She's here. Opposite side of the table, out of my reach. But I don't mind. I'm just so glad that she's here. And this way, I can watch her better. Her hair, her skin, the blush… she's here.
"Edward, darling, eat something." Esme says.
I grab my fork and start coiling up some noodles, but I can't take my eyes off of Bella. It is like she's becoming more beautiful, the longer I look at her. I'm afraid to miss something if I avert my gaze. She's like a blossom unfolding, and I don't want to miss a single second of this mysterious transformation, even though it's probably just something going on in my head. If you love someone they become prettier and prettier in your eyes, I guess. Or is it the other way round?
Luckily, no-one seems to expect me to participate in the conversation. They're not talking about anything important anyway… I think? I tune myself in and there's Bella, answering a question about her job.
"…just temporarily. I needed to do something now that I'm alone, and Mr. Denali mentioned one day that he was looking for someone to help his daughter Tanya at the store, so I asked him and…"
Yes, about her job at the drugstore. I remember Denali's Drugstore from my childhood. There was a girl, too. Tanya Denali. I didn't like her. She once made fun of Bella when we were there. She made fun of her because Bella was with me. That Tanya Denali was a mean person. I need to ask.
"Is she mean to you?"
All heads turn to me, but I only see Bella. I only see Bella's eyes that dart to mine.
"Why… no! She's really nice."
Esme gives a nervous laugh. "Edward, why would you think that Tanya is mean to anyone? Do you know her?"
Yes, I do. And I don't like her. But I don't want to ignite any further discussions. "No."
I lower my head and pick at my pasta again, making it quite obvious I'm not going to elaborate on my answer, and after a brief moment of silence, they resume their talk. I tune myself out again. I'm watching Bella. I'm watching her eat and speak and blush and... transform. Can she be any more beautiful? I don't care if this is just a trick my mind is playing on my love-drenched self. I don't want to analyze this; I just want to savour the moment.
From time to time, she looks at me and smiles. Do I smile back at her? I should! But I don't think I manage to answer her smiles with one of my own in time before she looks away again… not even once. I feel the smile, feel it rise inside of me like the brightness and warmth that washes over you when, on a cloudy day, there's suddenly a breach in the overcast sky. This moment when you feel the sun warming every single cell of your body, and the dull screen of your closed eyelids is suddenly flooded with a soothing, red glow. That sort of smile. I feel it, but I'm afraid it doesn't show on the outside. Or does it? I can't watch myself right now. I'm too stunned, watching her.
She's looking uncomfortable all of a sudden. Is it because I don't smile? Is it because I am staring? Is it me at all? Tuning in…
"…not it! I really do want to go back to school; I always wanted to work with children."
Bella wants to go to school. She loves children. What school?
"Yes, I remember," Esme says. "You always said you wanted to be a teacher. That's why I was wondering -"
"I can still be a teacher. And I will. I just need to save up some money first."
Why is she so… scared? Defensive? There's something wrong… And money. Is she short of money? Did that Jacob not even take care of that?
"I'm not saying you can't, Bella. I was just wondering how -"
"Esme." It's Carlisle, gently cutting in. "Last time I checked, the Spanish inquisition was already over. Give the girl a break." He takes Esme's hand. "It's a good thing for someone to resume education and follow their dreams, don't you think?"
"Evening classes!" Bella almost shouts. She's angry. And scared. I can't stand it. Esme is pressing her too much. I need to make her stop!
"Esme!" I'm not speaking as softly as Carlisle just did. I'm angry, too. I'm scared, too. I can't help it… "Stop. Now!"
Esme's eyes grow impossibly wide. Bella reaches her hand across the table and whispers, "Edward, it's ok."
But it's not. Not okay. "No! I'm not going to sit here and…"
What is the word? I can't find the word. I can't make it around all the questions that have piled up in my head during the last few minutes to fish the right one out of this pool of words.
"… and… and nourish this!"
Wrong word. Doesn't matter. I can see I made my point anyway. Esme casts her eyes down and takes a deep breath. Carlisle clears his throat. Bella swallows hard and stares at me. Nobody speaks.
I remember days from my childhood when we all sat at this table, Bella and my parents talking while I kept on word-fishing in my mind. I never really contributed to the conversations because I didn't want to say a wrong word. Those days when Bella had dinner with us were the days when Bella stayed with me until I fell asleep. She was part of the family back then, and I thought it would always be that way.
When did that change? What happened?
Esme looks up at me. She seems hurt, although she's the one hurting Bella. I don't understand her at all. She should feel guilty instead. She should love Bella. She should apologize to Bella.
"I want you to apologize."
Bella gasps. "Edward, really... I don't think..."
"No," Esme cuts in. "Edward is right. That was rude of me. I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to be so pushy, Bella."
