I wrote this one-shot more than a year ago and kept tinkering with it. This is the closest to canon Bella I've ever written and that was definitely something new for me. Blah blah blah, I'll shut up now. Or I guess, I won't, but you know what I mean.
It's so precious, this feeling of being wanted, of being in someone's arms, of Edward's tongue and lips chasing and catching mine whenever I pull back to see if he'll follow. My heart pounds in double time, once for what he's doing to it, then again because I'm scared it'll go away.
So scared that I barely realize I'm the one pushing it away.
It's almost like I can pinpoint the moment my issues emerged, the moment I went from carefree adolescent on the verge of a million body changes to neurotic girl-woman hybrid with body issues.
I was eating some leftover pie during the summer between my junior and senior year of high school when my mom and my cousin Jane walked into the kitchen. Jane raised her eyebrow, and with that look that only truly, impossibly petite females can master, said: "Why, Aunt Renee, haven't you told Bella yet? A moment on the lips, forever on the hips."
My mom laughed because she thought it was a joke. Maybe Jane even thought it was a joke.
I did not. Out of stubbornness, I ate the rest of my pie, loving it and suddenly hating that I loved every bit.
Things changed from there. I swear, with those words, Jane cast some strange spell that transformed me from a teenager who could eat anything and never gain a pound or get a pimple to the doom that is known as womanhood. Of course, it wasn't Jane; it was puberty and hormones and well, frankly, normality, but I never quite looked at food the same way.
Even now, more ten years later, as I walk next to a building with the mirrored windows, I wince slightly at the way my pants create a slight bulge that shows ever so lightly under my shirt. I look at the mirror and then get sick of looking at the mirror.
I have good days, I do. But I have a lot of bad ones, too. This one is particularly bad, something I'm reminded of when my stomach lets out an angry-sounding rumble.
Hello, my name is Bella Swan and I'm hungry. I've been hungry for approximately one week and three days.
This is not the admirable kind of hunger—I'm not trapped in a place where I don't have access to food because I am intrepid traveler probing the unseen sights of the world, and I'm not on a hunger strike, protesting the injustices of the world; no, nothing like that.
I'm hungry for one reason, and one reason only.
I'm on a diet. You wouldn't think it was that hard—just refrain from snacking, avoid crappy eating habits. Millions of people do it everyday. But I swear to god, ever since I've decided to go on a diet, food has been shoved my face everywhere I go. It's like a giant conspiracy between the owner of every ethnic food shop I love, every bakery I've ever frequented, every restaurant I've ever passed. They're all saying one thing: "Bella, eat me."
But today, I bypass all temptation that crosses my path because I'm about to meet my roommate Rosalie and her boyfriend, Emmett, for drinks. I'd rather meet them for eats, but then again, I am on a diet. When I get to the restaurant, I realize it's a little more upscale than I anticipated. I immediately feel self-conscious. There are girls who are definitely inappropriately dressed—some overdressed, some way underdressed and not in the casual way—but they are those skinny sticks that seem to exist only in movies and trendy, hip new venues. They can wear whatever they want and still look good. Once again, I wish I'd worn a slightly looser shirt.
"Bella!" Rose waves me over. She, though by no means a stick, is perfection. She has the type of figure that actually beats out skinniness; she's round in all the right places, flat where she should be and, perhaps most attractive of all, never puts her chin to her chest. Rose always walks with her head up, and with her, that confidence that so many other women falsely project is absolutely real.
Next to her is Emmett, who is this day and age of skinny emo boys, wears his varsity good looks like any proud former-college football player should. He is as confident as Rosalie, and even if his size belies his approachability, he is one of the loveliest, warmest people I have ever met, with sweet dimples and a sweeter smile.
After we exchange pleasantries, Emmett springs a surprise on me.
"My brother works here—he's an assistant sous chef," he tells me. I make the appropriate amount of oohing and ahhing, because this is a rather impressive restaurant. "It's actually his first night—remember I told you he just moved here? He got us a reservation, so we thought we'd have dinner here. He wants to be cool and have someone ask for him at the table, so I told him we would."
"Umm… sure," I say.
"Oh my god, Bella—they have this walnut and mushroom gnocchi that sounds to die for," Rose tells me. "You love gnocchi, right?"
I smile as we sit down, even though I'm freaking out inside. Yes, I love gnocchi. I'd love to try the gnocchi. And as we skim the menus, I'd love to try the pork tenderloin with broccoli slaw Rose points out. Or the chipotle-infused Kobe beef burger Emmett orders. But I'm on a diet, and no salad here looks like what a salad should be (even that standard house salad comes topped with scallops seared in duck confit).
"What are you getting?" Emmett asks me. I can't wimp out because then I'll have to say I'm on a diet and that will lead to poor placations; sincere though Rose and Emmett might be, I just don't feel like hearing them.
So, reluctantly—but not that reluctantly—I reply, "That mushroom and walnut gnocchi sounded too good to pass up." In my head, I'm promising myself that I'll eat only salads and to walk all 36 blocks to work tomorrow.
We're between courses when a tall, reedy, extraordinarily good-looking guy swathed in a chef's jacket stops by our table. He taps Emmett on the shoulder, and they greet each other with a full-on warm hug, as opposed to the half-handshake gesture most guys use.
