The Size of the Fight
Bella looked in confusion between the program in her lap and the musicians in front of her. "It's a...is this a children's...?" she asked.
Edward, who had been silently admiring her profile shook his head. "Um...I think it's part of the Seattle Youth symphony combined with the local district one," he said, tapping the back of her program. "Is that okay?"
Bella laid her hand on his forearm and smiled. "It's great! I never played in one growing up." She had been painfully shy, content to take private lessons from her mother and playing for the occasional school production, where she could hide behind the ancient upright. Much to her mother's frustration, Bella played for her love of music and not the thrill of performing. "I can't wait," she confided, burying her nose back in the program.
Edward's eyes drifted back toward the stage as he tried to ignore the simmer between them. It wasn't as if he planned on jumping her, but his attraction to her was at an awkward stage. He was somewhat uncomfortable around her at times, but unable to stay away. "Looks like it's me and you the rest of the summer," he said casually.
Bella laughed. "You mean for these things?" she asked. "I don't mind." Jasper was in Seattle overnight, and he had made a point of handing over a pair of tickets the evening before, courtesy of Rose. She laid the paper on their blanket and shifted toward him. "So will you commute for the symphony?"
Edward frowned in puzzlement. "Huh?"
"For work?" she clarified, blushing. "Sorry, is it none of my business?" She inwardly cursed herself for wanting to know more about him and asking.
"Oh! No...I thought you meant for this," he said, raising a hand toward the stage. "I'm not with the symphony anymore."
Bella couldn't ignore the itching, prickling feeling of her palms and slipped her hands under her legs. It was becoming difficult, sitting so close to him and fighting the need to touch him. She wanted to, he seemed so physically at ease, but somehow it felt like she would be betraying Jasper. "He's not my boyfriend," she blurted and quickly covered her mouth in horror. Tears immediately stung her eyes, and she tried to stand.
Edward watched as she struggled with her embarrassment before gently grabbing one of her flailing hands. "Bella?" he asked softly. "Just sit," he said, patting the blanket.
"I'm so sorry," she said haltingly.
"You're not doing anything wrong," he said reassuringly, and she nodded, unable to make eye contact with him and not believing a reassuring word he said.
"I don't just hop bed to bed," she said before cursing under her breath. "Not that you...Christ, forget it." Bella couldn't remember a time she'd felt so embarrassed by her words.
Edward wanted to laugh, but the idea of her wanting to hop into his bed felt all too exciting. He would not have cared, but Bella obviously did. "I'm opening up a conservatory," he said, desperate to change the subject for her sake. "That's why I quit the symphony. Well, that and to be closer to home."
Bella nodded and squeezed the hand still holding onto hers. "Wow."
"Eventually. Mom's foundation is putting up the money."
The Cullens had money, and Bella remembered Rose telling her once that Esme's family did, too. "That's really exciting," she said honestly.
"Rose is helping me with properties," he continued. He gently released Bella's hand and leaned back on his elbows. "I give private lessons, so...guess we'll see how many people are willing to follow me."
"I'd love to teach," Bella said wistfully. She, too, was in the financial position to start something new, though in what area, she had no idea.
She shrugged and smoothed out her skirt around her legs. "I majored in lit. Not exactly in high demand."
Edward's interest in most things Bella was piqued. "What was your minor?"
"Really?" he asked, drawing out the word. "I'm currently accepting applications, you know." When she didn't answer, he knew he was pushing too hard. "Think about it," he said lightly.
She already was. Edward was looking for a space, and she was looking for a job. "What about my building?" she asked abruptly. "It'll be empty."
Bella waved her hand dismissively and tried to smile. "I was thinking out loud, never mind."
But Edward had already heard her. "How big is it? I mean, how many floors?"
"There are three," she replied, her voice trailing off. Her thoughts were with the tenant still occupying the third floor, and how quickly she'd dismissed Jake with the idea of Edward using the space. "It probably wouldn't work for you," she said quickly.
Edward smiled and turned onto his side, to give Bella some space, but all the gesture did was shift the fading sunlight filtering through his green eyes. "Show it to me anyway," he suggested. "You never know."
