Title: The Exchange Student
Category: Books » Twilight
Author: Lady Gwynedd
Language: English, Rating: Rated: M
Published: 02-28-10, Updated: 04-07-10
Chapters: 18, Words: 62,979
Chapter 1: Felony Offense
AN: Disclaimer - All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
I was wiping off the counter in the diner when he came in. I'd seen him around before, walking down the quad towards the Engineering department with an armful of books. He was distinctive and certainly all the women in his vicinity noticed him: tall, mop of brownish, reddish hair, and the features of a Greek god. He was mouthwatering.
Fortunately, I didn't make a fool out of myself as he was walking past where I was sitting eating my lunch. I had my sunglasses on so my eyes couldn't be seen and I was wearing my brown jeans, beige t-shirt, and brown hoodie—what Alice called my camouflage—that accidently on purpose let me blend in to the background just as I liked. I'm sure he didn't notice me.
He intrigued me. I thought of him often as I went through my day—as I walked to my next class, as I worked my shift at the diner, as I walked home to my little studio apartment. I made sure to eat lunch in the quad at the same time every day in hopes that I would see him again. He was becoming my hobby.
And see him I did, every day, carrying the same load of books and heading in the same direction. I assumed he was an Engineering student because of the building he entered. He didn't look old enough to be an employee of the university – so he must be a student. I tried very hard to read the titles on his books but he carried them so that the spines of the books were against his body obscuring their subject matter.
A couple of weeks went by that way, until this day as I was half way through my shift at Mel's Diner. (Yes, I know—just like in the old TV sitcom from the 70s. We even had to wear the same pink dress uniforms that Alice and Flo wore back in the day, ugly ass orthopedic white oxford shoes and hair nets. My boss thought he was being clever. But it was a job and allowed me to eat as I was working my way through school.) The object of my secret obsession walked up to the counter, slid into a seat, and smiled in my direction.
Ooof. I felt his smile clear down to my toes. Clearing my throat I smiled back and asked if I could help him.
"Could I have a cup of tea, please?"
I just about passed out on the floor. He was English. His accent caressed my ears and I know my mouth dropped open. How much more perfect could he be? I just prevented myself from drooling.
I gathered my scattered wits and said, "Sure. Would you like something to eat with it?"
"You wouldn't have something like a scone or biscuit, would you?"
Now, I was an English Lit major and I knew a few things that would perhaps make my new customer happy. Though I'd never been to the UK, I'd studied it. I was an anglophile bar none. I knew how to make a perfect pot of tea—according to Miss Marple—and fortunately, Mel's diner had teapots a plenty. I also knew that to the English, biscuits were more like cookies than what Americans would consider a biscuit.
"I think I can do that," I answered.
I quickly assembled the tea – even substituting the diner's Lipton tea for some PG Tips that I always carried in my backpack. I poured milk in the little pitcher and got some sugar out and filled the sugar bowl with it. I rinsed the little ceramic teapot out first with hot water, then refilled it, putting the tea inside and shutting the lid. Fortunately, I'd just bought some Girl Scout Trefoil cookies—after all, I'd been a Girl Scout when I was a kid—from the little girl next door, and they were also in my back pack. I put four of them on a plate.
I put the tea and cookies in front of him. "Please let me know if there is something else you'd like," I tried to say without sounding like I was coming on to him. But no matter what sentence I could frame, nothing seemed innocuous enough. I just hoped he took me at face value. I was simply trying to repay the small pleasure he'd given me over the past weeks by simply walking by me on his way to class. I was crazy. I knew it.
I walked to the other end of the counter and started drying some glassware that had just come out of the dishwasher while I surreptitiously watched him out of the corner of my eye. It was apparent that he was enjoying his tea and a few minutes later he beckoned me over.
"This tea is delicious. I've not had a good cuppa since I left home!"
Thrilled that I pleased him, I smiled. "I learned to make tea from a sweet old English lady. I'm happy I got it right."
"You've done her proud," he replied as he lifted his cup. I promise, I may have blushed but I didn't drool.
So, it became his habit to come by every afternoon for a pot of tea. I convinced the cook to bake scones as well as muffins in the morning because I knew my Girl Scout cookies would run out. I even did a presentation proving that scones were cheaper to produce and were becoming more popular than muffins. I know he thought I was crazy but he was all for making his job easier.
We started to develop some sort of camaraderie over the next few weeks. He knew my first name, Bella, because I had a name tag that proudly proclaimed it but he never thought to introduce himself. But I did learn he was an exchange student from London and he was finishing his Engineering degree here on a student visa. From the little he said, I could tell he was homesick, so I encouraged him to tell me about his homeland. I loved talking to him in between customers.
One day as I was sitting in the quad reading some Marlowe, my page was overshadowed by someone who had walked up to me. I looked up and was startled to see him grinning down at me.
"What are you doing, Bella?"
I held my book up. "Reading."
"I didn't realize you were a student here." We hadn't actually ever talked about me at all.
"I'm an English major. Third year," I told him.
He sat down on the low stone wall next to me. "I feel really foolish. I should have known."
"How could you have known? I never said anything about it. I was too busy soaking up anything you could tell me about your homeland. I am a closet Anglophile." I smiled.
"I knew something was up. When I'd go to the diner on your days off, the tea was horrible."
"I have a confession. I've been sharing my PG Tips tea with you."
"You have? You didn't need to do it."
"You looked as though you could really use and would appreciate a good cup of tea."
"Well, I certainly did. Where do you get your tea?"
"You can buy it in the local grocery store in their specialty aisle. I indulge myself there occasionally."
"That's good to know. I'll have to replenish your supplies."
"It's not necessary, honestly."
"Have you worked in the diner for very long?"
"I started working there last year. It keeps me in Rice Krispies." I shut my book and smiled.
"You know, I now realize I've been an absolute idiot over these past few weeks. I've never actually introduced myself. My name is Edward Cullen." He stuck out his hand for me to shake.
I took it and was suddenly overwhelmed with an innervating buzz that engulfed my hand and started to run up my arm. Oh Lord, I was going to make a complete fool out of myself. Getting a grip, I was able to say, "Bella Swan" and quickly drop his hand.
"Your name suits you. Bella means beautiful in Italian and swans are very lovely and graceful animals."
I know I was turning every shade of red there was. I choked out, "Thank you but it just shows that names can be deceiving."
"I disagree. Your name does suit."
He arose at that point and said, "I need to get to my class. See you this afternoon?"
"Yes. I'll be there."
He grinned and nodded at me and then walked towards his building. I did notice that the text book on the top of his pile was entitled "Structural Members." I had to laugh. There was only one member I thought about when I thought of Edward Cullen.
As the days went on, my obsession with Edward did not abate and I found the times we spent together—he started eating his lunch with me in the quad—were the highlights of my day, even more than my Shakespeare class and that said a lot. As the term wound down though, it got too cold to sit outside for lunch so we moved inside the large lobby of the Engineering building.
I got to meet a few of Edward's classmates that way. Some would stop to speak to him on the way to their mutual class. Edward was ever the gentleman and would always introduce me. One day, a gorgeous strawberry blonde sidled—yes, she sidled—up to Edward, completely ignoring me and said, "Edward, what time did you say that you'd be over tonight?"
For some reason, Edward's cheeks got red and he nervously responded, "Uh, around seven?"
"That's great. I'm really looking forward to it." She smiled at him and sashayed—yes, she sashayed—down the hallway.
My heart had plummeted into my shoes. It was evident they were going out on a date that evening. But it was none of my business, so I just looked down at my sandwich trying to figure out what innocent thing I could say but before I could think of anything, Edward stood. "I'll see you later, Bella?"
I plastered on a smile and looked up at him. "Certainly." And then I watched as he followed the blonde down the hallway.
Suddenly nauseous, I threw the rest of my lunch away. I scolded myself for getting so upset over this. It was stupid of me for thinking someone so attractive and fascinating wouldn't have an active social life. I was just pleasant companionship to him—maybe a chance to indulge in memories of home with an overly willing listener.
I bucked myself up and got on with my life. I still saw Edward at lunch and at the diner but I firmly reined in any day dreams about him. I needed to be realistic. He was way out of my league and I was very thankful for the time I had with him.
Weeks passed and suddenly our winter break was upon us. I asked Edward if he had any plans.
"I'm staying put. I can't get home right now because of the cost and visa issues. How about you?"
"The same. I'm going to work through the break and replenish my bank account."
"Good. Maybe we can keep each other company?"
"I'd like that." I more than liked that, I was thrilled.
We said nothing more about our plans. Finally, the mass exodus and excitement of end of term travels rushed through campus and left our college town empty except for the few stragglers like Edward and me, except I didn't see Edward for the first two days of our break. We hadn't made any concrete plans and I assumed we would when he'd show up at the diner. But he didn't come. I was beginning to think he had an offer to spend the holidays with someone else, perhaps the beautiful blonde. My heart was heavy with that thought no matter how I scolded it.
On the third day of break, I was trying to write the daily special menu up on the chalk board but was having a hard time with it. For some reason, the chalk had gotten saturated with oil and it didn't want to write.
"Perhaps if you broke it in half?" I heard suggested behind me.
I turned, filled with entirely too much joy. "Edward, you're here!"
He chuckled and said, "I told you I was staying."
"I just expected to see you sooner, I guess. I was thinking that you had gone out of town after all."
