We do not own Twilight. We do love Edward's black eyes.
All rights and respects to Stephenie Meyer, Taking Back Sunday, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sleigh Bells, Coldplay, GroupLove, The Postal Service, Cyndi Lauper, Fun, Soft Cell, Nicki Minaj, and Pat Benatar.
TeamBella, this is what happens when a poet and a realist meet. This is what living like this does.
LovelyBrutal is our prereader, betababy and my beloved tresor.
Thank you guys for reading and for all the support.
Coldplay – Charlie Brown: Light a fire. Light a spark. Light a fire, a flame in my heart. We'll run wild. We'll be glowing in the dark.
All the boys. All the girls. All that matters in the world. All the highs. All the lows, as the room a-spinning goes. We'll run riot. We'll be glowing in the dark…
Chapter Eighteen – Bliss
We don't get a lot of these lately, weeknights together. I close my eyes, trying to remember the last one.
January? Before school started again?
It's been so long. And even though I'm here three out of four weekends a month, weekends aren't the same at all. Sometimes he stays in. Sometimes...
I open my eyes and look down as best as I can in my position. I'm on my back and Edward's wrapped around me. His hips are against his bed, next to mine. His chest is on my stomach and his head is on my chest, ear over my heart.
Sometimes I'll stay in his bed even when he's gone and a couple hours before dawn, he'll come home. He doesn't smell like girls or a shower, just smoke and night games and double mint. He'll push my white pajamas and his gray sheets away, and cover my skin with nothing but his touch. His kisses. His breath.
I smile just to myself, from all the way inside. I look down at my boy, wrapped around me. I can tell by his breathing and by the feel of his pulse against my belly that he's not asleep. I'm tired and I know he is too. It's almost one in the morning, but it's nice sometimes like this, to just be so quiet and so still.
We see each other in the halls and stuff. He leaves longer notes that are more like letters now in my locker. We're in close proximity all week long, but it's nothing compared.
I close my eyes once more and relax in the moment, trying to remember our last weeknight in. January feels like forever ago. It's the end of March already. Alice is going to be sixteen tomorrow.
I wonder what kind of car they'll get her.
This year has been so much different, and in a lot of ways, so much better than the last. Edward and I still keep to different crowds and he still goes out all the time, but his knuckles remain uncut for months now. He still parties, but his blue is clear. He goes to school and plays ball, and is just himself.
Which is all good, these are all really good things; I just wish we could have this more often. I wish we could just be, but I know better. But there's so much holding us back. His friends, my parents, not to mention my heart...
I slide my fingers through his hat-messy hair, just feeling him breathe.
There are things I want to say. I want to ask him where he was all day while I was at school. I want to tell him I missed him all week long, since last time we were this close, last Saturday morning. I want to ask if he's okay, if everything's okay, if he can feel his heart calming down and my own picking up so that they can beat the same sound together somewhere in between.
I want to tell him I love him so, so, so much.
But I don't say anything.
Knowing where he's been or trying to tell him how much I missed him wouldn't improve upon this perfect silent stillness one bit. One way or another, it would only hurt. And I know he can feel both of our hearts. It's why he's got his cheek pressed to mine, and I know he knows I love him. How could he ever doubt it? How could anyone doubt something so clear, so strong, so for certain that you feel it all the way in your bones when you touch?
Love tangles tightly like roots through both of us and all of this. We were made to love.
It's having to live in the meantime that messes everything up.
Edward breathes against me, warm through my sleep tank.
I love so deeply. I feel like I can't even contain how much I love him.
He shifts a little and his sideburns tickle the top of my bare chest. I sort of giggle, but it's more just like a whispered smile. He loosens his arms from around my middle to hold my sides in his hands and nestles his nose and chin over my skin, tickling me purposefully now.
My laugh is hushed, but strong. It takes intentional effort from both of us to keep quiet. Neither of us speak, but I hear him. My heart hears him, shush-laughing too. It's exactly what the best smile in the whole world sounds like: whisper-wrapped, breath-filled laughter, more air than sound.
We're silently twisting and push-pulling, and I'm grinning so high my cheeks hurt. I feel my smile behind my shut-tight from giggling eyes. I feel it deep in the bottom of my chest, the top of my belly. I feel everything I have that makes me, me, fluttering. Tingling. Pulling.
It's times like these when silence means everything.
We tangle and turn on top of his blankets and swear love between sheet-slide sounds without speaking a word. Edward pins me on my side. He curves his fingers and tickles my stomach under my shirt, and covers my neck with too-soft little nip-kisses that drive my pulse insane. I push somewhat free and gasp in a fresh breath. On his knees, sort of behind and kind of around me, Edward surrounds every corner of my consciousness, warm and solid and all-encompassing.
He's sunkissed and smirking.
I turn onto my back in the fractional leeway he's granted and I take both his hands in mine, holding us still. His eyelids are low-dark, but his blue is night-bright. Their light burns right through me, all the way. Straight to the center of my soul.
He blinks slowly and smiles, but there's something in his burning blues. The truth, our love, is prodigious there, abundant and staggering and almost too formidable. Our love is toilsome. It's more than challenging. It's an uphill battle and its strength is intimidating. I feel bare when he looks at me here and now, and I know he's feeling it too. I feel small compared to the force of our love, like it could swallow me whole.
Edward just licks his lips. He looks adoring and hungry as he watches me watching him. I feel like if he wanted to, he could eat me alive. He's every bit as strong as our love.
We're both still just breathing, but he looks like he's finally about to speak. I blink and swallow, and brace my bravery against my backbone. I wait for him to say something that will turn me on and leave me twisted, or worse, just twisted. But when his smile parts, it's neither of these things that come out. Holding my eyes to his, Edward brushes his thumb along the bottom of my neck, over the dip between my collarbones. It makes my pulse skip.
"Your heart makes my favorite sound," he tells me so quietly, "in the whole world. Your heartbeat calms me."
