Pop the Question Contest Entry

Title: Sinking into a Dream

Word Count: 11,483

Pairing: Edward and Bella

Rating: M

Summary: It's the type of falling in love that only takes a few moments, but lasts in a slow kind of forever.

Warnings: Language and smut. Yup. The amount of research that went into this fic is a little insane, heh. Sorry if I don't get everything right.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to the Twilight Saga. No copyright infringement is intended. I do not own the rights to Jenn Grant's song "Dreamer"

Author's Note: Three songs inspired this one shot; "Dreamer", by Jenn Grant (from which the title is derived), "Home", by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and "Katharine Kiss Me", by Franz Ferdinand. Ironically, Jenn Grant is the only Canadian in the playlist for a story set in Canada. Every band mentioned in this one shot is a Canadian band.

*'*'*'*'*

I'm known as the jobless college graduate. Summer jobless. Although, with the amount of duties I have from my parents, I feel as though I should get some sort of stipend. An allowance.

As I walk from the grocery store, the heavy tuna cans hitting my knees with every other step, bag rustling over my music, I wonder what my parents are doing with both cars gone. I wonder what it would be like for them to have taken public transit to the Superstore – where tuna is on sale. And then take it back.

Wondering is dangerous, often leading to wondering what kind of jail sentences are given to daughters who maim their life-givers. I'm thinking probably a lot.

I'm too busy balancing two bags of canned tuna and an iPod and contemplating the state of Canadian penitentiaries to notice I miss the catwalk needed to go home. I missed my shortcut, my easy route of flat land and un-cracked sidewalks. The only perk of taking the longer route, with all its hills and broken footpaths, is the quiet park where I might sneak a turn on the swings. I may even force a child or two off.

It's then I see I'm not the only adult – and I use the term loosely – on the swings. A boy is on them, aimlessly moving back and forth. His feet drag in the sand, two parallel lines dug in. The setting sun is kind to his profile, defining the shape and blurring the features. If only I had a camera. And talent. I move closer, debating whether I still want to have a ride, potentially embarrassing myself, or continue on my merry way.

I sneak glances to my right, watching the boy. His hat is familiar, faded white with an embossed Blue Jay. It's a trendy hat with white suburban teenagers, trying their best to be G. His is older, frayed around the bill, more yellow than white. I know this hat, I think. Which is stupid, I decide; everyone wears baseball caps. The Jays are sort of popular here.

I pass the swings sans ride, still contemplating a stupid hat and unreliable memories. My foot catches one of the uneven cobblestones and my nose is past my toes and I'm falling.

My iPod is sticking up in the moist sand, headphones blaring whatever Yukon Blonde I was playing. My knees are stinging, palms and elbows throbbing. The bags are ripped, my cans rolling away. I hear the delighted, devilish laughter of children, enjoying the spectacle that I am more than they should.

"I just want my tuna," I say, an unnecessary but appropriate whimper cracking in my voice.

"Are you all right?" His voice is deep and raspy. What I imagine sand and silk sound together.

Memories may or may not be so reliable; his voice has a familiar edge to it. Maybe it's wishful thinking. Maybe it's wondering.

"Um, er, I think so," I reply. I will be all right; but right now, I'm in a lot of fucking pain. Getting back on my feet is a challenge – I'm sure I end up looking like a toddler, unsteady legs and wobbling knees. Walking is only slightly more graceful.

"My tuna," I whisper. It's just so far away, like it's trying to find it's way back to the Atlantic.

"Yeah?" His eyes are shaded by his hat, as is most of his face. Damn the sun for setting. I think I detect scruff.

I shrug, because really – what else am I supposed to do?

He begins to chase my cans of tuna, some still rolling on determinedly – ghostie tuna fish that they are – picking them up and stacking them in his hands. I decide it's only fair that I help him clean up my mess.

"Um, thanks," I say, kicking the sand covering the cobblestones; I'm positive had I not tripped, I would've slipped.

He manages to fix the handles on one of the bags, filling it with the stupid tin cans, putting the rest in the other. He's very efficient; definitely practiced. He bends over, and now I know he's familiar. That is one impressive, impressionable ass.

He walks over to me slowly, a bag in each hand. His head is tipped back just far enough, and with the pretty reds and oranges of a fading sun, I see his face.

Edward Cullen.

The bags are in my hands; I'm surprised at the pull they give. They rub against my scrapes, and I'm cringing before I can stop it.

"Will you be okay to walk home?" he asks, and all I can think is, I don't remember him being so nice. His concern is almost as attractive as his face.

"Eh, yeah. I'll be fine." I plan on throwing the tuna at my parents' faces.

He shrugs, taking one, two steps backwards. Easing away. It occurs to me he might not recognize me. I'm more than okay with this – I'm ecstatic. Now I don't have to say a damn thing either. Awkward moment: saved for another hour.

"Thanks for your help. My tuna would've found a way back to the ocean, otherwise."

His eyebrows rise high on his forehead before they dip. He looks good squinty and cautious. Edward has the decency not to laugh at my idiocy.

"You're welcome."

"Um, bye." iPod in pocket and Elias as background noise, I begin the rest of my trek home.

The bags knock my knees. I feel the slick unstick each time, just knowing they're clinging and peeling away from the oozy blood. I'm disgusted, but there isn't much I can do. I end up walking with the bags far out on each side, like an avenging… something.

I feel the side-eyed stares, the contemplation of strangers. I try to ignore it; hoping the Vancouver alternative will ease any sort of embarrassment. It does not.

"Hey!" It's faint and loud and upfront and way back and not for me. I continue my walk, looking at the old Portuguese couple, feeding the ducks and geese in the giant manmade pond still, after all this time. I'm in all sorts of gooey awe.

"Excuse me. Hi." It's beside me. It's Edward Cullen.

I pull an earbud out, knocking myself in the stomach with a bag. "Hi." Wheezy. Unattractive.

"I… do you need help? I feel bad."

I'm puzzled. Why does he feel bad? I'm the stupid who fell. "I'm good, dude." I'm stupid in many ways.

An eyebrow rises, but my address is otherwise ignored. "I just – are you sure?" He's reaching out, snagging a bag. I'm only a little disappointed our hands don't brush.

"Well, um, if you insist?" I smile, and my face is heating out. "I'm much obliged."

Call me queen of Spaghetti Westerns. My John Wayne impression is impeccable.

"No problem." He studies my face a bit. "So, I'll follow you?" Edward makes a vague 'go ahead' gesture, nearly smacking with a bag of tuna.

"Sure." We walk in near silence – the geese are fighting over whatever the couple decided to feed them – and it's awkward. I'm wondering if I should say something; we have almost ten minutes before we reach my house. That's a lot of silence.

"Um, what are you listening to?" Edward asks, looking at the battling gander.

"Elias?" I don't listen to popular music. I'm kind of embarrassed right now. Maybe a little defiant.

"Cool."

"Have you heard them?"

"Yeah. They're okay. Really redundant, though."

Colour me impressed. "I think so too. But it's good mindless music, you know? Walking and stuff." Stuff. Master of the English language.

"Yup."