"It's fine, Esme, really."
But I can tell it's not. Bella is still looking uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. As if she didn't belong here. She once did belong here. She used to sit at my bedside and read to me until my eyelids became to heavy to keep them open. Sometimes she just held my hand and didn't talk at all. Sometimes she promised me I'd never lose her, that she'd always be my friend.
But I did. I lost her.
Why did she never call or write or answer any of my messages, so I had to erase her from my memory in order to not lose my sanity? In order to survive?
Bella leans over the table and takes my hand. "And Edward... "
"...you don't need to defend me, ok?"
O my God, awkward!
I can't believe Edward just made Esme apologize to me. And holy shit, she's really looking guilty. I mean, she was hostile, sort of. But not thatbad. It's almost like there's more to it than what she said.
Of course she wants to know what I'm going to do with my life, now that Jake is gone and Edward and I are becoming... a thing... or whatever it is she is seeing. That's fine. And I know I'm stalling; the job at Denali's is kind of convenient, and it gives me time to figure things out. It's just a stage of my plan, and I'm not ashamed of what I'm doing. If Esme considers me not good enough for her son, that's fine, too. I will prove her wrong!
But she upset Edward again, and that's not fine at all! One minute he was shaking with anger, and now he kind of zoned out. He's looking right through me, with that Little Green crease between his brows.
"Edward? Are you ok?"
He shakes his head. Then he fixes his gaze back on me, with his pupils dilating and contracting a few times in quick succession, like angry little living beings in ardent pools of green.
"What happened?" he asks.
"Nothing, really - it's fine. We were just talking."
He shakes his head again. "Not that. I mean, what happened? When they sent me to boarding school, why did you never... answer? Didn't you miss me at all? What happened?"
Answer? Answer what? Fuck!
"Of course I missed you," I start, when at the same time Esme speaks up,
"This is quite a topic change, darling, and snows of yesteryear anyway."
Edward doesn't listen to her; his eyes are glued to mine. I don't think he even is aware of his parents' presence anymore. Both his hands are on the table, palms down. His right index finger is grazing the embroidered flower leafs. Other than that, his body is eerily still. "You missed me," he whispers.
"I did," I confirm, "so much. But you never replied to my letters, so I thought..."
"... you had forgotten me," I finish.
"You wrote me letters!"
What the fuck? "Yes, I did!" Is he telling me he didn't get them? "In the beginning, I wrote you like... once a week? Even though Esme just went to see you monthly. I collected the letters and gave them to her at the end of each month..."
"You gave them to Esme?"
"Yes, of course. She -" Oh my God! I can see the realization of what this means in his face the very moment it dawns on me too. I can see the devastating effect of this... betrayal on his face, and I can see disbelief and anger fighting each other.
From the corner of my eye I see Esme stand. "Bella, Edward... this is not -"
Both Edward's fists slam down on the tabletop, making dishes and cutlery jump and clatter. Esme flinches and her hands fly to her mouth. Carlisle stands, too, but doesn't say anything. For the first time, he seems at a loss about what to do. And so am I.
I guess I should be mad at Esme. I guess I should feel sorry for Edward... for us. Or maybe I should be frightened, what with Edward shaking and huffing? Seeing how his anger has clearly gotten the upper hand? But I feel nothing. I'm in a state of shock. All I can think is why in the world would she withhold my letters from him? But Edward has a different question.
"Where?" he growls.
Esme takes a tentative step closer to her son. "Please, Edward, you need to..."
"I want them. Where are they?"
"...understand; it was for your own good. I was just..."
Oh, that's rich! The all-time parental excuse for anything and everything. But it doesn't get her very far. Edward jumps up so suddenly that his chair is knocked over.
"WHERE?" he roars, towering over his mother with his hands clenched into tight fists on either side of him.
"...trying to protect you!" Esme shouts her last words. There are tears in her eyes as she finishes. And finally Carlisle steps in, instinctively reaching out for his son's shoulder. I'm frozen in my place, watching the scene before me like some stage play; I still feel nothing.
I see Edward turn around and lash out at Carlisle, yelling at him to keep his hands off, and I feel nothing. All I can think is that someone - no, not someone... Esme! She stole a big part of my life, of myself from me. When she took those letters, she took away what could have been... all those years... my promise... and Edward, he must have thought... oh God!
"My letters, I want them," Edward hisses. He is holding his hands up in that universal don't-touch-me gesture. His head tilted to one side, he seems to fixate on an invisible point in the center of the room - like a lone fighter encircled by enemies, waiting for the first one to make the slightest move, and ready to attack.
"Give them to him," Carlisle whispers, and Esme nods her head yes as if in trance. "Your room," she says, turning to Edward. "There's a card-box on top of the closet. They are all there; I've kept them all."
