This future take was originally written for Fandom For No Kid Hungry, and I post it here in honor of my wedding anniversary tomorrow—27 years with my own darling trophy husband! It's been a while since I've checked in with these two characters, and I hope you'll all enjoy visiting with them once again.
Comp Sem 101 Future Take: EDWARD CULLEN: TROPHY HUSBAND, CADDIE, DADDY
AUGUST 9, 2018
"We are the champions, my friend…And we'll keep on fighting, 'til the end… We are the-"
"Ugh, Edward," I grumble, reaching blindly for the off button before Queen jangles every last nerve ending. Forcing one eye open, I pat the opposite side of the bed, hoping to locate my warm lump of husband. Instead, I find a cool, slippery piece of fabric—not a good trade under any circumstances—confirming that my dear, sweet, early bird has already responded to the little girl whose Daddy is adoringly wrapped around her pinky finger.
I click my lamp on and shimmy up against the headboard, reaching for the foreign object and pulling it into the light. It's a brand new, navy blue ladies' golf shirt, in that sexy athletic cut Edward likes so much.
Well, he likes it on pre-pregnancy me; not so sure that Almost Half-Baked Baby the Second is going to be looking too hot in this. Not even sure we're going to fit in this, actually, I muse, scrutinizing the narrow waistline.
But still, how sweet is it that my husband buys me a "lucky" shirt for my first golf match ever? As if offering to caddie for me weren't enough?
With a heavy, but grateful, sigh, I roll myself out of bed and smooth the sheets and comforter into place. Through the thin walls of our "starter house" I can hear Nic's distinctive low-register giggle, and it brings a smile to my face when I picture the inevitable scene playing downstairs.
No doubt, Edward's got our two-year-old hoisted onto his hip, where she can "help" by dropping chocolate chips into silver dollar pancakes fluffing on the skillet. The two of them will sit side by side on the banquette drenching the circles of warm dough with sweet, sticky, New England maple syrup courtesy of Papa Charlie and sprinkling them generously with confectioner's sugar. By the time they're done, there will be amber splotches, melted chocolate freckles, and white powdery talcum decorating the two of them.
It's a surprise to no one that Edward is a phenomenal father, though he's already expressed anxiety to me about future imagined boyfriends he'll have to scare off with a 7-iron, reminding me so much of my own father (substituting a shotgun for the golf club, of course) I have to laugh. Poor Edward. We'll figure it out, though; we always do.
The warm water soothes my achy muscles. Even though I'm fortunate not to have morning sickness this time around—indisputable evidence that this one's a boy, according to my husband, who now apparently takes old wives' tales for fact—being pregnant is a strain on the body. I've kept off my weight since freshman year and regained my figure shortly after having Nic, but I can't say I ever enjoy watching my waistband expand, even if it's only an inch or so at this early stage.
I trace the washcloth over my swollen breasts, chuckling as I recall Edward's enthusiasm last night. He's such a boob man.
He clears his voice and I laugh as he wriggles into position.
"Hello, little Nathan or Elizabeth. This is your father speaking."
I pull my fingers through his head of hair, which is resting on top of my stomach as he speaks into my navel. "I would like to thank you very much for popping into your mommy's belly and making her boobies grow for Daddy. He appreciates that very, very much."
"Edward!" I scold, and he raises his eyes innocently to mine, but his mischievous grin gives him away. I roll my eyes and he returns to his one-way conversation.
"Now, I suggest you move up a bit, because Daddy's about to be heading in your direction, and I don't want to poke an eye out or anything. As you know, I need quite a bit of space-"
"Fine. Mommy's horny and you know how she gets, so I have to go now. But I love you so much, sweet baby."
He drops a gentle kiss on my stomach, splaying his large palm on top of me and waiting. I sit quietly for a few minutes, soaking in his love and concentrating on my insides.
Still, nothing. But it's early, and the doctor said it might not happen for another two or even four weeks yet.
"Edward," I say much softer, lovingly tugging his head up so I can look into his eyes. "The baby will kick when the baby's ready. You know this."
He shrugs sadly, but once he moves his mouth to my nipple, all is forgotten in a sea of lust and mutual satisfaction.
I get it, though; pregnancy is such an intimate experience between mother and child, it's not until the baby kicks convincingly on the belly wall that the father can truly join in the physical reality.
"Take your time, little one," I say out loud, passing the soapy washcloth across my belly. "Daddy's more patient than he appears."
My khaki skort still zips, thank goodness, and the shirt's only a little tight over my sports bra. I don't want to disappoint Edward, who has obviously gone out of his way to order me a special shirt for my match. Sliding into a pair of flip flops and grabbing my golf socks, I skip down the stairs toward the happy scene in our kitchen.
"Okay, Nicky Noodles. Daddy's got a facecloth with your name on it," I coax my sticky daughter.
She looks right at me, then trails her finger around the edge of the plate, slopping the remains of the syrup over her chin on its way into her mouth.
The third tread from the top squeaks with Bella's weight, and I shift into high gear.
