Me and Mom Fall in Love With Edward 24

That evening, after Edward has spent the afternoon putting the double coat on Billy's living room walls, Edward and I clean the wood floor and move the furniture in place. I estimate this room has not been this shiny since before Billy's wife Sue died in the nineties. We have not moved a couple of things back in—an old chair and a rickety table. They are currently on the curb with the trash. We've gotten rid of all the magazines and newspapers. They are also on the curb. Does anyone need twenty-one years worth of Ebony? These had belonged to Sue, not Billy. I doubted he'd ever touched them since she died, and the ones that had come since he was still piling.

I know we could have tried to sell them on ebay but Edward nixed it. "Do him a favor and get rid of them, Swan," he said. And I know, Edward parts easily with…things.

So some of these stacks went with permission, some while Billy wasn't looking, while he was yelling at the television during the ballgame. It looks so good in here we can't stop staring and Billy has not asked after a thing. Is he relieved? He might be.

I had already started cleaning the kitchen. Edward and I stood in there next trying to imagine a brave new world. Edward wondered if we should paint it yellow. "Your mom said that's a good color for kitchens," he says. "And you did that cool ceiling."

I blow a raspberry. Billy likes it simple. Yellow might work. Billy won't care until we do, then he'll be full of advice and criticism until he sees the change and his mouth gets stopped and he's pointing out a drop of paint here or there and saying, this don't look too bad.

It's been a long, good, productive day. Earlier we had separated Ned and Dusty. Ned is at home in Edward's yard. Dusty is in Billy's.

Since we are finished for now, I bring Dusty into the house on his leash and introduce him to Billy.

"Looks just like the other one," Billy says cause he's seen Ned's antics from his window.

"They're brothers," I say.

"Oh…brothers," Billy pats Dusty's head. "There is a man that sticketh closer than a brother," he says idly quoting scripture while he rubs Dusty's head. I figure Billy is talking about Charlie. They'd been like that once…brothers. It seemed that way. Dad bought the house across the street because of Billy. I called him Uncle Billy then.

"You taking this guy on patrol?" Billy asks.

King had walked with me. "I don't know," I say. "You like him? He could stay with you while I walk."

"What I gonna do with him? He housebroke?"

"Supposed to be," I say.

Billy repeats that like what the hell.

"Just let him hang out while I go," I say.

"What about him?" he points at Edward then says to him, "You take him."

"Hey man, the lady who cleaned your toilet asks you to watch her dog it's like a no-brainer, right?" Edward says this so nicely I hope he can get by with it.

"No brainer? I'm in this chair." Billy means his lift chair.

"No disrespect, but get out of it sometimes," Edward says and I know it's time to wrap it up.

"Here it comes. Paint my walls…tell me what to do?"

"No," Edward says, "nothing like that. Just saying get some exercise. Come with us to the market on Saturday. See some people."

"I don't like people," Billy says.

"I don't either," I say like proof that shouldn't stop you.

Well we talked that into the ground because it's a little awkward and I say, "I guess I'll take Dusty home then, and…see you tomorrow."

"Well he can stay while you walk," Billy says reaching for the leash.

I look at Edward and he's trying not to smile. He goes to the door and I hand off the leash to Billy and say, "Sure. Um…thanks."

I don't even wait around. We are out of there and running across Billy's little patch of lawn and all the way across the street. When we get near Edward's, we're laughing then, and he goes onto his porch and I follow him…why am I still following him? Because I'm so, so happy, I don't even know why because Dusty might give Billy a hard time, I don't even know, but I'm so happy, and Edward gets me on the porch and near the end it's hard to see with the plants on the trellis, and he pulls me right there, and then it's hug time, and kiss time, and I'm setting on the rail and he's right there between my eyes, my lungs, my legs, my feet. He's right there along the midline, opening me up so he can move right into my heart, and I am folded around him like a flower trapping a bee and he's humming in me.

He's laughing and we're kissing. It's exhilarating and I have never felt young like this, maybe never, I have never felt young until now, young, strong, alive, like the good guys are winning in this world, like Edward and I might be the very first ones to live forever.

I am kissing him, and it's the best way to celebrate…life.

"Edward," I whisper. He is so close we share breath. There's nothing to say about this, just his name. I declare his name there between us. I pledge my allegiance.

"Bella," he says, it's like blessing, like stardust. I am Bella. That's me.

"I'm very happy," I confess.

"Me too," he says, his mouth lifted in a smile, a tender beautiful smile.

"It's you. You are making me happier and happier."

He laughs. "I am? Well ditto."