I won't say I know him – know of him. I'm doubtless he remembers me.

We reach my house faster than expected. I'm out of breath from matching my pace to his, but I'm home – a home filled with hydrogen peroxide and Band-Aids and a shower.

"You're… ah, fuck," he mutters, rubbing at the back of his neck.

He remembers me? He did? Or didn't he?

"Swan, right? Isabel?" He's blushing and looking at my dad's ancient pop-up trailer. I'm embarrassed, too.

"Isabella. Bella. Yeah." I'm wondering if I should've corrected him. Was it rude?

"Right. I'm Edward. Cullen?" his hand is on his neck again. I see the downy hairs there all ruffled. I want to ruffle them, too.

Do I admit to knowing him? What if he asks why I walked off? Re-meeting people is hard.

"Yeah. Hi."

He smiles and his eyes crinkle. "Hi. So, how've you been?"

Christ, this is painful. At least I'm not the only one hurting. "Good. Glad school's over." It comes out as more of a question. I'm not sure what I was trying to do there.

"Yeah, same." He swings my bag of tuna, back and forth, back and forth, bouncing on the balls of his feet a bit. "Where'd you go?"

"Laurier. You?"

Surreal. This is surreal – but the awkward is leaving us a bit, I think. I still need to be pinched, though.

"Cool. I was at Western."

I smirk a bit. "The party school, eh? Were you at the dorm with the stripper?"

I'm pretty sure he blushes. "Hey now, that was before my time."

Should I ask about the future? Talk about mine? What about the summer?

"Big plans for the summer?"

"Ah, no." I don't mention I was supposed to go backpacking through Europe. I don't want to come off as a whiner. "And yourself?"

Clearly, I'm in disillusionment. The awkward is right here still. It's in the pauses of our words, the blank spaces in our conversation.

"Nope. I think I'm going to get a job, though." He's bouncing again, shifting his weight from the right to the left. It's sort of mesmerising.

"Here's you tuna."

I grab the bag. "Thanks for, you know, helping and stuff. You didn't have to." Do I sound ungrateful? Fuck, this is so bad. It hurts me.

"You're welcome. So, um. Yeah. It was nice talking to you," he says.

"It was, wasn't it?" D'oh.

"Can I have your number?" Edward shakes his head a bit, a frown on his face.

"Sure." iPhone in hand, he types as I rattle the ten digits off.

"I'll text you, so you have mine. Thank you."

"No problem." He says thank you nicely. His lips look pretty.

"I have to go now. Nice seeing you, Bella." He smiles as he says it, tipping his hat a bit before he turns around and walks.

I think I swoon a bit.

I'm in a daze for the rest of the afternoon and night. It isn't until I'm lying in bed – at 11:30, for Christ's sake – when I really start thinking about Edward Cullen.

He was cool back then, defying the uniform rules of Saint John Catholic High School with that hat of his. He painted and he played. He was kind of arrogant. I had stayed the fuck away, partially because of different friends and various high school bullshit, involving a friend of a friend on both parts and assumed allegiance.

But now… maybe university had a way of humbling him. I refuse to think of what us meeting again means.

I refuse to think if he would call – he had at least texted – because I don't want to be hung up on a small possibility.

~:~

Tanning in Salerno. OMG all these Italian boys. And this nude beach... Alice's status hurts me. I wanted to tan on Europe's beaches.

I'm on a beach towel in the middle of the backyard, bathing suit on – as Alice's probably isn't. I'm playing Diamond Rings, house phone and cellular beside me and I'm pretty sure I'm dancing a bit. The sun is soothing on my skin, the breeze just cool enough to comfort me. I imagine the smell of water of the Tyrrhenian Sea and I almost feel better.

My phone buzzes with a text.

You look kind of uncomfortable – E.

I'm up on my knees in a second. What? What? How can he see me? I look around the backyard, across the fence lines. No peeping toms, no heads, no cameras or telescopes.

My phone vibrates again. Look up.

And there's Edward, hanging out of a tree house. There's too much shock and adrenaline in me right now, I don't even edit my response. You scared the crap out of me – Bella

I toss my phone aside and turn onto my back. I didn't know it was Edward's house with the tree house. I didn't know he lived so close.

Look up again. Please?

I give him five minutes before curiosity kills my cat. And he's there again, holding up a sign with large black lettering. "You're pretty," it reads.

I decide it's difficult to clean melted person off of grass, and it doesn't even matter to me that I'll be the latest lawn ornament.

And then it occurs to me that he's flirting. Flirting. Like he likes me. A boy that likes me is flirting with me like a boy that likes me.

Heat and intense swooning do nothing for a girl's brain. I smile big and give him a thumb's up. My phone buzzes again.

Was that the finger? I couldn't tell.

He's so cute-boy.

No, sir :) Thank you.

No reciprocation?

You want me to write with lotion on my legs?

Am I going too far with this? Too bad there isn't an un-send function.

Many possibilities. Maybe an invite will do.

My parents are working; my elderly and nosey neighbours are at church. Sure thing, dude.

I watch him leave the tree house in a flash. It takes him a smidge over 15 minutes to come over, knocking on the gate hesitantly. I'm in an ancient romper to cover up. He maybe likes what he sees but no need to parade in my bathing suit, which covers up as much as my undies do. And I think it's just too early for that. Early in what? Stupid cute-boy has me thinking too much.

"Come on back." It's early in the afternoon, but I'm cracking a Brava Light open with the corner of my towel. I might need the universal buffer to survive. I gesture with the bottle. "Howdy. Welcome to chez Swan."

"Nice. Are those flamingos?"

"Eh. So. You really scared the crap out of me." Talking through a smile is hard. I'm pretty sure my vowels change. My esses become shushes and I'm sounding like Sean Connery.

Edward looks contrite and bashful. "I thought I was being smooth and cute."

It's weird because he's being open and forward. It's weird because he likes me. I've decided I'm not going to hold onto whatever happened in high school (which was nothing) and embrace the now. Because, I neither liked nor disliked him in high school. I can only expect the same feelings from him. Because come September, I'm at the University of Ottawa. So maybe earliness and future-ness are irrelevant.

Summer lovin' and some other Grease song and all that.

"After my pulse went back to normal, I did too. Want a beer?"

"Sure. You drink Brava?"

"Brava Light, yes. It's the beer of summer." I shrug and quash the Caribbean accent – no need to look stupid.

I get a funny look anyway. He uses the bottom of his shirt to twist the cap off, and I notice his happy trail that makes me happy. He has nice abs, too. Pretty sure those are newer.

"How are you?" Edward asks, sitting on the grass beside me. He's in thong flip-flops. He has Morton's toe – it's very quirky. Kind of gross, but he seems to embrace it.

"Good. Enjoying a happy beginning of May. You?" I don't feel comfortable lying back again, so I sit hunched over, knees drawn up to my chest.

"Can't complain," he grins. "I saw him live, once." Edward nods over to the iPod dock.

"John O? Diamond Rings?" I'm so impressed. And jealous. Maybe the crush factor goes up a bit, too.

He nods.

