I can see my breath fan out of me in a cloud as I jump to my feet and scream with the rest of the crowd. Bouncing up and down, holding onto my best friend, we watch our quarterback run towards a touchdown.
"Go!" I shout, clapping excitedly. "Go go go go goooo!"
"He's gonna make it!" shouts Rosalie, her blonde hair falling to my eyes as she clutches me tightly.
And he does. The quarterback rips his helmet off as the fourth quarter ends with the signaling of the buzzer, hardly heard over the home team side's screaming.
"Someone's getting some tonight," I croon, nudging Rosalie as we rush down the bleachers, nearly tripping a million times in the throng of people making their way down the cement steps.
"Yeah, no kidding. And it's good!" she jokes, throwing up her hands in the 'field goal' signal. Her boyfriend, the quarterback, is part of our group of friends. We've known each other since diapers, and they started going out as soon as they realized their gender differences.
One of our other friends, Alice, joins me as Rosalie runs off to congratulate Emmett. She's a cheerleader, and she looks adorable in her yellow and black outfit, if not a little chilly. Her eyes are sparkly and her long black hair is pulled up in high ponytail.
"It's freezing," she moans, hugging me tightly. "But I'm so excited! It's our senior year, and our team won their Homecoming game! Doesn't that bode well for our future?"
"Confucius say," I agree, grasping her tiny fingers in mine as we make our way out onto the field.
After hugging a sweaty Emmett and promising to meet the group at our favorite after-game spot, I wander off towards my car. I see a group of sweaty, defeated-looking boys in under armor being screamed at by an old coach, and I feel for them. I'm not a very competitive person - I really only come out to the games for my friends, who are immersed in school spirit. Someone winning means someone losing. People always seem to forget that.
After the coach stalks back to the bus, the group gathers around a guy a bit taller than the rest, who is intently talking to his teammates. They hang on every word, give some sort of chant, and then slap him on the back as they trudge up the bus steps.
The tall one stands alone for a few more minutes, and I watch him. I can see his puffs of breath as he stares out over the field. People are still celebrating, and his mouth quirks up in the corner before he turns away.
I'm not really sure why, but suddenly, I'm walking towards him. He notices me when I'm a couple feet away, so I smile at him. He smiles back immediately, even though he has to know I'm the enemy – I'm dressed head-to-toe in my school colors.
"Hey," I say. "Good game."
"Thanks," he responds, ducking his head. "Just don't rub it in too hard. I already have to run twenty stadiums tomorrow morning, bright and early."
"Bummer," I sympathize. "But really – it was close as heck. Don't let your coach be too hard on you."
He laughs. "Oh, Coach is fine after he yells. I'm making myself do the twenty stadiums."
"Geez, Louise," I mutter.
"Edward, actually." He holds out his hand for me to shake.
"Bella." I shake his hand. "Anyway… I just wanted to say good game." I now feel completely awkward. I've never really barged in on other people's private musings after a hard loss. What's the right way to back out of it?
He pushes back his sweaty hair, which is completely matted to his forehead. In the dim light, he's pretty cute. He has a nice smile, and I'm not complaining about the tight under armor.
"Thanks," he says again. "That was nice of you. Especially being from the rival school."
It's true. The team he plays for is the only other high school in the area, so we're constantly at each other's throats during football season. I recognize his name from the papers – he's a gifted athlete, and a great quarterback. I'm sure his house has fallen victim to many a toilet paper.
"Cullen! Time to go, man." Someone sticks their head out of the school bus and taps it impatiently.
"That's my cue," he says, like he's actually kind of sorry our pointless, awkward conversation was cut short. "Gotta go cry into my Wheaties."
I reach into my purse and come out with a packet of tissues. I hand them to him, and he takes them automatically. He looks shocked, and then he laughs.
"Wow." He takes one out, and then hands the pack to me. "I think I'll be good with one."
I hand another one to him. "Just in case."
"Cullen! Stop talking to the enemy, and get in the fucking bus!"
He backs away from me, tucking the tissues in his jacket pocket. We don't stop smiling at each other until he's all the way in the bus, and even as I turn away, I'm still smiling.
The next night finds me in the school gym, helping Alice finish up decorations for the Homecoming dance. I'm not the craftiest person, but I can hold a ladder.
"A little to the left, Al," I instruct as she hangs up paper lanterns. "Okay, perfect." I help her off the ladder, and we move on to the next location.
This goes on for about an hour until I decide to call it a night. I'm yawning and losing focus, and I don't want Alice's livelihood to suffer. She might murder me if I kill her the night before the dance. I call out goodbyes to everyone, shoving myself out the back door.
It's really chilly tonight. I wrap my scarf tighter around my neck and pull my bright green pea coat closer, my teeth chattering. I'm daydreaming about hot chocolate and a warm bath – maybe with some candles – when I hear a loud thud, and not so whispery whispers.
Immediately, I'm on guard. Daughter of the police chief, I grab the can of mace at the bottom of my purse and walk forward with caution.
"Who's there?" I demand, peering around the corner.
"Shit!" someone cries, and then the bushes rustle.
My announcement of someone else's presence makes the school officer roll up in his cruiser. "Problem, Bella?"
