FORKS, JUNE 2004:
"Edward, won't you come with me?" Esme cooed. "We will be back in no time. And you don't have to talk to Daddy Carlisle if you don't want to."
The boy in the backseat of the silver Volvo didn't budge. With his head tilted to one side at an angle that made his ear touch his shoulder, he kept on staring down to where he was rubbing the heel of his hand against his jeans-clad knee in steady circles. He had been like that for like ten minutes, and Esme realized this was just one of those days where he was going to try her patience.
She knew he meant no offense. If he only would speak. If he only could tell her why, for Christ's sake, he didn't want to see Carlisle. Or maybe it was the building? Was he afraid of hospitals? He had no issues with doctors or people in scrubs or anything, as far as she knew. He had endured countless examinations during the adoption process. It just didn't make sense, like so many things about the silent child she'd lost her heart to. She knew so little about him. But she knew one thing for sure: he wouldn't get out of the damn car now. Not a chance in hell.
Esme grabbed the handle of the car door and rose from her crouching position, defeated. She looked back over her shoulder to the entrance of the Forks Community Hospital on the other side of the parking lot, weighing her options.
Theoretically, she didn't have to take the papers Carlisle had asked for to his office herself. She could just jog across the lot, drop them at the reception desk and be back in a minute. But it would still mean leaving Edward all by himself in the car and she felt uneasy about that.
She could use her cell to call the receptionist and ask one of the nurses to come out and fetch the folders. Or she could drive over and park right in the zone reserved for the ambulance. Both of the latter options seemed frivolous and made Esme cringe inwardly. She decided to call her husband instead; he would know what to do.
She was just about to press the speed dial, when a high-pitched voice greeted her. "Mrs. Cullen... hi! Is everything all right? Can I help you?"
Esme turned around, and the sudden rush of relief she felt at the sight of a familiar face made her realize how ridiculously close she'd just been to getting hysterical. The police chief's seventeen-year old daughter seemed to be the answer to her prayers right now.
"Bella... oh hi! And actually, yes, I could use a little help here."
Esme knew the girl well; she was a regular guest at the ER, and Carlisle swore he had never seen someone more accident-prone than Bella Swan. At an age where other female teenagers developed a natural grace that made their fathers shoot warning glances at any male under the age of 20 in close proximity, the only thing Chief Swan had to worry about was his daughter's infamous clumsiness.
"Hey." Esme smiled at her. "Your cast has come off."
With a grin, Bella raised her right arm and wiggled her skinny wrist in the air. "Yes, finally. Let's see how long it takes this time, huh?"
Her fatalistic attitude and self-directed irony was laughable, but Esme instantly started to worry if it was such a good idea to ask Bella to do the small errand. It was a distance of maybe 40 yards to the hospital entrance, and the parking lot was... deceptively flat and even! God knows what could happen to her... Esme quickly decided to better be safe than sorry.
"Bella, have you met my son Edward yet?"
"Oh, I don't think so," the girl replied and stepped closer to the car, an intrigued look on her face.
Of course, she had heard about the recent addition to the Cullen family; the adoption had been the topic of the month. Rumor had it that the boy was somehow disabled. Behind the scenes, assumptions were made that he was deaf-dumb and a bit disfigured. Some said he was mentally handicapped, due to a severe brain damage... or like Bella's class mate Mike Newton used to put it, 'a drooling vegetable'.
Bella bent at the waist and cautiously peeked into the car. The boy on the backseat didn't look anything like she'd expected. Apart from his tense posture, there were no visible signs of any disability. In fact, Bella found him to be extraordinarily pretty. He was slim and pale, but not in an unhealthy way. His skin seemed to be translucent, and there was an almost feminine touch to his facial features with the pouty lips and those long lashes.
"Hi, Edward," Bella said softly. The boy didn't look up and kept rubbing his knee as if he hadn't heard her. Maybe he was indeed deaf?
As if Esme had read her mind, she spoke behind her, "He can hear you; he just has difficulty showing it."
Bella straightened up and turned around. "Oh... ok."
"Look, I need to get these to my husband," Esme said, pointing at the brown manila folders peaking out of her purse. "Could you just wait here for a second until I'm back? Edward refuses to leave the car, and I don't want to force him. He won't try anything; don't worry, I just hate to leave him here all by himself. I'll be right back."
"Sure," Bella answered without hesitation. "I'll keep him company."
