A/N: This was my contest entry for the 90s contest hosted by MrsSpaceCowboy. This little story won 2nd place for Judge's Choice.
Contest entry for Smells Like Metallic Roses 90s TwiFic Contest
Title: Awaiting Eternity
Pairing: Bella & Edward
Summary: When you're a teenager living in a small town in the 90s, the only thing to do is sit back and await your future. Mine came in the form of a flannel wearing, floppy haired boy. He's the perfect picture of teenage apathy, and with just one look, he can set me on fire.
Disclaimer: All recognizable works are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement intended.
I tighten my scuffed Doc Marten 12-ups, the yellow stitching stained almost as dark as the leather, and stand up to look in the mirror. With a deep breath, I smooth down my plaid skirt and pop my hands onto my hips to take in my appearance. The skirt is cute—flaring a little and hitting my legs mid-thigh. In a former life, it was a calf-length grandma skirt from a thrift store—then my friend Alice hacked off, well, most of it really.
Now I just need a sweater…
"Bella! Rosalie is here!" My mother's voice drifts up the stairs. I barely hear it over the music playing on my CD player.
"Tell her to come up!" I yell back, digging through my closet for a clean sweater. I'm sure I stuffed the one I'm looking for in this drawer…
"I'm already here, Bella. You don't have to yell."
The voice behind me causes me to jump, bumping my head on the wire hangers in my closet. "Shit, Rose, you nearly gave me a heart attack." When I turn around, my best friend is stretched out on my bed, casually flipping through a magazine. "How did you manage to creep in here? Especially in those shoes?"
"What can I say?" She extends one long leg, angling her foot to show off her black platforms. "They make my legs look long."
"Your legs are long." I mean, her hips sit at the level of my shoulder. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but my best friend is tall—and she's all legs and boobs. She's like a human version of Jessica Rabbit. I dive back into my closet, tossing clothing right and left until I come across what I've been looking for. "Aha! There you are!"
I pull the soft, midriff-baring, lavender cashmere sweater over my head and turn to inspect my reflection. I turn back to Rose, my arms outstretched. "So, does it work?"
She twists her lips to the side and lowers the magazine. "It's good. It's you, but it works." Moving to my dresser mirror to pout at her reflection, she runs her little finger along the edge of her lip, removing a stray smear of red lipstick. "Ready to go?"
I give her a quick nod and grab my purse, throwing in a few last-minute items, and follow Rose down the stairs. We grab our coats and try to sneak out the door.
"Bye, Mom. I won't be late."
"Sure, honey. Have fun."
Another voice stops me dead in my tracks. "Isabella…" Darn it!
I pause and take three steps back to the doorway of the living room. Charlie is reclined in his favorite armchair, a beer resting on the arm. The blue-tinged shadows of the TV's light dance on the walls around him to a chorus of canned laughter. "Yes, Dad?"
"Where y'off to?"
I sigh a little, not so much that he notices. "Just to Alice's. She's having a few friends over. We're going to watch some movies."
"Dressed like that?" His moustache twitches as he appraises us. Beside me, Rose holds her breath. Her mom is cool with whatever she wears. My dad…not so approving.
"Yeah." I shrug, like it's no big deal. "We'll just be eating pizza, you know…hanging out."
"Will any parents be there?"
Shit. The question that brings down any teenager trying to do things they shouldn't. Lucky for me, Rose reads me like a book. She jumps in. "You're looking very dapper today, Chief Swan."Aaand here comes ass-kissing Rosalie. "Say, is that a new hat?"
My dad smiles. He loves Rose. He's always had a soft spot for her, ever since her dad bolted when she was little, leaving her and her mom living next door to us, alone.
Charlie adjusts his Mariners cap. "Yes. It was a Christmas present from Renée."
As if on cue, my mom appears, drying her hands on a tea towel. "Let them go, Charlie. They're good girls." I swear Rose crosses her fingers behind her back.
He huffs before directing his attention back to the game playing on the screen. "Don't be out too late."
"Actually…" Mom draws out the word. "The girls already asked to stay at Alice's. I said it was okay." She gives him a look that I've seen before. Although my dad is the Chief, it's Mom who's boss.
Charlie waves his hand, effectively dismissing us. "Okay. Go. Do…girl things."
I rush over to kiss his cheek. Rose gets the other one, and he swats at us muttering, "Yeah, yeah." The way his cheeks color tells me we're off the hook—we hightail it out of there before he can change his mind.
"I thought he was going to say no for sure," Rose says, hoisting herself into my truck and dumping her bag between us. I agree with her, starting the engine and hoping the truck doesn't die. When the engine turns over, Rose and I give a little cheer—we do it every time the truck actually starts without a hassle.
We rumble toward the center of town, a mix-tape playing through the half-decent speakers I got for Christmas. Rose opens the window—the air is by no means warm, but it's definitely better than it was a month ago. She gazes out the window, tapping her aqua-painted fingernails on the door frame, and I wonder what it is she wants to ask me.
"So…" there it is "…is your cousin coming tonight?"
I grin as I glance in my rearview mirror before flicking my eyes back to the road ahead. "I guess so. He's friends with Alice's brother, so…" I let the words trail off, catching Rose's blush out of the corner of my eye. When it comes to Emmett McCarty, she's so transparent. The two of them have been doing this dance for so long. They've kissed once or twice and rounded a few bases—usually with the help of a little liquor—but as yet, they haven't come to any official arrangement.