"Quick, Nic. I hear Mommy!" I whisper urgently. She rises to the occasion, offering her hands and face agreeably, and I rid her of the syrup just as the doorbell rings.
"I've got it," calls Bella.
Satisfied she's passable, I twist Nicole toward the front door and propel her with a little pat on the bottom. "Go say hi to Gran and Grampy while I clean up this mess."
I move the evidence as quickly as I can into the sink, but I'm still caught red-handed on all fours under the table when my folks walk into the kitchen with Bella.
"Dear Lord, what's gone on in here?" Mom wonders aloud. I scramble up and greet my folks with quick hugs. Bella smirks at me knowingly and shakes her head.
"Me and Daddy made goff ball pancakes, for good wuck!" Nic announces proudly.
Mom takes in the wreckage, then offers, "Don't worry about the mess, kids; I'll take care of it after you leave."
"Grampy, come see my new bwocks," Nic says, pulling him into the family room.
"How are you feeling, dear?" Mom asks Bella.
"Oh, you know. Middle trimester glow," Bella retorts with perhaps a tinge of sarcasm.
Mom snorts. "I don't know about that, but I did play the best golf of my life when I was pregnant with that one." She tips her forehead toward me and I smile at the familiar story of how my folks "knew" I'd be a scratch golfer one day.
"Okay, Mom, I've got to get some breakfast into my wife before her big match. Now, the fridge is stocked and Nic will probably go down right after lunch for her nap. She was up early this morning."
"No worries, kids. You have a good time and good luck on your match."
"Thanks, Esme," Bella says, as Mom pecks her on the cheek and moves off to join Dad and Nic.
I find a clean spot on the table and set up her yogurt with granola and berries, a glass of orange juice, and her prenatal vitamins. "Breakfast fit for the winner of the Women's Cup. Come on and eat."
Bella looks at me as if I've just handed her the keys to a brand new Maserati, or in her case, maybe a Dodge Ram.
"Thanks, Edward. That was really sweet of you."
"You're my player," I shrug.
"Hmm, I didn't realize caddie responsibilities were quite so extensive," she says with a smirk.
"Absolutely. My sole purpose in life today is to maximize your playing experience, which includes getting you off to a nutritious start."
"Thanks for the new shirt, too," Bella says, drawing my attention to her chest, not that I needed any encouragement there.
"I bought these six weeks ago when you signed up for the tournament," I explain, gesturing to my matching navy polo. "I guess I failed to account for…"
I cannot contain my grin, and reply with an unconvincing, "Sorry?" Not really, and she knows it. "Well, it looks fantastic on you."
She scoffs, embarrassed as ever. "Spoken like a horny husband. Seriously, I look like one of the club cougars desperately trying to get your attention."
"It's working." I smirk, can't help it. I turn back to the sink despite my mother's assurances. I can't in good conscience leave her with this tremendous mess.
"Hey, yours has your name on it!" Bella exclaims through a mouthful of yogurt parfait, noticing the 'CULLEN' spelled out on my back in big white block letters.
"Not exactly," I answer. "This is your name."
"You're wearing my name." I can hear her smile before I turn back in time to see it.
"You're my player," I repeat with a shrug, this time adding a wink.
"Nervous?" he asks, sensing my reluctance to exit the parked car.
"My stomach's doing flippy things."
He shifts in his seat behind the steering wheel to face me head-on. "That's good, Bella. It means you care."
"I'm gonna care myself right into barfing." I do my best to tamp down the rising dairy tide at the back of my throat.
"Bella, I'm gonna be right next to you the whole time. Besides, you've already won the grand prize, baby," he says proudly, pointing to his chest.
"So now you're my trophy husband?"
"Just remember, no matter what madness takes place today over the course of those eighteen holes, I'm yours." He gestures over his shoulder, aiming his thumb at our name on his back.
I fold my arms over my chest and narrow my eyes, "You just want me for my bionic boobs."
He leers unapologetically. "They're certainly a major selling point, yes."
"Edward Cullen, sometimes I swear I-"
"Gimme!" He ends the conversation, leaning over the center console and closing his lips over mine. After he's done effectively silencing me, he pulls back a little and looks into my eyes. "Just play your best and stay with it mentally. That's all you can ask of yourself."
"Okay, boss," I answer him.
"Come on, let's hit the range."
"You're coming with?"
"Of course. We're a team. Bella, you've got a lot to learn about caddies."
"I don't know, Edward. I've had LeVon for two years and he's never made me breakfast."
"Hunh," he huffs. "That might be cause for disciplinary action."
"Come on, baby. Quit your stalling." Edward's at my door and offering me his hand almost as soon as I realize he's slipped out of the driver seat.
Well, someone is highly motivated today. If there's one thing I've always loved about my husband, it's his enthusiasm.
Edward sets me up at the last station and hands me my 7-iron. I start the familiar stretching routine, and as I do so, he launches into his pep talk.
"Just remember, your center of gravity is lower now, just like at the end with Nic. This little tyke's gonna be your secret weapon. Go ahead and hit a few, B."
