Hello! Thank you for your reviews. Sorry for the lapse of time between updates…it's that RL crap that gets ya every time.

SMeyer owns. I don't infringe.

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9. Memorial Dayz

##

EDWARD

By questioning nearly all of the residents of our little town, I was able to find Bella in the Town Hall learning how to make paper flowers from Sadie Smith. Brady was sweeping the floor since all of the chairs had been moved against the walls, and I noticed he didn't take his eyes off of her.

I walked over to where the women were working and saw Sadie smile. "Mr. Edward, Bella has a knack."

The paper flowers were only outdone by the real flowers in a large tub next to where Bella was standing. There were several bouquets wrapped in plastic which identified them as having been purchased from Emily Uley's flower shop, "Yours Truly by Uley."

"I'm sure Bella can do anything she sets her mind to, Mrs. Smith. Those flowers are nice. Are they for arrangements?" I asked.

Sadie laughed. "They're from beaus…or men who want to be beaus. Bella has a full dance card tonight, Mr. Edward." She walked away laughing, so I turned my attention to the lady herself.

"Seems you've caught a lot of attention, Miss Swan."

She turned to look at me for the first time, and she was quite pissed off. "Yes, well, it seems some men know how to actually ask a girl on a date. If you'll excuse me, Mr. Mayor, I believe your mother was looking for you."

She turned without another word and walked away. Fuckfuckfuckfuck! I was an idiot. I'd taken for granted she'd go with me, and I'd neglected to properly ask her. That wasn't good at all.

I felt a peck on my shoulder, turning to see my sister with a smirk on her face. "You screwed up, didn't you?"

God, not the person I wanted to deal with at all. "Who are those from?" I pointed to the bucket of flowers and saw my sister laugh.

"Well, Jacob Black, Paul Sanders, Embry Call, Waylon actually spent money and bought her a bouquet. I've been in and out all day, but she's not gone unnoticed, no matter how much you try to keep her hidden at the cabin. I'm not trying to be a bitch, brother dear, but you're out of practice. I'd guess Bella Swan made it easy for you in the beginning, but you didn't take advantage of the situation as you should have. Now, she's got options. Why you didn't think to ask her…"

My sister danced off to direct Irina Miller regarding placement of the table cloth where the baked goods would be displayed for the cake walk.

I walked back outside and down the street to observe how things were going, mentally kicking my own ass. Jealousy…a new emotion…was coursing through my veins, but it was my own fault for not thinking things through and doing what should have been instinctual.

As Alice had so astutely pointed out, I was out of practice in dealing with members of the opposite sex. In that moment, I actually wondered how the hell I had ever landed my wife in the first place.

As I climbed a ladder to hang the red, white, and blue streamers between the lampposts along the town square, I heard my name called so I looked down to see Ben Cheney, our one-man news source, pointing a camera at me. After he took the picture, I climbed down because I had a question for Ben.

"Mr. Mayor, do you have a quote for me?"

"Same as always. Looking forward to the festivities which honor our fallen heroes. I'm not downplaying the importance of this at all, but I've got a question, and this shit better not end up in the paper," I stated firmly.

"I'm just teasing you, Edward," Ben responded as he dropped his camera, pulling his glasses back onto his face.

"I didn't get to read the paper this morning. Was Bella Swan in the Police Blotter?"

"Ah, speeding, resisting arrest, assault of an officer? No. I didn't include it, but it doesn't matter. Everyone knows what happened. I just didn't see the need to include the charges in the paper. If she can get her record expunged, I didn't think there needed to be anything in print to commemorate the event. I like Charlie, and I think Waylon over-reacted, but that's not really anything new, is it?"

"Thanks, Ben. So, um, here's your quote. I'm proud of the citizens of Evening Shade for their unfailing support of our men and women in uniform. We're a small community, but we are proud of our fallen heroes and our missing residents who are giving service to country. We will continue to support our young men and women, and we hope they can feel our prayers and support wherever they are in the world. God Bless America, and God Bless Evening Shade."

He scribbled everything in a little pad and smiled at me. "I think that's the best one since you've been in office. Your term is up next year. Are you planning to run again?"

I thought about it for a minute, knowing it was expected of me, but one thing had come up I'd never considered. If I truly felt in my heart about Bella Swan the way I believed, I might not be around to run again. I wouldn't send the town into a panic, so I responded, "Ask me again on June 17."

