A/N: Hey everyone, IReen here. Someone very special to me is having a birthday this weekend. She's creative, she's kind, she's magical. She's BelieveItOrNot, and if you see her around, wish her a good one. Happy Birthday Believey - you're wonderful. I hope your birthday is too.

And to our readers, thank you. Have a wonderful weekend. Be safe.

Chapter 4

"Edward likes numbers. His best friend can barely count. This Haiku is lame."

He smiled.

"Hey. You didn't laugh." She slugged him on the arm and he flinched back, though her punch didn't hurt. Her arms were skinny, all of her was skinny. The backpack she wore looked far too heavy for her, hanging low, straps strained by all the stuff she'd crammed inside: schoolbooks, her walkman, a half-eaten lunch. Her report card was also somewhere in that mess, bearing a note from Mrs. Lester about her attention span. Edward knew she'd been putting off giving it to Esme for four days now

He didn't know why she worried. Esme would tell her to try her best, that grades weren't everything. She told Bella all the time that success was contingent on imagination and determination. Then she would pull Edward aside when Bella wasn't looking and qualify that statement.

"That's true for Bella, Edward. You know that doesn't apply to you, don't you?"

He nodded.

"You, Edward, you should always aspire for, and expect, straight A's. It's different for you. You're a problem solver, and you have eyes like a hawk. You take everything in." She grinned, her eyes widening and darting around as if to show him how he takes it all in. "God gave you brains. Use them."

"I will, Esme."

"Now, don't misunderstand. Bella isn't stupid. She's just... a different kind of smart."

"I know that."

"I know you do."

She asked for his report card when Bella finally turned in hers. Edward secretly cherished those moments; staying composed, nodding yes and saying "thank you" when she commented on his marks. She even read the teacher comments, beaming at him like he was hers as much as Bella was.

"A joy to teach," she read. "Well. Of course you are."

Bella peeked over his shoulder, smiled at him with not a speck of envy, sharing in her grandmother's praise. "Wow, Edward. How do you get over a four point oh?"

"Extra credit."

"I got an A in P.E., Gram. Did you see?"

Esme always saw.

On Christmas Edward would open gifts of a graphing calculator or a book on the origins of Geometry. Bella would open hers. Modeling clay, gesso, CDs. It was obvious to Esme, and to both of them, the ways in which they were different. But there were areas where their talents overlapped and blurred together.

The construction of Rube Goldberg machines, usually undertaken during school breaks and consuming Bella's bedroom to the extent that she would have to sleep on the couch for days. They would argue. They would scheme. They would only take the contraption apart after their victory hug when the golf-ball, let loose from the cup, didn't deviate from the path designed for it, successfully setting off the chain reaction that resulted in perfectly browned toast on the other end.

Silly little haikus, some of them nonsensical and not worth saving. But others, Edward had remembered, had written down to keep. Sometimes inside of a book or on the back of a movie ticket.

Red, Orange, Blue, Green

Edward only knows half these

He knows other things.

As a preschooler, Edward understood numbers the way he knew how to spell his own name. At seven, he was drawn to the challenge of long division. On his small lap chalkboard he'd work and work at a problem until he figured it out. He liked the way his problem resembled a tower built of chalk from the sky down. He liked how the division symbol he drew looked like a house, and he pretended the dividends were people who lived inside the house, and the divisors were people who lived outside the house, and the quotients were people who lived on the roof. Those people on the roof were best. They were the answers.

He knew, early on in life, that there were not many exact answers. Math, it was something that was exact. It either was or it wasn't. As he moved up in grades and math started to get more complicated, he found he preferred it when the answer was more obscure, like a secret language. The ones that went twelve plus seven equals seven plus twelve. And even harder: forty-seven minus eighteen times two equals twenty-five times two plus eight.

Numbers. They were his, all ten of them that went on infinitely. And the only way to understand time was through numbers. It all made perfect sense. He didn't feel smart the way teachers and kids told him he was. He was just Edward. Good with numbers. Good with facts.

Colors were the hard part. They were vaporous. And they overlapped too much. But even the kids who couldn't add understood colors. He was laughed at in kindergarten because he couldn't find pink unless it had a picture to go with it. He could find the green frog next to the red apple, for instance, but not the green circle. Not when it was next to the red circle or the orange circle or the pink circle.

Bella had been the first one to put words to it.

You're color-blind, Edward. Aren't you?

They'd been sitting on her lawn, the rough cut grass poking at his knees until they itched, when Bella had called to the neighbor's cat, Rufus. Edward looked the direction she was looking, asking, "Where is he?"