This must be Edward. He is a study in contrasts to his brother. They share the impressive height and those warm green eyes, but where Emmett is brawny, Edward is thin—almost slight. Emmett's hair is dense and curly, Edward's straight and lush, a little too full for his slim hips, giving the appearance that his head is a little too big for his body.
But what a head it is: sharp cheekbones, dark heavy brows that match his thick lashes and lovely lips. He turns his slanted smile towards me, holding out his hand.
"You must be Bella. I'm Edward. Nice to meet you."
I shake his hand and smile back. He is magnetically attractive, his eyes never leaving mine, making mine never want to leave his.
"Nice to meet you, Edward. The food was lovely."
His smile grows into a grin. "I'm glad you're enjoying it. What did you get?"
I dart my eyes to look at Rose and Emmett, but they don't answer. Edward is not asking them, he's asking me. "The gnocchi." He nods but I feel like my answer is incomplete so I continue, "It was fantastic. I wasn't expecting a walnut sauce, but it was so smooth, and that nutty flavor really complimented the richness of the pasta and the texture of the mushrooms was just right…" I trail off feeling like I might have said too much, if not for the way Edward's smile stretches wide. The four of us continue to small talk for a few minutes, during which he sends delightful little sparks down my spine by glancing in my direction every few seconds.
"Alright, I better go back in. Thanks for coming, guys—Em, I'll see you later. Rosie," he says, leaning down to kiss her warmly on the cheek. "Always a pleasure." Even though it's a frequently used line, he infuses it with warm genuineness. "And Bella," he says, turning to me. He runs a hand distractedly through his hair, scattering it here, there and everywhere. I take back my initial assessment—it's not that his head is too big for his body; it's that his hair is too big for his head. "Hope to see you again soon."
He does this odd movement where he sways just a tiny bit before leaning over to kiss me on my cheek, just like he did to Rose. I can't help but wonder whether it is his intention or my imagination that makes it seem to last a beat or two longer.
It's the next day, not even twenty-four hours later, when an unknown number flashes on my phone display. I answer it tentatively and am surprised when I hear a honeycomb tone on the other end.
"Bella? It's Edward. Emmett's brother? From Nicos? The chef? Last night?" He shoots off questions in a hurry. He might be a little nervous and I might be a little charmed by it.
I laugh. "I remember. You could have stopped at 'it's Edward', by the way."
His chuckle is lively and warm. "Be glad you stopped me when you did. I was about to launch into a physical description."
I'm not quite sure how it is this easy to talk to him, but it is, and the conversation dribbles out of me. "Oh wait, I take it back. Remind me some more who you are?"
"I can definitely do that," he says, and that chuckle is in the lilt of his voice now. "How about over dinner tomorrow night? It's my night off."
My breath hitches and I can't help but be a little flabbergasted, wondering whether Edward actually wants to go on a date with me. I reason that he's just new to town and probably wants to get to know more people. I tamp down the nerves in my stomach and regretfully tell him, "Unfortunately, I'm taking a cooking class, and it's tomorrow night."
He laughs. "Can I point out the irony that, as a chef, my invitation to dinner is being turned down for a lesson in my profession?"
"Point out all the irony you want, it is rather coincidental." I won't mention that it is a healthy eating for women class, and completely useless as all it does is teach us how to steam things and avoid butter.
"How about this?" he says, "We meet up after for coffee and dessert?"
I don't know if I'll be able to handle two things so delicious—Edward and dessert—at the same time. At any rate, I'm on a diet.
But something in me won't let me turn down his invitation, so I accept, knowing that it will probably wind up being me watching Edward eating dessert. Come to think of it, that might be a great substitution for actually eating it myself.
There is a certain satisfaction, shallow though it might be, in the way the other women in my class eat Edward up with their eyes as they pass him standing outside our classroom building. He looks even slighter than he did two nights ago without the chef's jacket to give him some bulk. But he also looks even better than the other night, eyes bright and energetic, hair slightly damp and therefore darker, and that irresistible, freshly-showered smell rolling off him.
The way his smile opens wide and free tells me that Edward isn't interested in being just friends. But that thought makes the nerves in my stomach jump too much, makes the worrying parts of my brain say "but" too loudly, so I stop thinking about it, determined to enjoy his company the way I enjoy his smile.
He greets me with another kiss on the cheek, his lips a little rough but so warm they make me shiver. He tells me I look lovely, but today, I just can't believe him. Another day, maybe. When he asks whether I'd like to grab dessert, I lie and say I'm still full from the class, which served dinner. That's a piece of crap. My dinner was wilted spinach doused in garlic and a terrible rice pilaf. I'm starving but gobble up the way Edward's eyes look me over once, then again, and I don't want that feeling to go away, that look to go away once he sees me wolf down some ice cream.
In the end, I wind up getting some coffee and he gets some soft-serve, claiming he's a sucker with a sweet tooth. I almost vigorously agree with him, until I realize doing so will make him ask me why I'm not getting anything, so I simply smile and say, "Totally understandable."
Coffee and cone in hand, Edward and I stroll down the riverside boardwalk, looking at the twinkling lights that beckon us to the other side of the city.
"I really need to get down there," he says, referring to a neighborhood famous for its varying cuisines.
