I wasn't positive just what I was expecting on our lunch out together, but it surely wasn't the experience I was met with. Firstly, he drove us off base and went for a few miles past road signs and such until we climbed into green scenery. "Where are we going?" I asked in idle conversation, but I was also very jumpy about taking car rides with strange men. Sure, he was a hot strange man in a Marine uniform, but the case was still the same.

"Do you like surprises, Miss Swan?" He asked offhandedly.

I smiled ashamedly and passed him a small glance. He looked so powerful and in control as he drove the massive truck we were in; I wasn't much of a car buff so I couldn't tell if we were in a Chevy or a Ford but I definitely knew it was a massive upgrade from my first truck, which was a rickety old pickup. This truck was lifted off of the ground and a silver chrome color, I felt the need to call it a monster truck. "No, not really." I had to admit it, I hated surprises... they were just so stupid sometimes! I stressed out over hidden facts and destinations, there was no point in denying that.

"We all do things we don't like, unfortunately." And he said with such purpose, as though he were the poor, unsuspecting messenger sent to give me a message that was going to infuriate me.

So to quell his worry over keeping his secret, I sent him a sweet smile and inched my hand closer to his- he had one hand on the wheel as the other was laying idly next to his thigh. We weren't physically sitting close to each other but I could still feel the heat radiating off of his form. He was like temptation on wheels, and together with his less than sociable attitude but sweet, beautiful attention paid to me in private... it was just about enough to drive me crazy. "I guess a few surprises every now and then don't hurt." I added. The car ride there was silent after that, and I couldn't tell whether it was a good one or not. I had been on a few dates before, but none were ever mysterious or unsure like the one I was currently on. Wait, was this a date? I wasn't so sure what to call this.

We pulled up to a full service diner in no time, but I was very leerious stepping out of the car. It looked small and nice, of course, but what was the point of this? Emmett took me to Spacer's Diner off of the 99, and it was a lot nicer looking than this one and was definitely closer. "This is place is my…" Edward's eyebrows drew together as he opened my door for me and helped me step out, "well, it is my favorite. I enjoy eating here." Those words almost seemed practice, as if it took some getting used to for him. Was this true? Was someone putting Edward up to this?

"Really? The food's great, then?" I asked awkwardly, not for certain what I was suppose to lead into with that statement. He nodded eagerly and led me into the quiet diner, which was tucked away from the freeway and most of the civilization- how did he even stumble upon this place anyway? He took us to a booth in the corner and made a small fuss about my menu because of its physical deformity. Edward worked at the bent corners and let a completely enraged expression cross his face before he ripped the poor thing to shreds. "Edward!" I accused him softly. "What did you just do? I'm sure you're going to have to pay for that now." It was a lament piece of scrap, I could admit that, but it still wasn't his to destroy!

"Oh, Eddie! It is so nice to see you, son!" A lean woman with short brown hair and motherly, soft brown eyes approached us immediately. "How are you, honey? Your dad and I were worried, we haven't spoken lately." A pang sounded in my heart- my mother never looked at me like that. Hell, she couldn't care less if we didn't speak for years on end. Edward visibly relaxed when his mother was near, but I stayed mute to watch the scene uninterrupted. "Did you have another accident with the menus? You know, I told your sister to get those things fixed up, but she's been so busy with the new little one that there's no time." A hand automatically went to her hip as she unloaded her smalltime problems on her son, whom I presumed was the eldest sibling in the family by pure guess. "Oh!" She turned towards me and a new look took over her face. "And who might you be?" She seemed semi-curious, semi-worried.

Before I could open my mouth, Edward butted in. "She's my date, mom." A bright red enveloped my face at his choice of words- surely he didn't mean to say that? This wasn't date, it was just a friendly lunch… right? "Bella, this is my mom Esme." It barely hit me that he brought me here to meet his mother; wasn't that something people did months into a relationship, not on the first date? I mean, if I even qualified this as a date.

