his personality— sure and swift, showing the grace of his athleticism. But for all the power and confidence of his gait, his head is ducked down and he avoids making eye contact with anyone.
A flash of a smile crosses his face as he mumbles, "Good morning, Bella." Then he looks up at me and hands me a piece of paper.
As I open it, I ask, "What is this?"
He opens his mouth a couple of times in false starts of sentences before finally saying, "It's just a little guide. Last night after practice, I wrote down all the things I wish someone had told me my first weeks here." He looks up at me and offers a bashful smile. "It's not easy being new."
I look down at the paper and feel a surge of affection. In a messy, disorganized, indiscriminately numbered list, Edward has scattered down various pieces of information.
Strange things like "Don't sit in the first row in Banner's class because he doesn't cover his mouth when he coughs" are mixed in with "the chicken parm in the cafeteria is actually really good, so try it" and "remember the odd-numbered dorm rooms are for the guys, and you can't be in there after 8:00pm." The list is long and exhaustive and I am doubly touched—once that he wrote this to help me and then again that he mustered the courage to give it to me. I'm not sure which one required more effort for him.
"Thank you, Edward. This is really, really sweet," I say. And then it happens—he looks right at me and unleashes the power of his bright, sunny smile. And I find myself hoping, just a bit, that if he and I ever kissed, whether for the first time or again, it would make him smile like that.
And then just as fast as it appeared, it is gone and he is staring at his shoe. "Alright, I better get to class so… have a good day, Bella." Before I can even reply, he has taken off down the hall.
I bask in the sunshine of that smile for the rest of the day. Aside from that, I do a pretty good job of focusing on getting accustomed to my new school and classmates and keeping all boys with strangely old-fashioned names out of my head. The list I have is entertaining and useful and I'm surprised at the thoughtfulness of some of it—he's listed what periods there are no hall monitors if I ever wanted to skip class—and the depth of the others—the English teacher, Mr. Green, is a former Shakespearean actor so when, per point number #29, I make a Twelfth Night reference, I am immediately on his good side.
All in all, I am having a really great day.
And then I meet Edward Masen.
The frenzy of the newsroom is something I expected. What I don't expect is to be immediately paired with Edward Masen to shadow him on the piece he's writing today. Without turning to even look at me, he whines to Mr. Banner about how he generally likes to work alone because it promotes his efficiency. I resist the urge to snort. When Banner doesn't budge, Edward beckons me to follow with a nod of his head. Like his name-mate, he barely says more than 'hi' to me and doesn't bother making conversation as I trail him to the gym. Unlike his counterpart, this is not because he is shy—no, everyone seems to know his name and have something to say to him, though he acknowledges them only with that irritating teenage boy head-nod.
Only when we're waiting in the gym for the boxing team to come out so we can cover school star Emmett McCarty does he bother to speak to me.
"What was your name again?" his tone is detached, yet somehow still cocky.
"Do you have a last name?"
"Do you have manners?" It slips out before I can control it. No way this guy is my Kisser. Except he's got an absolutely delicious mouth. Fudge nuts, who am I kidding? He's pretty delicious all over, aside from his attitude. His hair is as alive as he is, and his tie and shirt are artfully askew. He wears black-rimmed glasses that, when you're close enough like I am now, frame his deep green eyes. He's just pretty, even with that smirk. Maybe because of that smirk.
He laughs. "Alright, I'll be nice. Can't be so weak if you're going to be a reporter, y'know."
I glower at him. "I don't think Woodward and Bernstein found the need to be unapologetic asses to break Watergate."
He laughs again and this time, the grin stays on his face. "Maybe. So you want to write features?"
I shake my head. "I'm actually interested in writing a column. I'd like something scheduled."
"Something steady," I grit out. He barks another laugh.
"Fair enough. A column about what?"
I shrug. "I don't know yet. I'm new so I want to get a feel for things first. That's why Banner had me shadow you. Get a feel for the beat of the paper, the pulse of the school."
He nods. "Yeah, I'd be the one to go for that." His statement is cocky but also unapologetic; the fact that it's probably true somehow tempers the arrogance of it. "How are you liking it so far?" he says in that detached lazy tone, but when I look at him, he's actively waiting for an answer.
"It's okay. People have been pretty nice so far." Oh, and I may have kissed you on Friday night. Or you know, someone with your name.
"That's good. High school can be hell for some."
"Says Mr. Class President," I mutter. He hears and grins, shrugging.
"I said for some. Not for me." He glances at his watch and sighs. "How long does it take to put on a jock strap?"
I snort and he grins at me. He's got really even, white teeth. It makes for a great smile. "Do we have to be back at the news a certain time?"
"Haven't you heard? The news waits for no one," he quips. I narrow my eyes at him. "No, we don't, Banner just expects us to get the interview today, then check in when we're done. So how are we going to pass the time?"
I shrug as if the idea of discussing his kissing history isn't the foremost plan on my mind.
"I could guess your last name," he suggests. I shrug again and he takes it as an invite to continue. "Adams?"
I scoff and his smile grows. "Artois?"
I shoot him a weird look. "Heineken?"
