A birthday present for carenl/nerac because I love her. Happy Birthday, sweet girl.
I didn't have time to get this beta'd, so I'm sorry about any and all mistakes.


She whirls, a dervish, pale green dress flapping lazily around her as she moves. Undulating like the fire behind her, backlit by the blue-green flames—though infinitely more hypnotic—she's an indulgence. All dark chocolate and mint, sweet as the fudge my Grandmother made when I was a child, and spinning in dizzying circles.

I sit to the side of the clearing, hidden in the shadows of the trees and away from the group congregated around the fire. They laugh and dance, grooving along to the funky guitar licks that float in the air of the forest. My fingers itch to play, too. Smoke curls lazily around me, another indulgence, this one rarer than the other.

I inhale, holding the bitter smoke in as I recline on my elbows. I've had more than my share tonight, separated from the group as I am, and stingy to boot. It's a chill atmosphere, a gathering of easy-going friends that I am unused to. She offered to stay with me, but one glimpse of her swaying shoulders made me feel like I was holding her back.

I'm content to watch her, to embrace the light feeling wending its way through my muscles and relaxing me. If I sit still enough I can almost feel the automatic responses of my body: blood circling from my toes to the tip of my head, oxygen expanding and contracting my lungs in a calming rhythm. The smoke mellows me, letting me feel less an outsider.

They were her friends first, but I'm getting used to them slowly.

She looks up and catches me staring. I don't look away. I'm drawn to the pink of her cheeks, the mischievous tilt of her eyes. She's beautiful. I'm open, at her feet, full of want and wonder and a sense of peace. She smiles, dipping her neck down to whisper in her friend's ear. Then she's moving, water over rocks as she weaves through the revelers toward me.

"Are you having fun?" she asks, hitching up that dress of hers to her knees. She sinks onto my lap, rearranging the fabric to cover her legs and mine.

"I am," I answer, and it's the truth.

She's a boy's wet dream, all soft and rounded curves, pink lips and big eyes. I think of pinker nipples hidden by thin fabric, and want her closer.

"You should come hang out by the fire."

She's leaning closer now, hair brushing forward and tickling the sides of my neck. I lick my lips, watching as hers move closer. She veers off at the last second, just as I feel the warmth of her breath on my jaw. Denied, I turn my head slowly to watch her take my smoke out of my hand.

I don't pout for long. With a wink and a grin in my direction she brings the half-toked joint to her lips slowly, squinting as she inhales. They pucker around the blackened paper, a hint of tongue visible. I shift underneath her, settling her more fully onto me. She's warm everywhere, the combination of dancing on a summer night and the heat from the fire lingering on her sweat-drenched skin.

Closing her eyes and dipping her face down to mine, she touches my lips with hers and waits. Knowing that she wants to share this with me I open mine, letting my tongue touch hers for just a moment before she exhales the smoke into my lungs. It's a waste of good herb, but I push the shotgunned smoke out of my nose instead of holding the cottonscratch taste in my lungs, wanting to kiss her more than I want to get higher.

I run my hands up the back of her damp dress until I reach the back of her head. Twisting my fingers through her hair, I lean back and bring her over me. She smiles against my lips before she melts into me, pressing her hands to my neck and kissing me back.

I should be worried that everyone can see, but when I'm around her I don't care who catches us.

—Before, then, back in the day—

Being the new kid in school sucks. As a born and bred army brat, I can attest to this. A year here, maybe two there, and your father gets new orders. You linger in your room while your mom works herself into a tizzy packing everything that isn't important. She doesn't trust the moving companies the army provides, not since they knocked a door off of the cabinet her grandmother left her and refused to acknowledge wrong doing, so she does it herself and harasses me until I'm forced help.

Friends you make in the schools near the bases are practiced and prepared for the way you have to go. Email addresses are exchanged, facebook requests sent so you can keep in touch, numbers that'll be used for two weeks, maybe a month, are entered into cellphones. It never lasts: a new kid takes your place or the frenzy over your friend's own imminent move hurtles them into the process you went through just a few months prior.

The last move was a permanent one. My father served his twenty years as a M.P. and retired. Instead of staying in Kentucky near Fort Campbell, he chose to move us back to Washington, the place he was stationed when he met my mother. My last grandparent had lived there until recently, my Gran.

