Esme is talking about jelly recipes while Bella is keeping her eyes trained on her, nodding and throwing in a question or comment every once in a while. I don't care. I'd listened to Esme explaining her recipes so many times when I was a child, I could make an A-1 raspberry jelly with my eyes closed. So I mute the conversation to a point where words lose their shape and everything melds into a smooth stream of murmuring without meaning. It's very comfortable. Peaceful.
I'm watching Bella. Her cheeks are still a little rosy, and tiny pink spots have appeared on her throat and her chest. I like them; I want to touch every single one. She's fiddling with her napkin, and her knee is nervously bobbing up and down under the table.
I had to stop touching Bella at some point; eating with only one hand was just too awkward. But now I put my hand back on her leg, and it stills under my palm. For a split-second, her eyes flicker into my direction, and the napkin drops from her fingers. Then she's back to smiling and nodding at Esme again. She reminds me of the cab driver who drove us here from the airport yesterday; she's making quite an effort to give Esme's speech her undivided attention... to not be rude to her. Esme has that effect on people.
I move my hand ever so slowly upwards and slide my index finger under the rolled up hem of her cutoff jeans, four inches above her knee. This is exciting... which is weird because there's so much skin exposed anyway... ankles, calves, knees, a bit of her thigh. But touching her underneath the fabric makes my heart beat faster and my breath hitch.
I let my fingertip draw small circles where her skin is covered, and she blushes again... harder and a deeper shade of pink this time, so beautiful. I need to close my eyes for a second because there's that tingling heat again in my stomach and further down, and I can feel that she's... oh, she's getting goosebumps... oh!
The world shrinks up to that tiny area of skin right there under my fingertip. I'm growing almost painfully hard in my pants as I involuntarily recall what she looks like down there without clothes. I've seen and touched and kissed her thighs and the breathtaking beauty between them just this morning. And yet I want to dive under the table to see those little pimples I can feel under my fingers. I want to get down on my knees right now to see the delicate hair stand up on her skin.
And I want to show her how much I am aching for her touch. I want to take her hand and put it where I'm throbbing for her... God, how I crave the sensation of her hands on me... and her mouth, oh her mouth...
Esme's phone buzzes, and Bella literally jumps in her chair. I pull my hand back on reflex; the connection breaks and I'm slowly resurfacing out of my rapture, while things around me seem to move twice as fast as they should. There's a chair scraping over the floor, and Esme excuses herself. It's a text message from Carlisle and she wants to call him back. Then she's out of the room, and I am alone with Bella.
For the first time since we have gathered in her kitchen, she is looking at me. I'm still in a daze, but I can see she's not ok. Why would that be? Was it too much, the touching? Probably yes... not appropriate.
"Shhhh..." She raises her hands to shut me up. She freezes in the middle of the movement, with her hands hovering over the table and her eyes wide open. She's listening, trying to catch scraps of what Esme is saying in the hallway. But Esme is kind of stage-whispering; it's impossible to make out anything. Bella keeps looking at me like a deer in the headlights. Her irises fly back and forth between my own eyes, and her hands that are still hanging mid-air are shaking. She's not ok.
I take her hands and move them down until our elbows rest on the table, and she seems to relax a little. I don't know what made her so anxious. "It's just Carlisle," I explain. There's nothing to be anxious about.
"I know," she whispers and starts rubbing my knuckles with her thumbs as if to comfort me. As if I were the one who isn't well. We stay like that for a few minutes... holding hands, holding each other's gaze... while Esme keeps on talking into her phone. Then Bella takes a deep breath, her thumbs stop moving and she asks quietly, "Are you ok?"
I nod my head yes. Of course I am. Yes. I squeeze her hands and raise my brows to give the question back to her. Though I already know the answer. She's not ok.
"You shouldn't have told her, Edward."
What? Why? "About the sex?" I feel a sharp twinge at the realization that she's feeling bad because of something I did.
"Yes," she answers and leans back in her chair, pulling her hands out of my grip. I instantly feel a little anxious too at the loss of contact. My hands want her back, but she crosses her arms in front of her chest... she wants me to give her some space. It feels like the distance has just increased tenfold.
"This should have stayed between just you and me. You just can't go and tell everybody about it."
Everybody? I know I'm not supposed to tell everybody! "I never would..." Esme is family. If Bella had told me she doesn't want her to know; I wouldn't have said anything. But how am I supposed to know? We haven't had a chance to talk... about what Bella wants... about anything... But maybe I should have been more... considerate?
Esme comes back and apologizes once again. "Sorry for that," she says, waving her cell phone, "this was important. Carlisle said hi to you, Edward. He'll be back tomorrow, and he can't wait to see you. Ok... I'm afraid I have to take my leave now. Will you be all right here?"