The first one zings wildly off the toe of the club and almost hits him in the foot. He steps back and chuckles. "Maiming your caddie isn't the recommended strategy here, sweetheart."
"Shit, Edward, I'm sorry. I'm so nervous."
"Okay, hold on. Set up to the ball and don't move. Now close your eyes."
"Edward, I feel really stupid. There are other people here."
"No, Bella," he answers. Then suddenly, he's behind me, pressed against my back, and his arms close in over mine. His breath is warm on my neck and his velvety smooth voice croons softly in my ear, "We're all alone. Just the two of us. Just like Holden. Just you…" We take the club back together. "…and me…" We swing through the ball. "Alone, together. Good. Do it again."
"Ehhhd-waaard!" A whiny voice snaps us out of our bubble.
Edward pulls back, murmuring, "That's it, baby," before he steps away.
"Good morning, Mrs. Kohler," he greets her politely, and I nod courteously to my opponent.
"I could really use a refresher on my chipping stroke before the match," she has the nerve to ask him.
Edward being Edward steps over to her rectangle of turf. Francine shoots me a smug look that I translate to mean, "He may be your husband but he's MY teacher," and I give her a plastic smile that conveys, "This is his baby growing inside me, bitch, and we both know how it got here."
"Mrs. Kohler," Edward explains, leaning in toward her with his arms folded over his chest, "I'm real sorry, but I'm not your instructor today. I'm here for my player." Edward spins around and points over his shoulder at the letters on his back.
"Oh…honestly," she snorts. "You can't give me one lousy pointer?"
"It'll be a nice day if it doesn't rain tomorrow, Mrs. K," he delivers with a winning smile.
I bite my lip and keep my eyes on the Astroturf at my feet.
"Welcome to the opening round of the Orange County Country Club 2018 Women's President's Cup Tournament. On the tee," Sully booms to a crowd of zero, "Francine Kohler and Bella Cullen. Mrs. Kohler will tee off first. Best of luck, ladies."
Sully winks at me as he steps off the first tee, all official and puffed up. "Inspiring speech, boss," I rib him, leaning on Bella's driver with one ankle crossed over the other, attempting to appear relaxed for my wife's sake.
Mrs. Kohler steps up, takes a quick practice swing, and whacks her ball 200 yards out into the middle of the fairway. "Nice shot, Mrs. K," I say blandly, and Bella follows suit.
Placing the grip into Bella's hand like an OR nurse handing over a scalpel, I lean in and tell her, "Long and straight, B. Just the way you like me."
"Jesus, Edward," she scowls. "I'm trying to be serious here."
"It's my job to keep you relaxed."
"Not helping," she grumbles. She bends over to tee up her ball, and I realize my own hands are shaking. This is her first tournament and I know she's only here because I talked her into it. Bella doesn't have a competitive bone in her body, at least not athletically. She's fierce about her writing, but her unseen competitor in that is always herself.
She takes a practice swing, then lines up to hit the ball. She clenches her shoulders and blows out a huge breath, takes back the club, swings, and…the ball dribbles off the tee and pushes through about twenty yards of high grass before sinking out of sight.
"I don't suppose we're taking mulligans today?" she jokes, embarrassed as all hell. I reach out my hand for her club and lead her away from the scene of the crime. We don't look at each other as we march out the short distance to her buried ball, but I hear her angrily mutter, "I suck."
"You hit a nervous tee shot," I correct her, handing her the rescue club. "Your goal now is just to get it into safe territory. This hole's not over yet. Remember, you get a stroke here."
She swings through the heavy grass and tops the ball, leaving it almost exactly where it was before. I don't need to remind her to stay down on the next one; it's all she'll be thinking about now.
Sure enough, the third shot is a beautiful one that sails down the middle of the fairway and leaves her an easy pitch to the green. "Nice easy swing there," I praise.
"Too little, too late," she bites back. Fierce is good, but defeatist will work against her. Time to earn your tip, caddie.
Mrs. Kohler puts a nice swing on her ball, but she's short of the green.
As I hand the pitching wedge to Bella, I remind her to visualize the flight of the ball and watch it bounce on the green and then roll to the hole. Bella hits a nice pitch shot that puts her close to the pin. "Well done," I murmur, trading her a putter for her wedge.
Mrs. Kohler chips up, and she's a little further away.
"Okay, remember, you're net even here and you've got the easier putt," I remind Bella quietly.
When Mrs. K just misses her putt and bends down to mark it, I quietly tell Bella to give her the next one. She looks at me questioningly, but when I confirm with a nod, she trusts it.
"It's yours," Bella announces. Mrs. Kohler picks up her ball and hands it to LeVon for cleaning.
"Make this, you win the hole," I remind her, adding, "It's gonna break left to right at the end, make sure you get it there."
Bella's nerves pull the putter head to the left and she misses by several inches.
"No blood," Mrs. Kohler announces, effectively giving Bella her putt for the tie.
"Well, that was hideous," I complain to Edward as we walk to the next tee.
"It wasn't your best work, but still, you managed to tie the hole."
"Why'd you have me give her that putt?" I ask. "She easily could've missed that."
