Entry for "The Cherry Exchange 2010"

Title: The Farmer's Daughter
Penname: ericastwilight
Rating: M
Word Count: 14,776


Summary: They've been friends since the day he thought her to be an angel. Years later, he returns to where his heart always laid, in the hands of the local cherry farmer's daughter, Bella. Still as beautiful as she was at nine, he hopes to win her heart again.


Edward

Five Years Old

We had a new neighbor and momma said that they had a little girl. Someone I could play with, but I don't play with girls. They always chased and made fun of me at school. Girls are mean and stupid looking.

My daddy bought a big motorcycle with three wheels to help our neighbor work on the ranch.

I went with him to meet Mr. Swan and he was nice. He said I could go play. There was lots of old trees and big tall grass too.

I wasn't afraid of snakes even though momma said there might be some. I could read books, and I knew there weren't many poisonous snakes in the area. I knew, because I had Daddy look it up for me.

I was bored when I found this really big tree with low branches on the Swan ranch. It was so tall and big and I wanted to climb it to the very top. I skinned my knee when I finally made it to the lowest branch, but it didn't hurt much. I sat on the branch and kept my hand on the tree so I wouldn't fall.

My momma hated when I climbed trees, but I didn't care. I wanted to see above the clouds and I couldn't do that if I was on the ground. I listened to the birds that flew out the tree when I came up. I kept hearing a sweet humming sound but couldn't figure out where it was coming from. I thought that maybe if I climbed higher, I could see where the singing was coming from.

I grabbed onto a couple of limbs and climbed a little higher when I heard it. It sounded like someone poured milk into a bowl of Rice Krispies. I felt like I was falling when I hit the ground hard. I felt dizzy and out of breath. Everything looked bright, and the sun high in the sky. And the singing got louder.

"Did you fall?" a pretty voice asked. I felt warm, safe and the pain went away all because of the beautiful voice. I died and gone to heaven. Oh no, Momma is gonna be really mad at me.

I scrunched my eyes together, hoping that the angel would ignore me. Maybe if she didn't see me, she'd go away. When I heard the pretty voice again, I knew I had to open my eyes. I looked through one eye and both of them snapped open when I saw her.

Standing over me was a really pretty girl with dark brown hair, in a white dress with ribbons in her hair. I could barely see her face because she was shining so brightly. She held out her hand and said, "I'm here to help you." She had glittery wings that stretched behind her, that shined as brightly as her skin.

She was here to help me to heaven. I really did die. I got up and ran like hell from the brown-eyes angel.

The Farmer's Daughter—

I whistled as I pulled out a sapling from the back of the flatbed. It was a nice fall day in the central valley, and the perfect one to plant some new cherry trees. The whole town came out to help the farmer, Mr. Swan and his small family, after losing his wife months earlier. I was waiting for the farmer's daughter, my best friend, Bella.

I looked at all the people walking the newly leveled piece of land. I remembered the days when I wasn't much older than five and I'd run across the field with a soccer ball. Now, at nearly nine years old, I was going to help plant a new orchard.

My dad, Carlisle – as the grownups called him – handed me a small shovel and showed me where to plant the tree I had in my arms. I saw a cloud of dust kick up from the direction of Mr. Swan's house. I'd really hoped I'd see Bella today. It was her birthday and the first one without her momma.

Excited at the thought of giving her the gift in my pocket I ran toward the four-wheeler. My father called out for me but I waved at him. "I gotta go see Bella! It's her birthday."

"All right, son," Carlisle said. "I'd suggest you wash those hands before you see her. And your face." I stumbled forward and caught my palms on the rough soil. I grimaced when I felt the sting near my wrist. "You all right, Edward?" my father asked as he knelt beside me. My skin was a little raw near my thumb and wrist, a few drops of blood oozed from the tiny scratches.

"Edward," a quiet voice said from above me. I looked up to see my best friend, Bella smiling. "Did you fall again?"

I scowled and shook my head. "I didn't fall," I lied. "I caught myself. You making fun of me, Bella?" I squinted up at her and pursed my lips. I hated when she made fun of me, not that she did it often. I think she only did it when she thought I was going to cry. It always made me mad, so mad that I didn't cry. She was a smart girl, my momma told me once when I tried to stay mad at Bella for it.

"Of course not, Edward," Bella said softly. "I was just wondering if you got hurt." I could hear her voice get all funny and it hurt whenever I saw her bottom lip tremble. She was still so sad sometimes. I was the only one that could make her smile since her momma died.

Shaking off the dirt off my jeans and swiping my hand over my shirt, I shrugged. "I'm fine. But I should wash my hands." I looked around for my dad and saw that he was busy planting a tree.

"Come on, then," Bella said, forgetting her sadness for a while. She took my hand and inspected it closely. "I should put something on it. But it'll sting." She was challenging me again, something my father pointed out often.

I pulled my hand away from hers. "I can take it."

She smiled at me. Her tooth had finally come in so she looked really pretty. Her hair blew around her as it always did when it was windy. I looked to see her take my hand in hers again, tugging me toward the house. I struggled to stay on my feet, because Bella was a good runner. She was fast, too.

I think that's why Mike liked her, because she liked to do things with us boys. I punched him in the nose for saying she had knobby knees last year. This year, he said he liked her pretty, long hair. I punched him for that, too. The stupid thing was, I wasn't sure why. Bella often called us stupid boys; she must be right. Sometimes, at least.

I took care of Bella ever since her and her parents moved here. I had just fallen out of a tree when I first saw her. I ran in the other direction. I thought she was an angel dressed in a white dress with ribbons in her hair. I thought she was going to take me to meet my maker. At least, that's something my dad cursed to those Gonzalez kids that tried to steal our chickens.

After I realized that she was a girl and not someone to take me to heaven, I properly introduced myself. When I held out my hand, she blushed and kissed my cheek instead. Since then, there hadn't been a day we'd been apart. She was my best friend and the girl I was going to marry. She called me silly when I called her Mrs. Cullen one time by accident. She kissed my cheek again right after that though, so I knew she liked it.

"Dad," Bella called toward her father. Mr. Swan was a large man with a scary looking mustache. "I'm going back to the house to get Edward a Band-aid."

Mr. Swan looked me square in the eye, in the same way he had when I first met him. It had been right after Bella had kissed me on her porch. I didn't think he liked me much, but he never stood in the way of me playing with Bella. "There's some soda in the fridge. Help yourselves, baby," he said and shooing us away. "Hurry on in. Get out of this sun."

"Thank you, Daddy," she called out as she tugged me along again. By the time we reached her backyard, we were both out of breath. She lived on a big ranch, I think my dad said it was almost ninety acres.

"You better take off your shoes on the porch. They're really dirty," Bella said as she released my hand. "I just did the floors."

I nodded and went down on one knee and winced. "Did you get your hand again?" Bella asked, her face just inches from mine. She was lucky she was in some easy slip on shoes with stupid rainbows on them.

"It hurts a little," I mumbled, blushing when she slapped my hands away. "I can do it, you know."

"I know, but I like doing things for you," she said softly and untied my tennis shoes. "I don't want you to hurt."

"That's stupid," I muttered. I hated when she treated me like a baby.

I toed off my shoes as her big eyes looked up at me from where she knelt. "Do you like it when I get hurt?"

"Of course not," I said. "It's not the same, though."

She got on her feet and brushed the dirt from her knees. "Why not?"

"You're a girl," I said, rolling my eyes. "Duh."

Her eyes narrowed and her nose got all scrunched up as her face turned red. "Whatever you can do, I can do, too."

"Maybe some things," I said again, brushing past her and into the house. "But I'm supposed to be stronger than you. I'm supposed to take care of you." I ignored the way her face got all soft and her mouth parted as if to say something. "You gonna get me a band-aid?"

"Fine," she mumbled. She led me through her house and stopped in the bathroom near her room. "Sit." She pointed to the edge of the tub as she opened up the medicine cabinet. Taking out a few items, she lined them up on the counter.

"All right," she said, taking my hand in hers. "It's going to sting a little."

"You said that already."

"You're cranky," she said. "My dad gets like all the time. Whenever he's been in the sun too long or when he's hungry."

"I've been up since five this morning."

"Oh."