"No, Bella... wait!" All of Esme's inner alarm bells went off as she watched the girl move to get into the car to sit next to Edward, unsuspectingly invading his sensitive comfort zone. She wanted to grab her and pull her away from her son, who she knew would throw a fit any second, but her limbs just wouldn't obey.
"Don't, Bella, he cannot bear..." she moaned in despair, but it was too late. When Bella reached out for Edward's still frantically moving hand, Esme closed her eyes in defeat and prepared for the tantrum of the year.
It didn't come. Esme held her breath, waiting for Edward to shriek and lash out, but it didn't come.
Instead she heard Bella giggle quietly and say, "Yeah, you're right, this doesn't look very good anymore, anyway." Esme opened her eyes just in time to see Edward raise his head and look at the chief's daughter, wide-eyed.
Esme gasped in total wonder. He looked at her!
Oblivious to the significance of events or the shock that made Edward's mother stagger on her feet, Bella smiled at the boy next to her. She was mesmerized by the color of his irises, which were an impossible green. Now that she could see the slightly feline slant of his eyes and brows, she found him even more pretty. And though he kept a straight face, the undiluted innocence he radiated touched her heart.
"Just go ahead," she whispered to him, "it will come off easily." And the boy bent down his head and resumed the task he just had commited himself to... Holding Bella's wrist in one hand, he intently scratched at the rims of a stick-on tattoo on the back of her hand, peeling it off her skin piece by piece as if this was the most important business in the world. The fissured picture showed a little red heart with wings. It'd been days since Jacob had placed it there; it looked worn, and Bella didn't mind getting rid of it.
When the last little stripe came off and tumbled to the ground, Esme watched in awe as Edward looked up again, searching for Bella's eyes. The girl giggled once more. "Well done," she said cheerfully. "Thank you, Edward."
As though it was all he needed to hear, Edward cast down his eyes. His body relaxed into the backrest and he slowly tilted his head until it rested against the girl's upper arm. He held onto her wrist with both hands now, his thumbs stroking the spot where Jacob's token of friendship had been. Bella turned her head and smiled at Esme.
"We're fine here, Mrs. Cullen. I'll wait for you."
When Esme returned from the building, where she had dropped the papers at the reception desk and hastily informed the nurse about their destination, the two kids were still peacefully leaning against each other, and Esme was still trying to grasp what just had happened. She couldn't believe Edward tolerated someone else's touch beside her own. And even more, being touched by Bella seemed to calm him. And he made eye contact! Both were things he wouldn't even allow with his adoptive father yet.
Esme knew she shouldn't get her hopes up too soon; this could be nothing. Things were still completely unpredictable for her when it came to Edward's moods and needs. The few attempts she and Carlisle had made to find someone to watch over Edward so that she could leave the house at least for a little while sometimes, had been both futile and nerve-wracking.
So this had to mean something... Esme's mind worked frantically while her eyes were glued to the miraculous scene before her.
Bella shifted slightly and looked up at the stunned woman, a sheepish smile on her face. She nodded towards her and Edward's joined hands and shrugged awkwardly. "Mrs. Cullen, I think... I don't believe I can get out of the car right now."
'Don't!' Esme thought. Then she took a deep breath.
"Bella, I was just wondering... would you like to make a few dimes from time to time?"
This is all kinds of wrong, and I know it. Yet, I can't find it in me to stop him. The temptation to just let go and get lost in the desire he awakens in me is overwhelming. He is a natural force, sweeping over my willpower like a tsunami, terrifyingly beautiful, pulling me under, making my thoughts tumble helplessly. And with a moaned 'fuck, yes' I surrender...
He enters me forcefully, pushing both our bodies across the tile floor, and I cry out in pleasure and surprise. Oh God, this is so good! He pulls back and thrusts forward again, moaning and grunting in the crook of my neck. In a futile attempt to somehow ground myself, I grab the leg of a chair standing next to me. I hold on to it and it scrapes across the tiles when Edward's next thrust sends us both gliding along the floor a little further. The screeching sound cuts through my frenzy just long enough to make me realize that we are just having sex without protection, and the thought instantly sobers me to a great degree.
I push against Edward's shoulders to make him get off of me. He is still moving inside me; his moans and pants indicate that he's quickly getting close to completion, and I panic. "Edward, please!" I yell, and push with all I have. He pulls back immediately, and the feeling of emptiness is both relief and sadness.