My cheeks glow hot pink and I feel my dimples pierce them. "Edward," I whisper, blinking my own lashes lower, shy at how incredibly special I feel.
I know, I want to tell him. I know, because I know, but I can't speak. And it's okay. Because I don't even need to.
Edward leans close, so close our noses and foreheads brush-touch, and he kisses me softly. So soft, I can feel him radiating reverence and illuminating love right into me. I can feel him breathing, beating, bearing and bestowing pure adoration.
I blush hotter. I smile higher. I bliss-out like the miracle he makes me know I am.
Edward kisses from my lips to my cheek, still smiling too. When he speaks again, he whispers so low. "Tell me a secret, baby?"
I teem tingles and pulse paradise. I cup his face and bring him close once more. I whisper before I kiss him again.
"I love you."
It's late in the afternoon and Alice is next to me on her parents' sofa, eating a bowl of Trix and Kix cereal mixed together. Her milk looks pink-purple. She smells like sweetness and sleeping in.
I dunk one of my mini cinnamon rolls into my mug of white milk and savor the decadence on my tongue for a second before I chew and swallow. Alice flips channels with the remote. She's in cut off grey corduroys and a black and white raglan. I'm in shorts I can't wear at home and have one of her Taking Back Sunday teeshirts knotted low on my right side. Both of us have our hair parted in the middle and hanging down, and my flip flops are on the floor in front of us, next to her slip on Vans.
It's Saturday, May third and we are taking it extremely easy. We were both up till almost sunrise last night. She snuck out to see Jasper. I was on the roof with Edward, taking shotguns and kisses, watching him blow smoke rings at the moon. We touched and felt and loved until my phone vibrated in his back pocket, and he slipped his hands out from under my pajamas so I could return to where I was supposed to be.
Ally and I slept until after noon and didn't get up out of bed until almost two, but that's okay. This is exactly what Saturdays are for. Carlisle's working, Esme just got back from the store and is in the kitchen putting groceries away. Edward's playing ball and Alice and I are the quintessence of hanging loose.
She stops on Tosh.O and trades the remote for her spoon. I grab another little cinnamon roll and recross my legs underneath myself. We have plans to go out with the boys later, but that's still plenty of hours away. There's a skating rink in Port Angeles we've been going to for a few weeks now and while I've been okay renting roller-skates, Alice bought me a pair of my own yesterday. They're white with pink wheels and pastel rainbow laces and I kind of can't wait to wear them tonight.
I hold my mug close and start to dip another bite when the sound of Under the Bridge and car doors closing outside makes my heart skip two beats. I almost drop my mini-cinni into my milk. I want to smile to myself, but I keep my expression casual.
My boy is home.
I can hear Petey too and then a key in the door, and the door opening, and I want so much to turn around and beam love, but I follow Ally's body language. She doesn't turn, so neither do I. She holds her bowl in her right hand and lifts her left up and behind her head, like she's waiting for a prize.
Pete drops her a low five and I raise my hand for one, too. His palm and fingers are rough on mine as they walk by and Edward messes his sister's hair up. He gives my ends a little tug. My heart doesn't skip this time. It leaps. It jumps for his contact.
Behind us, they smell exactly like teenage boys, like sunlight and sweat and clay-dirt. They smell like cut grass and leafy green, like the perfect summertime breeze. They don't say a word to either of us, nor us to them. Their conversation from outside continues as they pass the sofa on the way to the kitchen, something about Kim's mom getting a call yesterday and how she isn't allowed to cheer for the next two weeks. I resist the urge to turn around and look. Just knowing Edward's in his uniform makes my lazy butterflies perk right up.
His hands are probably dirty. His cheeks are probably a little sunburned and he's probably got his hat on backwards.
I have to push the image from my mind to keep my flutters in check.
"Hey, how'd you guys do?" Esme asks. It's hard to hear their conversation a room away, especially with Alice flipping channels again. It's mostly laughs and bottles of water being opened and downed in a few drinks, and crushed in boy fists. It's a Petey biting into an apple and Esme asking if he wants peanut butter. It's the sound of a trash bag being pulled up and turn-twist-tied, and Edward carrying it out.
I dunk another cinnamon bite as he comes back in and closes the front door behind himself. In my peripheral vision, I catch a glimpse of clay-dusty white and the corner of a smile that sends my butterflies loopy. This time when Esme speaks, I hear her loud and clear.
"So now neither one of you are going to prom? How is this fair to your poor mother?" Her tone is teasing and a little playful. I can hear her smiling, but there's the slightest hint of guilt there too.
Edward sort of chuckles as he heads back into the kitchen. I hear him turn the water on and wash his hands. I hear the three of them talking, but the bits I catch don't make a lot of sense, even though my heart is on full alert at the mention of prom.
Alice slurps the last of her milk and my hope at hearing anything else is swallowed too. Thankfully, she gets up to take her dish in. I follow behind her, holding my mug in both hands. When we turn the corner into the kitchen, I can't even believe the words that come out of her mother's mouth.
Esme looks right at us both and lifts her right hand, palm up, like the answer to whatever they're discussing is completely obvious and we're it. "Take the girls," she says, smiling, looking from us, to Edward and Petey.
Alice's jaw drops and her blues bug out wide. My own eyes open further too as I glance from her mother, to her son, to his friend, and back to her son again. His cap is on backwards and his cheeks are sun-heated. I'm so consumed with wanting to tackle-attack him that I've only half-processed what Esme just said.
Petey laughs, like he sort of cracks up. Edward laughs too, the breathless kind that goes right through his careless, too-cool smile. Esme holds both her hands up now, innocently, like her suggestion makes perfect sense.
"Are you fucking crazy?" Alice asks, laughing just as incredulously as Pete. "Seriously, have you lost your mind?"
