Twilight Post Secret Challenge
Number of Secret Chosen: 7
Title: Ten Pictures Edward Cullen Took
Word Count: 8633
Beta: XXX and XXX
Rating: M (for language)
Summary: Edward has a mind reading camera. This story is about what he sees. Or rather, what he doesn't.
Disclaimer: Own nothing.
Ten Pictures Edward Cullen Took
I see a lot as yearbook photographer: duck-faces, smoldering eyes that end up looking squinty, chins tilted just so, peace signs, bunny ears, stuck out tongues, kisses on the cheek, ass grabs, smiles—so many smiles. The only thing I have more of than smiles, are secrets.
I'm sorry. Let me introduce myself: Edward Cullen, senior at Forks High and owner of a magical, mind reading camera.
Why don't you sit down on the stool near the scrim? Feet on the X, tilt your head and turn your shoulders just a little. There we go. Perfect.
Don't be nervous. I know they say a camera will steal your soul, but let's think of what light does: it illuminates.
001. Aro Volturi
"Anything done for love is beyond good and evil."
His spindly fingers play with the sleeve of his Black Sabbath shirt as he crosses his legs at the ankles. His ankles are like his hands, skinny, pale, but speckled with long, dark curly hairs—boy's ankles.
Aro Volturi has a man's scowl though, and a man's tattoos, too. Sixteen of them: flaming guitars, outlines of panthers, Nietzsche quotes, and Celtic knots that look like nooses. Thorny roses wind their way around his pitifully small biceps. People think of as him as "the skeleton kid with ink for blood."
He thinks of himself as a piece of paper. He came up with the metaphor one day in Spanish class. I have the picture of it; Aro had been staring out the winter-frosted window, his finger-tips pressing against the pane. The picture is on the sixth page of the year book right behind the collage of the Halloween party. I think he'll be surprised when he finds it there; maybe he'll smile.
As the flash went off that day, he was thinking about his first tattoo, the one right underneath his thumb. No one sees it because he always wears long sleeves, but it's there. A tiny stick figure, tap dancing. He drew it when he was in fourth-grade, on a little scrap of algebra homework. He had been so upset when his mother threw it away at the end of the school year.
He thinks that if he has got pictures on him, that maybe people will be sad when they throw him away too. He was sure he would be discarded. He is in foster care for a reason right?
Even though he's waited twenty minutes to get to stand in front of the cloud-blue background for his senior portrait, he still cocks his head, as if to say, who, me?
I am as sure that Aro will scowl at the camera as Aro is that he is the reason his mom left and his dad drank himself to death.
When Aro Volturi smiles, it's clear he doesn't know how to do it. You can't really see his teeth and his lips barely even turn up. Anyone else would just see a grimace.
I know it's smile though, because the moment the flash goes off I can see into his mind. I can see his sixteenth tattoo.
It's a giant red A surrounded by a circle, right over his heart. It's the kind of symbol that you think means anarchy, death to order, chaos, hopelessness and despair, but that's not what it means for Aro. Maybe that's what it used to mean, but not anymore.
Now it's his link to a girl who chews the ends of her pencils and runs her fingers through her tightly curled red-ringlets, whose thick thighs take up the whole seat in English class. The tattoo reminds him of two weeks ago when, he stole a ladder from the supply closet and climbed up to her window.
He had brought his Shakespeare book, even though he doesn't understand Shakespeare, because girls like that. And he can't woo her with comic books. Can he?
When he whereforart-ed and sun-rising-in-the-east-s her, Siobhan just giggles, bouncy as one of her curls, and said that she'd like to see that tattoo on his chest. She had only seen a little bit of it peeking out from under the starched collar of his blue gym-uniform and she wants to know what the rest of it is.
When he shows her, she traces it with her fingers. She says it makes him look like a superhero: Aro-man, here to save the world, to save her.
"I love you," he tells her, because there will never be a better time.
"I love you too."
Then they find old spandex from the eighties and prance around the room, two superheroes, together. After all, Aro thinks to himself, I did fly up to her window.
002. Tanya Denali
"The language of friendship is not words, but meanings.
- Henry David Thoreau
Tanya Denali is as beautiful as she is promiscuous. Half of the time, when I take pictures of her in group shots, the guys are imagining what it would be like to get her naked. The other half, the guys are remembering what it was like when she was. I've seen Tanya Denali fuck in the coffee-stained seat of a used Camaro, under the bleachers of our rival high school, and in the shower— mostly in the shower.
Still, I should be polite.
"Tanya, your shirt," I say pointing to it.
"Isn't it great?" Her teeth are so white they sparkle.
"I think I can see your nipple."
Tanya doesn't blush; her skin is arctic and will never see a bloom of color. She tucks in her boob to her shirt though. If I hadn't seen it thousands of times in students' minds, I would be sad to see it go. Her tits are perfect.
She juts out her lips; even when she does the duck-face she's beautiful.