As we pass the center of town, we approach Forks' only set of traffic lights. When they turn yellow, we both kiss our fingers and tap the roof of the cabin. Although Rose has a better chance of cashing in her five minutes of good sex, I live with the hope that one day I'll have the same opportunity. From what I've heard in the girls' locker room, five minutes would be like hitting the jackpot. We drive on until the houses get bigger and farther apart, then I turn when I reach the big white house with lights on either side of the driveway.
Alice's dad is a doctor; her mom is an architect. Tonight—like many a Friday night—they're sharing their wealth at some benefit. They'll be home late, which is one of the reasons we usually end up at Alice's. The other reasons are fairly obvious: her house is the biggest, and hanging at my house isn't really an option. The Chief isn't too accommodating to a group of teenagers hanging out…especially if half of them are boys.
I pull up behind Alice's yellow Camaro—a sweet sixteen gift from her parents—and kill the engine. I check my mascara while Rose fluffs her blonde Rachel cut, and we hop out of the truck. Rose towers over me in her platforms, but when Alice excitedly opens the front door, even in my Docs, I can see over the top of her black, Winona pixie-cut. She hugs us both with a squeal and pulls us inside.
"I'm so glad you're here," she tells us excitedly, clopping down the shiny, tiled hallway in her thick-strapped, high-heeled sandals. Her green cotton slip-dress sways as she walks, but with a t-shirt underneath and thigh-high tights, she's not showing too much skin. "Jess has had two drinks and is already driving me fucking crazy." Her statement is punctuated by a high-pitchedheeheehee coming from the basement. Rose rolls her eyes at me and I giggle.
When Rose and I descend the stairs to the Cullens' basement, the sound of chattering and laughter weaves around a girl wailing about the meaning of irony—or maybe it's just about bad luck. Jess' signature shriek competes with Alanis, easily piercing through the normal speech level. Mike appears completely oblivious to her inanity, because he's staring at her in rapt fascination.
"Like, seriously, Mike," she's telling him. "It was, like, such a good movie. You should totally go see it. And Leo is so cute. You know, you kinda look like him." She titters again. "Only, like, smarter. You know, because you wear glasses." Her voice picks up at the end, as if she's asking a question—except she isn't. She grasps the half-heart-shaped "best friends" charm that hangs between her boobs and slides it along the chain. Mike notices the movement as she continues. "Plus the guy that wrote the movie is, like, really cool."
He blushes a little, hiding behind longish blond hair, and gives her a shrug. He pushes his large round glasses back up his nose, and when he speaks, he sounds nervous. "It seems interesting, but Romeo and Juliet is not really my favorite of Shakespeare's tragedies." He clears his throat. "I much prefer Hamlet."
Jess snaps her gum, giving Mike a blank look in response. "Who's Shakespeare?"
As Mike launches into what is likely to be a tirade of the complete works of The Bard, I touch Rose's arm, letting her know that I'm headed to the bar set up in the corner. She gives me a mhmm in response—she's spotted my cousin playing Mario Kart. It appears I've lost her and I grin—she's so predictable.
I pour myself a cup of punch—Alice's special recipe—and observe the room for a moment. Rose is talking to Bree and Riley, all the while throwing furtive glances Emmett's way. He's seen her and is putting special effort into kicking Ben's ass in the game, as if that's going to impress her. It probably will.
Alice is perched on her boyfriend's knee. They'd have to be the oddest couple ever; she's more Baby Spice—except less annoying and not British—and Jasper is more Eddie Vedder. Not far from them are Tanya, Irina, and Kate. They're overdone in thick eyeliner and dark plum lipstick. Tanya has hacked off her blonde hair and dyed it black. She thinks it's edgy. I think she's trying too hard.
They're giving evil eyes to Bree—Riley broke up with Irina at the start of winter break. She didn't take it well.
Over in the corner on a couple of beanbags, Laurent and James are sniggering at each other, cheap beer bringing out their best Beavis and Butthead impersonations.
And then there's…him.
His broad shoulders are sheathed in a black, long-sleeved t-shirt, with a silver star and letters spelling ZERO emblazened across the chest. Low-slung, well-worn jeans fall to cover black Docs just like mine—although having seen them before, I know they're 16-ups. Loose, brown-red hair flops in front of green blazing eyes, and perfect pink lips sip from the red cup he holds in his hand as he casually leans against the brick wall of the basement. He's the perfect picture of teenage apathy, and with just one look, he can set me on fire.
As if he senses me watching, his gaze flicks up to meet mine. I feel my ears warm, and I drop my eyes; the strawberries floating in my punch suddenly seem really appealing. I grab a plastic skewer from the bar and spear one of the berries before popping it into my mouth and chewing nervously. Alcoholic bubbles burst on my tongue—Alice must have been soaking these in cheap champagne all day. When I look up again, it's just in time for his eyes to meet mine for a beat then shift toward the gamers.
As I flit from group to group and chat with people, I'm always super-aware of where he is. Being the sensible cop's daughter I am, I cut myself off after a few refills of Alice's punch—my nose is starting to tingle, and Laurent's impressions are beginning to seem funny. Charlie has a keen sense of knowing when I'm hungover, and I want to be let out of the house again.
I'm watching Coke flow over the ice cubes in my cup when another cup appears next to mine. The hand that places it there has long, masculine fingers. A hint of darkish hair peeks out from black cotton at the wrist. I stop pouring and my eyes follow the path of the fingers, arm, and a slightly scruffy jaw. From here, I can see that his bottom lip is slightly fuller than the top and is set in a perfect semi-pout. My eyes flicker up to see the purest green gazing back at me.
"Hi, Bella," he says, and his voice feels like hot chocolate.
