"I'm feeling like a moron," I blurt out, as soon as we are seated in the car again.
"No," Edward says softly. He puts his hand on my thigh, a worried look on his face. "Why?"
I turn my gaze to the crumpled newspaper wrap I hold on my lap, containing Aro's very own wrest, a loan to his very own wunderkind. It turned out he didn't have any to sell. The weight of the package feels good in my hands. Real. Comforting.
"Because apparently, I'm dating a celebrity and I'm the only one who didn't know about it."
"I'm not a celebrity," he disagrees. "And we're not dating."
My head jerks up in surprise. "You're not... and we're... not? What...?"
His brows knit together, and his face takes on the same expression it did when we were at my apartment door yesterday night, just before he so lengthily went into detail about why he didn't want to go to his own place. If there's any pattern to him looking so displeased with himself, I'd better prepare for another Little Green word vomit.
He takes a deep breath. "Bella..."
Oh yes, here it comes...
"I'm not a celebrity. Celebrities are famous persons. I'm not famous. My picture is in the local newspapers because I will perform at a local event. I'm originally from this area and they are excited about it, that's all. I have a contract with the Seattle Symphony, starting next year. They say I will be the youngest resident pianist they ever had. Esme showed me a paper from last month where they made a big fuss about it. But that's it. I'm not famous. I'm just a musician."
I beg to differ, but this is one of his new epic chatterbox moments, so I don't get a chance to even open my mouth.
"We're not dating because we just aren't... yet. I suppose I could still take you out on a date if you want me to. But usually, dating is what people do before they become... before they..."
His frown deepens and he bites his bottom lip, the telltale sign that he's scanning his internal list of possibly applicable terms. I let him search a few seconds before I offer, "Before they have sex?"
He shakes his head. "Before they become like us. Dating is what people do when they still just hope to become like us."
"And if the dating goes well, they fall in love," he states matter-of-factly.
"Is that so?" I can't suppress a smirk at his dead-serious declaration. Because he is Little Green, he doesn't get irritated but smiles back at me instead.
"Yes," he answers, "that's what I've heard." Then the frown returns. "I know I'm not really... well, I'm just book-smart, not social-smart. I'm trying, you know, but sometimes it just doesn't work out. I'm sorry I didn't date you, Bella, but I loved you before I even had a chance. I've always loved you, but in the beginning I was too little and too... stupid. And then we were separated. And then I came home and I still loved you, or... loved you again."
I'm not smirking any more. His words pull my heart-strings, and I wonder if I'll ever stop underestimating this man.
"I already loved you before I ever had a chance to date you," he adds, somewhat regretfully.
"Edward, you are much more than just 'book-smart', whatever that means," I say, for want of something better to ease his mind. "You never cease to amaze me with your way of thinking. You're so much smarter than most people I know."
"No, I'm not. You saw me at Aro's when Jasper appeared. He was just being friendly and I wasn't able to relax or even behave like a normal human being. I know how to do it, you know, but all the appropriate things to say get scrambled in my head and I can't get them out. I guess that's why I never made any normal friends. Because I'm not social-smart."
"Okay, you're not social-smart," I reluctantly agree.
It's pretty obvious that Edward is seeing himself quite clearly and isn't willing to take any pep talk for pep talk's sake, if it isn't true. And yes, I saw him struggling with Jasper.
"But you did great with Aro."
"That's because I know him."
"You knew him when you were a child."
"I never forget things. And he hasn't changed much."
Damn, he is one stubborn bastard!
"Edward..." I sigh.
"Look, what I'm trying to say is, we're not dating. But I didn't skip this stage in our relationship intentionally. I was even considering asking you on a belated date, when I thought you didn't love me back... you know, as a way to try winning you over. Because that is how it sometimes works too, right? But the next day you fell in love with me on your own. So the chance was gone."
I take his hand and give him my best assuring smile. "I don't mind. And you know, we can still have many dates, just to enjoy ourselves."
"I know," he says, and there's a touch of sadness in his eyes, like a tenuous veil. "I just wish I had won you over before we made love for the first time. I just wish you'd loved me already then."
