Title of Story: The Beautiful Ones
Word Count: 9,857
Type of Edward: 80's Uggward
Category: Mature(due to language)
Story Summary: It's 1987 and (Siouxsie) Banshee Bella has her sights set on one Ugg wearing Edward Cullen – who happens to be a dead ringer for Duran Duran. ALL FIVE OF THEM.
Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
"Welcome to Hot Dog On a Stick. May I take your order?"
The two middle school boys looked at each other before responding to me.
"We were just wondering. How... how hot...and big do you like your sticks?"
Alice and I both rolled our eyes while the boys giggled hysterically. Of course the only place hiring in this suburban-fuck-puppet-infested-hellhole of a mall was the shop that sold wieners. And if that weren't bad enough, we had to wear primary colored hot pants and tank tops that made us look like alternative universe hookers with Ronald McDonald as our pimp.
"Here, let me save you kids the trouble, 'cause I know what's on the tip of your tongues." Alice continued dipping two sticked hot dogs into the corn batter. She furrowed her eyebrows before looking back at them: "Hey, Wiener Girl, you're really good at double jerking that man meat at the same time. You're just a professional meat jerker there with that twisting wrist action, aren't you?"
The giggles faded to silence before they walked away in confusion.
"Actually, Ali, I don't think those lines will be on the tip of their tongues for at least another couple of years. They looked all of about eleven. " I threw my hand up. "But hey! Congratulations on killing two birds' innocence with one very, very visual stone."
She high-fived me as if I were actually complimenting her.
Business was dead as usual near closing time. That's what happened when you only serve corn dogs, cheese sticks, and lemonade: the bulk of your patrons are preschoolers and senior citizens who are in bed by seven. Alice and I leaned over the front counter, gazing down towards the heart of the food court at Sbarros Pizza. Half the football team seemed to be over there at the moment. Emmett McCarty was standing on top of a chair, trying to turn pizza eating into the new beer guzzling. He rallied the others to cheer "Go! Go! Go!" before downing two pizza slices at a time.
"For someone who is legally brain dead, McCarty does really well for himself."
Alice nodded: "Not shabby at all, lately. I saw him parked behind the dumpster the other night with none other than Ms. Homecoming Hale herself. Word is that Edward just showed up at her work to break up with her."
That was some serious up-to-the-minute breaking news, since her retail job was just around the corner from our shop. "Who told you that?"
"Eric, of course." He worked at the Cinnabon next door and was always getting into everyone's business, the gossipy bitch.
We watched as McCarty finished the pizza in record time before picking up the cardboard box and smashing it against his forehead.
Alice shook her head. "God, who would cheat on Cullen with McCarty? "
"The girl who puts the cum in homecoming."
As if beckoned by her own personal punchline, Hale entered our wing of the food court, stage left. Her boyfriend was in tow too, although he seemed less than enthusiastic about it. They sat down at a table in our area, his body turning away from her the minute his tush touched the seat.
"Hi, Rose," Emmett taunted from the other side. Rose tried to ignore him while burrowing deeper into Edward's side.
Alice eye- volleyed back and forth and across between the three love triangulars. "Oh my god, I can't believe that we have front row seats to the prettiest break-up in town."
Rosalie was the loveliest girl at our school, for sure. But she always brushed her hair in Economics a seat in front of me, releasing all her bitch dander into my personal space. When she wasn't shedding from her scalp, her fuzzy, pinky sweaters did the honors. The girl was a walking furball with boobs.
Edward was staring over at Emmett now, with Hale trying to get his attention back on her. I sighed when Edward clenched his jaw muscles. Which, by the way, seemed to telepathically clench my own kegel muscles at the same time.
"I don't care how much you deny it, Bella. You would twist the wrist for Edward. Even if he isn't a depressive with a Vitamin D deficiency."
On paper? Alice was right. He wasn't my type. I gravitated towards tortured artist-musicians who looked like they were bringing consumption back into style. And Edward was anything but – he was hearty, and solid, and warm, and golden. And he was a slash type. A surfer-slash-student-slash- athlete to be exact, who flipped up his jean jacket collar like an idiot. And he wore Uggs to school that declared, "Yes, I got up at five and surfed two hours before your lazy ass got out of bed." And he puts Sun-In on just his bangs without apology, even though I was personally asking for one. And he patronized keggers, and got voted onto prom courts. And donned violet cummerbunds that matched Homecoming Hale's dyed pumps.