"Hi, Edward," I reply, dropping my eyes a little before looking back at him. I find myself scanning his face—it feels like I'm telling all my secrets when I look into his eyes. He'll know it's him I think of when I'm buried deep under the darkness of my room each night. That it's his arms I dream of holding me, his neck I fantasize of nuzzling into, his lips I imagine kissing me with a passion I've only read about in the Harlequin romances I sneaked from my mom, and his hands I visualize touching me where only my own have been.
"Could I have one of those?" he asks, nodding in the direction of the bottle in my hand.
"Oh, right," I reply, shaking myself from my fantasy world. "Sure." I pour the drink with slightly trembling hands; if I had free fingers, I'd cross them and hope I don't end up dropping the whole bottle on the counter and drenching us both. I hand him the cup, and bubbles escape as the liquid dances in the shaking cup.
"Thanks," he says casually, his fingers gently brushing mine. It almost seems like time slows down because the touch of his skin seems to linger for a couple of heartbeats.
The punch has made me brave, and I don't want him to leave just yet. "You drinking that straight?"
He snickers, his eyes lowering to watch the Coke swirl in his cup. "Yeah, I have to work tomorrow. First day, so I wanna make a good impression."
I nod in response, taking a sip from my drink. He pauses before lifting his cup toward the couch in front of the TV. "I promised Emmett a game, so…"
"Yeah, of course," I take a step back, my hands grasping my cup.
He dips his head a little. "You play?"
I shake my head and laugh; it sounds self-conscious. "No."
He dips lower. "Watch?"
My lips slide into a smile. "Watch, I can do."
"Come on." He jerks his head in the direction of the sofa. We walk over and he kicks Ben out of his spot. "Shove over," he instructs Emmett. Edward sits down, leaving me a little—very little—space between him and the arm of the sofa. I hold my skirt down as I sit, and when I do, my right side is pressed against his. He feels warm—so do I.
Em gives me a big grin. "Socks."
I stick my tongue out at him. "Cuz."
Edward presses his whole upper arm against mine, tilting his head so our faces are so very close. "Why'd he call you that?"
My cheeks redden. "It's from when we were kids."
Em clarifies, his eyes glued to the screen. "We went hiking in the woods behind my place when we were about eight. Bella got her boots stuck in the mud—it was like a vacuum. She couldn't move her feet." He laughs at the memory; I lean forward to glare at the side of his head. "We told her she'd have to stay there 'til the mud dried up, so she started crying. Three of us had to yank her out, and she walked home in her socks. She nearly got frostbite—it was hilarious."
Edward looks at me, his eyebrows raised. "Did you? Get frostbite?"
I shake my head, my face flaming even more at having my childhood humiliation shared. "No, but I did get grounded for losing my new boots."
He snickers a little, and I roll my eyes.
I watch them for a while, conscious the whole time of Edward's body against mine. Without permission, my mind takes me to places where I think of the other ways I could have him close, and I have to turn my face away, hiding behind my hair, to conceal my blush.
Sitting right next to him has its disadvantages—I can't watch him without turning and staring at him. I flick furtive glances his way while pretending to be interested in the game. The next thing I know, his breath is on my ear as he calls my name. I open my eyes; his green ones are close.
"Bella, you fell asleep. Everyone's gone."
I glance around to see that, yes indeed, the room is empty. I slide my hands down my legs, making sure my skirt is still in place before sitting up and rubbing my eyes. "Shit, how long have I been out?" I ask in a whisper.
"Not long," he replies, his voice also low. "They left about ten minutes after you nodded off. Alice and Rosalie have gone upstairs to set up the spare beds." He smirks. "You should have said you were bored."
I cover my mouth to hide my yawn. "I'm sorry. I wasn't bored—just tired."
He straightens from his crouched position and holds out a hand. It's warm, and I let him help me up. "Come on. Our beds are far more comfortable than this sofa."
In fear of saying something inappropriate, I remain silent, letting him guide me toward the stairs, and ever so aware of his hand on my lower back.
It's a rare sunny day in Forks when I get into my truck. All the extra shifts I've been pulling at Newton's Outfitters after school has paid off—particularly because I've got a rare wholeSaturday to myself. I feel like I've had almost no time to myself lately, including having little to no opportunity to hang out with my friends—the party at the Cullens' was almost a month ago. It seems that if I haven't been working, I've been studying. It's like all of my teachers are getting together to devise a plan to ruin my life, and that of my classmates; it's a conspiracy that could rival any mystery they have on The X-Files.
After a kiss on the cheek and a "have fun and be careful" from Renée, I cheer for the truck when it starts, and then it's just me and the open road to Port Angeles. I want to dig through a few thrift stores, check out some books, and do some hardcore browsing at the record store.
The drive is relaxing, and I enjoy having some time to myself. After parking my truck in the main street, I luxuriate in just wandering around by myself. At a couple of thrift stores, I pick up a bunch of second-hand clothes, including an awesome denim jacket and a choker that Alice is going to swoon over, and stop for a burger while I flip through the copy of Rolling Stone I bought at the book store. When I'm full, I stuff my magazine in my messenger satchel and stop to stash my shopping bags in my truck—I'm going to need both hands for my next destination.
I smile at the sound of the familiar bell's ting as I step through the door to Masen Records, and I let the sound of Shirley Manson's voice through my headphones give me a soundtrack for my browsing. I haven't been here in weeks, no thanks to Newton's and my stupid teachers, and I'm sure there's a stack of new CDs just waiting for me.
