Boys on Boards Contest

Title: The Summer Girl

Pen name: FemmeMal

Characters: Bella/Edward (AH)

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Copyright 2011- Do not copy for translation or republication without express permission of author except for consumption as a downloaded mobile product on a mobile device.

Word Count: 9279

~o~O~o~

She was a summer girl - only in town for the summer, unlike the townies who lived year round in the tiny northern waterfront community of Baytowne.

Being a summer girl meant that Bella associated certain sensory experiences with visits to her father's home. Flights into the tiny regional airport were like no other; she insisted on window seats just so she could enjoy the vast stretches of uninterrupted blue water over Lake Michigan and then only minutes later, the dark green of forests of upper Michigan broken only here and there by the occasional clearing.

On descent and ascent from the same airport she had been lucky enough to see deer running through clearings; these were rare treats she treasured, as if Mother Nature had been kind enough to give her a singular, informed peek behind Nature's otherwise random appearance.

Her excitement mounted with each mile of the road from the airport to her father's house. She rolled down the window of her dad's police cruiser to inhale deeply the scent of pines and damp forest matter, smelling the coolness of the lake before she saw or heard it as the car passed by periodic small inlets near the highway. With each new and remembered sensation she felt closer and closer to home.

Home. This place thousands of miles away from her mother and her school felt more like home to her. The dry, baked browns of Arizona where she lived with her mother felt sterile to her - this place, so richly green and blue and brown and fragrant with smells never felt that way. It felt like unlimited potential and endless possibility, waiting to take root and grow like the acrid acorns' promise lying on the moist leaf mold of the forest floor.

Conversely, return flights to Arizona were as if Bella were going to the moon. Desertification extended not only across the landscape but to the color of the buildings, the people, the air itself, as if life was sucked out of it. She loved her mother, but she could not help feel that each time she returned after summer vacation that her life was put on hold, dried up and waiting the restoration of water and green to her soul.

How odd that her mother was so bubbly, like an unexpected spring in the desert. And how odd that her father was so taciturn and restrained, in the midst of such lush summer growth. Somehow it all balanced out, but she still felt more at home with her father than with her mother.

She thought wryly to herself from time to time that her parents should have renamed her Persephone - Demeter's daughter and Hades' young wife, condemned to split her time between sylvan earth and barren hell - after their divorce when her mother moved to Arizona. The only expanses of green she would see for the nine months of the year she spent with her mom were at golf courses they passed, and then only fleeting views at a distance from a speeding car window along the highway.

~o~O~o~

In spite of her birthright - daughter of the town's constable, Charlie Swan, born in the same small berg and in spite of her emotional attachment to the tiny Baytowne - Bella was always treated with distance by the townies and with deference they accorded to her father and to strangers. Even though she grew up playing with the same kids every summer during her vacation visits to her father's home, she was still not one of them. She returned to her mother's home in Arizona at the end of each summer; the nine months of the year she spent there made her an outsider.

It was a mixed blessing; the townies could be culturally insulated and a bit behind as well as conservatively biased, and being accepted by them might mean she, too, had become like them.

On the other hand, being a summer person meant that attachments had to be reestablished every summer, valuable play time on the warm sand and in the cool pines chewed up by a period of tepid interaction and mild hazing before emotional bonds grew back.

Some relationships were easier as time passed. She'd become pen pals with a couple of the townies; she shared a mutual love of music in writing each week with Ben Cheney, exchanged gossip with Angela Weber, each keeping each other abreast of cultural trends in their respective locales. Returning as a summer person after swapping missives all year with these townie pen pals made for faster, easier transitions when summer vacation began.

There were hiccups, though, like the year she turned fourteen. The season was wetter than usual, meaning too little beach time outdoors and too much time indoors spent hunched over pinball machines, Foosball and air hockey tables and the pool tables in the small local pool hall.

It was the same summer that some Detroiters swept into town - a handful of leather-wearing, sloe-eyed teenage boys with dark stubbly chins, cousins and brothers on vacation with their families. They took over the local pool hall since there was little other entertainment to keep these city boys amused during such persistent inclement weather.

Avoiding these vacationing Detroiters was impossible under these conditions; confrontation was all too likely in the close, knotty pine confines of the pool hall. The townie boys were put out whenever any of the Detroiters hit on the local girls and the Detroiters defensive, making for a few hormone-accelerated territorial scuffles.

Even though she was officially a summer girl, Bella also became part of the scrabbled-over turf in the eyes of at least one townie boy. After narrowly losing at pool to the sexiest of the Detroit boys, she paid up by indulging in a heated snogging session in the back of the pool hall. Bella didn't welch on bets; she also didn't want to pass up an opportunity to round out her experience at kissing. Making out with Paul from downstate for fifteen minutes would surely settle her debt in full and put another notch in her belt far away from the reach of her hometown's gossips.

But Jake didn't see it that way. He'd grown up spending every summer with Bella, looking forward to seeing her when she arrived on vacation. It was as if summer didn't really begin until she arrived, the weather still chilly and the lake too cold until she brought the sun with her when school let out. He was one of the few townies who never needed to invest in reestablishing a relationship on return; his father's lifelong friendship with Bella's father reinforced their bond in spite of the changing seasons. Bella was his, damn it, not something to be taken lightly and used for entertainment by flighty city boys with soft hands and too-slick lines.