Her and Pop had been proud of my dad and his long career, that he'd served in the Gulf War and returned home determined to get his medical degree after witnessing his friends dying around him and not being able to do anything to save them. They just didn't like the distance his job left between them and their only grandchild.

My summers were spent in their big white house near the Sul Duc River, full of hiking and fishing with Pop, and Gran's mint chocolate fudge. She spoiled me, making me as much of the rich sweet as I wanted until my parents flew down to collect me from whatever base we were stationed at.

There was always a tin of it in my luggage when I got home.

Scowling, pissed off at the world, I toss my things from school onto the carpet and flop backward onto my bed. The school, Forks High, isn't what I'm used to—it's too small, groups and cliques of friends formed back in days of tag and foursquare, and I stuck out like a sore thumb today.

The whispers followed me wherever I went, and I imagine that a mutated toad would get half as less attention.

"Edward?" Mom pokes her head in my door, a practiced, sympathetic look on her face. She's hip to the first day rules by now. "How was it, sweetheart?"

I roll my eyes at the nickname—I'm not four. "Same ole, same ole. Classes'll be easy though—I've already learned most of this stuff."

"Well, there's a bright spot, then." She hesitates at the door, like she wants to say more, but she doesn't. "Your dad will be home in thirty minutes, and then we can eat."

"What're we having?"

She laughs. "Sandwiches, chips...whatever's left from the cooler. Sorry, haven't gotten a chance to go to the grocery store yet. All this unpacking..." She waves her hands, all flustered and annoyed.

"That's fine, Mom. I'm gonna finish some of this work."

She leaves me alone then, probably on a mission to unpack just one more box before my dad comes home.

A glance out of the windows shows the river—the big white house is ours, now, and my room is the same one I stayed in over the summer. I get my bag from the floor and sit at the desk that overlooks the window, and do homework for a school that I wish I wasn't at.

Things are the same the next day, and the two after that, until I get to my biology class on Friday. All week I was going on the assumption that I had started school too late in the year to be assigned a partner, something I wasn't really all that upset about, but apparently I was wrong. When I get to class after lunch, there's a girl there at my lab table, and she's...asleep.

As the rest of the class drifts in, nobody pays her any attention, so I don't either. Going by the lack of surprise, it must be pretty common for a random girl to show up in class passed out, so I take out my things for class and start on the assignment written on the board. The biology teacher, Mr. Banner, is pretty laid back for a small town teacher—either that or he's incredibly lazy, but I haven't figured out which one yet.

I'm about halfway through reading a lackluster chapter on cellular anatomy when the lump next to me stirs. Big brown eyes emerge from the cluster of long, dark hair, and she blinks up at me, a sly grin on her face.

"Whoa. Hey, new guy."

She doesn't really attempt to sit up, just rests her chin on her folded arms and glances lazily around. I watch her a little closer 'cause she's actually really cute.

"Um, hello..."

Her eyes, besides being brown, are bloodshot to all hell, and with the slight whiff of sticky-greenness that's more noticeable when she moves, I'm figuring out pretty quickly why no one was surprised that she was asleep— this chick is high as a kite.

She studies me for a few minutes more, and while it's not uncomfortable (seriously, after a week being the new guy here, I'm all too used to it), it's kinda funny. I wonder if whatever she's smoked makes me blurry, or strange looking. Finally, I watch her shrug from the corner of my eyes and reach into a bag she's got looped around the back of her chair.

For the rest of the hour she scribbles in a beat-up old notebook, and I do my work.

It's only at the end of the day, when my head is resting on my pillow and the light from the moon on the river bounces back to my window in millions of sparkly waves, do I realize I forgot to ask her name.

A sort of dance begins after that. Sometimes she's there, sometimes she's not, and if she happens to make it to class she's either asleep or scribbling words and doodles (okay, so maybe I snooped over her shoulder, but in my defense I'm taller than her and she's always too stoned to notice) in her battered notebook. The thing is literally held together with string—and I'm pretty sure the string is hemp.

Biology is my only class with her, and I still don't know her name.

Today, though, I'm determined to change that.

