The Fruit's on the Vine Contest
Pen name: TiramiSue84
Summary: "Are you..?" My ears are straining to hear her voice, but my eyes bounce back and forth between her hand covering her stomach and her face. Entry for The Fruit's On The Vine Contest
"Edward...we need to talk."
It's been hours since I got that call, but still the words ring clearly in my ears. As clearly as the hesitation and uncertainty in her shaky voice.
There really wasn't anything to our conversation—if you can even call it that, that is. She said we needed to talk, but not what about; asked if I could meet up in the little coffee place we used to frequent after her ship in the library was over, and after I told her I could, she was quick to end the call. Vague, short-lived, awkward and nothing at all how I imagined our first conversation after would go down like. No 'how are you?' or 'what have you been up to?'; no 'do you happen to remember where I put those damned earrings your aunt gave me for Christmas?' or 'I still have your high school football jersey', and least of all 'I miss you'. It was all so distant; we might as well have been strangers.
The last few weeks had been so fucking terrible, so terribly fucked for me, but hearing her sweet, soft voice could have made me forget about everything if the circumstances were any different. Instead though, with the way it was, it caused the knife piercing my heart as of late to go in a little deeper. The fact that the little teaser of her former constant presence in my life caused my mind to wander, to remember how everything I wanted and wished for was right within my reach a mere couple of months ago, further added insult to injury.
The first time I met Isabella Swan, I really wasn't supposed to notice her—and I didn't, at first.
My brother and his then-girlfriend, Kate, had been trying to set me up with a few of her friends for a while, but due to one thing or another, it never happened. Most of the time, it was me dodging the bullet, but on the rare occasions I didn't manage to talk my way out of playing along, the chemistry just wasn't right. The problem I had with this whole arranged-date business wasn't so much the dating but the arranged part. The awkwardness of the whole thing just made me uncomfortable.
Well, that particular night was one of those times my luck had run out. That, and the fact that Emmett promised to kick my ass good if I ducked out on a double date with him, his girl and her friend again. So, I gave in and met the three of them for dinner and drinks.
Heidi turned out to be a really nice girl; charming and sweet. I remember that she'd worn her blonde her up in a neat bun, and her blue eyes were framed by a pair of red rimmed glasses.
There was something enticing in her voice that made you want to listen to her every word, even if most of her stories involved college life and the two girls she shared an apartment with. Her smile was bright and beautiful; the high-pitched, child-like giggle that erupted from her thin lips whenever someone cracked anything akin to a joke, on the other hand, was obnoxious. So, despite her being a nice girl and us getting along well, the little something extra was missing. She was cute and nice, but that was that, and it was fine—for the both of us as it turned out—as she confessed to me weeks later when we ran into each other again.
After dinner, we left the restaurant and headed over to that sports bar near campus we all liked to hang out at for some beer and pool. It wasn't long into our first game—Kate and Emmett versus Heidi and me—and I was just about to perform the shot that would have wiped the smugness from my brother's face, when Heidi's sudden squealing disrupted my focus and I missed. Looking up, I found her excitedly waving someone over to us. The girl that emerged from the crowd was immediately engulfed in a hug, obstructing my view of the face that would become so very important to me—I just didn't know it back then.
"Guys, this is my roommate, Bella," Heidi addressed Em and me with one arm still wrapped around the shoulders of the petite form next to her once they were done with their greeting. "Bella, these are the guys. This is Emmett, Kate's boyfriend, and his brother, Edward."
We shook hands, and then Bella's attention was reclaimed by Heidi.
"I didn't know you had plans to go out tonight."
"I really didn't, but then Garrett called and asked if I'd like to go out for a beer. He just texted, though, that he ran into one of his booty-calls... So yeah, change of plans. I'm just going to head back home."
"What? No! Why don't you just hang out with us, instead? I mean..."
I zoned them out then. Partly because I didn't mind the addition to our group but just wasn't interested in any girly talk, but mostly because Emmett pressed for me to finally make my move on the pool table.