Consequently Jake mixed it up a couple times a week every week that long, cold and wet summer, attempting to exert his claim over Bella and the pool hall. Bella's dad had to intervene a few times as the town's constable, the equivalent of the chief of police - the only full-time cop on the small rural beat. The scuffles hurt Jake's standing with Bella and her dad, even though Bella was invariably part of the scene of each conflict. She understood what Jake was doing, but although she loved him as a friend, she'd never seen him as anything more than an extension of family and not as boyfriend material. His possessiveness squashed any chance their time spent together could be something more that summer and the summer following.

Bella's fifteenth summer was warmer and sunnier, and found her in sixteen-year-old Jasper Whitlock's arms every chance the two of them could slip away. Being a recently transplanted military brat, Jasper learned over the course of the previous year where all the quiet hidey-holes were, suitable for hanging out with and chatting up a pretty girl without disruption. He wormed his way softly into Bella's heart with his easy, self-effacing wit and his golden-haired, big-toothed, blue-eyed charms.

His mad skills at diving off the breakwall out over the harbor captivated Bella, but then any teenage boy who showed a willingness to push the envelope and attempt the extreme would have caught her fancy at that point. She was ripe for rebellion and ready to break free of the confines of her life, even if vicariously through boys.

Of all the local boys, only Jasper was willing to climb the half mile distance out over the water, threading carefully the corrugated metal wall to its terminus more than 20 feet above the frigid lake, then to dive in all manner of ways into the deep, clear dark water. He took her breath away each time, just like the shock of hitting the cold water did to her own body when she tried the same dives from much lower heights at shorter distances out on the breakwall.

The thrill of seeing his blond, lean and wiry body leaping up into the air like a lithe bobcat, stretching out over the lake only to disappear beneath the water's blue-green surface took her breath away, almost as much as his soft, warm if somewhat too tender kisses did after their first date at the diner.

Jasper also thrilled her with more than kisses, lying hidden with her like young fawns among the ferns and tall grass of shaded forest and sunlit fields around Baytowne. He was the first boy to make it to third base with her. She might have gone farther if encouraged, but the Southern manners he brought with him when his family relocated to town kept him from attempting anything more.

It was this well-mannered reticence which kept Jasper from becoming more to Bella than a summer fling, in spite of the breathless pleasure he brought her on the end of his long, slim fingers combined with his slow, soft kisses. She would always accord him a special place in her heart, thinking of him as a first in her life in spite of his constrained, gentle passion; he was the first to ever give her an orgasm, the first to tell her how beautiful she was as he stoked her pale creamy skin and her dark walnut tresses, the first to receive an orgasm she had given with her own small hands.

At the end of the summer they said goodbye with only a little regret and a little more gratitude for the companionship and highly personal learning experience they shared throughout the season.

~o~O~o~

Her sixteenth year was a watershed in many ways; her mother had met someone about whom her mother Renee was serious, and Bella took her first job. Her father, tied up all day long with work and increasingly worried about the amount of time Bella spent with hormone-laden local boys, kept his eyes open for any summer job opportunities to keep Bella busy and away from trouble. A full-time babysitting job watching a couple of young grade school-aged children was a perfect fit, especially since the family had a house right on the lake. Bella could spend all day on the beach with the kids, getting paid to be outdoors all summer.

The real bonus this job offered, though, was the scenery. Not the large freshwater lake more like an inland sea, not the sandy beachfront extending to the horizon in either direction, or the verdant forest that bordered the lake. No, the scenery which captured her attention each afternoon was several cottages away, in the form of a tall, lanky man-boy with floppy untamed hair the color of aged rust.

She didn't know if he was a townie or not; now that she worked all day, she had many fewer hours to re-bond with local kids her age to compare notes and exchange gossip. She didn't have many identifying marks to describe him, either, only his hair color, she thought he was probably attractive, but at more than 100 yards away and with children under foot, she couldn't get close enough to confirm this. The few locals she spoke with didn't know who he was or anything about his family.

What there was to know was right out there on the beach and on the lake; he spent as much as twelve hours a day bodyboarding on high surf days, sailboarding on windy days, wake boarding with family and friends on their boat when the water was calm. He was like a sleek seal when wet, his otherwise wild hair darker and slicked back with lake water.

Thankfully the children she babysat enjoyed the beach nearly as much as the lanky man-boy; Bella could spend her days lying supine on a blanket discretely watching him from behind her sunglasses while minding her young charges. She felt no pain in accepting after-hours babysitting assignments as it allowed her to continue to her study of the man-boy.

Bella was both satisfied and frustrated. She was making good money at an easy job, but learning nothing about the object of her discrete attentions irritated her. She was becoming obsessed with the young 'merman' with the rusty tresses after weeks and weeks of study, watching him from afar every day as he frolicked in the lake. Yet she wasn't conscious of her preoccupation; her youth and inexperience didn't provide her with enough personal insight into the nature of her fascination.

She was only aware of this: in spite of plenty of sleep each night falling asleep to the sound of the waves on the nearby lake, in spite of ample mosquito repellent, lots of sun and fresh air and the personal gratification of earning her first paycheck, Bella felt itchy and restless at the end of her first two weeks in Baytowne.

