Boys on Boards Contest

Title: Masen Days

Characters: Edward, Bella

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I own some very strange word association, pencil-buns, Vans poetry, and a bunch of yeahs. This story will be expanded after the contest is completed.

Word Count: 10,000

Summary: Bella meets Masen at the local skate park. He's quiet and a mysterious, sad loner. She wants to help him, love him even. Will he let her? Or will he skate away like he always does?

The Day I Meet Masen

I'm sitting with Angela and a few other girls whose names evade me. Angela - I remember her because she's flamboyant and easy to talk to. We sit on the burning concrete, watching some boys skate around under a dirty bridge. They're all very good, but one, in particular, keeps catching my eye. He seems in his own world, doing his own thing. He's doing his own thing, but he seems trapped in his own head, too - like he's throwing his own tricks, not paying attention to anyone, but when some other skater biffs it and falls into his way, he reacts in a second, steering clear smoothly. He seems a man among boys – on skateboards.

He's tall and lean, I think; from where I'm sitting it's hard to tell. His new penny-hair, overgrown and shaggy, is shocking against the drab tee stretched across his angular shoulders.

"That's Alec - the tall one with dark hair." She points to the shorter, beefy guy. "That's Tyler; he's got the Pink Floyd shirt. He's kinda loud. You know Embry. Gawd, I love his fauxhawk. So hot. And that's Masen. He's quiet, keeps to himself mostly."

Masen. I'll remember that name. He sounds interesting. I hope I can get to know him. Actually, I hope to get to know anyone. I just moved here. Here being Scottsdale, Arizona. Boring, fake, and hot as hell Snobstale.

It was clear during my first week that boobs are fake, noses are fake, teeth are fake, people are fake. Fake people make me want to hurl. "Just be yourself," my mother had always said. And she was no hypocrite: when her younger student teacher got on his knee and asked her to marry him in front of twenty-two kindergartners, she said yes, and I was shipped off to Dad's. See? She knows who she is. She is nothing if not herself: a little bit selfish. She wants time with her new man. I get it, I do, but being a senior and moving to a new state and school completely blows. But, whatever, I'll deal. I always do. I have to. I'm a product of a bad divorce. Shit happens. You move on.

There's a lull in the conversation, so I offer up something of the lame variety. "So this is The Wedge, huh?"

"Yep. We come here every day after school so the boys can skate. Sometimes we smoke out, sometimes we just hang and do homework, and sometimes we make out. Well, we being Embry and me." Angela turns to me and bats her eyelashes. I love her already. So real, so fun, so different from the other girls here. I didn't realize I'd be hanging out with skaters when I moved to Arizona, but it seems to be working out so far. They're genuine.

"How cool are these?" she asks, pulling down the top of her massive boot to show me a black and red striped knee sock. "Dollar Store. Can you believe it? You never know what you can get there."

"Nope, you never know."

"Hey, so I'll see you tomorrow at school. I think I'm gong to steal my man and go. You'll be okay?"

"Sure."

"Oh, wait, no - I have an idea." Angela screams for Embry at the top of her lungs. He nearly falls off his skateboard, but he's laughing.

"What, woman!" he shouts back.

She waves frantically for him to come and adds, "Bring Masen!"

He talks to the redhead, who nods, and they both zigzag through various obstacles. Masen rides a bar on top of a series of steps, landing smoothly before coming to an abrupt stop in front of us.

"Masen, this is Bella Swan. She's over on Fair. Can you make sure she finds the way?"

He nods and glances in my direction briefly. Is he even looking at me?

I say, "Hi."

He says nothing in response – just shakes his head to get the sweaty strands out of his eyes - which I think are the color of the sea - but the hair curves back over his face a second later. My eyes sweep over his features, landing on a leather choker around his neck. It's plain but suits him.

"I'm not in any hurry. Feel free to stay awhile."

He turns and skates away, meeting up with the other guys under the bridge and riding the curves of the concrete.

I try to pay attention to the other boys, who show off, doing aerials as if gravity doesn't exist, but I can't keep my eyes off Masen. It's really impressive the way his body moves on such a silly thing as a piece of wood attached to some wheels. I wonder how long he's been a skater and want to ask. I'm not sure if I'll be brave enough, though. Besides, Angela is right: he's quiet.

Masen skates closer after awhile, this time jumping from the top of the stairs, landing back onto his board. I'm so scared for him, but I shouldn't be. He's amazing at this.

"Ready?" he asks. I nod, and he grabs his ratty backpack from a heap on the concrete, swinging it over his shoulder. I don't want him to know I'm ogling the muscles in his arms when he does, so I fuss with my hair, stealing a pencil from someone's bag to twist my hair into a bun. It's too hot with it down anyway. Without a word, he walks away, skateboard in hand. Guess that's my cue – I follow, falling into step beside him.

The silence is deafening and lasts for almost the entire trip home. I stumble due to my discomfort when he says, "Like your Vans."

"Thanks." I look down at my light blue shoes. "I've had them for a few years. They're comfy."

He stops at the end of a sidewalk and kicks up his white and black checkered shoe, saying, "One year. Had to buy new ones 'cause my feet got too big."

"Sounds like a personal problem," I say, then mutter, "but not a bad one to have." I can't believe I just said that.

Desperate to recover I say, "I mean, 'cause you know what they say about men with big feet . . ." I suck at first impressions.

He chuckles quietly and glances my way while running his hand through his hair, pushing it back. His eyes are so bright, and I was right – sea green. He smiles and, wow, it's gorgeous. Come to think of it, he's gorgeous. It's really the first time I've seen him still, and I like still Masen.

I smile in return, and he looks away, almost as though he's ashamed. Was he upset about my crude comment? No, couldn't be. He laughed.

"I'm on Brooks, down this way," he says.

"Okay. See ya in school?"

"Yeah, sure." He looks down at his feet like they're fascinating and hops on his board, leaving me on the corner. I walk myself the rest of the way home.