I look back over to the bushes, where I'm pretty sure the voices are coming from. I think I know what's going on. It's tradition – the night before a big school event, seniors from the rival school come to damage some sort of property. I'm about to rat their asses out when they all jump out of the bushes and scatter.
"Hey!" calls OP – Officer Patrick, our resource officer – getting out of his car. "Stop right there!"
When does that ever work? I wonder. I watch with amusement as he runs after the group of four boys, and then I turn away, ready to get to some warmth.
That's when I hear my name, followed by a "pssst!"
Then, out of the bushes, pops Edward Cullen.
"You!" I shout, feeling a lot betrayed. Did I not show him kindness last night? How could he do this to me? My friends have been working their butts off to make their senior Homecoming perfect, and he's part of the group trying to destroy it!
"I'm so sorry," he groans. "I was dragged – literally, blindfolded and thrown into a backseat – into this. I didn't think hazing was possible when you're a senior and team captain, but apparently, I was wrong."
And apparently he rambles when he's embarrassed.
"I don't even know why they think this is funny," he continues when I don't speak. "It's not. It's really not. We could all be suspended if we're caught, and there goes my scholarship. My parents would murder me, bring me back to life, and murder me again. Plus, I – "
"Who's that there?" calls OP, shining his flashlight in our direction. Temporarily blinded, I make a quick decision.
"Come on," I whisper, grabbing his hand and yanking him from the bushes. "Run!"
He follows behind me as we high tail it out of there, OP screaming for us to stop the whole way. We reach my car, and I fumble for my keys while Edward shouts out me to hurry.
"I'm trying, I'm trying!" I pant, finally grabbing them at the bottom of my purse. I really need a smaller purse. They make a quick get away impossible.
My car beeps twice as it unlocks, and I shout, "Get in!"
He slides into the passenger seat as I jump into the driver's, and we both slam our doors just before I gun it out of the parking lot.
"Holy shit," he breathes, leaning back against my seat, putting his face into his hands. "Oh my god. You saved my life."
"Don't mention it," I wheeze, still out breath. I can be magnanimous right now, since I feel so awesome. The high of a sweet get away. God, I'm so cool. I'm so cool!
"No, really. I'm glad I saved those tissues you gave me, because I think I just pissed my pants."
I laugh, patting his arm. "That was pretty scary, wasn't it?"
"Uh, yeah. You were so cool to me last night, and it just has to be you that catches us. You looked like you wanted to rip us out of that bush by our balls."
"I meant the whole being chased by an officer thing."
"No, you were way scarier."
"Well, it might be a bit of both. Police chief's daughter," I admit proudly, pointing to myself.
"Aren't you going to get in trouble for aiding and abetting a criminal?"
"Criminal, ha! You were scared of a girl two heads shorter and about fifty pounds lighter. Hardened criminal, you are not."
"You can't just let me sound cool for two seconds, can you?" he whines.
"Oh, you sounded cool? I must have missed it." I look over at him, and he's just so tall and such a boy and he smells like a boy and smiles like a boy and I like his face and his hair and his eyes which are looking right at me.
"Are you adding kidnapping to your list of crimes?" he wonders as we continue to drive towards downtown. "Seriously, where are we going?"
"No idea," I admit. I kind of forgot he was actually in the car because I was too busy thinking about the fact that he's actually in my car. I don't know a thing about him, and we've only known each other for a grand total of about thirty minutes, but that doesn't stop the happy little jitters that are making this crazy smile appear on my face.
"Okay," he agrees easily, settling back into my seat. "Whoever sat in this seat last has to be a midget." His knees are practically right against the dashboard.
"That, and you're freakishly tall. The seat adjuster is under the seat."
He feels around for it. "Which side?"
"Uh, the right? Left? Your other left."
"I can't – feel it – "
I lean over to help, and my face gets warm as I put it directly on his lap. I sit back up so fast, the wheel jerks.
He laughs at me. "Well, hello."
"Shut up," I warn. "Find it yet?"
The seat rushes back as it's released, and he sighs in relief as his legs stretch out in front of him. "Much better."
"Bella, stay still!" Alice demands, twisting my hair into some sort of funky knot.
"I can't! This is my jam." I hop out of the chair in front of my vanity and do a crazy dance to Nicki Minaj's illegible words and hard beats. I grab a brush and try to seduce Alice into laughter, but she's having none of it. Her face remains stern even as I drop it low and start stripper-humping her leg.
"You're out of control," she chides, trying to drag me back to my chair. Luckily, Rose bursts into my room, her hair and makeup done to perfection. She's in a ratty volleyball t-shirt with jeans and a knitted scarf, with her dress draped over her arm in a garment bag.
"No one told me this was a dance party!" she shouts, dropping her dress and joining me. Pretty soon, we're knocking Alice back and forth between us with the force of our pelvic thrusts.
"You think I'm pretty without any makeup ooooon!" I croon, grabbing a brush. It's my mission to make Alice relax and stop treating our before Homecoming beauty-sesh like a military operation.
"Really, Katy Perry?" she shouts over the music.
"Let's go all the way tonight! No regrets, just love! We can dance until we die! You and I will be young for-evaaaahhhh!"
Within an hour, our dance party had been called to a halt, and the three of us gaze into my mirror. We check our teeth for traces of lipstick, hair spray flyaway curls, and take a lot of pictures.
