Hi there! I just want to address one thing before we get to what you're here for (hopefully there are still a few of you?)... About some things said in the last chapter, that some of you seemed confused about based on your reviews... It's taken me forever and a day to get here, so the things you may have forgotten are completely my fault, I'm sure, but there have been many mentions of how Bella didn't make things easy for Edward in the beginning. She wasn't necessarily cruel, but she made him work for the right to call her his, and earn all of the trust and respect she gives him.
And now that I've thrown that little reminder at you, all I have left to say is... If Don DeLillo can write a whole book about a man's quest to get a haircut, then certainly I can write a chapter about it, right? ;)
Chapter Twenty Six: Returning to Beautiful Normal
Though it's been days since we brought her home from the hospital and she's feeling completely like her perfect self again, Bella still hasn't gone back to work. Which means she's been in my sight at nearly every moment. And is at this one, and bent over our massive tub when I wheel myself into our bathroom. She's wearing only a t-shirt–one of her own, and a perfectly fitted–and panties, and, whether my body is capable of expression or not, I'm instantly and humbly aroused.
Her perfection is astounding. She's in as natural of a state as she could be, her hair still tousled and tangled from sleep, and what she did sleep in still hugging her still too thin but almost back to the perfect way I remember it body. Well, except for the pants she slept in, which I see folded on the counter to her right, but don't in any way focus on for more than a second since she is, as I said, bent over our tub. If only I could get out of this chair…
She turns to look at me after a moment, sensing my presence, I assume, though I'm sure she didn't hear its arrival. Or feel, like she would have if I had been able to get up, and smiles. "I shaved my legs, and I was just making sure the tub was clean and hair-free and ready for you."
"I'd like to inspect your work," I tell her, trying to keep my expression–the one on my face, since I don't have to try to compose or contain any of my others–neutral. "If you don't mind."
She glances back at the tub for a brief second before her for-me smile returns to her lips. And total and complete understanding fills her brain. "Certainly not, Mr. Cullen," she says, and steps away from the bathtub, as if to clear the path for me to get close enough to it to, as I said, inspect it.
I see her trying her best to look innocent as I cock my head and raise a single brow at her and her standing still position near the vanity, and it takes everything I have not to laugh. As much as part of me desperately wants her to punish me for everything I've done to us, the part of me that appreciates that she's not and won't, and has let us return so easily to playful, is overjoyed. Because, behind her playfully innocent expression, I know that she absolutely is.
"Just going to stay there, are you?" I ask her, and she feigns confusion for a moment, but then gives it up quickly with an anything but playful "Hell no" and walks to stand in front of my chair.
"You could have," I tell her. "I was certainly willing to move to get to what I wanted. Mountains, if I had to..."
"You never have to tell me that for me to know it, Edward. And, on my dream life, will never have to do it again."
I'm tempted to tell her to make me, instead of the way she's making everything so easy for me, but I don't say the words. And don't say any at all, actually, as I reach forward and touch her. Run my hands slowly and appreciatively up and down her perfect and perfectly smooth legs.
"Do I pass?" she asks after a moment, with goosebumps covering every perfect inch of her from my simple touch.
"As always, Mrs. Cullen," I answer, looking up into her loving and unnecessarily hopeful eyes, "you have far exceeded my expectations in every way."
"And I am beyond proud to have," she declares, "now and for that always, because I know how high they are, though they may not quite have always been..."
"That's not true," I defend, putting a spin on 'always', "because the way I see things, my eyes upward, always, since the day I laid them on you, expectations were things I was in complete ignorance of the extraordinary possibilities of until you taught me about them. And the sheer magnificent beauty of, when set at great heights."
"I could hardly have taught you to have them, Mr. Cullen, when I barely so much as gave you the time of day, let alone a lesson in anything."
"You taught me to have them simply by existing, Bella. To give me everything or nothing, the latter of which I prefer not to focus on, if you don't mind."
"And do want to know… what would you like to focus on?"
"The everything, of course."
"Good. Too. Because I like the everything."
Her eyes are full of love as she looks at me, and her hands are alive with it as they move through my too-long hair. And this time I do focus on the latter, because I want the first to be as happy and in love as I can make them. "Would you do something for me, Bella?"
"Of course I would. Anything."
"Would you cut my hair?"
It's not something I ever knew she could do, and just as well as anyone could, until one day during my 'courting' of her, and a visit to her dad's, when Sue was complaining that Charlie was starting to look like a mountain man, because he refused to get a haircut. His regular barber, and the only one in Forks, had retired and he refused to go to a woman's salon.
"You only had to ask, Dad," Bella had said, and jumped right up and disappeared out of the room.
She came back a couple of minutes later with a towel, a comb, a pair of scissors, and a set of clippers in her hands, and told him to get his butt in the kitchen and sit down. I was shocked at his eagerness to accept and comply with her order, and jumped up to follow them, Sue practically dancing with joy beside me.