The Day Masen Borrows a Pencil

I have a lot of friends in English class, which is nice. I end up sitting next to Masen - Edward Masen. Who knew? He looks like an Edward but seems to prefer Masen, so that's what I call him. He visibly cringes when any teacher or student calls him by his first name. I wonder why.

It's currently mid-October, and I'm working on a Macbeth test. Masen hasn't been in school for a few days. There's been a nasty cold going around, though it makes zero sense since it's still a bajilion degrees of sweaty hot outside. Whatever. I just hope he's okay. I've finished all the multiple guess questions and move on to the essay portion when he sits down next to me. He's disheveled, his hair wild. I think he might have a black eye, but I can't be sure. He sets his test down on the table we share and stares blankly.

I wonder what he's doing when I realize he has nothing on him - no ratty backpack, no pencil behind his ear, nothing. I tap my lips, studying him, and do the only thing I can think of. I pull the pencil from my nearly always present bun and place it atop his test booklet. He picks it up and balances it between two index fingers as though weighing it.

He swivels his head in my direction, his eyes catching mine for a second, and my suspicions are confirmed: he does have a black eye. His lips part slightly, as though he's going to speak. I wait patiently, though I'm dying to know what he'll say. In the end, he doesn't say anything - only mouths, "Thank you, Bella," and it's the most sincere thing anyone's ever not said to me.

I eat my lunch next to Angela, who's chatting away about feminine hygiene. She switches the topic to Lipsmakers when Embry sits beside her. He gives her a hello kiss. They're sweet, but all that PDA makes the loneliness ache in my chest.

Embry argues that strawberry is much better than piña colada. I'm about to mention the fact that lips shouldn't have a flavor when Masen walks in, his shoulders slump, hands shoved into pockets.

I say my goodbyes and make my way to him. He doesn't look like he's in the mood to debate lip flavors. I wonder what his lips taste like. I just want to help him in any way I can. Like kissing. Kissing could help.

I jerk my head toward a small table near the window. He sits and folds his arms, resting his head there. I take a bite of my pizza but quickly lose my appetite because he seems so lost, so alone.

"You gonna eat?"

He shakes his head.

"I'm not hungry. I have peet-zah . . ."

He lifts his head, propping his chin on his arms. He grins, and it's the happiest I've seen him all day.

"Not hungry?" he asks, and I shake my head, pushing my tray toward him, nudging his arms in an annoying way until he sits up.

He folds the pizza in half and opens his mouth, placing as much of it there as possible before speaking around the crust. "Last chance."

I pop his hand with my fist to choke him. He laughs, then bites down, chewing enthusiastically. He must have been starving with the way he's eating. He finishes quickly and then eyes my apple.

"You're gonna have to beg or answer a question for it."

"I don't beg for anyone." There's an edge to his voice I've never heard before.

"Question, then?"

He looks at me like a frightened dog.

I slide my chair around the table and lift my hand slowly, then trail my thumb under his eye. "This is hot. Escape from prison?"

"Yep. Tent City." He smiles, picks up the apple, and takes a massive bite out of it.

"Nah, too boring. Maybe you got away from the big, tatted dude who wanted to make you his bitch. He got in a swing first though, huh?" I nod in mock seriousness like an old reporter trying to convince my audience that what I'm saying is interesting.

Masen shakes his head with a mouth full of apple. "Answered a question. You'll never know now."

I push my tray into his lap, snatching my apple from his hand and taking a large bite before throwing it back at him.

After school, I'm sitting in the bed of my truck reading. I don't want to go home 'cause my dad's not at work yet. He's a bit protective, and I'm just not used to it. Mom let me do whatever I wanted. I'm a responsible girl. Mostly. Wish my dad would trust me. He won't.

The parking lot's dead. When I hear the gravel stirring, I lift my head, making sure the scary, rapist-looking janitor isn't coming my way. He isn't; Masen is.

He looks kind of pissed. He's hot when he's mad - or shows any emotion, really. He's normally so mellow. Don't get me wrong - mellow Masen is fine, but an emotional Masen is intriguing and a bit sexy in a mysterious way.

He skates to my truck and jumps in the bed. His features soften when he lies down at my side. "Rough day?"

"Apple?" he asks, holding out his hand.

"You ate it." I turn my head toward him, my arm brushing his in the process. He purses his lips, and I want to lick them. I also want to ask what the hell is going on, but I don't. I wait for him to make a move, for him to say something, anything, but he won't. He never does. I've known him for awhile now, and I feel lucky if I get more than a five word sentence out of him.

"Stomach?"

"Bladder," I reply, thinking we're playing a game. Why not? Maybe I'll get to say nipple and see how he responds. Maybe not. He props himself up and drops his head, laughing quietly. "You're weird."

"You're in my truck. Uninvited."

"Too bad," he says, maneuvering himself so that we're perpendicular. He lays his head down on my stomach and props his feet up on the edge of the truck.

"Ah. Stomach."

"Stomach," he repeats and closes his eyes.

I read with one hand and play with his hair with the other. It's soft, the waves springy. I tug at it playfully, and the corners of his lips pull up when I do. He's absolutely stunning when happy. I wonder if he's like this with anyone else. Come to think of it, I don't ever really see him interact with other people. Not really. The guys don't talk much.

I smile at the thought and allow myself to feel special while I get to play with Masen's hair. After an hour he gets up and motions for me to do the same. I do, and he reaches around, twisting my hair and shoving my pencil through it. The sloppy bun comes undone immediately, and he shrugs, adding, "Looks better down anyway."

He hops off the truck bed straight onto his skateboard and leaves me in the parking lot.

The Day Masen Talks to Me

I'm sitting on the linoleum, my back against the wall in E Hall. Masen's sitting next to me, eating my Clif Bar. It's become a thing with us. There are lots of things between us, really. He took a bite one day and seemed to like it, so I've been bringing an extra ever since. He always devours it greedily. I wonder what he's eating at home.