I laugh. Everything is funny. Ditto is perfect. Wrong and perfect.

"After I walk," I whisper, dropping my gaze to his throat, to the vee of skin his T-shirt shows, "I'll…."

"I'll wait for you," he says.

"I'll…go home first…."

He's finished talking. He leads me to the steps. "Sooner you go, sooner you return."

I am still laughing as I hurry home for my flashlight. He tried to offer his, but…no.

111111111111111111111111111111111

Mom is gone again. I get my light and I'm out. I tell myself to slow down, to pay attention.

Everything is clear. The dark world is friendly. Even the shadows have a soft welcoming beauty. The night is cooler. The breeze rattles the leaves in the trees like God sifts his hands through his coffers and we all feel rich. Love has not dulled me, quite the opposite. I am in my skin but I'm a part of something bigger, let in on a secret...I am aware.

Love? You know it when you…feel it. Until then you only hope…you wait. You wonder if you'll recognize it. I had…wondered that. But the force of it…you can't ignore love. Do I feel love…euphoric…phase one through ten? It can't be anything else. He is…Romeo…Lancelot …Rochester…Edward.

And I am just Bella. But love, Edward's love is kind. I remember Merle saying that to Leah and me, so many times. Love, young ladies, is kind. And Edward is the kindest person I know next to Merle and Pearlie.

So how could I not love him?

It's happened quick, I know that. It's too fast, too uninformed, too unusual. And I have no experience. I don't know what to compare this to. Does Edward remind me of Merle? He does. Edward has that fineness I've seen in Merle, that honorable thing. He puts others first.

He loves dogs and people and…vegetables. Does he love me? Is that what makes the green in his eyes so meltingly, hauntingly beautiful?

I can't be in this by myself.

A blue car passes, slow, its lights flash bright in my face, the driver, a ponytail, forties? Sometimes it happens, strange men, like they prowl in cars. Billy is long past the lectures, how to pay attention. I've set up a routine, and I'm alone, and that's the thing Billy never liked. But it's just the neighborhood, one block. And years have gone by, and so we've settled, que-sera, sera. Lone men in cars, I show no fear. This one doubles back. He passes again, I don't know what he's looking for. He slows. "Hey, I'm looking for a rental someone told me about."

"I don't know. Walter relator. It's in the book ," I say, keeping my distance. I figure it's the rental house, but how do I know? My instincts say to send him on.

"You need a ride?"

I'm moving now. He's pointed in my direction. I don't answer, I keep walking, put my cell to my ear, shine my light in his face, a nice watch, a laptop open on the passenger's seat. He takes off slow.

111111111111111111111111111111111111

When patrol is done I knock on Edward's door, and Dusty is barking on my side of the slab and Ned is barking on the other.

Edward opens the door and he's in his sleep pants and the forever t-shirt, hair still damp from his shower, paint-free at last. He hasn't tried to rebuke Ned because the brother love is strong and I keep Dusty on his leash as he and Ned reconnect in a dog hug and teeth clacking bite-fest.

"Billy do okay with Dusty?" he says.

"He just sat there and he had his paw on Billy's leg."

"Sweet," Edward says. "Oh and speaking of…sweet…." He pulls me to him and I drop the leash and the two dogs are in a wrestling match.

Edward peels off the strap from my bag and sets that on the floor, then the jacket I've worn over as he kisses me hello. "It's been too long since…I missed you," he says.

I couldn't get over here fast enough. "I didn't shave my legs. I'm sorry," I say. Then I'm so completely mortified to have said it. Why?

Edward picks me up and hurriedly carries me to the bedroom almost yelling, "Let me see, let me see," and he throws me on the bed and Ned is there and Dusty, still wrestling and now I'm in the middle of it, arms over my face.

Edward has made them both get down and he's shut the bedroom door, so they can't rocket through the rest of the house. They are both laying down looking at him while he lectures sternly. As soon as he turns toward me Ned crawls on his belly to Dusty and they both have their mouths open ready to start chewing on each other.

But Edward isn't interested anymore. He whips his shirt over his head and throws it at the dresser, then he grabs my foot pulls off the shoe and pushes the loose leg of my pants up my thigh. He positions my foot on his shoulder and runs his hands up and down my extended leg while I lay on my back my hands splayed on the twisted bedding.

"Edward," I'm saying, but he won't give me my leg.

"Ouch," he's saying, pretending his hands are getting torn up on the bristles. Then he slows his rubbing and says, "Hmmm."