"Yeah," I mumbled and hissed when she pushed something wet over my hand. "Ow!" I tried to pull my hand away.

"Stop being a baby," she said.

I bit my lip to keep from telling her something that would upset her and from cursing. She might snitch on me. I looked up at her as she continued working on my hand. She had freckles on her nose and few on her cheeks. Her eyes were this brown color that reminded me of those chocolates that Momma hid from me and dad. "Thank you," I said softly.

"You're welcome," she murmured and smiled. "All better?"

I looked back to my hand and found that she had already cleaned it and there was a band-aid in place. How long was I staring at her? I felt the heat rise in my face and cursed under my breath. She made me lose my mind every time I was around her.

"Yeah," I said as I pulled my hand from hers. "Thanks."

She smiled and said for me to get whatever I wanted from the fridge. I nodded and left quickly, walking to big kitchen. I opened the fridge door and peeked inside, finding all sorts of food. I couldn't find the sodas Mr. Swan told us about though. I poked around, moving things when suddenly Bella screamed behind me.

"Ow!" I yelped as I hit the top of my head. I stumbled backward and fell on my behind. I heard her giggling and snorting like she always does. Stupid girl.

"That was so funny," she said, clutching her stomach. "You should see your face!" She pointed at my nose and kept laughing. When she saw that I was upset, she stopped suddenly. Her eyes got wide and started to get really shiny. "I'm sorry." She offered me her hand.

"Why do you do those things to me?" I asked. "You've been meaner to me."

"I-I don't know why," she whispered. "You make me laugh all the time and when you do, it's the only time I don't think about the fact that she's not here to bake us cookies after school, or to hold me when I'm upset. You help it hurt a little less." A single tear fell from her eye.

I sighed and wrapped her arms around her. She'd been crying a lot lately, and I was sure it was because of her birthday. It was her first one without her mother around. No red velvet cake, no blowing out candles as her mother sang her the special birthday song I made up for her.

I started to hum as her thin arms wrapped around my waist. I felt her tears on my shirt as she started to hum along with me. Once the song was finished, she gave me a pretty smile and said she felt better.

"I won't do it anymore," she whispered. "Scare you, I mean."

"I like hearing you laugh," I said, shrugging and blushing. "It's okay."

Both our stomachs growled at the same time. Giggling, I ran after Bella, telling her that the mountain lion in my stomach would get hers first. We tumbled into the living room, laughing and tickling each other.

After she made a couple of bolonga sandwiches with chips and soda, we sat together in the living to watch cartoons. "I got you something," I said as I wiped my hands on a paper towel. "It's not much but I knew you had to have it." I lied, it cost three years worth of savings to get her gift.

I pulled it out of my pocket and placed it on her lap. She gave me a small smile and opened it slowly. "Did you wrap it?"

I shook my head. "I did make the paper though," I mumbled, embarrassed. She knew I loved to draw and my momma said it would make it more personal if made the wrapping paper. So I drew lots of musical notes, since I knew Bella liked to sing like her mother had.

"It's really nice," she said softly. She pulled off the top of the box that was wrapped inside the paper and her bottom lip started to tremble. With big shiny eyes, she looked at me.

"If you don't l-like it," I stuttered, saying anything to make her stop crying. "I can return it and you can pick out something else."

She shook her head and held up the charm bracelet. "I like it," she said softly, her voice breaking. "Will you help put it on me?"

I nodded as I took her hand in my lap. Slipping the silver bracelet around her wrist, I clasped the two ends together. "Can you tell me about the charms?" she asked as her fingers and mine played with a couple of the dangling charms.

"This one-" I started, playing with a small musical note, "-is because you sing really pretty." We both blushed, but I continued. "This one-" this time I touched the little flower. "-is for how you smell everyday. Like the flowers from my mom's garden. The little cherries are for your new farm. The star is for the stargazing you like to do with me. The book is because you love to read. This one, this is something my mom said I need to put on it, to represent your momma, the same with the angel, because she'll always be watching out for you."

She nodded, touching the tiny pink ribbon charm. "And this one?" she asked as her fingers touched a tiny silver heart. Once again, her eyes were on mine before she looked at the heart more closely. "It's got an E on it."

"It stands for the heart you'll always hold in your hands," I mumbled. I had practiced that for ages in front of the mirror. I messed up, I was supposed to look at her and say it loudly. Instead, I mumbled it like a dummy.

"Edward," she whispered and I felt her fingers under my chin. Gently, she pulled my face up so she could see how embarrassed I was. "Thank you."

I nodded and scrambled to my feet. I felt all hot inside and I needed to go help anyway. "I should go back outside and help."

"Give me a minute and we both can go," she said softly. Once we put everything away, we went back outside. Bella led me to the garage where her little three wheeler stood waiting. Charlie and my dad taught me how to ride when they first moved here. It was about the only fun thing to do, too. She handed me a key and waited until I sat down so she can sit behind me. I got startled with the sound of the horn when she pressed it. Giggling, she wrapped her arms around my waist as I started the engine.

"Hold on, birthday girl!"

We darted out of the garage and I went straight to the dirt road that led to the back forty acres where they were planting trees. Bella squealed in excitement whenever I weaved from side to side or did a little spin. She loved the feel of the wind in her hair. Once we reached our fathers, we offered to help.

A few hours later, Bella took my hand and the last sapling to plant near the clearing her Dad left for us to ride and play in. She squealed and laughed as I chased her around the tree after we were done.

Giggling, Bella fell onto blanket we laid out earlier. "Thank you," she gasped. "For everything, Eddie."

"You don't have to thank me, silly," I said as I laid down beside her. I propped up on my elbow and started to play with a curl of her hair, as I usually did. Her pretty eyes closed, her lashes fluttering against her skin.

"Do you think she's up there?" she asked in a sweet, soft whisper. "Do you think she can hear me right now?"

"My mom once told me that you can hear the angels sing if you listen hard enough," I said softly, as if I was telling her a secret. "You know how I know she can hear you?"

She turned to look at me, pretty eyes wide and glassy from tears that wanted to fall. I hated when she cried. "How?"

"Because I hear you," I replied. "An angel could always another angel."

She smiled sweetly. "You're the only one that gets me," she said. "Promise you'll be here with me, forever."

I nodded. "I pinky promise."

She scowled. "Pinky promises are for losers," she said, rolling her eyes. She sat up and told me to do the same. "This is the way to do it."

Holding her palm up, I copied her. She spat in her hand and waited for me to do the same. I did, only because it was her. She took my hand and our spit smashed together. We both made faces, because it was gross.

"Forever," she whispered.

"Forever," I repeated.

I meant it, too.

The Farmer's Daughter—

Four Years Later-Age thirteen

It was cherry picking season and I couldn't find Bella anywhere. She was always getting herself in trouble. "Bella!" I called out for her while I ran up row fifty-six of section twelve. "Darn it, Bella. Where are you?"

"I'm over here!" she said loudly from a few rows over. "I found another hybrid!"

"Hold on," I said, following the sound of her voice. She'd been excited to know that the trees were ready for the first real picking, one that would allow her dad to sell to the local markets and packinghouses. She was happy to find out that her dad's orchard had sprung about twenty hybrids what seemed to be a combination of Bing and Tulare Cherry Trees.

They offered the biggest cherries and tasted the sweetest. "You know Charlie hates when you just take off when we're picking, Bee."

"I know," she said as I walked up to her. Her face was all red and sweaty from running around in the sun, helping the crews and her father. She was marking trees that were ready for picking. "But I knew you would find me." She turned to up at me and smiled. "You always do."

I rolled my eyes and handed her a red flag. "Looks good to me," I said as I examined the cherries. Taking a small grouping, I snapped the stem off the branch. I wiped the cherries on my sleeve and bit into one of them. "Tastes good." I looked at some of the branches and saw that there was uniform coloring. "Flag it."

"Yay!" Bella said, tying the flag on a branch. "Give me, I want a taste."

I shook my head and tried to get away, but she was still faster than I was. She always wanted what I wanted. In moments, we tumbled on the ground. She was laughing and trying to grab my hand where I had the last two cherries. "Edward!" she cried out and sat on me.

"You know," I said, with my hand clutched tightly. "You can try asking nicely, Bee."

