Title: Darling, I Do
Summary: A tale of finding yourself and someone you didn't know you were looking for in the process.
Pairing: Bella & Leah
Disclaimer: I own nothing. S Meyer would loathe me for what I do to her characters.
Every day it was the same routine for Bella –wake, school, work, eat, sleep. However, it was more school and work than anything else. Her life revolved around the University of Washington campus where she was a comparative literature major, and when she did manage five free minutes to herself, Bella always found herself in the same seat at her local coffee shop. She would pretend to read her favorite book or literature review, but her eyes always remained focus on the object of her attention.
The stunning woman didn't have a name, because Bella had yet to meet her, but she couldn't deny her attraction to the intense dark haired beauty. She had square framed glasses and deep set eyes which Bella spent most of her time focused on. Never in her life had Bella seen a woman with eyes as expressive as the girl she watched several times a week, all the while dreaming that she herself was someone else; someone less plain and uninteresting.
Bella would observe the woman from the corner of her eye, studying each of her graceful movements, which was the complete opposite of Bella and her clumsy ways, and imagine them together in ways she never thought possible.
Bella imagined them together basking in the bright sunshine on a soft sand beach, the two of them watching the waves roll in as her partner took photographs with the camera that was a permanent fixture to her side each time she came into the coffee shop. She once envisioned them in a posh Manhattan hotel suite, nude and desperately clinging to each other. This was the most vivid fantasy of Bella's and it came to her often in her dreams, but she never told anyone. No one would believe that shy, quiet Isabella Swan harbored lesbian fantasies over a woman whose name she didn't know and would never have the courage to speak to.
On one particularly warm April day, Bella was lost in another daydream, this time of the two of them wandering around the Seattle Art Museum, holding hands and discussing the Native American Art Exhibit featuring the Quileute Wolves that was currently on display. Bella had noticed that the girl she lusted over had light russet colored skin and a circular tribal tattoo on her upper bicep, and in her dream the girl talked to Bella about the exhibit in great detail, as though she knew everything about each of the intricate and beautiful pieces they admired.
Unfortunately, time got away from Bella and when she managed to pull herself away from her thoughts, she rose from her seat and pushed her chair back forcefully, knocking it right into the object of her desire.
Smooth move there, Bella.
"I am so sorry about that," Bella declared rather loudly, catching herself by surprise, as she pulled the chair away. She reached for all of her bags and dropped her knapsack onto the ground, the contents spilling all over the place. Of course, the one item the exotic woman would pick up in her effort to assist Bella was her beloved yet tattered copy of Anaïs Nin's 'Little Birds.'
"No worries, really," she said sweetly, her voice running over Bella like a warm shower after a cold day. "Interesting reading material. I'm Leah, by the way." Bella finished pushing all her belongings back into her bag and rose to her feet, extending her hand nervously to accept her book back from Leah.
"Uh…I'm Isabella, but everyone calls me Bella. Not everyone I suppose, my grandmother still insists on calling me Izzy and my older brother calls me spaz, but yeah…everyone else."
"Well Bella, it's nice to meet you. It's also rare to find someone with an affinity for the writings of Anaïs Nin."
"I'm a Literature major over at UDub." Bella fidgeted with the hem of her loose fitting t-shirt before she raised her eyes to look closely at Leah. What she found was not what she had expected. The stunning woman was watching her every move just as closely as Bella had been watching hers. Neither of the girls seemed to relish in the silence that fell between them, so to relieve the tension they both spoke at the same time.
"Do you read her work much?"
"Do you come here often?"
Bella and Leah laughed warmly and Bella adjusted her bag on her shoulder then took a quick glance at her watch. She was beyond late for her afternoon class at this point, but she couldn't find it in her to care. She was talking, not just day dreaming about talking, to the girl she had been fantasizing about and she even pinched her arm covertly to prove everything was real. She hid her excitement when Leah offered her a coffee and they sat together discussing anything and everything they could think about, starting with the erotic literature of Anaïs Nin.
"I read 'Little Birds' a few years ago," Leah explained simply as she sipped on her black coffee. Bella watched enraptured as Leah pulled her hair back into a ponytail, catching a glimpse of several small tattoos behind her ear. Bella wanted to reach out and touch them, to know their story and why she chose the small paw prints, but instead she focused on the topic at hand. "I enjoyed it, finding her little vignettes about lust and sex very genuine."