Tanya's mind is as sparkly and pink as her Gucci couture mini-skirt, but right now she's not thinking about clothes or nail polish. She's thinking about a dark-haired girl walking hand-in-hand with the captain of the football team, about the way the girl takes steps so small she has to dance to keep up with her blonde boyfriend.
She thinks of the bracelets the girl has, the bronze bangle from Tibet, the charm bracelet with the platinum God's eye on it, and the newest one, a friendship bracelet, a gift from Tanya.
She remembers her head between the girl's legs, how Alice is dark down there too. Dark and wet and secret. Tanya Denali had never felt more intimate with anybody than when she was licking Alice Brandon's pussy in her boyfriend's bed as he watches, jacking off.
She tells herself she can't get attached. But Alice kissed her, and now their heartstrings are knotted together everywhere they touch—just like the bracelet. And yes, Tanya knows that Alice is in love with Jasper Hale, not with the town slut, but she gives her the friendship bracelet anyway. Slips it between the slots in her locker with a note.
When she hears the boys whispering about how they made Tanya Denali come so hard in their parent's hot-tub after they had six-shots of tequila, she just smiles and thinks what she thinks every time she looks at anyone but her favorite pixie-haired bisexual.
The same thing she thinks as she looks at me, the boy who took her virginity in the gym class showers freshman year.
003. Angela Weber
Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness.
When Angela Weber sits on the chair, she crosses her legs like she's at a tea party, even though she's wearing sweatpants with Forks High Lacrosse written up the side. I don't have to take a picture to know what she's thinking; it's written across her sweatshirt: Harvard!
"You have a pencil behind your ear, Ange." Angela is one of the few girls I'm friends with, because I know that when I take her picture I won't see naked images of myself in her brain. The others always think my cock is bigger than it is. How do I measure up to ten-inch expectations?
"Wait, hold on," she says, removing the pencil from her hair and pulling her sweatshirt over her head. After she tosses it aside her hair hovers slightly, caught in the static electricity. It looks different; she must have gotten it cut recently.
"Say cheese!" I tease.
"Gruyere! Brie! Gorgonzola! Port Salut!"
Angela is an overachiever.
I expect Angela's mind to be filled with the image of the thick envelope. I am ready for a play by play of her running to the mailbox and ripping open the Harvard seal, tracing the slogan Veritas with her bitten-nails; picking out her business courses on the online catalogue, creating a suitably obscure password, something in Germanic Latin, for her new, college email.
Instead, she's in a hair salon, her hands up near her ears, gesturing.
"One inch, no—two inches," she says.
The stylist with his blond-frosted hair and plucked eyebrows nods, and asks "Why, girlfriend?"
"Oh, I'm joining the Air Force."
Another salon. Now outside the trees are lined with snow.
"Why two inches, dear?"
"It's such a pain to put it all up for the surgeries."
The middle-aged woman with as many laugh-lines as pictures of her children, all lined up right next to the hair cleaning supplies says, "Oh, you poor dear. Do you have leukemia? I donate to that charity you know . . ."
"No, I do the surgeries. I'm a brain surgeon."
Even when they don't ask she explains.
"I'm working on fusing together Joseph Campbell's myths and legends with Andy Warhol's drawing of Campbell soup-cans, so I need to keep my hair short and out of the acrylics. I like to paint Persephone in between the letters P and Q in alphabet soup and Zeus floating in lentils," she says to a balding immigrant from Poland who cuts hair on the corner with an old-fashioned barber's sign and everything. Some people spread rumors that he pulls teeth too.
"Do you remember that girl on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the one with Bells Palsy? I visited their house during construction and they took footage of me. Apparently, now I'm all over the internet. I need to cut my hair so middle aged men don't stalk me down and ask me for my autograph," she says to the Korean woman who mostly does nails, but will cut your hair too if you pay enough.
When she gets home her parents always ask her what was wrong with the last salon? Like Goldilocks, she always says it's too expensive, or too sloppy, or smells too much like hair spray, or the seats are too hard.
She's going to Harvard to major in Business just like they want, but with every new haircut she gets to try on the lives she'll never have. She's not going to give that up just because they're confused about why she can't pick a salon; she's settled on enough in her life.
It's not until Angela's walking through the door on the far side of the cafeteria, that I realize she's left her sweatshirt. I walk over and pick it up. Below the Harvard seal is written the motto: Veritas, truth.
004. Jasper Hale
"Life, I love you, feeling groovy."
-Simon and Garfunkle
Jasper Hale is the only boy in the school who girls want more than me. It's not just because he's captain of the football team, it's also because he's fresh blood. Transferred up from Texas a year ago, and everybody's still convinced he's a cowboy.
As he shifts on the stool, his football jersey falls across his chest like a soldier's uniform. It's fitting; Jasper is more of a general than quarterback.