We talk for a while. Edward eventually turns his hat backwards, old-penny hair poking through the hole. We talk about high school for a bit – I totally forgot we had grade ten Canadian history together – and a lot about college and a bit about life in general. He went to school for music. He's a musician. I explain to him my double major of cultural anthropology and history. He's curious and adorable. He asks if I've seen Bones, because that's the only type of anthropologist he knows. I can't help but snort indelicately.

We eat a relaxed supper of hot dogs and cucumber and tomato salad. Edward's cute when he eats, very conscious of any ketchup and mustard on his face – a nice face, with very little scruffiness.

We're back on the grass, lying down and experiencing a sunset. It's pretty pinks and reds, oranges and yellows that settle around the houses and trees of the neighbourhood. It's soothing.

"Today was nice." Edward smiles, glancing over to me. He has a nice profile. His hat rests on his stomach.

"Yeah, I had fun. Thanks for your message. It was really sweet of you," I say, turning on my side to see him.

He shrugs while he lies down, his shoulders almost brushing his ears. God, Edward is adorable when he blushes.

"I think we should hang out some more. Like, I'm here and you're here," he says.

How not to sound excited: "Brilliant idea. Seriously. It would be a lot of fun. Toronto's only an hour or so away, so…"

"Lots of fun stuff to do."

"Yeah."

"I guess I'm going to go." Edward's up on his knees. He waits a moment, then holding a hand out to help me up. His hand is warm and just rough enough to be sexy. I really like his fingers, all tangled up with mine while he pulls me to my feet.

"Okay." He's been here for four hours or so. I guess it's okay that he can leave. "Thanks for coming over."

"Thanks for lying out in the sun like that," his eyes are glowy in the setting sun and I can't help but kind of swoon a bit and get my flirt on.

"Thanks for noticing," I say, winking.

Edward pulls me in for a hug. My nose hits him square in the chest. It's all very respectable. My hands are on his back, his on mine. He rubs a bit, I rub a bit. I tingle all over. He lets go, smiling and happy. His eyes are extra glowy now, I think.

We walk to the gate together, and then to my front lawn. The driveway is cool enough that it doesn't sting my bare feet. "Goodnight, Bella," he says.

"Night, Edward."

He walks off with a backwards wave. I watch Edward until he's at the end of the bend, and then walk to the street, watching, as he turns left.

I'm in the backyard and dancing and giggling about how fortunate this all is. I put on Teenage Kicks and sing way out of tune with the song. He thinks I'm pretty. He flirted.

We flirted. Together. With each other.

I'm not even jealous of Alice anymore, displaying her tiny boobs in Salerno. I didn't even need to do that for this. I'm just stupidly giddy. My phone buzzes from my pocket.

Cute dancing. Kinda like a duck and a gazelle crossbreed. It doesn't scare me this time, and I don't even check out his tree house.

Really? I thought I was rather talented.

Sure, sure. If you're into jerking thumbs and knees. Is he insulting me? Or him?

Have a good one, Edward.

Cheers, Bella. Night :)

Colour me far away – somewhere into a happily flirtastic and fantastical future. I'm not even worried about the inevitable tan lines.

~:~

Edward likes to test my patience. I catch on to this very quickly. Mostly, it's with creepy texts from his tree house. Sometimes, they include vague references to music I might like. And other times, it's all about yet to be decided outings. Outings, because they aren't dates. Not until he uses the word first.

I'm bopping along to Metric's Fantasy album and walking in the plaza. There's just enough light rain to cover up the glasses I only sometimes use. The water has such a nice effect, though. It magnifies and amplifies the oranges and browns of the A&W sign, making hundreds of tiny kaleidoscopes with every droplet. It's mesmerising and fun and almost takes my mind of Edward.

"Bella!" I hear as an earbud is quite literally ripped from my ear – and it isn't because the wire got caught on my hands.

Jesus Christ on a cracker. It's Edward. "Damn, man. Stop scaring me!" I honestly can't stop my foot from raising any more than I can gravity for pulling it down.

"But you're cute when you're flustered."

I don't even respond, instead moving along towards the fast food joint. I have the weirdest craving for a Teen Burger.

"Bella, c'mon, it was funny."

"Funny is me ignoring you," I say. I hope he enjoys the view from behind. Lululemon make my ass look fantastic.

"You just addressed me." Edward sounds so perplexed. I ignore him. "Bella? It was a joke."

I want to answer him so badly. My teeth and lips are the fences to my rampant words.

All I wanted from this night was a Teen Burger and some root beer. "Aw, fuck it." I reach into my bag and pull out the little red pack of Du Maurier. There's a cigarette lit and in my mouth in ten seconds.

"You smoke?" He sounds so incredulous and innocent that I can't help but peek at him. His baseball cap is on, probably protecting him from some of the mist.

Does looking count as an acknowledgement? I look away. I'm a woman of my word, after all.

"I'm sorry, Bella. Really. Please look at me?" Edward's just so earnest. I'm helpless against his charm.

I face him, careful to keep my cigarette smoke away from his pretty nose.

"Bella, I'm sorry, but you gotta clean your glasses. It's like I'm looking at a bug's eyes or something." I'm pretty sure he's chortling by this time.

"And just when I was about to forgive you," I puff, blowing smoke out the side of my mouth a la Frenchie.

"Don't be like that." Edward reaches for my shoulder. His hand lingers for a second before following the run of my arm to my hand. And then he holds. His hand stays. Edward is holding my hand. "I'm really sorry, Bella. Really." One, two, three squeezes.

"You're forgiven," I blurt, coughing on the inhale. His hand is still gripping my hand.

He smiles brightly. "Sweet. So, are you going to clean your glasses?"

I want to say something abrupt and snarky, but his hand is still holding mine. It's like my brain and my mouth – God knows, one does not control the other – are suddenly focused in my right palm in contact with his left. "Probably," I mutter.

"What's for dinner tonight?" he asks.

"A Teen Burger Combo," I reply promptly. I think I can taste it already – or maybe my salivary glands are extra sensitive. "You're staying with me?"

"Who doesn't love Chubby Chicken dinners?" I stare at him while he states at our hands. He looks like he approves, and I have to agree – our hands were made for each other.

He lets go when we're up at the counter. I don't make a big deal out of it, even though I feel like he's holding on to every part of me. Dinner is sweet, once we get over the beginning issue of who's paying. And I, very casually (because diplomacy is my best friend), point out that because it isn't a date, he doesn't have to, despite "owing me food". Edward is quiet after that, until he gets his French fries.

He likes eating his French fries in threes, I notice – very carefully following his teeth so that he gets a bit of potato with every chew.

"I think we should go to Toronto."

I'm licking the tiny ketchup cup when he speaks. "Sorry?"

"Yeah, we should go. It'll be nice to get the hell out of here."

"Where would we go? How would get there?" Is that a date?

"We'll take public transit. Hit up some quintessential Toronto spots. What do you say, Bella?" Edward is very smiley and a little bit vulnerable and very much perfect in that instant.

My voice might be a little bit high pitched when I answer. "Sure thing."

His breath comes out in a whoosh, and mine does in response. "Awesome." His eyes twinkle in the dim light, looking more hazel than green.