I let go of his hand and wrap my arms around him... a little awkwardly because of the damn center console, but he bends forward and pulls me against his chest. The wrest slips from my lap and into the foot-well with a loud thud. I don't care.
"But I did, Edward. I loved you so much already; I just didn't know."
He sighs into my hair. "Good," he whispers. "Good… and I'm not a celebrity."
No, just a musical genius who is going to be the youngest piano star in the history of Seattle's leading orchestra and is working with, as Jasper so eloquently put it, 'fucking Grammy winning Hollywood composer Messina'.
But I don't say anything. I don't want this to turn into a real argument. Also, my stomach chooses the first quiet moment we've had since we entered the car to give an embarrassingly loud growl.
Edward giggles. He giggles!
When he lets go of me, he looks quite amused. His mood swings might give me whiplash.
"That was loud," he states the obvious. "You need lunch now."
I cock an eyebrow at him. "And that was just social-smart. See?"
"Not at all," he insists as he turns the ignition key.
"Okay, I give up. You win."
He chuckles. What's with the giggling suddenly?
"And you're not a celebrity."
At least not in the meaning of 'global super star'," I clarify.
"Bella... this is silly. I'm not a celebrity at all."
"No, you are a musical genius."
He doesn't reply this time. Maybe he agrees on the genius part, or maybe he just can't object any more because he's driving again. Doesn't matter. I lean back in my seat and relax, glad to have the final say.
We're at Port Angeles Boat Haven, enjoying the spectacular view of the harbor. Edward drove us all the way down Boat Haven Drive to the tip of the street that reaches out far into the basin. The small lot is deserted, except for a parked boat trailer and well, now us, in Edward's Volvo, picnicking.
"How do you know about this place?" I ask him. "I mean, you haven't been in Port Angeles in years. How did you even know how to get here?"
He swallows down the last bite of his burger and shrugs. "Google Maps."
Of course. Duh!
"Besides, the town is very geometrical, very neat. Like a grid. You can't go wrong, if you just memorize a few coordinates."
"Except for the road-works we had to detour around, huh?" I wink at him.
He smiles at me sheepishly. "No, that wasn't in the satellite picture. But the 'Plunkin Shack Cafe' was, and the reviews said it's a local favorite to grab a quick lunch. It's good, isn't it?"
I have already devoured my share of the takeout we fetched on the way. Or maybe I should say I 'inhaled' it. I didn't know how famished I was until I my taste buds made their first contact with the cheeseburger.
Now I really wish I had ordered something else along with it, like Edward did. He's just unwrapping his second course. I'm getting a little green-eyed here.
"Yes, it is," I say, eyeing the hot dog in his hand as he raises it to his mouth. I hope I'm not drooling, but I'm not sure.
He stops mid-raise. "What?"
I swallow loudly.
"You want?" he asks, pointing the hot dog at me.
"Yeah, maybe one bite."
Supporting myself with one hand on his thigh, I lean over to the driver seat and open my mouth. He slowly moves his hot-dog-holding hand towards me, and as soon as it is within my biting range, I put my lips around the part of the sausage that's peeking out of the bun.
I close my eyes and bite off a chunk. "Mmmh… ip'f good!" I mumble, chewing blissfully. The noise of my own chomping is so loud in my head that I don't notice how much Edward's breathing has sped up until I swallow and open my eyes again.
He is leaning back in his seat and staring at me, open-mouthed, and whatever his concern may be right now, it's not eating. The hot dog is still hovering at eye level between us; I could take another bite effortlessly. The beverage cup in his left hand tilts dangerously to one side, completely forgotten.
"What?" I ask.
Edward licks his lips and swallows. "Last Sunday, you know, when we made love for the first time and you…" he trails off.
"And I… ?" I raise my brows, wondering where this is going. The memory of our first time causes my pulse to quicken.
"You took me in your mouth."
I glance at his lap, then at the hot dog, than at his lap again. Sweet baby Jesus! Involuntarily, I grab his thigh tighter at the sight of the bulge in his jeans.
"You haven't done it again," he continues, "and I was wondering… are you afraid that I might, you know, orgasm? In your mouth, I mean."
I have no idea if this could be considered anything close to dirty talking, but it certainly has that effect on me. I know he doesn't mean it that way, but I can't help the heat rising to my cheeks.
