Bella lay on the beach during her lunch break. Her skin hot to the touch though in her head, and every other part inside her body that counted, it felt nice, peaceful.
A couple with two children – boys – had rented a house on Bella's street for the weekend. They set up camp several feet away so between waves crashing and gulls squawking were the sounds of tiny squeals and gleeful demands for attention retorted by gentle warnings to not go too far.
Bella rolled onto her stomach, faced the ocean, and at the farthest point she saw a charcoal cloud threaded with purple that met the water. If she turned around she'd never know, because she'd be caught up in the daydream of sun and wind and children with tanned bare bellies and platinum hair playing. If she turned her back on the storm it would sneak up on her.
She stared at it, thinking about her dad. He'd shown her tide pools when she was seven. Charlie had sat on a slimy rock while Bella peered into shallow water. He'd told her not to poke the urchins because they just might poke back.
He had this gruff voice and stern face for anyone but her and her sister, except for when they'd acted up, of course. Like the time Rose and Bella had decided to take Charlie's cruiser through the Taco Bell drive-thru because Rose had a craving for burritos. Then the Swan sisters had felt his wrath, for all of ten minutes. He'd grounded them for a month, had taken away Rose's license for two, and then about a week later he'd told them he was sick. It'd knocked the wind out of her, not having come back for months.
After Bella's mom left them for another family, she counted on her sister and her dad more than ever. The three had become close, woven so tightly together that the absence of her mother hurt a tiny bit less. But Renee's betrayal of falling in love with another man and his kid had burned through her all over again once she'd found out that Charlie's body became consumed by cancer.
Bella imagined the storm coming in from the sea, contained in that cloud that from where she lay appeared no bigger than her thumb, was a relative of the one she saw the days following her dad's announcement.
That one was bigger, closer. It was a mile away, the next town over. In another state, another universe, right next to her. She wanted to walk to it, just get there and touch it. She wanted to put her palm up to it and step through, let it swallow her. See what was on the other side, get stuck in the middle. Bella now thought that if she stayed on the beach long enough maybe she'd get that chance.
She wondered if these sort of things followed a person around. Signs of bad taken for granted.
Her chin resting on the back of her hand, she drew circles in the sand with the other. Bella scooped some up and watched the granules fall from between her fingers. She missed Rose. Rose would have told her to get the fuck over herself and stop thinking so much.
Bella laughed to herself.
She envied how forgiving Rose was, but then again she thought her sister perhaps a little too forgiving. She hoped Rose's boyfriend didn't take advantage of that.
Bella squeezed her eyes shut then quickly opened them again, as if she could've made the approaching storm disappear. Miles and miles away, it was still there. The family that shared her beach carried on as if they had all the time in the world. She envied them, too. Sort of.
See, Bella only had a few more hours of solitude.
Edward was scheduled to come to her house at seven – Harry claimed he was the only one on the island who knew what they were doing when it came to leaky pipes. When she heard the drip drip drip from underneath her kitchen sink she found the bottom of the cabinet saturated. "I might be able to fix it myself," Bella said when she called Harry the day before. Harry earnestly replied, "Really?" When she hesitated Harry told her not to worry, that Edward could have it fixed up in a jiffy.
For the past twenty-four hours she psyched herself up, silently chanting it won't be so bad. Edward was simply upset, or whatever, that she didn't recognize him. He was annoyed. But really, so what? He looked completely different than he had in high school. For one, he was bigger now brandishing broad shoulders and muscles. And two his face was concealed by hair. Besides, she hardly knew him at all back then. She'd tried to smile at him a few times in the halls but he glanced the other way. They hadn't run in the same circles and those circles had never crossed. What did he expect?
To hold a grudge against her for something so small as a little kiss was freaking immature. Seriously. Grow up, Caveman. Bella didn't come to Whimbrel to rehash teenage melodrama and she sure as frick wasn't searching out nostalgia, so when Edward was to show up later that day she thought he'd better not be an ass. And now she was getting herself all worked up again.