Both Bella and I nod in unison. Esme doesn't stop or inhale long enough for us to answer anyway.
"Oh, and please don't mind... I mean, just go on enjoying your breakfast. You can keep everything, if you want, Bella. Or Edward can store the leftovers in his fridge. Whatever. It was a very... interesting morning. We should meet up some time next week and continue our conversation, don't you think?"
Bella swallows and gets up from her chair. "Sure, I'd love that."
Esme waves her off. "Oh, please stay seated; Edward will see me to the door. I'm looking forward to talking to you soon. You two have a nice day, ok? Edward, shall we?"
Esme is leaning against the door frame, her lips pressed together in a tight line. She is plucking at some threads or crumbs or anything only she can see on my shirt. Normally it would drive me crazy, but right now I don't care because she has just unknowingly repeated Bella's words to me. "You shouldn't have told me, Edward."
"Don't be. You meant no harm, and to be perfectly honest, I'm glad you told me. But Bella... she's beyond mortified, I tell you. And the sheet, oh my. You two have a lot to talk about. You know that you need to speak to her, right?"
I know. And I want to. Badly. Tons of shit to fix.
"Are you happy, darling?"
I shrug. Am I? I think so...
"You will find out. I'll see you tomorrow, son," she says, smoothing down invisible wrinkles in the fabric on my chest. "Don't forget about the family dinner, ok? Don't let me send out a search party once again."
She looks a little sad. Is it just because I was with Bella his morning? I know she was looking forward to spending my first day at home with me, just the two of us. She shouldn't be sad though; this is... stupid. I don't want her to leave like this. And there's something nagging at me, seeing her like that. An urgency of sorts that started when I held both her's and Bella's hands in the kitchen, and has been building and building inside of me until now. I can't let her leave like that. I need to -
"What is it, Edward, what's on your mind?"
It's getting worse. It's really eating at me. I need to... I need...
"I need to tell you something, Esme."
Man, this shit isn't easy. But she knows that. Her hand on my chest stills and her eyes find mine. She's all attention now, all calmness, all acceptance no matter what I'm going to say. She's just all Esme, and that thing inside me starts nagging even harder, struggling to come out.
"Take your time, honey," she soothes, all calmness. All attention, she notices my impending anxiety. I need to get this out now.
"I want you to know that I like being back... home, you know." This is not it. This isn't quite right yet. It's a little hard to breathe suddenly. Why does this have to be so hard?
"I'm very happy that you're back, too. Really, really happy," she answers. "I love you, Edward, and I missed you terribly."
No wait... I'm not done yet. There's more. I'm so full of something, and I don't know how to name it or where to put it yet. It is as if there's just no proper shelf space inside my mind for this; it doesn't fit anywhere. I just have to get it out now. I just need -
In... out... in... out... "There's more," I merely whisper.
"It's ok; we're in no hurry," she assures me again. "Is it about Bella?"
No. Yes. No.
"No, it's... I just want to thank you for always being..."
...patient? Loving? Giving? Understanding? Caring? Helping? All of it? How to put it? What is it she needs to know? I'm lost.
"...there for me," I manage, and the pressure starts dissipating. "I want you to know I've always been thankful." That's more like it. Better... much better. I can see it in her face. She appreciates what I'm saying.
"I know, Edward," she says, a little shakily, "you don't have to tell me this. And you don't need to thank me. But I know what you mean; I know what you're... feeling. You're making me very happy. You've always made me happy, and I'm so, so proud of you."
There it is again, her pride. And her love. Will I ever truly understand? Maybe there is no concept to it? Maybe it's just like... breathing? But even breathing has its purpose, mechanism and structure... a simple concept, a physical need. But this is more than just a human instinct, even more than just a feeling. You feel hunger and thirst, you feel cold or warm, and there are reasons why you feel those things, and remedies for them.
But how do you feel love? And why?
Why me? Maybe it is a decision? I am not Esme's biological child, so maybe she just decided to love me when she adopted me. And then stuck to her decision, no matter whether I was able to love her back or not. Maybe the 'remedy' for love isn't being loved in return... maybe the remedy for loving someone is just loving someone. What if love needs no remedy, no reward? There would be no concept.
I love Bella. I know I do, with certainty. God, I love her; with everything I am, I love her. I just know it. But there's no concept. I don't even understand how I know this is love. But I do. Would I stop loving her if she didn't love me back? No! Does she even love me back? I don't know. Would I be heartbroken like one of those characters in those romantic novels, if she said no? I don't know. There's no concept yet.
How do you stop loving someone? Is it possible at all? Maybe not. How do you stop the rain from falling? I'm soaked with my love for Bella, head to toe. I'm Love-drenched.
