This is a beast. And so is the E/N, so read it, too. It's IMPORTANT.

Chapter Thirty Six: Letting Go

Isabella

Emmett barrels through our front door just as I'm running up the stairs to shower and dress for my date with Edward.

My dinner date, which is apparently going to break Emmett's heart. Because his hands are full of grocery bags.

"I'm not cooking tonight, Emmett. So whatever you were craving so much that you took the time to do the shopping for, I'm sorry, but it–and your stomach–is going to have to wait a night."

"Wait a night? Bella, you don't know what I've been through!"

What he's been through? What could he possibly have... "Oh God, you're not actually going to cry, are you?"

"I don't cry," he says, and puffs out his chest. That his pouty lip is still bigger than. Which is no small feat...

"Okay." I sigh and come down the stairs I just went up. "What have you been through?"

"ROSE."

"Emmett! I do not have time for your perverted–"

"I'm not being a perv, Bella! And I'm not going to tell you about my really big ship! I don't have the energy to even if I wanted to, which I don't. Seriously, Bella... NO ENERGY. It's a miracle I can even stand, or walk, or talk... "

"Why don't you have any energy? And make it good. And not the Emmett kind of good, I mean it."

"Because I'm starving!"

"So ORDER A PIZZA!"

I start to stomp back up the stairs, pissed that I even considered that something besides his overgrown appetite was wrong with him, but then the doorbell rings, bringing me right back down again. "What now?!"

When I fling the door open, I see that the what is Rose, and she looks just as pitiful as Emmett does. Emmett, who looks at her like she ate the last bite of food on the planet. And made him watch.

"AND?"

"And what?" she asks me, eyeing the bags in Emmett's hands with irritation. "If he came here with groceries and told you I didn't feed him, he's LYING."

"Lying?" he repeats, and then himself. With that energy he claimed not to have. "LYING?! You call that thing you gave me food?!"

"I call it a sandwich, which was what you asked for!"

Seriously right now? I'm not getting ready for a date with Edward for THIS?

"A SANDWICH? On what planet is that a–"

"SHUT! UUUUUUUUUP! Both of you!"

"Bella! She–"

"No, Emmett! I don't want to hear it!"

I so don't want to hear it...

But I can't not hear his rumbling stomach. And can't not care that someone I care about is in my house and hungry. Damn bottomless pit!

"Are you willing to eat a sandwich now?"

"Yes! If it's one you make. Or two."

"Alright," I say with a sigh and head for the kitchen, cursing myself for caring. And Jasper for the proof of the lie he told me, even though I'm happy about that.

And on the way to which I almost get run over by a suddenly full of energy Emmett, aka THE PROOF, who ends up in front of me and pulling me the rest of the way. "I even got everything to make them! And like five jars of peanut butter for my favorite sandwich making girl! Who happens to be the best one in the world!"

"I'm going to feed you, Emmett," I sigh again, "You can stop sucking up now."

"I'm not sucking up. I don't do that."

"He really doesn't," Rose mutters behind me. "Maybe if he did I'd have made him two sandwiches instead of one. Not that he really deserved the first, either, since I was able to walk into my kitchen–or at all–to make it."

Do I want to know what that means? Probably not...

And, though I'm sure Emmett does know, his two-track mind is first and foremost a one. "IT WASN'T A SANDWICH!" he roars, glaring at her, and telling me that if I don't make him one quick–so he can stuff it in his big, LOUD mouth–I won't be doing anything tonight but lying down in a dark room with a cool cloth over my eyes.

And when the alternative to doing that is Edward... "Yell one more time and I make nothing."

"Sorry, Bella," he whispers this time, and pats me on the head like a puppy with one hand while shushing Rose with his other. She flips him off, of course, and starts to walk away.

Oh, no you don't, sucky sandwich girl... "Get back here, Blondie."

"He came to you, Bella, not me. Actually... he left me to come to you, so–"

"Why, Rose? I thought you said–"

"I don't know. I tried... I fed him... he just didn't like it."

"It. Wasn't. A. Sandwich," Emmett spits through clenched teeth.

And I've had enough. More than enough. "What did you feed him, Rose?"

"A sandwich! Haven't you been listening?"

Clearly, a sandwich to Rose and a sandwich to Emmett are two entirely different things... "Emmett? What did she give you that she thinks was a sandwich?"

"Two pieces of turkey on a cardboard pancake! With some fat free, FLAVOR FREE, yogurt shit instead of mayonnaise and mustard! And spinach leaves instead of lettuce! And no tomato! There wasn't even cheese, Bella! It was awful! And–" His eyes go wide and he slaps his hand over his mouth as soon as he realizes he's been yelling again. And then he whispers "Sorry" again through his fingers. And is so afraid I meant what I said that he even reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wad of bills and holds it out to me.

"Oh, for God's sake, put that away," I huff, and eye the unpacked groceries he brought that are now arranged on the counter.

If I'm going to sacrifice my precious time, then I'll be damned if something more than Emmett's satisfied stomach isn't going to come from it.

"I have a question for both of you, and I want an answer before I make anything."

"Then hurry up and ask it," Emmett says, gazing at the roast beef like he wants to put a ring on it.

And he probably does... but he wanted attention, too, so... "Before Sandwichgate happened, was everything fine? Between the two of you? And simple yes or no answers will suffice, I don't need–or want–any gruesome details."

I know their answers as soon as they look at each other, but I still wait for them, and don't move a muscle–or a finger–until I hear them.

The first of which comes from Rose. "Everything was great. Well... other than that thing he doesn't do."

"Yeah," Emmett adds, or agrees, or something... "but everything I do do is GREAT, and will have her NOT WALKING the next time I do it, so–"

"That's more than enough," I tell him, before he can give me any more.

But apparently he doesn't hear me... "And she doesn't not do anything, which is–"

I quickly grab a slice of the roast beef and dangle it in front of him, and lucky for me it works to distract his mouth. Or maybe not so... or too much... "Fingers, Emmett!"

"Sowrry, Bella."

That was close. WAY too close. Where would Edward put the pretty part if–oh, I can't even think it!

