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Authors Notes: Firstly, I'm sorry for the delay in the posting of this chapter. I've been super busy with it being the summer break and preparing to send my four year old to full time school next month – and I'm also growing a baby (a girl who we are naming Isabella Rose) – so things have been hectic here.
Super thanks to my beta and ficwife, LisaDawn75. Go read her newest story, Cullen's Anatomy because it totally rocks my world.
Thanks also to my TSB girls for all your support this week. I've needed it and you are all so amazing.
Don't Ever Look Back
After a week of partly sleepless nights passed, it was, once again, the weekend. I sat at the kitchen table, sipping out of my large coffee cup as Sam sat beside me, leafing through a comic book and slurping up the milk covering his Lucky Charms.
"Mommy?" Sam asked after swallowing a gulp of his sugary cereal.
"What are we going to do today?"
I rubbed at my sleepy eyes and smiled at him as I placed my coffee cup down in front of me and tucked my hair behind my ears. "Well, we need to go to the store and get something for dinner... and for the rest of the week, for that matter," I told him, as I realized that the contents of both our refrigerator and cupboards were pretty sparse. "And then this afternoon, we'll sit down together and finish your homework project on Victorian England."
"Cool," he replied and then turned his attention back to his soggy marshmallow pieces and tattered comic book. I was so lucky to have such an easy going child. I sighed happily. He rarely whined or winged for anything and was generally a good, caring, and loving little kid.
"You good here? I'm going to go get dressed, and then we'll go to the store. I'll even let you pick out what you want for dinner, okay?"
I chuckled as I got up from my chair and took my cup to the sink to give it a quick rinse. Sam ate his last spoonful of Lucky Charms and pushed his bowl into the center of the table, resting his chin on his elbows as he, once again, became engrossed in a world of illustrated heroes saving the world.
I showered quickly, not bothering with my hair, and threw on my trademarked skinny jeans and Converse high tops. I completed it with a white tank top and black cardigan, pulled my hair back into a messy ponytail, and pushed my sunglasses onto the top of my head. I could never understand those girls who spent hours upon hours getting ready to buy groceries. Curling irons and vast amounts of makeup were really not my thing at all. I never felt the need to hide who I really was from anyone.
"Dude, you wanna grab your sneakers and sweater? I'm almost ready to go."
Such a good boy.
We took the short drive to Safewayas I tended not to buy my groceries at my workplace. It would also take a lot longer to navigate the store when I would be stopped by colleges and bosses for quick conversations or questions about my shift patterns. Safeway was better, and I preferred the fresh produce.
We started off with fruit, and I started to pick out some apples, while Sam ran to get some bananas. After a moment, I realized that he should have returned, and he hadn't. I looked down the aisle for my son to see him standing next to a tall man. The man reached down and ruffled his hair. I immediately saw red and stormed over, leaving my shopping cart by the Granny Smiths.
"Samuel," I called out sharply. Sammy spun around as he heard my tone – one that I very rarely had to use with him – but he knew my opinion on talking to strangers.
Sam stepped back toward me, so I turned my attention to the man who had dared to put his perverted hands on my child. My heart flipped and somersaulted as I was confronted with familiar green eyes and messy hair. I'd not paid any attention to who the apparent strangerhad been; my first instinct had been to get my baby the hell away.
"Mr. Masen... sorry, I didn't recognize you. And Sam, you didn't come back right away."
My son looked at his tatty sneakers and jutted out his lower lip. I touched his shoulder gently. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I was just telling Mr. Masen that we were going to finish my project after lunch." My poor baby looked as though he were about to cry.
I looked up at Ed–Mr. Masen, and he nodded, confirming it. "I'm sorry; it's entirely my fault. I saw him picking out the bananas and had to say hello."
"Don't worry about it," I said, almost breathless as I looked at him warily. "I just worry about him a lot. We had the 'stranger danger'talk a few weeks ago and I... well, it doesn't matter because you're not a stranger to him. I'm sorry I flipped."
He smiled his dazzling smile and moved his cart out of the way of the other shoppers. "It's good that you did. You have a fast reaction, although I did almost fear for my life and nether regions, for a moment there."
I blushed profusely as he mentioned his unmentionable parts. Thanks for that. My dreams are already plagued by your eyes and those lips, now the parts covered by those jeans are going to have cameo roles. Fuck my life. "Yeah, you were lucky I recognized you. My father made me take self defense classes."