"I don't want to," she murmured. She sat on my lap and tried again. "Why don't you just give it to me?" I shook my head, laughing. Now that I was taller, she couldn't get things from me as she used to.

She stopped moving suddenly and gave me that pout. She never fought fair, from day one. "Please," she pleaded. I rolled my eyes, stuffing one in her mouth.

"There," I said, pushing her off my lap. "You win."

"Thank you," she said, smiling smugly. "Come on. Let's go see how our tree is doing."

"We were just there yesterday," I whined but smiled secretly. I loved going out there with her, no one came looking for us there. It was our secret spot.

"I know but I want to see if they're redder than yesterday," she said. "Take me for a ride again?"

I shook my head. "You're not driving, but I will let you ride with me."

She nodded excitedly and took my head, tugging me toward my dirt bike. I usually rode on the three-wheeler, but something was wrong with it. Charlie and Dad were looking at it.

Thankfully, Jacob, my neighbor, said I could help around his garage in exchange for his help on rebuilding an old dirt bike I found at the junk yard last year. Jacob had graduated from high school the year before, but stayed to help his dad in the shop in town.

I handed my helmet to Bella and took the other one. "I guess you knew I would take a ride with you," she said.

"Something like that," I said, blushing. "Are you sure you want to go to our tree?"

She nodded and I took a deep breath. I really hoped she liked what I had done. I started the bike and waited for her to climb on behind me. Her thin arms wrapped around my waist, squeezing me once before she rested her chin on my shoulder.

"Fast or slow," I said, already knowing the answer.

"Fast!"

I revved the engine and took off in a sudden jerk, kicking up dust everywhere.

I heard her laughter, my favorite sound in the world.

Once we arrived, I helped her off the bike, leading her to our tree. There beside it, I had a picnic awaiting us. She looked at me, her hand still in mine. "What's this?"

"I wanted to show you something," I said. I tugged her until we were standing beside our cherry tree – a hybrid. "Please don't be mad at me. I hate it when you get mad at me."

She shook her head. "You know I can't ever stay mad," she said softly. "Not ever."

I sighed and wiped my brow. She giggled because she could see how nervous I was. I told her to close her eyes, which she did without hesitation. Taking her dirty, small hand, I placed it on the heart I carved in our tree.

She tried to open her eyes, but I didn't let her. I stood behind her and put my hands over them. "Just feel what it says inside."

Her finger outlined the heart, and slowly she followed each letter. "E…C…T…I S." I let my hands fall away so that she could see it. Her lip trembled as she traced each letter again. "EC plus IS." She repeated it a few times before she looked at me.

"Are you mad that I marked our tree?"

She shook her head and threw her arms around me. In a whisper, she said, "I love you, too."

I smiled and my eyes closing as my heart filled as it had when I first saw her and thought she was my angel.

We ate the picnic lunch my mom helped me pack and made plans for the rest of the day. Bella wanted to try a new cherry soda recipe when we finished helping our dads. We heard the sound of the Mule, a hauler that Charlie borrowed from Aro, who owned an olive ranch down the road.

Bella told me to be quiet, so we could see what my dad and hers were doing. The mule stopped just at the bottom of the hill, where they couldn't see or hear us. Charlie turned off the little car and sighed, his head hit the back of the headrest.

"When?" he said to my dad.

My dad shook his head. "Soon, another few weeks maybe," he said. He took something from his shirt jacket, his silver flask. I had taken a few sips from it before, when he wasn't looking. Tasted like piss or worse, made everything look funny too.

Mom said it's Dad's vodka. I know he doesn't do it often, only when something bad has happened.

"It's going to kill them," Charlie said, taking the flask from my dad.

My dad nodded and took another drink after Charlie returned it to him. "Esme doesn't want to tell him yet, thinks it will break his heart."

"I know it will break my baby's heart," Charlie said. "Damn it, Carlisle. She's had it broken long enough. Your boy put it back together."

"I know."

"We should tell them as soon as possible," Charlie said softly. "Let them get used to the idea."

"Bella's going to be angry," my dad replied.

"Yeah." Charlie sighed and ran his hand over his jaw and then his hair. "She'll understand that you have to move, your mother needs you back home." My heart stopped and something got suck in my throat. I hadn't heard him right. I can't leave her.

"I'm sorry, Charlie."

Bella moved away from me and ran. "Bella!" I cried out for her, running after her. "Bee!"

I heard my dad and Charlie cursing from where they were. "Leave me alone!" she screamed, running until she fell on her knees. I heard her heart break all over again. "Why?"

I went to her quickly. "I don't know," I said as I knelt beside her. "It doesn't matter, though."

She looked up at me, tears falling, one right after the other down her pale cheeks. "How can you say that? You're leaving me."

I took her hand and held it up. I held the little heart on her bracelet in between two of my fingers. "I promised I'd always be with you."

She nodded. "You did. And now you're going to break it."

"I don't want to," I whispered.

"Edward," she whimpered and wrapped her arms around me. "I promise not to forget you."

"I promise, too." Tears gathered in my eyes as I heard my angel cry as she laid her head against my heart.

Weeks passed and we did our best to spend every spare minute together. She was my best friend and the person I loved most in the world. We watched movies, took rides on my bike and skipped school once. We got into a lot of trouble for that, but we weren't grounded. Maybe because they knew that separating us was terrible enough.

On the last day, we sat by our tree and shared our first real kiss. I told her I loved her and that I would forever. She smiled and whispered those words to me, too. Hand in hand, we walked to my house where my parents were waiting.

One look at Bella and my mom started to cry. Her arms circled around Bella and squeezed. "As soon as we get there, he'll call you, sweetie."

"You got email to talk every day," Charlie said, giving me a small smile.

Bella rolled her eyes and shook her head. "I need a computer for that, Dad."

Charlie's smile got bigger. "Didn't I tell you? I went and bought you one today."

Bella squealed and jumped into her Charlie's arms. "Thank you, thank you," she said, kissing him on his cheek. She turned and ran into my arms. "I hope you get a computer soon."

"His uncle has one," my mother said, smiling. "We'll get one in a few months."

"Emails are nice," I said and pulled Bella's chin up so that she'd look at me. "But your voice would be better."

My mom patted my back. "We'll see what we can do, son."

"We should hit the road," my dad said, looking at the darkening sky that was suddenly overhead.

Charlie made some comment as I pulled Bella aside from our parents. She wouldn't look at me, her eyes were looking at her shoes. "Bella," I whispered. "Please look at me."

She shook her head. "I can't."

"Why can't you?"

"I promised-d I wouldn't c-cry," she whispered, her voice breaking.

"Who did you promise that to?" I asked softly, brushing some strands of hair behind her ear.

"Myself," she said with a little sniffle.

"I will see you again."

She shook her head. "Plane tickets are expensive and so are buses or trains. If you drove here once you get your license, the gas will be. I don't see how."

"I'll find a way," I replied. "I promise."

"No more promises you can't keep, Edward," she pleaded, looking up me with big, sad eyes. "I don't think I can take it."

"I promise, Isabella Swan," I said firmly, taking both her hands in mine. "I will see you again." I wrapped my arms around her tightly, her tears soaking through my shirt. My eyes stung as I tried to hold onto the tears that wanted to come out.

The sky opened up on us as we stood outside. She nodded and whispered, "I believe you."

The sky wept with her. The sky thundered overhead as I sat in the backseat of my dad's car. I watched and my heart broke, as Bella's father had to carry her inside.

Five Years Later

The day I left her, was the last time Bella picked a cherry from the trees. She refused, she told her father, who told mine, that it was our thing. That she would never do it until I returned. That first crop was the best they had since our departure. They worked hard, but couldn't get a better harvest.

I called and wrote. She called and wrote. She'd cried when I'd tell her something came up and my parents couldn't afford to send me to visit her. I'd get angry with her for not being able to come to see me. We were just frustrated.

Over time, the pain was too much. The weekly calls turned to the once a month phone call, the weekly email and the occasional letter. The pictures she sent me of her were breathtakingly beautiful. She made comments of her friends going to a school dance or the movies, things she should've been doing if she hadn't been waiting for me call. I knew I was holding her back.