So I focus on the thing I was thinking before it. "I'm happy about that, and now I'm going to help make great better. So, Rose... pay attention, because this is Sandwich 101."

Emmett looks afraid suddenly, but Rose... the Rose that really wants something more than just great... well, whatever it is... comes to stand right beside me at the counter. "Okay. Teach me."

I smile at her and give her hand a You can do this squeeze and then start. "Rule number one: Boys like bread. Thick, hearty bread. So, pitas, or flatbread, or whatever you gave him... save them for you. And no wheat. If it's 'good for you', it isn't good for him. And certainly not great."

"Okay, big white bread. Got it."

"And while we're on the subject of 'white'... Rule number two: Mayonnaise. It's a must. No mayonnaise on a sandwich would be in your world like a shoe with no heel."

"Oh, God, I'm sorry!" she squeals in horror, looking straight at Emmett. Who laughs but nods in agreement. Quietly. So that I can continue what I think he's grasping the importance of. And how he stands to gain from it. Because attention definitely isn't all he wants.

"Rule number three: Only 'white' is bad. He'll eat turkey, but if it isn't a Thanksgiving one–complete with wings and legs still attached, or un and in his hands–then it better be hanging out with a roast beef friend on that thick, hearty bread... "

And as I carry on with the lesson, that will clear a little more off of my plate that I never thought was too full...

I know that Alice was right. I won't always be in this house. To take care of everyone. Give them everything they want...

Very soon I won't.

And once I'm finished ensuring I won't have to... this thing, the next time, at least... and Rose is even cleaning it up–and packing it up, because I suggested she take it all with her, and Emmett thought that that was a GREAT idea–I head upstairs to do something for myself.

And get ready for the man who gave me a forest. And is putting a house in the middle of it.

A house I'll take care of him in.

And give him everything he wants in.

Always.

After he gives me the pretty part.

And then another...

On a pretty day...

On which I'll look as pretty as I can...

For him...

Like I'll try to do tonight...

And on that yet...

On which maybe I'll get a lesson...

A 101...

Or two...

Or...

Well, I don't know, really...

But I know it's going to be GREAT.


Jasper

"You lied to your sister? Again?"

"I didn't lie, I–"

"You told her something that wasn't true. That's a lie, Jasper."

"I told her not to worry about me for dinner. How is that a lie?"

"You told her not to worry about you for dinner because you'd be going out for it. With Emmett."

"I doubt she even paid attention to that part. I told her when she was in her closet picking out something to wear on her date with Edward. And she had that dreamy look on her face she always has... and why are we talking about this if that is what you picked out to wear for ours?"

"Because I say we are. So, what if Emmett shows up at your house before she leaves it?"

"I'll take that drink now. A strong one."

And apparently her offer has expired, and I'll now get it for myself. Because she points to a cabinet, which when I open with a sigh, I find full of alcohol.

But then she opens one, with a shake of her head, and pulls a glass from it, holding it out to me with one hand and with her other on her hip. "Don't think I don't know why you want it now. And answer the question."

I'm so tempted not to even use the glass...

But I do. And take a large swallow before I say anything else. And then another. Come on, buzz... "He won't. I drove past Rose's place on my way here and his Jeep was parked outside."

"And when he gets hungry?"

Like I am? "Then–"

"You'll be busted. For telling another lie you didn't have to. Because where you are right now is exactly where your sister wants you to be."

"She wants a happily ever after, Alice, and–"

"Yes she does, and Edward is going to give her one."

Talk about a reason to drink... or CHUG... "She wants one for everyone."

"Again, yes she does. Which brings me back to my original question... you lied to her again?"

Yes. Because... "She's never wanted me to be with anyone before. Anyone specific, I mean. She–"

"Does now. She wants you to be with me. So, tell her that you are. Tell her that you stopped being a stubborn ass and surrendered to my irresistible charms."

"Charms? WITCHCRAFT is more like it. And no, because–"

"Tell her or I will."

"NO, you won't. No one's telling her. I don't want her to know."

"Why the hell not?"

Thank God it's a full bottle... "Because when it doesn't work out, she'll be–"

"WHY wouldn't it work out?"

Well, was a full bottle... "There are probably a dozen reasons–or more probably A HUNDRED–but if you need one right now... then most probably it will be because I don't like being interrupted every other sentence I try to speak."

"Then speak ones I want to hear, and I promise you I'll let you finish them."

Why did I give in to this? This thing that has me eating aspirin like Isabella eats peanut butter? Or at this moment drinking another form of one?

"Or better yet, don't speak at all–for a few minutes anyway–and kiss me. Which, just so you know, I would NEVER interrupt you doing."

Well, that's one reason...

Because that night I was attempting to interrupt Edward from swallowing my little sister whole on our couch, my interrupting got interrupted. By the Queen of.

She grabbed me by the hair–and that damn apron string–and yanked me back into the kitchen. And before I knew it, or could do anything to stop it, or her, she had me slammed up against the refrigerator with her mouth slammed up against mine.

Interrupting me.

And my ability to stop her.

Or my intent to stop Edward in my living room.

Which Emmett did for me.

After getting up from the table, and his finally empty plate, with a chuckle and a big thumbs up.

At Alice.

Who stood there smiling while I stood there paralyzed.

And dumbfounded.

With a buzzing in my ears.

And my fucking pants.

The second of which hasn't stopped.

And she sure as fuck hasn't interrupted.

Because she likes it.

A lot.

Likes to hear it, apparently.

And feel it.

Which is exactly what she does seconds after I answer her challenge and kiss her.

Which she lied about...

Because she does interrupt it...

And me doing it...

Because she likes to talk too much to not. "Thanks... very nicely done... but since you did something else very nicely the last time you were here... and I found out unequivocally why women get so irrationally crazy about you... you're going to have to do that, too. Again. If you really want to shut me up. Or not–"

She does shut up when I grip her hand around me.

And doesn't interrupt me when I reach my other hand under her apron–the only thing she's wearing–and grip her. So to speak... "And which something else would that be?"

"Did I say something else?" she asks me, as another part of her answers my question before she does. "I meant EVERYTHING ELSE. Please?"

I suppose I should be proud...

That that everything I do is always appreciated...