For the next hour and a half, Bella's eyes didn't leave the stage, and Edward's eyes didn't leave her. She smiled frequently at the efforts of the young musicians, sighing and clapping loudly at each opportunity. He could imagine Bella with her own students, sharing their enthusiasm and offering them encouragement, and he found himself longing for her, more than he ever had for someone.
"Bella," he said hoarsely, and she dragged her eyes from the performance to his.
"Yeah?" Her eyebrows furrowed at the pained look on Edward's face. "Are you okay?"
"Promise me you'll give it some thought," he said, trying not to beg but failing. "Me...my offer," he quickly corrected.
Bella nodded seriously, and her expression softened. "Okay," she said softly. "I promise."
It was enough to get him through the rest of the evening and the drive home. Edward hurried to open the car door for her, and he was grateful it separated them when she smiled up at him. "Can you come in for awhile?" she asked, dashing his hopes of gathering himself together in the privacy of his own home.
Edward's hesitancy caught Bella's attention. "You don't have to!" she said quickly, trying to hide her disappointment. If she hadn't ruined the evening earlier, she was sure she was currently doing her best. If Jasper calmed her, Edward turned her inside out, and she suddenly wasn't sure which was better.
"No, I want to," he said sincerely, smiling at her subsequent blush. He followed her inside, to the kitchen, and watched as she set about heating water and arranging cookies on a plate. "You're a woman after my own mother's heart," he said appreciatively, taking the cup of hot tea Bella offered.
"I like your mom," Bella said, sitting across from him and smiling.
"Me, too," Edward replied, and she laughed.
"She must be happy, having you closer."
He chewed his cookie thoughtfully before responding. "I don't know, they both probably are. I'm happier being closer." Edward had done his share of travelling, and he hadn't seen his return to his hometown as something he'd been forced to do. "I'm here willingly," he added.
It occurred to Bella, then, what she hoped he was saying. That whatever had brought Edward to where he was, he was happy. That if he were there, with her, in her home, regardless of how it had happened, he wanted to be, and she felt herself lose the embarrassment and tension she'd experienced since meeting him.
"I am, too," she agreed quietly.
It was all Edward needed to hear. "You said something earlier," he started, and she groaned.
"Please, please forget anything I said-"
"No," he said firmly, reaching for her hand. "I already knew you and Jasper weren't…" He wasn't sure how to phrase it. "I know you don't consider yourself his girlfriend." Bella started to pull back, about to protest, but Edward kept on. "That either of you don't," he clarified. "I knew that. So I'd never...I never would have asked you out, or spent time with you…"
Bella cocked her head at him, and Edward knew he wasn't explaining himself. "Shit, what I mean is, I wouldn't just, uh, 'hop' into your bed. I mean, I would, but not if you two were seriously involved. Christ, I'm not saying this right," he huffed. "I don't think you're the type, either, Bella. I didn't think that."
She chuckled, before covering her mouth to hold back her laughter. "You're nice, too, Edward, you know that?"
"Yeah, well," he said, grimacing. "You make me...I get tongue-tied, and just...crazy." And most of his thoughts would probably be construed as anything but 'nice,' regarding his attractive neighbor.
Bella stared at her lap, willing herself to calm down, and took a stuttering breath. "I'd hate for you to have a low opinion of me."
"I don't." His was the opposite, and he was desperate for the chance to show her. "And I'm not going anywhere." He gently pushed his chair back from the table and took his things to the sink.
"What do you think," Bella said suddenly from behind him, pausing, unsure of where she was going with her question. "What do you think you'd do, if I were involved with him? Seriously involved, I mean." She'd been sure, from the beginning, that there was nothing long-term or emotionally committed in her relationship with Jasper, but she couldn't stop from wondering what meeting Edward would have done to her, had the relationship been something else.
Edward had been raised to be polite, with a respect for boundaries and propriety, and her question intrigued him. He'd certainly, in his life, been attracted to women unavailable to him, and therefore never considered acting on his desires. But what he felt for Bella was different, far different, the types of feelings he had for her leaving his upbringing far from his mind.
"What would I do?" he asked rhetorically, repeating her words. Edward turned to look at her, his expression calm but determined. "I'd fight."
A/N: This story will no longer be updated on this site, but you can find it on my FictionPad account, author name the same. Thank you so much for reading it here, but it is MA, which this site does not offer. Eventually, as with my other stories, it will be pulled by me...hope to see you on the new site!