Thank you Chet and Thimbles.
Sometimes you don't know it's love until it breaks your heart.
As dawn's light filters though my blinds, cool and grey, and the rain beats a steady rhythm on my roof, it's then that I feel two hearts echo their last syncopated beats. Our chests are pressed so close together I can't tell which heartbeat is mine and which is Edward's.
It may be cool, wet, and grey outside, but inside my bedroom, on a cool late-February morning, it's hotter than the sun.
With my legs wrapped around his hips, my arms around his ribs, and my head buried in the crook of his shoulder, it still doesn't feel close enough. My fingers slide against his sweat-slicked skin, our breaths mingling between us, only warming our overheated bodies further. As he moves above me, his fingers wrapped over the head of my bed, every inch of my skin demands that I pull him closer, take him deeper, to hold him tighter.
It's desperate, and slow, and silent, and the only thing keeping the tears from rolling down my cheeks into the soft clean sheets of my bed is the rolling wave of heat building at my centre.
His nose brushes my cheek, his quiet pleads to open my eyes falling short because I can't bear to open my eyes – to see the love we both feel, but can't quite find the words to explain.
It hasn't been perfect, our ride. But if I could do it all again, I wouldn't do it any other way. Not a single second.
There are no quiet declarations of love, no whispered words of adoration, but as I open my eyes, dazzling blue making my head swim and my body ache, the truth of his love sinks deep into my bones.
He knows I love him. He knows because I tell him quietly when he does something that makes my heart stutter and my chest expand. I tell him loudly when he's pulling me over the edge of bliss, and whisper it quietly afterwards. I tell him with my eyes when they lock across a room.
He is mine and he knows it.
And how do I know he loves me?
I know he loves me because of the way he watches me; his blue eyes focused intently on my face, as I come apart beneath him. It's in the gentle touch of his hand against my lower back when we're with friends. It's the way he still smiles when we see each other, even if it's only been a few hours.
Love is not words with Edward and I.
It's knowing looks across a crowded table.
It's buttered toast in bed, with just the right amount of Vegemite, spread all the way to the corners just the way he likes it.
It's even in the mornings, when he wakes me up; cold and fresh, smelling like the ocean.
It's knowing what I want before I want it.
And now I have to let it go.
With his hand wrapped around my hip, he pulls me to meet the final erratic jerks of his hips, his low, breathy groan washing over my chest as he crumbles above me, melting, falling and shuddering into his own release.
Silent, we stay entwined in my bed for a while, his head on my chest, my legs still around his hips. I don't care that I'm sticky with sweat and with our love. I don't care that I can't feel my right arm. There are mere minutes left until his alarm goes off, we both know it without even looking.
"You'll wait, right?"
He looks up, and I lift my head to look down at him.
"Don't be stupid."
With his head against my chest again, he gives me a squeeze, his short hair brushing against the underside of my breast.
"It's only eight weeks. Two months. It's nothing."
I try to be reassuring, knowing that he already feels bad leaving. I don't want him to worry about me while he's gone. "Yeah, I know."
From Melbourne, he and Emmett will fly to Indonesia, from there it's Tahiti, Rio, Fiji, and then home again. All these beautiful beaches and far off islands with white sand and crystal clear water – I'd like to say I'm not jealous, but it would be a lie.
Peeling himself from atop me, Edward pulls the doona up over his head, covering us both and blocking out the morning light.
"Maybe I can just stay here."
"You're an idiot. What would you do?"
It's getting hot under the blankets, but I wrap my arms around him all the same.
"Work at the shop, teach the Nippers. I reckon I could get tourists to pay me to teach them to surf."
I roll my eyes. "And have half the tourist girls drowning," my fingers make air quotes, "in the hope that you'll save them? I think not."
"Oh!" His eyebrows rise. "Jealous are we? You know there's only you, baby," he says, trying to sound smooth, but coming off like a bit of a tosser.
"Only me?" I shove him off of me and throw the doona back, happy for the burst of fresh air. "There are three of us in this relationship, and you know it."
Edward rolls onto his back, reaching for his alarm. Turning it off, he settles on his back, a crease forming between his eyes. "Huh?"
"There's you," I say, throwing a leg over him and sitting astride him. "There's me." Edward nods, palming my exposed boobs as I lean forward, my face only centimeters from his. "And there's the big blue saltwater bitch outside."
He laughs as I nuzzle into his shoulder, breathing in him morning smell of warm skin and hours old love. "Right, right, can't forget about her." He sighs, giving my boobs one last gentle squeeze. "Although, I'd say you're a close second." I dig my fingers into his ribs, holding on for dear life as he bucks and wiggles beneath me, giggling. "Okay, okay. I'm kidding, you know I'm kidding."