"Where will we go? I haven't been to the T-dot in ages." I can't stop these words coming out of my mouth. I'm positive I sound like a dork.

"I have an idea or three. Don't worry. I go down a lot." He pats my hand. I feel the ghost of his grip, and I wonder if he'll hold my hand when we walk home.

"Is trusting you my only option?" At his nod, I sigh dramatically.

I am made for the dramatic sigh. I feel my bangs flutter and ruffle.

There's an easy-going lull between us, soothing and comfortable. I don't have to open my big mouth to disturb the quiet, which is incredibly relaxing.

Edward looks to the parking lot while I look to him. His hair is more tan than old-penny in the restaurant, but it's still a nice colour. His skin is kind of golden and attractive. I see the beginnings of scruff shading his jaw.

"I think it's going to pour soon." His comment startles my ogling. "We should go."

I glance out the large windows to grey skies. I see Superstore fliers riding the wind. "Jeeze, you're right."

Edward gallantly throws the trash away, puts the chilled glasses in the bins and meets me by the door.

My right arm is by his left. I'm hoping for our hands to hold each other's again. I'd settle for a finger-brush.

"When did you start smoking?" he asks.

"During my first year. It was my way of trying to be hipster college student and artsy. But when there's a whole campus doing that…" I shrug.

"Have you ever tried giving it up?" I sense him all along my right side. Why won't he hold my hand again? I just want to feel our fingers tangled and our bodies closer.

"Yeah, for Lent my third year. I managed two jars of crunchy peanut butter and about ten bags of sunflower seeds. Roughly, a week and a half," I say.

"You ate two jars of peanut butter in a week and a half?"

"Crunchy peanut butter, thank you very much. With breadsticks. Sometimes with Melba Toast."

"Did you find yourself trying to smoke a breadstick?" It's like he knows my silly past.

I want to answer his question, I do. But his hand touched mine and it is a wonderful feeling. My nerve endings are alive and dancing. I feel jittery and shivery and with the lightest brushes of his fingertips, I'm about to shake right out of my skin.

"Bella?"

"Oh, yeah, I did. I even lit one on fire once."

He starts laughing, loud and raspy chuckles that echo within me. It's mostly a profound moment until he starts coughing.

"Not that funny, Edward." And then, I'm laughing with like a complete idiot because his laugh is infectious, and it spreads quickly from my ears to my mouth.

"I can picture you with a match – it was a match wasn't it? – and then shaking the match out. How long did it take you to notice?" Edward's eyes are captivating when he's happy.

"About three puffs. God, can we talk about something else?" I'm blushing, and I'm desperate to stop.

"Any ink?"

I cough. "The fuck?" I'm bent over at the waist, arms resting on my knees. How do boys think?

"Do you have a tattoo? I'm curious. You smoke, you curse…"

"This isn't the '90s, Edward. We're a bit passed stereotypes, don't you think?" My words burn a bit on my sore throat, and they sting my ears. God, my rasp is unattractive.

He has the decency to look chastised. It's a good look on him, especially when he rubs his neck and I'm introduced to his bicep.

I'm about to get my flirt on again. "Besides, you've seen enough of my skin – wouldn't you have noticed a tattoo?"

Edward is gobsmacked and I've made him that way. Success, I believe, is mine.

I pull him forward, because it's clear he'd be staying there all night if I don't make him move. He's still a bit stunned, I notice. I wonder if he's thinking of that time he creeped me out – or the peeping tom fest he had beforehand.

Maybe he's thinking about someone else.

"So, erm, Bella. When do you want to go to Toronto?" Edward's voice is sleepy-thick and I wonder how that can happen when he was conscious the entire time.

"Sometime this week." Why prolong the inevitable?

"A couple days?"

I nod. His enthusiasm lends itself to me, replacing the nervous tingly beginnings in my stomach. It's less quaky and more fluttery.

"I'll text you the details, okay?" Edward's very careful to travel the ancient sidewalk, I notice. The uneven cracks are crossed with caution, each foot feeling the step; like crossing ice in winter.

"Do you always walk like that?" My question hangs in the space above our fingers, near our ears and moves towards his lips, I think.

"I'm not entirely focused… as I usually am." Something is implied – like I'm the reason he isn't focused. Me. And I'm awfully prepared to take the blame.

We're silent again. I don't want to ruin whatever is spinning in my head, no matter how hard I try to stop the fantasy from twirling. And I'm just careful enough on the outside to feel Edward's side-eyes and looks. Sometimes, short, sometimes long.

He doesn't let go when we reach my house. Instead he pulls me close, holds me tight in a hug. I rub my forehead back and forth once and I feel him press his face – his lips? – into my hair.

"I'll text you the details, okay, Bella?" His voice is rough in the evening air – like the rain the swirly clouds hint at.

"Okay, Edward." I wonder if he hears the smile in my voice, in his name.

"Goodbye, Bella."

"'Bye, Edward." I want him to text, right away, right now.

I want to know that my hunch is more than a hunch but an actual right, much like feeling of him and me.

He texts later in the night, after I squeal and girl all over my mother. It's simple and sweet, explaining the when and where.

Goodnight, Bella. Next stop: St. Lawrence Market

~:~

I'm crazy-bold with what I choose for the outing. I decide on a skirt because I'm proud of my tan and skinned-less knees, for once. It's flouncy and lacy and sort of girl but with an indescribable edge. My shirt is simple, my shoes comfortable.

Edward appreciates my skirt, too. His smile is bright from beneath the Jays' cap.

Getting to the city involves a moderately long bus ride we spend leaning close together, swapping music and snappy comments about other passengers. We're cute and light together – for the most part, ignoring the sweltering June heat and the crowding bus.

And once in Toronto, we have more rides to look forward to. More closeness, more cuteness. More sharing. The subway going downtown is packed and we stand, Edward close behind me.

His arm hovers around my waist, there to hold me when we sway at the bends. When he talks, his breath tickles my hair that tickles my neck. I shiver a bit, but I'm helpless to stop it.

"You ever been to the St. Lawrence Market before?" he asks.

"Once, in elementary school. We had a fieldtrip there, after we saw a play or something."

"Do you remember anything about it?"

"I really wanted a Portuguese tart, and I never got one." I say, with a little bit of ancient bitterness. Alice had wanted to look at the stalls with the ethnic clothes – the traditional saris from India to the rough-hewn material from southern Africa.

"Oh, well. I see. We'll spend all the time finding those tarts if you want." I imagine him winking as he says it.

"You're too kind, sir." I guess I'm making a comeback as spaghetti western queen. I'm sure I flutter my lashes, not that he can see.

"I love the St. Lawrence Market. It's always so busy and fresh… but with a hint of familiarity, you know?" Edward turns me at the waist so he can look into my eyes.

I won't point out – not even to myself – that I'm getting this rush of familiarity right then, in a dingy TTC subway, an old poster reading, "Thank you for Riding the Rocket" at the end of the car. None of this is at all familiar; but I feel it. I feel the memorability, the intimacy.

"What's your favourite thing to do here? I mean, isn't it a like a farmer's market or something?" I ask, glancing up at him.

