The Love Boat
Obsmama, maxandmo, carenl, mtneer, GeekChic12, and Kikki are the most beautiful mermaids under the sea. I'd gladly give my voice to the sea witch for the to get just one night with the Edward of their choice.
Chapter 18 Tee-skirt
"Bella!" my best friend nearly shrieked as she flew across the lobby.
I hid behind Edward. Kids and animals are naturally so sure of the 'you-can't-see-me-if-I-can't-see-you' principle, there has to be something to it.
"I'm not sure that'll work," Edward said in a hush over his shoulder.
I know. "Shhh," I whispered, slapping his shoulder. "You'll give me away."
I just knew he was goofy-grinning. I could feel it.
"Where have you two been? I was worried you were going to miss the departure. And why are you hiding behind Edwa—" Alice took a breath, mostly because she hadn't taken any since she started yabbering.
"See?" I mumbled accusingly to Edward as I stepped out from behind him.
Alice took about three tenths of a second to look me up and down. She raised one eyebrow as high as I'd ever seen it. "What in the hell are you wearing?"
I took a deep breath. How was I going the explain this? I looked around at the other people milling around the lobby. It was bad enough that I had to tell her. I certainly didn't need any bonus listeners. "Can we talk about this in the room?" I asked hopefully.
"Oh, this is going to be good," she rubbed her hands together in anticipation. "Because it kind of looks like you're wearing a touristy tee-shirt as a skirt. And I'm dying to know where your pants are."
Alice turned on her heel and headed for the elevators. I bobbed my head in the opposite direction, silently asking Edward if he thought we could make a run for it. Maybe we could swim home.
He returned my look with a far-too-charming smirk and turned to follow his cousin. "Hello to you, too, Alice."
"Oh, sorry, Edward. I just got distracted with the...whatever she's trying to pull off there."
Jasper came in step beside me, and I noticed what he was wearing. We had an inside joke about Pink Shoelaces, and there he was, dressed as if he'd just walked out of the song. "Nice outfit," I tittered with a big, cheesy grin.
"Why, thank you so kindly," Jasper said with exaggerated gentility as he tipped his straw hat and slid his hand down his satin vest. "But how many times do I have to tell you, Bellissima? Men do not wear outfits."
"Whatever." I rolled my eyes dramatically. Jasper's hearty guffaw was just what I needed to lighten some of the tension I felt about telling Alice the reason for my current pantless state. I looped my arm in his and rested my cheek on his shoulder as we stepped into the elevator. "I love you, Dooley."
Edward turned to face me. "Who's Dooley?"
Luckily, we were the only ones in the elevator, so I sang for him, pointing to each article of clothing as I went.
Now I've got a guy and his name is Dooley
He's my guy and I love him truly
He's not good lookin', heaven knows
But I'm wild about his crazy clothes
He wears tan shoes with pink shoelaces
A polka dot vest and man, oh, man
Tan shoes with pink shoelaces
And a big Panama with a purple hat band
Edward's wide eyes and slightly dropped jaw were hard to read. I knew I wasn't a great singer, so I was pretty sure it wasn't the good kind of awe.
I bit my lip nervously. That was probably too much dork to let out in front of him.
The silence felt like it lasted forever before Jasper saved me again. "Dear God, I made Bella sing. Whatever I did, I'm sorry."
Alice and Edward cracked up, and even I had to giggle.
"Outfits, outfits. I'll wear an outfit every day for the rest of my life just to make that not happen again!" Maybe he wasn't really saving me; it was more like he was saving himself from me.
"Ha ha. Laugh it up, chuckles." I playfully shoulder-bumped him as we stepped off the elevator. "I do have to say, those black dress socks really do make the outfit."
"Why, thank you."
"I'd have thought you would have given them up by now. Or Alice would have thrown them away like she did those gladiator sandals when you all went to Cypress."
Jasper stopped dead in his tracks, and Alice shot me a death glare. Shit.
"You told me the maid stole them!" Jasper screeched.
Alice looked up and down the hall and lowered her voice to whisper-yell. "Those things were ugly as sin. You tried to wear them to dinner. With slacks. You really left me no choice."
He leaned in toward Alice. Even hunched over, Jasper's tall frame dwarfed his wife's. "They were black! They matched."
Alice's hands went to her hips. "The only thing those damn things matched is a frat-party toga!"
Jasper smiled mischievously, but Alice quickly informed him he shouldn't get any ideas.
"Ali," he whined. "Do you know how hard it is to find size thirteen gladiator sandals in the states?"
"Why would I ever try to find those?" She shook her head dismissively.
Jasper made the most pitiful pouty face I'd ever seen on a grown man.
"Oh, for the love of monkeys!" Alice threw her hands in the air. "I'll find you a new pair online when we get home."