I held my hand out to her and she shook it gently, looking over my professional attire before ending her watch with a small smile of sorts. "Well, let me get your orders. Are you here on your lunch?" I could tell she was speaking more to her son rather than me, but I digressed.

"Yes, we are." Edward said pointedly. "Get us two orders of the chicken clubs, please and thank you." There was a certain kid-like tone he used, which would have been totally adorable if he said it to me or some unsuspecting woman… but here before his mother, it seemed more than uncomfortable to me. Edward was just too sweet and innocent for me to crush like this. I couldn't let him know that I hadn't felt more uncomfortable in my entire life, and that was including my horrid years of puberty at a supremely good age.

You can do this, I internally rallied myself for support. But a sinking feeling started at the core of my navel, pulling my shoulders into a defeated stance all at once- here I was in the company of perhaps one of the only solid good guys in the state of North Carolina, and I was complaining? Sure, meeting his mom could be considered crossing a line. At the same time, I knew Edward different the moment I met him; these were small bumps on the road, leading to something real and happy, right? And then his electric green eyes met mine from across the table, completely catching me off guard for the hundredth time since we first met. "You are so beautiful." He had no one expression on his face, just this pleasant-looking blank stare as he drew his attention to my outfit. "The colors that you wear… make me feel pleased." His wording and use of emphasis on certain words made my forehead wrinkle in thought. It was as if he didn't really know what he was feeling, he was just speaking in ways that he assumed would make me content.

"You know, you don't have to say certain things to make me happy. I like the truth most." I self-consciously tucked a stray curl behind my ear and averted my eyes anywhere but his line of vision.

Edward leaned along the booth's table to catch my eye. "I do not enjoy lying." He bit his lip in thought, causing a breath to catch in my throat- did he know what he was doing to me? A part of me wanted to believe he was doing things purely out of habit. But then I had to remind myself- he was over thirty, no one was so untainted and beautifully brilliant. Not naturally, at least. Men lied, it was their god-given special attribute. "I would not enjoy lying to you, Miss Swan." I flinched at his tone, which was strict and stern and a "Miss Swan" to finish off with.

"I didn't mean to say that you were a liar… but, I just didn't want you to hassle with complimenting me all the time." Basically, I had just admitted to knowing that I was about the plainest thing on the face of this planet. Even in pretty outfits and intricate cosmetic applications, I was just plain. Men over-complimenting me just threw off whatever I was building up to feel for them.

Edward swallowed noisily. "I am trying my very hardest to understand and appreciate what you are feeling, but I am having trouble deciphering your meaning." My jaw dropped open a little at that- did he turn into a robot, or what? This was our first "deep" conversation and he was acting as though he didn't understand basic English. I leant across the table and ran a hand over my face, trying ot decide what questions to ask first. I didn't want to come out with "are you for real", in fear that I would offend him somehow.

So I took a deep breath and opened my mouth to begin, but Mrs. Cullen came strolling by with our drinks and stopped me right in my tracks. "How are you two doing?" She appraised us with her colored eyes, but when they fell on her troubled son I automatically felt the temperature drop in the room. Esme turned towards me with a tight lipped smile and offered her hand to me. "Miss Swan, would you mind having a word with me for a minute?" I looked from Edward to his mom, but he longer maintained eye contact with me so I shrugged softly and sent her another grin. "We'll be back in a jif, Eddie boy." After a loving pat on his arm, she led me into the small kitchen area where two elder women were milling around causally.

"Yes, Mrs. Cullen?" I inquired evenly, straightening out my pencil skirt with two very nervous hands. What if she was one of those Norma Bates mothers, all psycho and such? If she even felt like I was doing something bad, she could have my head!

"You seem like an uptown, and I don't say it in a belittling manner- but you aren't a right fit for my son, Miss Swan. I could feel it when you walked in and I noticed the way Eddie looks at you. Its not right what you're doing to him, the way you're being!" She set her dainty hands on her hips, the worn apron handing from her waist like a paid omen to her line of work. "You have no idea what you're getting into with my son; I suggest you get back into your Mercedes or Jaguar and get the hell back to whatever California town you came from. My baby deserves much more than you could ever be willing to give him, and I don't say this just as a mother!" Her stormy eyes were filled with tears, which completely killed the haughty "fuck you" reply I had.