He sighed and sat down at the counter. "I wasn't planning to go anywhere but I may have to, just the same."
"Oh?" I busied my hands making his tea but listened avidly to what he was saying.
"It seems there's a problem with my visa. I can't stay and finish my degree."
"What?" I was horrified.
"For some reason, I was issued the wrong visa. It was supposed to be for as long as it took to get my degree—I'd reckoned two years—but my visa runs out at the end of this year, in three weeks. I spent the last two days talking to officials trying to get this sorted but there's not much I can do and nothing within reason. I'll have to go home."
"Can't you come back later, though?"
"No. I was sent here on scholarship from a company where I worked. They agreed to pay for my education but I had to finish my degree by next June. If I go home, I won't be able to do that."
I set his tea in front of him and he looked dejectedly down into the empty cup. "You said there wasn't much you could within reason. What was the unreasonable thing you could do?"
He rolled his eyes at the absurdity of the impossible solution. "You'll laugh."
"I don't think it's a laughable matter, Edward."
"No, I suppose not."
"Well?" I asked. It was dawning upon me that he was going away and I'd never see him again. Laughable or not, I was desperate.
Edward looked at me and said, as though he would choke on his words, "If I married a US citizen, I could stay."
"And there's no one who could help you with that?" I was asking him if he had a girlfriend.
He made a bemused face. "Uhm. No. There's no one." He was telling me that there wasn't. I wondered what happened to the beautiful blonde sashayer?
I looked at him. He looked at me. It just hung there between us.
Then, a customer came in and I broke eye contact with Edward. I had work to do. It gave me a few moments to think. I put my new customer's order in and got them the coffee they requested. I had a few moments, so I figured I'd better do something now or I'd chicken out. Edward was nursing his tea at the end of the lunch counter.
Gathering my courage I walked up to him, took a deep breath, and said, "Edward, you could marry me."
He looked shocked. "Marry you?"
"Yes. It seems to me it's the simplest solution to your problem, I think. I'm a US citizen. You could stay here and finish your schooling on time. I mean, we wouldn't have to live together or anything. It could be just on paper, just so you could stay. I would be helping you and then in June when you were finished, we could get a quiet divorce. It would be simple. No one would have to know except for the government. Easy peasy."
"You'd do that for me?" Edward asked incredulously.
"Why not? I've got nothing better to do."
"It's too much to ask."
"You didn't ask. I offered."
He was beginning to smile. "Are you sure? Your family would be okay with this?"
"You don't have to worry about that. I'm sure. My life won't change at all."
So, that is how I married Edward Cullen. It was a marriage of convenience. Edward bought us a marriage license the next day and the day after that found us standing nervously in front of a local justice of the peace and we were married. Afterwards, we went our separate ways. I had to get to work and Edward had to flash his marriage certificate in front of the pertinent government officials and all would be well. Or, so we thought.
I was about an hour into my shift at the diner when I got a phone call.
"Bella, it's Edward." He sounded stressed.
"Yes, Edward. What's wrong?"
"Evidently, we can't just get married and go our separate ways. We have to prove we are actually living together in wedded bliss over the entire period of my visa and apparently getting married with the intent of allowing someone to legally stay in the country is a felony offense."
Miss Marple was a creation of Agatha Christie and was pretty particular about her cups of tea.
Chapter 2: Plans
I finished out my shift in shock. I was a criminal. A felon.
I, who had never had so much as a speeding ticket. My police officer dad would have been mortified.
Edward had agreed to meet me after work so we could figure out what to do.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
I was clocking out when I heard the diner door open and looking through the kitchen, I could see Edward standing uncertainly near the cash register. I pulled my coat on over my nasty pink uniform, picked up the 'to go' boxes I'd packed, grabbed my back pack and walked over to where Edward was standing.
"Hi," I said.
"Oh, Bella, I am so sorry to get you into this mess," Edward rushed to say.
"It wasn't your fault, Edward. It was my idea." He held the door open for me as we left the restaurant.
"Where do you want to go?"
"Do you mind if we go to my apartment? I need to get out of this hideous uniform."
He smiled, "I don't mind and your uniform is not hideous."
I gave him the stink eye, "Yeah. Right. It isn't hideous if you happen to like pink polyester."
"You look cute. Homey."
I had to laugh, "Yep. Homey. Just what every twenty-one year old girl wants to resemble."
"Yes. My birthday was last September."
"I am twenty-four. It's strange. I really don't know a lot about the facts of your life but I feel as though I know you very well – the important part of you, anyway."
I had started to walk down the sidewalk towards the street my apartment was on.
"Where are you going?" Edward asked.
"Can we drive there?" he indicated a VW bug that was parked on the street.
"Sure," I said.
He walked over to the passenger side of his car and opened the door for me and I slid in. The bug was a relic but well kept. Edward climbed in his side and started the engine.
"Where to?" he asked. I gave him directions to my apartment building and we soon arrived there. Fortunately, there was a parking space available on the street. I led Edward into the lobby and pressed the button for the elevator.
I turned to him and said, "I hope you're hungry. I brought food from the diner." I held up the Styrofoam containers.
"I suppose I am a bit peckish. I don't think I ate today."
"It's just meat loaf. That was the special today and the only thing the chef would let me take home. It isn't too bad, really." We were soon at my apartment door, and I fumbled for my keys in my backpack. Edward reached over to take them from me and unlocked my door. He smiled reassuringly as he held the door for me to pass through.
My apartment was tidy, thank goodness. My vacation from school had given me the time to do some much needed cleaning, so Edward was seeing it at its best. I put the food on the kitchen counter and turned to him. He was standing in the middle of my livingroom/diningroom/kitchen (it was just one big room) looking around at my flea market find furniture and homemade art work.
"This is nice, Bella."
"Thank you. The bathroom is that door right there," I indicated to my right, "and the 'bedroom' is in the niche around that screen." A studio apartment isn't too roomy.
"Do you live here by yourself?"
"Yes. This is my first year without a roommate. My best friend, Alice, and I used to room together but this year she moved in with her boyfriend. I didn't want to have to get used to living with someone else, so I opted to get my own place. It's very small but all I need."
"I live in a dormitory on campus; Rector Hall."
I nodded, "I know where it is." I tugged at my polyester collar, "Do you mind if I take quick shower and change? I can fix your plate first."
"Not at all. In fact, why don't you take care of yourself and I will warm up our dinner?"
"Help yourself. I'll be out in a minute." I showed him briefly where everything was in my miniscule kitchen, then went to the dresser and grabbed the first pair of comfy sweats and underwear I could find, and then headed for my much anticipated shower. Maybe some sort of solution would come to me in there.
Unfortunately, nothing did.
When I came out to the living room, Edward had set my little table and I could smell dinner warming up in the oven. "Oh, this is nice, Edward. Thank you." I was surprised at how much care he put into the place setting. He had lit candles, used napkins and everything. He'd even turned off the over head light and turned on the various lamps I had in the room. It made it look cozier, almost romantic.
"I guess I should have dressed for this," I said, "I didn't even dry my hair."
Edward laughed, "Don't worry. You're a vision of loveliness."
Well, this vision of loveliness snorted, "Sure, sure." I went over to help Edward plate our food. We carried our dinner over to the table and I noticed for the first time there were wine glasses and a bottle of wine there.
"Champagne?" I asked.
"I had it in my car. I figured we could have it with our dinner. Is that all right? After all we did get married today."
Be still my beating heart, "That's fine. I was just surprised."
We sat down and Edward poured a glass for each of us.
"Here's to a successful venture," he saluted me.
"Yes. Successful as in no one has to leave and no one has to go to jail," I laughed weakly.
"And that it all ends happily ever after," Edward added.
I looked at him curiously. That's what was said at the end of fairy tales. You know the kind? The ones where Prince Charming sweeps Princess Perfect off her feet and all their problems are solved (or killed). But maybe he was just being hopeful. I knew he felt badly about getting me into this mess but really, it was my idea in the first place. I was the one who asked him to marry me.
We made small talk throughout dinner – Mel's meatloaf isn't that bad – and I put the kettle on. Edward helped me clear away the dishes and we took our tea to the sofa to finally talk about our options.
"So what happened today when you went to the authorities?" I asked.
"I showed them our marriage license and they made a copy of it. Then they gave me another form to fill out. Here's where the difficulties started. The form asked where we were living. I couldn't put down my dorm for obvious reasons, so I said we were living here together. Your address was on the marriage license application, remember? Then, I read further down the form. That's when I found that what we did – get married just so I could stay in the US – constituted fraud and would be punished by me getting deported and you getting jailed. And to insure people didn't do this sort of thing, they conducted unannounced home visits and spousal interviews. I can't tell you how sick that made me. I've gotten you into such a mess."
I sighed, "It is a mess but there is a solution."
"It looks like I am getting another room mate."
"You mean you want me to move in here?"
"I don't see what else we can do. The authorities know we are married. We can't go back on it now. The only thing to do is to carry on. We can squeeze you in here. I can't imagine you have a lot of belongings living in a dorm. This futon is comfortable. I can sleep on it and you can have the bed in the niche."
"I am not taking your bed."
"The futon is too small for you. You won't be comfortable."
"I will be fine. I will not take your bed." He gave me a steely eyed look that said the subject was closed.