My dress is black, because that's the only color I really wear, anyway. It's strapless and hits just above the knee. I've paired it with bright red heels and bright red lipstick, hopefully giving me that 1940's glam I'm going for instead of super slut.
Alice is in a baby pink, one shoulder dress that flares out at the waist. Her makeup is very subtle, and her hair is in tight curls around her face. She's been thinking about chopping it off, but Rose and I said we'd die if she cut her long, shiny black locks.
Rose is in midnight blue satin, the dress hitting the floor as she swishes down my stairs. Her hair is up in a tight knot, a few tendrils framing her beautiful face. She's the prettiest of the three of us, but the most self-conscious. We constantly reassure her as she wobbles on her heels.
I throw a leather jacket over my dress, and Alice says I look like a badass. We take silly pictures outside, all of us alternating poses around my tire swing. My dad stands on the porch with spiked warm cider, watching my silly mom call out to us to be safe.
As we climb into Rose's jeep, we crank up the stereo, continuing our dance party all the way there.
An hour into the dance, the novelty has worn off. Why did I think that after three years of lame Homecoming dances, this one would be any different? The decorations are great, of course, but the boys huddling in circles hoping for a wardrobe malfunction are seriously dampening the magic.
"Ali," I whine as we make our way out of the gym and towards the vending machines, "we got all dressed up for nothing."
"Not for nothing!" she chides. "Rose seems to be having fun."
"Rose has a boyfriend who has a flask hidden in his sock," I remind her. "And Emmett said we couldn't have any because he sucks."
"Emmett is trying to get Rose drunk so she'll finally give him a beej."
"Uch. Silly Emmett, tricks are for assholes." I swipe my hair out of my face and take a long swig of the Coke I've just bought out of the machine. "I'd much rather be at home, cuddling with my cat and browsing Tumblr."
"And stalking Edward Cullen on Facebook," she adds. "Why don't you just add him already? You practically beej'd him in the car."
"Is beej your buzzword tonight, weirdo? I did not. It was an accident. And how lame would that be? I just met him like, three days ago. Talk about a stalker."
"And it's not stalking to google 'how to hack Facebook accounts'?"
"Stop going through my history!"
"Blame google, not me. I typed in 'how to make curls without heat' and it popped up!"
I sigh, leaning back against the cold gym wall. "Want to go hit up the diner? I could go for some bacon."
"Bacon – nature's candy." She heads back for the gym entrance, and I follow her. "Yeah, let's go. I'll grab your jacket and shoes. I'm sure Rose will let us take the Jeep… pretty sure she's not good to drive."
Five minutes later, I'm leaning against Rose's jeep, scrolling through Facebook status updates on my iPhone.
Jessica Stanley is OMG! MIKE IS THE BEST BF EVER 3 3
Lauren Mallory is wow, could that dance have been any lamer?
Tyler Crowley is GETTIN THROW'D 2NITE!
Renee Swan is so full of melancholy. My beautiful daughter Bella is finally a young lady. Watching her drive away with her friends tonight, I couldn't help but think about my Homecoming dance, which wasn't that long ago… Luckily, I still have my homecoming prince to hug me and tell me everything is going to be all right. I love you Charles Swan and Bella Marie Swan!
Alice Brandon is getting ready with my girlies, Bella Marie Swan and Rosalie Hale!
Rosalie Hale is I can't believe I let Alice Brandon talk me into the heels! Ugh… as if I wasn't tall enough!
"Ready to go, chica?"
I look up, and Alice is walking towards me, our coats draped over her arm. She throws the keys at me, and I catch them against my chest, and then shrug into my leather jacket.
"Let's stop by your house first, yeah? I want to get out of this dress." Alice is already peeling off her heels as she says this, throwing them into Rose's backseat.
"Okay." I throw my phone in her lap. "Please read what my mom said on her Facebook about me. Parents should stay off the internet."
She reads, and then cracks up. "I love how she totally alludes to banging Chief Swan."
"You're gross!" I snatch my phone back. "Just in case, though…" I dial my mom's cell, and after she answers the phone sleepily and tells me to be safe after we venture back out, I determine it safe to stop by my house.
Thirty minutes later, we're bundled up in flannel shirts, leather jackets, skinny jeans, knitted scarves and tall leather boots. It's a chilly October night, and I watch my breath float up into the atmosphere as we climb back into Rose's jeep.
It takes about ten minutes to get to the diner in our sleepy downtown. We park on the curb, and I wave to a couple people chilling outside, sharing a smoke.
After we've put in our order – bacon and biscuits and gravy for me, pancakes and bacon for Alice – she starts grilling me about the other team's quarterback.
"So, really. What happened?"
"What do you mean?" I ask, sipping my diner coffee. Making a face, I add half-and-half and a lot of sugar.
"All you told us was that you gave him a ride. So many jokes, so little time."
I shrug. "I took him home."
The waitress puts our meals in front of us, asks about my dad, and then shuffles off.
"I've heard he lives out in the boonies in this palace, or something."
"It was dark. I didn't really notice. But yeah, it was pretty far back."
I see the flash of mischief in her eyes two seconds before she says, "I have an idea."
I think it's the bacon that led me to make such a horrible decision. Edward Cullen's house isn't exactly a palace, but it is huge. His dad is the Chief of Surgery in the big city a few hours outside of town, and I guess that makes a lot of bucks.