"Yeah, it's amazing," I agree. "The only place where you can get the best chicken biryani next to the best xiao long bao next to the best borscht."
He looks me; the way the smile on his face slowly spreads wider and wider directly correlates to how my hearts starts racing faster and faster.
"A girl who knows her cuisine. I like that."
Of course, I know my cuisine. Couldn't he tell just by looking at me? I don't know how many stick thin girls could rattle off the different types of leavened bread in Indian food. I can.
"So Emmett tells me you work for the city library," he continues.
"And Emmett tells me that you once fed him a mud brownie," I reply and he laughs.
"Clearly, Emmett talks too much."
"I wouldn't be so worried about that as I would about him telling that particular story," I say. Edward looks at me questioningly. "It sort of besmirches your reputation as a chef."
He raises his eyebrows in a way I think means he's amused. "'Besmirches'? She knows the difference between good-big words and pretentious-big words and isn't afraid to use them on a date," he says, to the empty air in front of him. Then he turns that smile on me. "I like that, too."
I grin, but can't help the natural instinct to look down in embarrassment, even as my insides feel light. I look back up when Edward reaches over and taps the back of his index finger twice over the apple of my cheek, where I can practically feel myself blushing. His smile is the kind that makes my stomach flip and my heart hammer.
We continue to walk slowly—ambling almost, because we stop to point out various things to each other, details of the city we notice and can't ignore. I also can't ignore how with each step, the space between us, once several feet, is diminishing. It sets off a buzzing feeling that starts in my belly and emanates everywhere.
I can't stop smiling at that feeling, and Edward catches it.
"What?" he asks, but it's almost like he knows what, because he's smiling too.
"Nothing," I say. Nothing I can describe except this incredible giddiness that has spread through me simply because of his nearness. There's something about him that puts me at ease, keeps my insecurities at bay even as I fight them myself.
"Why are you smiling?" he asks, still beaming in a way that puts the moonlight to shame.
"Why are you smiling?" I reply.
I didn't think it could, but his smile only grows more, bottom lip stretching down so I get the full glory of his grin. We say nothing for a few moments, and I sip the last of my coffee, trying to not stare as I sneak glances at the way his tongue wraps around the cone to lick the rivulets of melting ice-cream.
It's when he turns back to me after tossing the remnants of his dessert and my coffee cup in the trash that I notice it.
There's a tiny bit of chocolate sauce at the corner of Edward's lips. Those lips are pink and slightly plump because he's continually biting at the dry skin on them and are quite yummy in and of themselves.
But in a testament to my stomach's hunger outweighing hunger from… other parts of me, I can't think about Edward's lips right now. Just that dollop of chocolate, nestled in the apex of his lips.
I haven't had chocolate in thirteen days. Smooth, rich chocolate. That coats your tongue with sweetness and hits your throat with a hint of bitterness.
In the mother of all crazy moves, I lean in and taste it without thinking. Without thinking that it's on Edward's mouth. Without thinking that to him, I'm not attaching my lips to that tiny glob of sweet. That to him, I've basically initiated a kiss.
Then, Edward slides his mouth onto mine, and easy as pie, we're kissing.
And it's heavenly.
His lips, though chapped, are sweet from the ice cream and sweet in their intent. He parts them just a tiny bit, sucking my top one between his and this, this is the best taste on Earth. Want and attraction, affection and so much wet, lovely warmth.
And when his tongue touches mine, it feels like he's touching me everywhere, even though his hands are on my face. It tastes a bit like dark chocolate now, a bit more like lust and sin, and a bit more like perfect.
He kisses like he eats, just a bit sloppy, and it's perfect because he kisses like he feels, warm and masculine, fully in the moment. Now he's pulled me to him and I feel like someone has run an ice cube along all of me, everywhere his body touches mine.
When he finally pulls away, from my mouth, not my body, the heat from his eyes warms every goose bump on me. The warmth from his smile amplifies that giddy, perfect feeling from earlier. I'm still catching my breath, up against him, taking deep inhales—
I pull away abruptly from him. It's a split second, almost involuntary reaction, except I am thoroughly aware of why I did it. He's kissed me and I've seen a lot of perfection and a bit of adoration in his eyes. I don't want his hands to rest on the rolls on my hips, to feel my doughy stomach against his flat one. If he feels that, it'll change how he looks at me. It will ruin the moment.
But in actuality, I've just done that. Hurt flits across his eyes but he says nothing, just turns back to the path we were walking on and gestures in front of him.
I sigh as we resume walking in silence, feeling the chill in the autumn night air. There's nothing, no ice cream cone, no easy talking to distract us from thinking about what's just happened.
And I can't stop noticing his hand, dangling by his side, looking open and empty. On impulse, because that's all I can act on tonight, I grab it. He looks up at me in surprise but doesn't break his stride. Two seconds later, the smile is back and I am warm all over once more.
He tugs on my hand a bit, pulling me to him. We walk close to each other, conversation rising back after that lull, our shoulders brushing, fingers entwined, grins matching. There's a buzz in the bottom of my stomach that can only be attributed to feasting on Edward's laugh.
It may not have been a good day, but damn, it was a good night.