I stopped answering her letters and her calls. Soon, much too soon, she stopped trying to reach out to me. I tried to move on, but I couldn't. I wasn't rich enough for the snobby bitches at my high school. I dated twice, but they weren't Bella and it never amounted to anything.

I kept in touch with other friends from back home, those that told me that Bella hadn't moved on either. She had graduated early and with the scholarship to the same school that I hoped to attend in the fall.

I opened my email and typed out a message to her.

To:

From:

Date: March 13, 2010

Subject: Harvest Time

I know it's been a while. There are things I want to say to you. One of them is that I'm sorry. I'm sorry I stopped taking your calls, replying to your letters or emails. I emailed you everyday, but I never sent them. I wanted to, but I was afraid that you'd stop living your life if I had. I wanted you to have fun, go out with your friends, date. I really hated the idea that you wouldn't do those things because you were waiting for me.

I know you don't believe me, but I missed and thought of you every day since I last wrote or spoke to you. I'll prove it. After you see this, I'll send every email I wrote but saved in my drafts folder to you.

I'm heading there for the next harvest. Any chance I can see you?

Love Always and Forever,

Edward

Bella

I heard the ping from my computer of an incoming message. It was probably from Jessica or Angela, I could always answer them later. I had graduated in January, having fulfilled my credit requirements early. I was heading to Stanford in May and I really needed to pack. My dad went to Palo Alto to find me an apartment and even found me a roommate.

Then I heard my computer ping again, and again, and again. I dropped the books I had in my hand into the box and walked over to my computer. I had four hundred and ninety-three messages. Every email was from Edward.

A small sob escaped me, as I plopped down on my chair. More and more continued to pour in. I quickly clicked on the very first one from him. I read it and read it again, tears forming in my eyes. He was coming home.

I clicked on each email, each one a confession of his love, of his pain and of his day. I cried as I read each one of them. He was sweet in some, angry in others and in love with me in all of them. I cried for that lost year we had stubbornly wasted.

I clicked on my drafts folder and sent every email that was in it.

My boy was coming home.

Edward

Hours had passed, and with each minute, my heart ached. She wasn't going to answer. It was what I deserved after all. I couldn't sleep, I laid awake, willing my computer to chime and tell me that she was there.

I dreamt of her, as I had many times before. I dreamt of the softness of her hair, the color of her skin and feel of her lips. My computer finally alerted me late into the evening. I ran to my computer and I yelled.

"She answered!"

My mother knocked on the wall. "That's good, dear," she said. "Now get some sleep."

I groaned, but sat quietly and read each email from her. Some of them were filled with pictures, some with her silly jokes. Her sorrow was in almost every one. The loss of her mother was heartbreaking, but the loss of her heart was just as painful. She told me I took her heart with me the day I left her in the rain.

In the very last one, the most recent that she'd written, she said she'd be moving into her new apartment and that she'd try to be home in time for the harvest.

I sighed. It was hopeful at least.

Weeks had passed since her email; I had been busy with finals and preparing for my move back to California. Ben, a friend from back home, said I could stay with his family while I visited Bella. She had yet to call me, though my number hadn't changed.

Maybe she had moved on, but I shook that thought from my head. I had hope for a future together, especially when I was accepted to Stanford. We emailed and texted about my upcoming visit, but she hadn't confirmed or denied that she'd be there.

I had to hand it to her, she was making me pay for ignoring her for the past year. Not that I blamed her. I just wish I knew what she was thinking! Aggravated with everything, I threw my book across the room until it struck the wall.

"I don't think that's the answer, son," my mom said as she stood at the door to my room.

"I'm sorry," I said, pushing up my glasses up my nose. "I'm nervous and scared." I exhaled loudly. "What if she doesn't want me anymore, Mom?"

She sighed and crossed the room to reach for me. "She's loved you from the moment you said hello," she whispered, wrapping her arms around me. "I know it hasn't been easy without her, but you'll see. It'll work out."

I shook my head. "She's beautiful, and I'm not even in her league."

She tsked and pulled away. "Is that the real reason you stopped talking to her?"

My shoulders rose and fell and I nodded, embarrassed. "I'm a geek, Ma."

"You're intelligent and do you really think that matters to her?"

"How should I know?" I said bitterly. "I don't know who she is anymore."

"Who kicked all the kids that made fun of you because you wore glasses in grade school?"

"She did."

"Who held your hand every time you walked her home?"

"She did."

"Who loved you no matter what you looked like?"

"She did."

"Exactly," she whispered. "Personally, I think you're handsome and very smart."

I laughed and shook my head. "You're my mother," I said as I pulled away. "What's the saying, 'a face only a mother could love.'"

"Honey," she sighed, handing me more books from my shelf. "I don't want you to get your hopes up, but you have to have faith in her. She's never given you a reason to think she doesn't still care for you."

I nodded. "No, she hasn't. And at this point, I'm willing to settle for her friendship. I loved her for so long, though. I can still wish she'd want more."

"Of course, you can. It'll work out. I know it will. She made you smile everyday," she said softly. "Made you mad every other." She grinned.

I laughed and smiled. "Yeah, she did."

"You ready?" my Dad called from the doorway.

"Yes, I am," I said, pushing up my glasses up my nose again. "Thanks for the bike, Dad."

"You keep saying that," he replied with a smile. "And I keep telling you that it was a gift, no need to thank me every day."

"Still," I said. "I know it couldn't be easy for you to buy a motorcycle instead of a car."

My mother sighed and wrapped her arm around my shoulders. "You're a responsible adult now," she said proudly. "We trust your judgment and you've never given us reason to doubt it."

"Thanks anyway." I taped the last of my boxes and marked it. "Looks like it's time to go."

My parents were taking their truck while I rode my motorcycle to Palo Alto behind them. It was a long drive, but the hauler they rented allowed me to ride with them if needed.

My mom had arranged for an apartment and I already had a job lined up for me when I got there. I had a roommate that I would be meeting once I returned from visiting Bella. I had some hope that once I told her I was attending the same college that we could have some semblance of the relationship we had before I moved away.

Once we reached the highway, I took off, my parents trailing behind me. I had a lot to think of thinking to do. Do I go see visit Bella and tell her I wanted more the moment I saw her? Make it clear that I wanted her to be mine as I had always been hers?

Or should I just try to reestablish the relationship we had before I had left? What if my confession and my desires, only scared her away from me for good? I couldn't risk that, I had to wing it based on her reaction to me.

I wasn't the same skinny kid I was when I had left her, but I wasn't an athletic jock like Mike was. Ben had said on a few occasions that they went on group dates together. They seemed paired off, but he also knew that Jessica was often with Mike. So, he had no clue to Bella's current relationship status and it bothered me to think that she no longer felt what I felt for her.

There was so much to be said. However, she was no longer the too thin thirteen-year-old girl I knew either. Once I laid eyes on her, I'd likely get tongue-tied. All the photos she had sent to me through the years indicated that she was more beautiful now than ever before.

I couldn't control some things, like the fact that I was a hormonal adult now. And my body's natural reaction to just the thought of her. I couldn't imagine what it be like to hold her again. I had almost forgotten the sweet delicate scent of her hair, similar to the cherry blossoms that were pungent in the air around the ranch. I missed everything about her.

It had taken four days to trek across country with my parents, and on the fifth day, we finally reached Palo Alto. It would be my home for the next four years, possibly longer. My roommate had just been leaving when I arrived at our small two-bedroom apartment. Jasper had moved from Texas and was attending Stanford for its program in Earth Sciences.

Before I left to see Bella, I said goodbye to my parents. They were remaining for a few days, taking a short vacation together. I knew it couldn't be easy that I had chosen a school clear across country, but they knew since I started applying for college that I'd go back home or wherever Bella would go. We all knew that Bella would never be far from her father. As it was, Palo Alto was only three hours away from the cherry ranch.

It was time to find my way home.

The Farmer's Daughter—

I was pacing the diner that Bella and I frequented when we were kids. I was home but I was a nervous wreck. I hadn't been able to work up the courage to go over to the ranch, much less call Bella to see if she came home. What if she didn't answer? What if she's not there?

"Hey, kid," a familiar voice said behind me.

I turned and couldn't help but smile. "Charlie," I said, extending my hand. The moment his met mine, he pulled me into a manly bear hug.