Perhaps she was just afraid of losing her son, or something. But anyway she put it, I was still a presence she would have to deal with. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Cullen, but I wont go away that easy. Edward likes me and I like him the same way, but we're just friends right now. Any sort of control you feel like you're losing is purely due to your own imagination because I'm not yet a deciding factor to Edward. And besides, he's his own man. He makes his own decisions." I subconsciously put my hands on my hips in a similar fashion without even realizing it.

Esme slapped the bottom of her fist against an open palm. "You don't get it! He's different… Edward isn't like other men, and I don't say that because I'm his blood. He's… my son is exceptional as both a human being and a man of the service- but there are underlying components of his life." She stopped right there.

I folded my arms and surveyed her quickly, deciding whether or not to push her towards a certain explanation. He was near perfect right now, why fuck that up by listening to what his maniacal mother had to say? "M'am, please- if you have something you'd like to say, just say it." I pressed.

She squinted her tired eyes ever so slightly at my brash comment, but jutted her chin out defiantly. "You, Miss Swan, do not deserve to be within the same breathing space as my son. What on God's green Earth would make you think that I'd entrust in you any of his secrets?"

"Oh really?" I asked cheekily. "Because if you don't spill what is so "pressing" I will ask Edward to take me back home and never bring me back here- which, as you know, will mean that for as long as he wants to continue to date me, means he will not be showing up for lunch anymore." I laid my cards out on the table, praying to God that she didn't see through my bluff as easily as I assumed she would. I would never keep a son away from his mother, and I honestly didn't think I had that sort of power over Edward.

"Are you trying to play hard ball with me?" Esme took a step forward and as much as I wanted to cower away, I defied her approach with squared shoulders.

"No, not all." I admitted lowly. "But I need to know what it is- I know he's different, I can see it." Despite myself, I took a short glance over at our table- he was just peering out of the window, perhaps reconsidering why he ever took me to lunch in the first place.

Esme breathed heavily at me. "And if I tell you this, you promise to never breathe a word of it to another? This is vital, Miss Swan." I nodded eagerly, gesturing for her to continue. Esme looked away from me and towards her straightedge son, her eyes softening ever so slightly. "He is autistic, has been since his fourth birthday." My mouth popped open at her shocking revelation- of all the things I considered, that wasn't it. Weren't autistic people mentally handicapped and not capable of day-to-day functions? I suddenly felt so uneducated and caught off guard; it wasn't a pleasant feeling at all, and it left me feeling so unsettled that a small queasiness started in my stomach. "Well, at least that's when the doctors diagnosed him. It's called Aspergers Syndrome." She looked over at me with a sudden sadness in her eyes.

"Don't you see why I don't want you in his life, confusing him and ruining all of the progress he has? You're full of new feelings and sensations for him, and they're undesirable to him- he doesn't understand what's happening to his body or his mind, he's lost every time you make him feel something new. I've successfully kept him unattached well into his thirties, though it wasn't hard- the therapists warned us that he may never find any romantically interest only because he doesn't register what love is and what exactly makes him feel for another. Please say you understand what that means?" Esme regarded me more and more as an individual, not like the imploding trollop she first deemed me through the door. "If you have children, they have a strong chance of being Autistic, and will he even feel love for his own offspring?"

My mouth went dry at her direction of thought- I didn't see myself so much into the future as she did. I liked him, he liked me, we shared interesting conversation- before her words, everything seemed to be running smooth and wonderful. I shook my head at her adamantly, causing a furious look to enter her clam eyes once more. "You underestimate your own son! He got into the Marines, he's an accomplished man, he asked me out on this date- which by the way, I didn't even know was a date! I thought we were going to Subway or Denny's. Believe me, I didn't know I was going to meet you or know anything about this!" I felt exerted as I finished my speech, but there were so many other things I wanted to get out in the open.

I had so many questions.