He nodded, and I climbed back up the ladder to finish my job. After the decorations were in place, I talked to Jasper regarding the parade and what time I had to show up…after church…and what I had to do.

"It seems a red BMW convertible has been offered to chauffer the Grand Marshal during the parade. It's parked over at the school where it will be decorated this evening, awaiting your arrival at one o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Good luck, buddy." He walked away laughing, and I guess from his seat, he had every right. If he was in my shoes, I'd be laughing at him as well. From the outside, it was pretty funny. From the inside, it royally sucked.

##

I pulled on the navy sport coat and looked at myself again. I tried to tame the hair, but it was futile, so I adjusted my shirt and slacks, trying to decide if the khakis were the right thing to wear. I knew a suit wasn't the right thing because I'd have to wear one the next day, but the dance was supposed to be sort of casual. In year's past, I'd worn the same thing…khakis and a sport coat with a white shirt. Why I was questioning myself, I wasn't sure.

I heard the front door open and ducked out of my bedroom to see Alice standing there with a smirk on her face. "Time to change things up, Big Brother."

She walked into my closet, pulled out jeans, a grey t-shirt, and a black sport coat. After she brushed it off, she ordered, "Change." She slammed the bedroom door as she left while I envisaged her suggestion.

If every single man in town was after the girl I wanted for myself, it was definitely time to change up my game. I quickly dressed, seeing it wasn't entirely an uncomfortable choice, and after I buckled my belt and slipped on black loafers, I walked out into the living room, seeing my sister sitting on my couch filing her nails.

"So?" I asked as I turned around.

"Much better. Come on. It's time to go claim your girl."

Alice led me out of the house to her Durango, determining she'd drive me, and for the first time in a long time, I was nervous. I hadn't tried to win a woman's heart since…for a long time. At my age, I couldn't even remember how I did it the first time.

My sister, however, seemed to have a handle on it. "Look, Sami was…well, she was a lot like me. She set her cap for you, and she wouldn't be deterred. I did the same thing with Jasper, Edward. You didn't pursue Sami. She pursued you. This time, you're actually going to have to put forth an effort if you want the girl."

I looked at her and I didn't buy it. "Alice, that's not true. I pursued Samantha."

"Who asked whom on the first date?"

I remembered the accident, and the dinner invitation had been at Sami's urging, to which I readily agreed.

"Yeah, but I asked her out after that," I defended.

"Who took who home the first time?"

"Well, her parents lived in Chicago, so it was only natural that I'd meet her parents first."

"If she hadn't asked, would you have suggested the visit?"

I thought about it, and the answer was no. I'd have never suggested she take me home for Thanksgiving to meet her Chicago blue-blood family. I'd probably not have stayed in Chicago if she didn't have commitments there.

"Get to a point, Alice," I demanded.

"Well, Sami knew what she wanted and you went along with it. I'm not saying that's wrong, Edward. You know what you want, and you want Bella Swan to stay here in Evening Shade, but you're not willing to give her a reason to stay. If you don't let her know your desire for her to be more than just the daughter of your friend, she's going to pack up her red convertible and leave town in three weeks. For once in your life, you're going to have to pursue a girl. I know it's a foreign concept, but for a girl like Bella Swan, you're going to have to do the work."

I knew she was right. Things with Sami were easy. I listened to her every suggestion and went along with them, not sorry at all. It was easy. There was nothing about Bella Swan that was going to be easy, but my gut told me it would be worth it. In the end, I was sure it would be worth it.

##

I walked into the Town Hall and looked around with one target in mind. I greeted friends as they approached me, but I was searching for one person in particular as I looked around the room, and when I saw her in the corner holding Lizzy as she laughed with Rosalie, I was nearly floored. I saw no one else around them. I saw Bella Swan holding a baby with my friend talking to her, and I felt my heart jump.

I excused myself from a stupid discussion with Taylor Jones regarding the stoplight controversy which was an ongoing issue for six months. He owned a hardware store at the end of First Street, and he wanted a stoplight there because he believed it would draw more business. I believed he was crazy as shit, but I told him I'd take it into consideration as I walked over to where Bella stood with Lizzy McCarty in her arms, dancing to the music over the speakers. The band was setting up, but there was music playing, and her hips had me mesmerized as they swayed to the beat of a CD.

As I slowly approached Bella, I hoped I had at least the amount of charm my father had in his little finger. It was definitely going to take the Cullen charm to move the lady forward in a relationship with me.