"Anyway, this will help me in the long run. To be honest, I was just getting by financially. The rent is going up next month and I wasn't sure how I was going to swing living here. That's why I was working extra hours over break. I needed the money. If you could help with that, then I'd say you would be solving my problem just as I was solving yours."
We discussed finances a little and figured out that by Edward cancelling his student housing contract and combining our grocery and utility bills, it would actually be cheaper for both of us to live together than how we had been living before.
I was beginning to feel better about everything except the fact that I was going to be living cheek by jowl with the most handsome man in the universe. I hadn't considered how I'd be dealing with that. I could foresee a lot of cold showers in my future.
"Edward, you said something about spousal interviews? What is that?"
"I asked about it. They said that they had learned that they could spot fraud fairly quickly by separating the couple and asking a series of questions that husbands and wives should know about each other. They'd compare the answers to see who was lying and who wasn't."
"I guess we'd better start studying."
"Yes. It would just be like cramming for an exam."
"Only instead of comparing and contrasting Elizabethan and modern literature, we'd have to study each other."
"Yes. The private life of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cullen." He laughed.
The name gave me a thrill, I have to admit.
"I am worried about the interview," I said. I really didn't know a lot about him. In fact, I really didn't know anything about him. Suddenly, the magnitude of what I had done dawned upon me. I was sitting in my living room with my husband who was virtually a stranger. I knew he was drop dead gorgeous, unfailingly polite, and liked his tea hot, light and sweet. The same could have been said about Ted Bundy.*
"I have a thought," Edward said. "It's getting late. Let me go back to my dorm for the night. I will pack my belongings and while I am doing that we will both come up with a list of questions that we think a couple would know about each other. I will move in tomorrow and we can start on this journey of discovery." He winked at me.
"Th-that sounds like a plan." I realized that Charlie would have killed me for doing something like this. I wasn't being romantic or even selfless; I was being stupid.
I could even hear his voice ringing in my head,"Isabella Marie Swan, what have you done now?" Fear was beginning to well in my heart.
Edward got up and walked to the door. I followed him out of courtesy but mostly to make sure my door was locked behind him once he left. When Edward got his coat on, he turned to me with a smile. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Bella. You're my angel." Then, he leaned down and kissed me.
Thunk. That was my heart falling to the floor. While his touch was innervating, his kiss melted every bit of common sense I had. I gasped when he pulled away. He looked down into my stunned eyes and smiled gently. "I'll see you tomorrow," he whispered. And then he left.
I may or may not have locked the door afterwards. I couldn't remember.
*Ted Bundy was a serial murderer in the US during the seventies and eighties. He is suspected of killing 26-35 young women over that time. He was handsome and attractive and frequently that is how he lured those poor girls to their deaths. He was put to death in January of 1989 in my home State of Florida. We may not know how to count ballots here but we sure know how to kill people. (Yes. I am being sarcastic.) Incidently, Ted Bundy grew up in Washington State but not in Forks.
Chapter 3: Cramming for Exams
I was too dazed to work on my list of questions. I climbed under my covers and dreamed. I dreamed about the sunlight dancing off a mop of untidy hair gleaming brown, red, and gold. I dreamed about a velvet voice wrapped in an English accent asking for a cup of tea. I dreamed about his description of the Thames in the misty dawn. I dreamed about his deep green eyes looking deeply into my own as he answered, "I do" in answer to the Justice's question. I dreamed about a candle lit meat loaf dinner. I dreamed about how my heart left my body with that glorious kiss and never returned.
If I wasn't in love, I was in pretty heavy duty like. And I would do whatever he needed, Ted Bundy bedamned. (Sorry, Charlie.)
I got up early the next morning and quickly got ready for my day. I changed the sheets on my bed and took a load of laundry to the washers down the hall. I then spent the next hour consolidating my belongings so I could give him half the storage space in the apartment. I looked at the clock and saw that it was nearing ten. Edward should be here soon. I was glad today was my day off.
I went down to our building superintendent and explained that I had just gotten married and would need an extra key for my apartment and a pass for a parking space in the lot. I knew that would be the only way he'd give me what Edward needed without a lot of hassle. Our super was pretty old fashioned.
Finally, I could no longer procrastinate. I sat down at my computer and started thinking about the things a wife would know about her husband. I quickly listed the basics: full name, date of birth, home town, parent's names and occupations, siblings, pets, sizes of his clothing and shoes. Then I listed the favorites: color, food, music, literature, movies, and sports. I figured I knew a lot about his tastes in music, movies and literature as those were pretty much the scope of our previous conversations but there may have been something I missed. I was scratching my head trying to think of some more questions when my door buzzer buzzed.
My heart suddenly reappeared. It was trying to beat its way out of my chest as I rose to get the intercom. "Hello?" Damn, my voice sounded pretty puny.
"Good morning, Bella. It's Edward."
I pressed the button unlocking the lobby door, "Good morning. Come on up."
There was Edward in all his glory, smiling at me as if I was the answer to all his prayers, carrying a box, and a garment bag.
"Hello, Bella." He leaned over to kiss me hello.
Wow. Roman Candles galore.
Okay. Bella to brain. Where are you brain? We need a response here, on the double.
"H…h…hello, Edward." I smiled shakily back at him.
"I hope you slept well."
"I did. Did you?"
"I was too excited to sleep, I think."
Excited? That was weird.
I saw him struggle to hold onto everything in his arms. "Let me help you with those." I hung his garment bag up in the closet as he set the box down on the floor. I slipped on my shoes and jacket so I could help him further unload his belongings.
We walked to his car together, "I got everything here in one load, and that either says a lot for my packing skills or a lot about how meager my possessions are."
I was looking at his VW bug. It was crammed to the gills, "I think it's your packing skills. Let's get this stuff upstairs. Wait, I think our super has a luggage cart somewhere around here. Let me ask him. Come with me and I will introduce you. I've already told him we got married. It was the only way I could get you keys and a parking pass without a lot of hassle. I hope you don't mind."
He grinned at me, "No. I don't mind anyone knowing that we are married. Now that we are living together, there's no reason to keep it a secret, I am thinking."
I nodded my agreement, my mind and heart still trying to shift into the right place. The problem was, I didn't know what the right place was, yet. We were pretending to be married to the world but between the two of us, we were still awkward strangers. Hopefully, our relationship won't grow more awkward the better we knew each other.
We got to the super's office and I knocked on the door.
"Mr. Dowling?" I pushed open the door to find a rotund, middle aged man sitting behind a desk watching CNN as he was dealing with some paperwork.
"Hi, Bella. Is this the groom?" He looked Edward up and down.
"Yes, Mr. Dowling, this is my husband, Edward Cullen." Wow. I just called Edward "my husband" out loud. Edward put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me close to his side.
Mr. Dowling extended his hand for Edward to shake, "How do you do?"
"Just fine, thank you, sir."
"So, you two just tied the knot."
"We did," Edward said with a dazzling smile at me.
"Well, congratulations. I gave Bella another key to your apartment. Make sure you try it out to see if it fits."
"Thank you Mr. Dowling," I smiled at him. He was really very sweet. "Can we borrow the luggage cart for a bit? Edward's moving in today."
"Sure. That's what it's for." He rose from his desk and led us to a storage locker which he unlocked with a key and waved inside, "There it is. Help yourselves. When you're finished with it, just put it back here and lock the door."
"Brilliant," Edward said and pushed the luggage cart outside to his car. We loaded it up and were able to fit everything (although it was filled to overloading) on it and got it up to our (I just said "our." Squee!) apartment.
As Edward was about to return the cart, I stopped him, "Here's your key. It will get you into the lobby of the building and will open the laundry room door for you, as well as our apartment. Then here is your parking pass. Our spaces are numbered. My truck is already parked in 408. You'll have to park in 410, right next to me."
With eyes twinkling, Edward took both the key and the pass and wheeled the luggage rack out of our door. I looked at all his stuff stacked in piles on the floor. He had two suitcases in addition to the garment bag and about five boxes filled mostly with books and school supplies. I decided to fix lunch while I was waiting for Edward to return.
He was soon back. I was surprised to see a bouquet of flowers in his hand. "Here, Bella, for you."
"Th-thank you, Edward. That's so sweet of you but why?" What was it about this man that made me, normally an articulate person, stutter?
"Just a little token of my appreciation, Bella." I held the flowers, pink carnations, up to my nose and inhaled. They smelled heavenly.
"I think I have something to put them in." I got an old spaghetti sauce jar out of the recycling bin, filled it with water and then arranged the flowers in it. They were lovely. "After we get all your belongings sorted, I'll put them somewhere we can both enjoy them."
I pointed out the closet, shelf, drawer and cabinet space that I had emptied for Edward's use, then went back to fixing our sandwiches. It didn't take long for Edward to finish unpacking.
"Thank you for being so generous, Bella."
"No problem." I handed him his plate. "I was thinking we could go grocery shopping today. That way we will have food you'll like on hand."
"I am not that particular. I am sure anything you normally get will be fine but I would enjoy going with you."
We ate together as Edward told me that the housing office refunded his money. It seemed there was a waiting list for dormitory residences. He turned in his keys and left campus. He now officially had no place to live except with me. That gave me another thrill. I almost choked on my sandwich. Honestly, I wasn't quite sure all these "thrills" I was having were from delight or fear.