"Most likely, you were going to tie the hole, and it lays a solid foundation of sportsmanship for the match."
"I didn't realize you were such a marshmallow," I tease.
He smirks. "That's not how it works, Bella. You give her the first few, she'll be generous with yours. AND more importantly, she's gonna have some deep thinking to do when you get to one that matters and you make her put it in."
"Oh you're an evil genius! I had no idea."
"We've only been together seven years. If I told you all my secrets, the next eighty years might just get boring."
"Something tells me that's not gonna happen."
The experience of Edward the Caddie is something new for me. While Edward the Boyfriend and Edward the Husband and Edward the Father are all entirely wonderful, this new Edward is my own personal teammate and coach. I love that I don't have to share him with anyone else at OC. I mean, he's still polite, complimenting a good shot every now and then, but today, he's here just for me. There's something so delicious about him wearing my name, which granted is his name too, but that's only because I'm his right back.
LeVon is a good caddie, but let's face it, he's not Edward. And from the little looks that pass between the two men today, it looks like LeVon's exerting himself just to remain pleasant. Sure, he wipes off her ball on the putting green and reads the distances, but he's more of a valet to Francine than a partner, and she treats him like the hired help, not even using his name, but referring to him as 'Caddie'. Blech.
I love the way Edward leans in and whispers instructions that only I can hear. Whether he's reading a putt or giving me encouragement or telling me my tits look great (yeah, that happened on the fourth hole), I'm the only one his words are meant for. It's me he keeps hydrated, my ass his hand pushes up the hill from six to seven, and me he approaches from behind when we reach the twelfth tee, gently placing his hand on my belly.
Yes, my darling husband/caddie, I remember full well the night this baby was conceived.
"Edward, quiet!" I giggle, his nose nudging inside my golf skirt at the top of my thigh. "Someone's gonna hear us!"
He lifts his head to plead his case. "The course has been closed for two hours. There's nobody here but us bears." He growls playfully and pushes up my sweater. "Besides, I haven't given you your birthday present yet." With that, he forces my bra up and palms my breasts. His lips tickle at my neck and he finds that sweet spot behind my ear that he knows drives me bonkers. I'm a writhing mess below him on the closely mown grass of the "scenic" twelfth tee.
Between gales of laughter and useless attempts to roll him off me—which I never wanted to be successful anyway—I force out, "Seems like…more of a present…for you, mister!"
He chuckles darkly. "Here comes your part, Bella."
And then I feel it; his finger pries its way inside the layer of high-performance fabric and silky lining and boring-but-functional panties. Suddenly, he's all the way inside and twiddling my most sensitive spot and I am singing a much different tune. One that starts with, "Oh fuck, Edward"…and ends with "Gaaaah!"
Okay, so this is not my most professional caddie moment, admittedly, but there's no way either of us will ever set foot on the twelfth tee without reliving that night. Our own private, treasured memory, that sweet spontaneous expression of our love for each other seems to permeate the aura of this place.
Fuck me. What a colossally stupid decision, leaving the condom at home. Sure, this was only supposed to be a quick little birthday 'O' for my girl, but I should've known better than to think I'd be able to resist a moaning, writhing, clenching Bella, for fuck's sake.
I roll off her with a great roar of frustration that surely scares away all wildlife within a five-mile radius and tuck my eager erection deep inside the confines of my boxer briefs. And I can tell you, that is one massively unhappy cock right now.
Bella turns her head to regard me, lying beside her on my back in the manicured clearing, my fingers pinching my eyes in frustration. "What's wrong, baby?" she asks, worry cutting through her bliss.
She tips to her side and props her head up in her hand. "Doesn't look like nothing to me," she retorts, smirking at the bulge in my shorts and making things even worse.
"Hell, Bella, I never planned on doing more tonight—this was just for you—but you're making me nuts with all your moaning and wriggling!"
"What, you're worried about my virtue now?" She shields her mouth from an imaginary audience, stage-whispering a secret to me alone. "You do know—I'm not a virgin anymore."
"Very funny. It's just…I didn't bring protection, and we said we wouldn't think about another baby until Nic turns three, and…grrrrr!" I scrub my face with my palms, praying for a moment of maturity.
Instead, there's a hand down my boxers, wrapping itself around my painfully hard erection. Her lips are at my ear, nipping, puffing tiny bursts of air, teasing.
"Baby," I warn. "I'm running on fumes here."
"I'm ready, sweetheart," she whispers.
"Bella, we can't. You're the most fertile woman on the planet. Christ, we conceived Nic on our wedding night!"
"I'm ready," she repeats more firmly, calmly. I open my eyes and I see the very picture of serenity. This is not my horny wife desperate for a good, hard pounding. This is the mother of my child letting me know she's ready to do it all over again.
"Yeah?" I grin. I'm ready, too. She nods and smiles and caresses me, elevating my dick to more than just a tool for our pleasure.
"In that case," I answer, rolling her gently onto her back and pressing into her. "Happy birthday, baby."