"About time you came home," he said, patting my pack heartily. "I got a call from Jake, said he seen you in here, looking like a caged lion." Of course, Jake would've called Charlie, small towns were notorious for gossip. "Good thing I had to pick up some lunch." He seemed to be waiting for me to say something.

"I want to see her," I blurted out, pulling away from instantly. "But it's been so long. She might hate me."

Charlie chuckled and clapped my shoulder roughly. "She could never hate you," he said. "There wasn't a day that you weren't on my baby's mind." He looked thoughtful, sitting in a booth and asked me to do the same.

Once settled, he looked me and shook his head. "The day you left, after carrying her inside I wanted to pack up everything and catch up with you and your parents, just to make her happy."

I smiled. "She'd never had allowed you to do that," I said softly. "The ranch had been in the family too long to let it get sold."

Charlie nodded. "Told me that the next day."

"Is she here then?"

"Yeah," he said, scratching the back of his neck. "She got back day before last yesterday from her new place near her school."

"Did she say she wanted to see me?"

Charlie grinned as the waitress behind the counter handed him a couple of bags of food. "Why don't you go see for yourself?" After paying her, he returned his attention to me. "She's riding around marking trees as we speak. If not, she's helping Seth with bin counts."

I nodded. "I'll go, but if I don't come by later, it's probably because she dumped my body in the back forty."

He laughed and shook his head. "You're worrying way too much. She could never stay mad at you for long."

With a smile and promise to stop to see him again, I ran outside to my motorcycle. I took another look at Charlie as he hopped into his jeep, looking none too happy about my chosen form of transportation. He gave me a small wave as I sped off toward Bella.

When I arrived, I waved at Jacob as he fiddled with what looked to be a quad. There were a two men working on building a fruit stand near the front entrance of Swan Ranch. There were a few vans and cars parked in various rows. The trees had grown considerably in the last five years. Once I made my way to one of the shops that housed most of the farm equipment, I parked my bike under the awning.

A few familiar faces of the crew that been caring for the same land since Charlie's grandfather owned it greeted me. Including a man in his late sixties, that had been my father's right hand man. "Richard," I said, taking his hand and pulling into a one-armed hug. "Have you seen Bella anywhere?"

Richard gave me a knowing smile and pointed behind him. "She took the tractor with a full set of bins to the clearing where they're setting them on the flatbed."

"Alone?" I asked, concerned. Richard his head and removed his straw hat.

"Nah, Seth and Sammy are helping her. Jerry's ready to take the truck over to the packing house in a bit."

My lips and eyebrows rose. "Already? Didn't you all start picking today?"

He smiled and nodded. "Best damn crop we've ever seen. Didn't look like it at first, but come late March, all the trees budded nicely and we hadn't had a day of bad weather."

"That's great," I said, smiling. "With the price and the look of the fruit, I'd say he'd be able to pull in at least three hundred K this year."

"Like I said best damn crop," Richard said. "I swear, it didn't turn around until that girl of yours started singing."

My brows furrowed in confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"You remember growing up," he said thoughtfully as if remembering. "She would always hum and sing when she was out here. Sing to the trees. She stopped the year you left." He scratched his head and stuffed his hat back on. "Then, in the spring, while I was here helping Charlie with the new sprinkler system, I'd seen her singing again."

"Is her voice still as pretty as before?"

He smiled. "Better."

"I better go find her." He waved me away, and returned his attention back to the tree in front of him. As I passed tree after tree, almost every one was ready for harvesting. It was rare to see so many perfectly ready in the neighboring sections. Coloring usually depended on the sun and the watering. It normally taken three weeks of constant picking and going back to redo sections to ensure we had picked every last tree.

Yet, it seemed that this year it wouldn't take more than a couple of weeks. I didn't have to return to my new apartment until the first of June. I hoped to spend my time here with Bella. I also hoped that I could convince her to give me a chance, and be my girlfriend by the time we attended school together.

I returned to my bike and headed down the familiar path to the clearing that Richard had mentioned. It wasn't as large as the one that had the shop in it, but it allowed somewhere to store bins until they were ready for transporting.

I stopped just behind a circle of trees and turned off my bike. The roar of the tractor thankfully dulled the sound of my engine. It was then that I heard her. "There you go Seth!" she called out. "Another two feet forward and you got it!" There was a brief pause before the tractor's roar quieted.

"Give them a wash and cover them up, Sammy," she said loudly. "I'm gonna grab some water." I heard the men respond as I turned toward the sound of her voice.

For a few short moments, I swore time stopped. There she was in short denim shorts and a red sleeveless shirt. Her hair was in a French braid, smiling as she examined one of the bins filled with the red fruit. As if she realized that I was there, she stilled and turned slowly toward me. I held my breath, so afraid of what may or may not happen. There was no smile at her lips, but there was surprise, maybe disbelief.

Her mouth twitched at the corners as she broke out in a run. She hit my body hard, instantly wrapping both legs and arms around me. I sighed and held her, instantly tightening my arms around her. My girl, my sweet angel was as beautiful as ever. She murmured something repeatedly in my ear, barely coherent.

"Please don't be a dream. Please don't let me be dreaming."

"It's not," I whispered. "If it is, don't let them wake me." She laughed softly, the sound as heartwarming and filled me instantly. I took in the scent of her hair, the feel of her skin and just her. I could finally breathe using all my heart. It felt like I hadn't in so long. "I missed you, so much."

Then she smacked me. Only my arm, but she hit me. "Why?"she asked against my neck. "Why did you stop calling and writing me?"

I shook my head as she started to pull away, settling her feet on the ground. She tried to step back, put more distance between us. "No!" I grabbed her quickly and held on to her. "I'm sorry. I-I couldn't be with you and because of it, you weren't really living your life."

She scowled and dropped her arms at her sides. "We're not having this conversation here," she snapped, taking my hand and tugging me toward my bike. "Let's go to our place."

"All right." I'd do anything and go anywhere, just to get her to understand or, at the very least, forgive me.

I slipped onto my motorcycle and waited for her to climb on. She looked both surprised and awed. I wanted to gloat, maybe show off, but it wasn't the time. I was standing on thin ice as it was. I could still see the anger and hurt in her eyes.

"You, um, ungraded, I see," she murmured. I nodded and ran my hand through my hair nervously. I heard her gasp slightly, turning toward her again, her mouth was slightly parted and her hand cupping her neck. She stared blankly at me, perhaps behind me. What the hell was wrong with her?

"Bee?" She snapped out of whatever trance she was in and climbed on behind me. I had to bite the inside of my cheek, perhaps having her ride with me wasn't such a good idea. Her hands settled on my hips and slowly moved forward, almost pulling a groan from me.

Not a good idea. Not a good idea.

Her hands met over my abdomen and clasped together, her fingertips just grazing the button on my jeans.

I will not react like a hormonal teenage boy, I silently chanted in my head.

Too late. I took a few calming breaths, but realized that do so caused me to feel the soft contours of her chest against my back. It was pure heaven and hell. I had dreamt of this, of having her holding me as she was now. I was, after all, a man, and I felt guilty as hell about it. I internally prayed that she never asked me about what I thought about her while I was away.

"Edward?" her soft voice and her breath tickled my ear. She settled her chin on my shoulder, just like she used to years earlier.

"Fast or slow?" I asked, remembering the time I asked on her ninth birthday.

Her arms tightened around me for a moment before she answer. "Slow." That was surprising. "Don't want to kick up any dust. It's not good for the fruit." She had answered my unasked question. I nodded and slowly we made our way past hundreds of trees brimming with the red, fragrant fruit.

After a minute or so, her head moved and her cheek settled on my shoulder blade. Within moments, I felt her tears against my t-shirt. I felt the scope of what my abandonment had done to her. Not only had I left her when I was that thirteen-year-old boy, but again when I stopped communicating with her.

I had broken my promise again. I closed my eyes briefly, opening them only when I promised myself never to break her heart again.

Once we arrived, she hoped off and made her way to our tree. It towered over her as she laid a hand on the trunk of it. I climbed off the bike and stood motionless.

"I'm the only one allowed to care for it," she whispered softly. "I almost lost it to disease a few years ago. All natural too, I never allowed anything chemical to touch it. I saved it thankfully, but you can see where I had to trim away large chunks of it. Even though it hasn't been whole for the last year, it still blossomed this spring. It just needed the tenderness I gave it."