Under the Friday night lights he leads regiments of blue and white players to victories. He deals with broken bones, fist fights, and worries about scholarships. Yes, on occasion he does try to look under the cheerleaders' skirts, the pin-up girls pasted on the side-lines, but that's just to make them feel like they're doing their job. Mostly, Jasper is focused on the battlefield, neon-green AstroTurf carved by white lines and whistle-blows.
No one would have ever thought Jasper Hale would ever date anyone except the head cheerleader, but people have seen him around with the hippy-chick Alice, who smokes pot, always moans about where have the flowers gone and is rumored to like girls and boys.
"Just take the picture Edward, and stop staring."
I can't help but snicker at him, because it's clear where all the flowers have gone, they are in a daisy-chain crown on his head. That's not all; around his neck is what appears to be a necklace with a peace-bangle from Tibet on the end.
"Come on ,Jaasssper."
"Darlin', I've got an image to protect here. I can't go around looking like some kind of fruit."
In Jasper's mind Alice's lips taste "psychedelic."
Their lips unlock.
"How's that for persuasion, darlin'!" Alice trills back, half-mocking his drawl, half worshipping it.
"If I didn't love you, I would think you're crazy."
"You think I'm crazy anyway." Alice pouts, sticking out her little lower lip. It's a trait she picked up from someone recently, she can't remember who.
He picks her up— she's so small it's not any harder than holding a football— presses her against the gray lockers, and kisses away her doubts.
When he sets her back down with roller-coaster hair and ecstasy eyes, she teases, "You've got to learn how to embrace your weirdness, Jasper."
"Oh, I'll embrace you any day, darlin'."
And he places her crown of flowers on his head.
004. Mr. James Winthorpe
"Let freedom reign. The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement."
Mr. James Winthorpe is the first teacher I photograph, coming in between third and fourth period. He wears skinny ties and corduroy pants, and most people think he looks like a pedophile.
"Mr. Cullen," he greets in that quiet monotone of his.
I don't ask him to say cheese.
From a crouching position outside of her office, James Winthorpe watches Victoria roll up her pencil skirt to reveal her pale thighs. As he watches her kneel down on the expensive carpeting, and unzip her assistant's trendy jeans to pull out his monstrously thick, black cock, he's sure he's dreaming. It's not until she screams out, "Laurent," and falls down onto the floor twitching like she's been electrocuted, that James understands that his wife is cheating on him. His Victoria, with the red hair and the history of walking out on every man that ever loved her, has reversed the cliché— she's fucking the secretary.
He shouldn't be so mad that she's fucking someone else. It's her nature. He definitely shouldn't be so mad that he says, "I-I just can't believe you would," and slaps her across the face hard enough that her skin will map out the planes of his hand in bruises. But the truth is, James Winthorpe owns a penthouse suite in Manhattan, two Ferraris, a large share of stocks in Microsoft, but all he ever wanted to own was her. And now as he leaves her panting, leaning against their 4,000$ kitchen counter to keep upright, he has the feeling that he will never get to kiss her again.
As he parts the crowds, briefcase in hand, ready to battle in the stock-market, he can't help but feel confused. He's not the kind of man who hits his wife, but is it such a crime to want to own something?
It's not like he's trying to burn down the rainforests, or claim the sky. And if he is, so what? A man needs loyalty. So what if that makes him a little fanatical. Victoria will repent; she has to. I mean, choosing some Brooklyn dreadlocked dude over him, it makes no sense. So what if he's a little extreme. Doesn't the world need more people with passion?
All of this wondering makes him walk slower, makes him late for work. He's supposed to get there at 8am, so he can debrief clients on their new portfolio. James always rides the elevator up at 8:45, along with the herd of other black suits.
Not today. Today, at 8:46 am, James Winthrope stands outside of his office and watches as the first plane crashes into the tower.
It happens so quickly he's not sure he understands until he realizes his slick black suit is white with ash.
James doesn't believe in God, let alone hell, but look, here it is.
Someone owns the sky now. Look at the flaming towers. Look at the power of fire and passion.
He runs away, because that's what everyone is doing as the towers crumble in on themselves. The ones that aren't, are crying and pointing up at little dots hurling themselves from windows.
"No! Don't jump!" screams a little girl. "Daddy! Don't! " she yells so loud she won't be able to speak tomorrow.
Will there be a tomorrow? James wonders.
James can't help the girl. He can't even look at the towers as they fall, but like everyone else he hears the metal bones of New York City crack.
He ends up in a small bar in Harlem, downing more scotch than he should. He sits next to an old woman with tiny wrists and no expression. She drinks a hot chocolate and is the only person in the bar not staring up in horror at the TV.
After his fourth scotch she turns to him and he tenses, expecting her to tell him to pace himself.
But instead she just says, "My son was in there."
"I just don't know why someone would do it." Her hands tremble with the effort of holding up the big cup.
When she orders another hot chocolate, she asks for more rum and less chocolate.
This is when James knows that things are really fucked up.
