AN: Hey. A few things before we begin. I want to apologize for how long this took, but I have begun working full time again and adjusting has been pretty hard. It's better now, so actual writing should be getting done faster now.
Secondly, I received a few reviews from some new readers. I truly wanted to respond to them personally (they're still even in my inbox) but because of everything that has been going on I never got around to it. I apologize, but I really want you'se to know how grateful and am for the love and support and reviews.
Lastly, I'm entering the Taste of the Forbidden 2 contest. My entry is already half written and has been sitting in a folder for months now so it's not going to take so much time away from this story.
So let's get on with it. This chapter has been beta'd by the wonderful SereineinNC. All things Twilight belong to SM
"I'm like, incredibly nervous," I told Angela as we kneaded dough for the cinnamon rolls. "This is the first date I've been on since…a long time. I don't even know how to be on a date."
Angela snorted. "What does that even mean?"
"I don't even know. The last few dates I went on were horrible and I had built up this dislike of them. Now that I'm going to do it again I don't know how I'm supposed to act. Like, do I let Edward pay for everything or do I pay my share now that I have a bit of money? Do I dress up or dress casually? Should I expect a goodnight kiss?"
Never in my life had I ever put so much thought into a date. Never in my life had I cared so much.
"Okay," she laughed. "Um, I think Edward will definitely pay for everything. I'm actually pretty damn sure he will." She gave me a pointed look, waiting for me to disagree. However, I knew she was right and, in retrospect, it was stupid for me to assume otherwise.
"Do you know where he's taking you?"
"No, but I did ask him to forgo any art museums, galleries, or exhibits, so there's that," I added pathetically.
"Alright. I would say dress casually unless he tells you otherwise, but you can always ask him. As far as the kiss…don't know what to tell ya. Have you kissed him before?"
"We haven't made out or anything, but yeah, I guess."
"Mmm. I think that's something you're going to have to play by ear. It can't be forced, so if it feels right it'll happen."
"Yeah, I guess," I mumbled. I really wanted it to happen.
"So are you excited?" she squealed, the most girlie sound I'd ever heard from her.
"Maybe," I said, averting my eyes and trying to hide my smile. "Okay. I'm so damn excited that I have no clue what to do with myself," I admitted
"I'm excited for you. You've got to tell me everything on Monday."
I rolled the dough out flat, making it as even as I could so I could sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar combo. However, my mind was miles away – at a hospital to be exact. I couldn't help but wonder if Edward was at least half as nervous as I was. Probably not. He always had things in control and his emotions were always one of those things. I'm sure he had some level of anxiety, no matter how minute, but it was probably for different reasons.
A part of me, despite what he said, still worried that he had changed his mind about us and was just afraid to actually say it. He had grown a lot more respectful toward me, and I think that's the reason he might have been scared to hurt my feelings. It was probably easier on him to be rude and hateful towards me.
I stood in front of my closet Saturday night, staring at it and hoping that an outfit would magically pop out on its own. However, nothing in the closet was appropriate for a date. The few clothes I had were for practicality – not sex appeal.
I was done looking. No matter how hard I wished for a miracle, nothing in there would do.
"Hey Rose," I greeted when she finally picked up her phone.
"Nothing. I was trying to figure out what to wear for my date tomorrow and…"
"Woah, woah, woah," she interrupted. "What date? You never said anything about a date. With who?"
"I never told you? Are you sure you just didn't forget?" I asked.
"I think I'd remember if you told me you had a fucking date, Bella," she snapped. "Now who's it with?"
"Uhh…Edward?" I don't know why I was so scared to tell her that the date was with Edward. I was her best friend, but Edward was family. In our own way, her and I were family also, but Edward was her soon-to-be brother in law. She had a certain amount of obligation of loyalty and protection to him and what if she didn't approve?
And, oh jeez, what about Emmett? I'm about eighty five percent certain he thinks that his brother could do better than me. Hell, I know that he could do better.
Maybe I should cancel.
"…Bella!" Rosalie screamed in my ear.
"Shit, Rose! What the hell?"
"Well I was talking to you and you weren't responding. What the hell happened?"
"Nothing," I dismissed. "What were you saying?"
With a huff she continued. "What I was saying was that I'm happy for you and asked if you knew where you were going?"
"You're happy for me?" I asked disbelievingly. "Why?!"
"Why wouldn't I be? You like him, don't you?"
"Well…yeah. How did you know?"
"I dunno – something changed between you two. Nothing obvious or anything, but more friendly maybe? I can't explain it, but either way, if this is what you want then I'm happy for you."
"Thanks, Rose. Just…don't tell Emmett, okay?" I pleaded.
