My embarrassment couldn't be any worse if Esme had caught me with my panties around my ankles. Edward just smiles artlessly and disappears through the bedroom door, completely unaffected. I don't know what to say. My cheeks are burning, and there is no way I can look Esme in the face right now. With my eyes cast down, I stammer, "God, Esme, I can't even... I am so -"
"Cut it out, for Christ's sake," she hisses, and I wince. She grabs my elbow and drags me towards the kitchen, whispering into my ear, "Start thinking, Bella! He is in earshot; are you seriously telling me you want him to overhear that you are SORRY about whatever has happened between you two this morning?"
Oh my God...
"Of course not, I just -"
"Then don't. Leave it at that. Let's see to breakfast for now, nothing else." She releases my arm and turns towards the table, suddenly chattering away in her normal voice as if nothing has happened, "So... the good news is, the bread is still warm. Did you know I used to make this every Sunday for Edward? He loved it. Relax, Bella. Plates?"
I blink a few times, then I go on autopilot. Plates, right...
So we busy ourselves setting the table, and for a few minutes our conversation just circles around knives and spoons and bread recipes. The familiar procedures around the kitchen help me to calm down, but I know there'll be a heart to heart with Esme eventually, and it's not going to be fun. At least, she doesn't intend to put me to death without a decent last meal. I'm in awe about the amount of delicacies she conjures out of her basket.
Edward enters the kitchen, still wearing a smile and no shirt. A loud growl emanates from the center of his body at the mere sight of Esme's bounty, and I giggle almost hysterically. His smile grows into a full grin; he looks so happy.
And so damn sexy...
Even Esme is laughing as she asks him about his shirt, for the umpteenth time it seems.
"It needs to go into the washer, as well as Bella's bed sheet," he answers. And there is this bundle under his arm, and I can't believe this is really happening. He brought my bed sheet because it is dirty? Because what we did left its marks on it? I can't remember whether... I mean, virgins are supposed to bleed, but I don't think I...? My hands fly up to cover my face. I might pass out any moment out of sheer embarrassment. Oh God, what's next? Maybe Edward will unfold the offending piece of laundry, and he and Esme will stoop over it, poking at the stains and discussing the right temperature and dose of washing powder. I wouldn't be surprised...
Esme is patting my shoulder as if to say, 'Hey, shit happens', but this can't be what she's meaning, and her touch isn't comforting at all. Edward is apologizing and he sounds strained. He clearly has no clue what's going on. How could this morning turn from the best moment of my life into something so royally fucked up? Oh, Little Green...
He leaves, together with my bed sheet. I should take my hands off of my face, but I can't move a muscle. Esme squeezes my shoulder. "Bella," she says, and again, "Bella!"
I let my arms fall down, but my eyes are still shut tight. I feel like I should say something, but all I can do is ramble helplessly, "Oh God, Esme, I... I don't know what -"
"Bella, for Heaven's sake, get a grip."
Oh fuck, now she sounds pissed off. My head jerks up and I gape at her as she continues.
"Have you even looked at him? He is like a kid who's just been told by Santa himself that he will indeed get the red bicycle. And believe me, he didn't even beam like that when he actually got the bicycle on Christmas 2004! Honestly, I have no idea yet what to make of this... situation, but I do know that now is not the time. You and I, we will talk; I assure you. We need to sort this out, and if you... Bella, you almost are like a daughter to me, but I swear, if you hurt him... if this is just -"
The ring of her cell interrupts her hasty words, and I notice I've been holding my breath all along. I draw in some air and whisper, "I would never do anything to hurt him."
Esme is pinching the bridge of her nose as she waves me off. "Just sit down, Bella, will you?"
And so I do. I drop myself onto a chair at the table and just zip it. Esme fishes her phone out of her pocket, takes a look at the display and sighs. I keep my eyes on my fingers that are knotted together in my lap while Esme starts talking. It's Edward on the phone, that much is clear.