I really didn't pay much attention to Bella at first or talked to her much—not because I was a rude asshole, but because I was too immersed in the task of kicking my brother's ass. My brother hated to get beaten in any kind of sport—or game, for that matter—and was an incredibly sore loser for someone on the cusp of turning thirty. However, my male pride was stronger than common sense, so I kept on calling for a rematch, and he was more than happy to oblige. It must have taken a good hour of the same old before I finally admitted defeat and called it quits.
I went over to the bar to buy another pitcher—loser's duty—and upon my return to our table in the corner of the bar, planted my ass on a stool to just sit back and watch for a while. Next to me, Bella was playing with her phone. That in itself wasn't all that special; everybody seemed to be attached to their little devices these days. What was so extraordinary about it, though, what made me keep on sneaking a glance at her from the corner of my eye was the smile on her face as she did so. It wasn't even a real smile but a mere grin. However, it was so whimsical and playful; it was as if she'd just been let in on the best secret in the history of secrets.
Even if it made me feel like an intruder, I got curious and leaned in closer. "That must be some kind of text."
Pulled from her little bubble, she jerked up all wide-eyed, her phone clutched to her chest. "Huh?"
The look on her face... like a kid gotten caught with one hand in the cookie jar. It was quite endearing, but only increased my nosiness. "I said, that must be some kind of text to have you smiling like that."
"Oh!" And there was that grin again. "Yes. I mean, no. Not like that, at least. If that is what you mean. I mean... Oh God, please ignore me." Her whining, combined with the way she scrunched up her face—pulled it into a grimace, really—in response to her own rambling, had me laughing out loud.
"You know, now you really have to tell me."
Bella took a deep breath and then released it again through puffed cheeks. "Uh, fine. You'll probably end up very disappointed because it's really not interesting at all. All right, look, my father just got himself a new girlfriend—you can stop it with the eyebrow-quirking right there, mister. That's so not what this story is about. Anyway, my dad is only able to use his cell for calls on a good day. The girlfriend, however, prefers to send him texts..."
She reached over and pinched me in the side. "Oh, gross! Stop it! I really don't want to think about my dad like that. Let's just say, he is practicing the art of writing texts with me to seem as "hip"—his word, not mine—as he thinks he is. And before you ask, no, not that kind of texts, you perv. Just regular stuff. Basics. Just now he included a freaking smiley." She held her phone out for me to see.
"Well, if that is not hip, I really don't know what is."
"You have no idea."
For another hour or so, I listened as Bella told me all about her father's little quirks and habits. Any other time, I'd probably find a girl telling me all about her daddy irritating and considered the whole thing a big turn-off, but not with Bella. The stories she told were hilarious; she was hilarious. She had this way of talking with her entire body, moving her hands and arms around to emphasize her words, or to aide herself retrieving them when the right ones had escaped her. She covered her eyes with her hand when she was embarrassed and scratched the spot between her brows when she was uncomfortable. That little face she pulled earlier, the one where she scrunched up her nose, that was her playful way to mock you. Then there was the way her whole body shook whenever she laughed—and, oh, her laugh. This loud, cackling, infectious sound… It was addicting like a drug—just one little taste and I needed more. It was the same with her smile; so blinding and bright and beautiful. After the first time I saw it, I thought about all the things, jokes, puns, and anecdotes I could tell her that would make her smile, just to be able to see it again.
It wasn't only her smile and laugh, though, that had me so enthralled. It was the long, dark hair that fell past her shoulder blades in elegant waves, that stood in contrast to the fairness of her skin; the upward bow of the thick rows of lashes framing her expressive dark eyes, and her graceful nose; her straight, white teeth and her sinful mouth… She was gorgeous.
She was petite and came up to my chest; and even if she was curvier that the girls I usually fell for, I won't even try to pretend I wasn't smitten with her right away. When the evening came to an end, we exchanged numbers, and I hugged her goodbye before she and Heidi headed home.