"Why not?" She sounded offended.
"Because I'm still not sure how he feels about me. I think we're in a good place and I don't want a date with Edward to mess that up," I explained.
"And how would that mess it up?" She was just full of questions tonight.
"Because that's Emmett's brother and…just don't say anything, okay? This date might not go anywhere anyway – be a complete bust – so there'd be no point."
"Whatever." She said in an all too familiar tone. She may not tell Emmett now, but she will at some point. However, I knew that continuing to argue about it now would be useless.
"Anyway, the reason I was calling was to ask if you had anything that I could borrow to wear. I don't have anything that's suitable for a date unless he takes me to go paint a house," I explained.
"What about the box of clothes that we brought back from Forks? If you're telling me that you have nothing to wear then I know you haven't looked in there."
I smacked my hand against my forehead. I had pushed that box all the way to the back of the closet, promising myself that I would go through it later and never got around to it.
"I forgot all about it. What's in there anyway?" Rosalie had been the one to pack it. I grabbed a few sweaters, but Rosalie insisted that I should bring more of my wardrobe.
"The Sisterhood jeans are in there," she said, satisfaction coating her voice.
I guffawed out a laugh. "Oh shit! I forgot all about those. They're in there? They probably won't fit me anymore."
The Sisterhood jeans were a pair of black jeans that fit us both beautifully, despite our different curves and figures, just like in the movie The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Rosalie said I should keep them, though, because they made my ass look better than they did hers.
"Bella! Those pants are fucking magic. Trust. They'll fit." She was so sure.
"We'll see. What else is in there?"
"A few tops, slacks, shoes – the stuff that I figured you wouldn't think you'd ever need," she answered smugly.
"Ugh. I'm getting off the phone now. I can tell that head of yours has grown since we've been on the phone. I'll call you later."
"You damn well better. Let me know what you picked out."
After hanging up with Rosalie, I pulled out the box from the back of the closet. I pulled out everything, except the shoes, without looking at it until I found the black jeans. It was amazing that after all the years I had them they still looked good; not that worn and faded look. They smelled a little dingy, but that was probably from being stored for so long. It wasn't something a quick wash couldn't take care of.
I removed my sweats and slipped on the black denim jeans. They fit…perfectly, like they always had. I twisted my back to take a look at my ass. I couldn't see it well, but I could just tell that it looked good. These were a definite must for the date.
I shimmied out of the jeans with a renewed giddiness and put them aside to throw in the wash later. I looked through the items that I had already taken out of the box. Most of the tops that Rosalie had packed seemed too fancy to be casual, more appropriate for clubs, and I had a feeling that clubbing is not what Edward had in mind for our first date.
I was about to give in and call Alice when a flash of pink caught my eye. I didn't know how I managed to miss it before, but it was perfect. A powder pink cardigan, which I only vaguely remembered, to layer on top of a white camisole. It was casual, but neat.
I went back into the box to see what shoes she had packed. With my luck, and knowing Rosalie, there would probably be nothing but heels and boots in there. Just like my clothes, I didn't want anything fancy to cover my feet.
"No way," I whispered when I reached the bottom of the box that seemed never ending. On the very bottom of the pile were the knee length chucks that I had bought but never even worn, having bought them a few days before everything happened with my parents. I loved them, though. I remembered complaining to Rosalie that I couldn't afford them at the time. They were the first thing I bought after I got paid for teaching an art lesson for children.
Whether the sneakers went with the outfit or not, I was wearing them.
I woke up early Sunday morning – a lot earlier than was probably necessary. Edward and I talked last night and agreed that we would head out around one. He still hadn't told me where we were going but confirmed that I should dress casually. It was only nine now, but I was feeling anxious and completely out of sorts. I could hear Edward outside my door, going about as if this date wasn't a big deal. It was, at least to me.
I jumped in the shower to wash, scrub, shave, buff, and do all those things I expected other girls to do when they have a big night out. There was no point in shaving, but I always felt cleaner and a bit more appealing with smooth legs. Frankly, shaving and washing in general, was something that I learned not to take for granted. I always stayed in the shower longer than I should, wasting the hot water as I relished the heat against my clean skin. Getting out was always hard.
I spent the rest of the time – hours – getting dressed. I buttoned the cardigan then unbuttoned it. Then buttoned it again only to unbutton it once more. I repeated the pattern until I finally had had enough of myself and left in buttoned.
I put my hair up…then down…then up…then down. Finally, I left it down but pinned back.