It is a week after that first date when Edward and I finally have our second one. Between his schedule, which keeps him at work till late most nights, and mine, which follows more orthodox hours, seeing each other is tough. Texting and talking is not, though, and we have done so every day, several times a day, since last week.
It seems silly to be enamored this quickly, and yet it seems impossible that I couldn't resist anything but falling for him.
It's not all sunshine, though—not that tonight's date has actually started, since I am currently waiting for Edward to pick me up from work. I've had a day rattled with insecurities, starting from when I forgot to do laundry and had to wear a dress that I consider less than flattering. All day, I tugged at it, my mind pulling at the idea of calling Edward to cancel. But for some reason, I just couldn't. It may be foolishness, it may be hope, it may be some idiotic combination of both. When I finally settled on something to wear, it was not as sexy or as alluring as I wanted it to be, and neither am I. Instead I chose a dress that targets my few good areas—my relatively small upper-waist, surprisingly bony chest and nice shoulders.
There is something so genuine about the smile that spreads on Edward's face when he sees me as he steps out of the cab to open the door for me, that I tip from nearly feeling beautiful to actually feeling it. He kisses me softly on the cheek and it feels like brûlée, delicate and lovely and oh so sweet. Like that night on the boardwalk, uncontrollable tingles flood my body with their light happiness, and Edward floods my mind—and maybe heart—with his brand of irresistibility. I feel prized when, as we're walking into the restaurant, Edward takes my hand and holds it, even across the table, tossing so many smiles in my direction that I think I could survive on his happy for days.
That smile twists and turns into different things throughout the evening, but never leaves his face. Sometimes, it's a smug smirk, sometimes sweet and shy, but it is never bigger than when he asks if we can still spend some more time together even though dinner is over. My heart tumbles out of my mouth when I ask him to come over to my apartment for awhile.
He's bold and unabashed in being as comfortable in my home as he is with me, relaxing as I give him a small tour, telling me he hates wearing formal clothing and isn't sorry for wanting to get out of these. He kicks off his shiny dress shoes in my foyer, tosses his jacket in my bedroom, leaves his tie on my kitchen table. The nonchalant, cool look on his face says that he has no idea the fires that his movements are igniting in me, but I'm sure my face must show it in deep blushes of burning red.
When he stands in the living room, surveying it as he casually undoes his shirt, each button he descends feels like a ticking countdown until I explode. He shrugs his shirt off to reveal a thin undershirt underneath, but it's too late for me. I'm blown to bits, I've fallen spectacularly to little pieces. I can't stop staring at him, thinking of his swift, deft movements and I swear this is sensory overload. My heart is racing and my mouth is watering. As Edward reaches up to shove some of hair off his face, his undershirt rides up the tiniest bit and I see a dark trail of hair against his pale skin.
He notices me looking—how could he not, my jaw is practically grazing the ground, my eyes glued to his stomach. Even when I see in my peripheral vision that he's noticed my staring, I can't look away. There's something almost feminine in the slight shape of his body, and it is wholly beautiful.
So busy am I admiring the attraction that floods every part of me suddenly, wantonly, that I barely register when he walks over to me. Only when he plants a heavy kiss on my mouth do I break out of my stupor to kiss back. He kisses so, so good; hot and searching. His mouth moves at an insistent pace, his lips sucking and teasing, tongue darting out to taste, and with every moment, I fall a little deeper, I collapse in on myself a little more. My spine starts to feels less solid, my knees less strong and I slip my arms around him, not just to hold on these feelings, but to hold on for dear life. His kisses feel like falling, disorienting, flipping the world upside down.
My hands slip to the small of his back, lifting up his shirt because I am craving skin. I run my fingers along the light dusting of hair I feel there. Edward groans into my mouth, and it is even more arousing to know that I might be doing to him a tiny bit of all that he does to me.
My hands move higher, lifting his shirt and he takes that as his cue to reach to the back of the neck of his shirt and pull it off swiftly; his mouth is back on mine, with one hand in my hair and the other at my back, almost immediately after he tosses his shirt aside.
I have to, am dying to see him with his shirt off so I pull away a little. He's as skinny as I knew he was, no pecs, no ridged abs, just miles of long, lanky, flat flesh. He sees me seeing, and says, sounding embarrassed, "Um, I'm not really a gym-type, sports kind of guy."
It is nowhere the idealized body of models and movie stars, and maybe I didn't know how much till then, but it is exactly the type of body that turns me on the most. I kiss his collarbones greedily. He lets out a low hum and pulls my mouth back to his. These aren't the lazy kisses of meandering we've been sharing so far. This is with intent, of going farther, getting there faster, of working into a frenzy, a euphoric panic, which is exactly what my body is doing.
As is my mind, but on a completely different tangent. His hands slip lower on my thighs and slowly gather the skirt of my dress, no doubt to take it off.
And then the real freak out begins.
It's so precious, this feeling of being wanted, of being in someone's arms, of his tongue and lips chasing and catching mine whenever I pull back to see if he'll follow. My hearts pounds double time, once for what he's doing to it, then again because I'm so scared it'll go away. I can't remember the last time I felt so cherished. For some reason, Edward is attracted to me. I don't want to ruin that. I can't ruin that.
So, as he pulls away slightly to catch his breath, I tell him the absolute opposite of what everything in me is panting, moaning, screaming.