It was going to be a long summer, she thought, lying in bed in the wee hours of a summer's morning, the sky outside her window spattered heavily with stars.

~o~O~o~

A rainy Saturday afternoon came; she wasn't babysitting, had finished all the household chores and she was bored. None of the town teens were in the pool hall and television at her father's house consisted of one local network station and a very fuzzy network station from neighboring Wisconsin. Ben and Angela were each at respective summer jobs of their own and Jasper had moved onto a new girlfriend - none of them were available to hang out and kill time. During a brief break in the all-day rain, Bella grabbed a daypack and opted to ride her bike to the library to find something in the way of a mopey Regency period novel of unrequited affection; this would suit her equally mopey and self-indulgent mood.

The asphalt was wet and sandy; in some places along the way, the wet sand on the pavement interfered with tire traction, causing Bella's bike tires to slip. When she hit the brakes in front of the library, the tires slipped so hard that the bike fished around and began to tip over, tossing her onto the parking lot. Bella found herself ass-over-tea-kettle on the ground, lying on top of her daypack, her backside damp and a little scraped up along a knee and shin.

Fortunately, she thought, there's almost no one here at the library; no one will have seen her make an ass of herself yet again. She scrabbled like a turtle on its back to right herself and get to her feet.

However Bella was wrong; the thrum of ball bearing'd wheels approached rapidly, coming to a stop just behind her. A hand appeared just over her shoulder just as a deep voice asked, "Are you okay? Can I help you up?"

Bella flushed and took the hand reflexively and rose to her feet with the aide of the mystery hand. Her flush deepened and spread down her neck and chest once she turned and looked at the person who'd helped her off the ground.

Damn. The rust-haired man-boy, skateboard in hand, really was gorgeous at close range - and unfortunately, he'd now seen Bella lying prone on the ground, wet and scuffed up. Not exactly the way she would have wanted to make a first impression on this incredibly attractive young man.

Bella stuttered rapidly, "I'm fine, thank you," through her embarrassment and quickly scurried to grab her bike off the ground, park it - well, threw it - in the bike rack and run into the library. She couldn't even meet her rescuer's gaze again, keeping her eyes down for fear of making an even bigger ass of herself. She hoped if she buried herself in stacks of fiction novels that her heated flush would cool off more rapidly and no one else would notice her discomfiture. Perhaps her rescuer would skate off to the nearby park where all the other local skateboarders spent their afternoons and forget about her - she hoped.

The library's interior was hushed, more so than she expected. In spite of the inclement weather very few locals were there; just an old man reading the newspaper, a middle-aged woman using the public computer, and the library aide behind the counter. The familiar library smell of old books and newer carpeting eased her nerves; it helped her push away her embarrassment and mentally shake off the spill like wet sand falling away from the soles of her shoes. This was one of her favorite places in her world, radiating comfort and security which she so needed now.

Bella went directly to the bookshelves she'd frequented so many times over the years - the shelves with Austen novels - where she debated about re-reading Northanger Abbey again. Maybe she should branch out, move forward in terms of history or backward. Perhaps she should try Fielding's Tom Jones, or skip forward to something far more contemporary like Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale; either would be more challenging in terms of subject matter.

She was so engrossed in her deliberations that she didn't realize she was being watched for several minutes. She felt rather than heard her observer approach; by the time she was fully aware of their presence, it was too late.

Dressed in a snug grey t-shirt and khaki cargo shorts with a skateboard tucked behind him in his backpack, the object of her daily study stood next to her at arm's length, close enough that she could feel his body heat. Close enough that she could smell him; he smelled not unpleasantly of male sweat, soap and the outdoors.

She had not escaped mortification after all; her embarrassment deepened at having not only been found lying prone on the wet pavement like human detritus, but having been tracked into a place that had long felt like a private sanctuary.

"Hey...I think this is yours. It was on the pavement where you fell," he said, holding out a cellphone toward her.

She looked at the phone, and looked up at him as she reached out for it.

"Yes, it's mine," she choked, "It must have fallen out of my daypack." She felt like a freak for having run off so quickly that she'd not even noticed her phone had fallen on the ground.

"I hope it still works okay. My name is Edward, by the way." He looked at her expectantly, one eyebrow raised as a slight smile twitched at the corner of his mouth.

Bella froze like the proverbial deer in the headlights, staring into his eyes - his green eyes, the color of the harbor water on a sunny day.

The hint of a smile on his face disappeared; now he looked puzzled. "Are you really okay?" he asked.

She finally blinked, coming to her senses. Bella was usually a little bashful with strangers, but this was ridiculous; she tried to push start herself internally to overcome a bizarre and sudden surge of conflicting emotions.

"Uh, yes, I'm fine, really. Thanks for picking up my phone," she finally managed to spit out.

"Oh, it's no problem. You look really familiar; are you from here?" he asked.

"I've spent every summer here with my father in Baytowne, so I'm here for part of the year. But I'm not really from here. I'm sorry, I didn't introduce myself. I'm Bella." She was starting to feel a little more comfortable; a smallish smile bloomed as the blush that had covered her cheeks started to subside. Her heart thumped oddly and faster than usual, though; she could feel its syncopated rhythm as she looked into Edward's eyes.