"Or something." The boy has the indecency to smirk and look mysterious.

From the subway station it's another bus ride, but then we're at the front door and Edward's pulling me this way and that.

"Eat or shop?"

I take a moment to enjoy his happiness, bask in his enthusiasm. I'm silent too long apparently, because he taps my chin, forcing my gaze directly into his.

"Bella? You hungry? Or do you want to browse?" he asks.

"We'll shop until we're hungry?"

He laughs and tugs me along.

We look at all the stalls: so many clothing ones outside and a few jewellery types, and a ridiculous amount of novelty booths, peddling their wares to tourists. I get a magnet in the shape of the CN Tower, while Edward debates pen holders with floating Roger's domes inside. We goof off with all the scarves. He likes winding then around me and watching me unwind. We each get a pair of sunglasses – matching reflecting aviators. I giggle as he makes funny faces into my eyes.

We're at one of the benches in the shade outside, eating a linner including street meat and curly French Fries. Edward tries eating them like spaghetti and slurping them up. It's cute and messy and maybe a little bit noisy.

"You're such a dweeb," I comment after the fry get's stuck in between his lips.

"I haven't been called a dweeb since elementary. Jeeze Bella, you can't think of something else?" he wiggles a fry in my face.

"Shut up, Edward." I pick at the giant plate of fries we split – his treat – looking for the crispiest twirly potatoes. "These are the greatest French fries I've ever eaten."

"Best I've ever had, and I'm a connoisseur of potato."

"Really?" He's the dweebiest boy I've ever talked to.

"Definitely. I can tell you who has the best fried, baked, incorporated, mashed, smashed and grilled. I'm your potato man."

"You don't look like a potato man." He looks like he's never touched a potato.

"Shut up, Bella," he says. I snort in response.

When dinner is finished, we decide to peruse the market. I'm grossed out by the giant display of beef, and almost gagging by the time some of the ethnic stalls come up. The fish monger's stall is the worst – all those glossy eyes staring back. I can't help I have the gag reflex of a two year old. Edward covers my eyes at those places.

"Bella," he whispers in my ear. And even though I feel his hand over my eyes, his fingers brushing my temple once in a while, I'm lost as to where the rest of Edward is, until I feel his body hover near mine and his breath tickles my collar bones. "Let's get some dessert."

I pull his hand off my eyes and I see. So much; there are La Rocca cakes and Dufflet cakes and homemade cakes and pies and cookies and the cupcakes! I'm fully aware of the drool trailing along my chin, but it doesn't stop me.

"Look, Edward! Portuguese tarts. Oh, just look at them. Don't they look delicious?" I move right up to the counter, pressing my face longingly into the glass. It smells heavenly so close. The glass is no match for my olfactory sense.

I feel him come up behind me, his body leaning over my body. The sensation is almost enough to get my taste buds – where my brain currently resides – off the sweets and onto his body moulding to mine. To mine. Almost – why? Because these Portuguese tarts look perfectly crumbly and creamy and divine. Idly, I wonder if they have raisins in them. I bet they add to the scrumptiousness.

"What are we allowed to get? What can I get? The tarts, obviously, but I kind of want the chocolate cupc – is that raspberry icing? Oh my God, Edward, what do we get?" I hear the whine in my voice, the desperation, but I'm powerless to stop it.

"You pick." His voice is low and breathy and his arms come up and around to hold my waist.

I wonder if this was an intentional distraction from the desserts, because I'm suddenly very distracted. And hot and bothered. Goosebumps all around my arms and the tremors rocking my body.

I can't even fault him for coming in between my thoughts and my dessert, because his little shin hairs are tickling my calves. I feel the warmth of his skin to my skin, and it is all just so intimate and erotic. I want to lick raspberry icing off of Edward. Off of him in all the places.

"Any preferences? Things you dislike?" I whisper. Anything louder would kill the moment, I'm positive of it.

"Anything you want, Bella. Just pick." Words, words, words – tickle, tickle, tickle.

Edward releases me, but his hold at this point has past the physical. I'm still very much in his grasp.

My breath shakes as I pick out some chocolate cupcakes, some mini cheesecakes, two Portuguese tarts and a brownie. We'll be bringing them home with us and I don't even care because we have a snack for the road.

We're back outside, sitting at a bench. Edward sits beside me, thighs touching, knees touching and feet locked together. I look at his Chucks and my Rocket Dogs entwined, and it's lovely and romantic and cute. It also appears that the scuffs on the old rubber mirror each other.

The intimacy of it all… and he hasn't even kissed me yet. Not once. I just want one kiss – especially after he devoured the brownie. Does he taste fudgey like the icing? Or more natural, more earthy like the walnuts sprinkled throughout?

I turn to look at Edward again and find he's looking at me. His glasses are up on the brim of his hat; both facing backwards and I don't remember when that happened. His eyes are pretty-green and bright in the setting sun. He looks so content. And this makes me happy and bold.

My head is inching towards his and our noses bump one, two, three times before he pushes his mouth to mine. His lips are sticky with fudge, and I doubt mine are any better but that makes the kiss better. It's chaste and sweet until it isn't. And that's when I'm glad I'm sitting because my breath is stolen and my knees are missing.

His kiss turns me to goo with the simple angling of his head. His lips become persistent on my lips, and they're all too willing to follow his lead. He's all that I thought he would taste like and more. So, so much more. I think that the quintessential Edward can be found in his mouth. He groans quietly as my hands trail up his chest slowly, playing with the collar of his polo and then move up to his jaw, his ears and then his hair. It's easily as soft as it looks especially post-ruffled.

Our amazing first kiss comes to a climactic end when I knock his hat and glasses off his head.

"Sorry," I rasp into his lips. My breath is no longer mine.

"No worries, Bella." His lips smile under mine and then mine are smiling over his. "I can't bring myself to care."

"Neither can I," I reply. Guilt is beyond this beyond perfect moment.

Edward's fingers tangle with mine at the back of his neck, slowly trailing it down the path they went up. He bends over backwards to pick up the discarded hat and sunglasses. The temples are all bent out of shape but the lenses aren't scratched.

I smile. It's big and dopey and I'm sure it has a huge dash of I've just been kissed.

"That was… kind of perfect, Bella." He says this so quietly, so seriously.

"Don't be all sappy about that, okay? It was perfect." Why is he downing on me? He's ruining a perfectly good high.

He kisses me again, just because, I guess. And I don't even mind, because my response is responsive, just because.

His nose nuzzles mine when he pulls away slightly. "I like kissing you." Edward tries to breathe through his nose. Every intake delights my lips and every exhale cools them down.

"Wanna chill around Toronto, or do you want to go home?"

I'm hell bent on testing him about PDA, because I want a big display on the bus. And I want to test him soon.

"Let's go."

Our walk back to the platform is so different and the same from the one leading to the St. Lawrence Market. Our hands are clasped and swinging in between us. Our strides match, I notice. I can't even be bothered to feel ashamed of the left-left, right-right pattern we have.