I shake my head. With every guess, his tone grows less detached. He is quite playful, in fact. "Carlsberg? Yuengling? Corona?"
"Hey!" I interrupt. "What's with all your guesses being names of beers?"
"Some of them are last names of beers."
"You're only emphasizing my point."
The smirk is back as he says, "Well, I was just taking a cue from you on Friday night." His teasing smile is almost diabolical.
Oh god. It was him. Edward Masen, with those pouty, almost puffy lips and fantastic bone structure. He's the one I kissed…
"You were guzzling beer like we were facing a second Prohibition."
… or not. Damn it. So now I know he was at the party, too, but I have no idea whether he was responsible for the party in my mouth. I'm in the middle of trying to ask a question that is both nonchalant yet detailed enough to figure out whether he and I interacted on Friday night when he interrupts my attempt at sleuthing.
"We could have some fun while we're waiting. Get you liquored up again." There is no 'almost diabolical' about this smirk; it's full-on devilish. "Can you imagine, you roaming the halls drunk? That'd be hilarious!"
"That'd be horrible!" I screech. Fruit loops flambé, I hate that I screech.
"Ehh, potato, pot-ah-to." He shrugs his shoulders like he's not talking about an opportunity for me to mortify myself yet again.
"Hilarious and horrible are not homonyms!" I'm still a little screechy.
"Neither are potato and pot-ah-to," he points out. Damn him and his copywriting-enhanced perfect grammar. I can't deny that I like a guy who knows his grammar, though. "Anyway, it's not like I've got a flask on me. It was just a fun hypothetic." I make a face at his hypothetic and he chuckles.
The longer Edward and I wait for the team, the more we spar. He's very intelligent and not ashamed to demonstrate it. Luckily, I'm the same way. We're in the middle of discussing Oscar Wilde and his works when Emmett comes trudging into the gym.
Edward conducts a swift and precise interview. I peek over at his notes and see that he's outlined the goals of this interview, and he's hitting every one. Despite all this, it's not mechanical or rehearsed—there's an easy rapport between him and Emmett. For all his show of bravado in the school halls, he's disarmingly earnest and inspiringly enthusiastic. Gone are his smart retorts and disaffected yet sharp comebacks. He's almost comically serious and waits at least three seconds after Emmett stops speaking to make sure he's said all he wants. Emmett is very easy to talk to, a sort of jocular, jolly tan giant. I find myself getting into the interview because of Emmett's enthusiasm and Edward's style of questioning and I even interrupt to ask a few questions of my own.
After Emmett leaves, I sort of expect Edward to reprimand me for being a rather noisy shadow, but he turns and grins at me. I notice that he's either smirking or grinning, never just smiling, and it's a little infectious.
"I think you should tell me your last name now," he says.
"Why?" I like challenging him because so far, he's always risen up to it.
"Because I'm going to need it for the byline when you co-write this article with me," he says. A part of me is a little affronted that he didn't ask, just automatically assumed I would write this with him. But another, bigger part of me is far more excited to do it.
"Swan," I tell him. He recognizes it as my unspoken acquiescence to his unasked question, and his grins grows wider.
"Alright, pretty bird," he says. I thrill a little from the word pretty coming from his mouth in regards to me. Despite my initial frustration with him, I'm quite enjoying his company. We're about to exit the gym on our way back to the newsroom when he stops. So do I. "Do you even know anything about boxing?" That cocky, challenging tone is back.
I don't but I don't want to say that, so I just roll my eyes. He turns to face me, motioning for me to do the same. I do. He takes my hands, which tingle from his touch, and maneuvers them into fists, thumbs over my fingers. He shows me what stance to adopt, which I do dutifully, and I imitate him, shifting my weight from foot to foot. He lets out a couple mock punches and some mock breaths and he looks like could be the very cute son of Rocky.
"Alright, Swan. Let's see if you can get a punch in." He's got a big grin on his face, and I realize that Edward Masen, despite initial impressions that would suggest otherwise, is very, very playful. And he is a little bit adorable. Okay, a lot. I take a couple mock swings, and he gives a couple slow-motion blocks, and we're both laughing like idiots while making our best attempts at mean-mugging.
"Oh come on, Swan, you can do better than that." He smirks and lowers his hands away from his face. "Come on, hit me with your best shot." My fist starts to move toward his face, just as he says, "right in the kisser" and then— oh my god!
I've punched Edward, albeit weakly. I didn't mean to, but he said 'kisser' and all this while I've been wondering if that's what he is. My head hurts from thinking about it and my hand hurts from hitting the concrete of Edward's jaw.
I shake my hand out as he rubs his jaw. "Oh my god, Edward, I'm so sorry. Are you okay?"
He grins. "I was right, you definitely don't know anything about boxing." I sort of want to punch him again, but while that answer was mildly insulting, I appreciate his being a good sport about me smacking him in the face.
Later that night, as I'm doing my homework back in my room, I think about what a tragedy it would have been if I had done serious damage—Edward Masen has a world-class jaw. A world-class face, in general. Alice is practically bouncing in her bed as she folds her laundry. She really is a wonderful friend, patiently listening to me as I've blathered on about the Edwards all afternoon. Currently, I am dissecting Masen.