##

BELLA

"What are you planning to wear to the dance tonight?" Alice asked as we organized drinks and snacks in the kitchen of the town hall that afternoon. People had been dropping off food for a while, and she'd asked me if I'd help her organize it so it could be easily accessible during the dance. I truly enjoyed Alice's company, so I decided I didn't mind.

"I'm not going to the dance," I informed her as I began placing mini pizzas on a baking sheet for later. Apparently, Esme Cullen and Liz McCarty were going to handle the food during the dance, but we promised we'd make it easy for them.

"Why?" Alice asked as all work stopped.

"Because four men asked me, and none of them were…because I don't want to be the talk of the town again. I'm going to stay home with Lovey and read. Now that I have my car back, I'll be available for DD duty, so if anyone needs a ride, you can call me and I'll come get them, but that's about as much as I'm prepared to do."

"Hey, can we use your car in the parade tomorrow? Actually, I sort of already told some people we could," Alice remarked sheepishly.

"My car? Fine. What time? It's on the parking lot behind the bookstore because your brother took me home last night, remember?"

"Jasper will come by and pick it up. It needs to go to the school so it can be decorated…just some crepe paper and a flag. No damage, I swear." I nodded and reached into my pocket, tossing her my keys. I'd ridden with Gran, so I was sure someone would give me a ride to the cabin.

"Please come to the dance. It's really a lot of fun, and you haven't met some of our most colorful residents. I hired a band from Omaha, and they're really good. Rosalie has a great dress that would work. She's not back in her old clothes yet, so she won't be wearing it. It would definitely drive the single guys in town insane."

She was so convincing I almost gave in until she mentioned all the single guys in town, reminding myself I already had a reputation to live down…well, in my father's eyes. The last thing he'd want to see would be me being passed around from guy to guy like a hot potato. It was better for me if I stayed out of sight.

"Alice, I'm only in town for three more weeks. Then, I'll be nothing more than a cringe-worthy memory for my father of the time his little girl came to town and disgraced him. It's better if I don't show. Thank you for asking, but I think everyone will have a lot more fun if I'm not around as a wet blanket."

"That everyone…you're talking about my brother, aren't you?" She had a smirk on her face which made me uncomfortable.

"I'm not talking about any one man. I have no intentions of leading any of these men on, so me not being here is a smart thing. They've been eyeing me like prime rib all day, and I don't feel really comfortable about it."

"Edward didn't ask you to come with him, did he?" She seemed disappointed.

I place the tray of pizzas in the large fridge and moved on to some sort of puff pastry things. If I looked up, she'd see the disappointment in my face, and I really didn't want her to make more of it. Yes, I'd have liked it if he'd asked, but he didn't, so it was fine.

"Bella, you have to understand he's not used to pursuing a woman. This dance is the same for him every year. He'll show up in khaki slacks, a pressed, white shirt, and a navy sport coat. He'll dance with Emma, Fern, Mom, May…all the harmless older women in town. He'll fight off the inappropriate advances by Tanya Miller, Jessica Newton if she and Mike are separated again, and then he'll grab me or Rosalie to help him out. He and your dad will duck into Edward's office here at the Hall because your dad will be hiding from Aunt Liz, and they'll play Gin Rummy until it's time to clean up and go home. It's time for a change."

Before I really knew what was happening, I was in Rosalie and Emmett's bedroom in my bra and panties with my hair in hot rollers while Alice applied make-up as Rosalie back-seat instructed from the bed where she was feeding her daughter.

After I was dressed in a gorgeous lavender and eggplant block print jersey knit wrap dress with three-quarter sleeves and a lot of my boobs hanging out, I changed Lizzy into an adorable outfit while Alice went home to get dressed. Rosalie was busy getting herself ready and had instructed that once Lizzy was dressed, I should put her in the swing in the living room and help myself to a glass of wine.

I was watching a show on penguins when Emmett Everyman came bounding in. Stealth…the guy wasn't. "Rosie! Rosalie!" I glanced at the swing seeing little Lizzy was still out like a light, which was truly remarkable considering the level of his shouts.

"She's getting dressed, Judge Roy Bean," I informed sarcastically. When he saw me sitting on the couch, he laughed.

"Ah, how's Thelma? Actually, you're probably Louise?" He was a funny guy, and I couldn't keep from laughing.

"Which one shot the guy?" I joked in response.

"That would be Louise. You look quite lovely, Miss Swan-Decklan. I'd say Waylon will have the first erection of his life when he sees you," Emmett teased. I laughed, but I was pretty sure he was correct on that count.

