Title: For When I'm Gone
Characters: Edward, Bella, Rosalie, Emmett, Jasper, Renee
Disclaimer: I don't own any of this. I'd rate it between T and M
Word Count: 9,043
Summary: Skateboards and growing up all in one summer!
When I was nine years old, I used to try to swim to the bottom of our pool. At the far end, where the diving board was. It was fourteen feet deep, but it seemed more like fourteen hundred feet. My chest would get tight and I'd get confused about which way was the surface and then I'd have flashes of my hair getting caught in the filter, which was stupid because I had short hair and the filter was nowhere near the diving board end. Still. I didn't touch the bottom until the summer I turned eleven.
The summer I turned sixteen, I stood at the edge of the same pool and knew if I jumped in and tried to reach the bottom, my head would explode open on the concrete and there would be brains and head gore all over and maybe an eyeball rolling around or something. My chest still felt tight, even though there was no water, and I certainly wasn't swimming. I still couldn't tell which way was up, either; how to break through the surface.
"Bella. This is the end of an era," Rosalie said, then blew an obnoxiously huge, pink Bubblicious bubble. She sucked it in, snapped it twice and put her arm lazily around my shoulder. "We need to celebrate it as such."
Staring down at the valley of the now empty pool, I could only muster a blank look.
"If we're not going to celebrate, we're at least going to mourn the pool properly. Still, I prefer celebrating. I mean, yeah, gone are the days of Panama Jack tans and skinny dipping, but that was becoming boring anyway. Our new era is going to be better."
"Better how?" I asked. I glanced at Rosalie, who was taking in the empty pool behind her sunglasses, her blonde hair piled on her head and her mouth working that gum. Her lightly freckled nose crinkled up and she dropped her arm from my shoulders and turned to face me completely.
"These are shitty circumstances," she declared.
"Understatement," I corrected her.
"So, Daddy Dearest is Splitsville. You know what this means?" she asked, and pulled her sunglasses up to sit on the top of her head. I saw her blue eyes flash with excitement.
"That I'm now without a pool?" I asked.
"There's that," Rosalie said flatly, "but there's also the fact that not only is a good old-fashioned teen rebellion stage acceptable right now… it's to be expected."
In my mind, I recalled throwing up cheap vodka near the trellis on the side of my house three days prior. And letting Embry Call do whatever he wanted with me above the waist the week before. And sitting back idly while Rosalie promised to kick Leah's ass for implying Rosalie screwed Leah's boyfriend. Which she did.
"Isn't that what we've been doing?" I asked Rosalie.
"Well. Now we're gonna do it balls out."
"Yep. And I know exactly where to start," Rosalie said, pulling her sunglasses back down and smiling at me brightly, her sparkly lip gloss well, sparkling.
There comes a time, I suppose, in every semi-young, coming-of-age girl's life when… you just don't give a shit.
The sliding glass door opened behind us and my mother stepped out in her new uniform- a bathrobe with a hemline way too high above the knee, bare feet, and a cigarette.
"There's still no water in there, Bella," my mother said and sat down on a chaise lounge without even looking in my direction. I rolled my eyes at the bitterness in her voice and wanted to get the hell out of there before she started ranting about money, my dad, the weather, the broken carburetor in her car, the lack of groceries inside and anything, everything else.
Rosalie glanced at me, rolled her eyes and made a gagging face.
"My plan is better than this," she said.
I had nothing better to do so I hopped on the handlebars of Rosalie's ridiculous bike. She flopped down on the banana seat and we headed down the driveway, the too hot sun already making my shoulders feel like they were cooking like a roast beef under a broiler.
The banana seat bike had been my and Rosalie's preferred mode of transportation since the second grade, the same year Rosalie decided we were best friends. Okay, so it had been our only mode of transportation, and I was thrilled when Rosalie bestowed her attention on me. Back then, she had shiny hair and always wore these colorful clips and when she gave the orders on the playground, everyone obeyed. Not much has changed since then.
I was aware most people viewed me as her sidekick or whatever, but never once did Rosalie actually make me feel that way. She was loyal to me in a way that my own father wasn't.
We rolled along down sidewalks and side streets in the sun. Occasionally, Rosalie would lift her butt from the seat and ride faster, looking over my shoulder. I kept my legs up on the front pegs of her bike, which we had put on after an unfortunate toe-meet-spokes incident the year we were in eighth grade.
Most schools, including ours, had let out the week before, so when we rode over the palm tree-lined board walk, we smiled and pointed at a few familiar faces from school. The beach was packed already, and we probably could've stopped there and had a good time with people we knew, but Rosalie didn't stop. Not even when we sailed passed a hot dog vendor and I pointed with longing.
"Where are we going?" I finally asked when we'd passed by or were far out of the direction of any place I would've guessed.
"St. Andrew's," Rosalie said, like that was the most logical answer in the world.
"What the hell for?" I asked, but she laughed and stood up as she pedaled.
St. Andrew's School for Boys used to be a prestigious all boys prep school, or so I'd been told. But I'd always known it as a school for all the boys that got booted from the public high school. Rosalie and I were kind of acquainted with a few of the boys that went there, as they had been booted at various points in our schooling career. But I wasn't acquainted enough to be hanging out outside of a standard house party or a quick bowl under the boardwalk or anything.