His house doesn't look so fancy with toilet paper hanging off every inch, though. And we don't look so cool with my dad's cop buddy peering down at us with a very disappointed expression on his face.
"I expected better from you, Miss Swan," he says, looking from us to the trees and back again, like he's not too sure what to do with us.
And then to add to my humiliation, a silver Volvo glides down the long driveway and stops in front of us. Of course, Edward pops out of the front seat, looking very confused and irritated.
"What's going on here?" he asks loudly, slamming his car door.
"Caught a couple of trespassers vandalizing your property," says Officer Chaplin, sounding very pleased with himself.
Edward peers at us, and his expression looks almost… amused?
"Bella?" he asks incredulously. "Et tu, Brutus?"
"Uh, hi," I mumble.
"Do you want to press charges, Mr. Cullen?" Officer Chaplin presses.
Edward snorts. "God, no. Is this your friend, Bella?"
"I'm Alice," she pipes up sheepishly. "This was all my idea. Blame it on the bacon."
"Bacon," repeats Edward, confused. "Yeah…"
"Well… I guess I'll get going. Don't let me catch you ladies here again," Officer Chaplin says threateningly.
"Wow," Edward says, looking around after the cruiser drives off. "You two… I'm kind of impressed. Do you have a ride back?"
"The jeep is just around the corner," Alice tells him.
"Why don't you take off?" he offers.
"Uh… okay. Sorry about this, Edward. It seemed like a good idea at the time," I mutter, moving to follow Alice.
"Where do you think you're going? Bye, Alice," Edward calls, waving to her as she slinks off, scot-free.
"Are you kidding me?" I nearly screech. "This wasn't even my idea!"
"Grab the hose," he instructs. "It's rolled up on the side of the house." Then he sits on his porch steps, watching my every move.
Thirty minutes later, I've hosed every inch of toilet paper down from his very, very tall trees. I'm exhausted and wet.
"All done?" Edward calls, standing up and sliding his phone back into his jacket pocket. "Nice job. You know, for one second there, I was very tempted not to accept your friend request."
I forgot that I had, in a moment of bravery, requested to be his friend on Facebook as I had scrolled through my home page in the school's parking lot. That had seemed like hours ago. Actually – I checked the time on my phone – it was.
"Don't tease me," I mutter, rolling the hose back up. "Um… you kind of let my ride home leave."
"I'll take you," he offers, grabbing his keys from off the porch steps. "I'd invite you in, but it's really late. I'm sure you're tired."
"Very," I yawn, crawling into his passenger seat when he unlocks his car with two beeps. "Nice ride."
"Thanks," he says modestly, turning the volume down. A soft piano breezes through the speakers, and I rest my head against the cool leather seat.
A soft voice cuts through my sleepy haze, and I blink my eyes open. Edward is very close to my face, and he's swiping hair out of my eyes. "Wake up," he whispers.
"Hi," I whisper back.
"I feel really bad," he admits. "It was pretty jerkish of me to make you clean all that up by yourself."
"It's okay," I murmur, still half-asleep. "I'm glad I got to see you."
"Yeah," he says. "Me, too. Been thinking about you a lot."
"Been thinking about you, too." I brush my cheek against the fingers he still has on my face. I can feel his breath against my neck. It's one of the sweetest moments I think I've ever been in, and I wish I were more awake. "I think I like you."
"Just 'think'?" he teases.
"Don't know you very well, do I? For all I know, you could be a… a… serial-killer, or something."
"True," he admits. "But I'm not."
"That's just what a serial-killer would say," I argue. Am I making any sense? I'm not sure. I really want to be asleep right now. But, I also really want to be part of this conversation. Maybe we could compromise. He could be in my bed, and I could see that smile up close, in the moonlight, and he could tell me all about himself, and I could bury him deep in my heart.
"We can't keep meeting like this," he laughs, finally moving his hand away. "Or you really will think I'm a serial killer." He takes my phone from my willing hands, punches in some numbers, and I hear his phone vibrate from inside his jacket. "What would your friends say if you hung out with the enemy?"
"You're a very cute enemy," I tell him.
"Yeah? You're a pretty cute enemy, too."
"Even at three AM? Soaking wet? Exhausted, probably with mascara and lipstick all over my face?"
"Even then. And you don't need to fish for compliments… I have plenty of them waiting."
"Oh yeah? Hit me."
"According to your profile pic, you looked… really, really pretty tonight. I wish I could have taken you to the dance, enemy or not. I thought about asking you when you drove me home last night, but I thought that would be crazy."
"Really crazy." I feel myself falling asleep against his seat again. He chuckles in my ear.
"Go inside, Bella." He hesitates, and then I feel chapped, warm lips against my forehead.
I smile sleepily at him. "I'm kind of glad you lost the game, you know. Otherwise, you'd be too busy celebrating to notice me." I grab the door handle, ready to crawl out and climb into bed. "But then again… didn't I notice you?"
"You acted first. But, I definitely noticed you." He places my phone in my hand. "Text me tomorrow, okay? Don't forget."
"I won't forget."
He smiles, and later, after I wash my face and wrap myself in plaid flannel pjs, that smile is still with me as I close my eyes.
My phone buzzes against my stomach during fourth period AP Lit. It's tucked in my hoodie front pocket, and I cast a glance at Mrs. Cope, who's fiddling with the overhead projector.