His expression is thoughtful and a bit sad as he chows down. I wonder what he's thinking, but then my head is always focused on that. For a change, I voice one of my inner questions: "Why don't you talk to anybody?"

"I'm talking to you."

"Yes, but-"

"Hey, Masen, let's go," Tyler interrupts. I'm not a huge fan of his; he always steals Masen to skate.

Masen stands and stomps on the end of his board so it pops up into his hand. He leans over to pick up his ratty bag and says in a quiet voice, "And you're not just anybody."

After school Angela and I are in the quad chatting. We have a research paper due before winter break. We've made plans to meet at the library to work on it when Masen and Embry join us.

"You wanna come tonight?"

"Doesn't every guy?" says Embry, slinging his arm around Angela. She pushes him and rolls her eyes. "We're gonna be at the library at six thirty to work on Robinson's paper. Come if you want."

Masen shrugs and looks over at me.

"I'll bring snacks," I say and smile. He smiles in return. Angela gives me a knowing grin, only she doesn't know anything because nothing is going on between Masen and me. Nothing whatsoever, not that I don't want it to – go on, that is.

I've been at the library for an hour watching Angela and Embry make kissy faces across the table, when Masen's checkered Vans come into view. My eyes follow up his loose jeans, spying the chain hanging from the back pocket. My shoulders relax now that he's here. I hadn't realized how tense they were until he arrived.

He drops his bag on the large wooden table and straddles a chair. It's like he wants as much distance from anyone as he can get.

We all work quietly on our papers. Angela and Embry take a break and return a bit too happy. Embry's fauxhawk has been maimed. I shoot a look at Masen, and he quirks an eyebrow in response.

"We're done researching, so . . . bye." Angela leaves with Embry in a rush. I can't stifle my laughter, and Masen joins me. We get hysterical, tears streaming down my face as the librarian gives us a reproachful glare.

"She needs to get laid," he says.

"Maybe Embry can take a quick cat nap after Angela. He can do them both." We lose it again, laughing and holding our sides to keep ourselves together. It's the cutest thing watching Masen sigh through his giggles. He's adorable. He shifts in his seat and leans back, searching my eyes.

"What is it about you?"

"What is what about me?" He says nothing, and I tap my pencil impatiently. I've never been a patient person, but he seems to need it. Unconditional patience or secrecy or something. So, for Masen, I manage. There's something about him too.

"My parents are drunks; Dad's worse than Mom," he announces.

"My dad's an overprotective freak, and my mom acts like a selfish teenager."

"I can't wait to get the hell out of here."

"Me too."

For some reason, we both know it's time to leave, though that's not what we were talking about at all. Clearly, we both have ambitions to leave Snobstale. We have to. We'll both be stifled here and die a painful death while living in an HOA, with two point five kids and a dog named Rexy. It would be most tragic.

We gather our things and walk closer than normal. It's nice being beside him, comfortable.

His board makes contact with the concrete immediately after exiting the library. My shoulders slump in defeat, sure he's going to jet off like he always does, but he doesn't. He holds out his hand to me instead.

"Don't skate," I say, tucking my hands in the pockets of my jeans.

"Don't care."

I bite my lip and look at the road, scared to try, but something tells me I can trust Masen, even with something like this. Apparently I wait too long 'cause he changes tactics, giving me sad puppy dog eyes and pouty lips.

When I don't budge, he tries another approach. "I told you my parents are drunks. What else do you want from me?"

"Knee pads."

"I'll keep you safe."

"Promise?"

"Just hold on to me."

"Fine, but just so ya know," I grab his hand, put one foot on his skateboard, then the other, "I'm only doing this because you were mean, a sad puppy dog, and then used guilt to coerce me."

He leans in, his hot breath on my neck in the cool December air. "Don't care. You didn't bring any snacks." He places his free hand on my lower back, giving me a gentle shove, and we're off together.

The Day I Cut Masen's Hair

My TV channel is on the CW, but I'm staring at the blinking lights on my dying Christmas tree. Winter Break is boring. I turn my attention back to the teen drama when banging on the door sends me skittering off my couch. I'm there in a second, wrenching it open. "Masen. Oh . . . are you okay?" He's bleeding. That much is clear.

"Phone?" he asks, pointing to the kitchen. I nod, and he moves around me as if his hair isn't matted in blood, there's not a gash on his forehead, and his lip isn't split.

I try to give him space by staying where I am. I also try not to freak out, but internally I'm a mess. What happened? Should I call the cops? No, he'd never speak to me again, but these injuries cannot be blamed on skateboarding. These are worthy of getting authority figures involved. I've seen the guys bruised up after a day of learning new tricks at The Wedge. This isn't average road burn. This is much, much more. I'm terrified for him but do my best to keep my tears at bay while listening from the living room.

"I want out. The sooner, the better. No, I'm done trying. She's stuck, I guess. It's her decision. I can't do this shit anymore. No. I won't. I won't! Yes, after graduation. No, that's fine. Okay. Thanks. Love you, bye."

Love you? Who does he love? Who deserves so many words? Who takes care of him, loves him, better than me? No one I know.

Masen comes into the living room but doesn't look at me. He leans against the wall and closes his eyes. He swallows thickly; the leather choker around his throat constricts.

I eye him curiously, trying desperately not to shout, "Talk to me!"

He opens his eyes like it's the most painful thing he's ever done, then sighs. "Do you have any clippers?"

He sits on my toilet, his eyes level with my breasts. He cleaned up his face, but his hair is still clotted with blood. I'm completely nervous, but he's asked me to do this, so I will. I think I'd do anything he requested. He has this quiet power over me that I can't explain, but I love it. I'm desperate for it – for him, really.

"I'm not sure how . . ."

He takes it from me and attaches a purple comb onto the clippers. "You can't mess it up. Trust me."

"I trust you."

"I trust you too."