"PLEASE?"

And begged for once I have...

But dammit if it doesn't always take me on a one way trip to CraZytown.

A place I know I'm in now.

Knew was before I let myself be dragged here.

Or LURED, if I'm being honest with myself.

Which I didn't have to let happen...

I didn't have to give in.

I wanted to.

And couldn't not anymore.

The first night I lied to my sister about where I was going and came here.

And can't on this one deny that I am a gentleman, still, no matter what else I am.

So, since I am...

And have been informed repeatedly that my 'royal' status exists only in my own house...

I guide her–with my hand still drenched in the part of her that disagrees with that–across her kitchen and push her gently up against her refrigerator.

And then undrench it...

My gentlemanly hand...

And climb under that apron that is still the only thing she wears, and replace it with my gentlemanly mouth. And...

"Oh FUUUUUUCK! Jasper! You... "

Shut her up, my ass...


Edward

I stare at the ring for the thousandth time.

And also for the thousandth time, hear Isabella's words... I want that to be all you.

That, that's this. And again between my fingers instead of on one of hers.

Because I don't know what all me is anymore.

In a good way.

A way that's for, and because of, and all about her.

Like this ring is.

The ring I still don't know how to give to her.

What way and with what words...

I still haven't figured it out.

What she'd really want.

But, even though I haven't, I still never don't have it with me. The pretty part. When I'm going to be with her.

Just in case that perfect moment arises.

Or inspiration hits me.

Slaps me across the face.

Which I really hope happens before she does.

I really, really do.

And should really, really get out of here...

Because I told her I'd pick her up twenty minutes ago.

And I don't want her freaking out about that... the fact that I'm late.

Don't want her getting the wrong idea.

Like the last time I was late and she did. Got slapped in the face with it...

Because I was... wrong... in every way possible.

I really don't think she would...

Jump to that wrong conclusion...

Now...

After everything I've done...

And shown her...

But I don't want to take any chances.

Because, just like with this ring burning a hole in my pocket again...

I don't want anything I do–or don't–to make her think for a single second that she isn't all me.


Jasper

"You... might... have to... cook... your own... dinner... you GOD."

We left Alice's kitchen a long time ago.

And her refrigerator against her back...

Because it kept pounding against the wall...

After I got up from my gentlemanly knees and started pounding into her.

A little less than gentlemanly.

Because she wanted EVERYTHING ELSE.

Nicely–the way I gave it to her the first time–and not so.

Like this time.

That I know has only made her more crAzy.

But that she doesn't know I might be okay with.

This time.

Unless I have to cook my own dinner.

Because I don't have a fucking clue how to do that.

Unlike this. "You're putting that apron back on, woman. I earned it."

"AMEN."

"And you WILL keep your mouth shut."

"Well, since you didn't keep yours... WHATEVER YOU SAY, MR. HALE."

I knew she heard something she liked this time...

Her own SCREAMING.

Like she hears again now.

And like I do.

And probably every other person living on this block...

Because I do know how to do some things.

Things that I don't think I realized just how much I missed doing.

Until now.


Isabella

I hear Edward's beautifully familiar knock just as I reach the bottom of the stairs. "Hi," I say, opening the door with a smile.

"Jesus Christ... "

"Well, thank you, Mr. Masen."

"You're welcome... but I think I'm about to be in trouble, so you might not want to. Thank me, I mean."

"I already did."

"I know. And am I already?"

"Are you already what?"

"In trouble."

"No, why would you be?"

"Because I'm late."

"No, I'm actually glad you are, because I was late, too. Getting ready, I mean. And you being late means I didn't have to make you wait."

"I would have," he tells me.

But he didn't have to. "I know... you've more than proven that."

He smiles and looks me over again...

Slower than the first time he did...

And tells me without a word how hard the waiting has been...

Bless his heart. "And I am now if you are," I tell him. "Ready, I mean."

"Okay," he says, and sighs, taking my hand, and the key from it, and leading me out the door, locking it behind us.

And either that waiting has been really, really hard... too, maybe even... or there's something else wrong. Because he doesn't look happy now. And keeps looking at me–all of me–with that look that doesn't.

And then, once I'm buckled into my seat in his truck, and he's in his, he doesn't look at me at all, instead only looking out his window.

And it's making me nervous. And scaring me a little. "Edward, what's wrong?"

He looks back at me after a few seconds, at my eyes and my face, and then down and over the rest of me again, and shakes his head. Silently.

But I don't understand what that means, or is supposed to. So, I look down, too... at myself. And ask him. "Do you want me to change? Do you not like my dress? Or my shoes?" These shoes... with the heels and the flowered lace and the sassy bows... that I've been dying to wear... "Or... well... anything?"

"As if I could not? As if that were even possible? Isabella... "

"Then, what? Because you keep looking at me... all of... and you don't look happy."

"I don't look happy because I'm not. But with myself, not you."

"Why aren't you happy with yourself?"

"Because the plans I made for us tonight are wrong. For that all of you that I keep looking at. And can't stop looking at."

"Edward, if I'm dressed wrong for your plans, I'll go change. All you told me was that we were having dinner... and you always take me somewhere nice when we do that... unless you tell me before that it's something else... and I just assumed that since you didn't...

"You know what... I'm going to. Go change. So, forget you ever saw this dress. Or me in it. Or these shoes. Because I really love them both and will wear them on some other night, and I want you to not be able to stop looking at all of me in them on that one, too."

I start to unbuckle my seat belt to get out and do just that... go change... but he grabs my hand. Firmly. Telling me without a word that I'll do no such thing.

And then with them. "I don't want you to change. And there's no way I could forget how you look right now, Isabella... there's no way at all... So, I'll change. Our plans. And improvise some different ones that are worthy of it. We'll just have to stop by my place first, for just a minute."

"Why?" I ask, not that I ever mind going there...

"Because that's where my plans were. And where I put our dinner in the oven, because the time it would take me to come and pick you up was nearly the perfect amount of time for it to cook. And I don't care about that, but I don't want Riley Biers to end up seeing you in that dress, so, since I don't, I'd like to go turn it off now. Before I take you somewhere else. Where other people unfortunately will, which is by no means a perfect plan, either, but–"

"Your plans were to make me dinner? At your place? And spend the evening there? Alone?"

