A/N: Thank you. I don't know how I get some of the best readers in the fandom, but I do, and I'm grateful to all of you.
Word Prompts: Sidewalk, sidestep, sideways
Edward did go back to Forks. To pack his belongings and to get Biter.
He moved in to a sixth floor apartment of an eight-floor, dog-friendly building. Alone.
After they'd made love and laughed and slept that night Edward showed up out of the blue with his question, when the fog of excitement started to clear as the sun shone bright through the two windows, they had to think realistically.
Realistically, they had to think of Rose, and Bella had to tell her dad about her plans.
Bella had decided not to move in with Edward until the end of the semester.
Rose, instead of being assigned some random roommate, had the time to arrange for a friend of hers to move in with her. Another plant science major.
Rose said she was happy for Bella and Edward, calling Bella her sister.
Still, when it was time for Bella to go, Rose hugged her long and rocking and teary-eyed.
The apartment Bella and Edward chose has dark honey wood floors, a brick wall on one side, and all the other walls white. Whenever they're home together, Bella's small shoes can be found next to Edward's big ones on the floor by the edge of their sofa.
Across from the sofa, on the brick wall, is the rocking chair and the red piano with the framed print of Thelonious Monk above it. To the left is the open kitchen. To the right, the rooms: Edward and Bella's, and the one Edward turned into a music studio. There isn't a hallway.
She's lying on her back on the bed, her head by Edward's feet and her feet by his shoulder. His arm is between her knees. his hand gripping her thigh as he reads, as she studies. His fingers brush back and forth on her skin and she looks up reminding herself where she is. She's here. At home.
They have a favorite view and a favorite market and a favorite coffee shop that serves their favorite crepes. There are better views and markets and coffee shops with better crepes, but those are not theirs.
Their market is three blocks away. Their coffee shop is five buildings away. And their view is right off their balcony off their kitchen, beyond the deep sienna curtains Bella had picked out, the color of a sunset. Below is a tree-filled, plant-filled courtyard, another apartment building across. If she stands in the corner of the balcony on her toes, she can see the edge of blue or gray water, its color dependent on the sky.
They also have a favorite music store. The one where Edward works again, teaching lessons in the back—piano and guitar—in between composing jobs.
When they walk Biter, it's no longer through the woods or along the lake. The trees have been replaced by buildings and strangers, the dirt by sidewalk and the lake by the Puget Sound—and instead of a walk away, the closest body of water is a car ride away.
But the walks themselves are very similar. Biter wanting to be slightly in front, but not pulling the slack all the way out of the leash. The backs of their hands brush against each other, and then they're holding hands, and then Bella's hugging Edward's arm, her head resting against his bicep. And above them today, the sun is shining in winter.
The first time Bella's dad came to visit it was awkward. He wasn't happy with his daughter, nineteen, living with her boyfriend. Only one bed in the apartment.
Bella had gone to a lot of trouble to cook for her dad, and there he was making her feel like she was playing house.
"I'm an adult," she said at the dinner table over the stir fry she'd cooked, and it sounded like the most childish thing she'd said since she moved out of the house.
"Barely. You're still young."
Bella glanced across the table at Edward. His eyes were rounded, not surprised, not shocked, but also not projecting the confidence she hoped to see. And that was all right because if she was trying to prove she can depend on herself, she should probably do just that, depend on herself.
"Dad," she said, her young eyes staring into his not-so-young eyes. It had taken her a long time to get there, to trust herself, if that's what she was doing. Maybe she wasn't, not one hundred percent, because she felt the fear that shook her voice. "Please don't try to make me doubt my choices."
His face softened and he tilted his head at her. "I think trying to keep a daughter from growing up is a father's job." He placed his hand over the back of her fist on the table. Her hand may have been in his, but her life wasn't. "If this is what you want..." He sighed, a sort of reluctant acceptance.
"It's what I want."