Is it weird that whenever I wake up from a slumped over the desk nap, I have to burp?
Edward's texts always sound like a diary entry. I made him sign up for Tumblr so he'd have a place to vent besides me, but all he's done so far is make a text post of "why did I agree to this?" and a couple pictures of guys getting blowjobs.
I quickly text back "What happened to study hall being about studying?" before Mrs. Cope looks back up.
"Okay," she says, calling attention to the class. "The Bronte sisters are among the most famous writers of all time, and as you're seniors, I expect you're all somewhat familiar with their work. Will someone read this aloud?"
I volunteer, because this is one of my favorite poems. "…lengthen night and shorten day/every leaf speaks bliss to me/fluttering from the autumn tree…"
"Thanks, Bella." Mrs. Cope smiles at me. "Everyone take out a sheet of paper. I want you to write a couple paragraphs of analysis. This will be turned in. You have ten minutes. Go."
As I begin to write my thoughts, my phone buzzes again. Sighing, I make sure Mrs. Cope is deep into her grading before I pull it out.
What are you doing tonight?
Alice, Rose and I have a girly night planned, which means Rose will be coming over with some tequila from her parents' liquor cabinet, and maybe Alice will be able to score some weed from her FWB, the epic stoner that is Jasper. We'll watch reality TV, make some Halloween themed cookies, and eat all of them before the sun comes up.
I tell him that I'm busy, and he asks if I can slip away for a couple hours. I think about finagling some time for him as I scribble some nonsense about Bronte's personification of autumn and winter, and then pass it to the front when Mrs. Cope calls for it. The bell rings before I have a chance to answer Edward, and I meet Rose as she gets out of Anatomy.
"Still on for tonight?" she asks, bumping her hip against my ribs. She's such a giant.
"Edward wants to see me," I tell her as we stop at her locker. I lean against the cold metal, and she shoots me a look.
"Chicks before dicks," she reminds me. "I canceled on Emmett. Play fair."
"I know, I know," I sigh.
"So, what's going on there?" She slams her locker closed, grabbing her bag. She has P.E. next period. Thankfully, I got out of P.E. this year due to being an office aid.
"I haven't seen him since the night he took me home after the TP debacle." I readjust my pen-through-bun up-do. "We've talked on the phone pretty much every night. I dunno. We're just getting to know each other, I guess."
"Do you like what you know so far?"
"Yeah, I do. He's pretty quiet, though. Usually I just ramble on about my day, and he just listens. He always makes me feel like I'm talking about the most interesting thing in the world, though, even if I'm just talking about a cute cat animation I saw on Tumblr."
"He seems like a good guy. Not too hard on the eyes, either. You could do a lot worse."
As if on cue, Mike Newton leans over and moons every person in the hallway.
"God!" Rose and I cry, throwing up our binders to cover our faces.
"Jesus. God." I pull out my phone and log on to Facebook, pulling up Edward's page. His profile picture is of him sitting on a random couch, elbows on his knees, fingers interlocked. He's looking at the camera, annoyed, but with a small smile on his face. "Okay, I feel better."
"I'll distract Alice," Rose suddenly says. "I remember that I-gotta-see-you feeling when Emmett and I first started doing… you know, whatever. She'll get all vagina-power if you try to slip out, but I'll crush an Ambien in her drink or something so you can sneak out for a couple hours."
"What a friend," I deadpan, but give her a side-hug. "You're the best."
"Ever," she agrees, giving me a squeeze.
My high is finally wearing off when Edward sends me a text to say he's in my driveway. I decided against drinking, but Alice and Rose have been obnoxious all night. Thankfully, Alice is passed out on my bed, and Rose has my laptop against her knees, reading random Wikipedia articles.
"Did you know that Canada does Thanksgiving, too?" she asks as I'm untangling my limbs from the beanbag chair on my floor. "I never even think about other countries having holidays." She watches me pull on my coat and fuzzy slipper-boots. "You out of here?"
"He's in the driveway."
"Where are y'all headed?"
"I have no clue. We'll probably just walk to the park down the street. I have this urge to swing. Hair up or down?"
She gives me the once-over. "Down, but take an elastic just in case. It's windy, and it'll get annoying."
"Good call. I'll see you in a couple hours."
"Have fun. And be careful, Bella."
I kiss her hair. "Always."
I'm shaky as I go down the stairs. I've really missed him, despite not knowing him very well. He's just so… he's so something. I'm not a stranger to boyfriends – I've had a couple since I developed hormones, but there's something different about this. Maybe because I'm older, I'm starting to realize that any relationship I start will have an adult tinge to it. It could be serious, and I think I want it to be serious.
He's leaning against his car when I walk outside, and we smile at each other as I walk down my porch steps.
"Hey," he says, pushing off his car. He gives me a tight hug, and my hands find themselves underneath his jacket, seeking his warmth. He smells freshly showered, and I soak it all in. "I brought you something."
He reaches into his car and pulls out two Starbucks cups. "Hot chocolate." He hands me one, and I take a sip, smiling at him over the rim.
"Thanks. This is perfect." I nudge him with my hip. "Want to take a walk? There's a park a couple blocks down."
We fall into step, kicking up crunchy leaves as we walk.
"How was your girl's night? Find any more cat animations?"