Mr. Masen pulled his lower lip between his teeth. "A girl who can protect herself is never a bad thing."
"I've got no one else to protect me – or Sam – so I had to learn." As soon as those words had left my lips, I instantly regretted it. My son's teacher's expression changed from that of respect to one of slight sorrow... compassion perhaps, but I could tell that a part of him felt sorryfor me and Sam – and our family situation.
"I... well, that sucks for you. But it's good you can protect and provide... Sooooo," he began, and I saw in his eyes that he was trying to stop the embarrassment by changing the subject – pronto. "Sam says he's almost done with his project and that you're finishing it today?"
I nod quickly. "Yeah, that's right. He's worked really hard on it, and I think he now wants to visit England and learn more about royalty and visit Osborne House... not to mention Buckingham Palace, of course... but he now seems obsessed with the Isle of White." I pulled Sammy towards me, and he nodded and grinned up at his teacher.
"It's a great little island; I've been a couple of times. In fact, the whole project is one close to my heart. My great grandfather lived in England during the Victorian era, and my father was born in Kent but moved to America when he was a teenager. I've been lucky enough to visit Britain regularly to see grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The castles and stately homes are just incredible. Sam is the only child in my class who chose to look into the homes in the project – most of the kids wanted to do the schooling and punishment areas."
"Oh, right... well, we've found it very interesting. I feel I've learnt a lot about Queen Victoria and Albert. The internet and English Heritage have been very helpful, although now, I have to look into how much flights to England are. Not to mention, I have a son who tries to talk in a really terrible cockney accent."
Sam fell into a fit of giggles, and Mr. Masen grinned. "Well, young man, is that so? Perhaps we should take some lessons in regional dialect," he said in a perfect English accent. Note to self, change underwear when you get home, Swan.
"Mr. Masen, I found out that Queen Victoria was the first monarch to live in Buck-Buckingham Palace in London, and she became Queen when she was eighteen. And she had nine kids," Sam blurted out, beaming up at his teacher.
"That's absolutely correct Sam; you really have been working hard!"
"I have... and she died when she was eighty-one at Osborne House, and after Prince Albert, her husband, died, she only wore black... like, every single day."
I couldn't help but smile with utter pride. I just wanted to cry. My son was so smart. Sure, we'd looked on the computer together for the information, but Sam had done most of the work.
We stood in uncomfortable silence for a moment. "Well, I guess we'd better go and finish our shopping."
"Mommy, can we go for tacos after?"
"Mr. Masen, do you want to come get tacos with us?"
I gulped and wanted to grab Sam by the neck. My little kid was just so forward!
"Can he? Can he, Mom?" Sam asked, as he grabbed me by the hand and proceeded to yank my arm so that I'd look down at him.
"Yeah... sure. I mean, I'm sure Mr. Masen is busy, but it's fine with me..." I looked up at my son's teacher and bit my lip. I felt very uncomfortable, to say the least. Luckily for me – or unluckily, I wasn't sure which – Mr. Masen looked like he was pretty much in the same awkward situation.
There was silence for a few moments, and then Sam jumped up and down on the spot, grabbing at the hem of his teacher's shirt. "Come on, Mr. Masen! You can come with us! You will, won't you?"
"Errr... well, I'm not sure. Maybe you should just go with your Mom; I don't want to butt in on your lunch."
"You won't be! Mom said it's okay... right, Mom?"
I wanted the freaking ground to open up and swallow me whole. "Yeah... sure; I mean, if you... want," I almost stuttered.
I watched as he looked down at Sam and smirked. "Okay, kiddo, you're on. What kind of tacos do you like?"
Sam looked so happy, his eyes brightened, and he smiled goofily. "I only like the soft chicken ones with extra cheese."
Mr. Masen's eyes widened comically, and he slapped his hand over his mouth, making Sam laugh. "Well, you would never believe this, but soft chicken are my favorite, too. What do you think, Mom?"
"Erm... well, yeah, I guess beef is over-rated now a days," I quipped. What in the hell was I on? Honestly.
"You know, I think you're right, Ms. Swan," he replied, smiling at me. "Well, I need to grab just a couple more things, and then I'll be ready."
I glanced into my shopping cart. We'd only just really begun, and I had a lot more to get. "I think we're going to need about thirty minutes, but then we're good to go, if you don't mind waiting once you're done?" I couldn't help but blush as I spoke to him. What in the hell was wrong with me? I was almost swooning. That never happened.
