Always an Edward
Summary: Bella wants to say yes to kind, handsome Ed…but can't stop meeting Eddie for martini lunches. Eduardo wants to know why she's avoiding his yoga class. And who is this "Edward" leaving cryptic messages at work? A story about people and how they change.
Chapter One: The Unknown
On Tuesday afternoon Lauren puts a call through to me in a way that gives me pause. I'm in the middle of removing a staple from a receipt, and I literally pause. My eyes flit to my closed office door, even though I know she can't walk in and be answering the phone at the same time.
While it's true that I'm sheepish—Lauren will scold me for processing my own expense reports when I know she knows I have work to do before the board meeting—that's not what puts me off kilter. It's what she says.
"It's an Edward for you."
Her voice over the speakerphone is all business, but her words are ridiculous. Is she messing with me? It's always an Edward for me. Usually it's a certain Edward. This one or that one, but usually a definitive one. By now they know to identify themselves, and Lauren knows to listen. Today, in particular, it matters to me; I'm avoiding Edward Seven and hoping to hear from Edward Two. I hedge.
"Lauren—hold on. Tell me exactly what he said to you."
"He just asked for Bella Swan, and he said…'Please tell her it's Edward calling'."
It can't be a cold call, or he'd be asking for Isabella. And if it were one of the regulars, she'd recognize his voice.
I sigh. It wasn't always this way. It only started to become a "thing" with Edward Three and a sort of joke around the time of Edward Four. It isn't even that I only ever meet Edwards; I just meet more than my fair share of them.
She sends the call into hold on my direct line so I can pick it up, but I just stare at the blinking light. A feeling stirs. The hairs on the back of my neck threaten to stand up. They only threaten. I stare at the blinking light and make a decision that has the appearance of a non-decision.
I intercom Lauren. "Will you pick this back up and tell him I'm on a call? Something? I'm sorry. Make it sound sincere. I need a moment here." She'll caller-ID his number, too. She's good like that.
I'm still gripping the staple remover in my palm. A tiny filament of metal dangles between the prongs like a strand of spaghetti in a dog's jaws. Or maybe more like a stick for throwing. Let's play. I glance back at the little red light on my desk phone. The light has gone from blinking to steady, telling me Lauren is talking with "Edward". Then it goes dark. If I were to pick up the handset now, I'd hear a dial tone. I drop the staple into my trash bin.
I'm thinking of Edward Three, though I doubt it's him on the phone. Edward Three was a talented lawyer who also turned out to be a Harley mechanic, a light bondage dabbler, and a sweetheart. And an alcoholic, sadly. He was the one who noticed the E signature on a tiny framed drawing above my desk and the E branding Eddie's sweatshirt in my snapshot on the fridge from that time we went cliff-diving. Number Three drew a line in the air from one E to the next to the next—himself—and outlined my type. It starts with E and ends with D. Always an Edward. It didn't end with him. It still hasn't ended. Or has it? Maybe.
Edward Six is a dream. He's good to me. Quick to laugh, with shining eyes and broad shoulders that make the ladies on the street turn their heads. He teaches math at the local high school. Loves the people I love. Picks up the dry cleaning as often as I do. It's more than that, even. He makes me feel lighthearted and hopeful. We'd known each other a week when he asked me to marry him as a joke. He's asked me since then, too—not a joke. I look at him sometimes and picture myself saying yes. The idea makes me smile. More often than not, it makes me smile.
We call Edward Six "Ed" to keep things clear. By we, I mean Eddie and me. Eddie is only retroactively and somewhat ironically known as Edward Two. He's my best friend, the handsome boy-wonder mayor of our poor little careworn town of Forks, and as gay as the day is long. Thanks to one alcohol-fueled summer full of sophomoric dares and idiotic bumbling, I take a small amount of satisfaction in being the only woman on earth who knows exactly what kind of heat he's packing—and no, I'll never tell. It doesn't matter. One look at Emmett, his enormous superhero of a boyfriend, and most people draw their own conclusions. Emmett, for his part, is ruled by another organ: Eddie's heart.
Eddie tells me Ed is the best thing to happen to me in a decade, and he's right. When he says this, he's being unsubtly uncharitable toward Edward Five. Eddie doesn't pull punches when it comes to the only person who's ever really wronged me. I love this fierce loyalty of his, though I remind him that when it comes to Number Five, I prefer to let bygones be bygones.
Well, I may not prefer it. I only try to practice it. This practicing is what Edward Seven reminds me to do. Letting go is the work. Don't try to achieve, he says. Try to practice. Only practice. And use your breath. Number Seven has almost no ego. He couldn't care less that I've renamed him Eduardo for the sake of simplicity. Simple is good, he says. Call me Eduardo. Call me Hey, Guy. He's refreshing to be around. I really need to stop skipping yoga.