Maybe that's why when he sees his name on a list of tiny names scrolling at the bottom of the television, he doesn't pick up his cell-phone and call Victoria. Maybe it's just the scotch that causes him to take a five-hundred grand out of his bank account and move to Forks, Washington and let everyone, mother, father, wife, believe that he died that day in the tower.
Or maybe, it's, because some part of him has the answer to the old lady's question, why someone would do it.
The terrorists just wanted to own something, an action, a legacy, a sin, and what was the difference really between them and him, besides scale.
Maybe, it's because James thinks that he doesn't want to own anything. Not if that's what owning something means.
After his third week in Forks, he finds a red-breasted robin with a broken wing; he nurses it back to health until it can fly again. The woman at animal control is just amazed by how delicately he holds the bird, not caging it, just supporting it, that she offers him a job, even though he doesn't have any kind of credentials.
Sometimes as he gives lectures on the delicateness of aviary bones, he sees a flash of red in the corner of his eye. Most days that's all he sees. But today, I know it's today, because the trees are in springtime in his mind, he catches a full glimpse of it, a red dot winging upward into the free, blue sky.
005. Rosalie King
"How true Daddy's words were when he said: all children must look after their own upbringing. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands."
You can tell by the way Rosalie King parks her convertible horizontally through two spots that she thinks she's better than you because she has money. Which is why everyone's surprised when she comes to picture day wearing flats and an extra large orange men's polo shirt that could have been bought at the Gap.
"Hey, Rose," I say.
This is a game she and I play. I say hi to her. She ignores me. Probably because she thinks I'm hitting on her.
Rosalie does not need the little black comb in my hand. She has one of those big circular brushes that looks like you could use it to groom a horse. She twists and turns it through her hair until it's glossy and perfect.
When she smiles I imagine she practiced in front of her mirror and catalogued it Picture Day 2011.
She holds up the orange shirt and inhales deeply the scent of her father. With her fingers, she feels the rough texture of it, the tackiness of it. She teased him endlessly about wearing it to his golfing lesson.
"Tiger Woods!" she says to her father. "You can't wear a shirt that looks like a street sign to meet Tiger Woods!"
The hour golfing lesson, priced at a cool million, is his fiftieth birthday present to himself—a man can have only so many yachts.
"Dad, you're going to give Tiger a heart attack it's so ugly."
She is half right.
Yet, as she sits in the green plastic chair next to the bed with her dying father, watching the monitors, she can't hate the shirt, because it smells like him, fresh cut grass and golf balls.
So Rosalie breaks her rules, breaks the law too. She steals the shirt from the coroner's office with the help of Emmett and keeps it under her pillow and never looks at it again, just smells it. It makes it seem like her dad is in hiding, just out of view, but not gone.
Except this morning, this morning she looks at it. This morning she puts it on and walks into the one place where your every outfit, your every accessory, is scrutinized: high school.
It's the ugliest thing she's ever worn, let alone owned. Lauren, Jessica and Tanya snicker at her and ask her if she's got a boyfriend in prison giving her fashion advice. Emmett raises an eyebrow and looks disappointed that he can't get a good glimpse at her tits through it. Unpopulars and nobodies salivate at the thought that maybe, just maybe, Rosalie Hale isn't perfect after all.
Sometimes between classes Rosalie raises the collar of the shirt to her nose, and that's enough to remind her that while she may be imperfect—she always has been— wearing this shirt is the only perfect thing she's ever done.
As I look through the viewfinder at her, the orange clashing horribly against the blue, I can't help but agree.
"He who does not travel does not know the value of men." – Moorish proverb
She has big bones and an even bigger smile. It shines even before I even take out the camera.
"It's crazy to think I've been here a year."
I can see why Aro's in love with her. Her Irish lilt is pretty, even if she has a double-chin, and arms that wobble when she moves.
Siobhan finds the little things about America magical.
For example, she wants to know why the grocery stores are so big here.
She spends hours examining all the different kinds of chocolate syrup with Aro. And even though he doesn't have a bunch of money, he buys her five different kinds so that they can put a dollop of each on each finger and lick every one.
Everyone else complains about the rain, but she sticks out her tongue and tastes it.
She dances in the flames of the hell that is high school, colors her skin with her insecurities like war-paint, and doesn't mind when kids point and stare at her.
"They're just as lost as we are," she tells Aro.
There is a freedom Siobhan never thought she'd find in moving to a foreign country all alone.
She didn't think she'd see so many different worlds in America. Aro thinks she's talking about her layover in JFK or the token black kid, Tyler Crowley, but really she's talking about the tide pools on the rocky beach of La Push and all different kind of crustaceans and starfish; so many beautiful things.
People laugh at her jokes, and think she looks pretty when she wears a dress her Grandma sewed her, even though it's a little too tight across her thighs.
She never thought the grass could be greener than it is in Ireland, but somehow through Siobhan, here, on the other side, it is.
007. Emmett McCarthy
Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.
"Eddy!" chides Emmett in his frat-boy drawl.