"It's nice to meet you, Bella." His smile returned, this time a little more broadly, his eyes squinting a bit. "Don't let me keep you; I need to go find something to read anyhow. Maybe I'll talk to you soon?"

"Sure, I'd like that. Here, let me give you my cellphone number," she said as she shuffled her daypack to look for a pen and some paper.

He chuckled and reached out to her, placing a warm hand on her forearm. "I hope I don't offend you but I took the liberty of adding my number to your contacts and adding mine to yours already." Edward reached into the cargo pocket of his shorts and pulled out his phone; the display still showed his contacts menu. "I don't know a lot of people in the area yet and another friendly voice might be nice."

Bella's eyes lit up as she swung her daypack onto her back. "Oh, no, that's quite alright, although I must warn you the cell coverage here can be pretty bad if you don't already know that." He sure looks and sounds too good to be true, she thought, but a plausible excuse for not answering his calls would be best if he proved to be otherwise.

"I work Mondays through Fridays this summer, from 7:30 to 5:30. There may be times I can't get to my phone during work days," she said, hesitantly. She was giving herself another out, just in case this was too good to be true; she'd never given any boy her number this quickly, let alone allow one to take her number without her permission in advance.

"Okay, look forward to talking with you soon, Bella. Have a nice afternoon." Edward backed out of the stacks and slipped around the corner, never taking his eyes off Bella until he disappeared behind the end of the bookshelves. Bella released a deep sigh, feeling as if she'd been holding her breath since Edward first appeared next to her.

Wow. How was she going to stay focused on selecting a book? All she could think about now was Edward's green eyes.

~o~O~o~

Bella struggled the rest of the afternoon with simple tasks; she couldn't concentrate on picking out books, she couldn't focus on the books she'd chosen once she'd made it home from the library. She nearly cut her finger slicing vegetables for dinner, luckily nipping only the end of her fingernail. Would he call her today? Tomorrow? Was he aware that she'd been watching him from the beach every day? Did she dare mention this - ah hell, could she even bring it up without dying of embarrassment?

Hey Edward, you're my daily obsession; I can't take my eyes off you when you're boarding.

Yeah, that's normal and doesn't scream of desperation at all.

Her father came home and asked about her day and whether she'd done anything fun. She told him she went to the library - and that's all she shared.

Charlie wasn't ready for discussion about boys, even though the heated conflicts between his best friend Billy's son Jake and the Detroiters had happened nearly two years ago. He still saw Bella as his little girl; he surely would go off if he knew that his little girl had exchanged phone numbers with a young man she really didn't know.

It was a pretty big step for her father to o wrap his head emotionally around his daughter having a regular summer job as it was. Bella simply hoped that Edward wouldn't call at the wrong times where Charlie was concerned.

The rest of the evening went by as usual for a damp Saturday in Baytowne. Angela called Bella and asked if she wanted to come over and watch a movie since neither of them had dates. They agreed to have a sleepover; Bella walked the couple of blocks over to Weber's house, her daypack loaded with sleepwear and a selection of chick flick DVDs she'd brought with her that summer. The girls stayed up late, painting each other's nails and gossiping while watching tear jerkers.

Angela shared with Bella that she was crushing on Ben Cheney, whom both of them had long considered a friend. Something over the course of the last year had changed - maybe the appearance of Ben's facial hair and incipient shaving, along with his leaner, firmer, more manly appearance performed the magic, who knows? It's a mystery how this all works.

Bella had been reluctant to disclose anything about the library episode, in part because she'd been a klutz again, in part because she was still leary about letting an unknown boy get familiar with her. And in part she'd been tight-mouthed because she'd never really told Angela how much time she spent watching the board-bound man-boy each day; she'd only asked whether Angela had known anything about an unnamed rust-haired guy who appeared on the beach on the bay.

But now that Angela had let her hair down about her feelings for Ben, Bella felt comfortable with relating the entire situation to Angela. Angela was tickled pink for Bella; this was the most excitement that she'd heard in Bella's voice or even Bella's missives during the last year, since Bella's relationship with Jasper.

"Have you heard from him yet today?" Angela asked. "Have you tried to call or text him?"

"Uh, no, that seems a bit needy, don't you think?"

"Bella, it's not like those old-fashioned rules about girls not calling boys apply any longer. Summer's short, you can't waste time by pussy-footing around." It always amazes Bella when Angela, the pastor's daughter, is more assertive about boys than she is. On the other hand, Angela's father only packs the Bible and is paid to be optimistic, where Bella's dad packs multiple firearms and is paid to be pessimistic. Vive la différence.

Angela couldn't persuade Bella to take matters into her own hand and text Edward that night. They went to bed still whispering some time well after midnight, cellphones at the ready but unused as they each yawned in turn and drifted off to sleep.

~o~O~o~

The next morning the girls woke up rather early to the sound of the alarm clock; the Weber household didn't sleep in on Sundays since this was Pastor Weber's biggest "business" day of the week. Bella got dressed, said goodbye to Angela and skipped out to walk home, getting out from under foot as the Weber household prepared to go to church. Bella only went to church occasionally, and then only less frequently to Pastor Weber's church; Bella's mother was a "relaxed" Catholic while Charlie had been raised in the Lutheran Church, and neither of them had really agreed on a single church during their marriage.