"I just… I want to take it slow," I say. "Uh, physically." I say this lie easily, even though my hands are still splayed on his ribs, greedily devouring any skin they can place themselves upon.
He's panting heavily, as am I, and his brow furrows. "Uh… okay," he agrees, somewhat reluctantly. He squeezes his eyes shut and then opens them to look at me and they're almost all black as light floods into his pupils. "Did I… did I do something wrong?"
"What? No." No, he does everything too, too right. "No! Why would you think that?"
"'Cause one minute you were fine and then…" he trails off, shaking his head. "Never mind. That doesn't… it doesn't matter." He looks at me, and the look in his eyes is so heated, I almost feel like he's touching me with his gaze. "You want to take it slow?"
No. "Yes. Umm… if you, I mean, if that's alright with you," I reply, lamely.
His eyes rove my body, once, twice, like he has a habit of doing. Then the side of his emerging smile quirks up and he says, "You mean if I didn't want to, then we wouldn't take it slow?"
"Umm… no. I mean, yes. I mean—"
"Relax, Bella. I'm teasing you," he says, grinning at my fluster. I shoot him a look of mock exasperation and flop down on the couch. I know I was the one to stop the making out but I want to touch him, some part of him again, so I pat the cushion next to me.
We spend the rest of the night on the couch. One of his hands is chaste and at the same time maddeningly inciting as it absentmindedly strokes the inside of my knee. I rest my head on his shoulder as he introduces me to his favorite show.
When he leaves my place later, the goodnight kiss he gives me is slow and gentle and yet, something about it—maybe the way he sucks on my bottom lip—reminds me of our faster kisses from earlier. Whatever it is, it makes me want to do anything but say goodnight to him.
It's not even two weeks after that warm night on the boardwalk, with dripping ice cream and first kisses, when the weather turns cold, even as things with Edward and I blaze on.
I've gotten used to him, even if I haven't gotten used to him and me. My stomach still flips in a way that is so surprising, so delightful every time I lay eyes on him that sometimes I close my eyes and open them just to look at him again, to feel that feeling.
But when my stomach is not flopping around, I settle into his warmth, his smell, always of some food or another—he is a chef, after all—his smile and for the first time, there's a sort of rightness in my life I can't explain.
Opting to shut the cold front out, we hole up in the apartment he's currently sharing with Em since he and Rose are out of town for the weekend. Unfortunately, the building manager hasn't got the memo about the weather yet and the heat is not on, so it's not much warmer inside than it is outside.
Even as we lazily watch Chopped, the most addicting show I have ever seen, slouched on the couch, feet on the coffee table, I can't get past the cold. I'm wearing my favorite shirt but the thin cotton that clings to my favorite parts of me while floating over the others isn't very warm. Even with Edward's arm around me, his fingers absently running over my skin, I can't suppress the shiver.
Or maybe his touch is why I shivered. I can't tell anymore; I shiver under his heated gaze, his cool, minty breath raises fire in me, his warm hands make me break out in goosebumps. It's all topsy-turvy, dizzy and spinning and flooring and flying with him and I'm never full, always greedy for more, more, more him.
He notices me shivering and his solution is to kiss it away—Edward is a fantastic problem solver. But when my teeth start chattering in the middle of our kisses, though, he can't hold his laughter in.
"N-not r-really," I say, attempting to shrug it off. My shivers dilute the nonchalance of my movement.
"Here, I'll get you a sweatshirt," he says, getting up. Already in my head, I start to make plans as to hijack the sweatshirt; I hope it smells like him but even if it doesn't, it's his and when I wear it, I'll feel like his too.
I watch his slim hips move his bony ass—he's so skinny, and God, I love it.
And then I hate it. I'm already never going to be the type of girl who can parade around in his shirts and my underwear, or God, naked, after we make love. I'm too insecure for that. Right now, I'm too insecure for any of that.
It hits me like the cold bucket of water that disappointment is—I don't think I'll be able to fit in any of his clothing, not in the way a girl should. It wouldn't float on me, it'd be tight, maybe almost too tight. Maybe if he was a larger guy, but I don't want him to be a larger guy and he's far too skinny for me to be able to fit into his clothes with room to spare. I feel so unfeminine in that realization. Moreover, a slow feeling of impending mortification terrifies me—I don't want Edward to bring out something for me to wear, only to have it not fit me, or be uncomfortable and for him to witness it.
I'm about to ask him to just bring me a blanket when he emerges with a large piece of fabric.
"Here's a sweatshirt of Em's," he says, offering it to me. "I don't think he'll care that you're borrowing it."
I slip in on, heated by my own embarrassment that Edward clearly came to the same conclusion about his clothes that I did and had to bypass the situation by pretending there is no situation.
I sit there, stewing in my own toxic thoughts, wanting to cry all of a sudden because if there ever was some sort of pedestal Edward put me on, I feel like I've been pushed off. Not even his casualness as he resumes the exact position we were in before I put on the sweatshirt eases it.
He kisses me for a few moments and it's involuntary, the shiver he incites. He zips up the sweatshirt a little higher and puts his hands on my face. "You look so good in that," he rasps, his voice husky. "Like a hot little college girl." My mood is so low that I am very close to informing him that neither am I little nor am I hot. But he continues, thankfully, before I can. "I'd rather you have worn something of mine, but I have like, no clothing here yet. My stuff's not been shipped yet so I've been recycling the same three shirts, or borrowing some of Em's really old stuff when all three are dirty, like today."