Well, we used to have those types of occasional run-ins with the St. Andrews crowd before Rosalie decided to lose her virginity to Emmett McCarty eighteen months previous on the side of her house with a Trojan and no promise of a phone call the next day. When he left he took cold cuts from her fridge, a cigarette from her mom's purse, her virginity, and her heart.
Rosalie gave him the benefit of the doubt for exactly six days, claiming he was probably busy or didn't know how to say how he really felt. I nodded dutifully and listened to a play-by-play of the entire night about thirty-two times. When it became apparent that he could not possibly be that busy or that tongue-tied, I kept Rosalie supplied with Kleenex and cheeze product snacks and told her she wasn't stupid. After three days of crying, Rosalie got pissed. I agreed when she called him an asshole, and I told her she was right when she said he does this to chicks all the time and that he was a shitbag. She never got past that stage.
And yet, we found ourselves headed to St. Andrew's where Emmett attended school. While I could've just assumed Rosalie was such a good friend that she was willing to put aside her hate for Emmett in order to find some kind of rebellion comfort for me, I knew that wasn't the case. I mean, of course she had the best intentions for me… but really. She'd do just about anything to get close to Emmett again. She always gravitated to him whenever it was possible so she could give him the stink eye and make snide remarks to him which he in turn ignored. That killed her. She didn't hate him. She just really wanted him.
The big banana bike sailed into the St. Andrew's lot just as the ancient double doors opened and boys in ties and pinstripe pants came flying out, hollering unreligious rejoicing shouts in praise of the last day of school.
Rosalie straddled the seat and put her feet on the ground while I remained perched on the handlebars.
"What exactly," I asked, "are we doing here?"
"You have an empty pool. I know of a few deviants who are in need of one," Rosalie said, and she pointed across the lot.
I assessed the situation. Among the testosterone-fueled flailing limbs and shouts there was a much slower, disheveled looking group of four. Each of them was loosely holding a skateboard, walking with slow long strides in a loose crowd with loose ties around their tanned necks. They looked slow and lazy in contrast to the other kids flying about. They looked cool and bored, each of their gazes steady and ahead of them, and I knew who they all were: Jasper Whitlock, Emmett McCarty, Ben Cheney and Edward Cullen. Each was kicked out of Forks High for various acts of delinquency ranging from truancy to lewd acts on school property to being busted at school with an illegal substance or two.
Jasper jumped on Emmett's back and pointed toward me and Rosalie. Edward Cullen looked right at me then; though his expression never wavered, his eyes went slowly up and down my body, which was still awkwardly perched on the handlebars. His eyelids were heavy and sweat was already starting to dampen the hair at his temples. The rest of his hair was a dark mess of curls and spikes and cowlicks. I wanted to run up to him and tug on that hair and sniff the back of his neck.
You see, Edward Cullen was one of those boys who was always busy doing something; probably something illegal. But- no one was ever sure what he was busy doing. If he shows up at a party, he'll leave suddenly and all he'll say is, "I got something to do" or whatever. You know he screws chicks like crazy, and you know he's a slut, but you don't know anyone who has actually slept with him. You've heard he's been arrested like, seven times, yet the reasons why are never consistent. He was like some dirt bag, some hot, intimidating enigma that is a staple around town… even if you've never actually spoken to him. Everyone knows everything about him, yet no one knows anything about him. Edward Cullen was one of those guys.
"I said rebellion, not heart suicide," Rosalie hissed in my ear.
"What?" I asked.
"Go for Ben. He's fun, he's got good pills, and he's nice enough. Edward Cullen isn't the fun kind of trouble."
I hadn't realized my gawking had been that obvious.
"Hey, Princess," Emmett called out to Rosalie when they were about thirty feet from us. Jasper jumped off of his back and Emmett dropped his board to the ground and glided over smoothly. Jasper was right next to him, but Ben and Edward were behind, talking softly to each other.
"Eat my proverbial dick," Rosalie told Emmett.
Emmett kept both feet on the now still board and rocked it slightly while he poked his tongue inside his cheek and simulated cock sucking.
"Swan. McCarty Scraps. What brings you two over here?" Jasper asked. "Got a few tales for confession?"
"Hale doesn't pray when she's on her knees," Emmett snickered.
"Not true. I prayed that you'd wash your balls and grow another two inches," Rosalie replied.
Jasper turned his face up to the sky and laughed. Emmett stepped down on one end of his board and flipped it so it balanced upright, the tips of his fingers holding it steady.
"What do you want?" Emmett asked.
"I have an empty pool," Rosalie said.
At this news, Ben and Edward looked up at her and Jasper actually took two steps toward me and Rosalie, then turned to face his friends.
"I'm with them now," he said, hoisting his skateboard up on his shoulder.
"Whose pool?" Emmett asked.
"Bella's. Daddy moved out and Mom wouldn't notice if you all took turns golden showering each other while singing show tunes."
"What do you get out of it?" Emmett asked, jutting his chin out toward us.
"We'll take payment in the form of anything you would do. If you've ingested it, we want it, too. If you're going, we're coming too."
"That's pathetic," Emmett shrugged. "Don't you have friends you don't have to buy?"