"Yes, but–"

"Put it in drive, Edward. Well... reverse first, technically, but–"

"Trying to give me lessons now, are you?" he asks with a playful smile.

And I give him one back. And shake my head. And floor it. "No... The only lessons to be given at this stage in the game, Mr. Masen... are all you. And yours."

And thank God we weren't already moving...

Because I think we'd have crashed.

"And I'm ready. So, let's go."


Edward

What possessed me to think making Isabella dinner was a good idea?

And letting her know I did?

And then letting her tell me she'd settle for no other once she did know?

After what else she she told me...

Jesus...

I wonder if Riley Biers could put out the flames in Hell?

Before they burn me alive...

If that's even what I'll be when I get there...

Get dragged kicking and screaming away from my heaven when my time with her is up...

Her, who...

"Hey, I'm supposed to be doing this... " I tell her, as she takes the lasagna I made from my oven.

"You did do it. But it's ready now, and you're distracted, so I'm helping you."

"I'm sorry."

"What were you thinking about?"

"My eternity."

"Your eternity? Does that mean I wasn't in it with you?"

Not the way you think, sweetheart... "No... it just means I was thinking about the one after the one you'll be in with me."

"I don't like it when you talk like that."

I give her an apologetic smile and then gesture to zip my lips, but she pulls my hand away mid-zip. "And that just means that I want to hear different things from you. And better. And for you to think both. Especially when I'm next to you, or in front of you."

"Well, in my defense, it was you next to me, telling me something, that made me think about it in the first place."

"Are you talking about those lessons I mentioned?"

"Yes, Isabella. And I'd like us to not talk about them now. Please."

"Is it because you're dreading them? And the fact that you'll have to give them?"

"Are you sure those pretty shoes fit, sweetheart? And aren't too tight? And may be possibly cutting off circulation... to your brain?"

"My pretty shoes fit perfectly, thank you very much. Smartass."

God, I love my sassy girl...

"And was that a no?" she asks now, with a little less sassy and a little more something else. That I also love.

"It absolutely was a no."

"Are you sure? Because if you are... dreading them... at all... I could at least try to do a little studying while we're both waiting. With books, I mean. Or videos, I guess... "

She cringes with her last words... and nearly gives me a stroke with all of the ones she said. "Don't you dare!"

"I just mean so I know things for you... and you won't have to tell me so much or–"

"Did you hear me? I said NO."

"Okay," she says, and bites her lip. But then frees it before I can even reach up to. "I guess I could ask Rose–"

Ask Rose? "I forbid you to ask Rose anything."

"Okay... Alice? Because Jasper's been coming home with a smile on his face... a big one... and he thinks I don't know why... but I do. And it's because of her, so–"

"Isabella... I don't want you to talk to anyone. Or ask anyone questions. Anyone but me. And I don't want you to read books... and I sure as fuck don't want you to watch anything. Which, if it isn't already crystal clear, I also FORBID.

"And I don't want you to do anything else your pretty little head might come up with. Because I love what you don't know. And am dreading nothing. Or the honor it is that I can tell you what you don't. And show you...

"And I thought that was special to you. That I had that honor. Well, will have... ?"

"It is."

"Then why would you even think for a second that you should–"

"I don't. I just thought that maybe you'd be happier if I did. Well... just until I figured it all out and made you on my own. Which I will do, but which you must know, just like I do, might take a little time."

"Well, then let me give you your first lesson right now... You already make me happy. Well, other than the last couple of minutes... I really should turn you over my knee for those...

"And nothing that you don't know yet could–or will–ever make me not. Not for a second. Just like teaching you things won't. And showing you things could never... EVER... unless any of them scare you... "

"They won't."

"But you'll tell me if they do? You won't be afraid to tell me? Because you'll think it won't make me happy?"

"No. I won't be afraid. I could never with you. Or be... of you."

"Then know, Isabella... that I'm looking forward to every moment of you not. Every. Single. One."

"Okay," she says, and bites her lip again...

That I stare at for a moment before I reach up to pull it free...

So I can pull it between my own...

And give her just a little peek...

Of what she doesn't know.

And what I'm willing to burn in Hell for an eternity for.

After the one I can't wait to spend with her.


"I wouldn't put it in a jar of peanut butter, Isabella, and I wouldn't bake it in a lasagna, either."

"No... I know you wouldn't. That's not what I was looking for."

"Then what are you?"

"I don't know, actually."

"Do you not like it?"

"Not like it? Edward, it's amazing."

"Then why are you dissecting it, sweetheart?"

"Because it's absolutely delicious. And absolutely better than mine. And I was looking to see if my eyes could figure out why that was, because my tongue can't."

Her tongue...

IS JUST A WORD, ASSHOLE! And NOT the point, or yours to feel yet. Or get distracted by the thought of because you want to.

"Well, thank you," I start, after I clear my throat–and my head of all inappropriate thoughts... "for thinking it's amazing, and delicious, but I have to say I think you're wrong about that last part. It's not better than yours."

"I think it is."

"No... I think you just haven't made it in awhile–unless you did on a night I wasn't invited to have any–and perhaps can't at this moment remember how amazing and delicious yours is. Always."

"You were never not invited. And I never would have made something you loved on a night you weren't coming."

"I've had every lasagna you've ever made?"

"Yes. Every one. Since the day your mom taught me how to make it."

"She taught me, too."

"No wonder it's so good."

"But not better than yours. Because it's exactly the same."

"Because it's hers."

"Exactly."

"Maybe you're right... maybe it's not better. It really has been a while since I've made it."

"Which is why I did. I've been wanting it."

"Then why didn't didn't you tell me that? I would have made it for you. Everyday if it's what you wanted."

I know you would have, beautiful... "I was going to... just the other day, actually. But then I decided I would just do it myself for our dinner tonight."

"You do enough things for yourself, Edward."

"I uh... " She didn't mean that, asshole. "Well, I'm not as helpless as some."