I've got a few people to hang out with that aren't terribly nosey anymore, though that's only because I just started answering their questions with questions of my own about the town, what there is to do around here, and everybody else's lives. Once they were under the microscope, they weren't so keen to bug me.

Mike, who's pretty sure in his own head that he's the coolest guy in town, flops into the chair next to me at lunch, and looks around. "Look, the hippies are here today."

I follow his gaze over to the corner, where I already know a small group of people are clustered around a table. They're in their own little world, laughing and joking and paying no attention to anyone else around them. I recognize the blond guy from my history class, and I think his name is Jasper, but I'm not exactly sure. He's got his arm slung around a girl with long black hair adorned with a crown of those little white weed-flower-things that grow in your front yard when you haven't cut it in a while.

There's a big guy next to a fucking knockout, and they're arguing or talking heatedly...or maybe not because he's smiling while she shoves him away.

And the mysterious notebooker is in their crowd. I noticed her when I walked into the lunchroom earlier—not that I've been searching for her (too much), but I heard her laugh the second I stepped into line behind Eric. She's still got her legs kicked up onto the empty seat at the table, long skirt trailing onto the floor beside her.

"Who're they?" I ask, subtly I hope.

Jessica, who always seems up for gossip, and is therefore annoying as hell, pipes up beside me. "That's Jasper, his girlfriend Alice, Emmett and Rosalie, and Chief Swan's daughter Bella.

"Chief as in police chief?"

I'm not naive enough to believe that just because someone's parent is a police officer that they aren't troublemakers, but I wonder how she gets away with the perma-stone at home all the same.

"Yeah. You'd think he'd be able to keep his kid in line, but... guess not. His wife died a few years ago, Bella was normal until then."

I sense a long run on tale involving Jessica telling me everything there is to know about my lab partner, so I change the subject and ask Mike about tryouts for the baseball team instead.

I don't want to know things that are private about someone that I don't really even know to begin with.

Fifteen minutes before lunch is due to be over, a scraping of chairs in the corner draws my attention. I think it's strange that no one else even looks up, but maybe the kids here are used to the group of kids sneaking out of the back door.

I wish people paid so little attention to me.

"You wanna go talk to Coach before class, man?" Mike's standing up now, too, and talking to me.

"Huh? Oh, about baseball? Yeah, let's go."

Bella is already in class by the time I rush in just before the last bell rings. Mike is still talking about how it's a good thing I'm a shortstop because their last one doesn't play anymore, and I nod at him as I walk back to my table.

"Hello, new guy."

"It's Edward," I say.

There's not an overstuffed notebook to be seen on the table, so I'm fully unprepared when Bella doesn't immediately lay down her head once Banner starts class. I turn to look at her, and see that she's already looking at me with an amused expression on her face.

"What?" I mouth. I glance down, wondering if I dribbled ketchup on my shirt or something, but, no.

She shrugs and turns back to listen to Banner. There's a smile on her lips.

Now I'm weirded out, all anxious about what this girls deal is and why she's having so much fun fucking with me. I rip a piece of paper out of my notebook and scrawl a note on it.

the polite thing to do when people tell you their name is to introduce yourself back.

She glances down when the paper touches her hand, and starts to laugh. The guy in front of me turns around, but she just ignores him and hunches over the paper.

Bella. my name is Bella. sorry, I'm in my own world today.

I snort to hide my laughter, because, really, when isn't she?

what are you always writing over there?

She reads my question, glances up at me, and then smiles so wide I forget my own name. She's cute all the time, in her own little funky way, but when she smiles, she's pretty much perfect.

And then she's digging in her patchwork bag and pulling out that monstrosity that is always with her. I don't pay attention to Banner or the rest of the class as she silently flips through pages, sharing her secrets with me. It really is hemp that holds the whole thing together, and some of the paper has obviously come from other notebooks because the lines aren't the same. And it's fascinating.

Lists of random shit—things to do and places to go. Grocery lists and lists of top ten Beatles songs. A drawing of some Pink Floyd album cover. Pictures of trees and flowers and faraway places taped next to trippy little doodles of flowers and butterflies and women who might be witches from Disney movies. Patches of fabric and pressed leaves and flowers.

And pictures of people everywhere: her, her and her friends, her and a man with a mustache, her and a woman who looks just like her.