"Sure. But my friends aren't stupid and scummy. We're about to graduate and we need a good old-fashioned slumming it phase."
"You're looking for what? Trouble?" Ben asked, clearly as confused as I was.
"Precisely," Rosalie said.
"We want access to that pool at all times," Emmett said, pointing his deck at the two of us.
I gave Rosalie my best discreet "what the fuck" glare, which she studiously ignored.
"I want to come see it first," Emmett told Rosalie.
"That's fine. Whenever."
"We've been tossed from three parks and like, seventy-eight parking lots in the past month. So yeah. Now."
So we started off, me on the handlebars and Rosalie as chauffeur with four skateboards surrounding us.
As Rosalie rode the boys looped around us, steady and sure, keeping up better than I would've thought possible. And for awhile, it was really freaking fun. Rosalie yelped when Ben would quickly shoot in front of her and Jasper would blow kisses every time he passed us by. On the boardwalk people parted like the Red Sea as we smoothly and swiftly sailed through, our laughter and shouts getting caught up in the breeze from the shore. We passed old men in white shorts and women with jogging strollers, the college crowd with their Frisbees and drinks and all of them were just a blur in the periphery. It was like we had power and we were stomping on the world with barely a glance. It felt like breaking the surface. It felt like being a on-high queen on the best day you ever had. It really did.
Less than three blocks from my house, Edward shouted out a "Hey" from somewhere to the left of us. He and Ben and Jasper nodded without looking, but I looked and watched Edward skate away from us, off to do the things he does, I supposed.
It was stupid to feel the disappointment I felt then. I mean, what did I want? Edward Cullen to come to my house after school and hang out in my pink and white bedroom while Renee didn't serve us milk and cookies?
But still. It sucked.
"Shit. Yes," Jasper said as we all stood lined up on the edge of the empty pool. I was bitter-glad that someone was thrilled about my current domestic situation.
"Rosalie. I want to make love in your mouth right now. Again," Emmett said, his eyes roving the deep valley of the pool.
"You're standing on the edge of a twelve foot deep concrete hole. I will push you," Rosalie warned.
"But then I couldn't kiss you," Emmett said, and just like that, he planted a kiss right on her lips. Emmett was very brave or very confident or very stupid. I wasn't surprised when she didn't push him away though, and neither was he.
"I'm doing it," Ben said, then yanked his tie off, tossed it to me and pulled up his sleeves. He balanced his board on the lip of the pool, the front end hanging off.
"Just. Don't die in the pool," I told him.
"Take care of that tie," he grinned and just like that, he swooped down into the pool and came up halfway on the opposite wall.
Jasper and Emmett hollered out all kinds of stuff. I clapped while Rosalie whistled and it went on like that for a while, each of them skating the pool while Rosalie and I sat at the edge, watching. They'd pat our heads and lightly grab our bare toes on each pass. And it was crazy, the glow that skating gave them. The excitement and the never-ending energy they put into it. It was thrilling to watch.
Eventually the sun started to set and their white school shirts glowed in the pink and orange horizon. The excited smiles were now washed from their faces, replaced by concentration and the quiet tension of competition.
Rosalie and I smoked the cigarettes we found near Jasper's wallet and watched. I could've watched all night, the fierce but subtle way they made this silly sport into art. But eventually, Emmett's phone buzzed next to my finger tips, making me jump.
"That'll be Cullen," Emmett shouted from the opposite edge of the pool where he stood with his board under his arm. "Text him back your address, Swan."
I carefully picked up Emmett's phone and I don't know why, but my hands shook. It was stupid. It's not like he'd even know who was texting him back. But still, texting Edward Cullen felt so… ominous. Or cool. Maybe both. I figured out quickly how to work Emmett's ancient phone and read his text:
Cullen: Where you at? I need to leave.
Then, just like that, I texted Edward Cullen my address.
Time passed. I grabbed the boys some lemonade from my fridge, noting Renee still in her robe passed out on the couch when I walked by. When I came out with a blue plastic pitcher and six tumblers, Edward Cullen was sitting on the edge of my pool, his board across his lap. Upon closer inspection, I saw that he was separating seeds from the small pile of pot he had balanced on the surface of the skateboard. He wore a backwards baseball hat now, his unruly hair peeking out a bit and curled above his ears, giving him dark little wings.
Precisely when he licked the edge of the joint he rolled, his eyes met mine. His tongue quickly passed over the joint, then his lower lip while I stood there like a Home-Ec idiot with a pitcher and cups with daisies painted on them.
He tucked that joint behind his ear and stood up just as Emmett, Jasper and Ben descended on me for lemonade.
"I'm fucking animal style hungry. Like a beast," Emmett said, after chugging the lemonade.
"Fuck a quarter pounder," Jasper commented, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "I'mma get four. I need a whole pound."
"That's disgusting," Rosalie sneered.
"I'll buy you nuggets," Emmett said, pointing at Rosalie. "I'll even spring for extra sauce."
"You're a regular Prince Charming," Rosalie said, carefully putting one foot on Emmett's abandoned board.
Ben balanced his cup on his palm and looked at me.
"You wanna learn how to ride?" he asked.
