Sheepish A/N: I'm sorry—I thought that I'd already posted this final chapter months ago.
Recap: Bella meets Edward/Skater Boy in the empty swimming pool next door, which happens to be Jake's old house. She later discovers that Edward is a vampire when a nomad group of SkaterVamps tries to attack her. Jake, her werewolf best friend, drives Bella to Edward's house to confront him where they discover his artwork and they learn more about each other.
Chapter 3: Skate or Die
Parents and teachers could never understand.
My disdain for their authority.
Career and a future didn't interest me.
I'd rather skate instead, I need to be free!
I'll skate or, I'll skate or, I'll skate or die!
Skate or Die—Bones Brigade
"Date me," Edward states again, for possibly the fourth or fifth time, but who's really keeping track? He's sitting across from me at the tree house table, where we had our first meal together. Well, where I ate the sprouts sandwich that he brought me.
My English textbook is spread open and I'm trying to write notes with my left hand in the margins. He's been accompanying me here all week while I try to get my homework done without my mom hovering over me and my cast. Suddenly, this old tree house has a new purpose: a sanctuary, a library, a meeting place.
"You want me to write for you?" he offers, holding his hand out.
"I'm sure you've studied Frost quite a bit, huh?" I say, not giving up my pencil. I don't need anyone to write my notes for me, even if it takes three times as long for me to do it myself and my writing looks like a kindergartner's.
"Some," he smiles. "So…you still haven't answered my questions."
"No. To both," I respond. "And 'date me' is not really a question." More like a command? Request? Plea?
"I asked you if I could take you out on a date when I first walked in here."
"And I answered you."
"Maybe I don't like your answer." Skater Boy says, laughing. All smiles, no pressure. He gets up and snatches his board from the corner of the tree house and places it wheels up on the table. He's moving at human pace, so I watch him carefully as he sleekly bends over, his suspenders swinging from side to side as they hang from his dark grey jeans.
He somehow pulls a tool out and fiddles with the trucks and wheels on the board before pausing to look at me. He knows he has my full attention and I watch as he purposefully blinks his amber-colored eyes, long lashes fluttering. Stupid vampire. "Date me?" he whispers.
I roll my eyes and don't answer.
"It's not as if I'm asking you to marry me."
"We just met."
"In person," he corrects. "I've known about you for years."
Yeah, like that's not creepy at all…except it's not because there is a certain something between us that I cannot deny. And, it isn't his fault that his sister has precognition.
"Fine," I say. "One date."
He simply says a polite "thank you" and flicks one of the sets of wheels on his board. The snapping constant sound makes me smile against my will; it's familiar and not all at once.
Edward shows up for our date unexpectedly. I thought that once I agreed, we would hash out the details, the time, the place. Instead, he shows up one day afterschool, skateboard in one hand, a bouquet of pink Mylar balloon hearts in the other.
"Ummm…" I say when I'm a few steps away from him.
I don't want to hurt his feelings but I don't want to encourage him to repeat this action. "A bit."
"I know," he says, shrugging and handing me the bouquet anyway. "Alice."
"Are you going to blame her for everything?"
"No. Ready for our date?"
"Um. Am I dressed okay?" I'm wearing a torn-up old pair of jeans and the same dark blue peasant top that I wore after the first night I met him. The night of a blue-tinted dream. He, on the other hand, is dressed in a white button down and far nicer jeans.
"You look perfect."
He holds his hand out for me and I'm tempted to shove the balloon strings back at him, but instead I switch them to my casted hand and intertwine my fingers with his. To my surprise, he walks us to some fancy-looking sports car. It's dark blue with tinted windows and what looks like a British license plate.
"You didn't think we were going on my board, did you?"
I shake my head at him. He's going all out. In fact, he opens the door for me, places my backpack, the balloons and his board in the trunk, then settles into the driver's seat.
"Do I get to know where we're going?"
"I've heard that new Italian restaurant has excellent mushroom ravioli."
"Will you be eating?"
Skater Boy smirks and eyes me up and down quickly. "No."
"Isn't it too early for dinner?"
"We're going somewhere else first," he says. "Now get your seat belt on, please."
I have barely complied with his request when he revs the engine and we're off. He's not holding back at all.
We spend a year together, Edward and I. A year of skating, holding hands on long walks, hiking to find hot springs, stolen moments away from the sun. A year of firsts: melting ice cream cones for him, snowboarding lessons and mountain trips for me, making love together.