Edward's arm is around my shoulder on the subway, cuddling me closely as he holds onto the bar ahead. He whispers into my ear everything he normally does – all his goofiness and wittiness and his intelligence – but the closeness makes it better, makes it seem like a secret.

The transfer from one mode of transportation to another is easy because we catch the last bus for a while.

"Look at you with your sunny disposition," he laughs.

"Oh, God, that sounds terminal. Feel my forehead, am I running a fever?" I look up and he looks down and it's all sorts of perfect.

He presses his lips very gently to the middle of my forehead, not even bothering to move my bangs out of the way. "You're fine. You'll be fine, Ms. Swan."

I blush. Ms. Swan. "I wanna kiss again, Edward." I whisper quietly, peeking out at him.

"Here?" Lips to cheek. "Here?" Lips to nose. "Here?" Lips to eyelids. "Here?" Lips to chin. "Here." And we kiss again on the bus, cuddled and cozy.

And I think Edward likes PDA as much as I do.

~:~

The new lawn chairs have ugly floral patterns – the wonky daffodils match the ones our brand new gnome smell, ass in the air and buried deep in the potteried plants. I don't mind it so much because the prickly alternative is so much worse. A nice addition to my July.

I'm coming over. You look nice.

At this point, I don't mind Edward's stalkery in the tree house. Because when he comes over it's sweet and nice and maybe hot. Hot. The boy kisses incredibly well. He's always flirty now, and touchy: quick finger strokes, or lasting fiery caresses. Personal space is obliterated because his space becomes my own and then it becomes our bubble.

"Bella," he shouts when he's at the gate. He's unnecessarily loud over Great Big Sea – because sometimes, classic folk music is all I need on a breezy afternoon. "There you are."

He doesn't leer, not really, but I feel his stare as I do the sun, the wind. It's comfortable, comforting. It's natural. I want it not-to-stop, like I do with this summer. To continue forever, on a loop.

"Hey, Edward. How are you?"

His smile is answer enough. He sits on the end of my chair, knees straddling, thighs taught. Hunched over, he begins trailing his fingers up and down, up and down my legs – swirling at the kneecap and down to tickle my angles. Light brushes, fair touches: I'm beginning to think my brain is centred right there, in my calf; that spot he treats with extra traces. His eyes don't stray from mine. It is all so exceedingly innocent and erotic.

"Any plans for today?" Still, still he touches my legs. How can he expect me to answer when words are but a memory from a non-contact time? "Bella?" Quick strokes and long ones.

"Stop it!" My voice is high and wheezy. He looks at me, head-cocked and scrunchy-eyed. "It, erm, it tickles."

It does, I know it does, but I want to be able to think instead of swoon. I want my brain back in its place.

"Really?" His hand stop, warm and massaging slightly on my calves. Flexing, once, twice, three times.

"Really, truly." I smile and he smiles before his happy lips descend on mine. It's both too slow and too fast, drawn out and lightning quick and it leaves me breathless.

"Is that the ice cream truck?" Edward asks, just to the edge of my cheek.

"You can hear that?" Between my heart and his, between the folksy voice of Allan Doyle singing about his inability of coming down, I can't hear anything.

"You want ice cream? My treat."

"Sure thing." I wonder what Edward and ice cream taste like together, and if it'll be anything like Edward and brownie.

I'm up and in my flip flops, and running to the gate when he swoops in on me. "You can't go out like that." He's whispery and close.

"Like what?" Am I in my underwear? I take a cursory look to be sure.

"Bella," he gasps. "You're in a bathing suit. You can't expect to parade around the neighbourhood in your bathing suit." Edward releases me. I turn to see him pulling off his shirt.

"I'm to wear that?" He nods in response, thrusting it at me. It smells like Irish Springs and boy. How bad could it really be?

"Hurry up, Bella. We'll miss the truck." Edward books it ahead of me – I can't even enjoy chest – his mad dash for the ice cream truck more comical than dashing.

Running in flip-flops is no easy feat, especially following an in-shape boy in need of ice cream. His shirt flaps a bit around my thighs and I'm pretty sure it was all an exercise in futility; but I find his concern endearing rather than an annoying.

Besides, his back is a nice view to flip-flop behind.

Edward pulls me in to his side, hand on hip and requests a vanilla/chocolate swirl. Medium. His voice is scratchy and close to my ear as he asks what I want. I'm suave and sophisticated with my reply of, "that vanilla ice cream. In a cone. Small?"

We walk hand in hand to my backyard, to our safe place. We're in our original positions on the lawn chair, only maybe closer together.

"You got a little something there."

"Where?" I'm feeling my face up and licking my lips.

"All over." He pushes my cone onto my mouth.

"You're such an ass!"

"I'll help you clean it." He has the balls to be indignant. As if. "Really. I will." And then Edward kisses me again. There's chocolate and vanilla, and a bit of that wafer-y cone he ate. The kiss is something else.

"You have a lot of cheek, you know?" It doesn't stop me from kissing him, though. Maybe I want to kiss the cheek right out of him.

"Have you suddenly aged about seventy years?" He asks.

"Shut up."

"Make me." So I do, with lots of kisses and back rubs and maybe a little fondling of his chest.

~:~

July is a good month. Lot's of Edward days and some sun. There's the park, and Toronto becomes our playground, too. Alice's facebook no longer annoys me because I have something better.

Edward takes me to his tree house near the end of July. He promises a cool place to sit… and shade.

He also promises me an hour or two with him and his guitar. Who am I to pass that up?

I remember him a bit from high school – at the talent shows, and winter and spring concerts. He was there, playing whatever he was needed at: drums, guitar, bass, and the occasional wind instrument.

"I've always kind of been able to play music. Like it was just there for me," he explains, pulling sheet music out of this tiny little bookshelf.

It's all so boyish in the tree house. I can see Edward through the ages – cartoon posters and newspaper clippings are yellowed and brittle; the girly posters of Pamela Anderson in her Baywatch days and other women.

"Is this your He-Man Woman Haters Club?"

"What?"

"You've never seen The Little Rascals? Ever?"

"Isn't that the kid with the giant cow lick?"

"Alfalfa, yes. Can I be your Darla?" I'm only realizing now all these references are wasted on him.

"Sure thing, babe."

Babe? Edward doesn't say anything else, instead playing the opening of "Save Your Scissors". He doesn't sing – he's said it isn't good at all, but he does hum. A lot.

I like hearing him play. I like watching him, too. He's in the music; in a transient state with the now. He plays a variety of music, ranging from the acoustics of Guilty About Girls to The Guess Who. Some he uses sheet music for, others he plays from memory.

I don't know how to express my awe of his talent, or my appreciation of him sharing this with me. So I kiss him, drawn out and smooth.

"You're really good."

Edward looks happy. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. Really, really good." I kiss him again because I can, and because he played music for me. It's a bit cramped – I'm up on my knees and he's sitting cross-legged with the guitar in his lap. "I think you should move this, I'm afraid."

"I think you're right." It's in the case before I can think, and his hands are on my hips pulling me forward before I can get my bearings. Edward cradles me to his chest, running his hand along my hips and waist a bit. It's a tingly feeling, reverberating throughout my entire body. I shiver and he shivers in response.