"You definitely aren't. You've never taken my spoiling for granted. Even though you knew I'd never stop, you didn't. You know how to do things for yourself. And you always helped me with the things I did for you, and everyone else, or at least offered to, even if I wouldn't let you."

"Well, someone had to."

"No, they didn't. But you did. Only you."

"I'm just different, I guess."

"You are. And I always knew that."

"Don't give me too much credit, though, sweetheart... because sometimes I helped because the more I did the more it made Jasper look bad. And I got a kick out of doing that, even if you never complained about him doing nothing."

She laughs and then takes a sip of her wine, her pure happiness shining through her every expression and movement. "Alice is going to make him do things."

"Again... someone had to."

"I know... I created a spoiled, clueless, lazy monster."

"Yes, you did, but you meant well."

"I honestly and truly did. And it wasn't like he didn't do anything for me... or doesn't... to deserve it...

"He does take the garbage out. And wash my car–or now truck– whenever it's dirty..."

"Bless his overworked heart," I snicker.

"And he takes care of everything. Financially, I mean. I don't pay any of the bills. I've offered to... but he doesn't let me. I've never even paid for my own cell phone. Or car insurance. Or anything."

"Not to be a total rat here... but the reason your cell phone has always been on his account, Isabella, was so he could see every call you made or received."

Her mouth drops open for a second, but then she closes it, and shakes her head. "I should have known that..."

"And you should know that I already knew all of that, and agreed with it, and that those things won't change."

"What things?"

"Those things you've never had to take care of, and that he wouldn't let you."

"If you want to know who I'm talking to, Edward, just ask me."

"I will if I'm ever worried about it. Or I'll look myself."

"You were looking at my phone just the other night... when I came out of the kitchen with your beers."

"I was. And didn't pretend not to be when you saw me."

"I know... and I wasn't mad... and didn't even ask you why you were... but–"

"But now you are? Mad?"

"I am if you're worried about who I'm talking to."

"I'm not worried."

"Then why were you looking?"

"Because I can."

"Says who?"

"Me."

"So, that's how it is?"

"Yes. And how it always will be."

"Well, then you're definitely going to pay all of my bills."

"I already said those things won't change."

"Oh, but they will..."

"No, they won't."

"Yes they will. Because you can have my credit card bills, too. And that is a change, because Jasper doesn't pay those."

The gleam in her eyes makes me laugh. And know that she's really going to enjoy filling the perhaps 'fairy tale' closet I designed for her. "Well, they'll have my name on them, so of course I'll pay them."

"Your name?"

"Yes, mine."

"My credit cards will have your... " That gleam in her eyes is now something else, and that other something else in my pocket is now scorching my leg. "You mean... "

"I mean my name, Isabella."

"Masen..."

"Yes, that one."


Isabella

"Jasper is going to have to do things, Edward, not you."

"I made the mess, I should clean it up."

"What you made is a wonderful dinner for me, so sit down and bask in the glory of that, and let me thank you."

"You already did thank me. And I heard you, and felt you do it again with that kiss, so–"

"So know that I already know that you aren't lazy, and want to thank you for that, too. Now put down the plates."

"Isabella, I'm not going to stand here–or sit, here or anywhere–and let you wash dishes in that dress."

"Would you like me to take it off?"

God, I wish I had my camera...

Because his face... "NO."

"LIAR."

"Little SNOT."

Maybe...

But I really didn't mean it the way his ears–that have turned a little pink–heard it. "I meant that I could take it off and put on something else. Something of yours. If you really don't want me to wash dishes in it."

"I don't want you to wash dishes at all," he says, trying to hide what he really does want. Too late, Edward, I already saw... "I want you to leave them, and come into the other room so that I can give you the present I have for you."

Present? He has a present for me?

Oh God...

Could it be THE present?

"Dishes? What dishes?"

"Good girl," he laughs, and holds out his hand.

And I take it, and let him pull me away, for the first time in my life not caring about dirty dishes sitting in the sink. Or on the counter. Or...

Okay, that's so not true... I do care. And I can't stand it. "Wait..."

"It'll be okay, sweetheart. Trust me."

"I don't like your kitchen to be messy. I want it to be perfect..."

"It will be later. Just not yet."

"But–"

"Be lazy, Isabella. For once in your life. For me?"

"That's an unfair use of power, Edward," I tell him.

And he smirks at me. "But effective."

"You're as evil as you are beautiful."

"I assure you I'm more evil."

Maybe... though I don't think so. And don't want to hear him say any more about it, or where he thinks it will get him. "Whatever you say. Now, give me my present quick or I'm going right back in there."

"No, you're not," he tells me, guiding me gently and not so all at once to his couch. "You're going to stay right here, because it's where I want you."

Talk about use of power... "Okay. Dishes be damned forever!"

He gives me a cocky grin and walks away with a "I'll be right back."

And I don't move. Not a muscle. Because I want my present.

The present that may be untoppable. By him or anyone. Ever.

And so pretty it will make me cry.

So much that I'll probably flood this place.

And ruin my pretty shoes.

And his couch that I love being wanted on.

And...

The box in his hands is too big to do that.

My present isn't THE.

But if it isn't, then why is he now down on one knee in front of me handing it to me? "For you."

"Thank you," I say, and bite my lip, trying not to stare at his position on the floor.

"What's wrong?" he asks me, looking between his gift for me and my face with confusion on his.

"Nothing," I say, freeing my lip, and him, before he can try to or think about why he had to.

But it's too late for the second...

And he doesn't believe me for a single.

"Don't say nothing if it's–" His mouth drops open and his eyes fall to exactly what I was desperately trying not to look at. "Not."

"It is. I mean isn't... um..."

"It's not, Isabella. Nothing... because it's not that present... and I'm... I'm an IDIOT."

"No, you're not, Edward. I'm just a girl... "

"Yes, you are. Mine."

"Yes, yours, and–"

"And you've been waiting sweetly and patiently for me to show you how much you are... and the world..."

"And I'll keep doing it. And stop pushing you to do anything, and–"

"I don't feel pushed, Isabella. Just stupid."

"You're not that... You're sweet. Because you gave me a present. I'm the one who's stupid, because I haven't even opened it yet, and–"

He puts his finger to my lips to quiet me. And then gets up from the floor and sits next to me on the couch. "Never. And don't ever say that again."