Edward continues his sculptures, and adds sketches of me to the mix when I refuse to let him make a three-dimensional version of me. He makes outstretched arms from broken up boards, and abstract shapes of metal and clay.
When our year is up, I say it simply.
"Okaaay," he answers slowly, eyebrows furrowed so I'm uncertain if he understands or not. I mean, he has a sister who can see the future, so he had to know, right?
"I'm breaking up with you," I clarify. "I'm sorry." When he doesn't answer except for a small nod of acceptance, I continue, "Lots of couples break up at the end of high school."
"Okay," he answers again. "But…I think I deserve an explanation at the very least."
This is where it gets tricky. I don't have the best explanation.
"Isabella," he says, and I know he's serious. He only uses my full name when he's angry or else in softer moments when he's blissed out after sex and he says my name reverently as we lay in bed together afterwards. A teasing, lilting voice. Now "Isabella" sounds foreign, tense, fearful and accepting all at once.
"If you want to see other people now that you're starting college, that's fine. If you just want to be free to meet others, that's fine. If you just don't…love me anymore, that's fine too. But. I. Deserve. An. Explanation."
We're angled towards each other, sitting sort of side by side on his couch in mirroring poses. His elbows are on his knees and he's leaning forward as he keeps eye contact with me, gaze intense and unmoving. He's never looked more like a vampire to me than at this moment. Yet I am unafraid.
"I love you, Edward, that isn't it."
I hold up my hand to ask him to give me time to organize my thoughts. "I…I just don't see us growing old together."
"I don't age, Bella."
We have sex for the last time. It sounds so stupid, but it's true. When my friend Jessica broke up with Mike, they did the same thing and I scoffed at her. But, this, this is Edward and me. It's not angry or tearful, it just is. It's one last time, a goodbye.
The next day as I'm re-organizing my closet, deciding what to give away, leave at home or take to the dorms with me, I hear the familiar sound of wheels on concrete. It's similar to last year when I first met Edward, except this time it must be Jake or Seth in the pool.
I resist the urge to go over there, just in case it's Skater Boy and I carefully climb up into the treehouse instead. And I'm right, sort of. It is Edward. I watch him skate for several long minutes, even when he makes eye contact with me. I'm not really hiding; I know he can recognize my presence here whether or not he can see me. I just cannot confront him if I want to move on.
The next three days, Edward avoids skating in the empty pool next door, but he skates by the front of my house. Repeatedly. For hours. Finally I come out of the house before my dad accuses him of being a stalker, even though he kind of is.
"What happened to 'good-bye'?" I ask as I walk out barefoot to the sidewalk. The grass is spiky and slightly underwatered beneath my feet. The somewhat irritating and itchy feeling grounds me, literally, so I know I can say what needs to be said. Edward skates to a stop directly in front of me. I can feel my parents' eyes watching us from the windows.
"What do you mean?" he asks innocently.
"You know what I mean. My parents think you're stalking me."
"Kinda." I cross my arms in front of my chest. He's beautiful, slightly disheveled but beautiful and I love him. But, but I have to do this. For my own sanity. It's selfish, but sometimes your own self should come first. A life with a vampire would never work. Or, who am I kidding? He would tire of me in a few years or when he found his mate and I would be left even more broken-hearted than I already am. A girl has to have some sense of self-preservation.
"I apologize. I did say that I wanted you to live your life and I do. But, but…you're mine, Bella."
But I'm not. I'm not his. I am not a possession, a pet. I'm merely a human girl, and this is as far as our relationship can take us.
"I truly am sorry," he continues when I don't answer. "I won't 'stalk' you anymore."
I walk back toward my house slowly, hoping he understands now why I had to break things off. I can see the curtains in the living room shake close. What can I do but walk away from him with my life?
Our first time together isn't exactly what I had expected. In a good way. My cast has just come off—yes I've barely known him that many weeks—but time is just a number. I'm crouching near him on the bed, mimicking what I imagine him to look like while hunting: on all fours like a mountain lion about to pounce gracefully on its prey.
He laughs at me, of course. "Come here, kitten," he says. So I climb over to where he's lying down. He laughs one more time, then kisses me quickly before pulling off my tee-shirt. See? Gracefully.