He lowers his head and raises his hands, placing them on my hips. The intimacy of that motion alone is startling. He does trust me, at least in some way, or he wouldn't have done that. That thought sends me into a frenzy. If he does trust me and comes to me in his time of need - which, clearly, he does - then we can move forward somehow.

I flip the switch. He keeps his head down while I sheer off his bronze locks. I want to be sad, but I can't because he needs this. It seems important.

I make quick work of it, running my hand over his head to make sure I don't miss anything. It's hard to tell since his shorn hair is all over the place. "Um, I think we should wash it, so I can make sure it's all even."

Without a word he pulls his shirt over his head and kneels beside the tub. He starts the water and shoves his head under the faucet, scrubbing it with one hand.

I stand at his side, crouching over him, running my hands over his head as well. He wraps his free hand around my calf. The callouses on his palm prick roughly at my bare skin, but I like it. He's making so much contact tonight.

I finish up, and he lifts his head, water sluicing down his face onto his bare chest and back. He is the picture of depression, sorrow, and childhood lost. I want to drown him in my tears to put him out of his misery or hug him, but I can't. It's not my place, but I wish it were. I could offer him so much solace in my arms.

"Sit back down." He does as I say, and I pull the hand towel from the bar, running it over his head, then back and face, ending with his chest. "Looks good."

He looks up into my eyes, and I'm startled by the bright green and the depth of his gaze.

"You have beautiful eyes," I say, and he makes no move to show me that he cares.

I'm cleaning the clippers when his hands grip my hips again. He twists slightly, forcing me to angle myself toward him. When I do, I'm met with a fierce expression. "You can see right through them, can't you?"

"I don't know. I just know there's so much there . . . in your eyes, I mean."

"Why do you care?"

"Masen, I-"

"I have to go," he says, standing abruptly, though his hands are still on my hips. He wraps his arms around my waist and draws me into an uncharacteristic hug.

"I know. It's okay," I want to say, but I can't. He's too fragile. It'd scare him away, so I wrap my arms around his neck to thank him for coming to me, for trusting me.

He clings to me, breathing deeply. He exhales his warm breath on my shoulder, making my loose hair tickle my neck. The energy between us shifts, and I want more than anything for his calloused fingers to return to my skin. My wish is granted when his hands move up my back and into my hair. He grips it in fistfuls, holding it taut. He moves his head subtly, dragging his nose over the side of my neck all the way up to my ear. He kisses me just beneath it and whispers almost imperceptibly, "Thank you, Bella." He releases me and without another look, swipes his shirt off the floor and leaves.

The Day Masen Writes Vans Poetry

School starts back up, and Masen is mostly healed. People assume his injuries occurred at The Wedge. I listen to his responses and realize he never lies, only defers to their misconceptions. Since he's generally sporting bruises, they're not even all that interesting to the masses. It's his shaved head that creates copious amounts of gossip. The girls at school are upset about it, but I kind of think it suits him. Plus, I love being able to see his eyes so clearly. And, it seems, they look at me a lot. I like that.

After a boring lecture in English, Masen convinces me to ditch Anatomy and hang out under the bleachers. We sit on the dirt among discarded chip bags and soda cans, watching Tyler and Alec giggle as they light up. I'm surprised Masen refuses when he's offered a joint. I'm glad though. I'm not really a fan of drugs. People who do them become complete idiots.

They're talking about porn and who they would do if they could. The conversation morphs into MILFs. Just great.

"You know who's hot? Edward's mom, especially when she's tipsy," Tyler says as Masen grits his teeth. Ouch. A mention of his drunk mother and the name he hates so much. Poor Masen.

"Bet she's not hotter than my mom," I offer. They take the bait.

"Yeah, but is she easy?"

"She married a guy in his twenties. She's a cougar."

"She hot?"

"Am I hot?" I say, arching my brow.

"Yeee-ah," says Alec, laughing. "All right, I'd do her."

I roll my eyes and place my feet in Masen's lap. He accepts them and pulls a pen from his bag. I use my backpack as a makeshift pillow, and Masen begins covering my Vans in ink.

When I return home and toe my shoes off, I remember that Masen had them in his hands. I hold them up and try to make out his work. There are a lot of pictures of eyes, decorative curly cues and dots leading to nowhere, but, mostly, there are words. Lots of words.

One passage, in particular, catches my eye. I read it slowly, taking it in. Open, authentic, debilitating. On my board, in my head, in my hands. Will she? Will I? Maybe never. Wanting.

I breathe deep and hug my shoes to my chest. This is ridiculous. I just have to tell him how I feel. I have to. It's getting to be too much. Someone has to take a chance, or nothing will ever happen.

I steel myself, pulling my cell from my bag and dialing his number. I've had it for ages but have never used it.

"Hello?" his mother's whiny voice answers the phone, and I'm stunned into silence. "Hello? Is this Alice? Listen here, bitch, he's not going to California, okay?"

"Um, hi, Mrs. Masen?" It comes out as a question because I'm terrified of this woman. For all I know she lets her crazy, drunk, bastard of a husband beat up on her kid.

"Who is this?" she rasps.

"This is Bella. I'm in Masen's English class. Can I talk to him?"

"So stupid. Using his last name. Edward! Phone!" Her scream makes me pull away from the phone, but I'm back on quickly when I hear his voice on the other end.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Masen."

"Hey."

"Listen, I- you wanna go somewhere? The Wedge, maybe?"

He's quiet, not answering. I'm worried about his silence. He's silent a lot. It's exhausting at times waiting for his words.

"Don't really wanna be around people right now."

"Oh, okay. That's fine."

"No, not . . ." He exhales heavily, then speaks again. "You know the golf course on Hayden?"

"Sure."

"Meet me in ten?"

"Okay."

"Okay."