"There." She pointed. "Right under Gram's crape myrtle there."

Rufus stood and stretched and Edward had laughed. "Funny, how he was camouflaged. I didn't even see him."

Bella had looked at him, her head cocked to one side, snarled brown hair puddling on her slim seven-year-old shoulder. "You didn't see him 'til he moved? He's orange, Edward. The grass is green."

The feeling making his cheeks and neck flush wasn't precisely embarrassment. It was frustration in part, and the raw exposure. He knew he didn't see the world the same way others saw it. That was apparent with every 64-count box of crayons he'd ever owned. How fancy labels like "Groovy Grape" and "Deep Sapphire" only confused him. The instructions would call for blue or pink or red, and he would have to sort through half the box before he found a crayon so simply labeled.

His parents didn't notice. Or didn't care.

He didn't care that they didn't. But Bella...

"You're color-blind, Edward. Aren't you?"

Her voice was wondrous, like being colorblind was akin to being from a different planet. And maybe it was.

She bent her head the other way. "That explains your shirts."

He'd looked down at himself. "What's wrong with my shirt?"

"It's green, for one thing. And your thermal's orange." She shrugged. "You clash."

They looked the same to him; only the shirt appeared deeper in shade than the thermal.

He met Bella's gaze again and shrugged. What else could he do?

She had clucked her tongue at him and smiled. "I guess you aren't perfect, after all."

That made it okay. Because she had thought he was.

"I think you are," she says now.

He looks away from the road, slowing at the intersection of Ashby and Deakin. "What?"

She rolls her eyes. "Did you hear anything I said?"

"Sorry. I... my mind was wandering."

"I said that I read an article that talked about how super intelligent people are sometimes bad drivers. Because they don't pay enough attention. But then I said that I thought that didn't apply to you. But I take it back... because you definitely weren't paying attention."

"Not to you, maybe. I was watching the road."

"Right," her eyebrows perk up, emphasizing her sarcasm.

"Why don't you drive?"

"I never needed to."

"But you learned?"

"No, Edward. Like I said. I didn't need to. I can bike to Jake's in ten minutes. The Co-op in three."

"What about, like... road trips or just taking off? Going somewhere." Edward's mind would have disintegrated years ago if not for the freedom his car brought him.

"Well... there's BART."

"No. I mean. Away from this whole area."

She looks mystified. "Where would I go?"

He pulls the car to a stop under the weeping elm, shifts into first and pulls the e-brake before twisting the key and killing the ignition.

"I don't know. But the world is a big place." He turns a little, looking at her. She's looking out her window, up at the square of light that is her dining room window.

"Yeah. My world is small though. And that's good. I travel all the time, just..." She faces him, wearing her secretive smile. "Unconventionally." Her voice rises an octave, her tempo quickening. "Anyway, if I were to travel, I'd go to the Louvre or check out the works of Gaudi in Barcelona or actually experience Carnevale in Venice. Driving won't get me to those places. Not from here."

The shadow of her thick bangs hides her left eye, the right one catching the gleam of a street lamp.

Bella looked over her shoulder, the scanty overhead light reflecting off her shining eyes. They glinted down at him, positioned as he was behind her, a few steps down.

Her thigh was right at his eye-level, and he raised his arm to touch it—to hold her, keep her from climbing out of his reach. The skin under his palm was decadently soft, the sweet sensuality of girl-skin—rich and enticing. He slid his hand up and around, emboldened by the look on her face, to seek the roundness of her backside.

He gained her step, wrapping his other hand about her waist and redirecting her, pressing her to the wall, capturing her mouth with his.

Not enough.

Edward cupped her jaw, holding her face still, kissing her. Turning his head to fully catch her mouth.

For an instant, through his lashes, he caught sight of her; her eyes were slits, rolling back. A plaintive sound purred from her throat. He tensed.

Too much. Mustn't look.

He felt her fingers at his belt, tugging, pulling him flush to her by the top of his jeans. He reached down, pushing her hand back.

Too much. Too close.


It was just a needy whisper of breath, and it tangled him mercilessly, tugging just under his breastbone.

"Yes, Bella?" He barely got the words out, lips brushing hers.

She turned boneless in his arms, sliding down the wall to sit on the step. He braced himself to help her up, looking down.

Her head was tipped back, eyes burning under heavy lids. She crawled her hands up the front of his jeans, as if in slow motion, as if taking stock of the shape of his legs under the material, until she reached his hips. Still looking at him, she pulled him to her, rubbing her face over the button-fly like a cat.