I smile through my kisses until they become more passionate, then I sit down more properly on him.
He's hard, of course. He's a vampire. My lips are on his, wet, warm, delicious, and I think we're in for another marathon dry humping session when he sighs.
"Mmm, I love your backside." His hands slide up to underneath my short shorts, slipping beneath my underwear, gently, carefully, as if to prove his point. Tingles. Nerve endings. Soft and cool.
"My backside?" I lift my face away from his.
"Yes, your backside."
"What is it? My back or my side?"
"You mean my ass?" I laugh, goading him.
He flips me over then so I'm on my back, laughing next to him and it's a rush of dirty talk and sweet nothings he's whispering urgently as my shorts and black lace panties disappear. Then it's his long cool fingers and surprisingly warm tongue and I just can't take both at once, but yes I can and do until everything is black and loud and silent all at the same time even though his husky voice is still whispering something into my ear.
Edward looks at me questioningly and then there are no questions as I lift my arms towards him and he crawls on top of me. He's slow, careful, reverent and mindful and I remind myself to relax, relax, relax or it will hurt more and relax, it's Edward, after all. We're silent until he's fully in and then he pauses for a moment or two, three, four….then takes a careful, short breath.
"Yes?" I'm tense despite my reminders.
"I thought you were a virgin?"
What? He's not serious, is he? Did he not notice the past few minutes?
"I am. Er, I was."
"You were once upon a time or you were…more recently?"
I laugh. Now I'm relaxed and my body reflexively pulls him in closer. "I was five minutes ago."
He kisses me quickly on the lips and explains. "There's no blood."
"Have you seen your fingers?" He smirks. "Besides, not everyone bleeds."
Three years pass and I no longer feel the connection. I still love him, that's not what I mean. I moved for college to New Hampshire—the northeast being about the farthest I could get from Southern California, although I suppose he could have always quit school to follow me here. He definitely didn't need another degree.
But the pull left me a few months ago and I can't quite figure that out. I'm not sure if he's waiting in the wings or not, like he promised, but I haven't heard from him. And on the rare occasion that I hear from one of his family, we don't talk about him. Ever.
"He's not here." Rosalie answers my call. Of course. The one least likely to welcome me.
"Edward…he's with Tanya...his mate."
"Yeah. Tanya." Oh, I must have said that out loud. Mate? He's found someone. He's moved on. No, he hasn't just moved on, he's found his mate, his soul mate, his life partner, for eternity. His family must be so happy for him. I want to be happy for him.
"Um, I wasn't calling for Edward. I'm looking for Carlisle."
"He's at the hospital."
"Oh," I say. I'm so eloquent here, but Rose is giving me nothing. As usual. "Um, can you just put Alice on?"
"Alice and Jasper have gone off on their own for a bit. Try her cell." She hangs up.
I don't call Alice. I can't hear about Edward and his mate, no matter how much I want him to be happy. I just can't.
When the bus pulls into town, we drive past a small art gallery that looks somewhat like a modern log cabin with red trim. In the front walkway is a large, mobile, metal red sculpture, reminiscent of Alexander Calder's work. I'm intrigued to see this piece in such a small town and I make note to visit the museum.
In fact, as soon as we are settled in to the B&B, I leave Leah and Vanessa behind and go for a solitary walk through town. The day is still; the sculpture is as well. As I approach, I look around at the people passing by the gallery but not entering. Is it closed? There are lights on, so I wander in after checking the sign next to the sculpture. Alexander Calder. I was right.
"Hello," a woman with light red hair, not quite blonde, not quite red, straightened to perfection greets me. She walks around from behind a small desk located at the front of the gallery. "We're just about to close but—"
She pauses and seems to stumble a bit, but I know better. After all my time with Edward, I recognize the bright yellow of her eyes, the milky white of her unblemished skin. Despite the reassuring color of her eyes, I take one step backwards. Whether it's subconscious or not, I don't know this vampire so I don't trust her. Yet, I do not run.
"You're here," she continues.
"Yes, do you mind if I just take a quick look?"
"Take your time." She gestures towards the small gallery to my left and I watch her walk towards a set of glass doors that lead out from behind the building. She's in perfect contrast to me, with her long legs, vampire perfection, pale yellow silk blouse and dark grey dress pants. I remember that Edward and his family like to fit in with humans as well and I suppose that this is why she is working in a gallery. Unless she owns it, or is an artist herself.
