*Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight.
Chapter 31: Repeat
Edward's hand is on my thigh under the table as we sit across from his parents in their dining room. He's trying to be discreet, but I don't think we are fooling anyone.
A bowl of butternut squash soup sits in front of me, but as much as I love the food Esme makes, I can't bring myself to try it. I stare down into it, expecting it to start bubbling up at me and come to life. I'm so distracted by how I'm going to get through this meal that I barely listen as Carlisle maps out our itinerary for Seattle. My lack of enthusiasm doesn't stop him from speaking in depth about graduating statistics and the best programs offered.
When Carlisle asks my opinion on schools I'd like to see, I keep my mouth shut and nod because before today, when I thought of schools near Seattle, I thought there was only one.
"What about PLU?" Carlisle asks, already writing it down.
"No, it's out of the way," Edward says.
"It's not too far from Seattle." Carlisle circles PLU.
"No, Edward's right," Esme says. "We won't have time for anything else if we try to fit too many schools in."
"Right." Carlisle crosses out PLU, appeasing his wife, and writes Seattle Center instead.
The timer goes off in the kitchen and Esme stands up. "Anyone want more bread?"
Carlisle and Edward are quick to say yes, and as soon as her back is turned, they are guzzling what is left of their drinks and then glopping spoonfuls of their soup into the empty ceramic cups.
I cover my face with embarrassment, for them, and for myself. I wish I was brave enough to do the same.
Edward tries to grab my bowl, but I stop him as I hear Esme's returning footsteps. Edward takes both his dad's and his cups, holding his hands over the tops. He sidesteps around his mom who is holding Panini triangles arranged on a plate.
I hear the sink turn on, but Esme is oblivious as she dishes out the bread. Edward comes back with the cups filled with lemonade and sits down like nothing happened.
"There's plenty more soup if you'd like seconds," Esme says to Edward as he devours his bread.
He shakes his head and finishes chewing before he says, "No thanks, I don't want vitamin poisoning."
"From soup?" she asks.
"Yep," he says, keeping his face straight. "I'm all vegged out."
Esme eyes Carlisle. "Is he serious?"
Carlisle shrugs his shoulders and turns to me as he speaks. "Hey, it's possible. This is a very healthy soup." He winks at me.
Esme's gaze turns from Carlisle to the untouched bowl in front of me. "Do you not like the soup? You don't have to eat it, honey."
"No, I've just never tried it before." That's the wrong thing to say because now she's watching me with her too-kind eyes, waiting for me to try what she's created.
I lift the spoon to my mouth, wishing Edward would knock it out of my hand and spill it all, but he doesn't. I force a smile and take a bite. It's not as horrible as I expected, but I don't like it, so I smile and thank her for lunch instead of commenting on the meal.
"Well, of course. I'm just glad you could join us." Her smile is so genuine that I wish I had something nice to say about her soup.
"When are baseball tryouts? They're coming up, right?" Carlisle asks, and I slump in my chair, grateful the focus has shifted from me.
"Doesn't matter," Edward says, reaching for more bread.
Carlisle stares at him, taken aback. "Have some class. You're good, but you have to try out just like everyone else. Your coach isn't going to hand you a position."
Edward chuckles, but doesn't look at his dad. "I know. I'm not trying out."
Esme's spoon clatters in her bowl. "But you love baseball. You boys were swinging your bats before you even learned to tie your shoes."
"Right, well, Em's not playing this year, so I don't see the point." When I look over at him and when his eyes meet mine, he says, "And besides, it takes up too much time."
Esme and Carlisle wear a matching furrow in their brows, and I'm just as baffled as they are.
"What about Jasper?" Carlisle asks.
"I don't know. It doesn't matter. Jasper can't make varsity anyway. He doesn't even like to play."
"Sure he does. Don't you think you're assuming too much?" Carlisle asks. "After last year, you have a good chance at varsity, but I would say Jasper is pretty close. He has a good arm. Have you asked him about it?"
Edward leans toward me, his voice quiet. "What do you think? There'll be practices and games. I won't see you as much. It doesn't seem worth it."
I whisper, hoping it's enough to keep this conversation private despite our audience. "If you want to play, we'll make time. If not, I'm fine with that."
"Are you sure it'd be okay?" he asks, not as quiet as me.
I nod. "Well, yeah. I was looking forward to going to your games."
"Okay." Edward pulls out his phone, giving Carlisle a defiant glare; he puts it on speaker as it rings.
"Hey, man," Jasper says, voice quiet with a hit of skepticism.
Edward holds the phone in front of his mouth. "Tryouts are next Friday."
Jasper hesitates. "Right. I didn't realize."