Behind him I could see Edward Cullen take off his shirt and tuck it just deep enough into his sagging back pocket. I was on the patio and he was still up on the deck and oh! I swear, the sun set right behind him, and it made everything around him look on fire. He was a dark, long, lean silhouette against the fire and the pink and fading blue. And more blue. There was a big, black and purple bruise on his right side, the size of a freaking cantaloupe. I winced and decided I'd stay off of skateboards indefinitely.
"So, whaddya think?" Ben asked again.
"Yeah. Right. I could break my leg just looking at a skateboard," I said, shaking my head.
"It's simple," Ben said and then he took the empty pitcher from my hand and put his own hands on my waist. He toed his board until it was right in front of my feet.
"Just let it guide you. Let it take you where it wants to go. If you don't fight against it, you'll get it," Ben said.
I stepped up on the board and Ben's hands moved higher up my waist. He rocked me back and forth for a second, then had me still and he smiled.
I smiled back.
Then he let go, the board slid to the left, and I fell hard on my ass.
"Oh, shit!" Ben said, scrambling to help me up. "I really thought you'd be fine just sitting still."
Jasper laughed his ass off and I noticed Rosalie and Emmett were across the yard, not noticing anything but each other. And Edward Cullen was shaking his head and wearing a subtle grin, looking directly at me and Ben.
He crouched down a bit, his board precariously on the edge of the pool. He grabbed the side with his fingertips and the front end tipped down slightly.
"If you want to learn, you'll wanna watch this," Ben said and pointed his finger at Edward, like I wasn't already captivated.
I heard Emmett whoop from behind us and Jasper took a step closer to the pool, his eyes focused on Edward.
Still in his crouch, he disappeared from my view, deep into the pool, and while he was very hot, I couldn't see what was so different about him than how the others had skated.
And then he reappeared on the other end of the pool, shooting up, breaking his surface and for a second, I thought he could fly. He flew up into the sunset, his fingertips under the board. He was practically completely upside down, way too many feet high in the air. But brilliant. Graceful, even, in the way his form wasn't careless but strong. He disappeared again and came up higher still on the other side. This time, I caught a fleeting glimpse of his face. His eyebrows were pulled down and he seemed hyper-aware of what he was doing, concentrating on flying, like every thought he had, every sense of him, was in love with where he was right then.
"Amazing, right?" Ben asked, bumping my shoulder with his.
I closed my mouth and nodded.
"So. You wanna come get something to eat with us?" Ben asked me, and I had no idea how he could look away from Edward.
"Ah. No, but thanks."
"But isn't that part of the plan? To go where we go?" he asked.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head.
"That was Rosalie being ridiculous," I sighed. "You guys are welcome here whenever. Just forget about the rest, okay?"
"Maybe I don't want to forget," Ben grinned and he pulled at the end of a lock of my hair.
I smiled at the ground, kind of hoping he'd just… stop trying already. He was really nice, cute even. But definitely not someone I could be into. But then, how could anyone be into anyone else when Edward was in a fifty foot vicinity?
"So, no on the grub?" Ben asked.
"Rain check," I grinned at the ground, not wanting to look him in the eye and refuse again.
"Let's go, Cheney!" Jasper bellowed from a dark corner of the yard. "I'm dying over here!"
"I'll see ya tomorrow, then," Ben said just as Rosalie rushed me from behind. She threw her arms around my neck and whispered loudly in my ear.
"I wanna go! With them," she clarified.
"You should go," I told her, reaching up to wrap my hands around her wrists.
"Are you? Emmett-"
"Emmett wants me. I want to drive him insane by showing him what he can't have," Rosalie giggled.
"Oh boy," I sighed.
"It'll be fine. You'll see. I just wanna have a little fun."
"Okay, big girl. Go have your fun. If you fuck him again-just. Don't."
"Good-bye Mom," Rosalie sang and went back to Emmett, Jasper and Ben, who walked out of my gate with their loud voices and idle boards.
I picked up the pitcher from the ground, but paused when I went to turn in.
Edward Cullen was sitting on the edge of the pool lighting his joint. He didn't seem too concerned that his friends had left and he was sitting in the backyard of a practical stranger's house. In fact, he looked downright comfortable.
For a moment, I stared at the curve of his back while he sat, and then the way his throat bobbed when he blew a stream of smoke up to the sky.
I slowly made my way to the pool and up the deck, and the whole time he didn't even look at me. When I was at his side, I folded my shaky legs so I was sitting right next to him. I mean, it was my pool. My house. He couldn't very well ask me what the hell I was doing, could he?
He didn't. But he did wordlessly pass me his joint, which I accepted.
"Why is it empty?" he asked when I passed it back.
"My dad left," I shrugged. "Everything just… went to shit. Including the pool."
"Sucks," Edward sighed.
"Where do you go all the time?" I blurted out, before realizing how pathetic it made me sound.
"Home. My old man flips his shit a lot."
"Something like that," Edward said, squinting one eye at the joint, before putting it to his lips again.
"How'd you get so good at skateboarding?" I asked.
"It's just what I do," he shrugged, then leaned over and stuck his hand in his pocket.
I tried to take deep breaths and take in the familiar, comforting sight of my backyard. Because this was just insane and surreal.
He pulled out a box of Red Hots and sprinkled some into his palm. I laughed at the absurdity of this entire fucked-up situation and how it had all managed to unfold in less than a day.