"Tons," I laugh. "We ended up youtubing cat videos, and then watched Hoarders and Man vs. Food. Then we made a lot of cookies, but ate more of the cookie dough than anything."
"Cookies?" His interest is piqued.
"There are a couple left. I'll doggy-bag some of them for you when we get back."
"Thanks," he laughs. "Your eyes look a little glazed, by the way."
"Ugh, do I reek?"
He puts his arm around me, pulling me to him. "Not at all. I didn't know you smoked."
I practically curl into him, happy little sparks going off in my belly. "I don't, usually. I'm not a stoner or anything."
"How does the chief of Police's daughter get away with that?" He lets go of me, because it's a little difficult walking so close. But instead of disconnecting us completely, he takes my hand, weaving our fingers together.
I squeeze his fingers. They're a little cold, but they feel perfect. "It's kind of amazing how little parents find out when they'd just rather not know."
We arrive at the park, and I take off for the swings. The metal is cold against my butt, even through my jeans. He follows slowly, taking my hot chocolate from between my legs and setting them both on a picnic table.
"Push me?" I ask, smiling up at him.
He smiles and moves behind me, his large hands taking place on my back. He gives me a light push, and I kick my legs. Pretty soon I'm flying high, laughing as my toes almost touch the leaves on the tree in front of me.
"Okay, okay!" I call. "I think I'm going to puke."
He brings me down slowly, and soon my back is resting against his chest, my head against his shoulder. "That was so much fun," I sigh. "Do you want to try?"
"No thanks," he murmurs. "I fell off a swing when I was a kid, and I'm still pretty traumatized by it."
I hop off the swing and take a seat on top of the picnic table. He follows, leaning against his hands.
"Tell me more about you," I say suddenly, after a long sip of my cooling drink.
"Um… I don't know. What do you want to do after school?"
"Med school," he answers quietly. "Following in my dad's footsteps. I want to be a pediatrician."
"Wow. Any pressure from your dad to go that way, or is that actually what you want to do?"
"I really want to do it," he promises. There's something in his voice – a hint of passion I haven't heard much, especially from an eighteen-year-old. "I've always wanted to."
"Doctor Cullen," I murmur. "That's nice. It sounds good."
"What about you?"
"I'd like to teach high school history."
"Yeah. I love history – especially European. There's nothing really practical involving a degree in history, and I love teaching people things. Watching their face light up when they finally understand… it's a total rush."
"Why high school? Why not college? Professor Swan sounds pretty good."
I shrug. "I thought about it, but I think I'd get more out of teaching high school. College students… they pay to be there. They want to be there, usually. That's cool, don't get me wrong. But catching the attention, inspiring the minds of kids that have to go to school – I think that would be more fulfilling. It's like having to clean your room, and finding something you thought you'd lost forever. You know? That's probably a pretty bad analogy, but…"
"I get what you mean," he assures me. "I like that. I've never thought about it that way."
"I'm pretty introspective. I spend a lot of time alone."
"Really?" He turns to look at me. "It seems like you're always with Alice and Rosalie."
I smile. I like how familiar he already sounds with my friends. "I don't think they really count. They're always around, like my cat. They just kind of lie around my room and eat my food."
He chuckles. "I have a dog. Is that a deal-breaker?"
"No! I like dogs, too. I'm not discriminatory against animals. If they're furry, I like them. What's his name?"
"It's a her. Susie."
"Susie? That's… unique."
"My little sister, Jane, named her."
"I didn't know you had a sister!"
"Yeah, she's five."
"I'd like to meet her." Even though that sounds presumptuous, I'm a little tired of beating around the bush as far as my feelings go.
"Yeah? My family has been bugging me about you, so I think that'll work out."
I pull my hair back from my face. Rose was right; the wind is blowing my hair around. "My mom is being pretty nosy, too. She wants to add you on Facebook."
"My mom almost added you the other day. I told her to stop being a creep."
"Yeah, exactly. My mom just needs to stay on her Farmville and stop treading into creep-territory."
"Your mom does Farmville, too? If I have to hear my mom talk about her crops one more time…" He rolls his eyes. "My grandparents own some land in the Midwest… like a legitimate farm. My dad took my mom out on an ATV, and she actually screamed when the cows started moving towards them. She's such a poser."
We both laugh, and then it falls quiet. It's not an awkward silence or anything, and it's really nice. I could get used to this – just spending time with him. I wasn't kidding when I told him that Alice and Rose are practically decorations in my room, but when I imagine him just hanging out in there… I don't think I could ignore him and reblog pictures of Ryan Reynolds instead. I think he'd have all my attention, no matter what.
"Your mom can add me on Facebook," I say quietly.
"That's a pretty big step."
"I know. Look at me, getting all commitment happy."
"I think I could deal with that." His voice has a joking quality, but he takes my hand again. "So… can I break the teenage-boy stereotype and actually talk about my feelings?"
"Please," I practically beg. "I always prefer honesty. I've dated the mysterious rebel-without-a-cause types, and it's so frustrating."
"Yeah, I've known my fair share of closed books. It's sexy for a while, but it's better to just… it's better to just know what you're thinking."
"Agreed." Even if I didn't like him and wasn't attracted to him, I'd still want him as a friend. I could see him being my best friend. Could he be my best friend? Would that work, despite wanting to kiss him really, really bad? "So, lay it on me. Tell me those thoughts running around up there."