With half an hour left, I zipped up my sneakers and applied a very light coating of makeup that Alice had given to me in passing one day. I still had ten minute to spare. I paced the length of my bedroom, contemplating if it would seem eager of me to wait in the living room. I didn't want my presence to make Edward feel rushed.
Five minutes. Five minutes wouldn't be so bad. Maybe it showed that I wasn't like those girls who needed hours to get ready. Not anymore, anyway.
Four minutes. I walked out my bedroom door with four minutes to spare. I stepped lightly, not wanting my footsteps to be heard from Edward if he was still getting ready.
All the worrying was for naught. Edward was sitting in the living room, his ankles crossed as he watched TV. He looked completely relaxed; a state I didn't see often unless we were eating or watching a movie, which didn't happen much since we both worked.
He looked good from my vantage point – everyone's vantage point, most likely. Light blue jeans with a cream colored cable knit sweater. Every article hugged his body beautifully. It always did. Even the scrubs I saw him wear once made him look like he was modeling hospital wear instead of performing life saving surgery, or whatever kind of surgery he was performing that day.
"So I'm ready when you are," I called out.
"Sure," he answered without looking at me. He turned off the television and stood up, finally turning to face me. "Wow! You look…really…wow," he stumbled through his words. His eyes were wide and his jaw was slightly slack. He never looked at me like that before. It was a look of astonishment, and if I was a different person I might have felt offended, but I was nothing but flattered.
"Yeah?" I asked shyly. "In this?"
"Yeah, in that. I like it…a lot. You have that girl next door look with a slight punk side thanks to those sneakers."
"Thanks…I guess?" I laughed. "You look really nice yourself. I guess we had the same thing in mind," I said, pointing out that we were both wearing sweaters.
That was pretty lame.
"So yeah…we can go." I pointed behind me at the door.
The beginning of the drive was quiet as he drove down streets that I wasn't familiar with, heading towards neighborhood that, out of respect for families with young children, I didn't venture to. These were the wholesome neighborhoods; the ones you see in TV movies and commercials and wish you could live there.
"Are we going…shopping?" I asked, confused, when he finally pulled into a mall parking lot. It wasn't really something people did on first dates, but if it's what he wanted to do…
"No, we're not going shopping," he answered, smirking. "But we are going into the mall."
"Um…alrighty then." Wordlessly I followed next to him. The mall looked big from the outside, but it was actually quite quant. There were three floors, with one dedicated to different eateries. A lot of the store fronts we passed were specialty stores. Aside from the fast food restaurants, I hadn't seen one franchised business or big name business. I liked that.
"Where are we going?" I asked again as we entered the elevator.
"The third floor," he answered cheekily.
I rolled my eyes playfully. "And what's on the third floor?"
"You'll see in a minute."
A few seconds later, we stepped out of the elevator and I was still just as clueless. I followed Edward as he turned right.
"Here we are," he said as he stopped in front of a store. I looked back and forth from the store to Edward, unsure if he was joking or not.
"You're serious?" I wasn't opposed, but genuinely surprised. I would have never guessed this is where he would take me for a first date.
"Yes. Have you never painted your own pottery before?" He asked as he tried to contain his smirk. He was doing a horrible job.
"Well, no, actually. I can't say that I have." The surprise was wearing off, quickly becoming replaced with excitement and giddiness.
"So you mean to tell me that the great and talented Bella, creator of magnificent…creations…has never painted her own plate? Such a shame! What kind of artist are you?" He mocked.
"An artist of the utmost dignity," I answered regally. "However, I shall make an exception for one of my most adoring fans," I joked.
"Then let's go." He grabbed my hand, tugging me behind him.
The place wasn't busy, with only two other stations being occupied. The saleswoman set us up with a plate and a mug each, various bright paints, brushes, and a catalogue of ideas.
"What are you going to paint?" I asked Edward excitedly. The artist in me had different ideas already floating through my head, but the juvenile in me just wanted to use as many different colors as possible.
"I have no idea," he laughed. "I can't draw much. Maybe a tree or something."
"Nice." I tried to sound encouraging, but I'm pretty sure it came out as mocking.
"Oh, be quiet and just paint a masterpiece or something."
That's what I did, kind of. We spent the time in silence. I tried to talk here and there so as not to seem that I was ignoring him, but it got hard as I became so engrossed in my work. Edward was no better. I would look up from time to time to see him biting his lip in concentration or his brows would furrow when he was trying to even out his strokes. It was cute!
"I think I'm done," Edward said with a huff, throwing down his brush with a dramatic flair. "This painting stuff is hard. I don't know how you do it so easily."
I smiled down at my cup, finishing up my last touches, but turned my eyes up to look at him.