"What's funny?" Edward asked quiet and soft.
"Edward Cullen is sitting on the edge of my empty pool eating candy," I snorted, then actually cackled.
"Candy is great," he said, and tossed three pieces into his mouth.
"Red Hots are too hot," I disagreed.
"That's the point. I like the burn."
"You're missing out. Have some candy," he said, and angled the box toward me.
"Fine. I'll eat your share."
"You're Edward Cullen. You don't sit in backyards and eat candy!" I laughed.
"Oh? What do I do?" he asked, then stuck his red tongue out at me as proof.
"Well. You skateboard. I heard you snort Oxy. I heard you had a threesome with Lauren Mallory and Vicky Laurent, and then you gave Vicky money for an abortion. I heard you got kicked out of Forks High for trying to make meth in bio," I rattled off, suddenly way too chatty with Edward Cullen.
"It's all true. I'm a bad seed," Edward grinned, then rolled his eyes.
"What is true, then?" I asked.
"You're a very good girl. That's something true," he said and then he leaned in, very close. I could feel the heat from his skin on my face. I felt his long, slow breaths, two of them, ghost across my lips.
"Bella?" he whispered.
I made some kind of noise in response.
"Have some candy, Bella," he whispered.
Just like that, he kissed me. His mouth was warm, his lips dry and it was soft. Edward Cullen was kissing me softly. And then he softly slipped the tip of his tongue in my mouth and oh! It burned so good! And then… it just burned. He pulled away from the kiss but left a dissolving Red Hot in my mouth and my eyes wide.
"I've never gotten anyone pregnant. I've never had a threesome, I've never even Googled a recipe for meth, and I've swallowed my fair share of pills but I don't snort Oxy."
"Oh. Okay," I said, breathless and not really sure exactly what was going on in this dream, but really enjoying it anyway.
"And I like candy."
I bit down on the Red Hot and swallowed it while Edward stood up and hoisted his board up to his shoulder. I scrambled to stand up, and only after I was on my feet did I realize that I had no good reason to chase him. Well, nothing I could tell him anyway. Then I spotted his box of candy and snatched it up.
Edward was already down from the deck and halfway across my yard by the time I hopped down back to the ground.
"Edward! Wait! You forget your candy," I called, shaking the box like he was a dog who'd come to fetch it.
He paused for a moment but didn't turn around.
"Keep it. For when I'm gone."
"I…okay," I said, pocketing the candy.
"Bella?" he asked, still not looking at me.
"You want to learn how to skate?"
"Oh. I can't really… I'm really not athletic," I told him, but hell if I didn't want to shout yes.
He turned around then, and under the soft sheen of the moon, he had a blue, phosphorous glow.
"Don't let Ben," he said quietly, but I kind of didn't think he was talking about skateboard tutoring anymore.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because," he said, and even in the dark, there was no mistaking his eyes slowly going up and down my body, before finally looking me in the eye. "I'm better at it than he is."
I stared at him, now absolutely sure he wasn't talking about skateboarding.
With a loud crack, his board hit the cement and just like that he was on the go, crouching to let his finger tips touch at the overgrown weeds that lined our patio as he zoomed by.
That night, I ate four Red Hots, slowly. I let them burn in my mouth while I dozed off to sleep. I left one in the box, so I could just… always have it.
In the days that turned into weeks that summer, I didn't tell Rosalie about Edward kissing me or about candy or any of that. It seemed like I shouldn't, like it all happened in the dark so it should stay there. I wasn't sure why, only that it would feel like a betrayal to a guy I didn't even really know if I told anyone. Or maybe I wasn't really sure it happened at all.
Those boys were around my empty pool every day for the next few weeks. They brought booze and weed, and sometimes they brought tacos and once even a package of hot dogs. Edward came and went less frequently than the others, but every day, I was too aware when he was or wasn't there. When he was around, we'd have the casual what's up greeting and sometimes, we'd lock eyes and I always had to look away first. He made me squirm.
Really, what I loved most about those days was just watching him. They were all great to watch, to laugh with, just to be with, but it was Edward who had magic. It was Edward who made me feel like I was flying in the sky with him, and the longing I watched with was obvious.
About three weeks into this little merger of friends, I sat on the edge of the pool alone because Rosalie and Emmett were doing merging of their own in my bedroom. Ben, Jasper and Edward were skating, flicking my toes on each pass they made, making me swat at them and giggle, but I clapped for them… because I had this weird feeling of pride for them.
Ben took a break, hopping down from the deck and unceremoniously plopping his board on the patio.
"It's time, Bella," he called to me.
"Time for what?" I asked.
"To learn. Let's do this," he said, lightly kicking at his board.
"I like unbroken bones, but thanks," I told him.
"I'll come up there, Swan."
"I'll run like hell, Cheney."
"Five minutes. Just five minutes. I'll get you a chocolate shake from Sonic if you just give me five minutes," Ben said.
"An extra large?"
"I want whipped cream on the top. And I want a guarantee of no emergency room necessary injuries."
"Done and done."
I hopped down from the deck and glared at Ben while gingerly putting one foot on the board.
"Remember," he said, "Just go with it. Get a feel of just standing on it… and when you're ready, put one foot down, push off, and let it take you."