"He did ask me to save him a dance." We both laughed at the idea of Waylon actually dancing.

"I think he'll have a little competition tonight. So, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get changed. Help yourself to more wine. Alcohol isn't a prohibition under your sentence. I'll be back." He hurried down the hallway, and I refilled my glass.

Thirty minutes later, we were at the Town Hall. Emmett opened the car doors for Rosalie and me before he rescued little Lizzy from her car seat, grabbing the diaper bag. Anyone with two eyes could see he was a devoted father.

When we walked inside, I wasn't thrilled to see my father and grandmother at the ticket table. I took a deep breath, not at all ready to deal with my dad. I was sure he'd have something to say regarding my appearance and my mere presence, but my grandmother had a huge smile on her face, so I hoped she'd yank his ear if he was mean.

"Bells, you look nice. I didn't know you were coming," Dad commented as I handed him my money and he stamped my hand.

"Thanks, Dad. Hi, Gran. How're sales for the cakewalk?" I asked as I handed her a five to buy tickets.

"Good. If you don't win something, you come over next week for supper and I'll make you anything you'd like. Hell, if you do win, come over. Charles, you're not busy next Tuesday night. You can come and have dinner with your daughter and me." I knew it wasn't a request, and I could tell he knew it too.

"Sure, Gran. I'll talk to you about it inside," I responded as I walked into the Hall. It looked really nice with twinkle lights and streamers hanging from the ceiling. There were balloons and flags, and there was a band on the stage setting up. A few people were busily putting finishing touches on things, including Esme Cullen and Liz McCarty.

I turned to Rosalie and Emmett. "I'll go see if they need any help in the kitchen," I suggested, eager to get out of the main room and hide somewhere.

Rosalie grabbed my hand. "Oh, no you don't. You're going to stay right here. I want you front and center when Edward shows up. He was stupid enough not to ask you for a date, and you're going to give him a reminder of what happens when one drags their feet or takes something for granted."

Emmett handed Rosalie the baby and disappeared, leaving the two of us standing off to the side. Just as I was about to ask her where she was from, Jacob Black walked up to where we stood. "Ladies, it's good to see you. Bella, I'm here to ask for the first dance," he announced as he looked me up and down.

"She'll look for you. Buzz off," Rosalie ordered. It was then I noticed he couldn't take his eyes off my cleavage.

After Jacob walked away, I let out a nervous breath. "He's harmless, or he will be if he values his job. Incoming," Rosalie whispered as another guy walked up.

"Rosalie, Bella, nice to see you again. I'll assume Jake got the first dance, but I'd like the second," Paul Sanders requested. I felt like a new toy at a nursery school. Well, my boobs were the new toys because he wasn't looking me in the eye either.

"Beat it," Rosalie ordered.

"Give me that baby, please. I knew this dress was too fucking low cut," I complained, taking Lizzy from her mother who was laughing heartily.

I was busy gazing at the little bundle in my arms when I heard Rosalie whistle quietly. I looked up to see The Honorable Edward Cullen looking so fucking sexy I nearly swooned. He walked over to where the two of us…well, three if you counted the baby I was holding…were standing. He had a bright smile on his face as he looked into my eyes, and it seemed he was happy to see me there.

"Bella, I'm glad you came. I made a huge…" Before he could finish his sentence, Rosalie pulled the baby from my arms and walked away. I looked up to see his eyes glance at my chest and a look of concern replace his previous smile.

"Um…" I've never really been accused of being articulate…

"Damn, you look amazing. I fucked up by not…"

"Bella, I hope you're going to save me that dance I asked for earlier," I heard from behind. I saw Edward's head snap up and a frown appear.

"Deputy, I believe Miss Swan's dance card is full," Edward informed Waylon as he walked up to us and stood next to me. The smell of 'Aquavelva' wafted in the air, nearly choking me, but I was able to hold it together.

"Mr. Mayor, Miss Swan already promised me a dance this afternoon. I believe we got off on the wrong foot, and I'd like the opportunity to make a better impression on the young lady," Waylon announced. I took in his appearance and immediately wished I hadn't.

He was wearing a sage green polyester suit with a tan shirt and brown tie. He actually looked like a tree, if I was being honest. His hair was slicked over to the side with gel, I guessed, and he appeared quite nervous. Emmett's comment from earlier caused me to want to giggle, but I just couldn't be mean to the guy. He was trying so hard, and he was really sweet about everything, even though he was the reason I was stuck in the damn place.