If I could think of a place that's my home away from home—that isn't Rose's or Alice's—Masen's is it. Mr. Masen is an old beatnik who knows pretty much every song, album, and LP ever released. He specializes in obscure stuff, and it's a great place to find something you don't hear on the local radio—everything from underground Seattle grunge, to demos from up-and-coming New York bar-bands, to the British shoegazing scene. At the back of the store are a couple of booths where you can listen to albums and bean bags where people can come in, hang out, and talk about the music.
Masen's is my idea of heaven.
I run my fingers across the spines of the CDs as I try to decide where to begin. The alternative section is usually a winner, and with a shrug, I start at A.
Quickly losing myself in the relaxing mode of sifting through the CDs, I gently nod my head along with my music. Every now and then, a lyric will draw a smile to my lips, and I let myself go in the words. Gradually, one song in my earbuds fades out, and before the next one begins, I catch the drift of a beautiful female voice coming through the store's speakers. I smile as that warm buzz swims through my veins—it's the promise of great new music.
After pressing pause and pulling out my earbuds, I drape them around my neck, and I close my eyes for a moment. The raw female vocal catches my attention, before shifting into a soaring strain that weaves over and above the solid bassline, strong guitar, and sound of something else I can't quite pick out. My brain automatically tries to slot it into one of the genre drawers that fit in my head, but as soon as I put it in one, I pull it out and think about sticking it in another. It's rock, but it's not too heavy. The sound is full, but it's not quite poppy. It's the vocals that help make it something different—it's almost…ethereal.
I find myself letting go, one track blending into another as I rhythmically click, click, click through CDs. I pick up a couple, but I keep coming back to the sounds swimming through the store. The drum and guitar intro begins on another track, and I'm sold. I want…no, I need this album.
The girl behind the counter is the same one I've seen every Saturday I've been in here. The two thin braids that frame her forehead are purple this week—last time, they were blue.
"Hey," she greets me, casually leaning against the counter.
"Hey, Zaf," I reply. I gesture in the general direction of the entire store. "Hey, what's the album that's playing?"
"It's good, yeah?" she comments then chews her lip for a moment. The action causes her nose to wrinkle and her tiny nose-stud to glint against her olive-toned skin. "I don't know what it's called though. It was the new guy's choice." She pushes her hands on top of the counter, straightening her arms to gain an extra inch of height as she calls across the store. "Hey, new guy! Someone wants to know about the album you brought in."
"Be there in a minute," a voice calls back. It's familiar, and when the voice's owner walks around the corner from the vinyl section, I know why. His green eyes widen for a moment before his face falls back into its normal disinterested expression. "Hey."
"Hey," I return shyly. "Um, I was just wondering what the album is that's playing."
Edward looks back at me, somewhat critically. "Why? Do you like it?"
I shuffle my Docs on the worn, gray carpet and shrug one shoulder. "Yeah. It's cool."
"Cool?" He huffs a little, and he almost sounds incredulous. My theory is solidified when he rolls his eyes.
I hitch my messenger bag higher on my shoulder. I get the impression he thinks I'm talking shit. "Yes. Like I said." I narrow my eyes back at him. "It's unlike anything I've heard."
Edward flicks his head to shift the hair that is falling in his eyes. "It's because they don't play it on the radio."
He truly thinks I'm a musical idiot. I try not to let my irritation show by sounding casual. "Well, yeah. I mean, her voice is kinda like Sarah McLachlan, but the sound is more My Bloody Valentine."
"Huh," he says as if the thought hadn't occurred to him. "I guess it is." His face breaks out into a smirk—it appears I passed the test. His enthusiasm grows as he gestures toward the front counter. "This Canadian backpacker told me about it a few weeks back. Mr. Masen let me order a couple of copies. They just came in yesterday."
I stand at the counter as he turns to sift through a box marked "To Be Catalogued." He pulls out a plastic wrapped jewel case and slides it across the counter to me.
"I didn't know you worked here," I remark conversationally, picking up the CD with the blue angel on it and tracing the letters of the band's name. As he speaks, I flip it and read the track names on the back.
"Yeah. It's only really on Saturday mornings, but Mr. Masen said I might be able to pick up some extra hours during vacation." He shrugs. "I get a good discount, too."
"Hey," I comment suddenly. "There's the Sarah McLachlan connection." He tilts his head as he looks at me. I tap at the bottom of the CD. "Same record label." He looks at me and grins; my whole body warms, because he's never—nobody's ever—looked at me like that before. Uncomfortable, I deflect. "I guess I didn't expect you to listen to something like this."
He gazes back at me, his green eyes piercing, and it's as if he's looking right beneath my skin. "I suppose people aren't always what you expect."
I smile back. "I guess not."
"So, um…" He rubs the back of his neck. He almost looks flustered. "Is there anything else I can help you with?"
I shake my head and slide the CD across the counter toward him then reach into my messenger bag for my wallet. As I pull my Discman out of the way, Edward reaches for my face, causing my heart to skip a beat. Just when I think he's about to touch my cheek, he gently takes one of the earbuds that's dangling around my neck.
"What are you listening to?" he murmurs, leaning across the counter toward me and placing the earbud in one ear. I press play on the device in my hand, and he gives me a crooked grin.
"A little predictable, I guess," he comments teasingly. "Angry girl music?"
I pout. "Don't knock it. Their drummer produced some of the best albums ever."
I smile timidly. "I liked Siamese Dream." He smiles back, removing the earbud and handing it back to me.
After he rings up my CD, I stash the small paper bag in my satchel. "So, well…see ya."
