"Will you grab the salad bowl and get started on those cucumbers for me?" Sue calls out orders, while Leah and Charlie run themselves ragged around the house.
"Baby, what is a colander, and where in the hell am I supposed to find it?" Charlie asks, emerging from the pantry with something that looks suspiciously like brown sugar in his hair and on his shirt.
"It looks like a big bowl with holes in it, and it's in the cupboard under the silverware," Sue replies with a chuckle and gently brushes the sugar from his hair.
Leah stifles her own laughter as she chops vegetables and smiles to herself. She can't remember the last time she felt so…well, she wasn't quite sure how to name the feeling. Maybe it was free. It wasn't quite happy.
Sure, it's great to spend time with her mom and Charlie, and she is ecstatic about finally getting hired by the Seattle School District. Still, what she is feeling is a kind of weightless, stressless…freedom. Yeah, she supposes this must be what it feels like to finally be rid of her guilt.
Not that it was easy. Leah still gets a little queasy when she thinks about that awkward phone conversation with Bella. Two days after Edward had returned her key, her cell phone rang. For a few seconds she was sure it was him. She answered without looking at the screen and was shocked to hear Bella's voice.
"I just want to know one thing," Bella spoke immediately, her tone harsh and forceful.
"Bella, I'm sorry," Leah sputtered and felt even more pathetic than she had over the past two days.
"I don't want to hear it, Lee." Bella snapped. "Just tell me – do you love him?"
"Yes," Leah answered, and the line immediately went dead.
It was another six months before Leah spoke to her stepsister again. She never thought they could move past what happened, but things changed a great deal after Bella and Edward got a divorce.
"Are you done making that salad? The turkey is going to get cold," Charlie says, setting his hand on her shoulder and taking the bowl from her hand. "Wake up, Leah. There'll be plenty of time for napping after we eat."
He gives her wink and walks over to set the bowl on the table. Leah watches her mother and stepfather fuss over the food and smiles to herself. Thanksgiving has been so much easier this year. Her old bitter self would have thought it was because Bella isn't here, but she knows it has nothing to do with that.
"Oh, I forgot to tell you that Bella called this morning," Sue says, while passing Leah a plate of asparagus, and slaps Charlie's hand as he tries to reach for another roll.
"How is Bells doing?" Leah takes the plate and snickers at Charlie's wounded expression.
"Other than very pregnant, she's fine," Sue laughs and leans over to kiss Charlie's cheek. "I swear, it will be a miracle if that husband of hers survives this pregnancy, not to mention the others they want to have."
"How many are they talking about having?" Leah asks around a bit of turkey.
"Six, last time I asked Bella," Sue says with a snort. "Though when I asked Jasper the answer was eight."
"Jesus, after the fourth one they'll be walking out of her," Leah comments, and Charlie spits out a mouth full of beer.
"Leah Anne Clearwater," Sue says but can't hold back her laughter.
"I'm sorry, but it's true and scary," Leah insists, shaking her head. "You guys better enjoy their kids. Lord knows, I'm not popping out puppies any time soon."
"What about that nice boy you met at the wedding?" Sue gives her a teasing look, sipping her own beer, and Leah immediately wants to slap her mother for taunting her in front of Charlie. "What was his name again?"
"Felix and I are just friends," Leah snaps, rolling her eyes, and quickly takes a large bite of turkey.
"What a shame. I thought you two…you know, got along really well." Sue stumbles over the wording and stifles a snicker.
Leah rolls her eyes at her mother's euphemism. "Yeah, we really made a connection." The truth was Leah and Felix spent four days fucking on every surface of his hotel room.
Felix is a business associate of Jasper's, an Italian executive that works for some European pharmaceutical company. She doesn't know a lot about what he does for living or many other details about his personal life. All Leah really needed to know about Felix was he was nothing like Edward.
He was tall, muscular, with jet-black hair and dark blue eyes. From the moment he introduced himself and asked her to dance he never hesitated to make it clear he found her attractive. He told her she was stunning, graceful, and insisted it was insane that she didn't have a date for the wedding.