Then he's looking at my leg as his hands glide firmly and smoothly, and I think he's going to touch me there, in-between, cause his eyes flash there a few times, but he takes the other foot, puts it on his opposite shoulder and he rubs up and down on that leg, giving it equal time. "No complaints from me, Swan. These legs will just…have to do." He's looking at me now.

I'm in love with him. I love him. If he can read my mind, he'll know.

"She's looking at me," he says softly. "She's telling me something. What is she trying to convey?" he says. "Her social security number? Or did she forget to turn off her curling iron?"

"I don't use a curling iron," I say trying to keep my eyes from rolling.

"Oh…that's good," and the hands…, "that's real good, Swan."

I laugh then and pull my legs away from him and roll out of his reach. I sit up Indian style and this gets the dogs' attention, and Edward warns them to stay put, then crawls into bed with me.

We rearrange ourselves on the pillows. His arm is around me. I love the skin there, his armpit too, the place right under. I settle my head more on his chest then. I put the flat of my hand there, feel his heart thump, feel the muscles shaping the skin. His nipples are small. He could never nurse children. No, first I think, he could never nurse puppies. I smile and he must feel the way my face moves, and he laughs a little and says what's funny?

"Your nipples are just for advertising."

"What?"

"They're very small."

"They're man-nipples. Oh. Let's see yours. Are they hairy like your legs?"

I squeal and roll away from him and he's trying to lift my shirt, and Ned is quickly on the bed again, and Dusty bowls right on top of me. My arm is stinging from Dusty's toenails. Edward rebukes them soundly and they slink onto the blanket on the floor, their tails nervously pumping against the wood.

Edward returns to me, takes my arm to view the damage. He kisses the red scratch. "Damn dogs. I'm taking them to a kill shelter," he says kill shelter in their direction, "in the morning."

They are both over here now, their noses poking at me. "It's alright," I say patting their clunky heads. I point out Dusty's little knob on top of his skull. It's sharper than Ned's. Once this has all been thoroughly explored and talked about we all settle in again. Edward has his arm in place, and I am lying on his shoulder. We smell a little like dogs now, but we agree we're too lazy to wash because they'll probably be back a few more times.

In a minute I am tracing his profile. I say, "Too doggy?"

He laughs and says, "My face?"

His eyes are closed so I can do what I want. I touch his lashes. They are as thick as they look. I rub my finger over his brow. Then I trace again. His jaws are rough with shadow.

"I like your face," I whisper thinking of God the potter, us the clay and how Edward typifies that better than anyone I've seen before or likely ever will.

He smiles but he doesn't open his eyes. "I like you here," he says.

I put my arm around him and move as close to him as I can. I allow my eyes to close, and my breathing eases. I can feel sleep weighing my eyelids, even my lashes. I feel so safe, here in this home I am starting to call his.

"Edward?"

"Yes?"

Will you hug me hard…hard as you can?"

He moves then, more onto his side. I am wearing him. He has a leg around me even, and he tightens his hold, tightens more. I close my eyes and direct all of my attention to this feeling…of being protected. My mind quiets, and I am here, here, wrapped in him.

He doesn't speak, we don't speak. I have my ear against his chest and I hear his body thump and gurgle, and I feel his strength enfolded there, a vice of flesh and bone and muscle, but a heart, a mind that believes…in this hug…in us.

After a couple of minutes he says, "Swan?"

"Yes?"

"I'm easing a little, okay?"

I don't answer, but he eases and I breathe more. I think of how I had to bolt when I awoke in his arms. But when he lets me be the asker, it can't be tight enough…his hold.

"Did you like it, being held that way?"

"Yes," I say small.

"It didn't hurt?"

"In a good way."

"I don't want to hurt you baby."

I look at him, that deep in his eyes. "It was good."

He is touching me, my face and hair. "Think about us…what we've done together?" he says.

"At Billy's?"

He laughs. "No. Or yes. While we were being all nice and industrious…and I tried not to let him…or you for that matter…catch me staring at your ass."

I raise and slap at him. He's laughing and I am too. "I did catch you," I say, "that one time."

"You did not," he says.

We settle down and get quiet, the dogs making these little gasps while they chew, and the soft whirr of the fan making a kind of music.

"What have you been thinking about it?" he asks.

"Read it," I say, because I could never tell him.

He puts his thumb in the middle of my forehead and says, "Thought-so."

But here's what I'm thinking-Edward…I love you. If you left people…they're wondering…they loved you. You're so kind. They miss you…someone…somewhere is missing you.

He says, "Bella…I'm a five minute show. Anyone can be great for five minutes. But you, five years, twenty, they just love you all the more. You're the real deal."