I feel like I'm close to understanding... so close, but I never can get quite to the core of it. It remains out of reach. No concept, no order. Every time I try to really grasp it, it slips through my fingers. It just keeps slipping through my fingers. But I so want to hold on to it, just for one moment...
"Edward? Stay with me, honey! Are you ok?"
I zoned out again. I need to focus.
"Yes, I am."
"Good. Go talk to Bella now. I'll see you tomorrow. Can I have a hug?"
I take her in my arms without further ado. It's easy for me to do so; it's never been a problem with Esme. Not always pleasant, but always easy. Just like the eye contact. I remember one of the caretakers in the institution saying that was the reason why everyone thought I had somehow chosen Esme to be the one to take me home... because of the eye contact. Silly! As if I'd had any choice. Choices were made for me back then. But it's true - I had looked her in the eye from the very beginning. Only her. And then Easybella. Only her and Bella.
Right now I really want to hug Esme, and I hold her a little more tightly than usual. This time, it's pleasant. Very much so. It is totally different though from hugging Bella. It's always been different, but nothing compares to what having my arms around Bella did to me this morning. Nothing!
I still hold her tight, and she smells of soap and safety and just Esme. With my nose in her hair, I ask, "Do you feel anything when we are hugging like this? In your body, I mean?"
"Oh my God," she breathes, and a shiver runs through her form. "Yes, I do, Edward. Of course I feel something."
"What is it you feel?"
"That's not an easy thing to describe, honey."
"Could you just try... anyway?"
"It is warm... a warm feeling in my stomach and everywhere. Sometimes it's tingling. It's not always the same, you know. Sometimes it makes me light-headed with happiness, sometimes it spreads out into my chest or even up to my throat, and it might linger there even after we've stopped hugging. Sometimes I feel like I will tear up any moment... like just now. But whatever I feel when we hug, it is always wonderful."
She has started to sway a little while she was speaking, rocking our embraced bodies from side to side. We keep going like this for a few more seconds; it's very soothing. I feel the last bit of my inner tension dissolve, and I'm really tired all of a sudden. Really, really tired, as if I'd just completed a marathon.
Finally I say, "I like hugging you, too." It's the truth.
With a quiet laugh, she lets go of me. There's a little moisture in her eyes, but she just said she feels like tearing up and that it isn't a bad thing, so I guess it's ok. "I'll see you tomorrow," she repeats, patting my cheek, and turns to leave.
She's almost made it through the front door, when she calls back over her shoulder, "and I know what you did earlier with that 'Mom' trick. Don't think you can fool me, you sneaky monkey..."
"Is she gone?"
Bella is still waiting at the same spot she's been standing in when I left the kitchen a couple of minutes ago. I nod my head yes, and she stops wringing her hands and drops onto the chair again. Her shoulders slump forward; suddenly she looks as tired as I'm feeling.
"Did she say anything... about me?"
"She said we should talk," I answer, closing the distance between us in two strides to kneel down and sit back on my heels in front of her. "And that I shouldn't have told her about the lovemaking." I clasp both of her ankles with my hands and lay my forehead against her knees. "And that you're feeling uncomfortable because I told her."
She gasps, and then her hand is in my hair. "Edward, what are you doing? Would you please ... Jesus, get off of the floor, will you?"
But I can't get up; it's impossible. I'm held in my position as though her body were a magnet, from the very moment I touched her again. It's not like I couldn't move. I do move... a lot. But I simply cannot disengage from where her skin and mine connect.
My hands slide down to cup her heels, and my thumbs carress her ankle bones above the rim of her ballet flats. At the same time I rub my forehead against her knees like a cat. Yes, like a cat. I turn my head and twist my neck, and her legs part without much resistance. Just a little they part, giving me enough space to nuzzle the hollow of her knee, enough to brush my cheek against the inside of her thigh.
"Edward, please... what are you doing?" she repeats breathlessly. And as if her question had unlocked a floodgate inside of me, words suddenly come to me without effort, and I'm talking.
"I'm sorry," I say without taking my lips off her skin, "I should have been more considerate, but I was confused. I woke up in your bed and you weren't there, and then I could hear Esme's voice..."
My hands are moving of their own volition while I'm speaking, stroking her ankles, her calves, the back of her knees.
"Your bed, your pillow... it smelled of you, of us, and all I could think of was what had happened before I fell asleep."
I scoot a little closer to her. My temple is pressed against the inside of her left thigh, inching along the silky warmth of her skin, and the words just keep spilling out of me.
"I didn't mean to, but everything kept replaying in my head over and over... the touching, the kissing, the sight and feel of your naked body... I just couldn't stop it, and I touched myself. I thought of us and stroked myself in your bed; I just couldn't help it..."