Their disbelieving laughter is contagious. I kind of laugh and set my milk on the counter next to me so I can push my fingers through my hair. I play along on the outside, but inside, my heart's beating hope I've kept from it for months. Never in my dreams had I even imagined Edward going to prom, and I certainly hadn't allowed myself the fantasy that if he did, he'd take me. That's not us. I know better. If I don't allow myself unrealistic aspirations, they can't be crushed.
"What?" Esme continues, blinking like we're all the delirious ones. She looks at Edward and speaks wholeheartedly. "Prom is important and I want my boys to go, and what could be more perfect?"
Edward continues chuckling and wipes his hand down his summer-lit face. He lifts his hat and messes his hair up before pulling it back down. He's smiling, but is shaking his head just the same as Alice is.
Next to me, Ally puts her hands on her hips and Esme starts talking about dresses and pictures, corsages and renting limos, and everything feels like it's happening fast and disorderly. I smile because I can't help it and I try to follow the three different conversations Alice is having with Pete, Edward, and her mother, and I try to get a grip inside, and it's all fairly dizzying, and that's when I notice it. I glance across the kitchen at Edward and he meets my eyes for a couple seconds in the confusion. He's playing his part too, but underneath it, his smirk is lurking.
It's buried, but it shines like victory. No one else notices, because no one else is meant to, but I see it brimming in his dark blue.
"It's not up for discussion." Esme laughs, triumphantly. "You have to do it because I'm your mother and it will make me happy." She picks up an apple from the center of the table and takes an exultant bite, visibly pleased with herself.
"You're demented." Alice laughs, still shaking her head, reaching her hand out for a bite of the same red apple. "I'm not even kidding. I think you need serious professional help," she says with her mouth full.
Petey tosses his apple core at Alice as he stands. She catches it in her free hand and tosses it back. Edward moves away from where he's leaning against the counter and steps toward me, toward the doorway out of the kitchen. I'm still putting the pieces together in my mind, wondering how he did it, how it all worked out so perfectly that this could maybe really, truly, actually happen, when he gets close enough to reach.
He doesn't touch me and I don't touch him. We don't speak, but I go from wondering to knowing this was somehow all his doing when he drops his dirty hat onto my head and reaches behind me to steal my milk. He downs it in one gulp and smiles before he and his friend leave. Kim may have gotten herself into trouble on her own, but the rest of this was all my boy.
My heart beats his name. I try not to smile too big.
I say it for the third time: "It's not a date, Mom."
I don't raise my voice, but I want to. I want to shout at her to let me go, but I've got this. My heart rate is steady. My mood is laid back and my tone is optimistic-easy.
She's washing cherry tomatoes we just came in from picking and I'm leaning against the counter next to the sink. I hear Dad's keys and our front doors open and close. I'm supposed to be cutting cucumbers, but for now I'm just talking and taking in her reactions. It's a very sensitive and intricate sort of process - knowing what to say and how, and exactly when. I grab one of the little red fruits from her colander and pop it between my back teeth. "We're all just going as friends," I tell her nonchalantly. "If I had a date, it would be Ally."
Mom flips her blonde hair back and gives me the side-eyed-look while she shakes the water off the tomatoes. Her cheeks and nose are sun-freckled, just like mine. Her green-blue eyes look not quite believing and slightly pleading, like she'd really rather we not talk about this kind of stuff. Ever.
I know she loves me. I see it. Love is full in her eyes and I feel it just in her presence. Her love is absolutely unconditional, but I need her to let me breathe.
Before I can continue with my carefully prepared list of reasons why everything is okay, Dad comes in and kisses the top of her head first, then mine. Mom turns around and feeds him a little tomato-cherry. "Let me talk to your father about it," she says, walking over to the table.
I fight the urge just to press my lips together. I keep every twitching-to-rebel nerve ending under control. If they talk about it alone together, they'll never let me go. I know it. It has to be here.
"Why not now?" I ask casually, shrugging my shoulders.
"Bella -" Mom starts to say, but stops, visibly reconsidering.
I seize the opportunity carefully. "Dad," I stand up straight and look right at him, "I want to go to this dance with my friends."
We're positioned in a sort of triangle shape. Dad's leaning against the counter across from me. Mom is across from both of us, sitting at the table, chopping cilantro. He looks from me to her and back to me. I brace myself and hope hard.
"Sounds harmless enough," he says. "Who are your friends?"
"We're going as a group." My voice is totally steady. "Me and Ally, with Edward and Pete."
This time when he looks from me to Mom, it's for longer. For a few seconds, they have an entire silent conversation that I understand every word of. My heart notices and I have to buckle down stronger inside. I can do this.
Dad's tone is equally steady as mine as he turns his focus back to me. I wonder in the instant before he speaks if he suspects, if he can see right through my plan.
"So, when you say dance, you mean prom." He talks with his hands, holding his palm up like in example. "And when you say friends, you mean -"
"Dad-" I quietly stop him and close my eyes. Don't call my friends hoodlums, I want to demand. They're good. We're good, we're just young. Let me be young.
"You're a sophomore, Bliss. Prom is for juniors and seniors." He's not mad. There's no upset in his tone. He speaks like it's just obvious, like these are simple facts.
I swallow and open my eyes up, holding tightly to the fact that neither of them has actually said no yet. I'd planned on pointing out my positives, on all these reasons why I deserve a little freedom, but things don't always go like you rehearse. Sometimes your plan needs a back-up. Sometimes, you have to be a little bit stronger.
"Is it actually because I'm a sophomore? Or because we're going with Edward and Pete?"Because there's zero doubt in my mind you'd let Garrett take me. If it was anyone else, you'd probably let me go.
Both of my parents look hesitant to answer. Mom speaks first, but picks her words with slow caution. "They're not exactly models of trustworthy behavior, baby. And Edward…" She pauses.
My defenses prickle.
"They're just boys, Mom." I know all the things Edward is and I don't want to hear her say any of them. "They're like family." My pulse picks up. I speak firmly, matter-of-so-fucking-factly. "And Edward's never given you a reason not to trust him."