Without another word, Edward storms off. This is so fucked up. Suddenly Esme's expensive satin blouse seems to be made of the itchiest wool ever; I want to rip it off of me. And eventually, I find my voice.
"Why did you do that? You had no right to do that!" I accuse.
"It was for his own benefit. I had to do it; Edward was much too dependent on you. He was obsessed with you, Bella, and he had no chance to adjust to the situation at school like that, or to make new friends. The counselor said, a clean break would be best to make..."
"A clean break?" I yell in utter bewilderment. "You made me look like a liar in his eyes!"
"It wasn't easy for me either, believe me."
I have no response to that. Clearly, she still believes in the rightness and righteousness of what she did. I don't get it. She made Edward believe I had abandoned him; it makes me sick just to think about it.
"Isabella, I think you should follow him. He'll want you by his side now." Once again, it is Carlisle who just always seems to know what's the right thing to do. Esme looks at him, shaking her head no. But really... I don't give a shit whether she approves of it or not. I snatch my purse and stand. The last thing I see before I leave the room is Carlisle taking her in his arms. He mouths 'go!' to me. Esme slumps against him, defeated, and sobs into his chest. I don't give a shit...
The door to his old room is ajar. Edward is sitting on the edge of the bed, with his head hanging. There's a bundle of envelopes in his hands. I can see they're unopened, about twenty-five, maybe thirty letters, held together with a red satin band. The way she kept those letters safe... pretty box, tiny bow and all... it would be endearing if she hadn't done it for all the wrong reasons.
I walk over and stop right in front of him; he doesn't look up. I don't know if he wants me to touch him or not. He seems calm again, but maybe he needs some distance right now. I wait a few moments, but he doesn't move.
"So you found them," I say.
He slowly nods his head. Ok... no words then. I reach out and gently stroke his hair, relieved when he doesn't flinch.
"Don't you want to read them?"
He answers with a shrug. Not indifferent, just undecided. Then his shoulders rise and fall with a long sigh. Yes, he's undecided. And there's more; he is... scared?
"Are you afraid to read them?"
He swallows hard and gives another nod. He lets go of the letters and they land in the open card-box at his feet with a quiet thud. There are three more such bundles in it. I don't remember having written so many letters before I finally gave up hope, convinced that after all, the old saying 'out of sight, out of mind' applied to my Little Green, too.
"You don't want to talk, huh? Do you want me to leave you alone?"
He takes my hands and pulls me closer until I straddle his thighs. He wraps his arms around my waist and buries his face in the crook of my neck. I lay my cheek on top of his head and hug him back. We stay like that for a little while, silently mourning the loss of whatever might have been between us if those letters had reached their destination. We will never know. And somehow I feel like I betrayed him just as much as Esme did. Because I stopped writing him. And worse, because I actually stopped thinking of him after a while. Out of sight, out of mind... that was me, not him. He was a kid, for crying out loud. I shouldn't have stopped trying.
Edward inhales deeply, then he suddenly pulls back, scrunching up his nose.
"What?" I say, startled at the sudden movement and the disgusted expression on his face.
With a growl, he starts tugging angrily at the hem of Esme's blouse, pulling it out of the waistband of my jeans and further up. Ok, I get it. Apparently it doesn't smell right on me... apparently he doesn't want to smell Esme right now... or maybe ever again. I lift my arms and he tears the thing off of me so impatiently that one or two buttons bite the dust.
Once the offending piece of clothing is gone and I am left in my simple white cotton bra, Edward enfolds me in his arms again and nuzzles my cleavage with a contented sigh. My hands are back in his hair before I know it. "Better?" I ask him quietly. And this time, I get a spoken answer... kind of.
He whispers my name, my special name. "Easy," he says. "Easy-Easy-Easybella..." My breath hitches as he starts peppering kisses on my boobs where they aren't covered by the bra. With one hand on my behind, he pulls me closer on his lap. "Easybella... Bella... need you, my Bella..."
"Edward, what -"
He grabs my right wrist and pulls my hand down between us until my palm lies on the considerable bulge in his jeans. "Need you," he repeats.
I whimper quietly; this is so... oh, fuck! Encouraged by my reaction, he starts to fumble with the clasp of my bra. Without thinking, I reach behind me to help him. It's only when the bra joins Esme's blouse on the carpet that I remember where we are, and that the door to his room is still ajar and... oh, fuck!
"Edward, we can't! Not here... your parents!"
He looks at me, confused for just a moment. Then he takes my arms and puts them around his neck. I hold on to him as he gets up, lifting me as if I weighed nothing, and walks to the door. I wrap my legs around his waist; he supports me with one arm while he uses the other to close the door and lock it. And then my naked back meets the door and Edward's lips meet mine. Fuuuuck!