I move my head so I can look in his eyes.

"I know how special you are. It's not casual. They say casual sex—I don't feel that way…casual," he says.

I don't know what to say to that. I can't speak right away. I try to imagine myself as this special thing. A dozen mundane pictures of me doing my mundane things flip through my mind. It's a stretch.

He breathes in, his arm tightening for a minute.

"Is anyone looking for you?"

He hesitates. "No."

"How do you know?"

"They're not. I haven't been home in a long time."

"Did something bad happen? Could you go home if you wanted to? Would you?"

"I am home. Not back there. Here. This. You."

"Chicago?"

"What?"

"Chicago. Is that home?"

"Why would you say that?" His demeanor changes. "How…has Billy been…it's Billy."

"No," I say, alarmed at how serious he's become so quickly. "It was the newspaper…for the fries. It said Chicago," I say. We're sitting up.

He stares at me, and I know he's a little ashamed, but it's really thrown him that I've said Chicago.

"Bella…I told you the Midwest. Why can't that be enough? You and Billy. I need you to drop it. It has no bearing on what's happening between us."

"I just want to know you."

He pulls me back down, and we wrap ourselves in one another and it's so comforting and true, it's so overpowering to be this close, we kiss.

"Bella, listen to me cause this is going to kill me to say this, okay?"

I nod and I'm scared.

"We're doing the man-woman thing, right? We both know why you came over, we know why I told you to hurry. But you haven't thought this through." We are looking at one another. "I've been pushing and…that hasn't been fair. I need to back off and let you come my way…if you want to. When."

"I did come your way. You don't want me."

"Of course I want you. That's never been a problem." He pulls me closer and says close to my face, my lips, "I want you Bella Swan."

I can't leave him. Doesn't he know that? I can't even stop to think. Breathing over thinking. Living over thinking.

He is looking at me, looking. "You're never rash, amazingly consistent, every move calculated, you're throwing all that aside for someone you worry you can't trust. You need to go home, girl. You need to run the hell out of here."

I take his hand, hold it, I look so far into his eyes I am falling head first in a rush. "I won't leave you, Edward. I don't want to. I want to be here. No-where else."

He doesn't say anything for a while. He's looking so far into me.

Finally I lay my head back down and he slowly pulls me in and he tightens his arms like he did before, and he adds the leg and I am crushed against him waiting for his body to give way and become one with mine.

We lay like this and he's holding me, and inside I am rearranged, I am soft and echoey as I look into rooms long closed, rooms I'd forgotten were behind the walls…in me.

When his arms tremble he eases his hold and I lift then, enough to kiss him, to give him myself that way, and I pull up my shirt so I can feel my skin on his. He groans and we kiss like this and time goes away and dogs and the room, and I am over him, on him, and I stay there but I move off, my hand wanting to feel what I've felt against my protruding pelvic bone. I ease off and I feel him then, through the thin pants and underwear which he pulls down and hooks somewhere under his balls and I see him then, the way he's made, and I look at his face and he's watching me, letting me take my time. I touch him and I can feel the tightening in him and he wraps his hand around mine and I know I should hold him that way, this flesh over hardness having some give, some looseness, and his body lifts with the pleasure I'm giving him. "That's enough," he says, taking my hand. "You're going to kill him. Get undressed."

We both do, and it's quick, and I am bare to him, and he to me, and he is glorious and I watch his big hand for a minute, moving over me, my breasts, my scar, my stomach, the hair between my very spread legs, my white thighs. And I see it now, that I'm this woman…sexy…I have what he wants…I have it. He's made me beautiful…right now…perfect.

He touches me down there, his head on my stomach, he makes me come, go to pieces, yell out and my hands in his hair, the long hot wave of pleasure, then his hot lips on mine, and sucking my tongue my lips, sucking on my breasts and one quick touch of his fingers and I put my hands over his strong hand and lift my head and I come again, bliss and sounds and smells, and I grab onto him and I'm pumping him, and faster and the white, hot spurts, the wet and sticky, the sweaty us, the laughing us, the kissing wildly us, the whispered words, beauty, beautiful, my God, the glow, the joy of so much discovery.

"In the morning I'm going to fry you some patty pan squash," I say after.

"That white kind?"

"Yeah. With soft eggs. It's so good. You dip the squash in the yellow."

"Bella Swan," he whispers. Then he says, "We never had our steak!"

"After we cut pumpkins tomorrow," I say. "I know a place."

I get a kiss for that. He gets one too, for kissing me. We don't sleep until much later.