This meant Bella was free to keep an open mind and an open Sunday morning, for the most part. She grabbed a slice of toast and a mug of hot chocolate before settling in with a book after she made her way home. Charlie was off fishing with Billy Black as he usually did on weekends, worshipping instead the pagan gods of fishery from the back of a small boat. It made for a quiet morning in the Swan household; the sun shining in the windows illuminating lazy dust motes in the air, the sound of an antique clock on the mantel ticking slowly, the hushed sound of waves on the beach just down the street all made Bella feel dozy. She drowsed off, slumping down on the couch with her book flopping onto her chest.

Some small sound woke her; she started, not recognizing what it was that brought her out of a rather heavy snooze. At first she thought it was a June beetle in the house. What an odd thing to think of, coming out of her nap - June beetles flying inside.

It was a buzzing, but she realized after she shook off the sleepiness that it was her phone. There was two missed calls and a text message. She'd just missed a call from her mother; Renee must have tried earlier, too, just after Bella had fallen deeply asleep. Great; her mom would be all twitty about not being able to reach Bella on Sunday when Renee knew Bella would be home. Bella would call her later in the evening, about supper time in Arizona.

And there was a single text message sent about 2:00 a.m. from an unfamiliar number was there, too.

Nuts. Bella hadn't checked her phone this morning when she woke up, not expecting any texts or voicemails overnight. It was from a 312 area code - definitely not from a phone issued here in state. She opened the text, suspecting the identity of the sender.

Sorry to txt so late, can't sleep. How are your books? - E

Bella smiled to herself, before she sent a reply.

Books not as entertaining as expected. What about your books, any good? - B

Her heart raced a little.

Perhaps the summer would not be as long or slow as she'd thought after all.

~o~O~o~

She waited.

And waited.

She went for a walk down to the harbor; the day was cool, the wind a bit breezy out of the north. Definitely not good weather for the beach, even though it was just past the summer solstice.

She paced along the dock, pulling her hoodie around her; there weren't many boats out, the light surf discouraging the casual weekend boaters who came from Marquette more than thirty miles away. None of the local kids were out on the breakwall, either; the choppy water would discourage divers as well since there might be an undertow in these conditions.

She wondered whether Edward was boarding or not; she didn't know enough about the kinds of boarding he did to assess whether conditions were conducive to bodyboarding or wind surfing. She wasn't going to indulge her urge to be stalker-ish. A walk to the beach might allow her to see Edward if he was boarding, but he might also think she was looking for him.

Bella walked home, put spaghetti sauce on to simmer, and cracked open one her books to read.

And waited.

~o~O~o~

A sun-browned, wind-burned Charlie came home about five p.m. with fresh lake trout and salmon. Quel surprise, thought Bella. She prepped the fish in smaller portions for the freezer, leaving out enough for dinner Monday night. Father and daughter sat down to a dinner of spaghetti and salad, dining in silence as they so often did. This didn't bother Bella; although she often wondered if this is what it felt like to live in a religious order where vows of silence were maintained, her father's silence was a respite after nine months of her mother's too-perky chattering about everything and nothing. Dishes were done, leftovers refrigerated, kitchen floor swept - nothing left to do but read.

And wait.

At seven p.m., Bella went to her room to call her mother, bracing herself for the hurricane onslaught of questions which were sure to come. Where were you, why didn't you answer, why didn't you call sooner, have you met any boys...in other words, the usual drill. But she was ready and able to deliver answers crisply and promptly.

I was at Angela Weber's this morning after a sleepover. Yes, Pastor Weber's daughter.

I didn't hear my phone, I'm sorry.

I was busy today, I'm sorry.

No, I haven't met any boys.

She winced as she lied, hoping her mother didn't detect the lie. Bella wasn't ready for the question based on a very brief exchange predicated on another one of Bella's all too frequent accidents. She decided to change tactics and go on the offense.

Mom, I have a summer job, babysitting for the Johnsons' two kids.

There's an eight-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy.

They're good, they mind; they like being outdoors most of the day.

Yes, the Johnsons that have the cottage on the lake; uh-huh, you went to school with Mr. Johnson's older brother.

No, they only have the two elementary school kids, no older boys.

No, Mom, no boys.

Another wince at her mother's sideways second request as to whether Bella had met any boys. Renee must either have forgotten the first query or she's psychic.

Or perhaps Renee is indulging in wishful thinking, hoping for a distraction which might make the direction of this conversation a little less impactful, and let Renee retain the fleeting impression she was still the adult in charge. It will become clear why Renee was anxious to talk with Bella earlier in the morning.

You're getting married?

How did Phil ask?

When and where are you going to get married?

Of course I'll be your maid of honor.

Yes, I'll help you with the arrangements - but you're not having a big wedding, are you?

What are you doing about your dress?

Can you send me photos?

Will the wedding and honeymoon interfere with Phil's traveling?

Have you told Charlie yet?

They continue for another fifteen minutes with Bella now firmly in the role of inquisitor. Bella is happy for her mom, but it will be up to her to smooth out everything having been the more responsible of the two. Renee agrees to Bella's demand that she'll break it to Charlie, but Bella knows this means she will have to provide a buffer as best as she can to her introspective father.

They say goodbye and end their call.

The phone call with Renee was so emotionally intense that Bella never heard the text message arrive in her inbox.