But then, they don't answer.
And then, the seconds of quiet that follow grow so heavy.
And I can't even -
The possibility that my dad could know things I might not, hits me hard. Edward does break the law on a fairly consistent basis, not violently, but with pot, and I know he drives when he shouldn't... But he'd tell me something like that. I know he would.
I keep my voice declarative, like I know the answer, but in truth that makes my skin feel cold, I'm really asking. "Has he?"
My heart beats weigh so much they hurt. The moment they take to answer takes entirely too long. I want to scream.
Dad looks to Mom and then finally, he shakes his head.
I knew it. I knew he hadn't. He'd tell me.
The truth restarts my heart with confidence.
"We just want to keep you safe," Mom says. Her voice sounds weak, like she knows she can't do that forever and like that truth breaks her.
Guilt pulls at me, but it doesn't out-twist my determination or my hunger, or my love. "I know," I admit, allowing the smallest creak of honesty into my tone.
Dad leans away from the counter and goes to the table to grab another tomato. He stands a little behind, a little right next to mom. We're not a triangle shape anymore. They're on one side of the kitchen and I'm on the other. It's inevitable, what's happening here. They have to know this can't go on forever. They have to let me go.
Mom knows. It's in her tear-glassy eyes. She smiles and holds her hands up innocently, the exact same way Esme did yesterday morning. "Well, can I sign up to chaperone or something?"
I roll my eyes, but I hold my Doc-stomp in check. I've so got this. I can work with this.
Alice and I are in the middle of my room. I'm sitting on my dressing table bench and she's standing behind me. She has my hair high up on my crown, brushing it all out smooth. When she loud-pops a bubble, I laugh.
"I hope you know if you drop your gum in my hair and I have to chop it all off, you're chopping yours off too."
"Oh shit, Bliss." Ally play freezes, teasing in her voice.
"I'm serious." I laugh.
"So am I," she says, tugging my hair a little higher, right where she wants it to go. "There's gum in your hair. Guess we're shaving our heads."
I roll my eyes and smile high while she does some more tugging.
Today has been so good. All of May has been so good, really, ever since that Saturday morning when all of this started. I didn't get to see Edward later because I had to come back home, but when I texted him from my bed and asked if he was serious, if this was actually happening, his two word reply pushed me over the moon.
I know it's not like a real date, like if we were going together for real. We can't be our whole selves, but it's something. It's something I never expected and he certainly didn't have to do, but he did. For me.
Ever so secretly, I swoon a little at the thought and blink my eyes, looking across my room and into my mirror. Ally's twisting a braid around the bun on my crown and I'm tapping my feet on the carpet in rhythm with some infinity guitars. We're both barefoot in our dresses. They're more formal than the ones we've worn to other dances, but we're both so casual about the whole idea of tonight. It's not even awkward for Alice and Jasper because he trusts her implicitly. It's a complete non-issue. We're dress-dressed up, but the vibe is so laid-back.
At least, that's how it looks. And I am pretty relaxed, but inside I'm carrying almost a month's worth of eagerness and excitement.
Alice secures the braid around my light strawberry bun and claps proudly. We unroll her (now cool) hot rollers from her hair and I pin most of it up on the back of her head. Her little black cocktail dress is completely backless. Her hair needs to be up.
We look in my dressing table mirror together. She has her naked back turned and winks over her shoulder. She looks gorgeous-sexy. Ally is a fucking stunner.
We scoot the bench closer to do our make-up and I pinkie touch some pink blush to my eyelids, and brush just a small bit of shimmer over my cheeks. I roll on natural-pink lip gloss and lean back. I bat my lashes and watch my best friend smokey-black her lids out. I smile, content with just a little hint of colour. My complexion is sun-loved pretty and I don't want to push getting told to wash anything off.
I glance at my desk clock while Alice brushes glitter over her charcoal gray shadow. It's just after eight, which means it's about that time. The boys should be here any minute. I bite my lip a little to contain my smile. He's so good to me lately. Everything's so good. My stomach turns and flips, and the butterflies in it flutter madly. Grabbing my half-shrug from my bed, I pull it on and keep the long, so pale pink sleeves down around my wrists. I don't intend on wearing it very long at all, but my dress is strapless and sweethearted low on my chest, and there's just a lot of skin that parents don't need to see.
I do love my dress, though.
Turning and twirling a little, I watch the short layers spin out above my kneecaps. It's layers of wrapped snug chiffon that are closer to French vanilla than white. I walk back to the mirror and bump Ally's butt with my hip. Her make-up is finished and she has her almost platinum blonde hair pinned into as poofy an up-do as she can get it. She steps away and into the neon green pumps that are waiting by my bed. They're awesome and I love them, and they're so her, but I laugh as she gains four inches of height. "You're going to be taller than the boys," I tease, stepping into my left heel sandal and lifting my foot behind me to buckle it.
"No, I won't," she says with a smile and a bubble-pop. "Well, maybe I won't." She shrugs.
I'm buckling my other sandal when I hear car doors close outside. I swallow the impulse to squeak and feel my heart beat in my stomach. Alice plays with her hair some more. She runs her pinkies under her bottom lids while I fasten tiny diamonds to my ears. She meets my eyes in the mirror and smiles something sneaky.
"I wanna get stoned," she whisper-grins.
I giggle, about to ask if she's serious, but a knock on my door and my dad saying "knock, knock," on the other side of it stop me. I turn the music down and say come in.
He opens the door about halfway and keeps his hand on the handle. "Your friends are downstairs," he informs us sort of flatly. He looks obviously out of his element and in truth, none too happy.
I press my lips together and nod, refusing to feel guilty. "Thanks, Dad." I grab my clutch from my bed and walk to my desk to turn my computer off. Ally taps her hands on the fronts of her legs quietly, watching me and kind of waiting. I look over and see Charlie still standing in my doorway. I raise a brow. I don't want him to say a thing, but it looks unavoidable.