"What is it, darling? - Oh... sure, it's cotton, right? Hot is ok; just turn the dial all the way to the right and press 'Start'. - Ok? We're waiting for you. - You found what?"
She slowly sinks down onto the chair next to me at the head of the table. I can feel her eyes on me, so I raise my head to find her looking at me with this odd mixture of surprise and sympathy. What the fuck?
"Ok. If there's really... uhm, if you've found what you're saying you've found, then it's probably a good idea to wash it cold first."
Wash it cold first? What did he find? Wash it cold? Don't you do that when there are blood-stains? Oh my God! Seriously? And I thought this couldn't get any worse...
Esme is still giving me that weird look as she keeps on talking to Edward, "Is it running? - Good. And have you put on a shirt, honey? - Ok. See you in a bit."
She snaps her phone shut and puts her hand on my shoulder... again. And I notice that I forgot to breathe... again. I draw in a ragged breath. All the acid has left Esme's voice when she says, "I apologize for my outbreak; I'm sorry – I just lost it here for a minute. Edward is coming down, and I want you to relax as much as possible. You think you can do that, Bella? For him?"
I try to erase the visual of my blood-stained sheet from my mind and nod yes. For him. The keyword is 'for him'. I can do that.
"Thank you," Esme whispers, and lets go of my shoulder. There are steps in the hallway; he is here. Esme clears her throat, and just as Edward appears in the kitchen door, she asks in a honeyed voice, "Now that we're all here, how about some coffee?"
"Sure," I say and get up to fetch the coffeepot. Edward is still standing in the doorway, frowning and peering at me as if he's waiting for something. I force a smile onto my face as I sit down again, and the corners of his mouth start to twitch. The very moment he smiles back at me, my stomach twists and I feel my doubtlessly poor grimace turn into a genuine, warm smile. God, he's just irresistible.
"It's all in the washer now," he says, beaming. "I'll get it back to you tomorrow, as good as new."
"Thank you, Edward, that's really... cool. But you didn't have to do that, you know?"
His brows knit together again, and he bites his bottom lip. I remember this look from his childhood days; he always did this when he went through his inward list of possible ways to behave in certain situations. It only lasts a few seconds, then he smiles again and says, "No biggie!"
Both Esme and I laugh, and finally there's a little less tension in the room. Edward just stands there, running his fingers through his hair and grinning. He is utterly adorable, and God help me, I have a huge crush on this grown-up Little Green. My cheeks get all hot and I know I'm blushing hard. Oh my...
"Edward, sit down and eat something; you must be starving," Esme giggles. Her uplifting demeanor is pretty convincing; I must give her that. Edward takes a hesitant step towards the table and stops in his tracks. And there he stills, obviously waiting for... something. Esme looks up at him. "Something wrong, darling?"
He licks his lips, gestures towards Esme and says, "Can I sit there, please?"
It is such a small table. It's just a table for two; I can see that. One end rests against the wall, and the chairs on each side are matching whereas the one Esme is sitting on is a wooden folding chair. That chair wasn't here this morning when Bella was making coffee in her white bathrobe... with the nape of her neck exposed for me so I could inhale her smell... with her collar slightly open so I could see the swell of her creamy breasts.
No, that chair wasn't there this morning. A table for two, such a small table. I could easily reach across it to touch Bella's hand or her face. But that doesn't seem right. I want to sit at the head of this small table for two. So I'd be next to Bella and could touch her more comfortably. Maybe I could touch her leg, or hold her hand all the time. Who used to sit on the free chair anyway? On the chair across from Bella? Her husband? Who was the other one at this table for two? I don't want to think about who used to sit there. And I don't want to sit there myself now.
"Why would you rather sit here than there?" Esme asks. "Don't be silly and have a seat."
She doesn't understand. I can't sit that far from Bella, and I can't sit in this chair. "I can't."
"Of course you can!"
Esme is irritated, but she's also uncertain about something. Just like Bella. They're hiding something from me. Oh yes, same old, same old... don't upset Edward, right? ...the fuck? I can't deal with that now. I want... I need Bella. Now.