"See ya," he echoes. I place one hand on the doorknob and am about to twist it when his voice stops me. "Hey, Bella?" I glance over my shoulder and see that he seems almost a little nervous. He tilts his head down and rubs the back of his neck, gazing up at me from beneath his lashes. "I finish in about twenty minutes. D'you wanna…I dunno…grab a coffee or something?"
I catch my grin before it splits my face wide open: I'm a teen in the 90s—it never helps to look too interested. "Sure. I'll drop back here then. Meet you out front?"
With a quick nod, I walk through the door. I make it to the corner before I let out a squeal.
It's strange. Ever since Rose and I befriended Alice when the Cullen family moved to Forks a couple of years ago, I rarely had anything to do with Edward. The only class we had together was biology, and we sat at opposite ends of the classroom. With his usual uniform of jeans, a band t-shirt, and flannel shirt over the top, I figured him to be a total grunge-slash-metal head. I couldn't have been more wrong.
As we talk over milkshakes, fries, and later in the afternoon, a shared piece of cherry pie, I find his tastes in most things to be wide and varied. The aloof, uncaring exterior I've always seen strips away in layers the more we talk. His eyes spark when he talks about things that truly move him, and that spark turns into a full-on blaze when we disagree—although it doesn't happen often.
"As if, Bella," he tells me, all but reaching across the table to pat me on the head. "The movie had promise, but there's no way they can draw out a whole TV series from it. People are sick of the paranormal. Look at American Gothic. One season and they canned it. The vampire thing is definitely done with. I mean, they got lucky with the Tom Cruise one, but this show will last two seasons at most. Vampires have had their run. This is the end for them. Mark my words."
I prop my elbow on the table, resting my chin in my hand, and raise an eyebrow. "You done?"
He swipes a forkful of pie through the cream on the plate and pops it into his mouth. My eyes fixate on his lips, which turn up a little at one corner. "That's all I have to say about that."
I giggle. "Sure, Forrest."
"Can I get you kids anything else?" asks our server, picking up the empty plate and forks from between us. I glance at my watch.
"No, thanks. Damn, I have to get home. I promised my mom I'd help her with dinner." I spy a payphone on the other side of the diner and nod in its direction. "I'm just gonna call her real quick."
Edward waves my hand away when I reach for my wallet and settles our bill. When I call Renée, she's cool with me being home a little late. I just told her I ran into a friend—she didn't push.
After walking me to my truck, Edward pauses by the front of it. I look up at him, my earlier bravado long gone. This feels more like the end of a date, except it's not really. Regardless, my words are something that might be said at the end of a date.
"Thanks. I had fun."
"Me too," he replies with a smirk. "I learned a lot about you today, Bella."
"Your music taste is surprisingly excellent."
I raise an eyebrow. "Surprisingly?"
He runs a hand through his hair in response. "Yeah. I didn't expect it. Hence, surprisingly." He drops his hand, reaching for my own with his other. He gently plays with my fingers as he speaks. "Maybe we can do it again sometime."
Suddenly, my throat is dry. I try to get some words out regardless. "I'd like that."
"So…" Oh my god, he's going to kiss me. He's coming closer—he's really going to kiss me. His head angles closer, pressing a gentle kiss to the tip of my lip, and he whispers against my skin. "Drive safe."
I speak with a sigh. "You too."
I spend the whole trip home with my music up, smiling and singing my heart out.
"Okay! Be right there!" I drop my pen mid-sentence—homework can wait—and dash down the stairs, jumping the last three and landing at the bottom with a thud. Mom has left the handset resting next to the phone on the little telephone table in the hallway. I pick it up and hold it to my ear. "Hello?"
"Hi, it's me."
I slide down the wall and make myself comfortable, stretching my legs out in front of me—I'm probably going to be here for a while. "Hi Rose. What did you do today?"
"Ugh," she grunts. "That stupid assignment for Spanish."
I laugh—it's standard Rose to have left it to the last minute. "Would I be gloating if I said I'd already finished?"
"Shut up. I hate you," she jokes. "How about you? I called you earlier. Your mom said you weren't home from Port Angeles."
My face flushes involuntarily as I think about my day and the reason I was home late. "Yeah, I um…got caught up."
Rose is like a shark sensing blood in the water—or in my case, avoidance. "Caught up with what? Or is it better if I ask…who?"
The red on my cheeks deepens. God, I hope I grow out of that. Suddenly aware that I'm sitting in the hallway, and that my parents are just on the other side of this wall, I tell Rose to hold on a sec and grab the phone, shuffling on my butt farther down the hall and slipping into the hall closet. I pull it closed behind me, making sure the phone cord doesn't get pinched.
"Sorry," I tell her. "I had to move."
"Oooh," she says excitedly. "This is gonna be good!"
"So…" I clear my throat and prepare myself. "I ran into Edward."
"Edward? Edward Cullen, Edward?"
More blushing, and all she did was say his name. "Yeah."
I hear rustling as Rose shifts on what I assume is her bed. Lucky bitch has a phone in her room. "Tell me everything."
"He's really sweet," I find myself saying as I smile into the receiver. I twist the cord around my finger as I continue. "We hung out and just talked for ages. I didn't think we'd have that much to talk about, but…yeah. I had a really nice time."
"Oh, Bella," Rose says through the phone. Her voice is a little muffled—she's probably lying down. "You sound surprised."
"Well, I am." Pulling my knees to my chest, I play with the frayed hem of my jeans. "And get this…he asked me to go out with him again."
Rose's voice is suddenly clear. I can picture her sitting upright on her bed. "Ha! It's about time!"
"What do you mean?"