"What?" I ask, keeping the grudge from my voice. I just want to spray my perfume and be silly with my friend. Why are you still standing there?
"Are you sure you don't want a sweater?" He asks finally, insinuation unhidden.
I laugh even though I try not to. It's not at him, but really? Really? I give up on getting to spray perfume and have a last little secret moment with my friend before we're with the boys. I shake my head a little as I move toward my door. With my purse in my left hand as we pass by him, I pat Dad's arm with my right hand and speak with harmless assurance. "This is a sweater, Dad."
I take the stairs next to my friend and when we get to the bottom, she runs ahead as best as she can in her pumps and pulls the front door all the way open. When I step behind her and follow her out, what I see makes it so hard to breathe.
In the very best way.
The half-set sun lights everything in warm hues from the left and Edward's leaning against a white-painted porch post holding a long stemmed peachy-pink tulip I recognize from Esme's garden. He's in a black on black suit, skinny tie just right and looks so tall in straight fitting slacks. His shades and shoes are glossy-shiny brand new black and his skin glows summer warm, and he looks good. He looks so, so good and then he smiles, and how could he possibly look better? His smile is like light that's so bright it hurts to look at, like trying to focus on a sparkler while it's burning.
That's what his sharp white grin makes me think of, my first Fourth of July here. It's the spark to my magenta-paper heart and burns blinding hot.
Next to him, Pete's in black on white and leaning against the wooden porch railing, holding a jet-black tulip from the same garden. Edward's focus returns to his mom and what she's saying about being careful and when to be home. Alice chimes in and Pete is just kind of laughing. I'm trying not to stare, but all I can think is that flower is for me.
Glowing gold bursts into flames in my chest. That tall, dark and handsome boy, he's for me. He's doing all of this, for me.
My sparkler-heart melts like a banana popsicle, but before it can drip sugar down to my stomach, Dad clears his throat behind me.
I link my arm through Ally's and we step aside together. Everyone looks and nothing is said, but Edward doesn't miss a beat. He takes his sunglasses off and holds them in his left hand with the flower stem as he steps forward. Beautifully clear-eyed, my boy stands exactly eye-level with my dad.
It's a strange sight. The whole thing is really strange for a second, but Edward's relaxed posture is a comfort. He's peacefully forthcoming as he lifts his right hand.
Charlie doesn't hesitate to give it a firm shake and I can see Edward playing his part, but he doesn't balk. Pete copies him almost exactly and Dad shakes his hand too. I watch with Alice and our moms, and it looks like Edward is about to say something. I feel like he's going to, but before he does, Ally pats my dad's arm, just like I did upstairs. "Don't worry, Chief," she says, smiling with her eyes and all through her words. "I've got this situation totally under control."
I watch Dad look from her to Edward. "Alice is in charge," he says, nothing like a question.
I want to roll my eyes.
I want to laugh.
I want to get out of here already.
Edward smiles and glances at his sister. "Alice is in charge," he agrees.
"Yessssssss!" Ally hisses happily and fist pumps both hands once into the air.
The strangeness of my two worlds edging too closely together is gone then, and our moms are nudging us together for pictures. Alice and I hold our flowers and we stand with each other and with the boys, and I keep it just as nonchalant as the three of them do, but inside, my heart's burning a sapphire fire. I'm so happy and having to keep crazy-insane joy hidden is so difficult. The natural urge to grin from ear to ear, and jump up and down, and cheer a little bit like a psycho teenage princess girl is almost overwhelmingly strong. And it just grows with each second we spend under the willow tree, smiling for pictures, arms linked so platonically.
My joy approaches uncontainable as I look around.
It's not just me, but so many people that Edward loves are happy right now, because of this. Alice is pumped beyond belief for the two person party we're going to throw on the dance floor and Esme is doing the happy mom cry. Pete's cool, but he's grinning wide and even my mom, hesitant as she looks if you really look at her, even her eyes are glinting pride and good humor. Everyone is light on their feet and easy in their stance.
Edward brushes his thumb over my tailbone when no one can see. I smile, just like everyone.
Everyone, except Dad. He hangs back quietly while Mom and Esme capture everything, but he still doesn't look convinced that this is in any way a good idea, but what can I do? They said yes. They gave me this. So I hug him and tell him thank you, and I mean it one hundred percent.
Edward gives Mom a hug and kisses the top of his mother's head. Pete hugs Esme and gives my mom this silly, like, half salute, half nod gesture that I'm pretty sure is meant to convey respect, but still be some kind of casual or cool or something. Whatever it is, she just laughs at it and pulls him into a hug anyway. Our moms kiss mine and Alice's cheeks. Mine whisper-tells me that I'm so beautiful and that she loves me, and please, please be safe, baby, while Ally's mom is whispering something of her own and poofing Alice's hair even bigger. By the time she and I head to the car, I'm holding in so much pure emotion I think I might pop.
Ally and I wave from the back seat and at long last, we're finally, finally, finally moving.
The second we turn off my street, Edward puts his sunglasses back on and loosens his tie. Alice passes me my aviators from her purse and drums happily on the back of Petey's seat as he sets fire to the end of a blunt. "Turn the music on!" She insists, loose strands of blonde blowing around her face. "You heard the chief, I'm in charge. Turn it on and turn it up!"
I laugh and lean back comfortably as Edward makes another turn. The setting sun hits his profile from a new angle and when he reaches his arm out to turn the stereo on, I notice in the different light that his suit isn't black. It's nighttime-dark gray.
I don't know why it's like noticing a secret, but it is and I smile so high, all the way wide like I wanted to so much in the front yard but couldn't. I can't keep it all down anymore and I laugh louder and drum my hands on the front seat too, and tell the boys to turn the music up even more.
Pete does as he passes the cigar to Edward as we turn onto a back road. Windows down, deep beats up so loud I feel each one in my belly, we head right out of town.
Alice hits the blunt.