Emmett flexes his muscles towards the camera.
"Come on, why didn't ya take that one?"
I grin. Unlike the rest of rest of the student body, Emmett's thoughts will be simple; I know him better than anybody. He's my best friend. No hidden tragedy there, probably just sex.
"I already have like sixty pictures of you on the wrestling mat flexing. Try to look like a gentleman, McCarthy."
"I am always a gentleman, Cullen."
Rosalie is pressed next to him in the bed, wearing lingerie that cost probably as much as my laptop. She's panting, just orgasmed maybe. There's blush on her cheeks, and not from that flowery smelling make up she uses.
She opens her rosy lips. "Emmett, I love—"
A fart as loud as cork coming out of champagne bottle rips across the air, quickly followed by a noxious smell.
Through Emmett's eyes Rosalie looks beautiful even when she's mortified. "T-that wasn't me."
He chuckles, flipping her over and nuzzling her neck. "Like I didn't know that girls fart."
Seeing Rosalie fart in bed makes him absurdly happy. It means she's a real person, and that their relationship isn't some wet-dream he made up in his head.
He can't stop laughing.
Laughing with Rosalie is the most important part of sex for Emmett. Well, after blow jobs.
.009 Alice Brandon
The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
The first time I see Alice Brandon, I'm convinced she's a hummingbird. She bounces from lunch-table to lunch-table, never settling, looking for nectar. She's also small enough she could probably fit in a flower.
As she sits down on the stool, all of her jewelry jangles. "You look like a piece of shit, Edward."
"Tilt your head, Alice."
"You have to stop worrying. I totally see you and Bella re-connecting in a spiritually inspirational way after class today."
Alice Brandon is more Bella's friend than mine now, since I left Bella alone. I did it for Bella's own good, but Alice isn't moral enough to understand that, and in the "divorce" she went to Bella. I give Alice no warning as I snap the picture. I hope she looks ridiculous.
Alice Brandon's mind reads like one of those trashy chick-lit soap operas my mom reads in the bathtub or my sister, Renesmee, watches on TV.
Alice B. goes to every party thrown at Forks High, except for the ones she's not invited to, the ones thrown by Lauren Mallory, the slut trying to steal A's bf, Jasper Hale. A offers Lauren the opportunity to bang said hunk of man-meat— A's no capitalist scrooge when it comes to sex. But A thinks L.M is cute, and if L.M wants to fuck J.H, than it's only fair for her to pay for L.M respects to the host of the little party and fuck A. too.
L.M, co-president of the chastity club with little Renesmee Cullen, finds the idea of fucking a girl to be totally not okay, and firmly decides to x crazy A out of the social calendar for good.
So when L.M throws the biggest bash of the year and has everyone dress like animals from Forks, she leaves A out.
A sits at home listening to Simon and Garfunkel and smoking pot that she keeps in her scrapbook of middle-school memories.
After her third drag, A sees Facebook updates.
Michael Newton is SO drunk lolol.
Emmett McCarthy is I'm a grizzly McCarthy, rawrr!
Eric Yorkie is Ooh, Angela Weber's one hot bobcat, I wanna bite dat ass!
She takes out her phone and dials her best friend, Bella S. Who, of course, will be at the party; she's been trying to get the attention of resident manwhore since freshman year.
"Alice!" Bella screams over the din of all the animals of Forks dancing to . "Are you calling cause you wanted to make sure I didn't go as a chipmunk?"
"No! I know you took my white dress and went as a swan, because you fancy having a pulse."
"Then why are you calling. I think I see—"
"I'm calling you because I'm having a vision of the police rolling up to L.M's little shindig. You know how I'm clairvoyant."
"Alice, none of your visions ever come true."
"Trust me on this one."
Click. Alice hangs up. Then, punching in the numbers deliberately, she dials another number.
"Hello, Forks Police Department? I'm calling to report a noise complaint."
This explains why everyone takes Alice Brandon's tarot card readings so seriously now.
010. Edward Cullen
You don't take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it. ~Author Unknown
I know the moment she enters the cafeteria. I have super-hero senses when it comes to Bella Swan; I always will. She thinks I just noticed her this spring at the party, but I remember every moment.
I remember the first day of school freshman year, when she came to school with her green backpack monogrammed with her initials: B.M.S. She blushed when I teased her about the similarities between her initials and P.M.S. I wondered what she would have done if I had just told her what I was actually thinking: that she should take off that silly kid's backpack, so I could fuck her on the dirty floor of the high school.
I remember how it took me a year to get the courage to ask her out on a date, and even then I had Alice do it for me. I was going to surprise her in the bookstore, with her favorite: double latte with peppermint and caramel. l had and a copy of Pride and Prejudice (which I had never read, but I looked up Spark Notes online). I was going to tell her, "Listen, Bella. You're really cute, and I know you may have heard some bad things about me, but here are the facts: I like you, and I'm taking you out."