The words seemed not only apply to our tree, but to us as well. It pained me, the lost, hurt expression that graced her lovely face. "I'm sorry, Bella," I rasped, so ready to beg her for forgiveness.

"My so called friends were only interested in partying and immature boys," she started, still facing away from me. I wanted to go to her, to take her in my arms to ease our pain. But I remained still, waiting.

"I went out with them, but I refused to do the party thing. You knew how important it was for me to go to college. How much I wanted to be the first Swan that did." I couldn't take the separation not after finally seeing her again. In a few long strides, I was behind her. Taking her hands, I turned and I pulled her against me.

She refused to look at me, even to hold me as I held her. What had I done to my angel?

I shook my head, trying to coax her tense body to relax by rubbing her back gently. "You said a several occasions that your friends went out without you, only because you were waiting for my call."

"You asked!" she said, pulling from grasp. "You asked about my day, about my friends. I answered honestly. I wasn't interested in being passed around the group, either."

"Huh?" My hands clenched at my sides, wanting desperately to hold her again.

She sighed and shook her head. "It's a small town, Edward," she said exasperated. "You know this and there aren't many guys to choose from. Angie, Jessica and Lauren had gone out with everyone of the guys within our group. I wasn't interested in their sloppy fourths."

I grinned. "No one has caught your eye?" It was irrational how wonderful it felt to know that no one had taken her heart from me. I shouldn't have been that happy about it, because it also meant that she had been alone.

She smiled and shook her head. "I went out a few times with Seth last winter, but that turned out to be more of a friend thing."

My smile fell as I remembered Seth, who had been helping her earlier. We were the same age, but where we differed was his obvious athletic build. "I can't compare to him," I mumbled, not able to meet her eyes. "I'm happy you have a new best friend."

She sighed and I could feel her eyes on me. "That title has been yours since we met. Did you really think a few thousand miles and five years would change that?"

Her words were sinking in. "You are pretty damn stubborn," I said with a small smile. "The truth is, Bella." I pulled her into my arms again, noticing for the first time that the top of her head barely grazed my chin. "I was afraid that one day you'd tell me that you found someone who would love you as much I had."

"Oh."

"You're very beautiful, and I found it hard to believe that you didn't have them lining up to take you out."

"Did you find somebody else?" she asked softly. "Is that another reason you wanted me to move on."

Tightening my hold on her, I answered. "I couldn't forget you, even if I tried, much less move on. But I tried to date. But, as you can see, I don't exactly having girls throwing themselves at me."

She pulled back to look up at me, confusion had her brows furrowing. "What do you mean by that?"

I blushed and sighed. "I'm your typical nerd, Bella," I said, shrugging. "If my nose wasn't in a book, it was glued to my computer. I wear glasses and can quote Tennyson, Shakespeare and Tolkien in my sleep. I lost my braces six months ago, and well, I'm still on the skinny side."

She smiled and kissed my chin gently. "Sounds pretty hot to me," she said. "I like to carry on a conversation with someone about all those authors. I don't like to listen to testosterone filled boys talk about how awesome they think they are."

"Seth?" I asked hopefully.

She giggled and shook her head. "No! He's very nice and our parents rather forced our dating. It was only to get us out of the house, I think." Her nose scrunched up in what I could only discern as disgust.

"I'm confused."

"Charlie is dating Seth's mother."

"Eww."

She giggled again, but visibly shuddered. "I'm just happy that he's happy."

"Can you forgive me?" I asked warily.

Frowning, she shrugged before she turned to look at our tree. "I'll forgive you if you're willing to forgive me for giving up. I should've fought harder to get you to talk to me. I was just hurt and angry."

"There's nothing to forgive, Bella," I said. "You had every reason, where I had stupid excuses."

"Then the same goes for you. I had some of those same insecurities, too. So I understand where you're coming from." She tugged on my hand toward the tree. "Look," she said, pointing to the heart that I had carved years earlier. It was still there. Beside it was a similar heart, newer.

"IS plus EC," I gasped and stumbled back a step. My eyes snapped to hers. "You still love me?"

She held up her wrist, the delicate silver charm bracelet still graced her soft skin. Rolling her eyes, she smacked my arm. "Isn't it obvious?"

"Do you have to answer a question with a question?" I was laughing, so happy that we were back to our usual playfulness.

"Was I doing that?" She laughed.

I chuckled and nudged her shoulder. "Did you notice that you still haven't answered my original question?"

"I haven't?" Now she was giggling.

Unable to resist, I took her in my arms and spun us around. "No you haven't, you stubborn, irresistible, beautiful girl."

Her laughter softened as her arms around my neck tightly. Soft lips touched just below my ear and in a whisper so soft, she said, "I love you."

Closing my eyes in relief and happiness, I clutched her tighter. "I love you, Bella. Always have."

Since I lifted her off her feet I felt the tips of her toes brushing my shins, I kissed her under our tree. Where we shared our first kiss, had our first fight and where I promised silently to myself, I'd ask her to be mine forever – eventually.

Our lips met tentatively at first, soft and wary. Unfamiliar for just a moment, however, it all changed when her bottom lip trembled from another whisper of her love for me. Returning the sentiment, I pressed my mouth over hers more firmly, urgently. Gently, her mouth parted as I softly stroked her lips with the tip of my tongue.

She sighed as I explored the taste of her, slowly so not to scare her or myself. We were both new to this, to us. I knew I was a virgin. Was she? I must've stilled for a moment too long because she pulled back to search my face.

"What's wrong?" she asked, hurt in her eyes.

"There hasn't been anyone else for me," I said warily. "I – I mean, I haven't, you know—"

Her confusion changed to understanding. "I haven't either." I sighed in relief, earning a laugh and a kiss.

I grinned. "We should go back to where someone can see us or else Charlie might hunt me down."

She nodded. "He probably would." Taking her hand, I led her back to my bike when she resisted for a moment.

"What happens when you leave again?"

"I don't know, it depends on you," I said.

"I don't understand." She released my hand and wrapped her arms around her chest, as if she afraid.

"I'm attending Stanford, too." Her smile and her squeal of happiness hit me fully as did her body, launching herself in my arms again. I laughed as I spun us around. So happy that I was finally home where my heart was all along.

The Farmer's Daughter—

With Charlie at the head of the table and Bella sitting on my right, we had dinner together for the first time in years. "So, Edward," Charlie said, after taking a healthy drink from his glass of water. "Your father tells me you're attending Bella's school."

Bella's forks clanked against her plate and I gaped at him. "You kept in touch with Carlisle?" Bella sounded really angry.

"Hold on there," he said gently. "He was a very good friend before he went and left. Of course, I kept in touch with him. I was worried about Edward, as he and Esme were worried about you."

Bella nodded. "She stopped calling me, too."

"What are you talking about?" I asked her.

"She was like a mother to me after my mom died, Edward, for years," she said softly. "When she left, she promised to call me. And she did, but I think she knew how much it hurt to know that she couldn't send you home."

"I didn't even think about you not only losing your best friend, but you lost another mother." I shook my head and took her hand. "I'm so sorry."

"That's enough, you two," Charlie said. "We were worried about the both of you. We told you what you needed to hear so that you could go on. It was wrong of us, but we only did it help ease some of the pain."

"I know why you did it," Bella said softly. "And I'm sorry. I forgot how much their leaving affected you, too, Dad."

Charlie nodded and returned his attention to me. "What are you specializing in? Carlisle hadn't mentioned your major."

"Bioengineering."

He shook his head. "I don't think I ever met two people more perfect for each other," he grumbled.

Bella giggled and laid a hand on my arm. "That's my major, too." I smiled and took her hand in mine.

"How long you staying?" Charlie asked me. Bella stilled beside me, waiting for my answer.

"Until the harvesting is done, sir," I replied, giving Bella a small smile. "I'd like to stay long enough to help."

"Sounds good to me, we can use a few extra hands this season," Charlie said thoughtfully. "Best damn crop we'd ever had."

"Thank you, sir," I said. I turned to Bella, after taking a bite of her pot roast. "When are you heading out?"

"I'm going through the graduation ceremony in early June, but I should be up there soon after."