Higher and higher his hands venture, before they're tracing the underside of my breast and moving back down. "Too much?"

"Not enough," I rasp.

He holds me delicately in his arms. He tickles the hem of my shirt, the hem of my shorts, fingers drifting in and out. "Sit up for a sec," he mutters against my neck.

I do as I'm told. I feel flushed and a little bit sweaty, but I don't care and neither does he. Edward isn't much better.

His shirt is off and I think it's flying through the window. My hands are running along his smooth skin, only to be distracted by the hair along his chest and his happy trail.

"This is fun," I whisper before he's pulling me to the floor of the tree house. Edward lies at an awkward angle; my knees are bent and pulled up close. He takes his time dragging my shirt up, enjoying the skin he's enjoyed before – only he's up close and feeling. His fingers twirl around my belly button, before traveling upward. With one more questioning look, and one more answering one, my shirt is pulled up and over my head.

I've been in less than this in front of him, realistically. But really – this is my bra, my underwear. It's all so intimate and new to us.

Edward takes his time exploring the wonders of a bra. He likes the feel of satin and skin, running from one to the other with his thumbs. He pulls the straps up and down and close together and pulling the cigarette pack out of one cup with a twisty grin. I shrug.

"Never touched a bra before, Cullen?" It amazes me that even now as jumbled and hot as I am, a smart-ass remark still manages to escape my lips.

Edward ignores me. "Too much?" he says, as his fingers dip into the cup.

I shake my head, feeling my hair scratch against my face.

"And now?" his lips are closer to my breasts, I feel them. I feel their heat. I shake my head again, closing my eyes at his teasing assault.

Three kisses before he's slipping to the other and his hand slips downward. He plays with the button on my shorts.

"And now?"

"Do you want to stop?" Please, please don't stop.

"No." My shorts are unzipped and left at the knees.

I don't care. I don't care that it will be hurried and in his tree house, with Superman and Kelly Packard staring down at us.

His hand finds their way onto my underwear touching and feeling until I'm touching the stars and seeing them. Edward's lips don't leave my skin; his hands don't leave from the apex of my thighs.

"You're beautiful."

"So are you," I respond.

He shakes his head. "Not just now, Bella. Always."

My knees are missing, now, and my legs fall. He's there to catch me, and I think he always will be.

"I've never done that before. Here." Edward has the decency to blush a bit, and hide a bit, too.

"I popped your tree house cherry?"

"Not quite. Maybe another time." He smirks and plays with my hair.

I'm trying to wiggle back into my shorts quietly, but alas, it isn't so. My foot kicks the bookshelf, sending a CD or three to fall down. "Can I have my shirt?"

He looks out the window. "It landed outside. Take mine." And he passes me the shirt that landed on the windowsill – half body heat, half sun heat and entirely comfortable.

It isn't until after I help Edward touch some stars that he goes back to writing music. Edward explains that he prefers reading sheet music done in his own hand. So he lies on his stomach, legs crossed and up in the air. And shirtless. He has the funkiest freckles hiding his shoulders from me.

I trace his spine, feeling each disk, tickling up and down the sides. He shivers once, twice, but doesn't tell me to stop. I use his back as my paper, my digits my pencils. I design, I create, I explore with nothing but the very tips of my index fingers.

"Where'd you get these few scars?" I brush around them, in them. My breath is the breeze as I exhale on the few little scars.

"Chicken pox," Edward's voice is raspy and breathy and a little bit hard in the setting sun. His hair is a chaotic disaster and I don't mind helping it further.

"What are you doing in September?" he asks.

I freeze. Why is he mentioning the future? Why is he moving ahead, moving faster than I am? Why can't he enjoy the Late July heat, and the easiness of us?

"University of Ottawa," I whisper.

"Aw, fuck. I'm at Carleton." Edward turns then, facing me while on his back.

Carleton… and Ottawa. They're close, really close. Like a bus ride all in the same city. We could walk.

"Bella." His smile is mesmerizing and real, the orangey and reddish lights playing with his skin and his hair.

I hug him. I grasp at him. Because the perfect feeling I feel with him? It can last. It will last. Because September isn't an ending, but an extension of our bubble.

"I love you, Bella," Edward whispers into my hair, into my ear. Over and over and on a loop that I don't tire of listening to. He says it with every kiss his lips to press into my skin; it's every promise he makes every time he holds a different part of me.

"I love you, Edward." My lips to his forehead, his eyes. And finally, our promise, our declaration to each other, from one mouth to another.

~:~

We're up in his tree house again. We play cards mostly, with a beer or two split between us.

Edward embraces our love, as cheesy as it is to admit. He spends most of his time with me. He introduces me to his parents – the nice couple I see from time to time walking their two dogs around. My parents like him – love him, I think. His special brand of swoon works on my mother; my dad is helpless to hate someone his daughter and wife adore.

No weariness, no wariness over the future. So I don't worry, I don't weary. Not really.

The evening breeze is cool against my skin, but it isn't uncomfortable. Edward has his tiny docking station sitting on the rickety bookshelf, letting the Weakerthans be the soundtrack to our time.

He reads his old comic books to me. I'm delighted to find an ancient copy of The Magazine Not for Adults hiding under a milk crate.

"How can green tea be decaffeinated? There's isn't any caf to be…" I hold up his pencil holder. It's covered in macaroni and glitter glue.

"What? Dee'd?" he replies, an indelicate snort punctuating his smart-assery.

"Shut up, Edward. I have a point." I inspect the dried out pasta, indeed finding it to be the name Edward; or Dwad, as some of the letters have chipped off.

"Where'd you get this?"

"I helped out at some elementary schools around Western with music programs in them. I got a few gifts from the students." He shrugs and blushes.

"That's really sweet, Dwad."

"You're really sweet." The flutters spread from my stomach to my heart incredibly fast.

"You don't stop with the cheese, do you?"

He chucks my chin. "You're pretty when you're flustered."

How can I respond to that? I don't. I move away and closer to the window, finding the need to smoke.

"You don't mind?"

"Nah, it's sexy."

Boys are silly. "If you say so."

"Can I light it for you?" I shrug and hand him the lighter. He flicks it twice before the flame holds, before bringing it close to my cigarette. He's looking at my face when I inhale; cool, studious.

"Thank you." We both mumble.

Edward tugs at his collar.

I sit on the sill. It's comfortable and I don't feel so bad for smoking in his tree house. Swinging my leg out of the window is entertaining; the feel of the air and the tickle of the leaves. I attempt smoke rings, which look like smoke clouds. It amuses Edward, I can tell, because he chuckles quietly, working on whatever he's working on.

There's this leaf. It's the perfect shape; the perfect colour, untouched by bugs and critters. It's in my reach, I know it is. I'm also aware of how stupid it is to stretch out of a tree house for a stupid leaf, but it's incredibly pretty. I'm reaching and grabbing, but I'm grabbing air too far out of the window when the air that was caressing my leg is now but a brief memory to what is pushing me down.

"Christ! Bella!"

The roots of the tree are not particularly kind to me. I feel scraped all over, bruised all over. I'm sore. And oozy.