His arm gave way, folding against the wall, and he laid his head on his forearm, watching her.

"Edward," she said again, breathing hot breath against him.

Holy shit.

There was a loud banging from the foot of the stairs and Edward turned to see a cluster of guys passing, one of them snickering, "Woah-ho-hooooooh. She is fucked. Up."

Another, a guy in a green baseball cap, turned to him before disappearing around the corner, giving Edward a grin and an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

The gesture pulled Edward from his body, and he saw the two of them as if from afar: him towering over her, barely able to stand, while she couldn't make it up the stairs, her body loose and languorous in its movements.

Edward stepped back, the banister groaning as he leaned against it, the heat inside him draining away.

Maybe this isn't a good idea.

Bella rose and took his face between the heels of her hands, her fingertips barely breezing his skin. He couldn't meet her gaze, and she shook his face a little.

Their eyes met.

"Don't question this," she said. "Don't question this."

He lowered his gaze to her mouth, and then her lips were on his, hard and forceful. His head hit the wall. With a deep breath through his nose, he gave back, his hands at her waist, guiding her up, step by step, kiss by kiss. Tongues and fingers. Lips, teeth. Hers found his ear. She bit. He groaned.


The hatchback is a box; Bella seems so close. Closer somehow than when they touch. He feels every move she makes, every shift in her seat, as though she's moving against him.

He swallows and inhales through his nose, feeling the oxygen inflate his lungs.

He turns toward her.

She looks younger, the clumsy shadows in the car hiding an uneven-third of her face. The maturity that makes her a woman instead of a girl is gone, and it's as though he is looking at her essence. Looking at the girl he loved, with all the adult complications removed, his childhood best friend. The girl who would step in front of him when bullies called him a nerd, fearless despite being half their size. The girl who answered, "Pi?" every time he would try to talk her through a word problem. The girl whose few letters had remained unanswered in his desk drawer.

He'd tried.

She'd filled page after page of stationary, a soft gray paper printed with a charging unicorn in the corner that she'd picked out at Paper Heaven years before. She'd written—her penmanship always starting out very neat and getting sloppier and sloppier until it disintegrated entirely. He could make out the Write back soon! But only barely.

She had things to say. He hadn't.

On plain binder paper he'd tried. Even the address seemed formal.

Dear Bella...

All the things he felt, all the things he wanted to explain, he couldn't find words for any of it. Washington sucks didn't do justice to the loneliness of being in that isolated place where seventy-five percent of the population were loggers and their kids. I haven't really made any friends yet didn't remotely describe how ostracized he felt in his new school. Being new and smart did nothing to further his matriculation success.

I miss you.

Those words did not impart how desperately he was trying to find his new normal. How each day was a challenge of assimilation and acceptance.

My mom reeks of stale booze in the morning.

Something he craved to get off his chest, unknot from his lungs, but not in a letter, and not with Bella.

They had talked on the phone a couple of times, right after he'd moved, but after a few weird conversations it became apparent that their commonality had been their closeness. The time they shared and the people they dealt with together. Edward didn't want to talk about his new environment, his new life—and he found he didn't want to hear about her, his old life, either.

Her last few messages had gone unanswered. And she'd stopped calling.

Slowly he adjusted, until a time came when he didn't think of Berkeley, or Bella, or their yesterdays, except for occasionally. Running the calculus club, chairing the debate team, his after school job at the Port Angeles Barnes and Noble all provided enough occupation to distract him.

There had been a couple of girls even. Katie in high school, Jessie at U-dub. He'd liked them both—good natured, smart girls. Jessie had come the closest to love. They'd spent nights in each other's beds; they'd manipulated their schedules so they could share as many classes as possible.

Touching Jessie, holding her, feeling her long legs bend with his in the dark as he listened to the rain or the wind pummel the window, had become a natural part of his world. But it never morphed into love, no matter how much he'd expected it to or how much she'd hoped for it.

Something was missing.

He'd thought about Bella when he decided to apply at Berkeley, more so when his acceptance came in. He wondered what it would be like to see her again, if he would, what she would be like.

She'd changed. Maybe in the same ways he had changed, just growing older.

But she was also the same. What was between them was the same. Their connection—it was still there. And he'd realized what was missing from his relationships up to that point. The solid rightness he felt when with Bella. The ease bound up with need. The desire not simply for a body but for completion. The camaraderie they shared as kids stamped him with his expectation of what a partner should be. It took experiencing it again for him to realize that.