LeVon pulls up beside me on the fifteenth tee. Out of respect for the players, our conversations have been minimal today, and certainly nothing even marginally related to the match.
"Shouldn't we forecaddie here?" he asks me quietly. The hole is a sharp dog-leg right and the tee shot is much easier to track from around the corner. On a normal day, yes, it's a wise caddie who's waiting up ahead.
"Feel free to do whatever you like. I'm not leaving my player."
"Caddie!" Mrs. Kohler snaps her fingers for her driver and LeVon hands it to her with a practiced self-control, but I can see he's burning inside.
"You took my player," he growls under his breath.
I smirk and hand Bella her club.
"Thank you, darling," she says sweetly.
"My pleasure, babe," I answer.
"I hate you today," he adds, crossing his arms and scowling.
"I know," I answer, my eyes tracking Bella's tee shot. "Beautiful swing!"
"This is a very important putt, Bella," my caddie informs me on our way to the sixteenth green. "You win this hole, you're up one with only two holes to play."
"It's a really freaking long putt, in case you didn't notice."
"You sink this, you win the hole; worst case, you have an easy two-putt to tie," asserts my ever-positive life partner, whose faith in me and my abilities never seems to waver.
I set my marker behind the ball and hand Edward my ball to clean. I step behind my mark as he's taught me and attempt to read the terrain. Meanwhile, LeVon pulls out the flag while Francine evaluates her putt.
I turn to the voice dead behind me, and find Edward squatting down, face low to the ground. "I do love the view, sweetheart, but I can't read your putt if you're standing in the line."
I roll my eyes and step out of his way. Edward finishes his analysis and delivers me my cleaned ball, along with his professional opinion. "I like two cups out to the right, and remember, it's uphill. Don't baby it."
I nod and replace my ball on the green, lining up exactly as he advised and stroking cleanly through the ball.
"Oh, that is looking good, Bella, tracking…breaking left…IT'S IN!" Edward tempers his enthusiasm for the opposing team's sake, but the pride in his eyes is unmistakable as he high-fives me.
Francine has a sour expression when she picks up her marker. "Must be nice to have Boy Wonder as your caddie," she mumbles not quite under her breath.
Edward bites his tongue—visibly. He wouldn't dream of rising to her bait, so I say what he cannot. "Oh, sure, he's wonderful out here on the course, but ugh…I have to go home with this guy. Can you imagine?" I might have rubbed my belly just a bit to let her know exactly what this guy and I get up to at home.
The expression on her face is priceless. From the deep hue of red on her cheeks, it is clear that being with Edward is not an unfamiliar fantasy for her. Ick, and tough shit, lady.
It's a short walk to the seventeenth tee, and Edward makes the most of his coachable moment, reminding me the match is within my grasp, which helps not at all. I step onto the tee for my "honors" since I won the preceding hole, take a smooth practice swing, and proceed to shank the ball straight into the woods. Edward is dead silent when I return to his side, and he stoically takes my driver and replaces it back in its slot in the bag. After Francine hits, he bends down to ask, "What happened there?"
"My hands are swelling up," I say, pulling open the Velcro at the base of the glove and revealing a severely red and puffy left hand.
"Shit, Bella!" Edward's face drops as he gingerly takes my hand between his own and examines the damage. "You should get those rings off while you still can. Remember what we went through last time?"
How could I forget? Thank God our jeweler knew the dental floss trick. Otherwise, my precious rings would be in pieces, and I don't think I could bear it.
Edward slings my bag across his back and I hand him my glove, which frees me up to twist and pull at the metal bands while we walk toward my ball. "They're stuck," I complain. "And my circulation is all but cut off."
"Jesus, Bella! Here, let me have a try." I ignore the pointed look from Francine as Edward tugs and fusses but makes no progress. "You know, these were a whole lot more fun to put on you."
"I remember," she tells me, and right there, in the middle of the fairway, the two of us return to our photo booth.
"Don't you want to wear a dress or something? You know we're getting our picture taken," I warn.
"I've never worn a dress to Stockton before," she responds, arms crossed.
Uh oh. Do not make the girl suspicious, a little voice inside me advises.
"But it's our last time doing this. Four of four. The complete set." When she doesn't look convinced, I add, "I'm wearing a tie."
"You are?" Her arms unfold and she softens. "Well, if it means that much to you, sure, I'll put on something fancier."
The bus ride is pure torture for me. I'm the world's worst secret keeper, and this one's been a whopper to hide. At the end of the summer, Mom helped me pick out the ring that's nestled against my hip in my inside jacket pocket. I've kept it in storage with University Security until this morning. That's three whole months of not sharing something huge with Bella, I mean, not that the diamond is so huge, just the fact that she doesn't know about it at all. Even worse, I met with her Dad last week over Thanksgiving break to "ask for her hand", so now even he and Sue know. I just cannot wait until this piece is over and everything is settled and we can go on being us again…only permanently promised to each other. My stomach does another flip and I wonder how I'll live through this. Thank God I only have to do it once in my life.