On paper, there were so many things wrong with Edward Cullen.
There were so many more things that were right. I'd harbored a major but secret crush on him for years. I'd been gang jumped into puberty by Duran Duran at the tender age of twelve. They lit my genitals ablaze prematurely with their abundance of My Pretty Pony hair and cut cheekbones and square jawlines. And fuck me if Edward Cullen didn't look like the offspring of the whole group. It's as if all five of them had a drunken orgy one night where John Taylor took Simon Le Bon from behind, who then went down on Roger Taylor. And miraculously, Nick Rhodes gave birth to Edward nine months later.
Who did his parents think they were, genetically designing a creature so close to my exact masturbatory specifications?
So as much as I tried to fight it, every time I got an eyeful of Edward Cullen? I started drooling like a Pavlovian bitch.
But Big-Mouthed Alice didn't need to know that.
"Meh, Edward's all right, but I've seen better. Now let's get a move on so we can get out of here on time."
I stepped behind the cylindrical container that was thigh high and full of lemons and got started on the lemon pulping. Whoever the owner of Hot Dog on A Stick was, he was a huge pervert. Not only did he hire teen girls exclusively, he made us mash up the lemons manually and in plain sight of customers. What's more, you had to pulp the lemons with a giant potato type masher that could double for a gynecological instrument.
And to really get deep down there to the lemons on the bottom? You had to jump and push and jiggle.
Jump and push and jiggle...jump and push and jiggle...jump and push and jiggle...
"Oh my god, Bella," Alice hissed. "Edward's watching your boobs bounce."
I sneaked a peek. He was slouched over, ignoring his girlfriend's protestations. His concentrated stare zeroed in on the general vicinity of my chest, but I couldn't tell for sure.
Jump and push and jiggle, JIGGLE...jump and push and jiggle, JIGGLE...
Oh yeah, he was definitely watching.
I crossed my eyes.
Jump and push and jiggle, then pause – while I made a hand chomping motion in honor of Rosalie's yapping jaw.
This was the most I'd ever interacted with Edward...ever. He wasn't a snob like some "A" crowd members. But it didn't mean he floated around the outer rings of cafeteria hell with the stoners or the geeks or us freaks either.
Rosalie suddenly stopped talking, then followed Edward's eyeline to me.
Jump and push and jiggle... Jump and push and jiggle...
She snapped her fingers in front of his eyes before addressing me. "Hey, Swan. Beetlejuice called and wanted his makeup artist back. Now don't you have some cloves to smoke in the bathroom?"
I should have been offended by her goth insults. Sure, I laid the eyeliner and face powder on a little thick like any respectable Robert Smith devotee. But goddamnit, all I could focus on was the single hair that was falling off her head and onto the floor below.
"UNBELIEVABLE!" I pointed a cheese stick accusingly at Rosalie while glancing back at Alice. "She's only been sitting there about five seconds and she's already accumulating a wig beneath her chair!"
Rosalie looked confused. But Edward's eyes betrayed a spark of understanding.
The cheese stick got wielded in his direction now.. "You know what I'm talking about, don't you!"
Of course he did.
"Rose!" Emmett yelled out again. He was standing on his chair, motioning for her to come over. His smug smile was just as much for Edward as it was for her.
Edward stood, silently meeting the challenge. Emmett may have been our senior village idiot, but he was built like a semi-truck. He would squash Edward like a bug. And what was Homecoming Hale contributing to defuse the situation? Nothing. She was just chewing on her nails nervously.
"You are loving this, aren't you Hale? Egging your boyfriend into fighting for you?" Rose glared back at my nosey ass.
Edward looked back too. "She's not my girlfriend."
Rosalie was yapping her jaw again, her head shedding in my direction one moment, then in Edward's direction the next. But it all drained away as Edward and I made eye to eye contact finally. And what I saw was a guy who didn't want to be here. Not with Rosalie, or Emmett. Not with that gossip bitch Eric peeking out from Cinnabon. And not with the football team, or me for that matter. But Emmett had thrown down the gauntlet and he didn't see an out.
But I did.
"Fresh squeezed lemonade?
I filled a cup full of our famous Cherry version and held it up for him. He looked in Emmett's direction, before coming back at me.