When they were kids he'd loved her. It was an open thing between them. An honest thing. That love. He knew she loved him in the same manner.

As an adult, it took mere minutes for that old love to reassert itself. It took a handful of weeks for that old love to broaden, shift into something else.

The shift actually began before he'd left.

The first time, they'd been lounging on the floor, backs propped against the couch, watching A Beautiful Mind on DVD. Esme had rented it for him and Bella had fallen asleep before the end, her head heavy on his shoulder. When he went to move her as the credits came up, she'd snuggled into him—something she'd done a thousand times—somehow different this time.

The things he thought about when he lay awake at night changed. No longer did he try to find the best comebacks, or play out pieces of fiction. He'd think about her closeness, about kissing her—though he was never able to figure out how the kissing would start.

It didn't. Not until she kissed him. Drunk.

She's looking at him, the car still and silent. How long has he been sitting here, just staring at her?

Her expression turns curious. "What's up?"

"Bella, I– " The words are creaky, rusting in his mouth. He wants to tell her he's sorry. For not writing. For not calling. For letting their friendship wither with the distance. He wants to tell her how she heats him up inside. Has always heated him up inside. He wants to confess his soul.

He exhales his long-held breath, the words he could use to express these sentiments all cheesy in his mind.

Before he can say anything more, Bella pulls the handle and climbs out, saying, "Come on... the pizza's getting cold."

After dinner, they head to Alice, where Bella plants herself in front of an old fashioned mirror in order to pluck her contact lenses from her eyes. She pops them in the case, sprays solution into the little cups until it slops over, before shoving her glasses onto her face. She pulls a stained apron over her head and ties it around her waist.

"I want to show you something," she says, and slides open the closet door. She points to a shelf filled with masks—smaller masks, little kid-sized masks.

"What do you think? I totally would have loved something like this when I was a kid. Totally reminds me of the ballroom scene in The Labyrinth. You know… remember?"

Her face is bright with enthusiasm and he nods. She was obsessed with that movie when they were young.

"What are you doing with them?"

Bella hands him an ornate mask with cheap gaudy jewels lining the eye openings, before turning to pull out another one, this one decorated with a fringe of peacock feathers.

"I'm going to sell them. On Telegraph. On Sunday. To kids," Bella says. "Hopefully. I usually don't do too bad."

Does this girl ever sit still? Thinking back to the Bella he knew as a kid—no, she didn't. She was always on the go, always scheming on some new project or prank.

"I don't go every weekend because I think. Well, I think I don't sell as much when I'm there all the time. Scarcity, you know?"

Edward smiles at her use of an actual economic principle. Though her use of it is somewhat of a stretch. "I do know."

Her smile gets bigger. "Anyway, I work on them in between other things. Little girls love them. Little boys too, actually." She runs her finger over the spotted leopard print of one creation, as if to indicate exactly what kind of masks the little boys buy.

"How much do you sell them for?"

"Well, it depends. That one is fifteen bucks."

He looks down at it. The design is simple, but it's well made. "That seems cheap. Does that cover your material costs?"

Her face flashes blank for a brief instant before she waves it away. "I get cheap supplies all over. I mean, I got the purple beads for that one at the hospice thrift store next to East Bay Convalescent Home. For fifty cents. So. Yeah. And besides, kids don't really have a lot of money."

"Their parents do. Strongest buying force in the world is the preteen girl. Their wants drive the economy."

"Really? I didn't know that. Makes sense, I guess." She puts on a contemplative look, pushing her glasses up with the back of her hand.

She puts the masks away and closes the closet door as Edward rearranges his books on the futon before sitting.

Squatting to fish around in a big clear Tupperware bin, she pulls out paint containers and sets them on the worktop. The inside of the tub is streaked with color. Drips coating the inside, still wet, smear her hands. Edward opens his Logical Status of Diagrams text and plugs his earbuds into his ears.

Mr. Carlisle barges in and finds Edward's legs. After a few rubs, he jumps up onto the futon and curls himself into a ball on Edward's lap.

"Fur all over me," he says, running his fingers through the cat's glossy coat.

"What are you listening to?" Bella tugs one of his earbuds out and, sitting beside him, she slips it into her ear. "Bob Dylan?"

Even closer than they'd been in the car, shoulder to shoulder, thigh against thigh, knee to knee, calf to calf, Edward breathes in her scent.

"Yeah.'" His voice comes out lower than he expected it to, and he clears his throat. "Paths of Victory." He adjusts himself on the cushion, putting some space between their bodies.