"Edward?" Bella startles me back to the present, drawing my attention from the window where I felt much safer looking than into her eyes. She wriggles her hand into place beneath mine on the slippery plastic seat. "Oh, wow, your hands are all clammy."
Shit. "They are?" I try to laugh it off but it comes out weird.
She tips her head and smiles. "Are you nervous or something?"
I pretend that her question is outrageous, hoping she won't actually figure out I'm kind of freaking out. "Very funny," I croak.
She gives me a strange look but then she just shakes her head, probably chalking up my behavior to "acting like such a boy" again.
As the bus comes to a stop in the town square, Bella slides out of our seat and makes her way down the narrow aisle. I wipe my hands on my pants and tap the box yet again, convincing myself that she won't even consider saying no.
"Okay, Bella, in you go, like always." I fumble in my wallet for the five-dollar bill I've made sure to have ready, dropping it on the floor twice and muttering like a crazy person to myself before finally stilling my hands enough to force it into the slot.
"What's going on out there?" she giggles from inside the booth.
"Nothing. This Abe Lincoln's been around the block a few times, I guess. Okay, all set. Here I come…ready or not!"
Understatement of my life. I quickly pass my hand through my hair, straighten my tie, de-sweat my hands on my pants, triple-check for the ring, take the deepest breath ever…and I'm good to go.
I peel back the velvet curtain to find Bella in place, same as always, on the 'x' on the bench. I drop one knee to the floor near her feet as I catch the beginning of the ten-second countdown.
"What are you doing, Edward?" she asks, her voice still light.
"Bella, I have a confession."
So much for the lightness. Her face registers terror. Shit.
"Edward? You're scaring me! Last time you got down on your knees, you were begging me for forgiveness."
"No, nothing like that. It's just—"
"…I brought you here to ask you—"
"…to marry me!"
"WHAT?" she asks, her face serious and pale and chilling me to the bone.
"Yeah. I figured you wouldn't believe me without this."
I pull the box from my jacket and open it, showing her that I'm for real. She gasps and tears fill her eyes and she's not answering and things are not looking real good for Team Cullen.
"Too much too soon?" Crap. I knew I should've waited until graduation.
"I was just waiting," she says quietly, sniffling in between words.
"Waiting?" My brain has totally shut down and I can't be expected to think clearly. Kneeling—check. Confession—check. Ring—check. What am I forgetting?
Thankfully, Bella bails me out, as usual. "You said you brought me here to ask me to marry you. You haven't asked yet."
Oh! Duh. Her tiny smile is just enough to give me the determination I need to get me through this, and I even allow myself a little joke. "Cripes, you English majors are so literal!"
She laughs a little and sniffles a lot and I recite the speech I worked so hard on. Yeah, if college has taught me anything, it's that there is no way I'm going into a moment this important without a prepared, memorized speech.
"Isabella Swan, you are my best friend and my partner in everything that matters. You know me better than anyone in the world, so you know how much I love you…"
"You know that I'm so much better at being me when I'm with you. When we're not together, it actually hurts. You make me incredibly happy, and all I want to do for the rest of my life is do the same for you…"
"Even though we're only 21, we both know this is it, this is our true love, and I don't want to wait. Would you please take my name and wear it not only on your back but in your heart?"
Hot tears run down her cheeks and I brush them away with my thumb. And still, no answer.
"Bella? You're freaking me out a little bit here."
She slides to the floor next to me, right onto her bare knees on the filthy floor. "Yes, Edward! Of course, I'll marry you!"
"You will?" I squeak out, my voice betraying me.
She holds out her ring finger, and I slide the simple gold band with its single round diamond onto her finger, where it looks even more perfect than all the times I imagined doing exactly this.
She brings her wide smile to mine and our lips join in a sweet, salty reunion. "I love you, Bella," I tell my wife-to-be, just before hugging her to my chest in sweet relief and utter joy.
"I love you too, Edward," she whispers back, her voice breaking with new tears.
This set of photos has always been my favorite. In the first, Bella's astonished expression reveals a girl taken completely off guard, though she later told me she'd guessed I'd propose on her birthday or mine, later in the school year.
The second frame shows Bella's streaming tears and my desperation taking hold. In truth, this one is difficult for me to revisit, my anxiety so heavy I can feel it again every time I look back on that moment of not knowing what she'd say. Sure, I was fairly confident she wanted to marry me, but I worried about the fact that she'd only ever had me. Did she harbor secret fantasies of trying out other experiences? Would she regret her decision in five years? In twenty-five? Was I being selfish taking her off the market in her prime? All these doubts swirled in my head in that ten seconds, though I knew deep down what I'd known from our first date—there simply isn't anyone else for either of us.
It's the third photo that I had blown up and framed for our first wedding anniversary. I didn't even crop the large expanse of blank wall that shows above our heads or attempt to correct the blurriness because we were far too close to the simple camera lens. It's the perfect imperfection of the shot that I love so much, and of course, the expressions on both our profiles captured in that single click of the old-fashioned shutter.
It's my all-time favorite picture of the two of us, without question. Edward's eyes are pinched tightly closed and his lips form just the very hint of the beginnings of a smile. To me, his expression tells the entire story of a boy who can't believe he's just gotten what he's always wanted but never dared to dream he might actually get.