After the kitchen was clean and her dad had left for his hotel, Bella stood looking at her three framed drawings hanging above the sofa. One was of the lake, the dock, the fishing boat, another was of the island as seen from across the shore, and the third was the one of the rock and the few trees surrounding it. They were Edward and Bella's old places now hanging in their new place.
She felt Edward's hands capturing her hair, twisting it at the base of her neck and then letting it go as he kissed a path to her shoulder, curving one arm around her middle. He held her close against him.
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Yes," he said without questioning what she meant. He turned her around to face him. "I've never lived with a girlfriend before because I've never wanted to. I'm sure."
She stopped herself from asking him "What if?" What if it doesn't work out? She knew the answer. If it didn't work out, at least they had this beautiful time together.
And he was sure. So what was there to be so afraid of? What comes after today? Tomorrow. And then another tomorrow. And if tomorrow she still wants the same thing she wants today there's nothing to be afraid of.
"It's you and me, Bella." He led her to their small bathroom. Just a narrow cabinet and sink, a toilet, a bathtub shower.
She likes the way the whole tiny room smells like toothpaste for hours after they brush their teeth.
Many tomorrows have passed since then, a month of tomorrows, and she still wants to be exactly where she is.
She loves sleeping all night with Edward and waking up with him in the morning. She also loves waking up in the middle of the night, at times unsure of where she is. Sometimes she's back in her childhood bed in Forks. Sometimes she's back in the dorm. But she's only disoriented until she feels Edward next to her, lying on his stomach. She climbs over him and stretches out flat along the back of him. He reaches around and grabs at her calf before he turns her over, inching himself between her legs, kissing her.
Laughing, she kisses him back. Later, before the sun comes up, they whisper to each other as if anyone else is around to hear them.
They're living together in the present and making plans together for the future. In the summer, a trip: California or Mexico or Canada, they're trying to decide. And it's all in whispers, like secrets, even though they're not.
It's another sunny day, the second in a row, and this won't last long, not in February.
Bella's at the kitchen table studying, drinking flat coke over ice when Edward comes home from his last lesson of the day, his tie hanging loose.
Biter's paws tap against the wood as he runs, tail whipping, to Edward. He pets the dog and leans down to kiss Bella.
"Hi," he says.
At the corner of the sofa, he toes off his shoes, leaving them next to Bella's. And then he's at the piano playing something new.
"What's that for?" she asks, wondering if he has a new project. She recognizes her chord progression in the mix.
She listens closer. It isn't somber. It isn't exactly perky, but it definitely is not depressing, nothing about it. She closes her eyes. And even though she can't see Edward, and with most of the apartment separating them, she's never felt closer to anyone else. She never wants to feel this close to anyone else.
She learned once how something outside of her can make every part inside of her hurt. And now she knows that it's also possible to have nothing hurt at all. How a person can feel good, tingly, without being physically touched.
She walks over to Edward and puts her arms around his neck, crossing her wrists over his heart, kissing the back of his neck and behind his ear.
His fingers slow over the keys but don't falter.
"When did you compose this?"
"Still composing it. Work in progress."
Biter joins them.
With Bella hanging over Edward's back and Biter's chin resting on the piano bench, Edward continues to play. Bella is overcome by an emotion that makes her smile for no reason she can point to.
In the next second the music has stopped and Edward is pulling her around onto his lap, and bending her backwards over the bench, leaning over her until she screeches and Biter barks. Edward and Bella laugh, their lips touching.
And it's moments like this: when the winter sun is stronger through the window than it should be, as your boyfriend is holding you backwards in a position you can't get out of without landing on your head, and he's kissing you while laughing, and the dog is barking, and the piano is still resonating the last key of your own song because his foot is clamped down on the pedal, and it doesn't matter if you're a kid or an adult or something in between; it's moments like this—carefree—when for just a second or two it seems everything in your life that got you to this place right here, right now, in your bare feet, with your empty little shoes next to the empty big shoes by the shared sofa in the shared apartment in the shared life, was worth it.