Take the life line, Edward. Take the life line that I'm giving you, so that you can preserve that jawline.
And just like that? Edward did.
He walked up to my counter. I handed him the cup with a relieved smile. Like I was responsible for saving the facial version of the Sistine Chapel single-handedly.
"What time do you get off," he inquired before taking a sip.
"In ten minutes."
He lowered his voice: "Is Rosalie watching?"
I chanced a glance.
"Does she look jealous?"
I leaned in, pressing a soft kiss on his jaw.
"She does now."
"Okay, question of the night goes to Bella Swan."
Those were the first words Edward uttered since all the weirdness went down in the food court. I still didn't know why I had gotten involved with his relationship drama, or why he actually waited for me to get off work. By the time I had, no one was around to see him escort me to his car.
He was putting on his seat belt looking at me while he waited for an answer.
"I was just wondering. Why did you help me out back there? "
I mulled it over in my head. I still wasn't sure.
"Well, of course everyone knew about your business. Like I knew you were in the mall breaking up with her before I even talked to you back there."
Edward's eyes furrowed. "How did you know that?"
"Eric. Over at Cinnabon."
He started shaking his head in annoyance. "Eric, of course.."
"I know, right? He's always getting dirt on people. And if he doesn't have dirt on you, he'll make it up."
"Like the rumor you and Alice were giving hand jobs out at your job if you tipped enough?"
Ew. I'd never heard that one.
"That rumor doesn't even make sense! No one ever tips us, let alone tips us enough."
He smiled while he started backing up his car. "Well, if I were you, I'd put a tipping jar out before I started mashing up lemons. I'm pretty sure you'd be getting tips in no time.",
Alice would be all over that. She was industrious in that way.
"Enough about my pathetic job. But to answer your question...I don't know you that well. But it's not like you're an asshole who deserved to be humiliated, and then on top of it get your ass kicked in by a smug whore like McCarty. Oh, and yeah, your girlfriend was being a cow too, so there's that..."
Edward looked like I had slapped him.
"Emmett wouldn't have kicked my ass. But I honestly didn't feel so bad until you summed it up that way right now. Damn."
At least he still laughed with me when I cracked up.
"It's weird hearing you talk, Bella. Like in whole sentences. Usually in class you just give one word answers and are all-"
He brushed his hair forward over his head to cover his eye and made a bored face.
I flicked him on the forehead.
"Well, I was having a great day until you summed up my looks and personality that way."
Edward's head turned abruptly in my direction. "There's nothing wrong with your looks. You're beautiful and cool. You just come off approachable in general."
I didn't respond, because I was blushing over such a throw-away compliment and felt like an idiot.
"You going to Cheney's tonight?"
He knew I wasn't. Cheney was from Edward's social clique, not mine. I haven't talked to Ben since middle school.
"What are you up to, then?"
My friends were planning on a mellow movie night at home. But I had been leaning towards another diversion.
"There's something downtown I was thinking about going to. You're welcome to come along, but it may be a little more fast paced than a Ben Cheney house party."
Edward smiled, his hand still capped on top of mine. "What did you have in mind?"
"Goddamnit, Edward, why didn't you tell me you were wearing Uggs?"
I had Edward park in the back alleyway behind Echo. While my tastes ran more towards new wave and goth, I thought a good head banging with a little known punk band would be cathartic for Edward.
Until I saw his very inappropriate shoe attire.
"Hey, I headed to the mall straight from the beach. I wanted to catch a couple waves before the big showdown." He looked around while putting on that blasted acid washed jean jacket of his. "Wait... what are we doing?"
His question was answered with the line outside the club entrance. The line was peppered with mohawks and plaid and shaved heads and suspenders and leather and punk.
Well, as punk as you can get for sunny, young Republican San Diego anyways.
And did I mention an abundance of steel toe Doc Martens?
I grabbed onto Edward's arm as we moved past the doorman. Inside it was already muggy from too many bodies and too little ventilation. We passed a gaggle of skinheads who maddogged him the whole time we walked past. I looked back at him.
Too much sun-kissed handsome. And jacket collar boner. And moon boots.
Prom King was getting shanked, and on my watch no less.
I tried to debone his collar indiscreetly. "Maybe we should go somewhere else, huh? Somewhere where it's perfectly acceptable to wear Baby's First Boots..."