I nod my confirmation that I heard him and try to turn my focus to the box in my hands. The box that's bigger than they are. And that I shake playfully, trying not to focus on the fact that it is, and then raise a brow at the unidentifiable sound that comes from inside. "Interesting."

"I don't know about interesting, but something," he says, his every feature apologetic for the something it isn't.

Which makes me feel like complete shit.

Because he is sweet, no matter what else he is. And was sweet enough to get and give me a present. And it doesn't matter that it's not THE...

Because I could never not love anything he gave me. Or the playful smile that he wore before he did. And before I took it away. By letting him think I was disappointed without even seeing what his present for me was, just because I knew what it wasn't.

So, I rip it open with childlike vigor, hoping to bring his back.

And do... just a little, I think, which is better than none... when I giggle at the pom poms inside of the box. "Are you sure these are really for me?" I ask with a suggestive smirk. "Because depending on how you look at them..."

"I don't deserve any cheers right now, so, yes, they're for you. To do whatever you want with. Like throw them in my face, maybe even, if you–"

"I don't want to do that," I tell him, cutting him off, "or whatever you were going to say next. And I love them, so, thank you."

I take one in each hand, and then put my pom pom holding hands on either side of his face, the black and white streamer strands creating a frame around it, and kiss him sweetly on the lips. "You're still up there..." I whisper against them, "and I'm sorry if I made you feel for a second that you weren't. You didn't do anything wrong."

"I just didn't think..." he says against mine, "Wasn't thinking... when I–"

I kiss him again. Harder this time. And a little less sweetly than the first. Because I want him to stop thinking now. About anything but how perfect this night has been, even without the perfect present in my hands. Or on one of them...

And he does stop...

And pulls me into his lap...

Just like the first time he did...

That day in another house...

And on another couch...

After the first time he kissed me...

And kept...

While the tears slipped down my cheeks and over our lips...

The way they aren't now...

Though this kiss is.

The same.

And so is the way he's cradling me in his arms.

Sweetly. And tenderly.

Different than he sometimes does.

That may be because of this dress, but isn't entirely, I know. "I really am sorry, sweetheart."

I hear and feel and know how much he means it... and how much I need to show him he doesn't have to. "Don't be. For anything... except for that there's nothing else in the box."

And it backfires...

And he looks sorrier than ever before...

But only because I wasn't finished yet. "Where's my little skirt?"

"Talk about a present for me..." he returns, letting his sorrow go for a moment, at least.

"Yes, let's. Where is it? Because you were supposed to buy it when you bought these."

I give his face a gentle double pom pom smack and narrow my eyes scoldingly, making him laugh and look down. At my legs across his lap instead of around it...

"Put away where it will stay until I've earned the right to see it on you."

"Put away? So, you did buy it?"

"Of course I did. Evil, remember?"

"So says you. But right now we're listening to me... and I WANT IT. So, go get it from where it's hidden and give it to me."

"No way."

"I thought you were sorry?"

"Isabella... that's not nice."

"We both have power, Edward. And just maybe you're not the only evil among us."

"I already knew that," he snickers, but then instantly gets serious again. "But I have the final say, on all matters, so NO. It stays hidden."

"Please?"

"I'm sorry, but no."

"I just want to see it."

"So do I, so, again... no."

"Pretty please? With sugar on top? Just let me see?"

"Isabella... don't do that."

"Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty please?" We both know you can't say no to these puppy eyes, Edward... or this lip... so stop trying to be strong, because you're not that powerful...

"Just see?" he asks, surrendering like I knew he would, though maybe a little sooner.

"Yes... " I answer, crossing my fingers, which he can't see me do because the pom pom strands are covering them. "Just see."


Edward

I can't believe I'm doing this...

But I can't believe I did that other thing, either.

That made her think I was doing another.

After telling her I had a present for her.

I'm so stupid...

And was so careless with who could never be...

I was down on one knee, for God's sake. Right in front of her. Of course she thought...

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, STUPID!

And then didn't even make up for it with the one thing that could have made me not.

The ring was right there...

In my fucking pocket...

I could have pulled it out...

Made everything right...

But I didn't.

Because it didn't feel right enough.

And, no matter how much she tells me I can't do it wrong...

I'm still afraid that I will.

And that I'll see disappointment on her face.

Much worse than what I saw a few minutes ago...

And that she's using as power over me now.

To get something that is definitely wrong.

Because she'll look so right in it...

Jesus...

From the moment that picture entered my mind, I knew it would never leave.

Would only change into others...

More right and more wrong and more evil...

"Stop stalling, Edward!" she calls from my living room, where she still sits waiting on my couch...

For me to do exactly that...

Stop stalling...

So she can.

Our Father... who art in heaven...


"I wasn't stalling. In there, or–"

"I know. I was just kidding. And really mostly just missed your face."

"You did, huh? Really mostly?"

"Yes. And really completely."

"Then I'm glad I have this face. Really definitely."

"Me too," she laughs, and raises her pom poms in the air. "And that neck."

"You mean the one you should ring?" I ask, but then instantly regret the stupid words. Ring? Really, asshole? You're rubbing it in her face now? "I'm sorry, I–"

"Should relax," she says, tossing her pom poms to the floor and getting up from the couch.

I shake my head and she nods hers and grabs the other one of my offenses from my hand. "Yep, definitely the reason I wasn't a cheerleader."

"On that we agree," I tell her, as she holds it up against herself.

"I think we agree on lots of things," she says with a sweet smile, and then shocks me by folding the skirt neatly in half and setting it the side table. "Like that that's a great little skirt you bought for me, and that I'll look great in it when I wear it for you."

"Well, I certainly can't disagree with that..." I say, and wait for the proverbial other shoe to drop.

But it doesn't. She doesn't say another word about it, other than a very sweet "Thank you."

"You're welcome," is my response to that sweetness, but I'm still in shock. She's really not going to torture me with it? She truly wanted to just see it?

Her face tells me she knows exactly what I'm thinking, but she doesn't let it be the only thing that does. "You really do think I'm evil, don't you?"