I never got to say those things to Bella Swan though, because on that blustery October morning, Alice came by with her jangling, hippy beads and told me, "The wind has shifted."
And I said, "Stop with the Madam Trelawney bullshit, Alice."
"Wizard of Oz, Dumbo."
"Well if you're going to use words like that I'll just tell you."
I remember Alice said the word "cancer" like it was a curse word. I remember how I freaked out so bad; I grabbed Alice up and practically lifted her of the floor.
Alice just sighed and said, "No, you idiot. She doesn't have cancer, her mom does. She's moving back to Phoenix to be with her."
I remember how Bella came back a year later, and I asked Alice if she was sure that Bella hadn't been through chemo, because she damn well looked like it. But still, I had to laugh when I saw that she was reading Zombie Pride and Prejudice, because some things never change, even when they die a little.
I remember the day she started dating the boy with the motorcycle and long hair. I remember this especially well, because this was also the day I found a strange camera in my mailbox, the kind that still uses film. My mother was sure it was sent by a terrorist, my father thought it was from the government trying to spy on us. But I strung it around my neck, because I'd always wanted to take pictures of things.
I'd always wanted to take pictures of her.
I'd always wanted to take pictures of her, so that the next time she leaves I'd have something keep afterward. No, that's a lie. I wanted to take pictures, so I'd have an excuse to talk to her, to keep her from leaving.
The day I got the camera , was the day when I couldn't help but follow behind the bleachers and watch as she put her small hands against a Native-American boy's brown-cracked leather jacket. It was the day when she told Jacob Black she'd never been kissed before.
I still have the first picture I took with the camera; it's of her lips pressing gently up against his.
It was just a shutter click and a flash, and I fell in love with Bella Swan.
Lots of the minds hold stories about their lives, about their petty sins, tragedies, jokes and sex lives. There are lots of thoughts about sex-lives. But that first picture I took, the first time I saw into someone's mind, it was Bella's.
Bella was dancing on clouds in her brain. She was bounding through the sky, and somersaulting under cirrus clouds, naked, but I didn't want to fuck her; I mean not only fuck her. I wanted to be there, dancing with her. Because I remember when I was a little kid and the only things I cared about were the worlds I could invent. And yes, I had lost them along the way, but maybe Bella followed behind me and picked them up.
I wanted them back; I wanted her back—even though I never had her to begin with.
As the flash faded I heard one resounding thought from her brain.
"I thought after Mom died I'd never be happy again."
There was the kicker. The cause of her happiness wasn't me. It was the boy who looked like man, but grinned like a puppy dog.
For the rest of the year I ignored her, even as she started to talk to me, flirt with me. Because when you love someone you don't ruin their happiness, even if they want you to.
I was so good, polite, smiled. There was no way she would have ever known that I loved her. I took pictures of her sometimes, just to get my fix of her thoughts, but never more than once a month. I had to keep myself restrained. I knew that if I didn't, I would fill every wall of my room with her face, each photo a cue card for the memories of her thoughts.
She was happy in the pictures I took of her. Happy with Jacob Black. Still, I dreamed about giving the photographs to her, but it was hard to think of something more stalker-pervy than going up to a girl and handing her a portfolio of photos you took of her without her consent.
Anyway, even if Bella were single, what would I have done? I knew how to make a girl come so hard she forgot her own name, but I didn't know how to pick out the right kind of flowers or what to say in bed afterward. I always pretended to fall asleep after sex so I wouldn't have to talk to the girl. I found it hard to believe you could even have sex and connection at the same time.
Life would have been better for Bella Swan, if she hadn't tried to seduce me at Lauren Mallory's party. Bella had come dressed as a swan, which wasn't really a native animal of Forks, but when you've got legs like Bella had, costume accuracy seemed secondary.
I was dressed like a lion, because there were too many grizzly bears and wild cats, and because I had copper-hair that kind of looked like a mane when I didn't brush it. I don't know how Bella managed to corner me at the party, or even why. Things were going great with Jacob. He was in love with her; I had the pictures and thoughts to prove it.
It wasn't until she sat down next to me on the mattress, placing her hand just centimeters away from mine, that I noticed she had feathers in her hair. It reminded me of the clouds in her mind. There she was, my Bella, biting that lower lip, looking at me like she wanted me to devour her. I held back, because when you're in love that's what you do, isn't it? I certainly didn't hold back with the girls I didn't give two shits about.
But when then she took one the feathers from her hair and tickled the edge of my nose with it, I knew Bella Swan was getting fucked that night.
"Doesn't the lion fall in love with the swan?" she teased with a little frown. I wished I had my camera. I wished I could of known what made her sad.
"I think it's the lamb."
Her breath was so warm against my neck. She was so there. I loved her thoughts, but man her touch made me hard as fuck, and that was almost as good.
"Yeah, Edward, but a lamb isn't sexy, wouldn't have gotten your attention."
"Anything you do would have gotten my attention."