Jasper smiled triumphantly, but my eyes flew to Edward's.
He shook his head almost imperceptibly.
There's no way they could know, right? It was just a coincidence. "For the love of monkeys" is a common phrase. Right?
The entire sandal showdown happened right in front of our door, so I tried to slip into our room with a quick, "See you at dinner."
"Nice try, girl with the tee-skirt." Alice snorted as she slid into the room behind me.
She flopped on the bed and rolled over on her tummy, propping her head in her hands like she's done since we were kids. "Spill, lady. Tell me all about this." Her finger waggled up and down at my impromptu fashion choice. "Whatever this is."
"Just a sec. Let me change first." I pulled a pair of shorts from the dresser, discreetly tucking fresh underwear in their fold, and headed for the tiny bathroom.
"Don't think I didn't see that!" Alice hollered as I closed the door.
"She needed new panties too. So, whatever happened to her shorts, happened to them too. This story just got like ten times better! I can't wait." Her voice was more muffled, but it was still obvious she was clueing in Jasper.
I quickly changed, taking a big breath before going to face the music, or firing squad, or Alice, which was even worse.
Still on the bed, Alice held up a towel animal and asked, "Do you think this is a hippo or monkey?"
My eyes snapped to Edward's as I mouthed, "You told her?"
Edward raised his palms and shook his head.
"Um, don't think I didn't see that," Alice said.
I opened and closed my mouth a couple of times, still trying to think of how to tell her. I should have thought this out when I was in line waiting to re-board.
"Come on," she pleaded, nearly bouncing, "I have a feeling it's quite the tale, or tail, as in monkey tail." She winked at me, which most certainly did not have the affect her cousin's did.
"Some monkeys stole my shorts. I hid in the trees while Edward went into the gift shop to get me something to wear. All they had were shirts, which were still too short, so I used it as a skirt. Then we had to stand in this ridiculous line because my SeaKey was in my pocket and to get back on the boat, they had to compare my face with my picture on file."
Phew. That wasn't as bad as I thought. I let out a relieved breath.
Edward turned to Jasper and remarked, "She said that all in one breath." Jasper nodded, but I didn't think that was as impressive to him as it was to Edward, because Alice can go on for about five minutes without breathing.
Alice was completely silent as she stared at me with her head tilted.
I thought I was in the clear.
Then, her eyebrows seem to knit closer together as she processed the bits of information. "How did the monkeys get your shorts?"
"They just did, can we leave it at that?"
"Uh…no. " She sat up, and that accusatory eyebrow of hers raised as she gave me the look.
I reflected her expression but stayed silent.
Edward asked Jasper what we were doing. "They're trying to out 'look' each other. To see who will break first," he replied in a hushed, professional golf announcer-like tone. "You'd think Bella would have the edge, because she has to use the look on her kindergarten kids all the time, but Alice is very good at getting her way."
With her eyebrow still raised, Alice's eyes narrowed. "So you were just walking along the beach, and these monkeys knocked you down and stole your shorts?"
"We were on an abandoned sugar plantation." I hoped the distraction was shiny enough to make her drop her line of questioning.
"Oh." One side of her mouth twisted slightly, in a crappy attempt to hide her victorious smirk. She knew she had me.
"A marauding band of monkeys, hopped up on sugar from the abandoned plantation, mugged you and stole your shorts?"
"Yes?" Damn it. I didn't mean that to sound like a question. I flopped onto the bed on my back and covered my eyes with my arm. I knew I was toast.
I felt her move around the mattress as she readjusted herself to look at me. "And why did my big, strong, manly cousin not protect you from these pilfering primates?"
"I don't know! Ask him." I blindly pointed to where Edward was standing the last time I looked.
"Alice." Edward's voice seemed to carry a warning. It would have worked on me, but there was no way that would fly with Alice.
"Edward." Alice dropped the timbre of her voice to mimic his.
"Let it go."
"No way. There is no freaking way I'm going to 'let it go' and miss the best part of the story! Come on, Paul Harvey, tell me the rest of the story!"
"Alice." His tone was much sharper, but I knew it wouldn't work. Alice was like a dog with a bone. I might as well just come clean. She'd eventually find out anyway.
"Fine." I slapped my free hand on the bed without removing my other from my eyes. "We were doing it." I waved randomly at the space between Edward and me. "It it! We were doing the dirty. Outside."
I hoped that was enough, but the room was filled with silent expectation. It felt like it was pressing on me.
"And of course, because my luck is so freaking awesome, the damn monkey stole my shorts with my panties and my SeaKey in the pockets before I could get dressed. The whole spiel about the gift shop was true.
"And because that wasn't enough humiliation, I had to ride back on the bus with all those people who totally didn't buy that my shorts got snagged on a bush. There. Are you happy now?"