I shake my head and wander in to the gallery and note the exhibit name, Brown Study. The artists aren't named, but it does not matter. When I walk into the first space, I know exactly who the artist is.
Though the materials are different, the style is the same. A life-size rusted metal silhouette of a woman, long hair depicted in three curvy lines. Several abstract paintings of tree houses, one with warm reds and browns and a fiery orange sunset in the background. Dark brown lines, mixed with hues of crimson and blonde, like a tree trunk in the fall. Or like thick waves of hair. And photographs of a meadow set up all against a wall, one by one by one so that each photo seems to depict one day to the next.
I know that meadow. It's where Skater Boy took me on our first date, and many subsequent ones as well. I walk up closer to get a better look. Even in black and white, I can recognize every tree in front of me, and the space of grass in front of them.
"It's the first hundred days you were gone," a voice calls quietly from behind me. Though I haven't heard him approach, I'm not startled that he is here.
"Edward," I say as I turn to face him. He stands at the entrance to the exhibit, both hands tucked into a loose pair of black pants, his light grey v-neck sweater just slightly askew. If a vampire could lose weight, I'd say that he has.
"Though they wouldn't all fit on the wall but that's most of them," he continues as if I haven't said anything at all. Though, I suppose, simply saying his name isn't much of a greeting, especially after four years apart.
His eyes are dark, with light purple bruises underneath, almost like the remnants of twin black eyes. He looks like he's aged. Yet….yet, he is still beautiful, so beautiful to me that I can feel my heart plummet despite its increasing rate. I feel flushed, excited, confused, worried, and just something more all at once. Something more than just empty.
"They're beautiful," I say.
"Ask me why only a hundred."
"I…I can't—" I start. I'm confused. Is he making small talk about his exhibit? Does he really want me to ask? "I can't do this." I turn to walk towards him, or around him, so that I can leave the gallery and head back to the B&B. Even though I want to talk to Edward, I'm not sure what there is left to say. It's been four years. He's moved on, just as I wanted him to. But, have I?
Before I can take another step, Edward is in front of me. "It's not how I pictured this, I…I apologize." He holds his arm out, slightly hesitant just for a moment, until I step into his embrace as I would have under other circumstances. "How are you, Bella?"
"I'm good. You?" I take one small step back out of his arms. He's as cold as ever. I've missed it; I've missed him. Though the thought really isn't much of a revelation to me, it surprises me nonetheless. The break-up was, after all, my decision.
He doesn't answer my question. "What are you doing here, in the Pacific Northwest?" He gestures grandly across the room.
"After graduation, my friends and I have been traveling, well, backpacking a bit across the country. Um, Jake wanted to meet his biological parents so he's north of here, but my other two friends and I are in Olympia for awhile."
His eyes narrow slightly and he steps further away from him so we are no longer in each other's personal space. "Jake? You're with Jake?"
"Yeah," I pause for a moment. How do you explain imprinting to another supernatural creature? "He, um, well, his girlfriend is one of my best friends and he's a little protective of her, so wasn't that comfortable with the three of us girls traveling mostly on our own. So he sort of joined us for a chunk of the trip."
"He imprinted." My jaw drops. "He couldn't let his imprint travel alone," he continues while I'm still absorbing his first statement. "He followed her."
"Um, how do you know about that?"
Skater Boy shrugs his shoulders and laughs for a brief second or two. "I thought he imprinted on you. You know, back when he first changed?"
"You didn't even know me then."
"Alice." Yes, Alice. His future-seeing sister, my one time friend. She'd been seeing me for years before I actually met Edward. Did she see his mate too? Lead him to her after I left him? Do they huddle down underneath tall dining room tables during rainstorms, listening to new music and staying up all night? No, they wouldn't call it 'staying up' all night because they wouldn't need to sleep. And, and…Edward…is he happy now?
I remember days of joy together. Mixing various shades of sunshine yellow, amber, and the exact shade of Meyer lemons and debating his next painting project. Days of snapping boards, just to see what sculpture would be hinted at next. Running, tripping, and even dancing freely at our meadow, spots of vibrant orange poppies at our feet. And, then me, realizing that when I started at Dartmouth, Edward would be going to college again for the sixth or seventh time.
No, it's good I let him go.