We fucked on the bed. We fucked on the floor. We fucked in the dirt of the backyard, as the cops searched in the haystacks of beer bottles for the college kids who had emptied them. We fucked and moaned underneath the crooning sirens.
When we were done, I brought her back to the house. She had fallen asleep on the wet grass, her white dress stained green. And God, I swear even though her cheeks were smudged with mud and she smelled like sweat and come, she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Pretty as a picture, Bella was. So I took one. I tip-toed down the stairway, running my finger-tips along the banister, because after touching Bella, every tactile sensation seemed newly framed by the experience of tweaking her nipples or stroking her skin.
I carried my camera close to my chest, not bothering with the flash as I set it up near her face. I would remember the soft parting of her lips as she whispered inaudibly in her dreams. The picture would come out in shadows.
A click of the shutter and I knew the name Bella was whispering. Jacob Black.
Three phone calls, two texts since that night. I delete them all without looking at them, because I know if I do, I will never be able to let her go.
I don't turn to look at her as she moves between the cafeterias. I don't have to. I know how she moves on her brown heels, a little unsteady, the way her eyes aren't focused on anything, because she's thinking.
I can guess what she's thinking. I've seen the worlds her mind has created, the lush rainforests of dreams and fears. She has medicine for me in that mind of her. Deep wonders I'll never discover. Because I was not there first.
"Edward." As she leans against the partition in front of me, the hem of her blue and white polka dotted dress slides up just enough to reveal the inward curve of the outside of her thigh. I can still smell the morning dew on her skin.
"Edward." She bites her lip. "We need to talk."
It is a battle I will never win, to focus on the words Bella says, when I've had her body and her dreams straight up. The ticker on the camera reads two shots left.
"About what?" I ask.
"About what?" she repeats, disbelieving. "God, never mind. I'm sorry I was so deluded." I can't see that she's crying, but the symptoms of it are in her words.
"Wait." I remove the camera from around my neck.
"No, Edward. I'm done waiting for you." She pushes off the partition and moves towards the sea of table and students.
As she turns my eyes are drawn to the indent in the back of her knees. I marvel at how the skin there looks so soft and vulnerable. I want to kiss it. I want to kiss every part of her. "Please."
"For what, so you just can ignore me again? I'm not some toy." Her brown eyes are glazed with tears, until gravity pushes them down her face.
"You have no idea, do you?" I whisper. Her fingers tense; It reminds me of the pressure of them on my cock. "Do you know what you do to me, Bella? What I would do to make you happy?"
Her face floods with red, and this is the first time I've seen her really angry. As much as I hate it, I also love it, because her eyes narrow and I can imagine her making that face as she comes, trailing her nails down my back and screaming my name.
"Just once, just one fucking time, I wish everyone would say exactly what they wanted to say," she spits out. "I wish you would just tell me what you're thinking."
I can't help but think back on the pictures I took today, the stories, the secrets. Some of them were inconsequential, many sad. But all of them were beautiful in their own way. I am in all of their minds at once, Aro dancing around Siobhan peering down at tide pools, Tanya slipping the bracelet into Alice's locker, Alice twirling the bracelet around her wrist as she waits for the Forks Police Department to let her off hold. Jasper marching off to the football field with a helmet of flowers and lipstick smudges on his cheeks. Mr. Winthorpe, James, holding that little bird in his hands, nursing it back to health, looking at it with love even as he let it fly away. And Emmett laughing at Rosalie, and Rosalie clutching the shirt to her chest inhaling, and Angela going to the salon to get the little glimpses of the dreams she'll never have.
They'll never know that someone's listening, that someone heard their lives. I can never tell them, never let them know exactly how un-alone they are. But I can tell her.
And I know what I have to do. "Bella, I am in love with you."
"You don't have to make up feelings just to explain things or try and sneak your way—"
"I'm not," I say.
Her eyes say prove it
So I do.
"Take this." I place her hands around the camera. When she tries to pull back from my touch I don't let her.
"Edward, I don't."
"This is the last thing I'll ever ask of you, Bella, I promise."
This is it—one last action, one last declaration. Once I sling the strap around her neck, I turn around and move towards the stool, and sit down on it, feet apart, staring straight at her.
"Take my picture."
"Just click the shutter and then you can go back to Jacob Black."
Her finger presses down on the button.
I summon every thought I've had about Bella, our occasional witty banter in the lunch-line freshman year, the texture of her hair, the way the light catches her face as she sat head cocked, listening to Mr. Banner drone on about Shakespeare as if she actually cared, how I felt when I first saw her struggling with her locker combination, the slickness of the inside of her thighs with every thrust, the quiet hush as I brought the camera to her face in the dark, the curve of her breasts. How feel about her now. How I'll always feel, and why that feeling means I have to leave her.
I expected to feel something, but I don't. I would almost think it didn't work, but Bella's eyes widen so large there's no mistaking it has.