Alice leapt off the bed. "Oh, my god…that's so much better than I could have ever even imagined! Jasper, take some pictures. I totally want to scrapbook this!"
"What would I take a picture of, Ali?"
"I don't know." She turned to me. "Can I have the tee-shirt? Maybe I can use it in the background."
"No, you can't! And both of you are sworn to secrecy." I pointed between the two of them.
"Who am I going to tell?" Alice quipped. "It's not like anyone would believe that sweet, innocent little Bella Swan finally got her slut on, anyway."
"Slut?" I don't think I could have hidden the hurt in my voice if I tried.
"I meant that lovingly." Alice smiled, moving closer to me and taking my hand in hers, holding it close to her chest. "Really, sweetie. I meant that in fun. "
I saw the sincerity in her eyes, and I knew Alice was comfortable throwing around words like "ho" and "bitch" as terms of endearment. I realized that I was probably blowing it out of proportion, but then she added, "You've always invested so much energy into this image you want as a 'good girl' that you've missed out on so much of the normal experience for people our age. It's great to see you live a little."
My mind reeled with all of the disappointed smiles she'd given me in the past when she finally gave up on convincing me to dress more provocatively and the not-so-subtle hints about hooking up with a stranger to relieve tension that she covered up with giggle. Then the conversation this morning in the elevator flashed through my mind.
I wrenched my hand away from her. "Of course it is. It makes it easier for you to justify your actions."
"What?" She raised her eyebrows and looked around as if the answer would just materialize.
"Bella." The admonishment in Edward's voice toward me felt foreign, and the sense of betrayal I felt when I'd first heard about their play date felt even deeper.
Alice's head swept from me to Edward and back to me. "What's going on?"
"We rode the elevator with your friends, who crowed all about how much fun they had with you."
Alice at least had the decency to flush.
Jasper came up behind his wife and placed a calming hand on her shoulder. "Bella!" he rasped with a harsh admonishment.
"What? Why is everyone chiding me? I'm not the one who threw their marriage vows overboard as soon as they got on the good ship Share Your Wife."
"Neither did we," Alice said quietly. Jasper smoothed his hands up and down her arms, consoling her.
"I'm pretty sure sleeping around on your husband is a no-no."
Edward tried to pull me back, but I shirked his efforts. "How could you do that?"
"It's not like that." Alice's voice was stronger than before but still lacked its normal conviction.
"Bella, you're crossing a line here," Jasper warned.
"Really? A bigger line than playing horsey with someone other than your wife?"
They looked at each other, confused, and then Jasper shook his head slightly as if clearing his thoughts. "Look, Bella. I get that you feel some kind of disappointment in us, but unless we invite you in to our bedroom, it's none of your business what happens behind closed doors," Jasper said with an authority in his voice that he rarely used with friends.
"Well, apparently, it's an open invitation for the entire ship." I chuffed, not quite under my breath. "How could you do that, Jasper? You whored your wife out. You're no better than a pimp."
All three of them gasped, and Alice and Jasper physically recoiled as if I'd struck them.
Edward swore and asked me if I'd had enough yet as he raked his hand through his hair. But I wasn't ready to back down.
Alice pulled in a big breath and raised her hand to point at me. "That is it. We have mollycoddled you this entire trip. Hell, our entire lives, but you will not call me a whore. Or accuse Jasper of doing anything harmful to me. Who the fuck do you think you are?"
"I'm your best friend. That's who. The one who agreed to start calling you Alice Whitlock the day we met Jasper because you knew 'he was the one'," I exaggerated with air quotes. "The one who helped him," I said, pointing at Jasper, "plan how to propose to you. And the one who stood up at your wedding. That's who I am!"
"You were never supposed to find out about this. Mostly because I knew you'd be all prissy-judgmental about it."
"I am not judgmental!"
"Oh, okay." Alice's voice dripped with sarcasm as she bobbled her head, and her face contorted into a what-the-fuck-ever lour.
"Fine." I threw my hands in the air and let them smack back down on my thighs. "Explain it to me. Explain to me in a way that isn't throwing away the last thirteen years of your lives."
Edward sat in the chair with a sigh and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
"Jasper was my first kiss and my first… He's been my first everything. And I've been his." Her voice had lost its edge.
"I know. That's what makes you guys so special. The two of you together is like a real life fairytale. Why would you want to throw away that magic?"
"It is magical. But…" She seemed to be looking for the right words. "Do you remember your first kiss?"
I grimaced, thinking back to my seven minutes in heaven with Eric Yorkie.
"Sometimes when I wake up in the morning," Alice said, glancing at her husband, "my first thought is that first kiss and how much I actually just slobbered on his face."