~o~O~o~

The landline rings over analog phone sets in the kitchen and her father's bedroom. Bella knows it's Renee, calling to talk with Charlie; she can hear the low-pitched rumble of her father's voice as he answers. She can picture the twenty feet of pig-tailed phone cord dangling from the wall to the receiver, bouncing over the kitchen table. The need for a buffer won't be immediate; Charlie will digest this news tonight, stew over it tomorrow, and by Tuesday or Wednesday Bella will have to come up with a planned distraction.

Otherwise there will be too many emptied Busch Light cans in the sink over the near term, and her father will complain of backaches from falling asleep on the couch.

Bella will have to call Billy Black, no doubt, and she'll probably be alone more often in the evening and more so on the weekends for the rest of the summer. There will surely be more fish to put in the freezer; she makes a mental note to add freezer paper and plastic wrap to the grocery list.

It could be worse, she supposes, than buying more freezer paper and plastic wrap to deal with her stoic father's reaction to the remarriage of the love of his life. If the shoe had been on the other foot - if Bella had to help her mother get over her father's remarriage - well, there would be counseling and drug therapy involved.

Not to mention what Renee might need. Thankfully Charlie would only need more fishing and more baseball.

~o~O~o~

Bella was in her bedroom unwrapping her wet hair from a towel when she noticed that her phone was flashing.

Damn. She'd gotten a text message from the 312 number. It was too late to call, too as her father was soon to head for bed.

Books now read but not very satisfying. Am looking for more mental stimulus. - E

Was that a hint? Was this a good time to ask about the area code, too? Bella had checked it earlier in the day over the internet, tethering her cellphone to her laptop for wireless service; it was from the greater Chicago area. Was Edward a summer person, too? She decided to play it cool for now; perhaps if they talked on the phone soon she could ask him.

What kind of mental stimulus are you looking for? Am rather bored yet, too. - B

Was he near the phone? Would he answer yet tonight? She didn't have to wait - at all.

Would like more history and art and science, am trying to make up my mind about college. - E.

Me too. Don't know if I want to teach or do something related to writing. - B.

What kind of writing? what kind of teaching? - E

Journalism, maybe. Teaching English, perhaps. What about you? - B

Can't decide whether to do Architecture or Pre-Med. - big difference in coursework, huh? - E

Wow, I guess. Why those two fields? English and Journalism much closer. - B

Why don't you meet me at the library tomorrow after dinner? We can talk about it. - E

Okay - 7PM if that works for you. Meet me in Reference section. :-) - B

7PM is great. See you then. Goodnight. - E

Huh. That didn't take long at all. After tomorrow she would have no choice but to tell her mother if she asked that she'd actually met a boy.

And one whom Bella found quite compelling.

~o~O~o~

She woke up from a dream of green water and warm sand. Except the water really wasn't water, more like the water became eyes watching her.

And the temperature of the sand was like that of flesh and skin, firm and at the same time yielding to the touch.

Bella tossed and turned; the sheets felt too warm, in spite of the coolness of the northern evening air. The restless and itchy feeling had returned, keeping her from falling back to sleep. Her mind was working overtime.

It couldn't be helped; there was only one thing she could think of to do which might help her fall back to sleep at this hour of the night.

And no, warm milk would not do the trick.

Her left hand moved slowly under her sleep camisole up to her left nipple, her fingers softly tweaking the deeper pink skin, sending a warm, shooting and tingling feeling down to her groin. She moved her right hand under the waist band of her sleep shorts and again underneath her underwear, until she reached her softest, moistest flesh. She rubbed her pubic bone, placing pressure above her clitoris with the heel of her hand as she cupped herself, continuing to pinch her left nipple at the same time.

Her body responded, moisture beginning to seep as her tenderest flesh began to grow warm and swell. She slipped her middle finger between her folds, spreading her moisture up and down from the the bottom of her folds to most sensitive part of her clitoris, pressing gently as she slid her finger up and down and in and out and again.

So good, but not quite enough. She closed her eyes and thought about Edward's broad, lean form, the feel of his warm hands as he'd pulled up off the wet pavement; she could smell him almost as if he was standing there next to her bed, the memory of his masculine sweat mixed with soap and outdoors embedded so strongly in her mind. She imagined herself reaching up to wrap her arms around his neck and then reaching further to run her hands in his hair as she pulled him down to meet her lips.

So close...the itch was growing, the pressure increasing; she increased the tempo with which she stroked herself, the moistness between her legs now sloppy. She imagined running her hands across his pectorals and down to the V muscled along either side of his stomach tracing down to his groin, and then down even further, below the sparse trail of fine, rust-colored hair...

The pressure reached a plateau; she couldn't imagine what his erection would look like, although she hungered to know. Instead she shifted her focus as she changed the tempo and finger pressure along her clit, now cupping her breast firmly and then twisting her left nipple just a bit more firmly. She could feel a faint bead of sweat forming above her lip, at her hairline, at the crease behind her knees now that she was so close to the edge, the pressure in her groin beginning to increase again.

She thought of his lake water green eyes, wondering how they would look were she below him, her legs spread and heels dug into his backside as he came. Would his eyes be open wide or closed tightly if she took him in her mouth?

Her intense curiosity was enough to push her over the edge with a deep shudder.

Sleep came again quickly.