I remember what Jessica said about Bella's mom dying a few years back, so I make sure to smile at her when those pictures show up.

The bell rings before she can finish showing me everything, and she smiles and says goodbye and makes sure to say my name in this drawn out, mocking way that I kind of pretty much adore.

—Present, now, maybe even the future—

The music changes, all smooth and slow and something that Bella is forever changing my iPod to when I'm not paying attention. She giggles on top of me and sits back. "'bout time they played this. I thought I was going to have to bribe Em to get him to put it on."

I roll my eyes because Emmett will pretty much do anything Bella puts him up to. They're like two mischievous peas in a pod, and I've been the subject of many pranks they've performed.

I don't mind, though. Bella's got her own sense of humor, all practical jokes and outrageous giggles when she tricks me into something.

"Let's get out of here," I say. "Mom and Dad are gone for the night, we can go to my place."

Bella's inserted herself in my life so thoroughly that I'm pretty sure my mom would choose her over me some days. She says it's nice to have someone who cares about her the way my mom does, and I know without asking she's thinking of her own mother that she lost to cancer. It's her mom she got her 'bohemian flair' from, something she says proudly, often.

I think it would have been nice to know this older version of the girl I'm hung up on.

She shakes her head. "Nope. Not yet, please? It's a nice night and summer'll be over soon. Rose and Em will be leaving in a few weeks and I wanna spend some some time with them."

It's not like she won't be joining them in Seattle in a year, something I've begun to wonder about for myself. The way she says please leaves me no other option to give into her, though. It's all childlike and begging, and I've recently found I have a hard time telling her no.

She's pretty much figured this out, too, which just means I'm fucked when it comes to pulling rank.

"Fine. But you're coming to my place tonight, and not just when the sun's starting to rise."

"'kay."

I forget what I was saying when she leans back down and kisses me again. She's all tongue and lips and soft girl feel, moving on my lap in a way I can't resist.

Really, what seventeen year old kid can resist a pretty girl moving that way in his lap?

I groan and grab her hips, pushing her down into me harder, helping her to wiggle in a way that's beneficial to both of us.

"Edward, Edward...mmm, hey, stop for a second. Oh, that's nice..."

A loud clap of laughter that I'm pretty sure is Emmett interrupts us, and I do stop, sort of. I've still got my hands around her and I'm still trying to kiss the skin of her neck, but she's moving back and turning away and saying something to someone that I don't care to listen to, because, hello, girl in my lap.

She stands then and I blow out a frustrated breath because anyone who looks down is going to see that she's got me all worked up, but she just laughs and shakes her head.

"C'mon," she says, reaching down to haul me to my feet.

She darts a quick glance over her shoulder and then we're running, the sound of her party getting lost in the quiet of the forest. And then it's silent and we're in a little area about five minutes away from the party, and it's just trees and us and no one to see.

"Yeah? Here?" I say, not at all opposed to getting her naked in the woods if I can get her naked now.

"Like you're going to say no," she says, backing me up to rest against a tree.

Her tank top gets dropped...oh, somewhere nearby, and I thank anyone who will listen to me that my girlfriend forgets to wear a bra most days because it's one less obstacle that I have to struggle with. I might even thank her and promise to buy her a million tank tops if she'll never wear a bra again.

Her breasts are still warm from dancing around the fire with Alice, the weight of them in my hand just right. I slide down the tree and pull her on top of me, and then slide my hands underneath her skirt while she works on my zipper.

It's too bad she wears underwear. Maybe I can talk her out of wearing them like the bra, though.

I forget to think about anything other than how she feels when she's tired of my fingers and pulling my dick out of my pants. She's something to watch in the moonlight, head thrown back and body moving over me as she sinks down again and again.

It's just her and me and the sounds of the forest moving around us, trees whispering like she does when it feels good, a creek nearby babbling like me when she twists her hips a certain way and I forget any language other than yes and curses.

She's finished before I am, a melty puddle of bones and skin and muscles that must not work because she wraps her arms around me and moves only when I wrap my arms around her and pull her back and forth, fast, faster, fastest.

"Love you," she whispers when the stars explode around me and are close enough to touch.

And I forget to respond when she's crushed up against me, sweet and chocolate mint, spinning me in a dizzying circle that I don't want to stop.


Thank you for reading!