The way Edward says it is completely genuine and all of a sudden, I realize that the whole trauma I've just put myself through was all self-inflicted. I feel a little buoyed, and I kiss him squarely on the lips, before tucking my head into his shoulder.
I wouldn't have imagined it possible but my dieting woes actually take a back seat; I can't afford to waste any energy resisting food when it takes so much effort to resist something as delicious as Edward. It's terrifying—how much I like him already, the kind of effect he has on my thoughts, on my smile. I keep telling myself that to take it easy, to calm that surging hope, but each time I see him, he charms me more.
We're in my kitchen this evening and even though he finally has a night off, he volunteered to prepare the meal. Watching Edward cook is unbelievable. He's skilled and silly and unbelievably sexy, his hands pulling separate ingredients and piecing them together to make an exquisitely appetizing whole. Right now, he's making homemade sushi. He talks to himself as he prepares the food, mumbling instructions, giving admonishments when he apparently messes up and at one point, he even sings a little song about edamame.
"Are you always like this?" I ask.
He looks up, those thick eyebrows high on his forehead. "In the kitchen?" He grins, bright and white, the corners of his eyes crinkling. "Yeah."
I laugh and lean back against the counter in the corner of the kitchen, trying to stay out of his way. He tinkers away, and I'm content just to watch him, just to be close to him.
"Want to help me put a roll together?" he asks me after a little while. I nod enthusiastically, and he moves away from the workspace, motioning for me to move there in his place. But instead of instructing me from a distance, he stands behind me, his head over my shoulder, his slim arms on either side of me. It's the loveliest cage I've ever had the pleasure of trapping myself in.
His voice is quiet and sure as he instructs me.
"Flatten the seaweed on the straw mat." As I do, he slides his hands from my elbows all the way down to my wrists. His chin is over my shoulder as he tells me, "Okay, then an even layer of rice and then a piece of the seared tuna and the spicy sauce." He doesn't move much, letting me reach for the various ingredients, so I brush against him. I can feel his chest against my back when he inhales. "Now, roll it all together, tightly." He molds his fingers over mine where they are curling the mat while he brushes his nose along the space where my neck and shoulders meet. We hold it in place for a few minutes, everything silent except for our audible breaths. "Okay, now we unroll it and cut it into pieces."
He finally moves so we can do that. I step away as calmly but swiftly as possible, unable to know what to do with his nearness, with his intentions. I want so badly whatever it is he's giving me, but I just can't let go.
I decide I should keep my distance for the rest of the night, but then Edward reaches up and delicately feeds me a small piece of sushi. It's amazing, a succulent burst of flavors that still can't compare to the texture of the pad of his thumb when it very briefly rubs against my tongue and then my bottom lip.
I keep thinking I can control this thing between us, that I can hold back or pause or even stop. But it's not a machine, it's alive, it's wild, fire, electric. The way his lashes dip as his lids get heavy, the parting of his red, sea-salty lips as he watches my mouth, it's animate, an animal, all instinct and appetite. He's on me in an instant, or maybe I'm on him; I'm not sure. All I know is that his red, velvet tongue is touching me, and it is sweet, so sweet that it makes me forget everything but this sugar, this fire in my veins.
The food is forgotten and his hands are safely in my hair, even as we're kissing so hard that I'm practically bent over backwards. It doesn't hurt, but I don't know that I would care even if it did. I've never thought I could feel like this, that I could want something so badly that I would forget myself.
But I do, I want him, I want this kiss, I want to make love on the kitchen floor and I want the rest of me to be attended to and savored the way my mouth is right now. And I think that I want this now, and nothing—not my own insecurities, not cold kitchen tile—can stop it.
Until Rose and Emmett walk in through the front door, which faces the kitchen. Edward and I untangle ourselves, embarrassed. We don't make love on the kitchen floor, or anywhere else for that matter. But it's a milestone of another that is crossed—we hang out with Rose and Em, making and eating the remnants of the sushi, a real double date with two couples. I feel so comfortable here, in this chair with Edward's arm slung behind me. I'm in deep now.
It's not till later than night when Edward texts me goodnight that I realize that this bliss, that hiding so much of me from him under the guise of "taking it slow" cannot last.
That this is probably doomed either way.
Ten days, two late dinner dates and an innumerable number of conversations later, Edward and I are still going and going strong, despite my gloomy, doom-filled expectations. This night, Edward greets me at the door of his new apartment with a glass of champagne and the type of kiss to match it, excited and bubbly and light and happy. It's like this every time; I'm almost sure that it can't last, it can't be as good as the last time I saw him. Then he smiles, or he kisses me, or usually both, and it's even better.
He's very excited tonight, telling me all about his new place and neighborhood surrounding it. He's already staked out a couple of restaurants he wants to check out. There are boxes everywhere since he just finished moving earlier that day and only stray furniture lurks; a coffee table, a couch, a dresser and, as he slyly informs me, his bed appear to be usable.
"Your bed, huh?" I tease.