~o~O~o~

Charlie had been gone for more than half an hour by the time Bella got up the next morning. She ate half a toasted bagel washed down with orange juice and jumped on her bike to head to work.

Bella made the Johnson kids their breakfasts, helped them make their beds and encouraged them to get dressed. The weather was sunny and a little warmer than the day before - perfect for playing outdoors. She slathered them and herself with sunblock and sprayed their clothing with bug spray, gathered up beach blankets and towels and followed the kids to the beach as was their habit this last couple of weeks.

By eleven a.m., the object of her attention was on the beach, too, stretching and rubbing in sunblock. The wind was calm; there would be no bodyboarding or windsurfing today - a boat anchored in front of the beach was being prepped for wake boarding instead. By noon a couple other young men had arrived on the beach as well, walking from beach to the boat carrying life vests and coolers. One of them looked rather familiar.

And the first one, the man-boy with the floppy rust-colored hair, appeared to look in Bella's direction as she shepherded the kids back up to their parents' cottage for lunch. She tried to look discretely, but the kids were taking up too much of her attention to do so either effectively or without looking obviously like she was checking him out.

Her phone buzzed while she finished picking up after the kids' peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, alerting her to a text message.

She grabbed the phone after wiping the youngest child's face, following both of the now-sated children back out to the beach.

She opened the message.

Is that you, Bella? Wave, please. - E

She hadn't looked up yet, nearly tripping on her way down the dune as she headed down to the beach. She looked up to check the children and then away down the beach; the boat had pulled anchor with the outboard running, three young men standing the boat.

And one with rusty hair looking in her direction back toward shore, his hands cupped over his brown to shade his eyes.

She waved tentatively.

He waved back.

She smiled.

She could see his smile - it was broad and his teeth so white, that even at more than 100 yards he looked very happy.

The boat pulled away farther from the beach, with a larger young man steering the boat out toward the east side of the bay.

Her afternoon was made by that wave and that smile, but she suddenly felt rather alone, almost lonely.

~o~O~o~

The Johnson kids, Sarah and Zach, had been taking naps every afternoon. Although school-aged, the siblings would start to scrap and fight with each other about two or three every day; she'd sent them to their respective rooms for a ten-minute time out the third afternoon this happened. When the children didn't come out after ten minutes, Bella peeked in on them; they'd been far too quite for nearly five minutes at that point.

And she'd found them softly snoring in their own beds, tuckered out from all the fresh air and sunshine.

She decided instead she would preempt the afternoon squabbles with a quiet time, to be followed by a reading period. She'd read a story to them together about 2:30 p.m., then the two would read quietly to themselves for thirty minutes. But they never managed to get past the first page of their own books after winding down with Bella; they'd fall asleep and nap for nearly an hour every day, waking up chipper and ready to go back outside and play until their parents came home for dinner.

On the second Monday after beginning her babysitting gig, Mrs. Johnson asked for a more detailed explanation of the children's daily schedule. Either Mr. or Mrs. Johnson had asked each night how the children had done, but this was a different request. Bella explained that the kids were outside as much as possible, eating a light healthy snack around ten a.m. and three p.m. if they wanted one with lunch as close to noon each day. Bella had learned from her mother - a long-time kindergarten teacher - that children thrive on regularity and exercise, and she tried to ensure that Sarah and Zach got that. She also told Mrs. Johnson about the squabbling each day, apparently solved with a daily reading/nap period.

Mrs. Johnson had noticed that the children were irritable and cranky over the weekend, and she hadn't offered them a nap. She'd also noticed that the children were better behaved in the evening once the daily reading/nap routine had started. She was so grateful for the pointer and the improvement in the kids' behavior that she gave Bella a raise - another $25 a week on top of her base pay. It was so worth it not to have to deal with temper tantrums in the evening, said Mrs. Johnson.

Bella wondered if perhaps she might not make a pretty decent teacher after all. She thought more about this while the kids read to themselves - ahem, napped - this Monday afternoon. She could still hear the drone of an outboard motor out across the lake.

She smiled, then sent a text message reply.

Yes, it's me, I waved back. Text me when you're back from wake boarding. - B

~o~O~o~

Bella was engrossed in reading The Handmaiden's Tale when her phone buzzed with a text message.

Back on shore. Can you talk? Call me. - E

She punched in his number; he picked up immediately.

"Hello? Bella?"

"Hi, Edward. Did you have a nice time on the lake?"

"Yeah, I did, had a great time with my buddies. Hope the boat wasn't too loud; I hate it myself when outboards run too close to the cottages."

"No, it was fine; I could hear the engine but you were far enough away that it wasn't too noisy."

"What are you doing at the Johnson's cottage? I wondered when I ran into you at the library Saturday if you were the same person I saw on the beach every day."

"I'm babysitting for the Johnsons through the summer; they work in Marquette just as they do all year, but they want their kids to be able to enjoy the beach while school is out."

"Wow. Then it's you I've been watching every day...um, I didn't mean that to come out like I'm stalking you or anything."

Bella bit her lip to keep from blurting out that she'd been watching him every day, too. It took everything she had to keep from laughing.

"Yeah, I guess so, that's mean with Sarah and Zach on the beach, Monday through Friday. I may be here from time to time when Mr. and Mrs. Johnson go out for the evening, too."