I never did get a feel for it, but put my foot down anyway… and managed to fall in the most ungraceful way possible. It felt like I had eight flailing limbs for a second there.
"Okay, okay, one more try," Ben said, reaching down to help me up. "You didn't even get hurt yet-"
"I'm not supposed to get hurt!" I accused, if you can accuse while laughing.
"It's all bullshit."
I looked over my shoulder to see Edward standing there, his board at his feet.
"What?" I asked him.
"Everything Ben just told you, it's bullshit," he said, and kicked his board over to me. I stopped it with my foot and Edward walked over. He put his hands out, palms up, looking at me expectantly. I put my hands in his and kept one foot on the board.
"This," Edward said, putting his own foot on the board, next to mine, "is a plank of wood."
"Uh. Okay?" I mumbled, staring at our hands, which were still all tangled up together.
"Okay, so, that's all it is. Wood on some wheels. It's a piece of shit. It's nothing. The only thing that makes it worth anything is the person that's on it," he said, and even though I wasn't looking at him, I could tell he was looking right at my face. Quickly, my eyes flickered to his. He was closer than I expected. His gaze was sharp and serious and right on me.
"Okay," I whispered.
"You don't let this board guide anything or go with any kind of flow. You're always the one in control. Never forget that when you're skating."
"Good. Put your other foot down and push off."
He let go of me and I did what he said… and sure enough, I made a shaky, crooked path down the concrete and I never once forgot I was the one in control.
Ben whistled using his two fingers and Jasper humored me by hollering from the lip of the pool, but Edward just watched with tired eyes while I took a rather ungracious bow when I hopped off the board.
"We don't have insurance anymore, Bella!" my mother shouted, from the open sliding door. She was standing there in her robe, with eyeliner smudged to nearly her cheeks and one hand on her hip.
My face began to burn, the heat spreading to my chest because no one wants to be chastised by their mother about all the things we didn't have any more in front of cooler-than-you friends.
"I didn't. I won't get hurt," I said too softly, trying to drop my shoulders into a somewhat relaxed position.
"Stay off the damned thing!" she shouted and maybe I'd imagined it, but I swear, I saw Edward flinch when she yelled.
"Okay," I whispered, my eyes wide with sarcasm, but my mouth pulling down into one of those terrible, uncontrollable, humiliated frowns.
It was quiet when the door slid closed, except for the faint sound of Jasper's wheels smoothly racing in the bowl of the pool.
"Shit. I'm sorry, Bella," Ben said quietly.
"Nah," I said, then swallowed down hard. "Don't be. She's just… you know. Stressed out or whatever. My dad left. And. Uh. Her car is broken and she can't really afford to have it fixed… or anything else. She just. You know," I shrugged.
The awkward silence resumed for a few seconds before Edward nodded slowly at me.
"I know," was all he said.
I nodded back and then turned to go sit at the edge of the pool again. I just wanted to watch them fly for a bit, so I could feel a bit of their freedom, if only for a little while. They must've understood, because Edward picked up his skateboard and followed me, and Ben followed him.
It was quiet the rest of that night. No toe grabbing, no shrieking, no laughing and even no talking. They skated hard and serious in an unspoken but perfect tandem. The way they moved and weaved around each other, the way Edward flew in the air, legs over his head, the way the navigated the curves and turns of the concrete… I got it. They had perfectly mapped out how to navigate through dangerous territory, if only while skating. Still, it was more than I had.
Two days later, Rosalie and I pulled up in front of my house on her banana seat bike, Slurpees in hand. I saw my mother leaning over the open hood of her car, letting her stupid robe ride up way too high. She had her hand on Edward's back, who was elbow deep in the hood of her Subaru.
"I just don't know a damned thing about cars," she was saying to him. "You're very good with your hands, Edward."
"I try," I heard him mutter, and then Renee actually rubbed a circle on Edward's bare back. And I saw red. For the first time in my life, we weren't the typical dysfunctional mother/daughter. We were two women with the hots for the same guy. Anger, humiliation, embarrassment, and this overwhelming mix of feeling like I was five years old and twenty-five years old at the same time overtook me.
Rosalie snickered as I hopped off the handlebars, my fingers denting the soggy paper cup I still held.
Renee straightened up and smiled at me, but her eyes were covered by her ridiculous tortoise shell sunglasses. Edward came out from under the hood, his hands streaked with black car grease and his backward hat in place.
"Edward knows about cars. Apparently, it wasn't the carburetor," my mother smiled, then she actually touched Edward's chest. Her hand slid down then she actually lightly slapped his taught stomach. "All better now, right Edward?"
"Should be good," he grinned.
"Let me just go grab my purse. I don't have much cash-"
"It's okay, Renee. I wanted to help," he said. Rosalie actually snorted. I stood there and stared.
"Well. How about a nice, cold drink?" Renee asked, putting her hand on his hip. She faced him directly and looked up at him with the same smile she used to wear years ago when she and Charlie would get ready to go out on Saturday nights.
"Yeah. That'd be great," Edward told her and Renee took her stupid smile into the house.
Edward slammed the hood of the car down and wiped his hands on the ass of his loose shorts.
"She's totally using you," I blurted out, and there was this malice in my voice that even I hadn't expected. "My dad is screwing a twenty-year-old cliché. She's just trying to prove she can, too. She's just trying to get even with him. It has nothing to do with you. At all."