"The fuck, Bella?" His panicked voice is following me out the window because he's following me out the window, in a surprisingly agile jump.

"Are you okay? Can you hear me? What the fuck were you doing?"

"E–"

"Can you move? Is your spine okay?" Edward begins looking into my ears, feeling them. "No yellow liquid," he mutters.

"I think I'm okay."

"Like fuck you are. You're bleeding." Oh, the ooze.

"We need to go to the hospital, Bella. Can I carry you?" he doesn't bother for my answer, which would've definitely been a yes, but picks me and hurries to his mother's car.

"You'll sit in the back, okay? Just lie down and don't worry." He's racing through the garage for keys, before booking it into the house for his wallet.

I feel around for my pack of cigarettes, thanking Christ they survived, if only a little smooshed. It's difficult lighting a cigarette lying down, and I only almost-swallow it once before it's lit and I'm happy.

"Bella?" He's cute all flustered.

"Yeah?" I'm sure my voice isn't as garbled as it sounds to me.

"Why're you smoking, you crazy girl?" he leans down to kiss my cheek. I don't believe the blood has reached there, yet.

"It's gonna be my last, I think." I don't think I'm dying; at least, I hope not. "I love you, you silly boy."

"We're off to the hospital now, baby. You'll be fine."

"Look who's pretty now, when they're flustered?" I mutter around my cigarette. Mrs. Cullen has an old Timmie's mug rolling around that becomes my brand new ashtray.

"Stop talking, Bella."

"Why?"

"You'll be fine, Bella."

"If you say so." I have every reason to trust him – I love him.

The emergency is fairly empty, I think. But I can't be sure – Edward's carrying me around and the horizontal view of everything makes it difficult to tell.

"Is she sober?" the triage nurse asks, looking at Edward with contempt.

"God, yes." He's defensive and prickly. "She smells of smoke – not that kind. Cigarettes. Not a city skunk or anything," he mumbles.

"City skunk?" What things does Edward speak of?

"What happened?"

"There was a leaf!" I snort. Sobriety is a distant feeling. I feel punch-drunk and slap happy and mother fucking sore.

"She fell out of my tree house. She was having a smoke by the window right before she's ass up and falling out."

"Those are some nasty scratches on your arms and legs, Isabella," she says. "Is that all the head wounds?" She points to the scratch above my hairline, blood oozing out, goo-ing past.

"I think so. She landed on her back, maybe there's more?"

The sound of Latex and hair is kind of scratchy and all together unpleasant. They come out red, with grass clippings and dirt clumps and two brown hairs twisted up in her fingers.

"Likelihood of a concussion is pretty high." She frowns at us. "I'll have someone clean her up. C'mon."

Edward carries me to the tiny gurney she has us wait on. Another nurse – he's far less miserable – cleans me up, good and proper. The disinfectant stings with every swipe of the pad and Edward reaches over, letting his hand be my stress ball.

The doctor comes in, giving me a dose of some sort of painkiller, with a prescription for Tylenol threes for my head "trauma". It's always "trauma", never bump. He isn't helping Edward's nerves or mine.

"Make sure she's up every two hours and check her cognition and comprehension, okay? If anything happens that feels a bit off, come back right away. Got it?" Disapproval cuts worse than tree roots do.

"Let's go, Bella." He thanks the doctor enough for both of us.

"Thank you, Edward." I snuggle into his chest as I walk beside him. He drags me along. "I love you, Edward. A lot. Like Quebec-sized a lot."

"Quebec?"

"Largest province." I yawn.

"Oh. You're welcome, Bella. I love you, too."

The warmth spreading from my heart to my brain and then from that point it's everywhere is pretty and special, like him – like us. I never want it to get old.

I'm granted shotgun this time around. Edward buckles me in. "I'll get you home soon, okay?"

He keeps the windows open at my request. I like the August breeze better than the air conditioning.

He pulls me into his house, into his bed. It's big enough for the both of us, but I keep to his side. He brushes my hair, up and down along my shoulders, my back.

"Don't go chasing leaves, you silly girl."

"What else am I supposed to chase, then?" my hand grips his shirt over his heart. It beats steady, strong. It's the constant in which my life mirrors.

"I don't know – your dreams, love. Me. Okay?"

"Sure thing. I love you. 'Night." His chest isn't the pillow I wanted, but it's so much better, I think.

"I love you too. Goodnight."

~:~

It's the end of August. And in a week, I'll be off, doing an archaeology grad program and living with Edward in the tiny apartment above my uncle's shop.

He's with his friends now, spending time in Toronto. I don't mind that I'm alone, not really. I spend a bit of my alone-time talking with Alice. She said Europe was fun, the boys even more so. She's surprised to hear I met someone; that I've been with him for September. Scepticism is her middle name.

I wonder what we'll do when Edward come back up. He'll probably want to pack a bit, maybe kiss a bit. We already spent some time Bella-proofing the tree house. My parents were not amused by my story, when they found out where I went for a night, where I was. In a boy's bed.

Bella?

How's the city? Any city skunks?

He's going to spend time at Kensington Market. Mr. Cullen uses the term "city skunk" to explain the pungent smell of marijuana.

Funny. No, I need you to look up.

I don't. He isn't here – I know he isn't. I walked him to the bus, waited with him there.

The sky's really blue. Thanks for pointing it out.

Bella! Please look up. Please :)

The power of a stupid smiley face. It's disgusting.

So I do. And I start crying. Because he's there in his ancient tree house with another sign. "Will you marry me?" it reads.

Such a sweet, romantic boy. I smile because it's all I can do, and I cry because any other response escapes me.

Bella? I see him with the sign all tilted and I wonder if he can see me if I nod. So I do. The sign stays crooked.

I nod some more until I'm sure he's seen, because Edward leaves from the window, leaves from the tree house.

It only takes a few more minutes, because, damn, he must have sprinted all the way around before he's in front of me and below me, on his knees.

"Bella, Bella, Bella, Bella," he says. He peppers my face with kisses, salts my lips with his kisses, his promises. "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you."

"Yes, Edward." I say, my kisses are my promises. "I love you so much. It fills me everywhere."

"I got you a ring," he whispers, pulling the tiny blue box from pants. "It's engraved."

He holds the shiny band to my face, and opposite the small row of diamonds is a fish, tucked in the inside, always there to touch me and remind me. "You didn't."

"I did." He smiles and it's goofy and perfect. For me, for him. For this moment, and all the perfect moments that follow.

"Are you willing to spend your life with me?" Edward asks against me mouth.

"Are you willing to spend the rest of your life with a girl who chases tuna? And leaves?"

His laugh vibrates against my lips. "Of course."

"Then I can, too." I smile.

"You're perfect for me, Edward Cullen."

"Same back, Swan. I love you," he says again.

"I love you."

The giddy, nervous feeling settles in my stomach that's mostly giddy. The anxiety over the future, the secret niggling that it won't be okay is leaving, I think. Because we'll be together and we'll be happy and in love and we'll never lose our in-love feeling.

I wonder what it'll be like in ten, twenty years. But it doesn't matter because in the now, we're just right and it always will be.