"Yes, I can. But I don't want to." Better?
A long sigh. An Esme-sigh. She's defeated. I'm almost there. She puts her coffee mug down and sighs a second time, "Why do you have to be difficult right now, hm?"
"I'm not being difficult; I just want to switch chairs with you."
She's giving me that stern look, staring at me. I stare back at her. Two can play that game. I lift one brow, and her face softens noticeably. The brow always works. I'm almost there.
"Please," I say, and then I close in for the kill, "Mom?" And her facial features become liquid. That's it. She gets up and comes to me. She lays her hand on my cheek, and her eyes are a little moist. That's it.
"Good Lord," she mumbles, trying to sound aloof, "if your life depends on it..."
"Thank you," I say and slip away from under her hand to quickly take my seat. Esme sits down across from Bella, shaking her head and smiling to herself. She likes it when I call her 'Mom'. I don't do it often...
I remember it was Easybella who told me years ago that everyone has a secret name, a name that bears a special meaning and touches their hearts in a special way. A powerful name that, if it was spoken in the right moment, could make people open their hearts and minds. It could make them strong or weak, happy or sad, depending on the circumstances and on who called them by their secret name.
Easybella had told me that Esme's secret name was 'Mom', and that I should use that name whenever I needed her to do something for me that she didn't really want to do. It was like a magic trick. She also told me not to overdo it, or else the trick would wear out. I used that name only few and far between, and it worked every time. Of course it did; Easybella wouldn't lie to me.
Only the last time I called Esme by her secret name, it fell short... that was when they brought me away from here, away from Easybella. I begged and cried; I remember making noises like a wounded animal, the only intelligible words I repeated over and over were 'No' and 'Mom'. 'No' and 'Mom' over and over again. It didn't work that time. I guess I had overdone it then, just like Bella had warned me not to. And so I had broken the spell.
That fragility was the magic of the secret names. You have to use them wisely. Mine was Little Green; there was only one person who called me that, and it always had made me strong and happy. Always. I just had forgotten about it...
But look at Esme now! I called her by her name, and she almost melted. She's glowing. Oh, she likes it when I call her 'Mom'. And I have my seat near Bella. I reach over to her and she takes my hand, and this is good. Everything's good now. I don't want to let go of her. Ever. This is good.
Esme gives another sigh. Esme's signature sigh, one of the good kind. It's her 'oh you sweet boy' sigh. She reaches out to me and I take her hand, too. And this is good. This is about love, isn't it? I never really got the concept of her love for me, although she never got tired of telling me that she loved me. But now there's something forming inside my mind, a certain pattern I can't really wrap my brain around right now because I'm still overwhelmed with the feeling... all this feeling, too much excitement. But as I'm sitting here, holding the hands of the two most important women in my life, I get a glimpse of something huge, and it almost takes my breath away.
Is this what Esme had felt for me all the time? Did she love me like that, although I never really mirrored it, or even acknowledged it? Is this love? A wave of sadness washes over me and I swallow hard. And then it fades away, and I suck in a deep breath.
Esme smiles at me, and whispers, "You don't know what you're doing to me, you sweet boy."
I squeeze her hand and I wish I could tell her... for the first time I really wish I could tell her that I love her, too. In my own way, which might not be good enough. It's complicated and I have trouble concentrating, so I say the next best thing that comes to my mind.
"I know more than you think; I just can't focus right now."
She lets go of me, patting my hand a few times, and answers, "That's fine, darling, don't worry. Everything will be easier once you'll have some of my Sunday bread and home made jelly in your tummy, don't you think?"
Oh damn, I'm hungry. Bella slips her hand from my grip and takes the coffeepot. She stops right above my mug, looking at me in a silent question. "Yes please," I say and lay my hand on her knee under the table. She blushes as she pours me the coffee, and seeing that, I get a hard-on along with a deliciously hot knot in my stomach. I could sit here and do this forever, watching my Bella blush while I feel her skin under my palm, soft skin under my palm.
Yes. Fuck, yes. A thousand times yes.