I learned then that Bella had been the one to cut his hair for years, having gone with him to the barber shop her entire childhood, and obviously paying attention instead of playing while she waited, like any other child would probably have done. It was only after she'd moved away from home that he'd had to return to that shop, and then, only until its only barber hung up his tools and put a forever closed sign on the door.
I was impressed and amazed as I watched her, like I was with everything else she ever did, and a few weeks later, asked her if she would cut mine, waiting those few weeks only because at the time I'd just had mine cut.
"No way in hell," she'd told me. "I am not cutting Edward Cullen's hair."
"Why not?" I'd asked her. "You cut your dad's, and it looked great." .
"He's not you," she said, as if I was supposed to understand that. And accept it, which, even if I kind of did the first, or what she meant by it, anyway, I wasn't going to do the second. And no, not just because I wanted to feel her hands in my hair. Which I did shamelessly…
"Neither am I, Bella. Not the me you think I am, anyway. I probably wouldn't be asking you if I was."
"You don't want me to cut your hair."
"Yes, I do. And have ever since I watched you cut your dad's. And have been cursing it every day for not growing faster."
"Don't you have a regular person who always does it?"
"Man or woman?" she asked after a pensive moment, and I tried to fight my smile at her wanting to know.
But secretly happy that she did aside, I didn't want to answer her question, especially when she was looking at me in the assuming–and right to be–way that she was. But lying to her certainly wasn't going to help me in my quest to get her to see me differently, so... "Woman."
"One you've slept with?" she surprised me by asking next.
But what also surprised me was that she didn't look assuming, as she had just seconds before, and, unless I was seeing things, looked, instead, hopeful that my answer would be no.
Which, thankfully, it honestly was. "No. Definitely not."
That time I was sure I saw her try to hide a smile, but her questions kept coming. "Not pretty?"
And I would answer any she asked, because her asking me anything told me she cared. Or something. "No, she is, but I'm… particular."
She didn't bother trying to hide anything that time, but I'd earned what she didn't, and had done it very publicly, so I took it like a man. And clarified the kind I'd been. "I more had a preference for Supermodels. Or an actress on occasion, if she looked like one."
"Ah, of course. A normal girl would certainly be beneath your standards. How stupid of me."
Maybe full disclosure wasn't the best way to go after all…
But I wasn't going to give up that easily, or let her think what she was thinking. "My standards had no depth, Bella. They were shallow and superficial, just like most of the women, or 'girls', who fit perfectly into the mold of them, which I long since have thrown away, along with any desire to ever re-aquire them. Because I think normal is BEAUTIFUL, and know that it's all I'll ever want now."
"What are you doing with me, Edward Cullen?" she asked, pulling no punches whatsoever, just as the waiter brought the check.
He made to move away quickly, assuming his arrival with it at just that moment, though it had been requested by me moments before, was the poorest possible timing. I put up a hand, telling him it was alright, and reached into my pocket for my credit card as he laid the book on the table.
"Well, at the moment," I started, stopping briefly when Bella opened it and shook her head at the exorbitant price of our dinner, "I'm trying to get you to cut my hair."
Our waiter needed to work on his poker face, but I gave no further thought to that as he quickly left the table, what he wanted securely in his hands. "Though I do admit to having a bit of an ulterior motive in that."
"Which is?" she asked, bothering not at all with a poker face, and picking up the fork from her dessert plate, I was pretty sure to stab me with if I answered the way she expected me to.
"To save me three hundred bucks," I said with a smile, momentarily confusing her. "Plus a tip."
Her confusion dissipated quickly, though she didn't put down the fork. "You pay three hundred dollars for a haircut?"
"Every month, yes."
"I should stab you with this fork just for that! Are you stupid?"
"Well, I'm trying not to be anymore… but you won't say yes and help me…"
She eyed my hair and a snarky smile touched her mouth before it opened again. "It's not even that great. Your haircut. And certainly not better than one I could give you."
"Do I get any points for being smart enough to know that?" I asked her. "You know, since I did ask you to–"
"Maybe," she said, and finally put her fork down. "One, perhaps, might be in order. That is, if you don't lose it when you actually answer my question."
"What am I doing with you?" I asked, knowing she really wanted, or, perhaps, needed, a completely honest answer from me to that question before she gave me anything, or certainly did, or agreed to do, anything for me.
"Well, Bella, I don't know what kind of answer you're expecting… or that will earn me any points, or not lose the few I may have already, but I only have one."
"And that is?"
"That I want to do everything with you."
I knew she could have taken my declaration wrong, but as she looked at me, I knew she hadn't, no matter what she said to it. "You're going to have to do a lot more than take me to ridiculously overpriced and overrated restaurants to get that privilege, Edward Cullen."
"All I want is the chance to."
"And a free haircut."
"It doesn't have to be free, you can charge me. Any price. A thousand dollars if you want. Or a–"
"Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of you trying to save three hundred bucks?"