"I agree. I find her a true master of love, hunger and desire. I've been working my way through all her stories for my thesis, and I find myself intrigued by the way her characters can break-free of their self imposed sexual limitations." Leah's eyebrows lifted in curiosity as Bella tried to hide her blush behind the hair that had fallen in front of her face. Bella didn't want to outright say that she found a lot of similarities between the characters in Nin's short stories and her own life, but it was true. Bella was a little lost and searching for some sense of belonging.
Bella grew up in Phoenix with her mother, brother and stepfather, moving there after her father passed away. Charles Swan had been a police officer in the small northwest Washington town of Forks and was shot during a botched robbery, a rare occurrence in their tiny town. Renee, Bella's mother was heartbroken and, rather than sit around and remain in the town that reminded her only of her lost husband, she packed up Bella and her infant brother, Garrett, and moved closer to her parents.
Once the family had settled in Phoenix, Bella had a rather normal upbringing. She had great grades all through school, participated on the high school newspaper, literature club and was even senior class president. She dated boys and lost her virginity to her high school sweetheart, Paul, on prom night; it was all very normal.
Once Bella got to the University of Washington, she and Paul grew apart, because he went to Arizona State University and wanted to play the field, so to speak. It was after their break-up that Bella began dating Embry Call, who for all intents and purposes was a great guy. However, after months and months of dating and fooling around, Bella found that sex with him left her less than satisfied. They broke up and Bella remained single and confused.
Until she laid eyes on Leah.
The previously unknown girl brought out feelings in Bella that she never expected to have. There was longing, desire and, most importantly, passion. Bella had enjoyed the relationships she had with Paul and Embry, but never had they brought out the excitement in her that Leah had. And all of this was before she had even spoken a single word to the striking beauty. Bella felt her passion increase tenfold as she got to know Leah. There was no kidding around anymore, Bella desperately wanted this girl; she just didn't have the courage to make it happen.
The rest of the afternoon passed with comfortable conversation, both of them talking at ease about movies, art and literature. Neither woman seemed surprised that they both had the same favorite actress, Ingrid Bergman, though they both favored a different movie by her. Bella always loved the romance of 'Casablanca', whereas Leah preferred the thriller 'Gaslight'.
"Did you know 'Gaslight' is playing at The Grand Illusion down on Northeast 50th Street?" Bella asked as Leah's eyes lit up with something akin to intrigue. Bella wouldn't have even known this fact if she hadn't checked out the bulletin boards outside Odegaard Library earlier in the morning. Her eye had been drawn to the shabbily printed poster highlighting Bergman's face and thought about asking her roommate Maggie to go with her, even though Maggie was more into the Jonas Brothers and Zac Efron than Joseph Cotton. However, with this newfound knowledge, Bella decided to see if Leah was interested in attending with her. Before she could even open her mouth, Leah had beaten her to the punch and asked Bella instead.
When they both walked away from the coffee shop, heading in different directions, but looking over their shoulders to catch a glimpse of the other, Bella and Leah had a date. Was it a real date, Bella wondered as she stood at the corner, waiting for the light to change. Perhaps this was just friends hanging out? Bella wanted it to be a date, but nothing was really discussed regarding it. However, she was desperate to see Leah again, so if it was only as friends, so be it.
Bella waited anxiously outside The Grand Illusion three nights later, her back pressed against the rough brick wall and her fingers digging painfully into her sides. Nervous would have been an understatement to describe how Bella felt at that moment. When Bella had gotten back to her apartment that fateful afternoon, after finally meeting Leah, she felt ill at ease. Usually she would confide everything about her life to her younger brother, Garrett, but Bella couldn't help but feel like he wouldn't understand. Hell, she didn't even truly understand it herself.
With her fingers playing aimlessly with the hem of her dress, Bella looked down at her boot clad feet and wondered if perhaps she had overdressed or if Leah had seen her waiting, looking apprehensive, and had decided she didn't want this; didn't want Bella. However, her fears were quickly allayed when Leah came up moments later and pulled Bella into a gentle hug.
"You look great," Leah declared simply as Bella grinned like an idiot and nodded her head silently. "I hope you haven't been waiting long. I sorta lost time in my darkroom. It happens more often than I would like to admit, actually."