Edward touched my waist gently with both hands. "Relax, okay? I can take care of myself. And stop ripping on my shoes."
We walked hand in hand down the narrow hall and into the main stage area. It was an extremely packed house for a group hailing from Tucson with no record deal.
"Who's playing tonight," he asked while inching us closer to the stage.
"UPS- Useless Pieces of Shit. "
"You're a true romantic, Swan."
"Don't say I never wined and dined you."
Fifteen minutes later, we were both jumping up and down while the lead singer pointed the microphone in our direction. He wanted the crowd to sing back the lyrical eloquence that was the chorus line of their song. Edward and I obliged willingly:
"Fuck Shit Up! Fuck Shit Up! Fuck Shit Up!"
"A true wordsmith," Edward mused before we screamed out that refrain a half of dozen more times in a row.
The circle pit was about forty people strong now, all flailing limbs and steel toes with an occasional casualty fall here and there. Aggressive stomping seemed to be the key phrase for the night, so it was no surprise that there weren't any girls venturing in.
Edward had stopped jumping. His hands were in front of him as his face followed the round-and-around movement of the pit movers. His concentration reminded me of my six year old self playing jump rope with my friends and watching the rope motion to figure out when to jump in.
Wait a minute...
"Edward, don't even think-"
And before I could finish with "about stepping inside that pit with Uggs on"- he was off.
I watched Edward get tossed and punched in the back before falling onto the ground. A single Ugg boot going airborne was the only evidence of his whereabouts. In no time flat though, he leaped back up to his feet and waved like a big goof before getting caught up in the human current again.
With just one shoe!
He looked like the Tasmanian Devil with a tornado whirling around him. And even when he was pushed or shoved or thrown around like a rag doll, he managed to smile at me every time he passed.
His spare boot was slowly working it's way to the outer edges of the ring. In a moment of sheer stupidity, I tried to reach out and pluck it up. And to the surprise of absolutely no one, I was struck and pushed hands first into the oncoming lane of moshing traffic.
Panic set in as I felt bodies tripping over me. My hands flew to the back of my head as I tucked myself into a ball.
Edward appeared out of nowhere. He helped me get back up, wrapped his arms around my waist, then kicked and pushed his way back to the sidelines.
"Assholes," Edward yelled to no one in particular while he stood me upright. "Are you okay? I can't believe no one stopped for you."
The thought of several dozen punks skidding to halt m'lady style for yours truly gave me the giggles.
"It's not funny, your lip is bleeding." He lifted the bottom of his shirt and dabbed the corner of my mouth. I resisted the temptation to bite onto the material and suck out any traces of ab sweat that may have accumulated.
"You're bleeding, yourself." In a couple places, actually. I pointed down towards his feet. "And your tootsies are bare. And strangely adorable."
That made him smile. He put his arm around my shoulder and gave me a squeeze. "Well, for the record, if it weren't for the fact that you could have gotten your head bashed in, I would say that your stop, drop, and rolling was strangely adorable too. You looked like a little Rolly Polly Bug on the ground."
We headed for the exit hand in hand when Edward's rogue Ugg boot pinged him on his shoulder.
"Go home, Faggot," a voice yelled from the crowd.
Edward picked up his boot and gave a little salute: "Will do!"
Our circle pit contact high finally settled down as we headed back to our neighborhood in North County. The past couple hours with Edward had been fun and comfortable. He was more self deprecating than I realized, and funny. Thoughtful, too.
Which got me thinking.
"Why did you date Rosalie for so long. You guys seem so different."
Edward shrugged. "I think in high school, it's easy to just stay in your own little part of the world.
"That seems kind of lazy."
Edward snorted. "I'm sorry. But aren't you the same girl who dated Mike Newton? The only guy in school who you could swap black eyeliner and Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirts with?"
He kinda had me there.
"Mike's really smart though-"
"He's pretentious," he said with complete conviction.
"And he's an artist in his own right. Some of his performance art was written up in the County Register you know-"
"Oh, I heard all about that art, Bella." He's whipping his finger around like a loaded weapon. I guided it back to the steering wheel. "Did he or did he not usher people into a room, turn off the light, and then declare the people's reaction to the darkness the art?"