I'm slightly light headed from downing the glass of champagne, and I remember too late that all I've eaten all day are some apple and celery slices. I try to hop up onto his kitchen counter and miss, sliding down ungracefully. Edward laughs and walks over, putting his hands high on my waist—which makes me anxious—and giving me a little boost so I can sit more fully. He leaves his hands on my waist, which fills me with two kinds of butterflies, the good and the extremely bad, before nudging my legs apart with his hips so he can stand between them.
His thickets of lashes are brushing ever so lightly against the apple of my cheek. His breath dusts over me every few seconds, mint and wine tingling like light rain over my lips. His aftershave swirls through my nose, navy and musk, with just a hint of… toast? His proximity has made me crazy.
For once, my hunger for him overpowers any other feeling I may have, and we kiss. His tongue is touching mine, his hands are up in my hair, and the kiss has taken on that frenzied rhythm that hips sometimes do—it reminds me of sex, which only makes me kiss him harder.
Suddenly, he puts one hand on my ass, pulling my body off the counter and into his. I'm about to pull away, but then I feel it, something undeniable and masculine jutting into me. Coupled with the way he's kissing me, open-mouthed and wholehearted, I cannot resist grinding my hips into his, and I feel his groan against my tongue. He palms my ass a little more, then stoops lower and into the kiss even further as he walks me backwards until I'm against the wall. His hands slide off my ass and hook around my thigh, my leg and my breath hitching as he pulls us deliciously closer together.
That rhythm of our mouths is now firmly matched in our hips, and it feels amazing. I can't remember the last time I was so attracted to someone and to act on it, to act like this on it, makes it infinitely more arousing.
His hand is on my breast and I like that he's not tentative about it. He can tell from my reactions that I want him—who wouldn't?—and without fanfare or fuss, he complies. His hands feels so, so good there, thumb teasing me, that I am remiss when he removes it.
And then, on the verge of a freak out when he slides it down my torso. By the time he's reached the hem of my shirt, I can't even control my arms as they push him away.
His face contorts from heavily aroused to deeply confused. "Bella?"
I can't think. He's addled my brain with his touch, but I need to say something. "I have to go home and feed my fish."
"Fish," I squeak out weakly, still trying to catch my breath.
"What is your deal, woman?" he bursts out as I back out of his arms.
"You are so hot and cold," he says and then grinds out his next words. "You're driving me crazy."
"I told you I wanted to go slow." It's such a weak, cheap shot that I feel bad the minute the words come out of my mouth.
"I know," he says, sighing and for a moment, a pinched expression steals over his handsome features. "I know you said you wanted to go slow and I'm sorry—really, really sorry—if that was crossing a line you didn't intend to. But you have to see why I didn't stop, Bella. In order to go slow, you actually have to go slow. You weren't."
There is some part of me that is secretly pleased that he called me out on it—I wasn't going slow. At least, not until I came screeching to a halt. "I know. Sorry."
"Don't… don't apologize! Just don't stop! Or don't start!" He shakes his head as if to arrange his thoughts. "Or if you do stop, tell me why. You're messing with my head."
Now I feel guilty. "I'm not…"
"Oh yes, you are. One minute you're kissing me and everything is fine—better than fine—and then all of a sudden, you're pulling away and making up excuses about fish food. It's like there's some line you're just not willing to cross," he says, sounding less irritated than exasperated. "Am I reading signs the signs wrong? Do you not want me? Because you kiss me like you do but you pull away like you don't, and seriously, I'm dizzy from all the twisting and turning."
"I want you." I've never said that to anyone, but I've also never wanted anyone, physically, emotionally, or in any way, the way I want Edward. If anyone deserves to hear these words, it's him.
His face softens into a smile and he blushes and I swear, he's the tiniest bit shy right now. I guess we all have our moments. He's still grinning when he says, "Good to hear. So what is it? What's holding you back? Is it something about me?"
"It's not you."
"Say more than three words, Bella."
Closing my eyes and steeling myself, I say four words, four words I have never said out loud but have said to myself an infinite number of times. My voice wavers.
"It's because I'm fat."
It feels surprisingly good to say that, like I've let the deepest dark secret out of me. What feels less good is the way Edward's eyes bug out at my statement.
"You… you think you're fat and don't want to date me?"
"I want to date you," I say, and my heart feels like liquid in my chest because he can't fight the twitch of a smile when I say that, even though he's trying to school it.
"So you think you're… fat?" The way he says it is so refreshing, like it's some ludicrous idea, like I told him I thought I was an alien or a vampire. He makes it sound like he's never associated the idea of me and the idea of fat, and it buoys even as it holds me down, because I can barely remember when I haven't linked the two. "What does that have to do with us?"
"Is there an us?" I squeak on the word because it thrills me.
"I'd like there to be some sort of us, yeah. And it's seems you would too, except when you act like you don't," he says, so matter of fact. I admire his frankness. What I don't admire is something I was appreciating hardly a moment ago: I hate that he just seems to be dismissing the most painful, heavy words I've ever said to a guy. To anyone, really.
"I told you why," I grit out.
His brow furrows. "What? The thing about you thinking you're fat? That's not just a non-sequitur?"
I huff. I'm not in the mood to be teased. "Edward, it's not a joke."
"I agree; it's not. I just don't see how one relates to the other. You want to date me, and you think you're fat. I don't understand why one has to influence the other," Edward says.