"Great! I could see you almost every day, then; it's nice to know there's someone nearby during the day who's close to my age that I can talk with. The residents in the cottages on either side of my folks' camp are elderly and not exactly good conversationalists - old man Simpson is more of a 'stay-off-my-beach' kind of guy."

"That'd be great; I'm sure the Johnsons wouldn't mind as long as the kids are safe, well-fed and not excessively bored."

"What are you doing right now?"

"Um...waiting for the kids to wake up from their naps. They will be snoozing for another 30 minutes or so."

"If it's okay with you, I'll stop by and we can chat about going to the library later. Will that work?"

"Sure, meet me on the deck facing the water; you can walk up from the dune over the beach."

"'Kay, be there in a flash."

It seemed like she had just put her cellphone down on the side table next to her deckchair when Edward stepped up onto the deck.

Good gods and goddesses. He looked highly touchable, his form echoing her imagination late last night; his skin was tanning, slightly flushed now from spending the day out on the water, a spattering of freckles chasing along his shoulders and across his nose. His moss green board shorts sagged just a bit in the front, exposing a narrow band of white skin which must not have been exposed previously to sun. He had a sparse amount of chest hair, a little more blond-red at the center of his chest, a little darker brown-red as it trailed south toward his groin. His toned, lean legs were also covered with the same brown-red hair; his narrow feet were bare.

Bella was stunned into speechlessness when he raised his Ray-Bans to rest them on the top of his head; his eyes were even brighter, greener in contrast with his sun-kissed cheekbones.

"Hey, nice to see you, and this time outdoors on a nicer day," he said.

"Um-hum...yeah." Way to be articulate, Bella, so smooth. "Um, make yourself at home, have a seat. Can I get you something to drink?"

"Cold water would be great, Bella, thanks. I'm feeling a little dehydrated after all that sun today."

Bella tried hard not to race into the kitchen to get him a glass of water. She handed him a large tumbler. He took it from her, but put his hand over hers in doing so, looking directly into her eyes.

"Thanks, Bella."

She could only nod; she couldn't help but stare as his Adam's apple bobbed slowly, up and down as he drank from the glass. He'd shut his eyes as he drank, but opened them again, looking directly at her. She felt a little dizzy, stumbling backwards into her chair on the deck. She had to look down and away for a second to regain her composure; she'd never felt this goofy and out of sorts before around a boy. What was wrong with her?

He set the now empty tumbler on the side table between their chairs, then leaned forward towards her, resting his elbows on his knees and folding his hands together, staring intently into her eyes.

"So, about tonight...we'll meet at seven in Reference, but I'd like to ask a favor of you. Can you help me pull up information about a list of universities?"

"Sure - if you help me do the same thing when we're done with your research."

"No problem, that's only fair. Wait, maybe I should ask you if you're ready for this; not everybody is, depending on how far along they are in school."

Bella paused for a moment, looking at him quizzically. Ah, he's really asking how old she is and what year she is in high school - so smooth.

"Well, I'll be sixteen at the end of summer, just after school starts and I'll be starting my junior year; I'm going to have to take the SAT exam this year so I need to have both my studies and my test prep in sync with a direction after high school. What about you?" she asked, smiling and hoping for a particular answer.

"Me too, I'm sixteen just this month and starting my junior year. At the rate I'm going and the pressure I'm getting from my family, I'm going to need all the time I have and all the information I can get my hands on to make an informed decision about college and my career." He gave a half-smile, as if concerned that wasn't the answer she wanted to hear.

Nope, thought Bella, not a problem at all, doggone close to perfect. "Okay, seven it is. Maybe we'll concentrate on your schools this week, and next week we'll research schools for me. Will that work for you?"

Bella smiled again, feeling proud of herself for having asked for another meeting with Edward; it wasn't a date, but it was the next best thing. Maybe better since they were going to be working on something that would likely affect their personal futures - together or not.

"Yeah, works perfectly for me, I'm open Monday evening next week for you," he said, smiling broadly. "I'd better go; I'll bet your charges are going to be up from their naps any time now."

He stood up and offered his right hand to her to help her up to her feet. His hand was warm, firm, and didn't let go of her smaller left hand; he gave it a gentle squeeze and then leaned in swiftly to place a soft peck at the right corner of her mouth with firm, warm lips.

She looked shocked, her clear brown eyes wide with surprise, her eyebrows now up in her hairline; her mouth sagging open just a bit, her lips trembling. She couldn't say a thing, only gaze back into his eyes.

"See you later, Bella. I'm looking forward to your help at the library." He smiled more widely; he lowered his Ray-Bans over his hooded, darkened eyes, squeezed her hand again and let go of it as he turned to step down off the deck and away over the dune.

"Um, 'bye, Edward, see you later," she said softly. Her knees were shaking; once again, her powers of sentient speech had failed her in his presence.

This summer was going to rock her world, she thought, not yet ready to admit to herself that Edward had already rocked it and hard.

Only a thoroughly-rocked teenage girl would ever look forward so eagerly to spending a clear summer's evening in a small town public library with a teenage man-boy boarder, after all.

Author's Note: Baytowne is a fictionalized location, a small village in Michigan's Upper Peninsula located on the shores of Lake Superior and about 30-40 miles away from the largest population center, Marquette.