I sighed. "I was hoping that we could ride up there together."

"Hold on there, Edward," Charlie said firmly. "Don't deprive a father his need to take his daughter to her first apartment."

Bella laughed and shook her head. "It'll only be a week," she said to me. "We'll see each other when I get there I'm sure."

Charlie mumbled something under his breath, and when Bella and I returned our attention to him, I could see his face flush. "Dad," Bella said. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing. You're just not my little girl anymore."

"I'll always be your little girl, Dad," she replied. "My home is here, on this ranch and amongst these trees. One day, I'll return, with my family and make it our home."

"Charlie," I said gently. "In her heart, she'll always be the farmer's daughter."

"Maybe so," he said, smiling gently. "Don't let that fool you, she's anything but sweet."

Bella scowled. "One time! One time, I stole the three-wheeler and I lose my goody-goody title."

"If I remember correctly," I started. "I stole the three-wheeler the day we skipped school."

Bella gasped and tried to keep from laughing. Oh shit. I wasn't supposed to tell Charlie that.

"I knew it," he growled. "You're lucky you're Carlisle's boy and hold Bella's heart or else I would've turned your skinny butt in."

"S-sorry," I stuttered as his gaze penetrated my defenses easily.

"Dad," Bella said firmly. "It was a long time ago."

Charlie laughed and grinned. "I know, but can't you let me have my fun. It's not every day I get to instill fear into someone you're dating."

I sighed in relief, laughing along with them.

The Farmer's Daughter—

Two weeks had passed; cherries were picked, hauled away and consumed. Bella and I spent most of those first few mornings flagging trees. After several hours in the warm spring sun, we'd relax with a ride around town, or up the still green foothills that surrounded us.

We spent the rest of our afternoons, riding and spending as much time as we could with one another. She took to meet with our old friends, and some of her new ones. I took her out to the movies, even managed to take her dancing one night.

We kissed, we talked and kissed some more. It was all so freaking perfect, and yet I still worried about when I left her again. What if in that short time away she'd come to her senses and want some hot looking man?

I saw the way others looked at her, as if she was the only woman within miles. Hungry for a taste of her, the same taste I lived on for days. I couldn't get enough of her. A part of me wanted to go slow with her, take the time to savor her. However, another part of me wanted to touch and kiss her everywhere.

Though we'd ventured to over the clothes petting, I wasn't about to pressure her for more when everything was so new between us. I would wait for her; after all, we were both going to be living in the same city again, attending the same school. We had time.

We decided to leave the ranch for lunch, opting for the local diner we frequented as children. Side by side we sat, sharing her fries and my vanilla shake, each of us enjoying a burger. "I see you still eat like the boys," I teased.

"I run for miles everyday, but admittedly, this is the first time I've had one of Joe's burgers in months," she said, taking a hearty bite and moaned.

Even eating caused my body to react. She had no idea what she was doing to me. I must've looked stupid or something because she started to wave her hand in front of me. "Edward," she cooed, "Eddie, Eduardo."

"Sorry," I mumbled, but smiled. "Did you know you're the only one I let call me Eddie? No one else is allowed."

She smiled softly and shrugged. "I never let anyone call me Bee, either. It's what you called me, no one else."

"Good," I said firmly, taking her hand in mine. "What are we doing once we get back?"

"We need to finish picking our tree," she said.

The Farmer's Daughter—

After lunch, we stopped at her house to grab a blanket and some bottles of waters before heading to our spot. It started to sprinkle as we made our way there. We had to hurry. Excessive water could cause the fruit to either split or lessen the sweetness of its flesh.

I passed the last of the crew, all scrambling to finish. Charlie waved at us. "We're fine, Bella! We got most of it."

Bella smiled and tugged me toward our place. Within minutes, we arrived and laid out the blanket under the protection of the tree. It would help capture any cherries that fell. Beside our tree was a small box where we had stored what we already picked. We worked quickly and picked what we could. Thankfully, there weren't many left. "Hurry!" she cried out, laughing just as the sprinkling picked up.

I wrapped my arms her waist and hauled her up onto my shoulders. "I'm too heavy," she cried out, still laughing.

"You're as light as feather, Bee," I reassured her. "Now get the last of those up there." I pointed to the highest branch.

Balancing herself with her hand on my head, we worked quickly to get the rest. "You're gonna make me hit my head," she said as she dodged a branch.

"I'll give it a kiss and make it better," I teased. "Then again, with that hard head, maybe you'll shake the rest of the cherries off the tree." She tugged on my hair, laughing when I swore.

"Brat," I grumbled. I grabbed her thighs and realized that they were bare. She had showed up for work in another pair of shorts and tank top. They were shorter and left most of her upper thigh exposed. The outfit had been torturing me most of the day.

"Shit." My breath and hers hitched as I slid my hands up her smooth legs up to the junction between hip and thigh. My head fell forward as I started to pull my hands away. "I'm sorry."

"Put me down, please," she said. Fuck, I messed up. I had allowed my hormones to take over for just a moment. She had to think I was a pig.

"I'm sorry," I whispered as I slowly settled on my knees so that she'd get down. "I didn't mean to…"

The moment her feet touched the ground, she stepped away. I stood up and turned to see bright red cherries fall from her hands. "Bella," I said, reaching for her again. The sprinkling started to fall harder, faster, soaking my shirt more than before. She gave me a soft teasing smile, the tips of her fingers touching mine.

"Come here," she whispered. Pulling me until her body pressed against mine, she cradled my cheek. Her arms wrapped around my neck and she placed a tiny kiss under my chin. "Kiss me.

I groaned and bent to press my lips over hers. Simply fueled by her touch, I pulled her tightly against me. "I love you," I murmured, nipping at her chin, her ear and finally the soft skin over her fluttering pulse.

Her delicate fingers twined in my hair, tugging gently so that my lips would meet hers again. My hands settled on her hips for a moment before I swept them up and under her top. She gasped, her head falling back. "Do you want me to keep going?" I asked softly, kissing and nipping on her neck. "Tell me, angel."

"Yes," she gasped as her arms wrapped around my shoulders. She tugged on the collar of my shirt. "Take it off, please." I stepped back a bit, taking the back of my shirt and pulling it over my head. She giggled as she caught my glasses before they fell. Gently placing them on the corner of the blanket, she returned her attention to me. Curious fingers explored my abdomen and my navel.

I was still trying to take off my shirt and she wasn't helping me concentrate. "You can help you know." She giggled! "Personally, I don't think giggling is conducive to being romantic."

She rolled her beautiful eyes, removing the first two buttons of my shirt so I could remove it. Tossing it aside, I pulled her against me, and hissed when her slightly damp shirt met my skin. With her eyes locked with mine, she continued to explore my exposed chest.

"Someone's been working out," she whispered, tracing the dips along my torso. "You're beautiful."

"You are," I murmured. My hands ran up her sides once, over her clothes. The second time I completed the circuit, it was skin on skin, as her top bunched around my wrists. "Arms up." She smiled and dutifully lifted each of her slender arms, her eyes darkening as I grazed the sides of her breasts.

The sprinkling came to a lull, slowing further. My eyes never left hers, only pulling away long enough to remove her top. Tossing it aside, I remained focused on her lovely face. The flush of pretty, creamy skin and the way a drop of rain collected on her long lashes. She was breathtaking.

"Are you sure?" I asked, brushing my fingers over the apple of her cheek. I bent and kissed her temple, grazing my nose against hers as I cradled her face in my hands. "We don't have to do anything you're not ready for, love."

I settled my forehead on hers, her lashes brushed against my cheek and opened for me to see her beautiful brown eyes, flecked with hazel. "I love you, Edward," she murmured, kissing me softly. "I'm ready."

Slowly I lifted her chin up and kissed her again. Soft, wet lips against my own and she tasted of something sweet and decadent. I gathered her in my arms and laid her down onto the blanket. I settled some of my weight on her soft, warm body, enjoying the wonderful feeling of her under me.

Her fingers twined in my hair again, as she deepened our kiss. She gave me slow and enticing little thrusts of her tongue. It was wonderful and it was torture. I encouraged her knees wider with my hand on her hip. She immediately stilled when our hips met there.