"Honestly? My thoughts are just kind of strolling. I over think a lot, but my head gets quiet around you. I like that. I'm glad you talked to me after the game. I thought about it all the way home. I've never been approached like that. Girls just kind of giggle at me."
"You're pretty gorgeous," I tell him, because he is. "It's intimidating."
"Gorgeous," he repeats. "Can we just go for like… ruggedly handsome? Gorgeous just sounds so…"
"Okay, okay. Didn't mean to dampen your manliness."
"I think if I…" Then he leans over and kisses me. It takes me by such surprise that I make this weird noise in his mouth, and he pulls away, laughing at me. "What was that?"
"Shut up and do that again."
"I really like you, Bella. Is that okay?"
He kisses me again. He keeps his mouth closed and just sort of presses his lips against mine. I smile, and so does he, and our teeth clack.
"We're really bad at this," I announce, backing away.
"Stay still," he tells me. Just to make sure I do, he puts his cold hands on my face and leans in.
He sort of sucks my bottom lip in his mouth, and the noise I make this time isn't weird or awkward, because he makes one, too. His long fingers wind in my ponytail, but I'm not going anywhere. Tongues meet, and my stomach drops to my toes. He tastes chocolately and male, and it's a little addictive. My hands climb up his chest and end up at the nape of his neck, and I clutch the short hairs there in my fingers.
We make out like the horny, happy teenagers we are until I can hardly breathe, and the air turns so cold we can't ignore it.
"I take it back," I breathe as he takes my hand again, drawing me up from the bench so we can start back towards my house.
"We're not bad at that."
"Bella…" He grins at me. "There are so many good things we're going to do together."
It's such a line, but I don't care.
A month later, I'm watching my Facebook notifications climb not even thirty seconds after changing my status from "single" to "in a relationship with Edward Cullen."
Rosalie Hale get 'em girl!
Alice Brandon congrats! FINALLY!
Emmett McCarty TRAITOR
Jessica Stanley OMG. what a hottie! i didn't kno u were dating anyone! gossip sesh in trig tomorrow 3 3
Right, Jessica. Like I'm going to spill my life to you.
I close my laptop, my nerves making me slam it a little too hard. I'm finally meeting his family tonight, and despite his many pleas for me to chill out, I can't. I haven't ever done an official 'meet the family' for anyone.
Not to mention his parents are a lot more liberal than mine, so they invited me to stay the night. Chief Swan would never agree to that, so I told him I'd be staying the night at Rosalie's. He raised his eyebrows at me, but agreed. Like I told Edward a month before – there are some things my parents would just rather believe than know the truth.
It's not like Edward and I haven't fooled around a few times, but it's been in our cars in my driveway. Like that's not nerve-wracking enough, but hands down pants just isn't the same. I want to see what I'm working with, and I'm sure – by the way he's just kind of stared at my chest the couple times it's been bared to him – he feels the same way.
The doorbell rings, and I do a last minute check in the mirror. Long-sleeved, tie-at-the-waist black dress, green pea coat, my funky orange tights and black boots. My hair is down and curled at the ends, and I've actually applied the full-Monty of makeup. I grab my purse and overnight bag, and then take five deep breaths.
He's talking about football with my dad when I come down the stairs. He had a game last night, and I surprised him by showing up. It gave me this craziest happy feeling whenever he looked up in the stands, making sure I was still there. I didn't even mind sitting alone. Watching him play was so much fun… and it gave me a newfound appreciation for the fine sport of football.
"Wow," he breathes as I stop in front of him. My dad awkwardly backs away, telling us to have fun.
"Back atcha," I tell him. His baby blue button down shirt is tucked into dark denim jeans, and I want to tug on his belt until we're in a dark corner. "What have you done to your hair?"
"You don't like it?" He's actually pouting a little. "My mom made me cut it. She said I looked homeless."
"I like it," I assure him. It's shorter, and the tips of his ears – which I can see for the first time since we started dating – are turning red. "Ruggedly handsome."
He rolls his eyes at me.
Thirty minutes later, we're across town and pulling in to his driveway.
"Don't get any toilet-paper like ideas," he warns me.
"Ha ha," I mutter. God, why am I so nervous?
His house is warm when we walk in. He takes off my coat and hangs it on the coat rack. They have a coat rack.
"Coming, Mom." He puts his hand on the small of my back and guides me out of the foyer, which has a damn chandelier hanging above the foot of the spiraling staircase.
"Hey," she greets as we walk into the kitchen. Edward's mom, who I've stalked thoroughly on Facebook since she added me, is wearing an apron, standing in front of the stove, stirring something that smells delicious. "Has it started snowing yet? The Weather Channel said we're due sometime tonight."
"Did Dad get your tires ready?"
"Yes, mom," he answers, exasperated. "Get your nose out of the pot. There's someone I want you to meet."
She spins around, her brown hair twirling gracefully around her shoulders. "Oh, God! I completely forgot. I've been watching this sauce like a hawk. Bella, it's so nice to finally meet you." She walks towards me, wiping her hands on a dishtowel.
"You, too, Mrs. Cullen. Wow, it smells great in here."