And I won't hold back the truth from her. "Yes... though in a way very different from me."

"An innocent way, perhaps?"

"And a pure, yes."

"Pure pure or pure evil?"

"Both."

She sticks her lip out at me in an exaggerated pout and I shake my head. I deserve that torture.

But then she shrugs and gives me a beaming smile. "Well, as long as you love me, I can live with your assessment of me."

"I do, Isabella... very much." And so much more than I've shown you...

"But, no matter how much you do, I can't live with your kitchen being a mess for another second. So, now that I've opened my present, and seen yours, I'm–"

"Going to stay right here."

"You know, I'm purely efficient, too. I can have it perfect again in ten minutes tops."

"I don't doubt that," I tell her, and grab her before she can take another step away from me.

And then make her take one closer to me. And then another. And another. Until there's no more space between us, and she's up against me. "If I were to let you, which I'm not going to do."

"Why aren't you?" Her mouth asks the question, but I don't think the rest of her cares about the answer, because she's not trying to get away.

Or maybe she's not trying because it does...

"Because I have the final say, remember? And I already said that I wanted you here. Instead of there."

I guide her slowly back to the couch, and she lets me. With no resistance at all. "Is here part of your plans?" she asks, as she settles back into it.

"It was... if that's okay?"

She looks up at me... because at this moment I'm still looming over her, instead of beside her, and nods her purely beautiful, innocent head. "It really completely is."

And that makes me happy. Not because I'm evil, but because she trusts me not to be. Which tells me maybe I'm not completely. Not really completely, anyway.

And I move to sit down beside her, but she holds her hand up to stop me, still looking up at me. "Can I ask for something before you sit down? Since you want me here, and not there?"

"You want me to go clean my kitchen?" I ask her with a chuckle.

"No," she says, shaking her head adamantly. "I just wondered if I could have some more wine?"

"Of course you can," I tell her, and head straight to the kitchen, chastising myself all the way for my poor host skills.

Something that she's the master of.

She, who, when I return to my living room with her request, isn't in it.

Telling me she's the master of something else.

And something purely evil.

More completely purely evil, perhaps, than even me.

Because neither is the little skirt.


Isabella

I know that Edward likes my dress...

His reaction when he first saw it was enough to tell me that. And the way his eyes have taken it in–or more specifically, me in it in–throughout the night left no question...

But he gave me a present. And then let me see another...

Something he should have known better than to do... Yay me!

And I am technically overdressed for a night in...

Or was...

Before I undressed...

In his bedroom...

Which, in itself... well... I'm in here alone, so...

Yeah... anyway...

I wanted to wear a present from him!

Yes, I just stomped my foot. Because I was hoping to be wearing a different one.

And because I was, and am not, I'm being an evil little snot.

And wearing my evil little cheerleader skirt while I am.

And nothing else. Well, but my bra. And my pretty shoes. That match well enough since my little skirt is black and white.

And the reason I am... wearing nothing else... is because Edward didn't get me a little cheerleader top to go with it.

I wonder why?...

And then stop wondering because it doesn't matter right now.

What matters is that this little skirt isn't tight. And won't keep me from sitting on his couch–where he wants me, and where he planned for me to be tonight–the way I want to. And like to. And he really completely likes me to.

Again... Yay me!

And yay Edward for not getting me a little shirt. Because, because he didn't, I can wear one of his. And I know just the one I want...

And... Jackpot! It's right on top in the first place I look.

Just like I'm going to be somewhere else.

Purely innocently, of course.


Edward

I've been dreading seeing Isabella come out of my bedroom since I discovered she'd locked herself–and her little skirt–in it.

Seriously... dreading it.

But...

OH. MY. GOD...

There she is. Or, here, rather...

In it. And those sexy, sassy fucking shoes...

And my favorite old Trail Blazers t-shirt.

That is my favorite now for a completely different reason.

Or many...

Because there's holes in it...

And rips...

And...

FUCK ME. "I'm putting you in that tower. And giving your brother the key."

Her innocent Whatever did I do? expression does nearly as much damage as what she did...

And I have to close my eyes for a moment to both. And because this prayer I'm now saying is important... CRUCIAL...

And I want God to take me seriously.

Please? I NEED you...

At which she laughs. And starts to come closer, bringing it with her.

"Stay over there, Isabella. I'm begging you..."

"You said you wanted me here, Edward," she says, staying nowhere, and pulling my hands down and climbing onto my lap. "And you do, as you also said, have the final say... on all matters... so..."

"You're playing with fire, little girl."

"Is that a Trail Blazers joke?" she asks, still feigning innocence in this thing she's doing that's anything but.

"No, it's not. It's a warning... that I really want you to heed."

"Says your mouth," she says, pushing herself down on what doesn't. What screams something else to her.

And what she never acts afraid of.

Or offended by.

Or... "Sweetheart, please!"

"Sorry," she says, completely sweetly, and with even a little hurt in her eyes, I think, and moves back a little. "I just like knowing how you feel... I didn't mean to make you mad."

"I'm not mad," I say, and sigh, reaching up and pulling her lip free from her self-inflicted punishment, before pulling her face down until her forehead is resting against mine. "It's just–"

"Hard?" she finishes for me. But not evilly. Not evilly at all.

"Mmm-hmm," I hum, because it's all I can manage at the moment.

"Okay," she whispers, and slips her hands into my hair, massaging my scalp with a tender sweetness. "I really am sorry. For being a snot and whatever else I've been when you've been nothing but good to me."

"If I was really so good to you, Isabella, you wouldn't so often feel that thing you like knowing."

She pulls back just a little and gives my hair a tug, so I have to look up at her. "Would you say that to me if your name was already on it? That card we talked about, and everything else?"

"No, I wouldn't," I tell her honestly. Because I know I wouldn't. Won't when that time comes...

"Then don't say it now. Because only your final say on the matter matters to me."

"My final say will be–"

"All you. And that's everything I'll ever want. Or ever could, just like I told you."

All me...

I know she means it.

With all of her heart and all of her head and all of her...

Everything.

Which includes her mouth that's now on mine.

And her something else that's back on mine, too, because she likes to feel what her all does to me.

And what it doesn't do to her.