"I mean, he's almost rude... except in a really funny, not rude way," I tell her. "And like, he knows everyone. And everything about campus. It's kind of cool. And he's really smart. Like really, impressively smart."
"So you like Edward Masen?" she asks. I hedge on this because, yes, I kind of do. But I know what her next question will be if I say that. My face gives it away, though, because without waiting, she says, "So what about Edward Cullen?"
The thing is… I like Edward Cullen, too. He's just so different from Edward Masen, with his shy, yet sure, sweetness; he's kind and he's genuinely nice, something I think is both underrated and rare in teenage boys, particularly those of the football-playing variety. Edward Masen is not nice. No, he's challenging and witty and a little acerbic and he's smart and unafraid to show it—also atypical of boys our age. I like these qualities in them, I like that they're both so different and yet both fundamentally so boy, and I like Cullen's hair, the way it's longer on the top and flops all over his face and his unique amber eyes, but I also love Masen's black-rimmed glasses and perpetual smirk, and I have to say that I love both their pouty, perfect mouths.
I don't realize I've said all this out loud in one giant emotional upchuck until I see the look on Alice's face.
"Bella… are you sure you've never kissed a boy before?" She says it genuinely, not insultingly.
"Of course. Just because I've never been kissed or never gotten drunk before doesn't mean that I somehow am unable to discern what I do and do not like in a guy. I'm sheltered, not naive," I tell her. She shrugs as if to say 'okay I'll give you that.'
Thinking about Edwards in plural hurts my head but I can't stop for the next few days. I know I won't be able to until I resolve this. I try to spare Alice the insanity of my inner thoughts by keeping them to myself. But by the end of the week, I feel like there is a caged lion in my brain, pacing and pawing at the ground, just roaring to be released.
I've seen both of the boys in small doses through the rest of the week—on Wednesday, Cullen left a Mars bar, my favorite as I had mentioned to Alice at lunch one day, on my desk at Bio, slipping out without a word, just a shy smile; then after school, Masen jumped in and a took a bite of it right before I could and then handed it back to me with a cheeky 'yummy' before dashing off. I've seen them in the halls—Cullen in his quiet confidence, minding his own business and being adorable at it; Masen all over everything and everyone, commanding attention, mine included.
I've considered dropping hints, asking them about the party but I'm too terrified of the potential answers I might get. My teenage girl bravado is most forceful when I'm in my room, talking about grandiose plans with Alice. Outside the sanctuary of my dorm and the safety of my friend, I'm not so brave.
And true to what I told Alice, I still like them both. I mean, I'm fourteen; fickleness is my defining trait. At turns, it seems like Edward Cullen would be the perfect, devoted, loving boyfriend that every girl, myself included, dreams of. In other moments, I love the fire and fight Edward Masen incites in me.
Another of my defining traits? Impatience. I've got these two boys I'm interested in, one who Kissed me. And I'm sick of waiting—I've waited fourteen years to feel like this, and I want to be Kissed again. These mixed feelings, this head-spinning, heart-thudding state I've been in all week has left me with one conclusion.
I'm clearly not in the place where I can choose. And the place I'm in won't let me think of anything else until I choose. So I'm going to let the universe choose for me. I've sent them both an email to their school address saying that I think I have their sweatshirt. I don't bother to say how I have come into possession of it or that I have fallen asleep with it every night since the Kiss—these are details that can be expounded upon later. Or never. I give Cullen my phone number knowing that he'll probably be too shy to answer me in person and give Masen no contact information—he's savvy enough to find a way to communicate on his own. I ask them to please let me know even if it isn't their sweatshirt, citing some vague, invented obsession with respecting and returning other people's property. The email is very strange and abrupt but I figure I can do damage control once I've identified my Kisser.
And so, I reason that the decision is out of my hands. The sweatshirt is the universe and fate and God and whoever else has some semblance of control on the insanity in my life's gift to me. It's my version of a magic eight ball or a lucky coin.
I send the message on Friday afternoon and wait all day on edge. Instead of participating in the parties this week, I go out with Alice and some of the other girls in attempt to bond with people in ways other than latching onto their mouths and then forgetting their identities. It's really fun but when I go to bed—after refreshing my email inbox about eighty times only to find there still are no new messages—I think about how this time last week, I was Kissing my Kisser. How maybe this time next week, hopefully, I will be again.
On Saturday morning I decide to study, reasoning that it would not be a good thing if I flunk out of school just as I get my man. Boy. Kisser. Whatever. My phone rings, distracting me from the joy of Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders.
Just as I answer my phone, a knock sounds on my door.
"Hello," I say, glancing down at my caller ID just as I open the door.
Jellybean omelet—it's the situation I never realized I never wanted to be in: Edwards, in plural and simultaneously. Edward Cullen is on the phone. Edward Masen is at my door.
"Hey, Bella. The sweatshirt's mine."
Well, I guess that answers that question.
Suffice to say, by this time next week, I am mostly definitely Kissing my Kisser.
I'm not going to tell you who it is. You tell me who you'd like it to be.
(FYI: To me, they're definitely not the same person, but if you want to read it that way, roll with that.)