Mimicking Dylan's raspy, nasally voice, Bella sings along, getting some of the lyrics wrong. "Hm-hmm," she adds in place of words. "A one-way wind a-blowin' ...hm-hm-hmm... blowin' at my back..."

Edward laughs, but wouldn't mind recording her and listening to that sound as he studies instead. Her lips, normally slightly upturned at the corners, turn down as she tries to get the pitch right, making her look like the tragedy half of the Greek theatre masks. She smiles, morphing back into herself, looking again like the rosy-cheeked, uplifting half of the famous mask duo.

"Your taste in music is terrible."

"It's Bob Dylan," he says, as if that's the only explanation needed. "I don't know if you know, but he's probably written a ton of songs you like."

"That's fine. He can write whatever he wants. He just shouldn't sing them himself."

Edward scoffs, "You just can't appreciate the nuance in his use of language. His delivery and style. It's ironic."

"He sounds like he's gargling bees. And you sound like a music critic. Considering your major—I think you're out of your league. Music is art. My territory."

"Music is math, Bella. It's all math. Timing, synchronization, scales, harmonies. It's all ratios and equations and– "

"Feelings. Music is just feelings."

"Feelings. And math."

She flaps a hand at him and returns his earbud to his ear, her fingertips grazing his hairline, her breath hitting his face.

Is it hot in here?

His eyes close and he snaps his head away from her touch, a reflex. It seems she doesn't notice his discomfort, if that's what it is. He isn't sure what it is. He isn't so much uncomfortable as he is wanting to do things he shouldn't, like grip her arms and pull her to his lap. Press his mouth to hers. Or even just fucking hold her hand.

She's off, gathering more supplies and setting them up.

Bella had joked about distracting Edward with inane questions as he tried to study. But aside from the sounds of her stirring around in drawers and rummaging in a toolbox full of paintbrushes, she's silent. He finds he is distracted but not by anything she's saying to him. It's what she's doing.

It's as if Bella has opened a second, invisible door inside Alice and entered another dimension, one in which nothing else exists but her art.

She appears to be unaware that Edward's studying her instead of his text.

She lays a blank mask on top of an old-fashioned student desk; the kind of desk that has a lift-top for storage underneath. Edward has seen the inside of it and would call it an organized disaster. In a matter of seconds Bella can find anything she needs. Now she extricates a bottle of adhesive, pours some into a bowl and adds water from a nearby cup. She eyes closely everything she does, but measures nothing. After mixing it up with a paintbrush, she lays the brush aside. Liquid drips from the brush and pools onto the uncovered desktop.

"Ashes... ashes..." She taps her chin, her eyes searching the room. She plucks a plastic pencil sharpener off the shelf above her and sharpens a charcoal pencil over a miniature dish. She continues this until she has to flex her fingers as if they've cramped up.

She grabs a granite mortar from the dresser by the window, dumps the shavings into it and mashes with the pestle. The heavy tool makes a stony grinding sound.

She paints some of her adhesive concoction to the bottom edge of the mask and sprinkles the pencil shaving particles over it. She blows and waits, and then tilts the mask to release the excess, which she swipes to the floor with her fingers.

Pushing her glasses back, she leaves a dark smudge of coal on her cheek and temple.

On a shelf near Edward stands a line of small cans of spray-paint and Bella leans over him, absently resting her hand on his shoulder as she chooses the one labeled Metallic. Returning to her work, she gives the base of her mask a few quick blasts. With her brush, she blots at the paint, then sticks the end of the paint brush between her teeth. After giving the mask her once-over, she removes the brush from her lips the way one might remove a cigarette.

"Now smoke," she says, followed by a short laugh. "If only we could bottle up some of Alec and Jane's breath." She says this without so much as a glance to Edward, as if she doesn't expect or even want a response.

She searches through another drawer, pauses, a finger to her lips, and then finds what she's looking for.

Edward doesn't know why this is leaving him aroused—if his state has escalated from her earlier nearness and her light touch; if it's all the finger, mouth, and teeth involvement; if it's that, like a bird in flight, she never stops moving. Even when her feet are still, her body seems to flow, as if to some unheard tune. Maybe it's that he's witnessing parts of her mind come alive right in front of him. Whatever it is, he needs a break.

He moves the cat from his lap, turns his music up, tucks his iPod in his back pocket, and leaves the room.