"Slow," I whispered against her lips. She nodded and pulled me back toward her mouth. I lingered on the corner of her lips, nipping on her top one softly. I continued lower, along her jawline, and down her softly scented neck. "So beautiful." Her hips swiveled slightly, warmth and pressure hit me along my erection. I groaned, dropping my head at the crook of her neck.

Then it hit me. We were really going to do this, and damn, I forgot a condom!

"Bella," I gasped as her mutual moan sounded in my ear. "I don't have a condom with me."

"I'm on the pill," she whispered, pulling my head back so that I could see her.

Irrational anger and jealously coursed through me in an instant. "Why the hell would you be on the pill?" She wouldn't be on the pill unless she had planned to sleep with someone.

She cocked a brow and pinched my waist. Yelping, I propped myself up on my hands to look at her. "I don't think discussing my menstrual cycle is conducive of a romantic setting." I could see the hurt and anger at the accusatory tone of my question. "I've already told you I haven't been with anyone."

Relief squashed the unreasonable monster long enough to sheepishly apologize. "Sorry, so sorry." She wouldn't meet my eyes, but I saw the hint of a smile as her lips twitched. "Come on, Bee," I murmured, teasing her with my mouth along her chest. "When it comes to you and the thought of other boys, I want to hit something. I'm sorry for jumping to conclusions."

"You should be," she teased. "Now you'll have to make it up to me."

I smirked and kissed her, descending to the soft curves of her breasts. "Look at you, pretty girl," I murmured, tracing one lacy-edged cup of her cute little bra with my mouth. It was white cotton with cherries on it and a tiny red bow in the middle.

Her skin was soft under my fingers and lips, warm and flushed from my touch. I continued tracing the edges of it with a lone finger up along a strap. I slipped my finger beneath it and I watched as it fell over her shoulder. I kissed along the skin there, reaching for the back clasp of her bra.

I cursed under my breath after a few failed attempts. She took over and did it on the first try. "I'm a little pleased that you don't know you're way around a bra," she said, smiling.

I growled, nuzzling and nipping at her neck as she giggled. She pushed me back with a big smile and cocked an eyebrow. "Well," she said shyly, biting her soft, reddened lip.

I smiled and looked at her properly. I stopped breathing. Soft, round curves adorned with small pink nipples, hardened under my gaze. "Wow," I gasped, watching as I circled a peak with my finger. Bella arched into my touch as if she wanted more. I bent down and allowed my breath run over lush curves.

Her skin pebbled as a small shudder caused her body to tremble beneath me. I groaned and kissed along a breast, eliciting a sweet whimper from Bella's lips. I continued until I took a nipple in my mouth. Another groan rumbled in my chest as she arched again, closer still.

With open-mouthed kisses, I explored every inch of skin within reach, including the cute tiny mole on the side of her right breast. She tugged impatiently on my hair and forced my mouth back to hers. "Please," she urged against my mouth.

"I've dreamt of this for so long," I whispered. "I refused to be rushed."

She moaned and her fingers curled around my shoulders. "Edward," she gasped, as I took a circled a nipple with the tip of my tongue. Then I felt her fingers around the front of my pants.

"Shit," I hissed as I tried to pull my lower body from her clutches. She giggled and pulled another curse as she touched me over my jeans. "Okay, maybe I'm taking a little too much time."

"Considering my dad might come along any moment," she whispered and teased me by nibbling on my ear.

"No he won't," I groaned as my eyes rolled in my head. Her wonderful hand was doing amazing things around me, down there. "He's too busy getting the last of the cherries out."

She hummed in agreement. She smiled gently. "May I touch you?"

I nodded and waited anxiously. I pulled up slightly, watching her hands run down my abdomen, down the light trail of hair until she reached the button. Her fingers lingered along the waistband, pulling a whimper from me.

She laughed and smirked. "Don't like being on this side of the teasing now, huh?"

I smiled and kissed her softly. "I don't mind the teasing, love. However, if you don't get my pants off soon I might combust."

She gave me a breathtaking smile, and within moments I was exposed the warmth of her hand. I groaned embarrassingly loud and dropped my head between her breasts. "Bella, you should slow down," I gasped, bucking my hips further into her soft hands. "I don't want this to end before it really started."

"Am I doing it right?" she asked softly.

I nodded. "Just touching me is right. No worries, we're both new at this and I love that we're learning together." She sighed and wrapped her arms around my neck. Kissing again until we were breathless, she helped me remove my jeans. Her fingers started to work on the shorts, and I watched her shimmy out of her white cottons panties as she stood.

"So beautiful," I murmured as I sat up and ran my hands over her smooth legs. "You have the most incredibly soft skin." She smiled and knelt beside me and captured my face in hands, kissing me sweetly.

Within moments, our kisses increased in urgency, fueled by the feel of her skin along my own. I hovered over her, keeping some of my weight on my arms. "Are you sure?" I whispered again, she had to be sure. She nodded and kissed along my neck.

"Edward," she whispered. "I've loved you for so long and this, us, is what I've always wanted." I kissed her again, in a kiss so tender that I felt it to my toes. Slowly, ever so slowly I pressed against her. She moaned as I had, and encouraged me with another whisper of my name.

When I met resistance, I kissed her long and hard, catching her little cry as I thrust inside her fully. She tensed beneath me, her fingernails digging into my shoulders. "I'm sorry," I whispered, kissing away the tears that fell from her eyes.

She felt so good around me, gripping me tightly and I ached to move inside her. However, the thought of her pain had me holding back on my needs. After a few tense moments, I felt her move her hips slightly as if she was trying to get comfortable. I groaned because the friction felt wonderful but it still wasn't enough.

She moaned and her head lulled to one side, her breath hot and heavy at my ear. "Move please," she gasped. I groaned and kissed her as I pulled back, gratifying on how good it felt as I pushed back inside her.

I felt the familiar quickening of my pulse as heat pooled at the base of my spine. I was going to come much too soon. Bella arched as my lips took the time to explore her mouth, her neck and her beautiful chest. With another few pushes and pulls, I tensed, crying out her name as I came.

It was hot and blinding. I felt like I had died and been born again. It was that significant to feel myself let go inside of her. Her arms were wrapped around me, as were long beautiful legs and most importantly, her whispered "I love you" made it all the more memorable. It was perfect for me at least.

There were heavy pants and whispered words upon our lips. She sighed, and I settled my body over hers as her fingers weaved through my hair. I murmured sweet words, her hands running over the warm slick skin of my body. I gave her new promises, ones that I intended to keep.

"We should go," she said softly after several minutes. I lay besides her, touching her, watching as my hand and fingertips roamed over every sweet curve of her body. I felt a small tremor run through her when I touched her between her legs.

The skin was still slick and hot, swollen and sensitive to my touch. "Are you really all right?" I asked, pressing slightly to emphasize what I meant. She nodded and gave me a soft smile, reassured me that she didn't feel too sore. "I know you didn't…you know. I feel bad that you didn't."

She shrugged. "It was our first time and to be expected," she whispered, smirking. "We have plenty of time to practice now." I grinned and delicately slipped a finger inside her. She moaned and her hips wiggled closer to my hand.

I smiled and crawled over her body, slipping my finger out of her. "I'm all up for practicing and learning." She rolled her eyes closed as I settled between her legs.

"Edward," she gasped softly, arching to meet my lips. I slipped inside her gently and slowly made love to her again.

Hours later, we found most of the crew and Charlie barbequing with a few unexpected visitors – my parents. My mother took one look at Bella, and took her in her arms. They both ended up in tears. They had wanted to surprise Charlie and Bella and to be honest wanted to make sure I'd make it okay back when I went to school the following day.

Bella and I returned the next day to our tree with a camera in hand, taking photos. We promised that we'd return once a year to take a picture there together, showing not only the growth of the tree but of Bella and me.

The following year we made good on that promise and the next, and the year following that. The fifth picture we'd taken beside our tree, Bella had a pretty diamond on her finger. The farmer's daughter had finally become my wife as I had predicted all those years ago.


AN: Beta'd by kyla713, thank you, love. To see more entries for the contest be sure to visit the profile http:/www (dot) fanfiction (dot) net/u/2530160/The_Cherry_Exchange or you can find it on my profile. Thank you for reading.