"It shouldn't be hard," I said, my head still turned down. "It should be fun. If you're having a hard time it's because you're over thinking it."
"I quit over thinking it an hour ago. I'm still just a little bitter about it. I thought I could create the next Mona Lisa on my plate, but nothing."
I put down my brush after I finished my final stroke. Without giving it a final once over I looked over to Edward's ceramics. The mug was actually really impressive along with his plate.
"That's really cool," I complimented him. On his mug was a pretty accurately painted original Nintendo Gameboy, big screen and all. "I didn't take you for a gamer."
"Not much anymore, but I was big into games when I was younger. It kind of tapered off when I was in college. I became too busy to play."
"So where did the inspiration for that come from?" I asked, pointing to his mug.
"From about fifteen feet away." He nodded his chin to somewhere behind me. I turned to look at where he was pointing. There was a shelf filled with pre-painted ceramics, including a retro Gameboy hand-held.
"Nice." I smirked. "Imitation is the highest form of flattery I guess."
"I would say so. I'd copy you, but I don't think my surgeon hands are steady enough to even attempt it. You did realize that we won't be selling this stuff, right?" he joked. I looked at him curiously.
"You didn't have to go all Botticelli on that plate," he said, referring to my rough interpretation of The Birth of Venus.
"I'm impressed," I teased. "Who woulda thunk the self-centered doctor knew art?"
He mocked glared at me, squinting his eyes in the process.
"I'll have you know that I know a lot about art that deals with naked chicks."
I rolled my eyes. "Ugh. You're such a guy," I laughed.
We continued to joke around until someone took our dishes, which were sent off to be glazed and baked. I was a little bummed that we weren't taking them home today.
"I had a lot of fun," I said as we walked out of the store. "Thanks."
While it wasn't anything that I had ever expected, it was fun and carefree. There was no anxiety or pressure to make conversation. No need to flirt or be someone that I wasn't. I wouldn't lie and say that I didn't hope that maybe we would have talked a little more; gotten to know each other better, but I held hope that this date went well enough to warrant a second one.
"So what are your plans now? You probably have a lot of work to do, huh?" I tried making light conversation to hide the disappointment I was feeling. It was selfish of me to want more of his time – to not want the date to come to an end – but I was really enjoying his time.
He looked at me oddly. "Oh, you want to go home? I had a late lunch planned."
My steps faltered; completely surprised that the date wasn't over. Or maybe, more importantly, he wanted to spend more time with me as well.
"No!" I answered a little too loudly. "We can do lunch. I can eat lunch."
He shook his head in amusement. "Well good. There's a small hole-in-the-wall deli that makes amazing sandwiches. I figured we could grab lunch and eat in the park."
"Sure," I agreed easily.
It seemed that I gained a little more confidence with each step I took as we walked through the mall. I held my head higher and my back straighter as I walked closer to Edward. With a final breath of nervousness, I stuck my hand out and grabbed Edward's. I tried to save face by looking everywhere but at Edward. He hadn't pulled his hand back, which I took as a good sign.
"Is this okay?" I asked timidly, all the guts I thought I had were nowhere to be found. When he didn't answer right away, I was ready to pull my hand back, embarrassment flaring. Before I could, though, he squeezed it and pulled me closer.
"This is more than okay," he said smiling at me.
I started to try to hide my wide smile until I realized that I had no reason to. I was happy, and as far as I was aware, Edward was, too.
The drive to Edward's favorite deli was quick; more specifically, one and a half songs. I stayed in the car while Edward went inside. It shouldn't have made me as happy as it did when he insisted on ordering for the both us. It was almost like we were a couple in a restaurant, just like in the movies.
"It's right over here," Edward instructed.
I followed Edward as he led us to his favorite picnic bench in the park. When he had told me about a park earlier, I was expecting a playground and maybe some kind of field. This place was nothing like that. There was a fairly large creek, a bike path running along both sides. There was even a bridge that allowed pedestrians access to both sides. Benches were scattered close to the edge of the creek while picnic tables rested further back. I could hear the faint sounds of cars on the highway beyond the trees.
"This place is really nice," I complimented as we finally sat. The table was under a low hanging tree. It was rather shady, making the slight chill in the air a little more pronounced. It was that odd period right when spring begins. It definitely wasn't as cold as winter, but the full spring temperature still hadn't hit us.
"It is. I don't get to come here often, though." He began unwrapping his sandwich and I followed suit. I was ready to take my first bite when I, regretfully, glanced up at Edward.
"What's wrong?" I asked, slowing lowering the sandwich. My stomach sank and my heart beat faster upon seeing his glum face and hearing the most dreaded words anyone would say.
"We need to talk."