Not to mention being that sometime during the past ten years he'd turned into this cranky, hairy thing who lost all sense of civility was not her fault.
It wasn't her fault at all.
Bella rubbed sand between her fingers.
After discovering Edward was Tony, all she could think about was how she did not want to bring up the past. She hadn't thought about their kiss, not in depth anyway.
She hadn't known at the time, though given his behavior toward her maybe it wasn't as good as she now remembered. Well, "good" probably wasn't the best description. It hadn't been real, that was for sure, but the seconds she'd pinned him against a locker, forcing her mouth on his, were nice. For a tiny moment Bella had forgotten about the gasping crowd behind her, that it'd been for show. All she'd been aware of were his soft lips and his tongue gliding against hers.
Okay, so maybe his anger toward her was a teensy bit deserved.
It'd been a dare. Not even a dare, more like a I Am So Much Better Off Without You kind of thing. "Paul's coming," Angie had said. "You should grab the first guy who walks by and kiss the crap out of him." "No." "You totally should. He cheated on you. Show 'em you're completely unaffected by his infidelity." Angie had poked Bella in her ribs. "Show him what he's missing."
Somehow, it'd suddenly seemed like a good idea. Against her friend's advice Bella hadn't grabbed the first guy. She'd scanned the boys faces who'd occupied the hall at the time. Angie was right and it had to be convincing, otherwise Paul would've realized it was a joke, and Bella had been fed up with everything going to shit.
She'd spotted Tony Masen. Quiet, aloof, and if she was being honest, wholly good looking.
"Tony," she'd called. He hadn't responded, only stopped walking, causing anyone behind him to go around.
She remembered the question in his eyes at first, how stiff his mouth was before he relaxed and kissed her back. He'd kept his hands to himself but she'd fisted his shirt tighter. He was warm. She remembered thinking what it would've been like if he'd been the one doing the pinning, what it would have been like if he'd wanted her. Bella remembered the way he wiped her saliva from the corner of his mouth with his finger, his eyes darting toward the people behind her, before walking away.
She was so stupid back then.
Bella began packing up her stuff, a little too forcefully. The family with tow-haired boys was doing the same but not with as much vigor. Not only was the cloud coming closer but she really did owe Edward an apology.
At quarter past seven Edward knocked on Bella's door.
Earlier, she paced for a while. Practiced an appropriate yet grovel-free apology, because she really didn't think groveling was necessary. She'd laugh at herself and chalk it up to immaturity, but to be sure her words did not come across as patronizing. Bella went as far as willing to give a hand shake after they'd decide to start fresh.
Taking a deep breath, Bella swung her door open. The storm had come and gone, but steam rose up and hovered above the street. A good sign, right?
"Thanks for coming," she said.
Edward walked in and stood in the middle of the living room, surveying her small space. "Mmhm."
"Is Harry coming?"
Edward made his way to the kitchen, dropped his box of tools to the floor then got down on his knees. As he stuck his head inside the cabinet her rehearsed apology sat on the tip of Bella's tongue. Just do it. Get it over with. Rip off the hairy Band-Aid.
"Is it bad?" she asked, before biting at her thumb nail.
"Don't know yet. You're gonna have to give me more than a second."
She rolled her eyes.
She kept her voice light. "When's Harry coming?"
Edward pulled himself out from underneath the sink and sat back on his ankles. He scratched the back of his neck then quickly looked up at Bella before returning his attention back to… not her. "Pipe's rusted. I can go get what I need and come back to fix it tonight or I can come back tomorrow. It's not a big deal but Harry's got a bad back and can't do it himself. It'll take a couple hours. Your call," he explained, his voice flat.
Hours? This was not how it was supposed to go. A quick in and out, things settled – even though Edward's meanness was not a factor she'd merely blow off, it could be forgiven if he followed her imaginary scenario.
"Whatever's convenient," she said.
He pushed himself up off the floor. "I'll be back in a little bit."