We sit beneath a large tree that's out of range, so to speak. Its limbs hang low, giving us some cover, hiding us from anyone who might be playing, though it's late and the course is shut down for the night. We roll a golf ball back and forth. Catch. Release. Catch. Release. Although my mind is always keyed up around Masen, being with him like this is soothing. I hope he feels the same way. He seems to need some peace in his life, and I'd like to offer him some.

"Come here often?"

"Use cheesy lines often?" he quips, and I stick my tongue out at him, then toss the ball instead of rolling it.

"A bit. To get away. Be alone. Think. You know, the usual."

"The usual - seducing girls under trees with your balls."

"If you say so." He smirks and rolls the ball back.

"Your mom's interesting. Accused me of being someone named Alice and trying to bring you to California."

"She's an idiot," he says, and he grasps the ball and pockets it before lying on the green grass. Crap. He's pulling away again, and I didn't even get any information. Who's an idiot? His mother or Alice? I'm not gonna ask now. He'd up and disappear on his skateboard, leaving me on the green.

He wraps his hands behind his head, using them as a pillow. Suddenly I have a brilliant idea and blurt out, "Stomach?"

"Appendix."

"Dick."

"Ball," he says, pointing out either his ball or his balls.

"Did you have a ballectomy?"

"What?" he asks, laughing.

"You said ball. I just assumed." I make scissor motions with my fingers.

"You know what they say about assumptions."

"I'm not even going to start talking about asses."

"Fine," he waits a beat then adds, "Stomach."

"Stomach." I lower myself, resting my head on his stomach.

Masen pulls the pencil from my bun and throws it. I smack his stomach and he oofs, but recovers quickly, running his fingers through my hair.

"Masen?"

"Yeah?

"I liked what you wrote today on my Vans."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Do you write poetry often?"

"Yeah."

"Do you write about me often?"

"Yeah."

"Is it good?" I reach above my head and find the fingers of his free hand. This is nice.

"Yeah."

"Can I see it someday?"

"Yeah."

"Masen?"

"Yeah?"

"Are you any good?"

"Wanna find out?"

I lift my head off his stomach, the ends of my hair tickling my shoulders. There's something about his expression I can't read, so I lean in a little more. Nope. He thinks I can see right through him – he's said as much – but he's still a mystery.

He purses his lips and props himself up. We're inches apart, staring at each other, our eyes sweeping around each other's faces. We both lean in, and when I'm right there, I can't help myself and say, "You were supposed to say yeah."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah," I say, and our lips touch. They move slowly, back and forth, playing a game of catch and release on their own. Masen startles when I lick his lips open. Our tongues touch, and I'm about to wrap myself around him when I'm hit with a stream of water. Masen swears under his breath, and we both laugh, jumping to our feet, running out of the sprinklers.

He walks me home and chooses, for some odd reason, not to kiss me goodnight. I shuffle upstairs in despair but don't let it get the best of me. I decide to confront him before English the next day, but I can't because when he shows, he's nursing a hurt shoulder and some scraped knuckles.

At lunch he pulls my feet into his lap and gets poetic on my Vans again. When I get in my truck after school I read his words. Worry, fear, mistake, unraveling world of mine. She must stay sewn together. Forgive me.

The Day Masen Gets High

Masen's been keeping his distance since the night on the golf course. Not physical distance, but emotional distance, I guess. He's speaking to me like we just met, which really isn't all that different. But it is. I know it is. I don't like it. He's pushing me away, though I see a smile in his beautiful green eyes when he says yeah to me. And I feel a flicker of hope.

I'm at The Wedge, waiting with Angela to go to Alec's annual spring break party. It's Saturday night and hot, even though it's March. Arizona is dumb. You know what else is dumb? All of the stupid bitches that surround Masen as he approaches us. These girls are from all over the place since everyone's out of school. They seem to flock to our skater haven to score some weed. I just hope they're not here to score with Masen, but it sure looks like it.

Luckily, he doesn't talk to anyone but me. Or, at least, he used to. He sends me a sad smile when a stranger with red lips wraps her arm around his waist. He drops his board. He never drops his board. He did it on purpose so he could ditch this girl's claws. I feel a flicker.

He sits by me and nudges my leg with his. I nudge back, and he rubs his knee, faking an injury. The stranger laughs. It's annoying. Rage bubbles up inside me, and I realize flickers are stupid. I can't keep hurting myself for a flicker. Plus, my patience is waning. I'm not sure if I can handle all this anymore. Maybe the product of drunkies for parents that beat him is not it for me. Maybe there's something else for me out there. Someone else, even.

"Where's your bun?" he asks, and I'm confused because what? Now he's talking to me?

"Huh?"

"Bun." He wraps his hand around my ponytail and shakes it. I swat his hand away, and he chuckles.

"What if I need a pencil?"

"Bring your own damn pencil."

"I don't want my pencil. I want yours. Smells good."

"You can't have mine."

"Why not?"

"'Cause I need it for my hair."

"Just wear it in a tail thing."

"Tail thing," I mutter, narrowing my eyes. He shrugs. He's so irritating. And what's with all the talking? He can't just turn this on and off. I'm not a damn light bulb, just waiting to be lit or whatever.

"Angela!" I holler, and she skips over to me with Embry in tow, skipping as well. I really hate them sometimes.

"Ready?"

"Yeah," I say. Masen nudges my knee again, and I pull away. No yeah jokes today, buddy.

"You coming, Masen?"

"Apparently not," he says, dryly.

Embry shoots a look from me to Masen, and I glare back. Are you kidding me?

Angela, Embry, and I walk to Embry's van, and Masen follows us, skating around in circles and irritating the piss out of me. I'm about to scream, "Just stop it!" when a loud shriek startles us all, including Masen who falls off his board onto his ass. I can't help myself and fall into a fit of laughter at his expense. He deserves it.

I'm still laughing when he gets up, and a cute waif of a girl throws herself around him, legs and all. "Edward! Oh my stoner, I missed you." She peppers his face with kisses.

In reply, he offers, "I missed you too, Alice."