I don't, but I don't even need to. I'm so high on natural euphoria that the easy rush of wind coming in feels exactly like freedom.
Alice and I are next in line in a long corridor of single door bathrooms. Music and laughter filter through the wall and down the hall, but we're both smiling-silent. She's more than a little high. We cruised the back roads around Forks for the better half of an hour before we got here. Edward only let his sister take a few hits, but she blew every one of them in my direction. I'm maybe a little contact-buzzed. Maybe.
Alice crosses her legs, straining to hold it and I blink. And giggle. And okay, I am a tiny bit contact high.
I smile to myself while we wait for a bathroom to free up. When I breathe in, I can faintly smell the gardenia and pear blossoms decorating the ballroom around the corner. I smell tropical hairspray and expensive perfume, dank-grape-smoke and the mid-May breeze.
Still silently giggling, I inhale a deep whiff of Alice-deliciousness from her crown. She smells good enough to gobble up.
A few doors down from where we're standing, a door opens and we head into the single together. While she goes, I adjust my dress in the mirror and re-tuck our tulips into the side of my bun. I'd wanted to keep my flower when Edward first handed it to me, but the longer I held onto it, I realized it couldn't really last. Even if I kept careful track of it all evening, in just a few days it will wilt and then get all brittle on my dresser or somewhere sentimentally special, and eventually just crumble apart. But tonight, it's perfect.
So, when I broke the blossom from the stem and stuck it into the braided part of my hair, Ally broke hers too and tucked it in next to mine. We left the stems in the back seat with our sweaters.
My bare arms and shoulders and chest feel so warm-wind kissed. Cruising with all the windows down was so good. I feel perfect, like the weight of the different versions of myself that I have to be so much of the time has lifted and I'm free to just be me. I'm not at all sure what's supposed to happen at a prom - I know from just glimpsing the huge shining-dark room on our way in that there are plenty of girls in floor length, super formal dresses that look like they know what they're doing - but in truth, I have no idea what's expected.
I'm just energy.
I'm just bubbling, brimming over.
I just want to dance.
Alice tugs my attention while we're washing our hands. "I know it's still really early to even probably be thinking about this," she starts, pinkie-smoothing out her eye shadow.
I stand next to her in the mirror and roll on fresh lip gloss, waiting to hear whatever grand post-prom idea she's come up with. She stops and turns to face me, and smiles a smile suddenly so big, it looks like she's been keeping it buttoned down for some time.
What comes out of her mouth is definitely post-prom, but is nothing like what I even close to thought.
"I think we should go to California together," she says. "For college."
My eyes open wider and so does my smile, because where did that come from? "Alice?" I'm laughing, not at her, but, "What?"
"I know, I know it's really random, but I had to tell you because I really think we should do it. And I know it's still like, forever away, and I know your parents will take some convincing or whatever, but just..." She closes her eyes, like she's talking about the best dream ever. She shakes her hands, like she means to erase everything she just said and start over.
"Sunshine every day," she nearly whispers, like if she speaks too loudly, something somewhere might snatch the dream I didn't know she had, away. "And the Pacific, and surfer boys, and skater boys and don't you just..." She opens her eyes and we're holding hands. She's holding mine in hers and she looks so hopeful. Like, I've maybe never seen her eyes look so deeply hopeful. "Just think about it."
I squeeze her hands and nod my head. "Okay," I tell her. "Okay, I will. I promise," because of course I'm going to think about it. How could I not? I've always taken the idea of college as granted, with Edward I guess, but this - considering things that far ahead, how far I could go, and Edward - It's too much right now. I'm not ready for that.
Thankfully, Alice giggles. And kind of flails. And sort of screams. Not loudly, but it's definitely a coming-up and letting-go of an extremely joyful noise.
"But not tonight! Not tonight!" She's insistent and insane, and I love her so freaking much. She step, step, silly-steps in place, her heels tapping the tiles and echoing off the walls. She motions toward the door. "These boots were made for dancing!"
Back in the ballroom, everything is silhouette golden-lit by countless little white votives on every table. The four of us were a little more than casually late and people are already up and dancing. The wide open room is a pulsing kaleidoscope of chiffon swirling between black suits, in-between black tables and along black walls. Everything and everyone sort of shimmers and glitters and glows in the dark.
Ally spots the boys after a few seconds of standing and looking, but I've already found mine. If he's nearby, my heart knows just where to look. My heart just knows.
Edward shoots me a smile from across the room and my Fourth of July heart sparkles hot in my chest. I raise my hand in a small wave and Alice throws up a peace sign. Hand in hand, we pass them on the way to the dance floor and before I know it, we're in the middle of the crowd, shaking it out. A few of the senior girls dance with us, but most of the juniors keep their distance with their boys.
I'm beyond thankful that not a single face I see strikes hurt or worry into my vibe. It's perfect, tonight. Things are exactly how they should be.
Between the end of Tongue Tied and the beginning of Such Great Heights, we stop to stand still for a second and Ally fans her face. I touch the back of my head gently to make sure my flowers are still in place and follow her hand when she lifts it to point.
The boys are leaned back in their chairs and Ben has joined them. There's no date by his side, but it could easily be any one of the girls in this room.
Heated warm and hearts beating fast, we make our way to the table. There are two cups of punch waiting for us. Alice downs hers in three quick chugs and blows out like it burns. She makes a stuck-stung face. It makes me giggle and proceed with caution. As she sits down next to Pete, I sit in the empty chair between her and her brother, and slowly sip my some-kind-of-spiked fruit punch. I wouldn't take it from anyone else, having no idea what's in it, but it's not from anyone else. It's from my heart's beat.
"Who are you here with?" Alice asks over the music, looking over at Ben. He smiles, almost sort of sheepishly.
Edward and Petey both laugh. Ally and I both raise our eyebrows and she holds her empty punch cup under the table. Pete pours something in it and Edward nods toward a blonde a little ways away. Her back is turned. She's in a knee-length floral print dress and sheer-light-lavender tights. I can't see her face, but I know who she is right away, and I can't even believe it.