In total misinterpretation of what I was trying to do by pushing him away, he scoots down on me, kissing and licking a hot, wet path towards the spot between my legs once more. My hands clutch at his hair and I manage to stop him. With his face pressed against my stomach, he suddenly cries out my name and convulses and I feel his cum moistening my knees and thighs in hot spurts.
Then everything comes to a sudden halt as he clings to me and freezes, and our breathing is almost too loud to bear.
"Edward," I whisper.
He sits up abruptly and stares at me in shock. "I hurt you," he states, crestfallen.
I shake my head no, because he didn't. Yet I can hardly stop the tears from welling up. This rollercoaster day is finally taking its toll.
"We didn't use a condom, Edward, and I'm not on birth control. You can't... we can't do this. We can't do this anymore."
"Oh..." His eyes dart to my naked legs, and he gasps. Tentatively, he touches the inside of my thigh, collecting a bit of the moisture on the tip of his index finger. "I'm sorry," he breathes.
This is such a mess. What was I thinking? I need to talk to him; I need to get things straight, but where to start? This is bad. He is so young, he has this... condition, and the worst part of it all, he is Esme Cullen's son! I close my eyes and shake my head. This is such a mess, and I'm so tired.
"What are we supposed to do, Edward?" I murmur, meaning to speak more to myself rather than to him. "I don't know what to do..."
I hear Edward shift and open my eyes. He is on his feet, stepping out of his pants and stripping off his shirt. Before I can ask what this is about, he has scooped me up and carried me into the bathroom where he lowers me down to sit on the closed toilet lid. Kneeling before me, he starts pulling at the hem of my t-shirt. I am too emotionally exhausted right now to even help him or to bristle or whatever... I simply don't care. I let him handle me like I was ragdoll, and in no time I am naked and limply leaning against his chest. Holding me in one arm, he reaches over to the tub and turns on the water faucet.
"Edward," I protest weakly, "stop it. Do you want me to take a bath now?"
He shakes his head no. "You can't," he says, testing the temperature with his hand in the water jet. "No bath! My... they... they can swim, you know? No bath..."
He rises and pulls me up with him. Holding my hand, he steps into the bathtub and motions for me to follow. I have lost any will of my own at this point and just do what he wants. Once we're both in the tub, he kneels down again, takes the shower head and starts rinsing my body from the waist down. I just stand there, bracing myself against the tiles with one hand, and watch him.
"I'm really sorry, Bella," he says without averting his eyes from his task. I don't know what to answer. I'm sorry, too. But being sorry doesn't get us anywhere. He doesn't seem to expect any answer anyway.
His free hand is stroking my skin in slow, downward movements. After a while he puts the shower head back into its holder, spreads some soap in his palms and starts lathering my lower torso and legs with his hands. Then he rinses me again, stroking me in the process like he did before. The warm water and his caresses are soothing, and I feel ridiculously grateful and cared for, despite the oddity of the situation. I feel like I am the younger one.
Finally he fetches a towel and carefully rubs me dry. He doesn't falter in doing so, nor does he look up at all when he says, "I love you, Bella." His sudden declaration makes me dizzy but doesn't quite seem to reach my brain.
When I'm all dry, Edward helps me out of the tub, drapes a fresh towel around me and sitting down on the toilet lid, pulls me onto his lap. I cuddle against his chest, wrapped in his arms and in terrycloth like a burrito, and he lays his cheek on the top of my head and starts rocking me gently.
"We need to talk, Edward."
"I know. I'm so sorry."
"And you need to stop apologizing."
With that, we both fall silent again. It is really hard to remember what we're supposed to talk about when I'm so warm and comfortable in Edward's embrace. But I need to pull myself together. Where to start... where to start...? I'm at a loss. But unexpectedly, Edward gives me a cue.
"I am so confused," he says.
Of course, he is. He needs to understand that physical attraction or raging hormones must not be confused with love. I am a puzzle piece from his childhood, a pleasant memory, which makes everything even more complicated emotionally. Hells, I'm very much confused myself.
"I know you're confused. I'm not quite sure what has happened myself yet. And I don't know what to say right now. But you can ask me anything, you know... if you have any questions?"
He keeps on rocking me for a few moments in silence. Then he says, "I'm still sorry."
I sigh. "Will you ever stop apologizing to me?"
"Yes," he answers without the slightest hint of humor, "once I'll stop messing things up, I will stop being sorry."
I can't help but chuckle. "Well, that figures, Mr. Spock!"
"And yes, I have questions," he adds, still totally earnest.
"Ok." Here goes!
"Bella, I would like to know... do you love me back?"