"I'd heard you found your mate." My voice is brave, strong, confident.
He nods his head, merely confirming what I already know, but still, still my heart drops. It's why I left him, after all, or one of the reasons, anyway. I wanted him to find himself, and to find her. After decades of being the odd man out in a family of couples, he deserved to find his soul mate. And though I loved him—still love him—and I know that our year together meant something to him as well, I also could never see how things would work out between a vampire and a human.
"She's lovely," I nod my head in the direction the female vampire walked off to in the gallery, finally recognizing what her presence here at the gallery means.
"Bella," he pauses. "You are my mate."
His words reach my ears but make no sense to me. I hear ringing, blackness, nothing. They are so opposite of what I believe to be true that I robotically nod in agreement before pausing as the meaning registers.
"You are my soul mate."
I was a distraction, something to fill in the time between his decades of loneliness. Why is he saying this?
Yes, we loved each other. Yes, I'm sure having relations, a relationship, with a human could be intriguing, novel, for a little while. But then you have to move on, right?
We wouldn't grow old together. I would grow old, and while I'm not so vain as to care whether I was older than him, it would get ridiculous later on in life. Or, I would give in and he would still meet another woman. A vampire. Someone he could spend forever with. Someone like Tanya.
"But, Rose said…" I falter. I'm not sure how long I have been processing his words. I do know that Tanya has given us the courtesy of privacy for a good long time.
Two simple words. How does he even know what I am talking about? Oh, yeah, the mind-reading. Or, maybe Rose told him. But, if it mattered to him, why wait 'til now to tell me?
"What?" I say, confused.
"If Rose told you that someone other than you is my mate, she lied."
I can't help it. I can taste the saltiness of my tears as they stream silently down my cheeks and onto my lips. There aren't many, and I don't bother wiping them away with my hands. I don't know how to respond to him. We've been apart for nothing? Why is he just telling me this now? Did he assume I knew?
It boils down to the fact that I asked him to leave me alone, and he did. Maybe four years ago I wasn't ready to deal with what eternity means for a vampire. And, maybe I'm not ready to deal with it now either. But, I do know that we need to talk.
"Why only a hundred days?" I ask quietly, turning my attention back to the stark contrast of our meadow in black and white during the summer. The grass is dead, the trees are full, and we, of course, are nowhere in sight.
"I followed you to Dartmouth at the end of the summer."
"I stayed near you for your first three years…not stalking you, I swear," he smiles slightly, sheepishly. "I…I just wanted to make sure you were safe."
"Like Jake and Vanessa," I whisper. He nods in agreement.
"My family wasn't happy with me. They finally convinced me to move elsewhere…that…that I wasn't helping you by being there."
This time I nod, though I don't fully understand what he is saying. When you've believed one truth for so long, it's hard to wrap your head around another. The pull that had been gone for a year—it disappeared with his lack of proximity but returned full force as soon as I walked into the gallery and recognized his work.
Brown Study. A mood of deep absorption. A reverie. Of me. No, of us.
"Edward? What does this mean for us? I mean, now. What does this all mean for us now?"
"Whatever you want, love," he says.
"It means whatever you want it to mean. I still love you. I will always love you."
I focus now on the rusted metal sculpture in one corner of the room. Her waves of hair a familiar hint of my own. Brown, sickly orange, silver gray—scars follow the silhouette of her body, splashes of life, of years that have aged her. But still she is beautiful due to the capable hands of the artist. Skater Boy. He'd been alone for so long before he met me. What does one year mean to a vampire who has lived for over eighty? It's everything.
"Okay," I reply, holding out my hand now to his.
"Okay." He threads his cooler fingers with mine and we walk out of the gallery together. As we step out of the gallery doors, Edward snatches up his board just outside the entrance. I hadn't noticed it on my way in, but it makes me smile. We walk back towards the B&B, hand in hand, wheels turning with the rhythm of our gait.
I don't have any answers as to how we can live our lives together, disparate as they may be. I only know that our time together will be beautiful.
A/N: 1) Skate or Die by Bones Brigade (www(dot)youtube(dot)com/watch?v=KrFHAuXSMsE)
2) brown study: a mood of deep absorption or thoughtfulness; reverie
3) Sorry this is so delayed-I really thought I posted it already. Also, it was always meant to be a series of 'moments', so sorry if it seems a bit disjointed. Thanks for reading!