"Sure, I'll meet you out front then."
"Bye, Mr. Masen! See you soon!"
Around the rest of the supermarket, Samuel did not stop talking about our lunch date with his teacher. Did schools allow that sort of thing? I guess it didn't hurt, and after all, he seemed like quite a nice, young guy. His manners were impeccable, and I supposed it would be a good thing for Sam to spend some more time with a good, well brought up male.
I was just glad that he said he would meet us outside the store. Although I wasn't opposed to liking the guy, and seeing as he was a man, I didn't feel terribly uncomfortable around him, I still didn't want him to see my preferred brand of tampon. There were things that men really shouldn't see.
As promised, he was waiting outside the store, minus the shopping bags, which I'd assumed he'd deposited in his car.
He smiled when we came out of the automatic doors and put his hands in his pocket as he walked over to us. I was most surprised when he suddenly moved closer and placed his hands on the handle of the shopping cart. "Here, let me help you with that."
Why the frig does he have to be such a gentleman? Why can't he be a regular ass?
"Thanks, Edward." I smiled nervously and stepped away from the cart to take Sam's hand and start to make our way across the lot to my car. He helped put all of the bags into the trunk, and I helped Sam get strapped into the back. As I opened the driver's side door, Edward made as though he was about to leave.
"I'll follow you," He confirmed.
"You're welcome to ride with us... I mean, if you want to, that is. It will save taking two cars across town." Oh, God, Swan, what the fuck are you thinking? I internally scalded myself. My mind was far too messed up to think straight.
"Erm... okay, yeah, that would be good, thanks." He smiled. "Let me get rid of the cart, and I'll be right back."
I nodded mutely and slid into the car. I wanted to bash my head onto the steering wheel. Sam giggled from the back seat, and I shot him a questioning glance.
"You're forehead is all wrinkled, Mom."
Yeah, thanks for noting my confusion, kid; you're too smart for your own good.
"I'm just hungry, sweetie, that's all."
My son seemed satisfied with that answer and rightly so, because just moments later, we were joined in the car by the apparent object of my affection.
I started the engine and put her into first – I preferred to drive stick rather than an automatic. It was more fun, and the gas mileage was way better. However, they were very easy to stall, and the engine juddered and jumped as I pushed my foot down too hard on the accelerator and came up on the clutch too fast. Fuck!
Edward looked at me and raised his eyebrows slightly as I regained control of the car without the actual stall.
"Cramp," I blurted out. "Yeah, I get that sometimes... damn... shoes."
Edward faced the front and nodded once as I pulled slowly out of the lot and into the street.
"I just have to run home and put the refrigerated and frozen stuff away real quick. You guys can wait here; I don't want the ice cream to melt. It's actually pretty nice today."
When I'd inadvertently invited the man into my car to ride with us, I'd momentarily forgotten about the almost one hundred dollar shopping spree I'd just been on. It would not be very funny if I left it all in the car and came back to various puddles of mush and wilted vegetables. Now, he'd get a peak at my shitty little apartment. Great.
"Sure, that's fine. No hurry. I've nowhere to be today. It was just shopping and an afternoon at home alone for me, so I appreciate the company." He turned and smiled at me. I smiled back and concentrated on driving to get us all back home safely.
I parked out front, and before I knew it, Edward was out of the car and had the trunk open, even before I'd killed the engine and fished in my purse for my house keys. "I'll give you a hand," he offered as he expertly grabbed four bags out of the trunk.
Sam unbuckled and leapt out. "Me, too! Let me carry something, Mommy."
I'd no choice but to agree, and I handed Sam the packet of toilet paper to carry. That left just one bag for me. Edward seemed comfortable with the other four, so I slammed the trunk and led the way into the building. "Elevator's broken; I'm afraid we gotta use the stairs," I apologized.
"It's six floors!" Sam added.
Edward nodded. "Good exercise. You won't need a gym membership, then."
I chuckled. "No, I guess not."
We walked together up the many flights of stairs, and I opened up and let us all in. The hallway into the small kitchen area was short, so I asked Edward to just place the bags on the floor by the table. I made quick work with the help of Sam and Edward to get the chilled stuff put away. The cans and packets could wait till later.