I head straight to the van, get in, slam the door shut, and get buckled. The ride to Alec's is tense. Angela tries to ask me if I'm okay, and I say something about a ballectomy and Vans poetry. Embry snickers from behind the wheel. I'm so glad we're the only ones in the van. Masen has ruined me. I'm a moron now.

Alec's party turns out to be pretty fun. His parents have an outdoor Jacuzzi and a garage that's been converted into a game room. It's equipped with foosball, darts, table tennis, and a few full-sized arcade games. I'm actually enjoying myself when I hear Masen laughing. What the hell? A, why is he here? B, when did he get here? And C, he doesn't laugh with anyone but me.

I want to leave, but before I can, he's in the game room with me . . . and her. Alice.

She's even prettier up close. She has dark eyes and dark hair. Her funky sense of style and wide smile make her look welcoming and authentic. Well, shit.

"This is Bella," says Masen without even saying hi. That's rude.

I look at Alice and size her up. She's tiny. I could totally take her. Better put my hair up just in case we throw down. I don't want her to pull on it. I wrap it up into a bun and look around for a pencil. I find a carpenter's pencil near some tools and cram it into my hair.

"Yay, a bun," he says.

Yay? What an idiot. I can't let it go. "I thought you liked it down," I say, looking pointedly at Alice, like, "Hey, bitch, he likes me, okay? Back off."

"I did. I do." Masen looks repentant. Oh, no, you don't.

"I'm Alice," she says, her smile friendly. I hate her.

"Don't care," I say and start to walk away. I'm such a jerk, but I can't just stand here and watch him with this girl.

"Edward's told me a lot about you." I swing back around to face her.

"Yeah, well, Edward should spend more time telling you about himself because he hates that name."

"He doesn't care if I use it. We go way back. Right, Edward?" She reaches out for him and holds his hand in both of hers. Masen shrugs awkwardly. I scan his face to look for disgust at her use of the name and can't find it anywhere. He's really not bothered. In fact, he's not bothered by her at all.

"Whatever," I mumble and leave the room, hoping to find a distraction, any distraction. My I-hate-Alice haze has ruined everything, though, because the people I normally hang out with don't even appeal to me now. Not even Angela and her fuschia fishnet stockings can bring me out of this funk, so I seek solitude instead.

I sit out back and watch the usual stoners get baked. I wish I were into pot; it would make my misery so much easier to handle right now. I draw my legs in, making an uncomfortable heap of them on the tiny chair. I'm inspecting my red, chipped toenails when I hear Masen laughing again. Dammit! He and Alice walk around the side of the house, holding hands and smoking. He takes a drag of a joint and holds it to her lips afterwards.

I grumble loudly and attempt to stand, tripping over my own feet and crashing to the floor. Masen curses, then runs my way. "You okay, Bella?"

"No. I'm not okay, Edward." He cringes at my use of his name, and I feel like he's slapped me. He may as well have.

"My elbow hurts," I say nonsensically and hurry for the back door so I can get out of here.

"Elbow?" he says, giggling. It's almost cute. Almost.

"Elmo?" Alice asks.

Masen retorts with, "Snuffalufagus," and they both fall down with laughter. I hope they lose actual brain cells from this experience.

I make it home by flirting with a boy in my government class. I can't stand him. He's always staring at my breasts. But he has a car and agrees to drive me home, so I let him. My dad opens the front door when we pull up and, for once, I'm grateful that he's so overprotective and nosy. I really would've hurt this guy if he tried to kiss me or cop a feel.

I say goodnight and head to bed after I clean myself up and get in my PJs. I'm on the verge of sleep when my dad knocks on my door lightly and opens it up. "Bella, there's some guy at the door. He says he's going to sleep on my porch if I don't wake you up."

Oh no.

I slip on my shoes and head downstairs. "He smells like weed," my dad says in irritation before shutting the door to his bedroom.

This day completely blows.

I open the door to find Masen rocking back and forth on his feet, gazing at them as though they hold the answers to all the questions in the world. He looks up; his pupils are dilated. He looks creepy. I miss his pretty green eyes. I miss him.

"What?" Bitchy.

"Where'd you go?"

"Home."

"You're mad at me."

"No shit."

Masen bites on his fingernail and looks me over. I'm wearing a tank top and sleep shorts. It's the least he's ever seen me in. He seems happy about it, but I couldn't care less.

"Take a walk?"

"No."

"I wanna talk."

"I don't."

"Bella."

"Edward," I say, mocking his tone.

He closes his eyes and whispers, "Please don't say that." He looks ashamed or like I just killed his puppy.

"Oh, but Alice can."

"That's different."

I fold my arms over my chest and wait for him to spill, to tell me all about Alice and whatever else he's been keeping from me, but he doesn't say anything. He never says anything.

"Are we done here? I'm tired."

"Yeah." I see the faint hint of a smile and want to smack it off his face. I'm just so…so pissed.

He takes a few steps back and just as I think he's about to hop onto his skateboard, he asks me for my shoes. Whatever. He's so stupid. I pull them from my feet and drop them to the floor. I go inside and leave him for once. It feels good. It does. Sort of. Except that it doesn't, and it sucks.

The Day Masen Tells Me

Masen delivers my shoes to me the first day back from break. They are absolutely covered in writing, way more than before, even the soles have been written on. I throw them in my bag and don't look at them. I can't. Not yet.

At lunch he asks if I've read them, and I shake my head. He asks me everyday for a week, and everyday I tell him no, though everyday I read a bit more than the day before . . .

Repentant

drowning in my shame

seeking solace in the palm of your hand

you own me

placing your virtue in the hole in my heart

healing my soul

. . .and I know for certain that I'm in love with him.

His words open me up, leave me breathless and hopeful, but he can't just say sorry on my shoes. He has to talk to me. I can't be with someone who can't talk. Communication is the key, isn't it?