So, an hour later found us at the local Safeway. We had budgeted $50 per week on groceries, which wasn't a lot. As we carefully wove our cart through the aisles, we came upon the specialty items that were imported from all over the world. I pointed out the British section and Edward marveled at the cans of Bird's Custard powder, Idris's Fiery Ginger Beer, and Cadbury Flake candy bars.
"I had no idea you could buy this sort of thing in the US," he laughed. Then he bent down and picked up a package of PG Tips tea bags. "Most of these are luxuries but I am declaring the Tips a necessity," and he tossed it into our cart. A British man has his priorities.
He reinforced that when we got to the beer aisle. I usually didn't buy alcoholic beverages, mostly because my budget was so tight, but Edward insisted that we pick up a six pack of Samuel Adams Ale. He said it was good and not as expensive as buying an import. I had no clue about that, since I wasn't very fond of beer, at least none of the stuff I had tried so far. But I didn't think that college students were known for their palates, so the beer I had tried could have been nasty stuff and I wouldn't know it.
We checked out a little over budget but Edward threw in the extra to make up for his additions to our shopping list. We got home and unpacked our food. It was surprising at how full our refrigerator was now compared to how it usually was when I lived alone.
After we had settled onto the couch, Edward pulled some papers out of his pocket. I looked at them with dread. These were the questions he had thought of overnight. I was half afraid go over these. What if Edward realized he had married a dull little girl with an uninteresting, sad life?
"Do you want me to look at yours while you look at mine, or should we just go over each of them one at a time? I am thinking all of our questions could be relevant for either of us."
"You're probably right." I hurriedly printed off my list, intending to make copious notes so that I could study.
"You go first," he asked.
"What is your full name?" I asked reading from my paper.
He laughed, "Edward Anthony Maximillian Cullen."
"It's my confirmation name. St. Maximillian of Kolbe is my patron saint. He was a martyr during the second world war."
"Ah, so you're Catholic?"
"I am surprised that you went along with our 'marriage', then."
"I practice it but not well sometimes." He looked a little chagrined at that.
"So, what is your full name, Bella?"
"Isabella Maria Swan, but as you know, I prefer to be called Bella."
"Are you religious?"
"Not really. I guess my parents would have considered themselves Lutherans but other than sending me to Vacation Bible School to give me something to do during the summers, they weren't very devout about going to church. My dad especially preferred to spend his Sundays fishing. All the same, I was taught to be a good person, not necessarily a good Lutheran."
"You are a good person, Bella. There would be few who would even consider helping a foreigner out so enormously."
I shrugged. So, I was generous and also a little gullible. "Okay, that was my first question. What is yours?"
"What side of the bed do you prefer?"
"Say again?" I was shocked.
"On which side of the bed do you prefer to sleep?"
He was right, that was certainly a question INS would ask. "Uhm, I'm all over the bed, really. I've never shared one before, so I don't know which one I'd prefer."
"Then let's try it out."
"I blinked at him in surprise. Try it out?"
"We could lie upon your bed and see which side feels the best for each of us."
I rose uncertainly and led the way to the alcove. My bed was a double bed, plenty big enough for me alone but as Edward sat down on one side of it, it seemed awfully small. I sat down on the other side and reclined. We were lying next to each other, not touching.
"How does this feel?" Edward asked.
"Awkward." I answered. I would probably feel awkward no matter which side I was on.
"Okay, let's switch, then." He rolled over on top of me to get to the other side of the bed and YOWZA, we got stuck about half-way. Edward was lying completely on top of me, staring into my eyes with an arrested look on his face. Meanwhile, my insides had turned into a fireworks display. His lips were about three inches from my own and I was lost in his green gaze.
I heard my father's voice saying, "I told ya so" but all I could manage was a small, "Oh, oh."
Whatever it was, Edward demonstrated more common sense than I did. He blinked his eyes, exhaled and rolled away from me and got off the bed. His ears were red, "I'd say that you were partial to the left side and I prefer the right."
I slid out of bed to write that down. I knew my color was high and I tried not to look in Edward's direction. He was standing in front of the living room windows, his back to me, with his hands in his pockets.
"Edward?" I whispered softly.
He was a little gruff when he responded, "What?"
"I am sorry."
He cleared his throat and the turned around, "You have nothing to be sorry about. I just … was surprised."
"Bella, I may as well tell you this now. My body responds to you in ways I can't predict. One minute everything is natural, typical, the next minute I lose myself. I am the one who should be apologizing to you."
"Mine does the same every time my skin touches yours. It's like the fourth of July."
He turned and smiled at me, "Isn't that when you Yanks declared your independence from us Brits?"
"It was, actually. But since then, I think we've been able to develop a decent cooperative relationship, don't you?"
"I'd say so, Bella. Shall we emulate our respective countries and get back to our questions?"
"Okay, when's your birthday?"
"June 20. I'll be 25 next year."
"Mine's September 13th and as you know, I just turned 21. Your turn."
He looked down at his list as he sat down next to me on the sofa, "Uhm, siblings?"
"None. I was an only child. You?"
"I have an older brother, Emmett. He's in the RAF. He's married to Rosalie and they have two kids, a boy, Ezra, who is six, and a girl, Emma, who is three. Right now they are living in Suffolk.
I looked down at my list, "Where are you from?"
"A little village on the outskirts of London; Kew."
"I've heard of that. Kew Gardens is nearby?"
"Yes. They are quite lovely. I used to visit there quite a bit when I was young. It's an amazing place. Every year they have an international garden show there that is completely brilliant."
I sighed, "I've seen a program on TV about it. One day, I am going to see it for myself."
"Then, it will be my pleasure to show it to you." He smiled at me leaning back in the sofa, "Now, it's my turn. Bella, where are you from?"
"A little town in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State called Forks."
"Washington State is quite a ways away from here."
"Yes. I wanted a change of scenery after I finished high school."
"That's understandable." He looked down at his list, "How did we meet?"
"That's easy. We met the diner. You were looking for a decent cup of tea and I knew how to fix it for you. I won you over with my mad tea making skills."
"Yes. That's exactly how it happened." He smirked at me.
"It's best to keep to the truth when we can. Your turn."
"Where did we go on our honeymoon?"
"We didn't go anywhere? We couldn't afford it, so we just stayed here?" I asked it as a question to see if he thought it was a good answer.
He nodded his agreement. "That's sound. We are poor college students after all. We'll promise ourselves a real honeymoon one day. Your go."
"You've told me about your brother. Can you tell me about your parents?" I knew this was going to open me up to questions I didn't want to answer but, still, needed to be told.
"My father, Carlisle, is a Casualty doctor; what you'd call an Emergency Room doctor in the US. My mother is an architect. She specializes in historical renovations and is quite good at it. Right now she is working on a manor house whose foundations go back to the 1100s."
"Wow. That sounds really interesting. Are you close to your family?"
"I'd say so. My mother is ruing my absence during the holidays."
"I can imagine. Do they know about your visa problem?"
"Yes. I told them first thing. My dad was trying to help me but I was able to get by with a little help from my friend," he smiled.
"The Beatles," I smirked. I was queen of the obscure reference. I guess he'd figure that out after a while. "Are you going to tell them about us?"
"I haven't, yet but I will."
"What are you going to say?"
"I don't know." He looked down at the papers he was holding a curious look on his face, "Something along the lines of 'the most amazing girl in the world agreed to marry me and we would have waited to have a regular courtship and wedding but for my visa troubles.' "
I swallowed. I was glad my in-laws were separated from us by an ocean.
"Do you think they'll be mad?"
"No. My mother's been trying to find me a wife for years."
"What do you think they'll do after, when we have gone our separate ways?"
He sighed, "What does any parent do when that happens to their child? I'll cross that bridge when I get to it."
I could predict what question would come next. I hoped I could tell him without making a fool out of myself.
"Tell me about your parents?" he asked.
I took a deep breath and clutched my fingers together, "My parents were Charlie and Renee Swan. They died."
Edward was shocked, "They died? How? When?"
I looked down at my hands straining against each other, "They were killed in a car accident. The major industry around Forks is logging. One day when my parents were traveling to visit friends in La Push, a few miles from Forks, a logging truck's load came loose and fell on their vehicle. They were killed instantly. This happened a few weeks after I graduated from high school."
My voice was getting softer and softer but once I started, I couldn't seem to stop, "I was at my friend Alice's house when it happened. We were planning to go down to La Push Beach with a bunch of other kids that day. I was supposed to meet my mom and dad there. Alice was driving me down and suddenly we ran across an accident and traffic was backed up for miles. When we finally passed the scene, I recognized my dad's truck. I screamed for Alice to stop. But when I jumped out of the car and ran towards the accident, one of the police officers grabbed me and wouldn't let me get closer. They hadn't removed the bodies from the car. There was nothing they could do. They were already gone. I am afraid I didn't take it very well. You should know, Edward, everyone in my family is gone. I am all alone, so for my part there's really no one to know or care that we got married under false pretenses."
Edward sat there. He didn't say anything. I couldn't look at him. I was trying hard to maintain my composure but I was failing. I could feel the tears welling up and my throat tightened.
"Bella," Edward whispered softly.
I turned to him and I knew he could see tears shimmering in my eyes, "It happened three and a half years ago. I miss them so much." I could feel my bottom lip quiver as the first tears started rolling down my cheeks.