Lauren raps on the door and strides in, frowning at me and my inefficient use of this critical pre-board meeting day. She reaches her empty palm out to me. I see no hint of the yellow Post-its she likes to use for phone messages. No details, then.
"Blocked number." She gently tugs the expense paperwork from my hands. "I'll take those. You work on the financial reports. He said he'll call back. Edward, that is."
I let her see me shrugging it off, calling up the grant revenue presentation she's been urging me to review. To be honest, I fine-tuned this last night, balancing my laptop on my knees in bed while Ed and I watched Jon Stewart.
Wild Clallam is the small nonprofit I founded six years ago. My proudest accomplishment in life is having built it up to the point where we have four full-time professional staff members—Lauren, Angela, Ben, and me—running wildlife conservation programs that involve hundreds of volunteers from the community. The financial side of it isn't my favorite, but I manage.
Once the door is closed behind Lauren, I slump back into my chair, twirling. I let myself entertain the possibility that Edward Four—Teddy—is trying to track me down to make plans for his visit next month. Teddy isn't my nickname for him; it's his family's. We dated for a few months seven years ago, which is how I met Emmett—they're brothers. I introduced Emmett to Eddie, and the rest is history.
Teddy is a sweet and scatterbrained baker. Not the stoner kind—not nowadays. No. He's the flour and yeast kind. He runs a little shop of his own in Seattle called Ted's Breads. I should know better than to imagine he might be calling me up in advance. His innocent, puppy-like inability to focus was what drew me to him in the first place…and it was what led to our breakup. He'll swoop into town and go with the flow, charming the socks off of everyone in sight. It will be nice to see him. Emmett can't stop talking about it. But no, Teddy doesn't do advance planning.
I've run out of ways to distract myself. I can't avoid the truth.
I know who called. My memory unfolds itself, trotting out glimpses of scenes that are barely ever allowed to come to the surface.
Well, I've been dumped. What should I do? I should have expected this, right? A first boyfriend has to inevitably become a first ex-boyfriend. Nobody stays together forever with their first—I never believed we would. I just didn't know it would be over this soon.
I feel foolish. I feel like I should cry and weep in a lump on my bed, but I don't feel anything. Or I feel too many things. I miss him. He scares me. He says I scare him, too. Only because I don't act how he expects or something. And because I don't share what I feel, he says. Who does that? Who talks that way? We're eighteen, in our first year of college. Well, I am anyways. And he's nineteen. We're supposed to be dying our hair blue and puking in bushes or whatever.
I never know how to be around him, what he expects, what's the normal thing to do, and what's just my idiocy and general all-around lameness. We disagree…or disagreed…about everything. Except, not everything—only important things, like poststructural theory. He's a formalist, for crying out loud. Can you imagine me falling in love with someone who only cares about Reader Response analysis?
He asked me that, can you believe it? Not about theory. He asked me if I was in love with him. This was mid-breakup, by the way. I didn't have any idea what to say. I wanted to say, "Just give me more time. I'm falling." Maybe I am—or was. But that would sound like begging him to take me back, right? I can't make a fool of myself. We're stuck on this campus together until he graduates in two years. What will he tell his friends? How will they treat me? I barely knew them.
God, Alice, he's such a good kisser. I can't think about that. Maybe kissing is just like that with everyone. How should I know? I wish I hadn't waited so long to, you know, get started. I was waiting for something to feel right, just like I promised you that day after you went to homecoming with Tyler and he made you cry. And then it did—it felt right. And now it's over. I won't forget some things, I know. There's something about the way he held me all night. I never expected it to feel so sweet. The way his lips moved against the back of my neck when he thought I was asleep. Even though it will torture me, I can't let myself forget that.
I'm sure it will all fade for me in another few days. We were together for ten weeks. That's ridiculous. It's not even that long; I can't be torn up about it. Did I mention he eats meat? I'm a vegetarian. It had to end. Right? I need something to tell myself, anyhow. Just…something.
I miss you, friend. More later.
There is only one person who would identify himself in the way Lauren described. One person who wouldn't know where he fell in the sequence, or even that there was a sequence. Because at the time, all those years ago, there was just him.
Original Edward. Edward One. Just…Edward.
AN: Confused yet? Considering making a color-coded chart? This story is probably not for canon purists…but otherwise it should be a fun, odd, romantic roller-coaster ride. I hope. The plan right now is for a mid-length story with updates every 10-14 days or so. Many thanks to happymelt, who betas and talks me down from ledges; and to midsouthmama and faireyfan, who preread and help avert grammar catastrophes.