We arrived at Taco Bell and ordered; we all ended up getting the same thing – Soft Chicken Tacos – apart from Edward's and Sam's that had extra cheese, so I went all out and got a side of Pintos and Cheese. I discovered that Edward had a love for Mountain Dew – as did I. Sam asked if he could have some and stamped his feet, crossing his arms angrily when I told him that he couldn't have soda. He gave me the stink eye, and I saw Edward look away and pretend to busy himself with the wall menu. His lip was caught tightly between his teeth as he tried not to smirk.
I told Sam he could have a milkshake instead. I didn't like him having soda – especially Dew – because it made him jump off the walls. He was satisfied with the shake, providing, of course, it could be chocolate. I agreed.
As we sat down, Edward ran back up to the counter and returned with a quesadilla, putting it between the three of us. "It's steak, so help yourselves."
"Thanks." Again, why does he have to be such a gentleman?
Conversation was minimal during our meal, although not in the least bit uncomfortable. Sam kept most of the talk afloat, chatting some more about his school project and his friends.
"What made you decide to become a teacher, Edward?" I asked when Sam finally took a long slurp of his shake and paid attention to his now-cold taco.
Edward looked up at me and smiled as he picked up his napkin and wiped some salsa from his chin. "Actually, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do when I left high school. I had good grades but nothing to look forward to. I actually followed a... a friend to college and took the same courses as them, so we could spend time together."
I saw that Edward looked down at his hands and cracked his knuckles.
And then it clicked... both my mind and his knuckles.
"Did you study to be a teacher at school because of a girl?"
Edward met my eyes but only for a brief moment. "Because of my wife." He looked down and wrung his hands again.
"You're married?" I asked, shocked as I searched out a wedding band. I was certain that I'd not spotted one before.
"I was, yeah. It didn't last for long; we... we wanted very different things." He wrung his hands again.
"My daddy doesn't live with me and Mommy, Edward," Sam piped up.
Edward looked at him and smiled, but I could see him grab onto his soda cup and finger the straw. "I know, buddy. Sometimes, things between couples just don't work out."
"I know," Sam sighed.
"I'm sorry, Edward. I didn't realize," I apologized. I wanted to reach out and pat the back of his hand.
"It was a while ago. We married when we were eighteen, the summer before we went to college. We lasted until we graduated, but then... we'd grown apart, and she didn't want the same things as I did."
I nodded, not understanding entirely because his situation was very different to mine. But I could relate to feeling unwanted – to a degree at least – even though I'd not exactly witnessed lovebeforehand. "That sucks. But you enjoy teaching, right?"
He smirked. "Yeah, I love it now. Kids are awesome. I never expected to enjoy it as much as I do, but I never felt as though I had a calling for anything in particular. I had no idea what I wanted to do, so when Jane asked me when we were in high school to go to college with her, I agreed."
There were so many questions I wanted to ask him but didn't want to pry.
"We dated for a year before then; we were sweethearts, if you could call us that. People didn't like the fact that we chose to get married, and her parents didn't take too kindly to me because of my background or the fact that I didn't come from a well known family. But we did it anyway. We had a private ceremony at City Hall just three weeks after we'd graduated high school."
"Wow, that's pretty young, I guess, but hey, if it means anything, by the time I was eighteen, I had a two year old kid and a full time job," I quipped. "I now understand what you meant the other night when you told me you could relate to how I was feeling about the age discrimination thing..." I picked at the corner of the quesadilla and blushed.
"Yeah. The choices we make – or don't make in some cases" – he smiled at me, and I knew that he meant my pregnancy and the reluctance to give up the baby – "especially as kids, will lay upon us for the rest of our lives. But you know what? You shouldn't live in the past; don't have regrets because you can change the future. I've discovered that what we go through molds us as adults."
He looked right at me. I took a quick look at Sam who was still munching away on his taco and coloring on the back of the tray mat.
"You're right. I get exactly what you mean," I almost whispered.
"You have to look forward; don't take what anyone says to heart, Bella. You can't look back on mistakes you've made. Look forward to the future. Don't ever look back."
Was this man my soul mate? Those four words had been my mantra for so long; they were the words I'd relied on to give me the strength to carry on in life, the strength to succeed. They'd worked and helped to a point, but hearing them come from the lips of another human being spurred me on more so.
All I could do was gulp deeply and agree with him.
We finished our dinner in silence, and then I took Edward back to his car. He told me that he hoped he'd see me soon and reminded Sam that he'd see him at school on Monday.
I watched as he got into his car and smiled at me right before he got into the driver's side.
Edward Masen had given me a lot to think about.
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