Okay, yeah, he's a pretentious blow hard. But I never knew when to cut my losses and run when I was on the losing side of an argument.
"Well, maybe you had to be there in person to appreciate it more."
"No, Bella, I don't think witnessing it in person would make it any more artistic. If that's artistic, then let me take a dump on Mike Newton's head, slap a mustache on it, and then let the resulting fragrance he's smelling be MY art. Let's put THAT in the County Register."
He was shaking his head all indignantly, and I couldn't help but smile. Edward seemed as self-righteous as I was.
Which was saying something.
"Have you ever been to the Getty, Bella?"
"Wait, back up. What artistic value does a mustache add to your turd ? "
He scolded me with his eyes."Don't distract me. Have you ever been to the Getty?"
I thought for a minute. "It's an art museum, right? In Los Angeles."
"Yeah. I'll take you there some time, on a weekend. We could hang out there for a couple hours. They've got Picassos and Monets and Van Goghs in their collections. And then I could give you a surfing lesson at Malibu, if you'd like. The waves are small there and break real easy. Best place to learn."
I didn't respond to his suggestion. Who knew if he was just blowing air up my ass.
"Expect more from your art, Bella," he said solemnly. "Shit, and expect more from your dating pool choices too for that matter."
"Ha! Take your own advice."
He pulled on a lock of my hair.
"I will. Okay, Malibu, you and me next weekend."
"You sure you are game?"
I thumbed it up. "I'm sure."
After finding out that was Edward's maiden moshing voyage this evening, he felt indebted to me.
"There's got to be a a first I can give you."
My hymen raised her hand with a suggestion, but I quieted her down.
"You gave me a visual of your shit with a mustache on it. That's a first."
He shook his head. "Not the first I was hoping to give you. But how about night surfing? The moon's full and I've got a wetsuit that would fit you."
"You'd bleed from your mosh pit cuts and then turn us into shark food. No thanks."
He didn't find that funny.
But he did find it funny that I'd avoided a high school kegger – until now.
So, we entered Ben Cheney's kegger hand in hand, ready to claim my rite of passage.
Ben yelled out his greeting to Edward, making sure everyone knew of his arrival. His guys friends greeted him while giving me a once-over. A lot of the girls were giving me the once-over too, but with an extra helping of stink eye.
This would be old news by Monday, so I'd let them gawk while they came up with the perviest reasons for Edward and I being a little bloody and battered and hand holdy.
Edward dragged me to the keg outside. I stood by it and gave it a nice pat on it's back while Edward wished he'd had a camera to capture the moment.
And then we just stood there, staring at the keg.
"This feels very anti-climatic, Bella. No blood was drawn, you didn't have to stop, drop and roll like a little squirrel."
"Rolly Polly," I corrected.
"Squirrels, Rolly Pollies. They're all cute."
"Want me to stop, drop, and roll to the shitty rock music inside?"
"You'd do that for me?"
He actually sounded touched. Who knew Edward Cullen was such a goof underneath all that cool Breck hair.
"Of course not. But we could squeeze one regular dance in before we go – my curfew is approaching."
I guided him back inside where people were dancing to "Hot Blooded" of all songs. God, I hated Foreigner.
We situated ourselves next to the others, and Edward waited for my lead. But I couldn't find the proper motivation.
"Dude, this song is so sexist, I don't know how to dance to it. I don't even think I have the proper genitalia to dance to it at all."
Edward crinkled his nose. "What?"
"The beat's all heavy handed and misogynistic. It's a dick waggling song. I need a man part to keep the beat to, like a pendulum."
I held onto my imaginary penis and began swinging it left to right with the beat. Edward was doing one of those silent, shoulder-shaking laughs.
It made me way too happy to make him laugh like that. Like not only did I save the Sistine Chapel of faces tonight, but I also cleaned its outdoor windows too.
He wrapped his arms tightly around my waist and kissed the top of my head. "This was fun, right? You had fun too?"
"Of course," I said simply. He didn't need to know just how much.
His forehead touched mine as we kept eye contact.
"Hi," he whispered.
"Hi yourself," I answered before closing my eyes to just take in the moment. Regardless of what happened on Monday when we headed back to school, I would have this moment to enjoy how gooey and toasty and warm Edward was making feel inside.
Like a big fucking s'more.