Edward raised his eyebrows and took a step back.
"She'll pass out and not even remember you were here at all. So it's stupid if you think she'll actually fuck you or something."
He squinted one eye at me and slowly shook his head.
"I was just trying to help you," he said quietly, but not bashfully. "You said things were shitty around here. I thought if I could help with just one thing, I would. But fuck you for assuming the same things about me everyone else does, Bella."
He kicked his skateboard off the curb and flew away, making a smooth zig-zag path down the quiet street.
"What the hell was that?" Rosalie asked, gaping at me.
"I just… did you see all of that? She's pathetic and he's stupid for buying into it," I said, staring into my melted cherry Slurpee.
"I think he was trying to be sweet," Rosalie shrugged.
"Like you're a decent judge of what's sweet. Look at how easy it was for Emmett to get back in your skirt after what he did to you."
I knew that was wrong. I knew I should shut up. But everything was changing in not good ways, and I was pissed off.
"You have no idea what you're talking about. Call me after the exorcism," Rosalie said, then took off on her bike. I threw my cup at the curb and watched the foamy red splatter and run down the slope and into cracks, because I felt like destroying things. This crazy unexpected need for destruction built in the pit of my stomach and I was hell-bent on ruining things. On being a violent brat because everything I wanted, I couldn't have, and everything I wanted to stay the same was changing in terrible, awful ways.
With an enraged shriek I kicked the cup and then tore into the house. I went directly to my room, where I ripped posters off the wall and shattered the frame that held a photo of me and my parents on my fifth birthday. I ripped down the collage of pictures Rosalie had made me for my fifteenth birthday. Pictures of us since the third grade, and not because I didn't love Rose anymore, but because what the hell was it all worth if it'd never be the same again, anyway?
Within the hour, my childhood room was destroyed. I wasn't entirely sure how it happened, but as I crouched in the middle of a huge mess on my bedroom floor, my fingers ached and there was a bruise already turning purple on my shin. And then I cried for everything that I ruined. And everything that was lost that I couldn't control at all. And the things that were all out of reach.
The painful limbo between childhood and adulthood is hell. It leaves you reeling and sick. It makes you confused about everything; who you were, who you are, and what you will be. If you're lucky, you'll never realize you're even walking that line. If you're unlucky, it will come swift and hurtful and it will blindside you. It'll force you into actions you aren't sure you understand.
I sat there in the midst of my own mess and cried for what felt like hours. I cried until I was sweaty and my eyes ached and I gagged on my own sobs and my room was completely dark. I stifled my sobs in my folded knees and hiccupped painfully, and that's when I heard it.
The thwack of his board. The sound of his footsteps on the deck. With bare feet, damp hair and eyes so puffy they felt black and blue, I went to him.
Edward was there, sitting on the lip of the pool. I spotted him easily by the flame of his lighter.
"I didn't mean it," I whispered, still on the ground below him. I couldn't see his face from this far in the dark, only the dark illusion of him.
I walked the five steps up the deck and sat down, right next to him.
"You said I could come by anytime, right?" he asked, bumping my shoulder with his.
"Anytime. What time is it?"
"I don't know. Two or three."
He flicked the lighter again to hit his bowl again, and this time I caught a quick glimpse of his face.
"What happened?" I gasped. His left eye looked like mine felt. Bruised, battered and swollen.
"Remember," he started, then paused to use the bottom of his lighter to scrape in the bowl, "remember when you said everything went to shit because your dad left?"
"Everything went to shit because mine stayed."
"Edward! You have to tell someone! You can't just-"
"Don't. I didn't tell you that for 800 numbers or pity or anything."
"Bella. I turn eighteen in August. Besides, when I was fourteen I got taller than him. When I was sixteen I got stronger. You should see him if you think this is bad," he said, gesturing to his eye with his lighter.
"That doesn't make a difference!" I bellowed. "You can't live like-"
"You asked me how I'm so good at skating. It's because I like the control. I like that I'm the most powerful motherfucker in the world when I'm doing it and when I'm up there, I can't even think about anything else. So, yeah, I got really fucking good at it."
"Are you leaving? When you turn eighteen?"
"To where? What will you do, how will you live?" I shot out, and I knew it wasn't my business and I knew I was acting like a fool, but still.
"I got a few offers for sponsorship. I can make a lot of cash winning competitions and shit."
Before I could speak again, Edward stood up with his board, positioned into his crouch then sailed down, but he didn't come up on the other side. He surfed the curve of the pool, then came to a rolling stop directly in the center of the bottom of it. I watched him mess around with the board for awhile. He jumped and flipped it under his feet, came down hard on one end and just kind of teetered it from side to side for awhile. When he looked up at me again, I noticed the scratches on the side of his face, along with the black eye. I had to look away.
"Why were you crying?" he asked me.
"I don't know. Because of everything, I guess," I shrugged, and crossed my legs at the ankles.
Edward nodded and used one foot to turn the board in a circle. It was dark, so I couldn't see too clearly, but I definitely heard his shaky breath.
"Yeah," he answered, his back to me, his head tilted toward the stars. He lifted a hand to his face and turned back to me. I saw his wet eyes shine in the moonlight.