"Bella," Edward said again as he reached for me and gathered me into his arms, pulling me close. I buried my head on his chest and started to cry in earnest. I was overwhelmed by my feelings. Everything I had felt since the accident, the miserable depression I had experienced, the shell I had withdrawn into, my flight from Forks, my solitude in my studies, my desire to fade into the background, the mysterious connection I immediately felt towards this man, my impetuous decision to help him and the confusing feelings I was beginning to have about him. It was a torrent pouring out of me (and onto Edward's shirt.)
I calmed a little and then slowly became mortified. I just used my faux but real husband as a Kleenex. This was probably the last thing he wanted from me. (Way to ruin things, Bella.) He was still holding me tightly in his arms and I sat up a bit trying to pull away, "S…s…sorry," I managed to say.
"Sorry? I am sorry, too, Bella. I am so sorry you have to live with such a tragic loss. But don't be sorry for your tears and don't think you can't trust me enough to tell me what you are feeling. You aren't alone any longer. We are in this together, sweetheart."
He called me sweetheart.
It made me smile. I just went from wailing in abject misery to smiling in a second because my faux but real husband – frusband, I guess - called me sweetheart. (See, I was crazy, just like I told you in the first chapter.) My heart was shouting: HE CALLED ME SWEETHEART. HE SAID 'I DO.' HE TOLD ME THAT I TURNED HIM ON (or at least he mentioned something about how his body responds to me—same thing). HE HASN'T RUN AWAY SCREAMING YET!
I sat up and looked him, wretched, teary faced, snotty nosed woman that I was, and said, "You called me sweetheart."
He laughed, "Well you are my wife. You can be my sweetheart, too."
"I am your frife."
He looked at me like I was crazy (see, he knows it, too), "Frife?"
"Yes. Faux but real wife is a frife. You are my frusband, faux but real husband."
Edward chuckled, "You are crazy." (See, I told you so.)
He hugged me closer, then asked, "How can we be a faux husband or wife? We have a real marriage license. We had a real wedding ceremony. We both said our 'I dos.' "
"We didn't do this in the normal way. I mean, you were sort of forced to marry me."
"I wasn't forced to marry you. It was a decision I was happy to make."
"Well, it kept you state-side, but you will admit we didn't get married for the normal reasons."
Again he sighed, "That's true but for the sake of the authorities, we'll need to pretend that we did it for the normal reasons."
I got off of the sofa, "I need to wash my face and have a good cup of tea." I looked sheepishly at him, "I am sorry about your shirt."
He smiled softly at me, "Truly Bella, I am at your disposal. You've been alone too long with this burden. 'A sorrow shared is grief halved,' as my Gran used to say. I am not sure I agree with the 'halved' part but I do think it helps to know you aren't alone. I've got plenty of shirts for you to use."
All I could do was whisper a watery thanks and then dash into the bathroom. I couldn't let him see me cry again, no matter what he said - out of politeness, I am sure. He was probably going to regret this whole "venture," as he called it, soon enough. I needed to put on my big girl pants and put the tears away.
Besides, he called me sweetheart.
Chapter 4: Settling In
When I came out of the bathroom, I saw that Edward had put the kettle on and was looking at my meager CD collection. I had most of my music downloaded into my iPod, so there was no reason to buy CDs now but browsing on iTunes? I could waste a paycheck on that. It was my biggest temptation.
"Most of my music is on my iPod," I said.
"Same here. I even got rid of all my CDs. Do you have iPod dock?"
"No. If I want music in the apartment, I use my computer but my speakers are pretty crappy."
"Oh, then I have something to donate to the cause." He went over to the closet and pulled out a box on the floor and removed a smaller box from it. "This is my dock – our dock, now. Where can we put it?" I took the dock from him and went over to the dresser. There was a plug behind it on the wall and it was central in the apartment.
I saw he had several items in the box he'd pulled out of the closet: picture frames, a desk lamp, pencil sharpener. "Edward, you can put your personal pictures around. In fact, you really should."
He grinned, "I could introduce you to my family, then. You can help me place them in the apartment." He showed me the first picture, his parents. Carlisle was a strikingly handsome man, with hair so blonde it almost looked white. I could see Edward had his strong jaw line but Edward actually resembled his mother more. Esme had the same unusual hair and strikingly green eyes. They were sitting on a bench in a park together. Carlisle's arm was around Esme and she was leaning towards him. They looked very happy.
"Let's put Carlisle and Esme with my parents." I took the frame over to the small table that held a sofa lamp and set it down next to a picture of Renee and Charlie. My dad, who had been the chief of police in Forks, was in his uniform, leaning against the kitchen counter smiling down at my mother who was trying to tempt him with a spoonful of something she was cooking. Since she was such a lousy cook, his expression was of fond disbelief. My mother's teasing smile and lively expression encapsulated the wonderful woman I remembered and missed so much. I sighed but then thought of something, "Actually, shouldn't we have pictures of us as a couple, too?"
"Ah, yes. That's a good point. We should have a visual history."
"You mean like pictures of us together on dates?"
"Yes. That would be a good idea."
"Good point but what will we do about our missing courtship?"
"How are you at Photo Shop?"
"Not very good. I don't even have the program on my computer."
"Never fear, I can do it on mine. You will just have to send me photos of yourself and I can make an instant dating history." The piece of furniture I used as a desk, was probably at one time was a sofa console, the kind that went along the back of a sofa – it was long and narrow – but it allowed me to spread out as I worked.
"Edward, we could share my desk. You could use one end and I, the other. There's plenty of room."
He nodded and reached for his laptop bag and quickly set up his computer.
"Just send me some pictures and I'll get to work."
We exchanged email addresses and worked companionably for a while. I'd found several pictures of myself taken around campus. I had taken an introduction to photography class as an elective my freshman year, so there were plenty. Then, as Edward worked, I put the rest of his family pictures around the apartment, asking him about each. There was a picture of his brother in his RAF uniform with his family and a cute picture of a little terrier that garnered a fond look as I showed it to Edward. I learned that was his dog, Patsy. Almost hidden at the bottom of the box was a picture of Edward and a stunningly beautiful girl. They looked like they were a couple. It was funny how my stomach lurched to see them seemingly so happy together.
"Uh, Edward, what about this picture?"
He looked to see what I was holding and his mouth twisted, "That one we can keep in the box."
"Okay?" I replaced it in the box but looked at him questioningly.
"That's Kate. We were dating before I came to the US."
"Oh." I had an awful thought, "She's not waiting for you back home, is she?"
"No." He didn't say anything more and I didn't want to pry. Well, actually, I did want to pry the shit out of the subject but I had to respect his space.
I put the desk lamp on the table next to Edward's computer and watched him work for a bit. He had successfully blended a half a dozen pictures placing the two of us together at various events and was still working on more. I got a great idea.
"Edward, I'll make a scrapbook."
He looked at me questioningly.
"Yes. It's quite a hobby for some people. My mother had all sorts of scrapbooking supplies, in fact, I have them in a storage container under the bed. I can put our 'pictures' in an album along with the narrative of our "love story." It will work with the authorities, I think.
"Yes. And we can take more pictures of us together." I was looking over his shoulder and I saw a picture of the two of us at our "wedding" just at the point where we were saying our "I dos." Edward and I were looking intently into each other's eyes, holding hands. I was so full of nerves at that moment, I could hardly remember it.
"Where'd you get that?"
"The Justice of the Peace's wife sent it to me. She was lurking in the background as our witness and snapped a few pictures. She asked for my email address before we left. You were changing into your work uniform."
I looked at the other two photos on his screen taken at the same time. There was a picture of me leaning over the Justice of the Peace's desk, signing a document. Edward was watching me with a very tender expression on his face. He really had this "pretending" thing down to an art.
The last picture was of the kiss. Right after we were declared man and wife, Edward was given permission, as is the custom, to kiss his bride. I remember Edward grinning broadly at me, then zeroing in on my lips. It wasn't an open mouthed kiss, just a sweet, gentle buss but still the sparks flew. I remembered that kiss and the other more intense one at the end of the day. There was a remarkable intensity when our bodies connected that just wound me right up. I was beginning to wonder how far we were going to go in our marriage. The physical draw I had towards Edward was magnetic and the possibilities were starting to tantalize.
Then I remembered the picture of Edward and Kate and all my sexy thoughts were dashed. Here be dragons my mind intoned or actually, Here be heartbreak. I was on my way to the land of emotional devastation if I didn't start watching myself.
My stomach rumbled, "Edward, are you hungry?"
He nodded, "Getting that way."
"You continue working on that and I will put dinner on. You feel like spaghetti and meat sauce?"
"That sounds fine," he answered. He was starting to print out our photos.
"Edward," I asked, "Could you print out an additional one of the wedding photos so that we can put it in a frame for display in here?"
"That's a good idea. Which one did you want?"
I thought a bit. I really wanted the one taken as I was signing our documents. The expression on Edward's face was one I could gaze at again and again but it probably wasn't the one that would be a typical wedding picture. "All of them are nice. Pick the one you like best."
How was that from weaseling out of exposing my hand?
I was surprised however when later, as we sat down to dinner, Edward stood a picture frame on the table between us. It was the picture of Edward watching me sign (Let Me Sign). He put the picture in the frame that had held the photo of himself and Kate. I was going to tear that sucker apart the first chance I got to see if he put our picture over the old one. I hoped not. I didn't want to touch, even in digital form, that other woman.