"Did you get your physical?" Edward asks.
"Yeah, last week. I'm good to go."
Edward rolls his eyes at Carlisle's broad smile. "Cool."
"So…Friday?" Jasper asks.
They repeat "cool" and "yeah" and then they hang up without a word of goodbye.
"Happy now? Edward asks his dad.
"Very," Carlisle says, leaving it at that.
I continue to sip on my soup, attempting to cover up the taste with bites of bread in between. I wish Edward would have saved me from eating it, but it's probably better that he didn't. I would have been mortified.
"Now," Esme says with a clap of her hands. "What should we do for dinner since all the vegetables in my eggplant parmesan aren't an option?"
Edward looks at his dad with a squint in his eyes before he grins at his mom. "I think Dad wanted to take you out."
"Really?" Esme asks with so much enthusiasm there's no way Carlisle can tell her no.
I leave Edward's house before his parents do and drive around the block. I should just go home; it's what I meant to do, but as soon as I got in my truck, Edward sent me a text to please come right back. I pull over around the block, check in with my dad, and then make the dishonest trip back to Edward's. I wonder why I feel guilty. Emmett lies all the time and so does Edward, but when I do it, I get a pit in my stomach. I would have insisted on going home if I wasn't worried about Edward after he called Jasper. He called him like it was no big deal, but I know he has to be thinking about it now.
Minutes tick by for what seems like forever before I start making the trip back. I pull back into the driveway, and after a quick look over my shoulder, I get out of my truck. I rap my knuckles against the door three times, assuming someone is eagerly awaiting me somewhere near the other side. It's a long moment standing there, standing on my toes, biting my cheek, knocking again, but…nothing. I try the bell, impatient and confused. When even the bell goes unanswered, I let myself in and call out, "Edward."
I'm met with silence and the kind of stillness that goes along with vacancy. I make my way to the empty kitchen and glance out the backdoor only to be met with an equally unoccupied backyard. Where is he?
I'm about to resort to calling his phone, but I walk up the stairs and as I do, I can already hear his voice, muffled from distance. When I get to the top, I see his door is closed. I walk toward it, lift my hand up to knock, but halt my fist when I hear his voice.
"But why James?" he asks. "Where does that even come from?"
My breath catches, and I back away from his room. The urge to eavesdrop is strong, but I know that if Edward wants to tell me about it, he will. I can only hope that whatever Jasper says will make things better and not worse. I make my way to the guest room for lack of anywhere better to go. The bed creaks as I sit on it.
I study the threads on the quilt I'm sitting on. I don't know who made it, and I've never looked at it very closely, but it seems to tell a story. There are birds that fly together and some that fly alone, a nest filled with eggs and one that's empty.
I'm examining the details of the nest when I hear Edward laugh. I relax at the sound. His laughing while talking to Jasper eases the tangible tension that had moments before filled the house. I lie back on the bed and listen for the sound of the door opening across the hall. Several moments later when the sound still hasn't come and the murmur of Edward's voice is still present, my eyes grow heavy from staring at the ceiling. I close my eyes, rationalizing that I've now heightened my sense of hearing.
I lose track of time as I wait and eventually drift off until I feel Edward's hand on my stomach, pushing up the hem of my shirt and tickling my skin.
"You're off the phone now?" I ask, still not having opened my eyes.
"Yeah, sorry about that. You should have come in."
"I didn't want to interrupt."
"You can always interrupt," he says as he pushes an arm under my neck and one under my knees before he lifts me up.
He takes me to his room, kicking the door shut behind us, and sets me on his bed. I smile to myself. It's made today like he was expecting to bring me up here.
"How did it go?" I ask. "I heard you laugh."
"It's cool," he says.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
He shrugs, shakes his head no, but then he says, "I still think he has a crush on you, if not more than that, but he says it's nothing. When I thought you were into each other, I still flirted with you. I'd like to think I would have backed off completely if you were together, but I don't know if I can say that I would have. And I don't want it to be like you two can't be friends, but so much is different, but at the same time it's been the same, and I don't know, but something has to change." He exhales, closing his eyes several seconds longer than a blink. "I'm so tired of this being an issue. He's set on convincing me it's not, so…"
"So what does that mean for you two? You're friends now?"
"I don't know. Right now it's just a start." He runs his fingers down my check until they are under my chin which he lifts, gazing into my eyes, studying what he sees. "Can I ask you about something, though?"
"Yeah." I say, unsure.
"I'm not trying to accuse you of anything, but I just want to straighten it all out. I can't understand Jasper if I don't know where he's coming from."
I nod, but I wasn't there that night, so I don't know what I could tell him.