After two dances, he asked her if she wanted to join him in his hotel room, and Leah had quickly accepted. He barely had the door to his room open before he was kissing and undressing her. His aggression was a relief and so flattering, but most of all it was what she needed. That feeling of being desired and taken, following each other in a natural progression. It was a revelation and an awakening. This is how it is supposed to work, how it should work for people who are attracted to each other. Two single people.
Felix told her in great detail what he found sexy about her; he told her she was gorgeous and wild. He laughed at her crude jokes, insisted on feeding her decadent desserts from the room service menu, and he was fascinated by her size ten feet. When their time together was up there were no dramatic displays. He kissed her soundly, gave her his card, and insisted she call him if she were ever in Italy. They email each other from time to time, usually so Felix can share some horribly offensive American joke that a coworker has told him. Occasionally, she gets packages from Milan with ridiculously extravagant shoes in her size, and a card from Felix that would simply say.
"Mi mancano I tuoi piedi." Which she discovered, after typing it into Google Translate, means I miss your feet.
He was nice and a great lay, but he wasn't the love of her life.
"Who names their kid after a cartoon cat?" Charlie grumbles, while he dabs his napkin at his flannel shirt.
"He's Italian, Charlie. I'm sure it's perfectly normal for them," Sue says, taking the napkin from his hand, and tugs on his shirt. "Just take it off and I'll wash it after dinner."
Charlie sighs and stands up from the table to pull off his shirt. "I'll grab a fresh one from upstairs."
As soon as her stepfather disappears, Leah's mother leans forward and starts to speak in a dramatic whisper. "All joking aside, I'm sorry things didn't work out for you two, baby."
"It's not a big deal, Mom," Leah sighs, trying to avoid the look in her mother's eyes. "I don't need a guy to make my life complete."
"Watch it, young lady." Sue gives her a sharp look and points her fork in a threatening gesture. "I know you and Bella have had your differences in the past, but you of all people should not fault her for what makes her happy."
Leah shrinks back a little under her mother's intense gaze, knowing full well that her mother is aware of the part she played in Edward and Bella's divorce. It was probably the hardest part of the fall out, facing her mother's judgment. Much to Leah's surprise, her mother had been understanding and not all that surprised. She said the closeness between Edward and Leah had always been evident, but she'd trusted them to keep it in check.
"I swear I wasn't trying to be mean," Leah insists, staring at her plate, and tries to breath past the strange tightening in her chest. "It's just, sometimes I think I blew my one chance, and if I keep trying to look for it again I'm going to drive myself insane. I'm fine with where my life is, and that's all I can focus on right now.
The table shifts a little, and she hears her mother's chair creak. Then Sue's hand is on the side of her face, making her look up into dark brown eyes that look so much like her own. Her mother smiles at her and kneels beside her.
"Baby, love isn't like that at all," Sue says with a wide smile and confidant tone. "I know from experience that we get more than one shot at love. You'll get another chance at it; I promise."
"Thanks, Mom," she says, giving her mother a smile and gets a kiss on her forehead.
"You're welcome," Sue replies, standing up and returning to her seat. "Now, stop trying to hide your vegetables under your mashed potatoes, and eat them like the adult I know you are."
Leah laughs, shaking her head at her mother's far too sharp eyes and reluctantly uncovers her green beans.
The knock on the door startles both of them, but it's Sue that immediately stands up from her chair Leah follows suit. It's strange that her mother should be so jump all of sudden. They both make it into the living room just as Charlie opens the front door.
Edward stands in the doorway, his wet hair dripping water in shining, silvery streaks down his smiling face. "Hey."
"There you are," Charlie says, waving him inside and chuckling at his appearance.
"Sorry we're late," he apologizes, carrying two large suitcases into the entryway and reveals an equally soaked Seth behind him. "My navigator apparently doesn't know the difference between East and West."