"That's a sweet picture."
"Yes. It was my favorite. You know in the UK, you really aren't married until you sign, so in my view, that's when we were actually wed."
"Oh." Wow. I didn't know what to say. He always surprised me.
Suddenly, his phone was ringing. "Excuse me," he said as he got out his phone. "It's my dad."
You know when you're reading a novel, the author says 'a cold hand gripped her heart?' Well, I now knew what that felt like. The mouthful of pasta I was chewing suddenly tasted like cardboard.
Edward answered his phone, "Hello?" I could only hear his part of the conversation but it was pretty evident what was being said. I started to get up to let Edward have some privacy but he shook his head and indicated that I should stay.
"Hi, Dad. How have you been keeping?"
"I've been very well, thank you. I am sorry I haven't been in touch for the past few days but I've been very busy taking care of some business."
"Yes. Well, the visa situation was resolved as a result of my business, thank God."
"Yes. I can stay now to finish my degree. No problems."
"Uhm… well, actually…I got married, yesterday."
"No, I am truly serious."
"Yes. I am married. She's a wonderful girl."
"Her name is Bella Swan. Bella Cullen, now." He smiled at me and winked. I was in too much shock to respond.
"She's a student at school with me."
"Well, she happens to be an American so…"
There was a long pause here where Edward did a lot of listening. At some points he looked like he wanted to say something but his father wasn't giving him a chance. I was feeling more and more uncomfortable.
Finally, Edward burst out, "No, Dad. No. I married her because I love her, not because of the visa issues." Edward was looking directly at me as he spoke. I think my heart stopped beating. My cheeks were blazing scarlet and I wanted to sink down into the floor and disappear. At least we won't have to lie to my parents like this.
"Yes. The wedding came sooner than I had planned because of the immigration problem but all it did was to clarify the situation for me."
"No. We went to a Justice of the Peace. We'll talk about a church wedding later."
"No, really, Dad. She's a wonderful girl. You'll love her, too. I promise. She's beautiful, funny, intelligent, hardworking, kind…"
"Yes. She's right here." Okay, I was beginning to panic. It sounded like…
"Hold on…" and he handed the phone to me. I know my eyes were about to pop out of my head. My heart sped up and I looked at Edward in dread. "My father wishes to talk to you, Bella. Please?"
I unsteadily took the phone from him and meekly said, "Hello?"
"Hello, Bella. I am Carlisle Cullen, Edward's father. I understand I am to welcome you into the family."
He had a rich, cultivated English accent, very similar to Edwards. "Yes, sir. I am happy to be Edward's wife."
"Well, I am very sorry that we couldn't be there for the celebration and to meet you in person. We will have to make that up soon."
"That would be very nice, sir."
"Please call me Carlisle."
"So, how did you two meet?"
"I work in the afternoons at a local diner. Edward liked the way I brewed his cup of tea."
He chuckled, "That's my son. Then, Bella, I welcome you into the family."
"Thank you, Carlisle."
"Could I please speak to Edward again, now?"
"Certainly. Goodbye, Carlisle. It was nice talking to you."
I knew I sounded like a moron. I handed the phone back to Edward.
"Yes?" Edward said into the phone.
"Well, yes. That would be wonderful. Thank you."
"Yes. She is, Dad."
"Goodbye." He hung up the phone and looked at me. "Well, that went okay."
"It did? He was cordial to me but he sounded upset at points in your conversation."
"He was shocked but I told him what he needed to hear and he became resigned."
Ah, he must mean when he told him that he married me because he loved me. Of course.
"He sounds like a nice man."
"He is. I've never met anyone more compassionate." We cleared the table and worked companionably together, Edward washed the dishes and I dried and put them away.
When we were done, Edward went back to his computer and opened his email program. "I promised Dad I'd send pictures." He attached the three pictures from our wedding and sent it off.
"Your father mentioned to me that he regretted he and your mother couldn't be there for our wedding but they will make it up soon. What do you think he meant by that?"
"My mother and father haven't once come to visit me in the year and a half I've been here, so I doubt he meant they'd be hopping on the next flight out. He finds it very difficult to get off of work. It's been a constant complaint of my mother's over the years."
"Oh, that's a relief. It would be hard to have to put on a charade in front of them."
Edward looked at me speculatively and nodded, "I understand but that brings up something else. What about our friends here."
"In school, you mean?"
"I don't have many friends. Over the past few years, I've been sort of withdrawn and so didn't want to be around people too much. I was so consumed with grief; I thought that was all people could see about me. Alice Brandon is my best friend. She and I grew up together and it was because of Alice that I came here to school. We roomed together the last two years but she's been in love with Jasper Whitlock for just about as long. He finally convinced her to move in with him. Actually, he said I could come along, too, but that was too weird. There was no way I was going to share an apartment with two people who couldn't keep their hands off of each other. So, that's how I ended up here by myself. Alice and Jasper went to Texas, his home, for the break. She knows about you a little."
Edward blinked, "She does?"
"Yes. I'd mentioned you a few times."
"Honestly, I had been spending a lot of time with you over the past few months. You were bound to come up in conversation."
Edward smiled, "I guess so. Will she be surprised?"
I shrugged, "She's going to be pissed. She was supposed to be my maid of honor." I noticed his surprise. "It was something we agreed to when we were ten years old. But, she's a good enough friend to want to see me happy. She'll like you, I think, after the initial shock."
"How about your coworkers?"
"My coworkers have been teasing me about you since you first started coming into the diner. No, we are not going to surprise them a bit. Will your friends be a problem?"
"They've all seen you and you've met most of them as we were eating our lunches in the Engineering lobby. I don't think they'd be too surprised." He opened his photo editor again and printed out two wallet sized pictures of us saying our vows. "We could show these to them for proof." I took one of them and shoved it in my backpack. He was sliding his into his wallet.
I let out a huge sigh.
"What was that for?" Edward asked.
"It's just so real. It's sort of overwhelming to me at times."
Edward reached over to where my hand was resting on the computer table and squeezed it, "Don't worry. It will all work out."
I smiled at him in thanks. He was very reassuring. I hoped he was right. We worked together in quiet companionship for the rest of the evening. Edward was working on an engineering project and I had ferreted out my mother's scrapbooking supplies. I was happy to find an empty album I could use for the "History of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cullen." I had gotten a good start on it when I started to yawn.
"I think I need to go to bed. I am wilting here."
Edward smiled, "Do lights bother you?"
"Not too much."
"I've got some more work to do on this project I am working on and then I'll go to bed, okay?"
"That's fine, Edward."
Soon, I had showered and was tucked up in bed. I had gotten out some bedding for Edward's futon after his repeated stubborn refusal to take the larger bed. I was too tired to argue over it. Just before I drifted off to sleep, I remembered something, "Edward?" I called.
I heard his voice from behind the screen, "Yes, Bella."
"I think I should warn you; I talk in my sleep."
Chapter 5: The Beginning
Chapter 5 The Beginning
The beeping of my alarm clock sounded dim and faint but it still woke me as I had hoped. I had the breakfast shift this morning at the Diner and that meant getting out of bed at 5:00 am to get to work by 5:45. I hated the morning shift but I needed the money. Unfortunately, I agreed to work this shift before knowing that there would be someone sharing my little apartment today. I set my alarm and put the clock under my pillow the night before. I prayed that a merciful God would see that I awoke. He did.
I quietly slipped out of bed, hoping that I wouldn't wake Edward who was sleeping on the futon in the main part of the room. I pulled the covers up on my bed and fluffed the pillows, then tip-toed silently out to the bathroom. It was dark in the apartment and I didn't want to turn on the light for fear of waking Edward.
I held my breath as I passed his sleeping form. I could vaguely see the outline of his body. His torso was bare and his hand was flung over the side of the futon. The sheet and blanket had slipped down around his hips. I side stepped around him and cautiously opened the door to the bathroom. I'd left my uniform in there the night before, so I could dress in there without disturbing my frusband.
There were two toothbrushes in the tooth brush holder.
There were two toothbrushes in the tooth brush holder!
Seeing my toothbrush cozying up with his simply reinforced the fact that we were living together. We were married. We were sharing a bathroom and a toothbrush rack. I think I was in shock.
I quickly washed my face, brushed my teeth and hair, and put the basics of make-up on. I pulled my hair up into a bun on the back of my head and then slipped off my pajamas, eased on my panty hose, then followed that with my bra and slip (you had to wear a slip with that stupid polyester for comfort's sake.) I put my putrid pink dress on and buttoned it from hem to bodice. The apron, hat and hair net would wait until I got to work.
Drat! I left my clod-hoppery orthopedic waitress shoes under the bed and would have to go back for them.
After the brightness of the bathroom, the apartment was pitch black and I was practically blind as I guessed the path I needed to thread to get to my bed. Holding my breath I tried to move past the futon when I stumbled into the side of it. It threw me off balance and I fell right on top of my sleeping Prince Charming.
Iron arms closed around me and I found myself pulled possessively to his chest. Our bodies were aligned from hip to breast and the closeness was torture to all of my senses, the friction, his scent, his warmth. I could lie in his arms all day and not complain one iota.
"Bella?" his sleepy voice said, his hands moved down to my waist.
"Oh, Edward," I whispered, "I am sorry. I tripped and fell. I couldn't see in the dark."
His hands were exploring my back, "Do you have your waitress uniform on?"