The song had changed but we still swayed to our own beat. I couldn't be bothered with opening my eyes, even when I heard it.
It started out as a whisper. But soon it became too loud to ignore. My eyes opened to the sight of Homecoming Hale. And she was doing the once overs like the other girls. She zeroed into my mosh pit cuts, and the bruising on my arm. And the general disarray of my hair and makeup and clothes from my tumble. But instead of the common look of revulsion on her face, she was smiling with self satisfaction. Almost as if to celebrate that I was exactly what Edward deserved after breaking up with her.
I held onto Edward tighter.
"Rose is behind you," I whispered.
"Is she watching," he asked.
He lowered his voice: "Does she look jealous?"
My image was glaring back at me, thanks to a large living room mirror. My eyeliner was smeared, and a scab was forming on my lip where I busted it earlier.
"No, she doesn't look jealous in the slightest."
Edward had ushered me out of the house the minute I'd asked him to. Neither of us spoke for several minutes, and I could feel him keep stealing glances in my direction.
"Is everything okay, Bella?"
I kept my head straight ahead, but smiled. "Yeah. I had fun tonight."
When he pulled into the drive way. I hated feeling deflated by Edward's interest in his ex at the party, so I decided to knock that shit off right then and there and look at the bright side.
I turned towards his face that wore a tentative expression at the moment. No doubt he'd pick up on my minor pouting session.
I put my hands on both sides of his cheeks. "You are very handsome. And for a long time, that's all you were to me – some handsome guy who I thought wasn't an asshole. Which seemed impressive enough to me, honestly. Cause you could be an asshole and get away with it. But I'm glad I got to hang out with you tonight, because at some point I forgot about how good looking you were because I was too busy laughing with you. And thinking how kind you are. And goofy! Good hell, you're goofy."
"Bella," he said softly, but nothing else came out so I went on.
"And I know this was a very, very shitty day for you. And you probably got your heart broken badly, and it will probably hurt even worse once you are alone in your bed tonight..."
"Wow, Bella, you have the ability to make a bad situation seem so much worse..."
That got a giggle out of me. He took my hands from his face and held them in his.
"Look, I'm not going to lie and say I'm completely over Rose. I only broke up with her about 7 hours ago."
"Which makes for incredibly shitty timing that the best date I ever had was tonight with you. And the shitty timing continued when I asked you about Rosalie at the party. I'm sorry I asked about her, because it was a shitty thing to do. And even worse, you couldn't even call me on it being shitty because I just broke up with her."
I clapped my hands in agreement.
"Bingo. Thank you, I thought you were being sort of an asshole, but I wasn't sure..."
He chuckled while grabbing my hand and kissing it.
My dad peeked out the kitchen window. I knew I only had a couple minutes before he'd be coming out and writing down Edward's license plate for snooping purposes.
"I gotta go, Edward, my Dad's up."
He took my hands. "Wait, wait. Listen. Can I take you tomorrow? Malibu maybe?"
I nodded, keeping an eye on the front door. "Sure."
"Wait- one more thing, Bella."
"There were so many times tonight that I wanted to kiss you, but I didn't think it was fair given the circumstances. And it's probably still not fair. But can I give you a kiss goodnight?"
"On one condition."
"What," he asked, slightly alarmed.
"You don't ask me if Rosalie looks jealous after you do it."
He shook his head scoldingly, but he knew it was a good comeback.
Edward moved in slowly- a little too slowly given the fact my Dad was probably going to bust through the front door any second. He brushed my cheek softly with his knuckles, and I kept under control despite our closeness. But then his thumb traced over my lower lip, and I couldn't stop myself. I closed the space between us and pressed my lips against his. He grasped the back of my head and deepened the kiss, our tongues sorting out the rhythm that was already rooted in our banter, our touching.
For years, I'd fantasized about kissing Edward Cullen. The imagery was always frantic, lusty – full of button-popping, panty-ripping, tongue-probing fun.
And there's a time and place for that.
But never once had I imagined what would be the reality. Where he was scared shitless he was kissing me too soon, because he cared about doing right by me. Where he worried out loud that he tasted like Ben Cheney's shitty beer. But then he tasted it on me, and went right back for more. Where he declared my collar bone the best chew toy ever, and kissed both my eyelids twice before letting me go.
Edward in the flesh was better than anything I had dreamed up for myself.