"It's fine. I've only been here a few minutes myself." This, of course, was a total lie. Bella had been waiting almost twenty minutes, but she didn't want Leah to know that. Bella fought to hide her blush and let Leah lead the way as she bought their tickets and then a few snacks at the concession stand. Bella had insisted on paying her own way, but Leah was twice as persuasive and reminded Bella that it had been Leah who had invited Bella to see the movie and it was the least she could do.
Throughout the movie, Bella sat very still beside Leah. She was completely out of her element, and though the concept thrilled her and she was excited to be with Leah, Bella had no idea what to do. Should she make some sort of move and take Leah's hand? Would that be considered too bold? Bella was completely confused. Her heart told her to move full steam ahead and her brain told her to be realistic. After all, what would a beautiful, quirky girl like Leah want with plain ol' Bella? Half way through the movie, Bella told her mind to stop overanalyzing every last thing and just enjoy the movie and the company; so she did.
In fact, for the next few weeks, Bella and Leah often went out together, doing random things that they both wanted to. There were a few shows at local bars that they attended, an art exhibit and even a poetry reading that Bella had been dying to hear. Between school, work and spending time with Leah, it was no shock that Bella hadn't managed to call her mother and brother for a few days; a fact that didn't go unnoticed by Garrett, who immediately questioned her when they got on the phone one evening.
He began asking her where she had been lately and why he hadn't heard from it, but Bella deflected all the questions back to her brother, under the guise of wanting to find out about life back in Phoenix. Bella also wasn't ready to tell Garrett about Leah or about her exploration of her sexuality.
Exploration may have been the wrong term seeing as Leah and Bella had done nothing other than a few pecks on the cheek and sporadic hugs, but Bella couldn't discount the way she felt when Leah's sensuous lips touched her skin or her arms wrapped around Bella's body. Each time was like pure torture in the best way possible; like the inside of her body was on fire on the coldest day of the year.
Bella had been floating along comfortably in her friendship with Leah, all the while thinking about her in a romantic sense. She wasn't sure if Leah felt the same and Bella knew she couldn't wait to find out if Leah had the same thoughts - if she wanted Bella as desperately as she wanted Leah.
As she walked in the doors of The Bourne Gallery, Bella's heart pounded in her chest, so much so that she was sure those around her could hear it. The up and coming art gallery was filled with dozens of people from different walks of life, holding champagne glasses and staring at the photographs on the wall. Bella felt more out of place than she ever had before in her short life, but this was something that was important to Leah, so Bella would persevere through the uncomfortable evening.
Grasping her clutch tightly in one hand, Bella fiddled with the tie of her dark blue wrap dress before she accepted a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. With her drink held precariously in her hand, Bella weaved her way through the crowd searching for the dark hair and curvaceous frame of the only person she wanted to see. Bella found her in back corner talking animatedly to two men who were dressed impeccably in dark suits, a stark contrast to the flowing off-white dress Leah was wearing. Her tribal tattoo was poking out under the cap sleeve of the dress and Bella realized that it was the first time she had ever seen her in a dress. She looked beautiful. Feminine.
"I was wondering when you would show up," Leah said happily as she rushed forward grabbed Bella's hand, pulling her back towards the men she had been talking to. "Edward, Jasper...this is my Bella."
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Bella said simply as she extended her now shaking hand to both the men, who didn't seem to notice that she was currently out of sorts. My Bella, what did that even mean, Bella wondered to herself as Leah continued on with the introductions. Edward and Jasper were partners, in both The Bourne Gallery and in life, and were trying to convince Leah to showcase some of her work in an upcoming exhibit.
"Leah, all I am saying is that growth is needed if you want to go far in this business. Your current work, though stunning and evocative, needs a little bit more…"
"Just more," Jasper replied cryptically as Bella heard Leah let out a small sigh. The two men admitted to seeing Leah's work last year at a showing at the Cornish College of the Arts, where Leah was a student until earlier in the year. She hadn't graduated, opting instead to drop out after finding their curriculum much too stringent for her.
As they continued to talk business, Bella took a moment to look around at the photos on the wall and was surprised by the content. They were all nudes.
Men with Women.
Men with Men.
Women with Women.
Bella couldn't take her eyes away from some of the images, especially the ones of the women. They were beautiful.