"Yes. I have to go to work," I struggled a little and he let me go and I sat up. "I was trying so hard not to wake you."
"No problem. I was going to get up anyway." He switched on the lamp next to his futon/bed. His bare chest was glorious. I could hardly tear my eyes away.
"You're a college student. This is the weekend. You're supposed to sleep until noon!"
"I've never been able to sleep in like that. I get up with the sun. That's one reason I never had any roommates."
I got my shoes and was bending over to tie them as Edward got up from his bed and made for the bathroom. I loaded my back pack and was preparing to leave when Edward emerged fully clothed.
"I'll give you a ride," he said.
"It's not necessary, Edward. I usually walk."
He scowled at me, "You walk to work in the dark at 5:30 in the morning?"
"I usually don't work the morning shift."
He shook his head, "Oh my dear Bella. You take risks with yourself that you shouldn't." He pulled on his coat and then grabbed mine and held it out so that I could put it on. He gently spun me around and pulled me closer to him by the lapels of my coat. He leaned over and kissed me softly on the lips. I had been so overwhelmed with his nearness and the 'my dear Bella' stuff that I know my mouth was gaping in stupid awe so when our lips met, he immediately opened his own and gently caressed my lips with his tongue.
You know when, in novels, they say 'time stood still?' Okay. I now knew what that felt like, too.
Edward's kiss spun fire through my body; molten, painless lava shooting through my veins. The pounding of my heart was all that I could hear as his kiss wreaked damage throughout my self-control and self-preservation. Oh. My. Gosh. (I wasn't very religious but I still didn't like to invoke the Big Guy when I was in the throes of desire.)
Edward broke off the kiss, smiled softly down at me and said, "Since you won't take care of yourself, will you let me?"
I had no answer for him. I didn't want to be his charity case: the grief stricken, lonely coed who needed someone to make it all go away. I didn't want him to want me in that way but how did I want him to want me? In fact, really, how did I want to want him? Outside of jumping his bones, I didn't really know. So, I didn't answer his question.
"If I don't leave now, I'll be late," was all I said.
He nodded, then took my hand and led me down to his car. We drove together in silence the few short blocks to the diner. Edward turned off the engine as I was getting out of the car. I looked at him questioningly. "Could I come in and have some breakfast?" he asked.
I smiled, "Certainly. Best breakfast in town." We walked into the diner together, Edward's hand at my back. All my coworkers noticed. Edward took his customary seat at the counter and I went back to the kitchen to clock in and get into the rest of my uniform.
Angela, who waited tables with me, gave me a knowing look. "So what's with Mr. McDreamy bringing you to work today, Ducks?" Angela was a great friend. We had worked together ever since I started at the diner and had developed a good working relationship. She and the rest of the diner staff had noticed Edward always coming in when I was working and had teased me unmercifully about it.
"It's a long story," I said.
"Long stories make good stories but your lips look little swollen. I can guess where this one ends up."
I looked at her in surprise and blushed and rushed to the mirror that hung above the sink in the washroom. My lips did look a little red and maybe a little like they'd just been kissed. I touched them in wonder and remembered. Ohhhhhh. I'd better stop thinking about THAT. I had to work.
Angela was still chuckling at me as I passed her and went into the dining room. Edward sat there waiting for me, his face lighting up when he saw me. Gahhh. He was gorgeous.
"What will you have this morning?"
"You," he teased.
I blushed again and I heard Angela snicker behind me.
"I am not on the menu, sir."
"Ah, too bad," he looked down at the laminated sheet that listed our breakfast offerings and asked, "What do you suggest?"
"Everything is good. Are you very hungry?"
He shrugged, "Somewhat."
"Eggs and bacon? Toast on the side? Coffee? Tea?"
"Yes. I'll take my eggs fried with a soft yolk, whole wheat toast, and, of course, tea."
Smiling, I put his order in and went to start his toast and tea. Angela was making coffee. "So, are you two a couple, now?"
"I guess you could say that," I muttered.
"Oh ho!" Angela chortled, "It took you two long enough. It was always sunshine, butterflies and little bitty blue birds between the two of you when he'd show up in here. You'll have to tell me how it happened?"
"Shhh, Angela, later!" But she got me thinking, was there something between Edward and I even then? So much that other people noticed?
I brought his tea over to him (I had my stash of PG Tips hidden away.) "Enjoy, Edward. Your food will be right up."
"Here ya go, Daisy." The cook never called anyone by their right name. I was always Daisy for some reason. I grabbed Edward's toast, buttered and sliced it and then put his plate in front of him. I snagged a newspaper for him along the way.
"I thought you may wish to read this while you eat."
"Thank you, Daisy." Oh boy. He had heard the cook.
I glared at him, "Don't you like my real name?"
He smiled back, "Yes. I love your real name." He looked at me almost tenderly, "But Daisy suits you, too."
I smiled, shook my head, and went to work. He love my real name? Then I remembered, yesterday when he was talking to his father he called me Bella Cullen. Is that what my real name was now? Wow. The rammifications of what I had done were like ripples in a pond. Soon every aspect of my life were going to be impacted.
Edward read the paper as he ate, occasionally looking up to watch me as I served my other customers. He actually drank two pots of tea as he sat there.
When there was a lull in customers, I'd go over to talk to him, which is what I'd normally do before we married. I thought it was best to keep to our normal behavior in case there were INS agents spying on us. Besides, I wanted to talk to him. He told me that he was going to go back to the apartment and do some laundry and asked when I would be off of work. I told him at two p.m. and he nodded, rose, put $20 on the counter and said he'd see me then. I watched him leave with a bemused expression on my face until Angela came up and said, "Okay. Give!"
"What happened between the two of you. I know something did. Tell me!"
"Uhm. We got married?" I ventured.
"Stop kidding me. What is going on between the two of you?"
"No really. We got married two days ago."
"You're shitting me?"
"Nope." I went on to wipe down the counter.
"That was rather sudden, wasn't it?"
"It was but it felt right."
"Oh, Bella. You actually married the guy?" She looked at me incredulously.
Angela shook her head, "I guess you knew what you were doing." She paused for a moment then looked impishly at me, "So, how is he in the sack?"
"Oh, ANGELA!" I screeched. I am sure every capillary in my face burst with the flood of blood my embarrassment threw in them. Customers and coworkers alike stopped what they were doing and stared at us.
Angela laughed and turned to the crowd, mostly regulars, and said, "Bella got married the other day to that handsome piece of work that just left here."
Cheers and laughter flooded the small restaurant and I just wanted to crawl into a corner and die. Angela was never one for tact, as much as I loved her. I worked the rest of the morning quietly acknowledging the congratulators and avoiding the teasers. When I had my thirty minute break, I put on my coat and went out to the picnic table behind the restaurant. It was where the smokers went to get their fix but it was empty now. I brought my cell phone with me and called Edward.
"Bella?" he answered immediately, "How are you?"
"I am dying here. I told Angela that we had gotten married and she announced it to the whole diner."
I heard Edward chuckle, "Well, at least you got it over with. They'll find something else to chatter about before too long." A bus passed where I was sitting and Edward heard it, "Where are you?"
"Sitting at the picnic table outside. I needed to get out of there."
"When will your break be over?"
"In about 25 minutes."
"Can I spend it with you?"
"Sure." I was thinking he meant talking on the phone but a few minutes later, I saw him jogging down the street that led from our apartment. He had his phone up to his ear and he smiled when he saw that I had seen him coming.
I closed my phone and stood up as he approached me. When he was near enough, he put his arms around me and kissed me hello. (Lightning bolts. I didn't think I'd ever get tired of it.)
"It's a little cold to be sitting out here," he said.
"I'm not unfortified." I handed him a Styrofoam cup of hot tea fixed the way he liked it (which was now the way I liked it, too.) "We can share."
He grinned happily at me, "You really are a girl after my own heart." He sipped the tea with satisfaction.
"Edward, can I ask you a weird question?"
"Of course. You can ask me anything."
"Why do you kiss me?"
Well, whether he actually meant I could ask him anything or not, he definitely wasn't expecting that question. He barked out a laugh, "Because I like to." He looked at me like I was destined for the looney bin.
"You like to?" I asked skeptically.
"Yes, you silly woman; I like to. You have the most kissable lips." He shook his head and in a subdued and slightly worried voice said, "Of course, I won't kiss you if you don't want me to."
"Uhm. Well, I like it, too. I just wondered if you were doing it for the pretense."
"No. I promise, I do it because sometimes it expresses what I feel better than words can at the moment."
He looked at me piercingly, "As a matter of fact, come here and I will demonstrate…" He leaned against the end of the picnic table and pulled me so that I was standing between his knees. In this position, he didn't have to lean over. He let go of my hands and wound his arms around me, one going up to the back of my head to gently guide mine to his.
When our lips touched this time, my world exploded. His lips teased mine open, our tongues met and he deepened our kiss. I wrapped one arm around his waist and one around his neck so that I could finally do what I'd dreamed about doing since I first saw him months ago, entangle my fingers in that glorious mane of hair.
I was flying, soaring, touching stars, swimming in deep, clear waters. Hidden fires deep within me burst brightly into infernos. And I could sense Edward was there right along with me. I pressed into him and I heard a moan. I wasn't really sure if it was mine or his. It didn't matter. We kissed and kissed some more.