I can practically hear her roll her eyes. "What I mean is that Edward has had a crush on you, well, forever."
"He has?" I squeak.
"How do you know?"
"Edward told Emmett he liked you. Emmett told me yesterday. And...you like him," she states simply.
Damn that blush. "Yeah…but I'm worried."
I blanch a little that she's hit the nail on the head. "Yeah. I mean, isn't it weird? I like her brother."
"Bella, Bella, Bella." She tsks me. "You forget that Jasper was Edward's friend first."
"Besides, she already knows."
"She what? How?" Damn, word in this town travels fast.
"Well, more that she suspected it. You know how she just guesses stuff." That I do. She could give Tanya and her little wannabe-witchy crew a run for their money.
A hollow click comes through the phone, and another voice joins our conversation. "Rose, honey? You going to be long? I need to use the phone."
"Sure, Mom. Just a few more minutes."
"Oh, hello, Bella dear. Tell your mom I'll be over for a coffee tomorrow morning, okay?"
Rose speaks up. "Mom?"
"Of course. Five minutes, Rosalie." The click indicates the line is ours again.
Rose and I complete a quick debrief of my kinda-sorta-impromptu date and dissect the kiss goodbye Edward gave me. When her mom picks up again, we say goodnight.
And when I'm warm and cozy in my bed, I dream of Edward.
"Are you getting out of the car?" Rose twists in her seat to look at me.
I shake my head emphatically, my fingers gripping the steering wheel. "No. I'm too nervous. I'm just going to stay here."
"You have to get out eventually," she says conversationally.
"I could just go home. I'll get out there." As I reach to re-start the ignition, Rose slides quickly across the bench seat and swipes the keys.
"There. Now you have to get out."
Just as I'm about to argue, a flash of yellow appears next to us. Alice bounds around her car toward us before tapping lightly on my window, a wide grin on her face.
I slide out of the truck, and she quickly loops her arm through mine. "So, here's the reason my brother has been moderately less serious than usual." With a quick wink and a whispered"it's fine" from her, we walk into the school.
My morning is spent feigning interest in what my teachers have to say, doodling in the margins of my notebooks, and watching the clock until it's lunch time. Alice ever-so-helpfully informed me that Edward has the same lunch hour as us—as if I hadn't noticed—and that, oops, she forgot her lunch money so we'd need to go ask him for some. I find myself being led across the cafeteria floor, fighting the blush that threatens to give me away.
When we reach the table where Edward, Emmett, and Jasper are sitting, Alice cheerfully greets the three of them, announces that she has money after all, and scampers off to buy lunch. Emmett greets Rose with a "how you doin'?" and invites her to sit with him. Apparently they talked last night and are now official.
I stay with them because, well, I don't want to sit by myself. And I really, really want to sit with Edward. All without looking too eager, of course.
"Hi," he says smoothly as I take the only spare seat available. It happens to be next to him; Rose winks.
"Hi," I reply, a small smile teasing my lips without permission.
Lunch is fairly relaxed—most of the conversation is made up of the others gossiping, including laughing when Emmett tells us Jess and Mike were busted making out behind Mike's parents' store over the weekend. I remain fairly quiet, but I'm conscious of every movement Edward makes—especially when he shifts in his seat so that our calves are touching. He stays like that for the whole lunch hour.
When the warning bell rings, we all move to go to our next class. Edward grasps my hand gently when the others have left, wordlessly pulling me into an alcove near some storage rooms. I look up at him as he flicks his hair out of his eyes.
"So, um…" he begins, again with the nervousness. If my own heart wasn't threatening to leap through my mouth and go splat in his face, I'd think it was cute. "Are you busy Friday night?"
I shake my head. "No, I'm free."
"Cool. So, do you want to go see a movie?" He gazes at me intensely. "With me?"
Hell YES! Instead I say, "Yeah."
A flicker of a crooked grin sneaks across his face, barely making an appearance at the corner of his lip before he slips his cool façade on again. "Okay. Can I get your number? I'd ask Alice, but…"
"But it'd be awkward," I finish for him, and he nods. I pull a pen from my satchel, and he offers me his arm—I scrawl my number on the inside of his forearm, and he pulls his sleeve back down to cover it.
"I'll call you," he promises.
I smile. My day just became awesome.
The doorbell rings and I quickly start stuffing necessities into my bag, screaming "I'LL GET IT!" Unfortunately, by the time I've yanked on my chunky sandals and given my hair one final fluff with mousse, I'm too late.
"Hello, Edward." I hear Charlie's authoritative voice drift up the stairs.
I hear the sound of a throat clearing. "Hi, Chief Swan. I'm um…here to pick up Bella?"
"Shit," I mutter to myself, slamming my bedroom door and running down the stairs as fast as I can without taking a dive the whole way. By the time I arrive at the bottom, Edward seems not himself—he's nervous.
Grabbing his arm, I start pulling him toward the door while throwing departing remarks over my shoulder. "Okay, well, bye, guys. Love you!"
"Have fun, kids!" calls Renée cheerfully.
"You have a curfew, Bella," are Charlie's parting words. I grin at them sheepishly through the closing door then look up at Edward as we stand on the porch.
"I survived." He sounds surprised. I giggle, and he winks in return.
We chat easily on the trip to Port Angeles. He shares with me that his twin has been merciless in her questioning, and in response, he's been equally so in his evasiveness. It's driving her nuts—a thought that makes me giggle. Alice detests being out of the loop.
Our conversation covers everything: TV, the endless school assignments we've been slammed with recently, and the way our friends have paired off. He got accepted to UW, and I can't help but grin when I tell him I did too. A glint appears in his eyes when I share that piece of trivia.