Less than an hour later Edward knocked on her door, again.
He told her Harry wasn't coming, that there was no reason, and Bella decided that wasn't the best news since Harry would've made an excellent buffer should her plan go awry.
She wasn't sure if she was supposed to be in the same room while he worked, or the next room, or simply go about her business. She didn't really have business to go about so she settled on the couch and flipped through a magazine. She picked up her phone to dial Esme (they were supposed to get together for drinks the next night), but she put it back down. No need for Edward to overhear her conversation.
She finished the crossword puzzle in People, flipped on the television, heard clanking and a couple grunts between switching channels.
She grew antsy and rose from the couch. Bella sneaked a peek into the kitchen. Edward lay on his side, his head and shoulders hidden underneath the sink. A slip of skin showed between his shirt and jeans, and each time his arm moved to tighten or loosen whatever he was doing his biceps flexed, veins popping out over top of them.
Ogling was not part of the plan. Bella needed to buck up and push the elephant out of the room.
"Edward," she said. He didn't reply. "I didn't know it was you. You've changed, a lot. Your name, too, I guess." He continued to work on the pipe. "That thing that happened between us? Yeah, um, that was…I don't know, a stupid high school thing, and I'm sorry if I embarrassed you."
When he still didn't say anything, she muttered a few expletives and walked back to the living room. Five seconds later, she stalked back into the kitchen.
"You could've said something, you know. You knew who I was the whole time and you didn't say a word. And what is up with the name change, Edward? Tony?"
Edward stilled, set down his wrench then maneuvered his way out. He drew up his knees and placed his forearms there, sucked in his lips. Wiping his palms over his thighs, he shook his head and laughed to himself.
"What?" she said, her arms crossed.
"Sink's finished." Edward began to clean up his things.
"So that's it? You're just going to be dismissive of the whole thing? Awesome. Wish I'd known before I bothered worrying about it. Thanks for wasting my time," she said. Bella turned and walked toward the front door. She opened it wide and stood there, waiting to slam it shut behind him. Okay, so maybe not her best apology, but did she really deserve total silence? She thought not.
Edward's focus was straight ahead, through the open door, not on Bella when he emerged. He put his hand on the screen door then turned toward her.
He leaned in close, licked his bottom lip. "You're right. The thing was stupid, and you know what else? It was hardly memorable."
Her eyes narrowed. "Really."
He smiled. "Really."
She pressed her back to the door. "You're lying."
"I know you are."
Edward leaned in a little more. "Bella, I forgot about that kiss the second I walked away."
"No, you didn't." Bella scrunched her nose. "You smell." But it wasn't awful. Edward smelled like salty air and sweat and possibly soap. She gripped the doorknob.
"Your wit's impressive," he said, dropping his hand from the screen door.
"Aren't you leaving?" she said and watched his throat bob.
"Well, go then." She pushed at the screen, and then he pulled it shut. Her fingers accidentally brushed his forearm. "What are you doing?" she said.
Edward towered over her. He was too close but strangely not close enough.
Bella wanted him gone before she did something dumb, but apparently her body disconnected from her brain because she was grabbing his shirt then tugging.
He didn't budge, and Bella began mental preparations to wallow in humiliation for the next several days.
Edward carefully removed her hand, then he set down his tool box for a second time that night.
Before Bella could ask what he was doing again, he kissed her. He kissed her proper.
He lifted her up against the door and she wrapped her legs around his waist, her arms around his neck. He pressed into her, slid his thumbs over the sides of her breasts. His beard scratched her chin and all she could think was more.
They were all tongues and lips, sucking and nipping. Bella knotted his hair in her fingers and a small sound made it's way from the back of his throat. She sank down, felt his erection, and being the harlot she seemingly was she ground against him.
Edward eased her down then kissed her forehead. He tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear. He kissed her cheek. Bella closed her eyes, both of them taking in deep breaths. He whispered, "That was a mistake."
Thanks so much for reading.