"Aww, baby, I still love it when you slobber on me," Jasper cooed as he gently rubber her back.
"And do you remember how awful your first time was with Tyler when he—"
"Tyler Crowley?" Edward interrupted her, and his face shot to mine.
This was awkward. I nodded. "Um, yeah."
"Really?" Edward stared at me a beat longer than was comfortable. "I'm going to kill him."
"What?" Where in the hell is this coming from?
"Before I left for college, I told him to stay the hell away from you."
"Why would you do that?" I narrowed my eyes at him. "I thought you said you didn't like me like that back then?"
"I didn't. But I saw the way that creep looked at you, well both of you, and I told him if he touched either one of you, I'd kick his ass."
"Uh…" I was really at a loss for what to say.
"Anyway." Alice drew our attention back to her with an irritated tone. "Do you remember how bad it was? How he tried—"
I nodded. "Yeah, I remember." Edward was back to staring at the carpet, but with now furrowed brows. We didn't need the details.
"Our first time was just as awkward." She pointed to herself and Jasper. He returned a sweet, if not apologetic smile.
"Yeah, but you guys got better. Trust me. I know." I looked at Jasper, then Edward. "Alice is no stranger to T-M-I."
They both nodded.
"Very funny, guys," Alice retorted. "We did get better. We have awesome sex. But I've always wondered, 'what if?' What if there was more out there? What if I wasn't doing something that could drive Jasper wild, just because I didn't know about it? Spending time with that other couple was like a workshop of sorts."
I shook my head. I could kind of see her point but still just couldn't think of it like that. "What if one of you likes it more with one of your friends?"
"That's not even possible. I don't care if he goes bald or gets fat or his peter shrivels up to the size of a mini-golf pencil. It'll always be better with him."
"Pfft… If that happened, I'd just add a finger," Jasper said, wiggling his fingers. "Or three." He winked at Alice, and she beamed back at him.
Edward groaned. "Obviously, that T-M-I thing is contagious. "
"We talked about this. We both want to explore. And neither of us is looking for a way out or even to add another couple to the mix." Alice's fingers entwined with Jasper's as they so often had. For a second, I realized that nothing was different about them or the way they interacted with each other.
Jasper's eyes had been intently fixed on his wife as she spoke. He turned them on me with no less intensity. "Bella, do you think I'd willingly do anything that would even have the potential to take any part of Alice away from me?"
No. There was no way. Not before we boarded this ship and not now. But I still felt the pangs of losing something I held so true.
"You guys are my fairytale. In my entire life, since I was thirteen years old, nothing has been as sure as Alice and Jasper."
"That hasn't changed," Alice said matter-of-factly. "But we can't be your fairytale. It's not fair to us, and it's not fair to you either. You need to find your own fairytale." She nodded her head toward Edward.
I knew what she was saying was true. But even the thought of sharing Edward made me want to claw someone's eyes out, and we'd only been together for a couple of days. Maybe it was because they'd been together for so long that they were okay with it.
Actually, when I thought about it, I wondered how long they'd been discussing this lifestyle. How long had they been planning to explore? "Did you know what kind of cruise this really was before we got here?"
"God, no." She shook her head assuredly. "I'd never have imagined before that we would be interested in something like this. If some bitch had touched Jasper last week, I'd have ripped the hair out of her head." She shook her head, adding, "And no offense, but if I had planned something like this, I certainly wouldn't have brought you."
"None taken." Even knowing there's no way I would have wanted to come, it still stung a little.
"It was kismet. We were meant to come here and see this, to be immersed in the lifestyle, and see how it works. It just clicked."
"Clicked? So that's it? When in Rome?"
"The Romans were a kinky bunch," Jasper said, waggling his eyebrows, no doubt trying to lighten the mood yet again. I snorted despite myself. "Man, this would be the perfect time to wear those gladiator sandals!" he added. Even Alice laughed.
Alice's face slipped back into her annoyed expression. "This is fun for us. You don't have to like it, but don't vilify it either."
I was so close to accepting it, but I just couldn't. The Shibari instructor holding a riding crop and a terrified Jasper popped into my head. "How is watching your husband be intimate with another person fun?"
"I don't think of it like that." She shrugged. "I think of it more as watching him with a toy. And to be honest, it's sexy as hell."
I had to look away from her. I didn't want her to make sense, but she was so assured in what she was saying, that I could feel myself start to sway.
"I'm not asking for your approval. And I'm certainly not asking you to join in."
I grimaced. "Good."
Alice's mouth twisted into a wicked smile. "Especially not if you're boning my cousin."
Thank you all for coming back to read, I hoped you liked it.
I'd give you all dinglehoppers if I could.
Next time on The Love Boat...Midnight Chocolate Buffet.