The fact is I'm happy coming a close second. I knew what Edward was like from the beginning. Hell, Jasper even warned me that nothing would come between Edward and his board. And the fact is that I'm not the kind of girl to interfere with a love like that. The sea might be a seductive mistress that rips him away from me while the morning is still dark and new, and when the swells are good, or basically any time there's a break over one or two foot. But at the end of the day I feel secure knowing that I'm one of Edward's two loves. He might up and leave me in the middle of the day at sound of a text message – no doubt one of the boys 'it's going off!'- but I'm always the one he comes home to when he's done with her. A seductive bitch the ocean might be, but she has crabs, and I pee in the ocean all the time.
Game, set, match.
He takes a deep breath. "I better get up."
Well. Sometimes she gets the upper hand.
Rosie is already up, in the kitchen making a coffee while Emmett packs the car.
I poke her hip as I walk around her. "Hey."
Her answering smile is tight-lipped, and I know it's all she can give me without crying. Her teaspoon clinks against the side of the cup as she stirs her milk and sugar through.
"Kettle's still hot," she says. The heaviness of the situation blankets the mood between us, and suddenly all the light-hearted banter in the bedroom feels like a waste of valuable time.
Emmett is just as quiet as he moves between the car and the bedrooms, picking up Edward's stuff and packing it into his van. It'll be strange not seeing that bright yellow piece of shit rambling around town. For a fleeting moment I wish I'd argued with Edward about driving them to the airport, just so I could sit up front one last time and breathe in the familiar smell of the cracked leather interior mingled with peppermint gum and board wax. The thought of the sunshine coloured van sitting at the airport alone, waiting for the boys to return, makes me a little sad. Although the thought of Edward, thousands of miles away, sitting on a sun-lit tropical beach alone makes me even sadder.
But it's better this way. Like ripping off a Band-Aid.
I can hear Edward moving back and forth between the bathroom and the bedroom, getting his stuff together. With a tea in hand, I follow him into the bathroom, watching as he tucks his grown-out hair under a cap.
He looks at me in the bathroom mirror, his eyes telling me he's feeling all the things I feel. "Yeah, I think so."
Shoving his toothbrush into his carry-on, he turns and takes the hot cup of tea out of my hands, placing it on the bathroom vanity.
The hot drink that I thought would be soothing gurgles in my belly, to the point that I'm worried it's going to come right back up. I'm so not ready for this yet.
"I'll message you before I get on the plane." His fingers brush the small of my back, slipping under my cotton shirt. Burying my face into his t-shirt, I take one last long, deep breath, inhaling the scent I've come to know as his.
"I want you to call Jasper if you need anything, okay?"
I tug at his t-shirt, trying with everything I have left to keep the moment light. "Anything?"
He smirks half-heartedly. "A month ago he probably would have taken up your offer, but now I'm not so sure."
"I know. He's practically off the market."
We both try a sort of chuckle, but there's no humour behind it, and it just dissipates in the air between us. His arms are tight around my shoulders, our bodies pressed together all the way down to our hips. When he kisses me, I refuse to think of it as a last kiss, but memorize it all the same; the soft skin of his lips, the taste of his minty morning breath, the feel of his hand; warm and gentle against my jaw.
"Love you," he whispers against my mouth, kissing the spot where his words warmed my skin.
My fingers tighten around the material of his t-shirt, unwilling to let him go. "Love you too."
But let him go I do.
With my hand in his, we walk slowly out to the driveway, where the van sits idling. Emmett and Rosie are beside it, whispering quietly, and I watch with a lump in my throat as Emmett kisses her once on the cheek, and then again on the forehead before opening the passenger side door and hopping in.
With a firm squeeze of my hand, Edward leaves me with a kiss but no smile. One of the first things I noticed about Edward was his smile; the way it lights up his eyes and how much he seems to do it. I wish I wasn't the one to wipe that smile from his face.
This is what he wants. This is what's best.
No sooner is one hand empty than the other is filled; Rosie's smaller, finer structured fingers wrapping around mine as the van crunches into reverse, and rolls out of the driveway slowly. There's no coming back for second or third kisses this time; just the back end of the combi van.
As the van rounds a corner and becomes just a rumble in the quiet morning, a quiet sniffle emerges from beside me. Wrapping my arms around her shoulders, I let Rosie cry quietly into my shoulder, her tears soaking my hair and neck.
I don't know why I don't cry. It's like the lump in my throat seems to block out the emotion that I know is there, but that I've worked so hard to keep under wraps for Edward's sake.
Wiping her cheeks roughly with the back of her hand, Rosie swallows hard, taking a deep, shuddering breath.
"You wanna go for a set?" I ask, gesturing to the beach.
Deliberation crosses her beautiful features, her golden skin splotchy and pink from her tears. In the end she says no, and like last time, we crawl back into bed where we spend the morning dozing and waiting for the final texts to say the boys are about to fly out.
One day is all I will allow myself to wallow. After that there's nothing I can do but push through and start the countdown.
Two and a half months.
Thank you also to Ink and Tiff for talking me off the ledge and patting my head to make me feel better.
As always, thank you to everyone reading this salty little story. FYI: the next chapter may be a little bit of a wait. Apparently the achy stuff doesn't come that easily to me.