What I don't.

Because she's stalling...

Innocently and purely and anything but evilly.

For what's right.

Which is exactly what I was doing.

Before I wasn't.

Before I pulled her closer to me...

Up a little higher on...

Not because I'm evil, but because I couldn't reach my pocket when she was lower.

My pocket that I reach into...

At the same moment she reaches into my now partially unbuttoned shirt to place her left hand over my heart. To feel something else.

Her left hand that I clutch to it, wanting her to know... purely and completely what she does to it...

Before I pull that beautiful, perfect, trusting and believing hand away...

Just a little...

Just enough...

To slip the ring onto it.

Because, right or wrong...

This...

Is all me.

And I couldn't wait another second to give it to her.


Isabella

Our lips are covered in my tears again.

The ones that I'm afraid may drown us both if I can't stop them.

Or if he can't make me...

Something he's trying to do and not all at once.

Because he knows how happy I am.

How happy he made me.

With his gift...

THE...

That I know was all him.

And not part of any plan.

I knew it the moment I felt it...

That it was just HIM.

Purely.

Completely.

And perfectly. My Edward.

"Thank God that t-shirt is black and not white."

"Why?" I ask him, not looking away from him to look down at it, even though he did... for just a second.

"Because white is see-through when it's wet," he answers, holding none of 'him' back.

"You're completely despicable," I tell him, and laugh, because I wouldn't trade him for anyone or anything in the world, despicable or not.

"I know," he says, wiping yet more tears from my face. "And I'm mostly sorry for that."

"Mostly might be a bit much..." I tell him, because I think it is. Completely, actually. "So, just be a little sorry."

"Okay. If you just be honest? Completely?"

"About?"

"All me."

"Well, of course I will, because that's easy... I love it."

"It?"

"Yes. It. And all of."

"Can you clarify, sweetheart? Because I don't know if you're talking about me or the pretty, that I'm going to go out on a limb and trust that you think is? Too? As in also."

"The pretty is the prettiest thing I've ever seen... after you. Does that clear up your confusion? And answer your questions?"

"Some of them."

"Well, you didn't ask any others, so..."

"No, I didn't," he answers. No apology for not in sight. Or the sound of him.

"I know. And I'm glad that you didn't. That you knew... know, I hope?... still... and will always... that you didn't need to... for what you didn't to be the most perfect thing in the world. To me."

"It was just me being me... completely... and giving in to it... what that is... and you... and letting go of the fear that it could be wrong. To or for... "

"It will never be wrong to me. Or for. All you... Never, Edward."

"I love you, Isabella. As completely as I know how to."

"I love you, too. As completely as I do. Until you show me how else to. How else I can... and will... and... "


Edward

I didn't stop her...

From saying what she was trying to say to me...

She stopped herself.

Because she'd already said enough.

And knew I'd heard.

And felt the meaning of her words.

Like she did mine.

The ones I didn't say...

Ask...

Because I didn't have to.

And didn't need to hear her answer.

I felt it.

Before the first tear even fell from her eyes.

Officially locking me out of heaven...

And sentencing me to a lifetime of it.

With her.

I felt it.

Love.

Pure...

Innocent...

All...

Her.

Just like my mother wanted for me.

Wished with her last.

And I know I'll never, ever want anything else.

Or be sorry for the eternity that I won't.

Because of this beautiful and beautifully stubborn girl who was always right under my nose.

Though is above it at the moment...

Staring at the pretty part I gave her...

The part that she waited for.

With no expectations.

And took...

Happily...

With no disappointment.

In me.

And no fear.

That I could ever be wrong...

For her.

The End...


...of PART ONE.

WHAT?

Yes. I'm serious. That's it. For Come Closer. Because he came(I KNOW he didn't, let's not get 'technical'...)... went... as close to her as he could get without yet. Which WILL come. Just in another place. Another place HERE. I'm NOT doing that 'thing' most everyone else is doing...

So, here, and with a new name, since she'll have one. And with the answers you didn't get in this one. And I know you're probably all PISSED right now... but this is my decision. My story and all that. And not one I made lightly. It was always a possibility. Now, I admit, one I thought I had dismissed... but one I obviously reconsidered. Heavily. And decided was the right one. For them and for this story. Which, don't be confused about, WILL continue. And progress in EVERY way you want it to. You'll just have to follow us to get it. And my 'author' button. Because, like I said, it will come in another place and have a new name here. Because I think it will be different, and deserves its own. Well, I know it will... and because it will, believe it should. Now, if I knew what that name was, I'd tell you... but I don't yet. Because I just can't make up my mind about it. But I'll put a clue in the summary when it posts, and no one will not know what it is.

Now... *insert deep breath here*... whatever else you think I am, and may be calling me right now, I'm not stupid. And I know that many of you, maybe even all (except for those who have already sworn they're not going anywhere but with us), may not stick around for Part Two. I get it. Why you might not. I dragged you through muck and down wrong roads and teased you... and took forever and a day to do it... and then didn't give you what you wanted... but this IS the best way to proceed. And, though it sucks if I lose all of you, I couldn't let knowing that might or would likely happen stop me from doing the right thing. Because I love you all... who've trudged through so much muck with me and this story... but–and this should come as no surprise to anyone if you've ever read one of my A/Ns–I love THEM more. And THEY are what it's always been about. Always.

So, I leave you now with a light heart. And a happy. No matter when or if you leave me and us. Because they're mine. COMPLETELY. And this is what's best for them.

Oh... and I know you probably also wanted some epic, romantic, and grand proposal... and hate the one she got... but what I wrote up there was how he did it. Before I wrote even the first word of this story. And I wasn't going to change that. Because she loved it.

That's it. Thanks for reading. And see you next time. Maybe, I know.

Chloe

aka 'Most hated author on ff earth right now.' *shrugs and waves bye*

WAIT!... No, this isn't where I say I'm kidding... it's just where I say that if you want to see the PRETTY... all 6+ carats of it... I'll post in on my fb. And probably will have by the time you read this. And one more thing... Say Goodbye is complete, too. As of last week. Not that anyone understood it... well, except me, of course.

*Hits complete and runs from the arrows*