As Leah, Edward and Jasper continued to discuss the prospect of Leah having her work exhibited, Bella excused herself for a moment and began to examine some of the pictures in closer detail. Arms and legs entwined, hands cupping breasts, women with their hands all over themselves in provocative poses – the pictures were exquisite to Bella. They varied throughout the gallery from color to black and white, but each of them was beautiful in their own right. They were evocative and emotional, intriguing and visceral. Bella couldn't stop looking.
"Do you see one you like?" she heard the sweet voice of Leah ask as she came up behind her, her breath against Bella's neck. Little did Bella know, but she had been staring at the same picture of two women in a loving embrace for several minutes.
"They are all striking."
"That they are."
"Did your discussion with Edward and Jasper go well?"
"As well as can be expected. They want to see something new from me before they agree to host a show for me here. It would be a major coup for my career if I did."
"So, do something new," Bella declared, laughing lightly to herself that she was doing the exact same thing at that moment.
Rather than fear rejection, Bella decided to reach behind her and entwine her fingers with Leah's, feeling that if Leah could call her My Bella, then the least Bella could do was hold her hand. She was greeted with a tight squeeze and turned slightly to find Leah smiling as brightly as Bella was. The rest of the night neither girl relinquished the other's hand until they said goodnight and went back to their respective apartments. Alone.
Less than two weeks after the exhilarating night at the gallery, Bella found herself sprawled out on Leah's couch in her small apartment. It wasn't particularly fancy, but every inch of the space screamed 'Leah'. Between the wooden carvings on the shelves, the random photos haphazardly mounted everywhere and the photography gear taking over her kitchen and dining area, Bella found that she felt completely at ease in Leah's space. It was the first time she had been over.
"Hey, remember how you said I should do something new when we were at the gallery showing?" Leah called from the bedroom, the door of which was missing and a beaded curtain hung in its place.
"Yeah, I vaguely recall something like that," Bella replied loudly, making sure that Leah could hear her. Of course she remembered every second of that night, especially the immense feeling of hope and acceptance she felt holding Leah's hand and being at her side in the company of her friends and artists.
"I wondered if you would be willing to help me with that?"
"What would I need to do? Hold some lights or something?" Bella asked casually as Leah popped out of her room a moment later and moved into the kitchen, grabbing beers from the fridge for herself and Bella.
"I want you to pose for me."
"Uh, what?" Bella asked, her body frozen in shock. There was no way she could pose for Leah. Hell, Bella couldn't even stand the Sears portraits her mom insisted on getting done of her and Garrett each year. There was no way she could see herself posing for anyone, let alone Leah. Bella accepted the beer and watched anxiously as Leah sat closely beside her, their knees touching, as they both sat with one leg draped on the couch.
"It would be easy, I promise."
"I just don't think…"
"That's right…don't think. Just do."
Before Bella had a chance to protest, Leah had closed the space between them and her lips descended against Bella's softly, causing Bella to gasp quietly. It was the culmination of all of Bella's fantasies, but it was a million times better. Leah reached her hand up and threaded her fingers through Bella's hair, pulling her closer still to Bella. The moans that each woman released could be heard through the room until they separated moments later, both panting and wanting more.
"Please?" Leah asked breathlessly as she grew bolder and her hand moved up and down soothingly along Bella's inner thigh.
"What do I need to do?"
"Take your shirt off," Leah replied hesitantly, unsure of Bella's reaction. She found herself completely surprised when Bella took a long pull from her beer bottle before resting it on the old trunk that doubled as a coffee table. Bella took a moment to steel her nerves before she reached her hands down to grab the hem of her shirt and yank it off over her head.
Bella waned to lift her hands up to her chest to cover herself out of instinct and shyness, but she never got the chance. Leah gripped her hands tightly before leaning down and kissing the swell of each breast softly. "Fuck, you are beautiful. Do you know how long I watched you at the coffee shop, just wanting to talk to you?"
At this unexpected confession, Bella was left speechless. How was it that Bella had virtually stalked Leah for the longest time, desperate to know more about her, and here she was hearing the exact same thing from Leah. Bella couldn't help herself as she reached her hands tentatively behind her back and unclasped her bra, letting it slide off her arms and onto the floor. "I'm guessing you waited as long as I did?"
"You had…you had feelings for me?" Leah questioned, shocked that Bella was admitting to wanting her for over six months. Bella nodded softly and let out a small moan of arousal as Leah's hands reached up and cupped her breasts, her thumbs tracing Bella's hard nipples in fascination. Leah hadn't been with many women before, but from the first moment she saw Bella she was drawn to her and wanted to know her, inside and out. Having Bella on her couch topless was almost too much for her to bear.