"I know you're not into James. I don't want you to think that I think that, but I just don't understand why Jasper was so sure that you were."
I recall all of my interactions with James and know that his interest in me wasn't platonic, but I'm not sure how anyone would believe I liked him, especially over Edward.
"I met him when Jasper played with his band, but you were with me the whole time," I tell him.
"He probably liked you then. I just thought he was jealous because, you know, you met his girlfriend."
I chuckle. "Yeah." I bite the inside of my cheek, not wanting to think about the vulgar girls and all the times Edward may have been around them before, but without me. "Then he somehow got my number, but it was because you guys weren't answering his calls, not because he wanted to talk to me. He did end up talking to me, though, and he invited me to that party."
"Right." Edward nods. "And we went."
"Yeah, I wasn't planning to, but Heidi and her friends weren't invited, and I was so…" I look down, ashamed of my jealous reaction to the girl's flirtatious behavior toward my boyfriend and my need to seem cool in front of her.
"Hey," Edward says, nudging my chin up. "It's okay."
I nod and think. "You went to the bathroom and James sat in the kitchen and talked to me when you were gone. He got me a pop and he was friendly enough, but after a while, it felt like he was flirting. It was awkward. Jasper came in at one point, though. Maybe he thought it was more than it was. You came back soon after, and I haven't seen or spoke to James since."
"Okay," Edward says.
"Okay? Did that help you at all?"
"I don't know yet. I'll talk to Jasper later."
Saying his name is like a beacon because after the word leaves Edward's mouth, his phone lights up with Jasper's name.
Edward presses speaker and leaves the phone between us on the bed as he says, "Hey."
"Hey, you know." Jasper chuckles. "I was just thinking…I could never really be into Bella. You know…she does that thing—"
Edward yells, "No!" And then he ends the call.
I stare at him mortified, my jaw hanging. I think of all the girls that liked Edward and his excuses for not liking them from the blinking to the laughing and the fingernail clicking. I'm embarrassed and unsure, barely holding in tears. "But you said I didn't have a thing."
He groans and lets his head fall back. "You don't."
"I obviously do." I pout and glare—maybe that's what I do.
"No," he says, grabbing his phone and typing.
"What are you doing?"
"Telling Jasper off," he says. He throws his phone and it lands between his pillows. "There's nothing. Please don't worry about it. It's just how we talk."
"Do you guys make fun of me?"
"No, Bella," he says, sidling closer, taking me seriously now. "I have no idea what he was going to say, and maybe you do something that he doesn't like, but I don't know what that is." He cups his hand behind my ear. "There's nothing about you that I don't like. And you know, even if you did something I've said I don't like about someone else, it wouldn't matter. It's different with you."
I shrug and take a moment to let the insecurity pass. When I start feeling lighter, I crack a smile. "I bet I could make you not like me."
"Try it," he says, raising his brows.
I take a deep breath, questioning my sanity for doing this. I start with my biggest tooth-baring smile and then blink rapidly, adding a cackling laugh and attempting to flick my nails, but I can't keep up with everything. When I look at Edward, he's grinning, so I lean forward and bite his ear like Jessica did so many months ago.
His hands fly to my waist. "Now you've done it." He flips me onto my back, hovering above me.
"You don't like me anymore?" I ask, my fake laugh turning into a real one.
"I think the way I feel about you even after all of that just proves that I love you."
My smile falls, amusement gone. My eyes close, processing, trying to believe I heard right and trying to come up with any alternative to what he actually could have said.
"Look at me, Bella," he says.
"You do?" It's all I can think to say.
"I do," he says like a caress, barely audible and maybe again, not what he really said.
My eyes flutter as I force them open. "Could you maybe…say it again?"
He sits up pulling me with him so we're eye to eye. "I love you, Bella."
I nod as I say, "I love you too."
We kiss with smiling lips that won't close, tears brimming in my eyes. He holds me with a hand around my back and one around the base of my neck, moving us both so his lips are to my ear. "I love you. I love you. I love you," he says again and again.
So here this is. I've had this chapter ready for...years. If I don't post anymore on here, I hope this leaves this story in a better place. I had my third baby and life just became more than I had time for. She's 2 1/2 now and just a bit more independent. I have a bit of the next chapter, but had a laptop fail a few years ago and lost a lot. So i'm not sure of what's to come or even who's around to read anymore. If you do read, I thank you so much. I have an original fiction that I also wrote a few years back that I've been finding some time to revise , so maybe, someday.
Thanks a million to those who preread: dazzled eyes22 & Teresa your insights were always so inspiring. Betas: edwardsmate4ever & itlnbrt who were so helpful and motivating.