Another week passes, and I've essentially cut him off. I give him yes or no responses when he asks me a question, but that's about it. He's trying desperately to talk to me, but everything he says is superficial or arbitrary, and it's just not enough. I wish he'd answer all of my unasked questions. I wish he'd just be open and honest with me. I wish he'd let me love him and love me in return.

On a Friday after school, he shows up at my house. I let him in but don't say anything. What is there to say? He has to do this; he has to say something that's worthwhile - something that will make me believe I can do this with him, that he's worth it.

We stand in the entryway of my living room. He looks around at my coat rack and table where we keep our mail and keys. Great.

My dad waltzes into the living room, whistling, but stops in his tracks when he notices Masen. "Hey, it's the porch guy."

"I'm Masen. Sorry about that, by the way," he says and extends his hand to my father. My father accepts his greeting, shaking his hand.

"We've all been there . . . when it's worth it, right?"

"Yeah." Masen shrugs. I wish he hadn't when responding to whether or not I was worth it. It doesn't bode well for my self esteem.

Dad leaves us with a "Don't stay up too late," before retreating to his man cave – the den.

"I wanted you to see something," Masen says.

I stare at him with a blank expression. This better be good. I need good.

"Can we go to your room? Or, is he gonna-"

I shut him up by walking away. He follows me up the stairs. I sit on my bed, and he rummages through his backpack, pulling out a spiral notebook. He opens it up and hands it to me.

The pages are filled with notes, poems, drawings, much like my shoes, only these seem more intimate. They're his; meant for his eyes only. I flip through the book, reading slowly, deliberately, trying to see what he can't say.

A kick to my head

A jolt, a spark

A smile I gave freely

Want to kiss the shoes that did it

And keep them on the curb

Dark waves

Curve of shoulder

Pale skin

Breath in my face

Sweetness everywhere

Kindness unsolicited

I look up to see Edward pursing his lips, staring at me in anticipation. I go back to reading, turning a few pages.

Fists falling

Flying

Running

Crying

Waiting

Edward!

Edward!

Edward!

My name

An echo in the stale air

of our live-in tomb

I look at him, tears streaming down my face. He sits next to me and brushes them away with his thumbs. He peers down at the page and speaks up, finally. "I'm named after my dad. My mom screams out Edward when she's taking a beating. I never know if it's a plea to my dad to stop or a plea for me to help her. I just know I hate it. I hate the name. I hate my father. I'm not anything like him. I'm not Edward."

"No, you're not." I tilt my head, waiting for him to say something else. He doesn't, so I continue reading.

Beauty

Truth

Freeing words

No questions

Getting me

Knowing me

Just by my eyes

Does she see?

Really?

Does she see?

"I see you," I say and look into his beautiful green eyes. "I know you, Masen, I do. I just wish you'd tell me how you're feeling sometimes. I'm a good listener."

"I'm afraid."

"Don't be."

"I've been hurt a lot."

"Not by me."

"No, not by you. Never by you."

He scoots closer to me and reads over my shoulder.

"Hands in my hair

Hands on her hips

Want her in the shower

Panting my name"

"That's true," he adds quietly, shrugging. The shrugging's not so bad this time. I quite like his blasé attitude about this. I smile coyly, and he smirks in return. We've always flirted so easily. Why can't we talk just as easily? It would make everything right. He reads more.

"Leaves of green, green

Laughing

Loving

Living

Why can't it be?"

"There's so many questions I want to ask."

"I know."

"But I don't ever do it because I just think you don't want me to."

"I didn't."

"Didn't? But now?"

"Ask."

"Do you want an apple when you're done?"

"Sure. I'm always hungry. There's never food in my house."

I frown, then request that he read one more. I turn a few pages, and he reads the words aloud.

"I wish

I want

I need to be

But I'm not

And she is"

"I am what?"

"You're Bella. You're sweet and innocent and pure and just-"

"I'm not," I say, shaking my head.

"When you grow up the way that I have, you see things that- know things that . . . trust me- you're innocent and pure compared to me."

"Does that matter?"

"It does to me."

"Why?"

"I don't want to corrupt you."

"Well, what if I corrupt you?"

"How?"

"With my innocence and purity and pretty, bright white halo. I'll cleanse it all away, like a baptism or something."

"Do you think you can?"

"I want to try. I deserve a chance."

"Why do you even want me?"

"Because I love you."

Masen freezes and shifts his eyes back and forth over my own. He's scared, I can tell, but figuring things out, assessing the situation. He leans forward and presses his lips to mine. Our kiss is slow, fluid, and full of possibility. When we pull away, he whispers against my lips, "I do too. Love you." He kisses me again and pulls away.

He turns the pages until he gets to the end, reading poem after poem, recounting his ache, his pain while being away from me, feeling so remorseful and wanting to apologize, to move on, but unable to say what he wanted to. It's heartbreaking.

When he's finished, he stands, walking to my open closet and picking up my Vans. "Did you read them?"

"Every day."

"Did you like it?"

"I loved it. I love it still. Thank you."

He nods and drops the shoes, walking my way again. Before he can get all the way to me, I drop to my knees in front of him. He looks down and swallows thickly.

With my eyes on his, I pull a pen from my hair, letting it fall around my shoulders. I lean down, and he exhales heavily. I maneuver from my kneeling position and lay down on the floor, placing my hand on his shoe. He curses under his breath, and I giggle at his earlier assumption. I'm not that easy.

He waits patiently while I write on some of the checkers that decorate his shoe. When I'm finished he looks down at me, then his shoes, then me again with a gorgeous smile on his face.

"I think you missed one," he says. I've covered some white checkered squares with my name. It just seemed right.

"I'll finish at school. One at a time."

"Sounds good."

An hour later we're lying on my bed, talking more openly than we ever have. Masen is still reserved, and his answers are short, but he's truthful. I love this side of him. He's vulnerable and trusting. It's enough. He's enough.