Suddenly, we heard someone clear their throat, "Uhm, excuse me but should we get out the hose or something?"
We broke off guiltily. Angela was standing there with the cook, laughing their heads off. Edward still held on to my hand as I stepped away from him.
"You coming back to work, chickie?" Angela asked. I hurriedly looked at my watch and saw that my break had been up five minutes ago. Edward and I had stood there in the back alley and made out for at least twenty minutes and I never noticed. Wow.
"I am sorry, time got away from me." I looked at Edward and smiled sheepishly, "I'll see you when I get home."
He grinned back at me. "I'll walk you home."
"You don't need to, Edward."
"It's my pleasure."
"Aw, Bella, just let him. You're newlyweds. It's probably killing him to even be apart from you when you have to work."
Edward leaned over, kissed me on the cheek, we said our goodbyes and I went back to work. I don't remember anything about the remainder of my shift except that my lips still tingled from Edward's kisses.
At 1:45, Edward showed up at the diner to walk me home. It was a slow time in the diner and I was doing my side work, so he sat with me and helped me roll the rest of the silverware. I clocked out at two and Edward walked me hand and hand down the street.
"Besides your laundry what did you do today?" I asked.
"I worked some on that project for Structural Members that I was doing last night. Oh, and incidentally, I found a website that listed questions from an INS spousal interview. They are very thorough. A lot of the questions reflect daily living activities and many are extremely personal."
"I'll show you when we get home."
Home. He called our apartment, home. With a pang, I thought of the last time I really had a home was when my parents were alive. That distracted me for a moment until I understood his unspoken meaning. The INS questions were so personal that it was going to be embarrassing for Edward and me to discuss them. But we had to discuss them. I guess I could look forward to an uncomfortable evening.
We were entering the apartment building when Edward added, "Also, my mother called today."
I looked over at him and asked, "What did she have to say?"
He paused for a bit then said, "She can't wait to meet you."
"Oh boy. Is she going to give me a piece of her mind?"
"I don't think so but she's very disappointed that we didn't wait for her and dad to fly over so they could be at our wedding."
"I am sorry. I don't want your parents to be upset with you over me."
We'd reached our apartment and Edward unlocked the door and held it open for me to pass through. I took my off my coat to find Edward leaning against the door looking at me.
"Bella, they aren't upset with you at all. In fact, they are very grateful. They know that without you agreeing to marry me, I'd be packing to go home right now."
But I wasn't allowing that, "Honestly, we are helping each other out. I can afford to stay here now. I wasn't sure what I was going to do next month."
I took off my apron and bent down to untie my old lady shoes. (I complained a lot about my ugly shoes but they really did help me keep on my feet for hours at a time.) Edward was watching my every move. I was starting to feel a little self-conscious.
"Edward, I usually take a hot shower or bath after I get off of work. I just have to get rid of that greasy smell. Would you excuse me for a bit?"
"Most certainly. I'll make some tea, right?"
"Okay. That's fine."
I grabbed some clothes out of my dresser and went to the bathroom. I was trying to decide whether I wanted a bath or a shower. A bath would be more relaxing but Edward was making tea and I didn't want to make him wait around for me, so shower it was. When I came out, my tea was awaiting me on the table. Next to it was a small stack of papers.
"I thought we could go over the interview questions as we had our tea."
Oh, oh. I couldn't wait to see what these were about.
We sat comfortably next to each other on the futon. All traces that Edward had used it as a bed last night were gone. He'd noticed me looking and said, "I reckon I need to hide my bedding in case of surprise visits."
"That makes sense." I was looking at the questions and saw they were divided into ten different sections ranging from 'the Development of Your Relationship' to the layout of our apartment. I looked over them and most seemed fairly detailed but innocuous until I got to the section entitled 'Bedroom.'
It started out innocently enough: 'What size is your bed?' and yes, indeed, 'Who sleeps on which side of the bed' was on there. But then about the fifth question in was 'What kind of birth control do you use?' I gulped. And I blushed. And I looked at Edward who was watching me with a little twisted smile on his face.
"Oh," is all I said.
"I know," is what he said.
I took a sip of tea, "Let's get this over with. 'What kind of birth control do we use?'"
"Abstinence?" he suggested.
"I don't think they'll buy that, Edward."
"It's the honest answer."
"But I don't think many newlyweds abstain. They'll think we are faking this."
"You're probably right."
"But honestly, the truth is that I am on oral contraceptives. I use them to help me with cramps. I used to suffer with them quite a bit and it was really a pain to be laid up in bed for two days a month, not being able to do anything but moan. My mother finally took me to a doctor who suggested the pill. It's worked very well."
I was probably telling him way more information than he wanted to know. But I saw the next question. 'When was your/your wife's last menstrual period?' and that was worse, so like tearing off a band aid, I blathered, "And my last period was the first of the month. My periods are always around the beginning of the month."
He was blushing a little now, too, and I felt badly. "I am sorry if I am embarrassing you, Edward."
He looked at me in surprise, "No. Of course you're not embarrassing me. It's just deeply personal information and I think, in the natural course of events, we'd learn these things from each other. This just feels a little contrived. But it is necessary."
The next few questions were routine, 'how many windows in the bedroom,' 'do you leave any lights on when you sleep' but then there was, 'Is your husband circumcised?'
Lovely. We now got to talk about Edward's structural member.
I looked at him and he simply shook his head. (Secretly, I was trying to imagine what that looked like. Squee!)
Okay, Bella. Don't go there! Onward. But onward was worse.
'What is your favorite position?'
Yes. They meant sex. They even gave examples 'missionary,' 'doggy,' 'cowgirl.' (Cowgirl? There's a position called Cowgirl?)
I took another, big sip of tea and looked at Edward in embarrassment. "Well?"
He had a teasing sparkle in his eye, "So, Bella, what's your favorite position?"
If I could die right then on command, I think I would have.
You see, I am an unusual twenty-one year old college student. Since my parents died, the furthest thing from my mind was to date or have a boyfriend. My emotions were too raw and hurt. I'd spent the last three years hiding myself in literature and in my studies.
Before that, I'd lived in the tiny town of Forks where I'd known all the boys since we were babies together and dating one of them seemed slightly incestuous. Besides, my daddy was the Chief of Police and he owned guns. Big guns. So, to make a long story short, I was a virgin. In fact, I'd hardly ever been kissed.
I mumbled, "I don't have a favorite position."
"You like them all?"
I think the capillaries in my cheeks had just given up and stayed red now, "I really don't know. I've never had any experience."
Edward gazed at me, stunned, then his features suddenly softened into that gentle, tender look he'd been giving me lately. "Let's just say that we are novices and so far have relied upon the missionary position and let it go like that."
"Okay." I circled missionary position on the questionaire and thought about being in the missionary position with Edward. And I thought about it. And thought about it. And… Was I getting sexually aroused?
Hoo Boy. Time for another cup of tea. I stood up and grabbed our mugs. "More tea, Edward?"
He smiled gratefully, "Yes, please. We need to get a tea pot, though. It's the only way to make proper tea."
"Maybe they'll let me bring one home from the diner," I said.
Making the tea took my mind off of Edward's member, the missionary style, and whatever in the world 'cowgirl' was. Could someone die of frustrated sexual curiosity? I might be the first.
We made our way through the eight pages of questions and did fairly well, I thought. Most of it was just noticing what was already there. 'What color is the rug?' 'How much money does your spouse make?' 'What brand of shampoo does your spouse use?'
There was one question under the 'children' section that got me day dreaming again: 'Do you want children? How many? When?'
We decided that we did want children but were not sure how many and would take that as it came but certainly didn't want any until we were financially stable and finished with our schooling.
But then I was thinking of having a little green-eyed baby looking up at me as I held him in my arms and I sighed.
"What's wrong, Bella?" He was ever attentive to my moods.
"I am just a little tired. What do you want for supper?"
"I will make it tonight. Why don't you take a nap and I'll get the meal on. I'll wake you when it's ready."
"Are you sure, Edward?"
"I am. Go on with you, now."
So, I stretched out on my bed under the comforter and drifted off to a sleep full of dreams about babies that led to dreams about positions and members and all sorts of delicious things.
Did I mention that I talked in my sleep?
I awoke to Edward sitting on the side of the bed, gently brushing my hair back from my forehead, "Time to wake up, Bella. Supper's ready." He had a cute little smirk on his face and I knew that my mouth had been live action reporting my dreams.
"Oh shit. I was talking, wasn't I?"
"Somewhat." His cute little smirk grew to a cute big smirk.
"Oh shit. I am mortified."
"Do you remember what you were dreaming about, Bella?"
"I do. But if I didn't I am sure, due to my traitor mouth, you could tell me."
"Well, you called my name, so I came back here to find out what you wanted. I was delighted to find that you literally wanted me."
Oh damn. This was worse than I expected. I just stared at him.
"You know, Bella, if you would like to explore a physical relationship with me, it would please me beyond any doubt but I am thinking that perhaps that sort of thing is premature and we should wait. I want you to be positive that you are comfortable with everything first. Then, it would be my pleasure to love you the way we were meant."
My heart gave a little stutter. It was a different kind of stutter that I had felt before. This one wasn't about his physical magnetism as much as it was about the man I was now realizing he was. He was a good, kind-hearted, honest man. And I think that I was really beginning to feel more than just admiration for him.
I think I was beginning to love him.