For my part, my teary smile is the picture of utter happiness. My right arm tightly squeezes Edward's shoulders and my left hand is outstretched in front of my eyes, where I'm admiring how my ring—his ring—looks on my finger. I will never forget my thoughts at that moment.
I will happily wear your ring.
I will proudly take your name and wear it anywhere and everywhere.
I will joyously spend every day of the rest of my life letting you know how much you mean to me.
"OWWWWCH!" I clamp my free hand over my mouth, belatedly realizing my golf faux-pas. Luckily, we're alone at the edge of the woods.
"Sorry, babe, but at least I got them off! Here, turn around and let me put them on your necklace so we can go deal with this next shot."
"There it is," I say dismally, spying my ball under a low-lying branch.
He sets down my bag and climbs into the brush with me. "Hmmm, there's only one thing to do in this situation."
He crooks his finger, beckoning me closer, and closer still. Then before I can realize what he's up to, his hand is inside my shirt, copping a feel.
I put my hands on my hips and give him my best long-suffering, married-to-a-perpetually-horny-teenager look, which doesn't deter him in the least.
"This is your big strategy?"
"Yes. You're fucked," he informs me, withdrawing his hand. "Concede the hole."
"What? What happened to 'Never say die'?"
"That doesn't apply to impossible shots. I don't want you to hurt yourself hitting out of here."
"Is that my caddie or my husband talking?"
"Both. How are you gonna play if you break your hand? You take your lumps and move on. You're tied going into the last hole, and you get a stroke."
"Fine," I concede to Edward, just before conceding to my opponent. She smiles smugly at me, and I feel something shift inside of me. "I want to kick her ass," I state very clearly into my husband's ear.
A broad grin sweeps across his cheeks. "Let's do it."
Francine hits a good tee shot on eighteen, just shy of the water that lines the left side of the fairway and curves out in front of the left half of the green. Edward hands me my driver and says, "Follow that ball."
"But LeVon always has me play this out to the right with a shorter club."
"It's going to cost you an extra shot to go around to the right, and you need to win this hole to win the match. You do realize a tie will send you into sudden death?"
"Ugh," I lament, my patience and energy levels wearing thin at this point. There is zero chance I'm playing extra holes today.
I put a tired but effective swing on the ball and it lands within a foot of hers. "Great shot. One more to the green, a couple of putts, and we're off to celebrate," my optimistic helper predicts.
"What a lovely fantasy life you have, my darling."
"Oh baby, I do not waste my fantasies on golf scenarios," he answers, lifting and lowering his eyebrows comically.
"Give me my 5-wood, mister."
He hands me the grip but doesn't let go when I pull it away. Instead, he leans forward to give me some final words of wisdom. "This is the whole match right here, Bella. You get on, you win. Put a nice, easy stroke on that now."
I love being on the course and being Bella's right hand man, but I never imagined how difficult it would be to watch her at close-range and have to live through the tension with her, having almost no control over the outcome myself. All I can do is hand her the right club and offer some decent advice and moral support. The rest is up to her.
She takes a hurried practice swing, a horse making its final approach to the barn. Easy, I will her, with all my might. Don't lose it now, when you're so close.
She blows out a deep breath and straightens her spine, pressing her cute bottom out to anchor her weight. With a much smoother backswing, she swings effortlessly, nice tempo, great acceleration, effective follow-through, and swish! Her ball cuts through the air in a perfect arc, easily clearing the water and landing with a satisfying thunk in the center of the green. Her face reads like the definition of "bliss" in the dictionary. In fact, I'd say that expression she's wearing rivals her 'O' face. Almost nothing better than taking a perfect swing at a golf ball. Almost.
I keep the celebration down to a subtle nod and wink so as not to rile Mrs. Kohler before her next shot. I'd love for Bella to win, but I don't want to jeopardize my position at the club with less than exemplary sportsmanship. Bella doesn't need more than that from me anyway; she knows how proud I am of her right now. She basically just locked in a victory. Mrs. K hits a decent shot herself, which I'm quick to compliment, placing her on the outer edge of the green.
"Okay, here's the deal," I counsel my player, pulling out her putter and wiping the blade clean with my towel as we walk. "All you need to do with the first putt is get it close. A two putt wins you the match. Don't do anything heroic, you're sitting at the top of a slope. You're just giving it a love tap, you know…" I illustrate my point with my open palm on her ass, gently, very gently. "No more than that."
"Wait," she says. "Are you sure I shouldn't hit it like this?" Whack! Bella finds the piece of my ass not covered by her golf bag and lets me have it. The pop is so loud the others turn back to look. Bella smiles sweetly at them and continues walking.
"You really should not have done that, darling," I tell her. "You don't want to go into your putt with a 'Gotcha' owed."
"Like you're going to hit me while I'm putting?" she asks incredulously. "You're my caddie!"
I shake my head. "Gotcha overrides caddie every time. It's actually in the caddie handbook."