After a moment, she sets the camera down, and just looks at me. I'm glad I don't have the camera, because I know if I did I would take a picture. And I couldn't bear to hear her thoughts of how I'm pervert and wow, even the stud, Cullen, is a loser at heart.
"I broke up with him," she says in a quite voice, "I broke up with Jacob; not just because of you, but because we weren't working." Her waist is so tiny, her chest so hollow looking as she bends over— sobbing.
I want so badly to go over to her and take her in my arms, but I know what I said. I'm not going to ask anything, to do anything to Bella every again—even help her. "I'm sorry, I never meant to come between—"
"Edward, I can't say what I need to say."
Would I never have closure?
"So here," she holds out the camera in front of her, hands shaking from the weight of it.
I take it from her hand, our fingers almost touching, turn and walk back towards the lights and equipment, and begin packing up.
"What are you doing?" Bella asks.
"Leaving, getting ready to go."
"I gave you the camera so I could take a picture of me. So you could know."
I look at the ticker. One. One picture left. What horrible things would there be about me in her brain, what anger what bitterness? The truth was, at the end of the day, I was a coward. "I can't."
"Edward, I did one thing for you, no questions asked, even though I had no idea what it was you were asking. . . the least you can do is return the favor."
"Fine." I bring the camera up.
"Closer," she says.
I take a step closer. A thought occurs to me. It's possible to trigger the flash without actually taking a picture. If I do that she'll never have to know the difference.
"Three, two, one—"
There's none of Bella's mind, no click of the shutter.
She springs from the stool, towards me and grabs half of the camera in one hand, holding it above us. And as her finger clicks down on the button, her lips press into mine.
Illumination, all around my brain, or hers—I can't tell the difference anymore. I see myself in that light, as she sees me: golden boy, eyes wide and more topaz than brown. In her mind I am so beautiful, it hurts to look at myself.
There she is next to me, dressed as a swan, feathers sprouting from her hair, but I'm not even looking at her, ignoring her.
The smell of books and papers as I whisper to her in the library about Michael Jackson and how it was sad he died, because The Break of Dawn was possibly the best sex song ever written.
How she slapped me in the arm, not just because she thought George Michaels was the best sex song writer ever, but because she was worried if she didn't that she would end up kissing me.
And she knew she couldn't kiss me and lose me.
The cadence of my voice, as I whisper her name, the soft cascade of syllables.
How far away and blurry I look as she watches me from behind her locker talking with Alice, asking her to ask her out.
The giddy excitement as she cycles between outfits trying to figure out what color I like. She knew about the date all along.
The crackling static through which she hears her mother's voice.
The click of the ropes as they lower her mother's coffin into the ground.
The salty sting of tears lodged in her throat. The sensation of heaving sobs. The feel of a warm hand in hers—Jacob's. The end of the loneliness. How anything was better than the emptiness, even being with someone she didn't love.
Sneaking glances at me from behind the shelves in the library, around corners. She was always watching me, just like I was her.
The feeling of her heart breaking, as I ignored her. The desperation as she dressed herself in feathers like some kind of sacrifice.
The thrill as she clutched her legs around mine. The beauty of the electricity that jolted between us, that bonded us together.
The guilt at the fact that all her life she had derided people like Tanya Denali who fucked in odd places and with odd people and didn't care who they hurt in the first place. Didn't care if they even got hurt themselves. She was not like that. Except after cheating on her boyfriend with the guy she really loved, she was.
And the fear, the fear after her phone lay silent by her bed. The fear that it meant nothing to me. Dark canyons of it, snaking around islands of light and hope in her brain. Earthquakes and growing, gaping chasms.
The dignity as she sat Jacob down in the corner of Starbucks and explained to him, that it was over. That he deserved better than someone who didn't love him. The way he rolled his shoulders back and didn't cry, but his hands shook and he spilled a little coffee.
Finally me, standing there telling her the words she wanted to hear for so long. The relief of it underlined by the fear and the pain. The sharp blade of it, slowly, slowly, dragging across her skin.
Then joy. So much joy, as I feel her feeling my thoughts. A circle. Each of our minds folded in on each other. I have never felt so happy before in my life; her joy at loving me, my joy at loving her.
Both of our thoughts and secrets are the same. We are the same.
Bella Swan's mind is a beautiful place, and if I could I would live there forever. But people aren't meant to live forever. And if you know the story just by flashing a camera, well then, you'll never have to tell it, will you? You'll never have to say exactly what you want to say.
So after the flash dies, I take the camera from her hands and toss it to the ground. The lens cracks first, and the back panel opens with a click, the film popping out in streams.
"Edward!" she cries.
I silence her with a kiss so hard she will never doubt that I love her. When we finally we surface, to the jeers and cat-calls of the few remaining students in the corners of the cafeteria, I say it.
"Bella, I love you."
It is exactly what I want to say.
I will want to say it forever.
A/N: Thanks for reading. Please leave a review with your thoughts.
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