"No way!" Now I'm laughing, too. I take another small sip of my drink. "This is perfect!" I lean behind Edward's seat and hold onto the back of it with one hand. I cup the other around the side of my mouth. "Rosalie!"
The blonde in the tights and sparkling pink ballet flats turns around and she's so adorable beautiful. She has contacts in and looks so different without her glasses. She smiles so happily and waves, and points toward the bathroom line, signaling she'll be right back.
"Benny wants to see what's going on under those tights," Pete snickers.
"What? For real?" Alice is giggling like she can't believe it either. She lifts her cup, but doesn't chug it this time. "I mean, I love her." She's looking at Ben, shaking her head teasingly. "But you're a fucking freak."
Benjamin smiles wide and cocky, showing all his perfect teeth and shrugs like who even cares?
I give him a look that says if you hurt my friend, I'll seriously fucking injure you. Alice will help. Don't do it.
He shrugs his wide, black-suited shoulders even higher, somewhere between totally sincere and like he already knows something I don't. He takes a drink. "Nerdy girls like to get it on too," he says simply.
When Rose returns, she hugs me before she sits down on the other side of Edward, next to Ben. "I didn't know you were going to be here," I start, taking another sip of my drink. Prom and dating in general isn't something we really talk about between verb conjugation and politics, and new ways to call a slut a slut.
Rose shrugs and smiles high. "Me neither," she agrees, looking over at Tweedle-Dum. He passes her a drink from Pete and you can look at them and just tell:
They've already kissed. They made out in his car before they came in. I know it.
She sips her punch slowly like me, her pinkie just a little bit up. "Folie," she says in French, smiling shy and genuine.
"Folie," I agree. Edward shifts next to me and leans back a little further in his seat. Under the table, I feel the side of his knee bump the outside of my bare thigh. He presses to keep the contact and I press back for more. Everyone's kind of stopped talking and looks sort of curious, like they're waiting for more of an explanation. And I am too. I'm still trying to imagine how she came to be here, with Ben of all people. It's not a bad thing at all. It's just so far out of left field.
Keeping my eyes on Rose's, I motion toward her date. All I can come up with is "Vous êtes sûr de ce garçon ? "
You sure about this guy?
Rosalie smiles. It's fairly dark around us save for the candlelight, but I'm pretty sure she blushes a little. "Parfois," she starts, sometimes, as she looks at Ben. He's got his left hand on the back of his head, messing with his dark curls, so laid back. She smiles a little shyer, a little more honestly. "Parfois, les filles veulent juste s'amuser aussi."
Sometimes, girls just wanna have fun too.
I laugh through my smile and raise my cup then because exactly. Because everything is exactly perfect.
Alice lifts her cup too. "I have no idea what that means," she says, "but, if B is toasting to it, then yes!" She taps her cup to mine, then to Rose's. "Yes!" Then to Pete's, and Ben's and Edward's. "Yes, yes, yes!"
Edward laughs and the sound is like a swallow of pure gladness all through me. We all raise our cups together and drink up, and Alice and I are back on the dance floor in no time.
Only this time it's a little different because we bring Rose.
And this time it's a little better because the boys come with us too.
The three of them hang back at first, but move closer between We are Young and Tainted Love. Petey spins Al 'round and 'round. Ben and Rosalie dance forehead to forehead with their butts sticking out like funniest jitterbugs I've ever seen in my life, and I'm laughing so hard my sides hurt. I have my hands over my too super-high smile when I barely catch Edward in the corner of my vision. He's been so nearby for a while, but we're close together in the blink of a clear blue sky and he takes both my hands in his.
The simple contact thrills me. I'm so happy I could squeal and I maybe kind of do when he presses his left hand into the middle of my back, and turns me in a quick circle. I'm still giddy giggling when he brings me back to him.
"Hi," he whispers under the music when we're facing one another. My eyes are level with his lips. I look up.
"Hi," I whisper back, caught up, spinning inside even as he holds me steady. A slow song starts and I don't recognize it, but Edward must because he brings me even closer. He glances around us. Pete and Ally are back at the table refilling their cups and Ben has his fingers laced between Rose's, not paying a bit of attention to anyone else.
Satisfied with what he sees, Edward blends us more into the very center of the crowd. He brings me closer still, so that we're pressed completely together, my soft off-white to his almost-black. I bring my left arm up, my hand around the back of his neck and he presses his right into the small of my back. His left hand holds my right, over the lapel of his jacket, right over his heart.
I look up and see him, looking at me with all the love in the universe. I see his own utter joyfulness, every bit as intense and incandescent as mine feels, and he smiles higher and I know that tonight isn't just for me. This is for both of us. He's equally elated and just as secretly grateful as I am for this rare and perfect moment, for being able to hold me like this in public. Maybe even more thankful than I am.
I think of my first night at his house, how between nail polish stealing and chasing him till I was out of breath, I wanted it to last forever. I want this moment just like I wanted that one. I want this for life, for my whole life.
Edward smiles and studies me. His eyes glint candlelight. I grin like a girl in first love, silly love, true love. He licks his lips. "Do you have any idea how hard it is not to kiss you when you smile like that?"
It only makes me smile higher, so outrageously high that my mouth opens and I duck my eyes while my cheeks go wild cherry pink.
He's so close in the next second, the warmest, most welcome rush of vanilla and double mint. He brushes his nose along my blush and presses his palm into my back. He curves his fingers more firmly between mine over his heart. "Do you have any idea how beautiful you are, B? How perfect in every way?" He whispers, touching his lips to my cheek.
My knees go weak. I try to press my lips together to keep from smiling out loud, but I can't. I can't stop smiling.
"Kiss me," I whisper, turning my face toward his just a little.
"I am kissing you," he says, smiling too, brushing his parted lips toward my ear, kissing just underneath it.