She laughs. "Which you wrote!"
"True enough," I admit, "but the fact remains." I hold out my hands in an exaggerated gesture of apology we both know is false.
And then my beautiful wife, who cares far less about winning an argument or a golf tournament than she does about making her husband happy, raises both hands above her head, putter and all, and stops dead in her tracks.
"Fine," she says.
And I, who care far less about winning an argument or a golf tournament than I do about making my wife insanely happy, reach down and illustrate again with a gentle palm on her ass. "Love tap," I remind her.
We finally all reach the green and Bella goes to mark her ball while Mrs. Kohler lines up to her putt. It's a good putt, but she's still got about a foot left. Bella looks up to me for my advice and I quickly shake my head no. Don't give her this one.
"Start it out toward the shadow of the flag. Love tap," I whisper in her ear, setting her cleaned ball into her palm with a pointed look.
"Yes, dear," she mumbles, going through her putting routine as I taught her back in our Holden days. She steps up from behind, lines up the putter for a smooth practice stroke, moves the putter head into place and sets her feet. All systems are go. Deep breath. She drags back the putter head and—
"Ahhh!" With a wild stab, Bella sends the putt careening across the green and bends over, her hand clutching her belly, eyes wide.
I don't even feel her bag fall off my shoulder and crash onto the ground as I rush to her side, my hands instinctively closing with hers over our baby. "What is it, Bella? Are you in pain?"
"Edward!" She looks up at me with tears in her eyes and my heart drops to my shoes. I fall onto my knees, scan the ground frantically for blood and other escaped bodily fluids, and not discovering anything externally amiss, I place my lips onto her belly.
And that's when I feel it. A tiny but powerful thump, right in the kisser. A rush of elation replaces my previous dread. "He kicked me!" Now, the tears start down my cheeks and I quickly place both palms flat against her stomach.
"Again, little guy. Say hi to Daddy!" The next one is a flutter so faint I might've missed it, if I hadn't been poised to receive his message. "Feel that?" I ask, lifting my eyes to Bella's.
She sniffles and nods and has to remove one hand to mop her face.
"Um…I hate to burst into this private moment, kids, but do you think we can finish this hole?" Francine asks, not unkindly.
My sniffles turn to laughter and Edward stands up and kisses me, right there. And not a little peck on the cheek, but an all-out, I'm-never-gonna-forget-this-moment kiss, after which he takes my hand and leads me to my ridiculously impossible putt.
"Sink it for the win, Bella. Uphill, right to left, put some mustard on it."
I line up to my Hail Mary putt, half-expecting the baby to make himself known again. I note with a resigned shake of my head that I've now begun referring to the baby as 'he' where I never had before. I draw the club back and stroke firmly to send it up the hill, which I do in spades. In fact, my putt is so hard it goes up well past where it was before. I look over at my husband, expecting chagrin, but he's all smiles and tears, the big sap. Some caddie he turns out to be!
Mildly humiliated but not really finding it in me to care—which is probably why I'll never win one of these tournaments—I follow my ball across the green and line up once more. I realize this is for the tie, assuming she'll make hers. Love tap, I remind myself, jolting the head of the putter and causing it to go about three inches dead left.
Edward clears his throat, I think to cover up a surprised guffaw, but who could blame him? I am so out of control. I give it one more shot and again send the ball down the hill and past the hole. "Oh for God's sake, Francine. Could you just put yours in and end my misery?"
It's out of order and improper, but Francine steps up and putts hers in for the win.
"Thank you," I tell her, much relieved, reaching out my hand to shake hers. "Nice match."
"You, too. I guess I have that little critter to thank for my victory," she adds with a smile.
Edward congratulates Francine while LeVon shakes her hand, then mine.
"Nicely played, Bella. Right up until the end," LeVon says. "Probably a lousy read by your caddie on that first putt."
Edward snorts loudly and says, "First rule of golf, Bella. Always blame the caddie."
I rub my right hand over my pregnant belly. "Well, honey, you have to admit, I couldn't have gotten myself into this predicament without you."
Edward surrounds me with his body, wrapping his left arm behind me and gathering the fingers of my right hand among his, holding our tangled hands together over my stomach. "Guilty as charged, my sweet wife. And consider me well-tipped!"
9/1/2012: CS101 is up for the Top Ten Fics of the month of August, 2012 (as is LRR as well as Kitkat's Down on the Bayou). You can only vote for one fic at a time, but apparently, it's okay to reload and vote again. Check out the list of great fics and vote for your favorites: twifanfictionrecs dot com slash 2012/09/01/vote-for-your-top-ten-completed-fics-august-2012/
A/N: Thank you to Robsmyyummy Cabanaboy and Yessir Pleasesir for their pre-reading/beta skills and honesty. And my deep appreciation and admiration for the ladies of the fandom for allowing all of us to use our love for the stories to support a most worthy social cause. Finally, thank you to all who donated to the cause with time, money, and creativity to make the effort a success.
By the way, that part about the clammy hands was 100% quoted from mr h's romantic proposal at the Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C.! XXX ~BOH