As always, the topic we keep coming back to, the one we agree on, playfully tease about, and the one that evokes the most passion in us both is music. If Edward thought my tastes were predictable, I confess to him that I thought his were equally as pigeon-holed. His penchant for wearing flannel, torn jeans, and Docs led me to stick my own label on him; I couldn't have been more wrong. It's as true as he says: Edward simply loves music. His dad is currently teaching him the guitar, but it was through his mom's influence that he's been playing classical piano since he was five.
When we arrive at the theater, Edward buys popcorn, Coke, and Junior Mints. He insists on paying because he wants to, and he says his mom would kill him if she knew he made his date go Dutch. We sit second row from the back, the lights go dark, and for the life of me, I couldn't possibly tell you what the movie was about.
What I do know is that Edward's hand is warm, and watching his tongue lick melted chocolate from his fingers makes me shiver. His aftershave smells like delicious boy when he leans closer to whisper comments about the film in my ear. His entire face relaxes when something on the screen makes him smile, and his laughter sends funny rumbles through my chest and makes my skin tingle. And then a song pops into my head, and I think of what Alanis would do in a theater—the tingle turns into a burn.
We stay until the lights come up so we can see the credits for the soundtrack, and after throwing our trash in the bin on the way out, he takes my hand as if it's the most natural thing ever.
Rain is falling when we emerge from the theater, and we make a dash for the car. Before we're halfway there, Edward pulls my hand, tugging me into the shelter of a store's awning. Panting with laughter and dripping wet, he runs his free hand through his hair, pushing his hair out his eyes.
"Thanks for coming with me tonight."
My grin pushes into the apples of my cheeks. "Thank you for asking me."
"I just want to do something," he says intently, his gaze shifting from my eyes to my lips. "I get the feeling the Chief won't be too impressed with me kissing you goodnight on your porch." He shifts his head minutely toward mine, pausing to wait for my response. When I lean forward in response, he closes the distance, wrapping his hand behind my neck, to give me a kiss sweeter than anything that has been shown on any screen, or written about in any book, or sung in the lyrics of any song. When he deepens it, bending my body back slightly in an attempt to bring our bodies as close together as they decently can be in public, I don't see sparks or fireworks. I simply feel warm, secure, and completely wrapped up in this boy.
Edward pulls back, unveiling his eyes to me from beneath his lashes. I smile in response, my own lips feeling plump and bruised in the best way. I quirk an eyebrow at him. "Kissing in the rain? A little mainstream, don't you think?"
He grins in response, and it's that cheeky flash in his eyes I've seen before, but always from a distance. "It works for some."
I snort. "Like who?"
When he pauses, I giggle. "Okay, I can't think of anyone," he says, rolling his eyes.
"I can think of one," I tell him, placing my hands on his chest and grasping dark green cotton.
I pull his lips to mine. "Me."
Three weeks and two days after our date, Edward asks me to be his girlfriend. He meets Charlie properly, and Charlie makes no threats to shoot him.
Every Monday and Thursday, he picks me up after my shifts at Newton's and we go home to his place to make out, watch TV, do homework, and…make out. Sometimes we watch movies in the Cullens' basement with our friends on their new DVD player. I'm in awe of how clear the pictures are, but I don't think it's the kind of technology that'll catch on—they're way too expensive for everyone to own.
Edward and I playfully challenge each other constantly, trying to find a band or song the other hasn't heard of. I find my own music tastes expanding exponentially, and he develops an appreciation—begrudgingly—for some angry girl music. Veruca Salt was the winner in that instance.
He bribes each of our lab partners with CDs so we can sit next to each other in bio and pass notes. After Rose finds a not-so-PG-rated written conversation when she borrows my notebook, I use one of the school computers in the library to set up a Hotmail account. After that, Edward takes to sending me emails using the Internet on the computer in his dad's office. We have a computer at home, but not the Internet, so I read them in my spare periods before lunch—only ever using the computer in the library that is hidden from view. I'm not stupid enough to ever print them out at school to keep, always opting to save them to a floppy disk to take home. I guard that disk with my life. Edward can tell when I've been reading his letters to me—those are the days we skip eating lunch in the cafeteria with our friends to disappear behind the technology building for some "us" time.
My heart skips, soars, and takes flight on a sunny afternoon when I meet him after his shift at Masen's. That's the day we eat ice cream while listening to music overlooking the harbor. Our linked fingers rest on the bench, mimicking the shared cord dangling from our earbuds.
"He's right, you know," Edward says casually, his fingertips dancing gently with mine.
I lick at the dribble of butter pecan that threatens to slip from my cone. "Who?"
I look at him blankly. "I don't get it."
Edward shifts on the bench, twisting so that his body is facing mine. "I've waited here for you," he quotes.
"I mean figuratively."
I smirk at him. "Using lyrics to describe what you're thinking? Original."
"How about this, then," he says seriously, releasing my hand to take off his shades before re-gripping my hand, this time holding my fingers tighter. "I love you."
I gaze back at him. My voice comes out as a whisper. "Who was that?"
"Edward Cullen, 1997, to Bella Swan."
Leaning toward him, I whisper the same three words back to him the moment before our mouths connect. The smile on his lips as they touch mine tastes better than any ice cream.
The rest of our senior year slips by, and before I know it, I'm standing at the base of our staircase and Edward is slipping a corsage onto my wrist. Renée hovers—snapping pictures, dabbing at her eyes with a Kleenex, and murmuring about her all-grown-up baby.