"It's just chili, but I've been cooking it all day. I'm adding this spicy sauce that Edward likes to a separate batch, because it's too hot for Jane and me." She wraps me up in a hug, and she smells like vanilla. It's wonderful.
A handsome man walks into the kitchen with a little girl with curly blonde hair on his hip. "Is this Bella?" he asks, smiling.
"Hi," I answer. The hair color is all Edward's mom, but he's a spitting image of his father. "Thanks so much for having me."
"Of course. Jane, say hi to Bella."
"Hi," she mumbles, burying her face in her father's neck.
"She's shy," he whispers, tickling her. "Aren't you?"
She nods, still hiding.
"That's okay," I smile. "I'm shy, too."
Dinner is delicious. Edward's family adores him, but they don't let him get away with a thing. His mom grills him about his grades and college applications. The thought makes me a little sad. Our romance is so new and wonderful, but what are the odds of it lasting longer than through the summer?
After dinner, we all watch TV and drink coffee in the den. His parents get up to put Jane to bed and announce they're going to bed, too. I thank them again for dinner, and Mrs. Cullen asks me if I prefer French toast or pancakes.
I tell her either is great, and Edward grins at me.
"I still can't believe how casual they're being about me staying the night," I tell him after I hear a door shut upstairs.
He shrugs. "They'd rather know where I am and what I'm doing," he explains. "Want to come see my room?"
I roll my eyes at his cheesiness, but follow him up the stairs. His room is huge and clean, but it has signs of the living. There are clothes thrown over his desk chair, and his TV is on.
"I like it," I tell him, sitting on his bed.
"I like you," he reminds me, touching my face.
"I'm very likable," I agree.
He smiles, but it doesn't quite light up his face. He sits next to me, taking my hands. "Can we talk about something, Bella?"
"It kind of is… I just - I need to know. Are you really in this? With me?"
"I changed my Facebook status. I think that's serious."
"Bella." He sounds irritated. I have this annoying tic to make serious things into jokes when I'm unsure, and it annoys the hell out of him. I'm doing it now.
He lies back against his bed, his body hitting with a loud thump. I follow him, tentatively putting my head against his chest. We've never had a chance to just be quiet together like this – take inventory of how our bodies fit together. I run my finger down the line separating his muscles from neck to waistline.
He sighs, wrapping me up in his arms and kissing me. I melt against him, and we're both breathing heavily when he pulls away.
"I have to know," he whispers against my hair. "I can't keep doing this if you can't see yourself falling in love with me."
I hover over him, tracing his lips with my thumb. "I can see it."
I feel his lips stretch into a smile under my fingers. "Yeah. It looks a lot like this."
He stares up at me, waiting for me to continue. I stay silent, waiting for him to understand. When he does, he pulls me down for another kiss. He mumbles, "me, too" against my lips over and over.
We move into territory we've been, but it's different. My dress comes off, and when he touches me, there's no urgency to it. His fingers find me waiting for him, and then he takes a deep breath and whispers that he's never done this before. I know he's not a virgin, so I'm confused until his tongue touches me there.
It's obvious he's never done it, because he fumbles a lot, and I can almost feel how much he's blushing. But his willingness to learn overshadows his inexperience, and with my murmured coaching and my fingers giving reprieve to his exhausted jaw, I come hard. He keeps licking at me until I'm twitching and shoving his face away.
"That was awful," he mutters.
"That was awesome," I correct. "You'll learn."
"Oh, I will?" His grin is back, and he bites his bottom lip as I struggle to unbutton his jeans.
When he's naked and so am I, we both stare at each other like we've only just realized what's about to happen. I'm not a virgin, either, so I'm not worried about any pain. I'm just nervous because this feels a lot like love, and a lot like I'm giving him more than just my body.
He finds a condom in his bedside table, and I tease him until he kisses me so I'll shut up. He positions himself but keeps missing, so I help him until he finds me. He goes in slowly, and I shut my eyes.
"Open them," he tells me. "Please, open your eyes."
I do, and his are so bright. I touch his face as he begins to move, his thrusts uneven and choppy but still so good, and I kiss his forehead as he settles his face into the crook of my neck. He groans quietly every time he pushes in, and his breath is so hot against me.
"I can't… I'm gonna – "
His warning precedes the action by about ten seconds, and he collapses against me, his hips still moving to an uneven beat.
"I am," he tells me a few minutes later, breaking the silence.
"You are what?" I push his hair back and kiss him softly. I know I'm going to want him again before the sun comes up, and I hope he's not too tired.
"I'm in love with you." And as if that proclamation wasn't enough, he looks me in the eye and says, "And I'm gonna marry you someday."
I'm quiet for a while, just staring at him as I rake my fingers through his hair.
"What do you think about that?" he asks, his sweet nervousness filling my heart. "Do you love me, too?"
And five years later, in a pretty white dress, I tell him, "I do."
I hope you enjoyed. I set out to write something that captured my nostalgia for autumn in high school, and it turned in to this. I know it's unlikely for high school couples to stay together forever and ever, but I'm a sucker for a happy ending.
I'm planning on revisiting this, because there are snippets of their life between their first I love you's and their "I do" that I just couldn't fit in this already out of control o/s. But there's still a lot of story to tell for them. Just an example: Edward breaks his leg during a game. So, put this on alert if you want more from these guys.
I love you all so much. You know that by now, right? xoxo