"I'm…" I had no idea what to say to a crying boy. He rolled those wet eyes and shook his head, then kicked the board away from him. One fist wiped furiously at his uninjured eye and he looked over his shoulder at me.
"I hate that this is how I'm growing up. I hate that every day, every day I'm a little more careful. I'm losing something, and I don't even know what it is, but I don't want it to go. I'm scared shitless that one day, I'm going to wake up and not love this," he said, kicking the board again.
I wanted to tell him that could never happen, and that was a stupid, stupid fear. But that wouldn't be the truth. We all grow up and move on. Even if we hate it, we do it. There simply is no other way.
My own tears started again, making hot tracks down my cheeks. I just shrugged at him, because I couldn't lie to him.
"Would you come down here? Please?" Edward asked me, holding up one hand to me. I nodded and got up quietly, making my way to the ladder on the side of the pool. I wasn't really sure what was going to happen, or what I would let happen… but in this sure way, I knew I was about to grow up a little bit more.
When we stood there, shoulder to shoulder, the board idle in front of us, Edward hooked my pinkie with his. Not because this was new love or because we were forging some summertime romance, but because we were on some kind of cusp together.
"I'm so sorry things are like this. For both of us," he whispered.
"It's not your fault," I said, kind of confused about his apology.
"No. But I'm still fucking sorry this is how things are."
He turned his head and his fingertips reached up to my chin to bring me closer to him. He kissed me with his Red Hot lips, his tongue soft, and it felt like kissing goodbye. But not each other; more like whatever it was we were an hour ago, or a day ago or when we were ten.
I didn't want to let go, of him or of the way things were, so I tugged him closer to me and tried to bring him to the bottom of the pool with me so we could do everything with each other until we didn't know which way was up.
But he didn't give in. He stayed upright and pushed away from me.
"If I fall in love, I'll never leave. And I need to go," he said.
"You would fall in love?"
"Yeah. And we don't need one more thing to be crying about," he said, kind of grinning at me.
"If we did that… If we do this, I won't ask you to stay," I said, but that might've been a lie.
"I know. But I would anyway."
He put his arm around my neck and pulled me into him. I felt his lips on the top of my head and my fingers held on tight to the low waist of his jeans.
"Let me teach you how," he said.
"To skate?" I asked against his chest.
"Yeah. And then, when I'm gone, you won't have to watch anyone else. You'll fly whenever you need to."
"You don't have to-"
"I'm not blind. I know things are… tough around here for you. I know how much it can suck. This is all I have to help, and I'll be gone soon. Let me leave something really good here. I have nothing else good here to leave."
"Okay," I whispered, and so, he taught me. Every morning until late, late into every night that summer, he taught me. About skateboards, pot and oral sex.
The rest of the summer, he taught me about control and flying. He laughed at my falls and told me to stand the hell back up. He clapped and he lit up like fire when I started to find my own way. There was kissing and more than kissing and even if we never said it, there was love.
The six of us celebrated Edward's eighteenth birthday at the bottom of my pool with a radio, beer, weed and skating. I'd gotten good at it. True, I'd gotten sprains, bruises and cuts, but what mattered was that I'd gotten good at it. Because sometimes, I learned, you have to get banged up pretty bad to come out good on the other side. Sometimes, you have to be battered and blue if you want to grow into something better.
I stood at the edge of my pool, just when the sky was turning purple and dark. Soon, it would be a new day.
"Do it. As a birthday present to me… do it," Edward urged by my side.
I had my eyes squeezed shut and he was behind me, his hands at my waist. He wouldn't push, but he would gently urge and guide while I needed him to. And when I didn't need him to, he'd be there, watching, cheering me on.
"I'm going to do it," I said, and so slightly, with just the tiniest bit of lean, I raced down the incline of the pool wall. I navigated from top to bottom and up again.
I had hit the bottom, and found my own way up and out of that pool. There was no more getting tangled at the bottom or fear of not breaking the surface. I handled it.
I coasted back down to the bottom of the pool, looked up to see Emmett, Rosalie, Jasper and Ben clapping and whistling and shouting congratulatory praise. Edward was high above me, watching with a quiet half smile, his arms crossed over his chest. I looked up, using one hand to shield the last of the sun from my eyes and I shrugged while I smiled at him. He gave a half nod back, and his half smile spread into a full, brilliant one.
I knew he'd be gone by morning and I knew I'd miss him more than I've ever missed anything in my life. But I also knew that sometimes people have to go, and that was sad and it hurt, but with each goodbye, you learn either a little or a lot, and you take that with you. And that was okay.
We passed out under the stars, my face pressed against Edward while we shared a chaise lounge cushion. We cried because he couldn't stay. We didn't talk about it or try to work it out or even say we'll keep in touch. We just cried. We got it all out before the new day would dawn and our brand new lives would start. I didn't tell him so, but it was my only wish that night that no matter where he went or how old he got or wherever life would take him that a part of him would always be a seventeen-year-old kid in an empty pool, hanging on to whatever it was he didn't want to lose.
When I woke, everyone, including Edward, was gone. The only thing there was his skateboard. It was nothing, just a plank of wood on some wheels, but on the underside of it, written in black Sharpie in big, bold capital letters were the words "For When I'm Gone."