We started hanging out on a regular basis a week later and went from acquaintances to good friends in no time. Making her see that I wanted more than that was a different story. She was fine with me wrapping my arm around her shoulder or taking her hand, but every compliment I made her was downplayed or dismissed. I started to believe that she wasn't interested in me on a romantic level and only liked me as a friend—a friend she felt comfortable enough being affectionate with. I would have had accepted that, but then, one drunken night, she confessed that she did like me like that. We were both a bit tipsy, but not enough as to not comprehend what was said or run the risk of not being able to remember anything the next day. I answered with a confession of my own and came clean about how I felt for her, that I wanted to take her out on dates and maybe–hopefully make her my girl, that I wanted her to give 'us' a chance.
She didn't say anything at first, only snatched the beer from my hand and drained half the bottle at once. When she finally did speak, it was only to ask me why. Why did I like her? Bella wasn't one to fish for compliments, so I knew the question was a result of insecurities she was struggling with. Insecurities caused by both the boyfriends she had had and her overbearing mother. So I did the only thing I thought of and told her about every last thing I could think of, every little detail I found endearing—even loved—about her. When I was done and she still seemed hesitant, I took her face in my hands and simply kissed her. That seemed to have done the trick, and by the end of the night she indeed was my girl.
From there on out, everything ran swimmingly, and for over two years, we lived in our perfect little bubble. Of course, we had our arguments, too, but in hindsight, they were all so insignificant. The first cracks to the facade occurred when I was paired off with a new colleague, Lauren. The job demanded that we spend a lot of time together, and since she lived on my route into the office, I offered to carpool with her. Bella wasn't too fond of the idea, and as more time passed, the louder her resentment got about it all. Lauren was young and attractive and very much single, as she had let me known on more than one occasion, but never once did the thought of straying cross my mind. That's just not who I am.
I guess, with her history of having been cheated on, she felt extra irritated and threatened, and I get that. But the fact that she doubted my honesty and faithfulness still didn't sit well with me. Maybe I was a fool to think all my declarations of love and all the times I told her how beautiful she was to me had helped her rebuilding some of her confidence, maybe I underestimated how much damage really had been done to her psyche. Either way, we fought a lot.
The next blow came in the form of cutbacks in the office. Seeing as I only had been with the firm for a little while, I was one of the first they had to let go. Being unemployed was bad, not being able to find another job right away even worse. The weekends away we had planned got canceled. We stopped eating out as often, trying to save money. We made it with Bella's salary and what we both had in savings, but her spending all her money on us—on me—left me even more frustrated. My grumpiness and irritation rubbed off on her, and frankly, we just pissed each other off. It went up to the point where the bad days outnumbered the good ones by far, where we yelled instead of kissed and fought when we should have made love.
It was Bella who hit the brakes, who put an end to the whole drama. When she first told me she thought it best to take some time apart, I got so angry. It was such a slap to the face that I initially didn't even care for her reasoning. All I heard—what my mind twisted her words into—was that she wanted a way out, that I had failed her. What started as a reasonable attempt to save what we had, to grant us both the chance to sort things out and cool down, was blown out of proportion and turned into a complete disaster. It took her breaking down right in front of me for me to calm down and see reason.
We spent the rest of night reassuring each other of our love, and promised again and again that it was only a break and not a break-up.
The next day, I packed a few bags of clothes and necessities and moved in with my brother.
That was six weeks ago, and we haven't talked once since. I tried at first, sent her a few texts and made some calls, but they were all left unanswered and ignored. In all honesty, I expected her to call any day now to tell me we were done for good.
Is this it? Is she going to tell me that she'd rather have me as just a friend? That being friends is better than being nothing at all? The thought is there but it was fleeting. If she made up her mind and has the intention of letting me know it is over, I'd expect her to sound more confident and sure.