The bathroom has two light switches. Switch one on and it's bright, revealing walls intricately painted to depict stone, like the inside of an old castle turret. Cracks and slits have been painted into the plaster, a faux finish designed to evoke the antiquity of a world that never existed. Knowing Bella, a world of unicorns, fairies, and other mythological creatures.

God, grow up, Bella.

The uncharitable thought makes him burn with shame. Why did he think that? He doesn't feel that way at all. Her imagination has always been one of the things he adores about her.

He turns off the bright light and flips up the other switch. The room glows with a dimmer, warmer light. It emphasizes the effect of the stone wall, making it appear more authentic, enough so that one might touch it expecting to feel the rough, uneven edges of stone. He's sure that if Bella could make it happen, it would be damp and dank in here as well.

He can't remember how this room was decorated when this was Esme's house, but it certainly wasn't like this.

An arch has been painted over the mirror, a mock-window, and in the corner of the mirror a list is written in black: Tampons; Tissues; Lip balm.

Whose list it is, he can't tell. Around the list someone has drawn something that looks like either raindrops or tears. If they're tears, it might be Emily's—she has a thing for weeping faeries—but it honestly could be either of the girls' handiwork, or both.

To the right of the note is his reflection, depleted around the eyes.

Eyes like a hawk, Esme had said. He knows hawks are intelligent; they're courageous; they're natural leaders; they're communicative; they're patient. The hawk will scan from his perch, taking everything in, waiting as long as he must. His infallible gaze missing nothing, until with one swift dive he attacks his prey with merciless talons: a rabbit, a squirrel, a snake.

Edward has seen a red-tailed hawk balanced on the post of a fence, a pigeon clutched in just one talon. They have little to fear in the way of predators. Edward wouldn't call them confident because they don't know what it's like to be unconfident. They're just sure and it's all instinct. Edward isn't these things, but man does he wish he were.

With the sound of Bob Dylan crooning Blood in My Eyes, Edward reenters Alice. It amuses him how quickly he's ceased thinking of the place as a room—it's more of a dimension. Perhaps it has something to do with the artistic fervor that seems to take Bella as soon as she crosses the threshold, her fall into the creative energy that captivated him.

Maybe that's what stoked him. How base and instinctual it is for her. A natural process of her body, the art of her.

Bella looks up, her eye contact focused. She's stepped back from whatever world she was in before, and he feels a twinge of disappointment.

Probably for the best.

"I thought you got lost," Bells says. "Or kidnapped by Emily's ghost."

Edward takes his earbuds out and wads the cord into his pocket. "I've decided what kind of mask I want. When you have the time."

"I have time."

"A hawk."

Her animated energy stills.

"Hang on. I just had a thought." She holds up an index finger as if to keep him quiet. "One second."

She turns off the main light and then moves to the paper lantern hanging in a corner, which Edward assumes is one of Bella's creations. She switches it on by the cord that dangles between the intersection of two walls. The lantern gives off only a little more light than a nightlight would. A fifteen-watt bulb, Edward guesses.

"An evening glow," she says. "To make sure I get the shimmer right." She walks over to the mask she's working on, pouring some glitter into her hand and using her thumb to spread it out against her palm. She bites her lip and takes a pinch of the glitter, deliberately releasing a few specks in exact places.

There are now soft billows of smoke painted along the sides coming up from the ash. She's staring at the mask as intensely as Edward is staring at her.

Edward thinks he's lost her to her art world again, but then she nods her head and claps the excess glitter from her hands. "He can wait now," she says to Edward, aiming a finger at the mask before she clicks the main light on. "Edward. I think a hawk would be perfect. I can already see it. The beak will be tricky, but I might be able to just steal one off a toy or something. I just have to make a mold of your face. Sit down."

She moves the chair tucked under the desk out to the center of the room, and he bends into it. Looking him over, she takes his face into her hands. Really, just her fingertips, her pinkies under his jaw. He can feel her touch in his throat, swelling. He swallows and flinches away again.

Bella backs up. "What?"

"Can't you do it without making a mold?" His words are clipped, making it come out more like a demand than a question. "Don't you have a standard size?"

"Yeah, but... I want this to be your mask. Personalized to you."

There's no way he can take her touching him right now. He's spent all day with her. He's drained of resistance. This moment is more than he can handle. His palms are sweaty.

"Some other time." He gets up from the chair quick enough to startle her and makes for the door.

"Where are you going?"

"Gotta go."

Halfway down the stairs he realizes he left his books, spinning on the step and jogging back to Alice. He gathers the books up and without a glance Bella's way, he leaves.