"Don't you need your camera, baby?" Bella asked musically as she bit down on her lower lip and stared at Leah with unrivaled passion. Shaking her head to pull herself from her thoughts, Leah raced into her dining room and came back with an older style film camera and immediately reached her hand out to push Bella back onto the couch slightly. Both women gasped as Leah's hand stroked softly down the curve of Bella's breast and began tracing the waistband of her jeans.
With her camera firmly in hand, Leah hovered over Bella and began taking photos of the curve of her neck, the swell of her breasts and every sensuous inch of skin that called to her. From Bella's wrist, to a spot behind her ear, and even to the crease of her elbow, Leah took pictures of it all, feeling emboldened and inspired by the beauty lying before her.
When Leah had captured every image of Bella that she could, she placed her camera down on the table and reached tentatively for Bella's hand. This time it was Leah's turn to be nervous, fearful of what could happen at this point if Bella refused her. Of course, rejection was the furthest thing from Bella's mind, because the moment Leah offered her hand to Bella, she eagerly accepted it. Leah pulled Bella into her small bedroom, unsure of how far to go, but wanting everything with the beautiful brunette before her.
"We don't have to…"
"I want to," Bella declared simply as she bowed her head slightly and looked at the double bed that took up most of the small room. It was imposing, but inviting and it was Bella who pulled Leah down onto it and began kissing her, wanting to envelope herself in the exotic, yet quirky, girl she had fallen in love with. "I want to so fucking much."
White light streamed through the sheer curtains from the streetlight outside the window as Bella traced her hand along the delicate script which adorned Leah's rib cage. "'Dreams are necessary to life.' Very interesting choice of words."
"Anaïs Nin," Leah admitted as her breath hitched at the feel of Bella's lips on her skin where the tattoo lay. "I got it when I dropped out of school."
"Rather apropos, don't you think?"
"I do. I had dreams of becoming a photographer. Someone who captured the moments no one else saw, and school wasn't really helping me with that. I didn't care about the mechanics of photography; I only wanted to take pictures of life. I needed to find my own way." Leah reached to her nightstand and grabbed the camera sitting there and snapped a quick photo of Bella with her head resting on Leah's side. As Bella began kissing slowly up Leah's side to her neck, Leah took another photo of them, just as their lips touched.
"That photo will never come out good. They rarely do when you aren't looking at your subject," Bella replied with a laugh as Leah put the camera back down and wrapped her arm around the girl she never expected to fall fully and completely in love with.
"I could care less if the photo isn't perfect. It's the moment I wanted to capture forever." The women remained wrapped around each other, their legs entwined and their palms pressed against the others as they stared at their matching hands, both of them grinning.
"I love this moment."
One year later found Bella straightening a picture on the mantel of her new apartment. Needing more space, Bella had not re-signed the lease on her apartment and had found a new place, somewhere open and airy, with lots of windows to let in the light for Bella to read on the couch in the middle of the day.
She had taken to doing that after the first night she had slept over at Leah's small apartment. Waking and unable to go back to sleep, Bella had wandered naked into the living room and laid down to read 'Little Birds' for the umpteenth time. She ended up falling back asleep and when she woke, Leah was knelt down before her, photographing her bare body and kissing her skin softly. It was from that second that Bella and Leah were inseparable.
"Will you stop it, that photo is just fine where it is. I swear you've moved it a dozen times since you unpacked it."
"I just want it to be perfect," Bella admitted with a blush as Leah came up behind her and wrapped her arms tightly around Bella's small waist, her head resting on Bella's shoulder. The photo was Bella's favorite, picture of the two women snuggling and kissing in Leah's bed on their first night together "It seems like so long ago, ya know?"
"I still can't believe the picture came out so well. I don't even look like an idiot."
"You look beautiful, I love this picture of us. It reminds me of that song you are always wandering around here singing." Suddenly, Leah broke out into song as Bella smiled brightly at her girlfriend and soul mate. "Golden leaves looked brown to me, the world had less color without you.
Shapes in the sky looked plain to my eyes, the world had less color without you. I...know...plenty of people with eyes...closed. They don't see you like I do, Darling I do."
"Darling I do."