"You look beautiful," Edward whispers against my temple, his lips tickling my skin. He tightens his grip on my waist as the camera goes click, click, click. I'm thankful I bought an extra roll of film to take with me—my mom is going to use this one up.
"So do you," I return, grasping the back of his tuxedo jacket and smiling for the camera. We were going to blow off prom altogether, opting instead to hang out with the others, but as Alice insisted, prom is a rite of passage, and we hang out almost every weekend in the Cullens' basement.
So here we are. My mom gave me some money, and Rose, Alice, and I hit the stores in Port Angeles a few weeks back. I feel ultra grown-up in my emerald green, Asian-style keyhole dress. Unbeknownst to Edward, the color was chosen to match his eyes. It's long and elegant and has a split that reaches my thigh. I've gained a few extra inches of height with my platforms, although they're lower than the ones Rose and Alice normally wear—I was banned from wearing my Docs. My hair is up, curled and pinned with a diamante clip, with a few tendrils framing my face.
My parents wave us off; Charlie's moustache twitches as Edward and I approach his car. As Edward opens the door for me, my dad is unable to hold it in anymore, calling out, "Be careful!"
I nearly die—Mom convinced him to let me stay out overnight, so I know he's not talking about driving.
When Edward asked if it was okay if he booked a hotel room, both of us knowing what that means, I said yes. I told my parents I'd be staying at Alice's after the after-party. They're not stupid, but they trust me.
We stay at prom as long as is necessary—long enough to see my cousin and Rosalie crowned Prom King and Queen—before slipping quietly away.
"You're okay with this?" Edward asks, taking my hand across the center console.
I nod in reply. "Yes." Because I am. I'm sure about this. I'm sure about him.
I won't lie—I'm nervous when he opens the door to the room and we walk in. I stand in the center of the room, turning slowly to take it all in, unable to notice anything more but the bed that represents so many things.
Edward sets our bags down gently, drapes his jacket over a chair, and walks toward me. He dips his head to place a kiss gently to my lips. "Drink?" he asks, nodding in the direction of the bottle chilling in an ice-bucket, two flutes sitting next to it.
We toast our senior prom—and us. I take three sips before setting my glass down and stepping closer to him. He places his glass beside mine and brings his hands to slide against green satin. Our kisses become firmer, more wanting, more desperate. He kisses my throat as he unbuttons the three satin-covered buttons at the back of my neck, letting the backless gown slip down my shoulders and over my hips before pooling around my ankles.
"Wow," he murmurs as I stand before him, bare but for the black thong Rose convinced me I needed to go with the dress. I untie his already-loosened tie and make quick work of his shirt buttons, pulling at his shirt tails where they disappear into his suit pants.
Under his gaze, I should feel nervous, and I do, but more than that—I feel beautiful.
Stepping back and sitting on the edge of the bed, I unstrap my shoes, watching as Edward unbuttons his pants and lets them fall, removing his shoes and socks and moving toward me. We've seen each other naked before, but not like this. I scoot back on the bed and lie down as he brings his body over mine. I cup his cheek, letting my fingers graze gently over the shadow of scruff on his chin, and gaze into his eyes.
"I'm so glad it's you. The first time," I whisper to him.
"I'm glad it's you, too," he says quietly. "I love you so much."
"I love you, too."
He double checks with me. "You're still taking it?"
"Yes," I confirm. I started taking the pill after we became official.
I run my hands across his shoulders and down his back as he kisses me. My back arches as his lips move farther down my body, and I grasp his hair as he closes his mouth around my nipple. He presses kisses to my stomach and trails to my thigh, before hooking his thumbs around the thin band at my hips and drawing it downward. When his mouth loves me where I need him the most, I gasp; and when his fingers join in, I melt—then shatter.
He removes his boxers and declares his love for me, positioning himself at the point where we both fit perfectly. He gazes at me and I nod, and he pushes himself closer. I wince at the sting then relax when it becomes an ache, before telling him to continue.
Edward whispers words of love against my skin as our bodies do the same. The slow and steady becomes faster and heated, and I watch his eyes as they roll back when he unravels. And it's the most beautiful thing I've seen.
"Closer!" my mom calls, gesturing with her hands for us to bunch up. My five closest people and I do as she says, and about a half-dozen flashbulbs go off as our parents capture the moment.
"Congratulations, Bella!" Rose hugs me tightly. "Can you believe it?"
I grin back. "I can—we've been waiting for this moment forever!"
Lillian calls her to take some pictures with just her and Emmett. I smile at the girl that's lived next door to me for as long as I can remember—she's such an ingrained part of my past that I can't remember a time without her. She and Emmett are off to California—both on scholarship—and my heart clenches at not seeing her every day.
"You okay?" My favorite voice in the world whispers in my ear. I relax into his embrace as he presses a kiss to my temple.
Turning to look up into his eyes, I feel instantly lighter. The green hardly clashes with the royal blue of his cap and gown. "Yeah. I am."
"So, college. You and me."
"You and me."
I rest my head on his chest and wrap my arms around him, my cap and all it signifies heavy in my hand. "Always."
They say your high school years are the best of your life and that you learn things there that you'll use in your future. For me, high school always felt like my holding pattern; that it was the place I went while I was awaiting my own forever. I didn't expect that the biggest thing I would learn was about the person I am under my skin, and that my teacher would be my own eternity—the floppy-haired, boot-wearing boy who shared his music and showed me his heart.
A/N: The song that prompts Bella to buy the album in the record store is Awaiting Eternity by the Rose Chronicles, from the album Shiver. You can find it on YouTube if you're curious.