"I don't really care about the money, Bella… and, no matter how much you try to tell yourself you don't, I think you know that. And what I do care about. Wh–"
"I think you just want me to touch you," she said, before I could finish the word I truly believed she didn't need to hear me say.
"Well, yes, there is that."
"You admit it?"
"I've never not admitted anything to you, even if it would put me in the negative."
"That might earn you a point. Maybe even two."
"I'll be completely honest with you even if it earns me nothing."
"Even though you want everything."
"Yes. Including a haircut, which I really don't think is too great of a thing to ask for."
"You only think it isn't now because I haven't given it to you yet."
"Yet?" I repeated with a beaming smile.
"Yes, yet," she said. "If, that is, you're willing to take another drive out to my dad's. You know, since he has all of the stuff already. And since you're trying to save money and all."
Bella cut my hair for the first time just a few days later, in her father's kitchen, and under his watchful eyes, and, bless his believing in me soul, in front of his beaming with happiness smile. Which I'm sure was only as big as it was because he didn't know much I was enjoying her touching me… or, perhaps, because he knew his daughter well enough to know that that way that she was was all I was going to get to enjoy…
That was a long time ago, of course, just as it now seems to have been since I asked my wife the Would you? question, that I think sent her down the same path into our memories that I just visited and returned from.
"Of course I will," she says finally, and smiles at me, in a way that leaves no doubt that we were, in fact, together on that path. And will stay, on whatever others life throws in front of us.
"For your inspection," Bella says with a smile, laying the comb and scissors on the table and handing me a mirror.
And I look at myself, but not at the haircut she gave me. I know it's perfect without a glance, just as much as I know that something else isn't. Well… that a lot of things aren't…
But, for Bella's sake, I'm only going to focus on one that I can change. With her help if she's willing.
My wife's hands felt no less incredible to me when she was cutting my hair than they ever have, no matter what she was doing, or where she was touching me. But there's one touch that I desperately miss feeling. Yes, I'm the one that deprived myself of it, in every possible way, but this is a new day, and, just like I promised her, I'm done depriving myself, and her, of anything. Including me being me, the man she let love her, and let make her love me back completely. Something she never kept or hid from me once she did.
And though this thing that I want to do for her, want to ask her to do, isn't nearly as big as that, it's something that I know, without a doubt, will make her happy. Hearing once again, and seeing, and feeling, in more ways than one, that I'm done trying to hide anything from her.
"It's not great, actually."
"What?" she asks, her shock evident in both her voice and expression. And her hands on her hips… "What's wrong with it?"
"Well, my sideburns are–"
"Meeting somewhere under your chin! That I really can only assume is under there somewhere."
Just like my first, Charlie was witness to my most recent haircut by his beautiful daughter, and chuckles now as he pretends to be suddenly very interested in this morning's paper.
"Exactly," I concede to my beautiful and snarky wife, after flashing him a Thank God, and you, for her grin.
Which she catches, and its meaning of, I'm sure. And my 'not great' critique. "Are you saying they're too long? Even though you chose to grow them out, and keep them that way?"
"Yes. And that I'm sorry for doing so. You know, since their meeting somewhere under my chin means that everything in their path to it was also hidden by them."
She reaches forward and runs her fingertips along the curve of my hidden jaw and her eyes light up. "Really? I get that back, too?"
Her simple words break my heart. Because she shouldn't have had to ever say or ask them. And my wife never would have if her husband hadn't become someone she had to fight to recognize.
Bella never minded a little stubble, and even thought it was sexy, as long as it didn't stick around for more than a few days, or completely cover her favorite part of my face. And if it did, because I let it–sometimes just to fire her up–she'd tell me to shave it, or to sit my ass down so she could. I even woke up one morning to find her straddling me, a can of shaving cream in one hand, and a razor in the other, a You gave me no choice smirk on her face.
I'll never forget that morning, and partly because when she was done unveiling what she wanted to see, she unveiled herself, taking her t-shirt off and using it to wipe my skin clean of all remaining traces of the thick cream. After which I ordered her to climb up and cover it with her intoxicatingly sweet… an order she was more than happy to obey, and one I think I'll issue again as soon as we're alone.
"Bella, you get everything back," I tell her, "if it's in my power to give it to you. Everything, I promise."
She smiles at me with complete trust, and with no pity, not even for herself, and then bends down to kiss me. "Thank you," she whispers completely unnecessarily against my lips, as her other hand lifts to my face. "And we both know you could never be anything but gorgeous, but this…" She gives a gentle yank–with both hands–to the overgrowth I let mar the what is to her perfection. "...does NOT meet my expectations, which, I might add, you taught me to set at the utmost possible height. So, YES to sideburns, Mr. Cullen..." Her mouth moves to my ear before she pulls away, "and whatever else may have crossed your mind on the path to wanting to give them back to me."
And her give me back my broken record I should never have hidden from myself thoughts. Fuck, I love my wife...