"Hey, it's not my fault that I'm all turned around from living on the other side of the state," Seth argues with a wide grin and hugs Charlie, after setting down another suitcase. "Besides, I'm not the one that forgot to get snow tires before going over the Pass."
"Are you kidding me?" Charlie turns to glare at Edward, who shrugs sheepishly. "I thought I told you to get that done before you even left the city."
"Mom," Leah hisses, tugging on her mother's arms, and pulls her back into the dining room. "What is he doing here?"
"We invited him, of course," Sue replies, pulling her arm out of Leah's grip, and turns to face her daughter with a pointed look. "He offered to pick up Seth from Pullman, since your car died. I figured it was a great opportunity to have him spend time with the family."
"How does Bella feel about this?" Leah crosses her arms and fixes her mother with an steady glare.
"She told me she was fine with it," Sue reassures her and sighs heavily. "Leah, they may not be in love anymore, but they still care for one another; we are the only family he has in this state."
"Mom, I don't know…I mean-" Leah chokes a little on her words, unsure of what she's trying to say.
Seeing Edward out of the blue like this, after all this time is…weird. Thinking back she an acknowledge that she didn't have the flash of intense need she used to have when she saw him, though she still finds him attractive. There is no denying that he still looks fantastic despite the stress of the divorce. Still, Leah feels unsteady having him so close.
"No one's asking you to be anything more than polite to each other, Baby," Sue says, her expression softening, and she reaches out to tuck a loose lock of hair behind Leah's ear. "However, no one would blame you if you followed your heart now that you're both free to do so."
"Mother!" Leah jerks back and stares at her mother in disbelief.
"Hey, why are you two hiding over here?" Seth appears beside them and scoops up Sue in a bear hug, nearly lifts her feet off the floor.
"Put her down before you smother her to death," Leah says, playfully slapping at her brother's thick arms, and gets wrapped into a hug within seconds.
After a few seconds, Leah punches Seth in the stomach, and he releases them both with an exaggerated groan of pain. They walk over to the dining room table, and Sue catches Leah's arm, holding her back for just a second.
"Think about what I said, Lee," she whispers, giving Leah a kiss on the cheek, and releases her arm.
Leah watches her mother take her seat at the table and remembers her words about second chances at love. She wonders just how long her mother has loved Charlie Swan. Before she can dwell on it too long, Charlie and Edward walk into the room. Their whispered conversation ends quickly, and they break apart to take their seats at the table. Leah tries to not groan out loud when her mother directs Edward to sit in the chair next her. He takes the seat, and they begin to pass the dishes of food around the table.
"Could you pass me the green beans?" Edward gives her a bright smile, but she can see the corners of his eyes are pinched slightly.
She hands him the dish and leans closer to whisper. "You don't have to play along for my mother's sake."
"I don't know what you mean," he whispers back, and begins to scoop green beans onto his plate.
Leah takes a sip of her beer and grinds her teeth then leans in again. "I mean, I'll make up an excuse to leave early so you don't have to deal with me being here."
Edward freezes, setting down the bowl and serving spoon, "Do you want me to leave?"
"I didn't say that," Leah sighs and wishes she had never started this ridiculously awkward conversation. "I…after what…I figured you wouldn't want me around."
"Leah," Edward says, placing his hand over hers in plain view of everyone at the table, and turns to smile at her. "You're the reason I'm here."
Yes, that's the end.
I must admit, when I first claimed this prompt I didn't think that cheating was a legit kink, but some of the reactions to this story are proof enough to convince me that it most definitely is one. While I tried to write a realistic portrayal of infidelity, I also wrote it for someone that has a kink for cheating and who specifically asked for this pairing. I hope that I wrote what they wanted, because that was the main purpose of this story.
Thank you to everyone that has read and reviewed. Big Thanks to my beta, Jessypt and to Sadtomato for providing some invaluable feedback on these last few chapters. Thanks to the host of the TwiKinkFest.
Special thanks to the prompter for inspiring me to stretch myself and to write a fic I never thought I could write.