The possibility of someone we know being injured or ill or possibly dead, is immediately discarded as well, for I doubt she'd purposely leave me waiting if it is an emergency. Bella had gotten the results of her yearly exam back right before things blew over and everything came back clean, so it can't be herself either.
But what is it?
And then another thought crosses my mind: what if what she needs to talk about... what she has to tell me is of a completely different nature? What if it has to do with that one weekend—the last good one—when we discovered we were all out of condoms? We were so lust-crazed, so full of need for each other, playing safe seemed too much of a waste of much needed time together…
What if Bella is pregnant?
My heart skips a beat and proceeds to plummet to the bottom of my stomach.
What if she really… What are we going to do?
It's not like I don't want children. The timing simply couldn't be any more awful. The undefined status of our relationship aside, I'm still an unemployed twenty-seven year-old who lives with his brother. How am I going to care for someone else's life if I have made such a mess of my own?
I'm sitting on pins and needles while time passes torturously slow, waiting for the clock on my phone to tell me it's time to go. I need clarity, and Bella is the only one able to give it to me.
My mind is on overdrive; new scenarios, each one more outrageous than the last, popping up, trying to see how fast my heart can beat and how quickly I can sweat through my t-shirt. I shake my head and splash some water on my face. Hell, I'm driving myself insane, when in all actuality it might be nothing more than her wanting me to move back in. Either way, there's nothing I can do but wait.
I arrive at the café a good fifteen minutes too early, but as I gaze inside, I find her already seated at a table in the back corner. From where I stand, I have the perfect view at her; they way she leans back in her seat, staring into nothing with one hand wrapped around the cup on the table in front of her, the other… resting on her stomach. Slowly, gently, her thumb moves over the fabric of her sweater.
One shuddering exhale and it is all there right in front of my eyes: the smile she will grant me in just a minute, nodding her head in silent confirmation, before jumping into my open arms. Bella standing with her shirt raised, proudly showing off her small bump. Me, caressing her very much protruding belly, waiting to feel that tiny kick as a way of response. Both of us rushing into the hospital, her, all sweaty and exhausted, cursing me out while holding onto my hand as if everything depended solely on it. And then… this tiny, screaming bundle being placed into my arms after cutting the cord, cradling it close to my chest. Bella, all spent, but with that blinding smile on her lips, eagerly accepting our baby from me. Bella nursing…
And then fast forward. Preparing bottles and changing diapers, lullabies and toothless smiles, tears of anger on a tiny face, sleepless nights for us, first steps, first words, first everythings, temper tantrums and giggle fits, coloring books and scattered toys, doodled-on walls and stained clothes, runny noses, bloody knees and knotted hair… hugs and kisses and falling asleep in my arms…
I know then that I want this—everything—more than anything else. The little glimpse at our future… It is exactly how it is supposed to be. Perfect.
My body moves too slowly for my liking, taking too long to get to her. When I finally reach her table and our eyes meet, there is no 'hello' or 'how are you', only me blurting out that one question.
"Are you..?" My ears are straining to hear her voice, but my eyes bounce back and forth between her hand covering her stomach and her face.
She averts her gaze, rubs the spot between her brows, and captures her bottom lip between her teeth. When she finally answers, it's with a simple nod of her head.
She must have heard the giddiness in my voice, for her head snaps back to mine; her eye are teary, but the corner of her lips curl up the slightest bit. "Yes," she repeats.
My heart leaps, and so do I. Leaning down, I cradle her face in my hands and, with the biggest smile on my face, kiss her with all my might.
"Are you sure?" I ask breathlessly after a minute or five, holding her to me.
"Oh, damn sure." She laughs into my chest.
"Positive?" It's silly, but I just want to hear her confirm it again and again.
"Positive." Her hand comes up to my cheek to rub the stubble there. "I love you, Edward. God, I missed you so much. I know this is unexpected and too soon, and we have so much stuff to work through, but… we're going to make this work right?"
Leaning back in, I answer her by reclaiming her lips.
We will make it work, of that I am certain.
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