And I see it then. He's being intentionally obtuse. He knows what my words were implying—that I think he should think I'm fat and not want to date me because of it—but he's going to make me say it and that makes me irrationally angry. And scared. Because if I say it, and he agrees: I'll be shattered. It's not that I'm weak, it's that I'm normal, and it is normal to want the man you want to want you back, in the same way, in the same amount.
But Edward surprises me. He talks three swift steps towards me and puts his hand on my arm. I do my best not to cringe away from his touch—not because I don't want it, I do very much, but because it's on that flabby upper arm area.
When he speaks, it's quiet and earnest and unmistakably emphatic and all thoughts of anything but him are shooed away.
"You can think the way you want, Bella. You can think of yourself as fat as long as you're not harming yourself because of it. That's your right. But this is how I think—beauty is not in the eye of the beholder; it's in the eye of the holder. You can be beautiful to everyone and ugly to yourself and guess which wins out?" He pauses and lets out a sharp breath. "You know what's the single most attractive thing about Rosalie? That's she believes she's attractive. And not because other people tell she looks great all the time—though, yeah, that probably makes it much easier. But because she believes she is attractive. Her. Rosalie. Not her hair or her breasts or her ass."
"So you do think Rosalie is attractive," I joke.
He gives me a withering look, eyebrows arched, mouth set in a firm line. "Please tell me that's not the only thing you got from what I said."
"No, no, of course not."
"Bella… feel fat if you want. That's your prerogative to have your opinion on your body. I can't waltz in here and expect that with a few words and the fact that I think you are beautiful, I should be able to change what you believe. But don't tell me what I think. And don't think that what you think is what I think. Because it's not."
"Okay," I squeak. His eyes are blazing and honest and this is the most serious I've ever seen my easy-going Edward. But then he leans over and kisses me, and my heart is lost somewhere between his top and bottom lip.
Despite that, it takes a little while to regain the mood after the heavy conversation. But I feel free, light in a way that has nothing to do with external appearance and everything to do with the fact that I know this is something. His hand on my hip, pulling me into his body, and his lips sliding, sizzling down the side of my neck, and the way that he will kiss me like caramel in the next minute, hot and slow and smooth; that we can do all of this even after I bared the very deepest of my shaky soul means more than something.
It means everything.
Perhaps because we've said so many words already tonight, we barely say a few more. He asks questions with his kisses, makes requests with his hands. I remove his clothes and I let him take mine off, too—but when he tries to take the tank top off I'm wearing underneath, I halt his wrist, and he nods, getting it. He understands that being with him, letting him feel my stomach against his, letting him splay his hand on my thigh, on my ass means as much as all the other things I let him do to me, as much as what I'm letting him do to my heart.
In the days that follow that night, I think more and more about what Edward said. His words weren't the pacifying, placating words I get from everybody else, the "oh, stop, you're beautiful the way you are" or the "you're not fat".
In the months that follow—full of the strawberry flushes of falling in love, where everything is bright and red, and even if it's tart, it's still sweet underneath—I really begin to understand something about him: he understands me. Edward gets it. He gets that this is the way I think and that no matter how much someone tries, they might not be able to change that. Or maybe that when someone doesn't try to change that, doesn't try to change me, that's how I can start to think about how to let go of it.
It's not like it just ends, that one thing Edward says immediately eradicates years and years of society and self-inflicted neuroses.
But it's not like he has no influence at all, either. It turns out, just like with the opposite, if someone calls you beautiful often enough, if they supplement it with smiles and sloppy kisses and green, grinning eyes, then you kind of start to believe it. There are certain confidences that having someone who loves you inspires. Edward is extremely comfortable with his body, even though he acknowledges he's on the skinny side. He tends to roam around at home in just boxers, but gets when I do so in oversized shirts, because that's my idea of comfort.
It's not always smooth. I still like to keep the lights off in the bedroom, and one time, Edward pushed a little too much on that topic, leading to our biggest fight yet. It was resolved with a very direct conversation and make-up sex—in the dark. There are things he can push, and there are things that just need time. There are also things that may never happen.
It's a slow process, and I have years and years of experience thinking one way. I have bad days, very bad ones, where I contemplate Edward's gentle suggestion to consider talking to someone who understands more.
But I have noticed that there are significantly more good days lately.
Like this one:
German chocolate cake. My bed. Edward, shirtless with his jutting ribs and tiny paunch—he's gained some weight lately, but he's a guy and he's him so it looks perfect—lying next to me, spilling crumbs and yelling at Morimoto.
I smile at him and he grins back, looking adorable and strange because he's got cake in his teeth and on his lips. I lean over for a kiss full of coconut, chocolate and him. Yum.
I'll have my Edward, and eat my cake, too.
It's taken me so, so long to post this thing. I wouldn't have ever done so without a veritable village of talent and advice from some of my favorite people in this fandom: daisy3853 and theheartoflife saw this when it was still in pieces and were more encouraging than I could ever hope; spanglemaker9 brought her level-headedness to calm my crazy; and pretty much like everything else, americnxidiot made this 100X better. Like I said, this felt like a departure from the stuff I normally write so I'd love to hear what you thought, whether good, bad, or somewhere in between.