"I did promise you a dance, but I'm afraid it will be number three. I've already promised the first two songs. I look forward to it. How's your shin, by the way? I didn't do any lasting damage, did I?" I kinda felt bad about kicking him, but at the time, I thought I had something to worry about.

He pulled up his pant leg and shoved down his white tube sock to show me the small red spot where I'd kicked him. "Good as new. I'll come find you." He walked away without releasing his pants, and I heard Edward chuckle next to me.

"Clearly, I'm not going to get to finish a sentence. Come with me." He took my hand and quickly led me out a side door and down a hallway. He flipped on a light in a small office and closed the door, locking it. I pulled my hand from his and crossed my arms over my chest, taking in the room.

There was an American flag on one side of a large leather chair with the Nebraska state flag on the other. There were two book cases, and a large oak desk with two chairs in front of it. At the front of the desk, there was a brass nameplate which read, "Mayor."

I turned to look at him, seeing he was sort of wringing his hands nervously. "So, this is your office? Why does your nameplate just say 'Mayor'?"

He grinned and walked over to the desk, picking it up and handing it to me. The brass plate was affixed to a triangular wedge of oak. He flipped it over and showed me the brass plate on the other side.

"The man who carries the yoke of responsibility isn't as important as the yoke he carries. EMC"

I looked at him for clarification. "I'm named after my grandfather. The nameplate was a gift from my grandmother. He always said the job was more important than the man. That nameplate has been on this desk for more years than my father's been alive."

"How many Cullens have held the office of Mayor here in Evening Shade?"

"Well, we're all expected to do our time…I mean, serve in office, but it hasn't always been a Cullen behind the desk. Emmett's father was the mayor between two of my father's terms before I came back to town. My mother even served a term. If I don't run again, either Jasper or Emmett will likely take my place. No one else outside the family seems to want to run, so we do what we can," he answered.

I nodded in understanding. He was committed to his family and the town, of that much I was sure. At least he had a large family and a town full of people who cared about him. I was completely envious of his position. It must be lovely to have that many people care about you.

"So, you had a sentence to finish?" I reminded.

He swallowed deeply and looked around the room a bit. "I fucked up."

He certainly had my attention. "How so?"

"I should have asked you to come with me as my date. I'm a complete idiot, and I've messed this up, but Bella, you have to know I'm attracted to you. Hell, Thursday night, I mauled you on the couch. You look absolutely incredible tonight, and why I simply assumed you'd know I wanted you to come with me without actually saying the words was stupid. I realize I'll be fighting for your attention all evening, but I truly hope there's room for me on your virtual dance card."

I felt a little relieved that he wanted to dance with me because I was worried he didn't want to be tied down with a date at the dance. The fact he felt like he'd made a mistake by not asking me to come with him to the dance as his date made me unreasonably happy.

"I'll see if I can fit you in, Mr. Mayor. Aren't you omnipotent? Can't you just make a mayoral proclamation and claim all my dances?" I teased.

He laughed as he took my hand and pulled me closer, wrapping his arms around my waist. "If I was the Wizard of Oz, I'd have known the smart thing to do would have been to ask you for a date tonight. Now, tomorrow is the parade and the Festival. I've got a few things that require my attention, but I'd like you to be my date, if you're so inclined."

"What, um, what are you expected to do?" I asked.

"Well, church in the morning. Then there's the parade. After which, I place a wreath at the memorial marker in the square. Then, I cut the ribbon tomorrow evening at six to open the celebration. There are food booths and craft booths which have started setting up today over at Shady Park and around the square. Then, on Monday at sunset, there are the fireworks. I realize it's a bit busy, but will you please be my date?"

He was so sweet about it, I couldn't say no. "I'd love to be your date. You're very handsome, Mr. Mayor," I informed as I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him down to me.

When his lips brushed against mine, I felt a bolt of lightning shoot through my whole body. My hands wound in his hair so he couldn't get away, and when his tongue softly swept over my lips, I opened my mouth to feel his kiss intensify. I remembered the sensation from Thursday night, and I welcomed it again.

When we pulled away from each other, hearing the music beginning to play, I truly wished we had more time. "I guess I should get the belle of the ball out to fulfill her responsibilities," he teased as he hugged me tightly once again.

"I'll save a dance for you, Your Honor."

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Thank you for reading.

Till next time…xoxo