I hold his neck slightly tighter. My heart beats irrational, undeniable love. I want more. "Edward..." I plead, still moonstruck smiling.
He brushes his thumb back and forth over my tailbone through my dress. Even through the layers of fabric, his touch gives me goose bumps. His touch comforts and thrills. "Soon, baby," he whispers under my ear. He tickles me with little nips of teeth and lips. "I want to take you to the beach and kiss you all night. I want to kiss you forever, Bliss."
And he starts to. He touches countless kisses under and behind my ear until I'm giggling out loud because his breath makes me crazy, and we're standing up straight again and I'm looking up and knowing this is real. I'm really here, slow dancing with Edward to a song about how if this world were mine, I'd give you each day so sunny and blue, and if you wanted the moonlight, I'd give you that too, and I'm knowing this is how it's supposed to be.
When that song ends, the DJ picks the pace back up and I put my hands in the air and laugh because I love it. I turn around and look for Alice and she's heading right for me, curling her fingers for me to come closer.
"We are young," she sings. "Heartache to heartache, we stand."
I grin crazy and shake my head, meeting her halfway. "No promises," I reply as I take her hands. "No demands."
Pete's following her and I feel Edward, keeping a little distance between us, but he stays behind me as I move. Rose and Ben are to my left and right here, right now, surrounded by flickering candles and filled with quick-synth heartbeats, it feels like we're all the same. Me and Petey. Edward and Rose. Alice and Ben. All of us. We're all the same and we're all okay.
Love may be a battlefield, but here, under the silver disco ball, in the middle of the crowd and on top of the world, we're all just kids.
A little less than two hours later, Edward and I are on the dock at La Push. The full moon is high and I'm sitting in his lap with my legs over his left. A night full of touching but not really being able to touch has caught up with us and he's making good on his whisper about kissing me all night.
I haven't stopped smiling. I can't.
Along with our shoes, we left Alice and Petey asleep on a blanket near the bonfire maybe twenty minutes ago. Starting with my temple, Edward has worked his way down my nose and across my shoulders, and is now on the bend of my left elbow. He's making me giggle on purpose. He's only kissing the bend of my arm, but he knows very well he's tickling me so much deeper. His love reaches every part of me and I know he knows it. It's in the way he hasn't stopped smiling either.
Edward kisses down my arm, telling me he loves my muscles and my bones. "I love your blood," he says. "I love your veins and the way your heart works." He kisses my wrist and my palm and the bend of my thumb.
My cheeks are going to be sore tomorrow, from smiling so hard.
He kisses the inside bottom part of my index finger. "I love the way you hold onto me so tight when you come."
"Edward!" I giggle and push his shoulder, playfully trying to pull my hand away.
'You do," he insists, kissing the very center of my palm. "You hold onto me with everything and I love it." He brings my open hand up to cup his cheek. He closes his eyes and leans into my touch. "It feels right when you hold onto me like that," he says. "Like this feels right."
"It is right," I tell him in turn, nudging my forehead to his.
Edward tilts and I turn so I'm straddling his lap. I hold onto both sides of his neck and I kiss his lips. His arms are warm and strong around me, and his hands are in my hair, and he opens his mouth and kisses me deeper. We move together and he gives me his tongue, and I give in. I kiss him like I've wanted, like I've needed to kiss him all night, since the second Alice opened the door and I saw him standing there in sunset light.
I kiss him like I wanted to kiss him on the dance floor and he kisses me like he knows, because he does know. Because he was struggling to hold it in all night too.
"Don't you feel it?" He whispers, breaking our kiss to pull me closer, to secure me to himself. "How good it could be?"
I nod because I do feel it. I do want everything he could give. I do, but here, on the dock... Our best friends still in eye and ear shot back on the beach...
"Edward," I whisper, my eyes closing and my mouth falling open as he slides his hands down my sides, taking hold of my hips and moving me in a slow, slow, slow circle.
"I'll be so good to you, Bliss," he breathes back, his promise low and hot with sincerity. "I'll take care of you. I want to see you smile like this every fucking day..."
I cross my arms around the back of his neck and rock up onto my knees so I can feel him better. They'll be bruised tomorrow from the dock, but I don't care. We remain forehead to forehead and he rolls me easily, slowly, intentionally. I feel my tingles start to twist and I hear my pulse in my ears, and I want -
"Let me show you how loved you are," Edward whispers, burning me up. "I'll love you with everything I have every single day."
It's then that I realize he's not talking about what I think he's talking about. He's moving me and I feel him, but the desperation shading his voice isn't for sex.
I close my eyes tightly and beg heaven not now. Not now. I can't think about this right now. I'm not ready, please...
"Be my girlfriend," Edward half tells, half asks, nose to my nose, stealing kisses between assurances and requests. He smiles. He holds me close and tight and strong. He wants. I can hear it. "Let me be your boyfriend."
And right there, in that moment, I open my eyes.
I focus on his clear blue and I breathe with him, and we're in some kind of interstellar harmony where I can't feel a single one of my fears or doubts or reasons, just him. Just us. Just love.
And it's perfect.
I inhale sharply and am about to nod my head, about to shape my lips to tell him yes when movement on the beach catches my attention and I freeze.
Edward freezes too, but doesn't let go. He's facing the water and can't see what I see, but he knows something's not right.
"What?" He asks quietly, any and all panic pushed from his tone by sheer protectiveness.
But he has no idea and I blink, and stare, because what?
I try to swallow and play it cool, and shake my head to tell Edward no, nothing, we're fine, but I can't swallow. I can't form a single coherent thought.
Petey and Alice are awake, but they're not paying us even a smidgen of attention. He's half on top of her, kissing her on the mouth and she's got her arms around his neck. Her leg is around his hip and her dress is pushed up, and her poof-pinned hair is coming all kinds of undone in his hands.
For a second, I can't do anything but gawk.
Love knows how to throw the most inconceivable kind of curveball.