A gasp escapes Bella's lips, and her fingers curl around a lock of hair in the nape of my neck. My hands have made it all the way along the outside of her legs to the hem of her jeans and I slide them under the fabric, up to my wrists, and she feels so good. Lifting myself up a little on my knees, I let my hands circle around her legs to stroke the bottom of her thighs.
"I didn't mean to, but I just lost it there and made a mess."
Her breath hitches and I feel her grip on my hair tighten. The stubble on my jaw is making this little scratching noise as it brushes along the denim, and then I gently lay my forehead against the fly of her jeans.
"My semen was on your bed sheet, Bella, and I just wanted..."
"Oh God..." she breathes.
And then it hits me. Her scent... that scent. Without warning, it suddenly blooms around me like the sweetest bouquet ever, and it is as though someone has just cut off the thread of my thoughts with a hot scalpel.
"... I just wanted... I... Bella...!"
With a groan, I bury my face in her lap and inhale her, and there is that searing heat again. I am hard in an instant, an almost angry throbbing in my pants. I can't remember what I was just about to explain to her, except for that I was sorry. But it doesn't matter any more. I'm breathing her in and I know that I'm forgiven.
Her hands are moving frantically in my hair and she squeezes her legs together around me. Her hips jerk up, hardly palpable, but that small movement is calling out to me so loudly. And when I hear my name fall from her lips it is my undoing.
I rise on my knees and let my body take the lead. With one hand in the nape of her neck, I pull her face down to mine and chrash my mouth on hers. Our tongues meet and she moans, and I can feel it everywhere, the sound washing through me like liquid fire. My other hand is fumbling with her belt buckle; I don't want to pull my lips from hers, but I'm growing so impatient. I can't get there soon enough. I break the kiss to deal with the button and zipper. I need to feel her now, feel the silky moisture, taste it... oh God, taste it!
Bella grabs my wrists as if to... help me? … stop me? I can't tell. Her grip is too undetermined, too weak.
"Edward, no..." she whispers, "this isn't right."
Isn't right? Of course, it is. And I cannot stop. I just can't.
As soon as the zipper is open, I shove my hand down inside her jeans and between her wet lips, and oh God, this is so right. A thousand times yes. How could this not be?
I lick and nibble at her jaw and her neck, lips and tongue and teeth, while am fondling her inside her panties, and I'm all pants and moans, all want and lust. My head is spinning and I know I'm being a little rough. But she is panting too, and her little hands are clutching my shoulders. This can't be 'not right'. If this isn't right, then...
"... tell me to stop!" I moan against her throat.
But I don't pause to wait for her response. My body is unleashed and acting on its own accord. I lift her off the chair, with my arm around her middle, and start tugging at the waistband of her jeans. Bella makes little whimpering noises, and I raise my head to look at her. She's flushed and breathing heavily through parted lips. And her lips, oh those lips... they are a little swollen but so, so beautiful. Did I kiss her too hard? Did I hurt her?
"Tell me to stop, Bella..."
Her eyes find mine, and they seem to melt. Her scent grows so intoxicatingly strong that I can almost taste her on my tongue, and I barely manage to shove her jeans and panties down mid-thigh, before I have my mouth on her... before I'm all lips and tongue on that precious little spot that makes her writhe and moan with pleasure. I taste her and nothing compares to this. She cries out once and then she whispers 'oh God' over and over as I lap at her juices, and I know I will never get my fill of her. Ever. This can't be wrong.
Her hands that have been clutching at my neck and shoulders reach down to where her pants are stuck around her thighs. I need to take my mouth off of her for one moment, one endless moment, so she can pull them down over her knees and slip out of them. She kicks them aside and spreads her legs, and I'm almost losing it. The aching-burning-throbbing desire inside of me gives a roar that drowns out the last bits of my coherent thinking.
I throw myself at her and scoop her up and lower her to the floor where I hover over her, supporting myself on one arm. I nudge her legs apart and, kneeling between them, hastily pull down my zipper and grab my painfully hard erection. I let myself fall forward on my elbow and bury my face in the crook of her neck. I might just faint with want.
"Bella..." I pant, and I feel like I'm losing my mind.
I know I'm being too rough, too hasty, too needy, and I'm sorry, but I'm unable to stop, unable to slow down. She has slung her arms around my head and her whispered 'oh God... oh God... oh God...' is like a hypnotizing mantra. All nerve endings inside my body are screaming with desire as I position myself at her entrance. I am leaking... twitching... throbbing... I am half senseless and shaking all over. I need to be inside her or die.
"Bella, I want..." I moan and stammer against her skin and I don't really know what it is I want to say. "I... please... oh God, Bella... not gentle... I want... need this..."
I almost sob when she lifts her legs and puts them around my waist.
"Fuck yes," she moans.
And I thrust forward.