How the hell does he do that?Kissing him like this, with my body pressed against his, sets my inside on fire in no time. We have been together just this morning, but apparently the more you get, the more you want. He has awakened a hunger I didn't know I had in me, a hunger only he can appease.
He breaks the kiss and looks at me, breathing heavily through parted lips. I can see lust and adoration in his eyes. And a hint of despair, too. He needs to know, to feel that I am here with him. He needs reassurance. And I need to get my hands on him. Everywhere on him...
I shove my fingers under the hem of his shirt and let them roam his silky skin. Oh my God, he feels amazing... his small hips and waist, the toned stomach. My thumbs caress the bows of his lower ribs and then graze the soft path of hair down from his belly button to where it vanishes in the waistband of his jeans.
He sighs and lets his forehead sink against mine. I repeat my movements a few times, sliding both thumbs up to his belly button again and then down as far as they get. Then I feel his fingers dig into my behind; he lifts me off of him and puts me on my feet.
I lean back against the door and watch him strip off his shirt in that odd manly manner... reaching over his shoulders with both arms, grabbing two fistfuls of fabric to pull it over his head and in front of his chest and then shrugging out of the sleeves.
I smile at him. My beautiful man. And he smiles back at me, despair gone for the moment. All that is left is the lust and the adoration. I swear I could orgasm just from the way he looks at me, and then... oh God – he gets on his knees right in front of me and buries his face in my jeans-clad lap. And when he moans my name, my juices start to flow as if someone has flicked a switch.
This time, a not so quiet moan escapes me. I'm almost sure his parents can hear me, but I can't hold it in. And I don't mind. For all I care, shall Esme hear it and learn that she couldn't prevent this... that she couldn't prevent the love!
Edward starts unbuttoning my jeans, breathing deeply through flared nostrils with a rapt expression on his face. I know he likes the way I smell down there when I'm aroused. He told me so last night. And when I laughed and asked him whether he gets paid for telling me shit like that, he didn't get my sarcasm. He means it. And right now, as he pulls my jeans and panties down my legs with that look on his face... fuck, I like my own smell, too.
He holds my pants and shoes down as I step out of them, and then he tosses it all aside. "Need you..." he whispers once more, looking up at me, and starts to unbuckle his belt. I get weak in the knees, suddenly grateful for the solid door behind me. 'Yes!', I think. And 'Oh God!', and then it hits me.
"Edward, we don't have a condom!"
He stops opening his pants and grabs my hips instead. He bends forward and starts kissing my belly. My eyes flutter close for a moment at the sensation. My hands are at the back of his head already, raking through his hair. How can he get me so worked up so quickly? This can't be normal!
"Edward, did you hear me?" I ask with my last bit of resistance.
He lifts his head just long enough to give me a nod, and then his mouth is right there. And his tongue, licking, circling, teasing right there! "Ohhh..." is all I can utter; it's almost a cry. And fuck, that was loud, wasn't it? My knees almost give way for real now. My legs start shaking; this is just too good. But I don't know if I can stand this way. I want to give him better access, I want his head between my thighs... want to hold it there, I... fuck – I want to grind my clit against his face!
I have no idea where that came from, but I moan loudly at the thought and God help me, I'm already close. But I can't spread my legs. I feel like I can barely hold myself upright. Edward notices my distress and pulls away. No!
"Please don't stop, don't stop..." I pant, not giving a shit about how whiny I sound, or if anyone can hear me. Even though I still clutch at his hair, Edward manages to bend sideways and away from me. In my near-orgasm haze I watch incredulously as he quickly pulls the wooden chair from under the nearby desk, turns it around with one swift move of his arm and shoves it next to me against the door. He takes my right hand and puts in on the backrest. "Hold on," he says, a little breathlessly. Then he gently lifts my right knee, places my foot on the seat and looks at me questioningly.
What? I'm too stunned to say anything.
He takes my left arm by the wrist and lays his cheek into my palm. "Bella?"
Oh God, what? I want to say something like 'Ok, yes, yes, this is ok, great idea!' But all I can manage is a toneless "Please..."
He lets go of my wrist and covers my hand in his. He interlaces our fingers and brings both our hands to the back of his head. He looks into my eyes one more time, and when I think I can't stand it any longer, he moves... wemove, our joined hands pressing his head between my welcoming thighs, together... guiding his mouth back to where I need it and holding it there, with gentle force... together.
I cry out in pleasure. I'm loud. I'm loved. I'm all woman, and I'm wanted.
And when I'm dancing on the edge of my release, ready to let go... when I squeeze his hand so tightly that my knuckles get white... he squeezes it back, telling me that when I fall, he will catch me.