I come to find out that Alice is a friend of his family's. When he was eight, his mother was beaten so badly that his aunt and uncle took him in for a while. Alice was their neighbor. He played with his cousins and Alice daily. He visits them every summer and always remained friends with her. He can be honest with her, trust her. He knew her before the sound of his own name became blasphemous.

Alice is his confidante. They email frequently and talk about me on the phone. I never knew I was worthy of being brought up in Masen's conversations, but it seems I am. Then, again, I never knew Masen had conversations.

Masen plays with my fingers as he tells me more about his childhood. His father lost his job and took to drinking to deal with the stress and depression. He never let up, even after he obtained new employment. By then his mother was drinking to deal with the beatings. It was a vicious cycle.

I roll onto my side and kiss him sweetly. He deserves so much tenderness, and I hope I deliver it in spades.

"Bella, I need to tell you something."

"Hm?"

"I- the reason I was so hesitant about us, about this- I'm leaving. Right after graduation. I'm out of here."

"Where are you going?"

"Tustin, California. Alice lives with my cousin, Jasper. They have a two bedroom house. They want me to stay with them. Jasper knows a guy who owns a skate shop. He's looking for performers. They want to set up exhibitions in order to amp up business."

"That sounds great."

"Are you okay with that?"

"It's a great opportunity."

"Yeah, but-"

"We'll be what we can be . . . until we can't be." Please, let us be, even if just for a moment.

Oh, but if only we didn't have to deal with parents or school or responsibilities. If only it was just Masen and me, together. But that's a fantasy, and I live in the real world - one that is simultaneously beautiful and tragic, just like Masen.

"I thought I was the poet."

"You are."

We lay in silence and kiss each other every now and then, gazing into each other's eyes and stroking each other's hair. It feels like a lazy Sunday or something, only better, much better, because now Masen has become mine. For the time being, anyway. I just hope I can let him go when the time comes.

The Day Masen Leaves Arizona

Masen and I have been dating for awhile now. I try not to think about when he'll leave, but it pops into my head every now and then. He seems to always know when, and he kisses the thought away. The last few months of school drag on, and we find ourselves ditching regularly. We chill at my house and hang out under our tree at the golf course. It's kind of become our spot. We like it there. We also like to fool around there too.

Late one evening, a few days before graduation, we're caught up in each other on the green. We're making out like crazy, and my shirt is long gone. His hands are frantic, and his tongue in my mouth begs me to go further. I really want to, and the moaning that he elicits from me when he uncovers uncharted territory acts as an invitation.

Desperate and yearning, we rid ourselves of our clothing and roll around in the damp grass. Panting and kissing and pushing and pulling bring us both to release, and I've never felt better. Never been more at ease. Never felt more safe, more soothed. Masen does that to me. He calms me, and I calm him. He says so all the time. It's wonderful to hear him say so much.

As I sit up and pull my shirt back on, he kisses up and down my neck while his hands run underneath my shirt, kneading my skin. "Come with me."

I whip my head around to face him and laugh. "I did."

"To California." He looks straight into my eyes. He's serious.

"You want me to live with you?"

He nods his head and kisses my lips softly.

"I want you with me. The thought of leaving you here with these people, in this town, and my parents . . . I just- come with me, Bella." He's pleading, begging. He said he never begs anyone. I guess things change, or people do anyway.

"I . . ." I don't know what to do. I don't know what to say. For once I'm the quiet one with nothing to say. He casts his gaze downward before gathering his own clothes and getting dressed. He pushes me home on his skateboard - one hand on mine, the other on my back, like before.

He walks me to my door and kisses me goodbye. It's sad and full of longing. I don't want to hurt him, but what would I do in California? Go to school, I guess. That was the plan here. And I suppose community college is community college. But what would I tell my dad?

He pulls away but comes right back in again and kisses me, then says, "Just think about it."

"I will." I stay on the porch and watch him skate away while tears stream down my face.

We graduate along with our friends. It's bittersweet, and I'm embarrassed to be crying at such a silly ceremony, but I can't help it. Masen hugs me, and I can't let him go. I bring him home to my bed to love him, maybe for the last time. He leaves tomorrow.

The morning is cloaked in the bright, hot sun. I hate it. I think about the cool, breezy weather of San Diego, even though that's not where we'd be going, and cry. I clean out my school bag and organize my closet to deal with my grief. As I go through my closet, I, of course, come across my favorite Vans. I sit for a minute, nearly inside my closet and cry as I read the words meant for me.

In a whirlwind I'm on my feet, shoving clothing and shoes and essentials into my backpack. I can't do it. I can't stay here. I can't be left here. He can't leave me.

I leave a scribbly letter on the kitchen counter for my dad and race out onto the porch to find Masen skating up my driveway.

"Hey," he says, eyeing me speculatively.

"Hi." I'm breathing heavy, and I'm sure I'm a sweaty mess.

"What's with the bulging bag?"

"Why are you here?"

"I came to say goodbye. I wanted to kiss you, really." He shrugs and, again, I don't mind it one bit. I never really did. It's quite endearing.

"Don't."

"Why?"

"I'm going with you." I turn around and lock my door, then meet him at the bottom of the steps. His expression is positively giddy.

"I'm not leaving 'til five today. Do you want to bring something more than two outfits and a toothbrush? You realize we're moving there, not just having a sleepover, right?"

"Yeah."

"You sure?"

I drop my bag and lift up on my tiptoes, kissing him. When I'm done, I whisper into his lips, "You were supposed to say yeah."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Yeah." We kiss again, and he pulls me back up the stairs.

"Let's get you packed, roomie."

"Masen? Remember when you worried about my dad?"

"Yeah?"

"Um, you should probably be a little worried."

"It's worth it."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."


End of Contest Author's Note: Masen Days has been expanded at http:/www (dot) fanfiction (dot) net/s/7295348/1/Masen_Days by Purelyamuse. Please read and review the multi-chaptered story there. Thank you.