I simply cannot resist - I slide my hand up his thigh and let my index finger graze the pronounced outline of his cock as I say, "Would you like that? Would you like to come in my mouth?"
The moan that erupts from his chest sets my insides on fire. Now the heat is spreading between my legs as well. "Would you?" I repeat without averting my eyes from my teasing finger.
"Very much," he breathes. "I imagined it a few times... yes. But, only if you want to."
I palm him over the fabric of his jeans and feel a light twitch. Encouraged, I give a little squeeze, eliciting another beautiful moan from him.
"I think I do." I smile, remembering when we talked about how much he liked to taste me. "I'm sure your taste is pretty… yummy!"
I take delight in the way his hips jerk at my words.
"We should try it some time," I say.
He gasps and whispers, "Yes."
I flick the top button of his fly open. "What about now?"
A sudden crunch sound makes us both wince. Startled, I look up to see the crumpled remains of a styrofoam cup in Edward's fist. A pinkish liquid is leaking out and dripping down. He doesn't even notice. His eyes are closed, and he is almost panting now.
"You just killed your milkshake," I say, and his eyes fly open.
"Fuck!" He jumps in his seat. Laughing, I take his hot dog and hand him some paper napkins. He puts the remainders of the cup into one of the empty takeout paper bags and starts cleaning himself up. "This is sticky. Fuck!"
"I'm sorry," I giggle. "But that was just so funny."
"No, it wasn't," he mumbles and buttons up his jeans. "It was not... appropriate. Not here."
Is he actually pissed off? Uh-oh…
"I'm sorry, Edward. I don't know what just came over me."
He looks down at his hands and shakes his head. "I want to go home now. Put your seatbelt on, please."
"It's time anyway. I'll drop you off at the drugstore."
And with that he fastens his seatbelt and starts the car. I don't know what to say. I'm so shocked; I can feel my heart beating in my throat. He is hurt, and I don't even know why or what I have done to make him so upset. Until just now, he was playing along all right. Or wasn't he?
We drive back to Denali's in silence. I steal glances at him from time to time; he is grinding his jaw, mute, brooding, introverted. If he even notices me looking, he doesn't show it.
When we arrive and the car is safely parked, I can't stand it any more.
"I didn't mean to make fun of you. You know that, right?"
Without turning to me, he nods.
"Are you mad at me? Why?"
He shakes his head no.
I don't know what to make of this. He has been so easy and light-hearted in the last hour, and now it seems I wrecked his mood with my silly move. He won't even look at me. His hands are still clutching the wheel as if to keep them from searching for my touch as they would normally do.
Also, he doesn't get out of the car to open the passenger door for me, as he would normally do. Instead, he takes a deep breath and exhales a few words, barely audible...
"I want to go home."
And like that, I'm dismissed.
My stomach turns. I can't let him leave like this; I need to make this better. But how?
"Edward, can you please look at me?"
He turns his head, and when his eyes find mine I breathe a sigh of relief. I almost expected him to look past me like he did after his breakdown in my bathroom. But thank God, he is still with me – good. The deep crease between his brows – not so good.
"You know, it's okay if you're mad with me," I offer. "But I want to understand it, and maybe make it up to you if I can."
"I'm not mad at you... I think."
"I can not talk now."
"Okay," I assure, even though it's definitely not okay. But I leave it be. "I need to go inside now. I'm already late."
He swallows and parts his lips as if to speak, but doesn't say anything. When I open my seat belt, he releases his, too.
We look into each other's eyes for a few more seconds, then we both speak in unison, "I'm sorry."
As soon as the words are out, he leans over to me with a gasp; I quickly crawl up upon my seat to meet him and I'm almost straddling him when he wraps me in a tight hug.
"Bella..." he breathes.
I know there are passers-by, and I know Tanya is probably watching us from inside the drugstore, but I couldn't care less right now. With my arms around his neck, I kiss his forehead, his closed eyelids, his nose, cheeks, jaw... soft, deliberate kisses. He gives a shaky sigh.
"What's got you so upset, love?" I whisper. "What did I do?"
"I don't know. I don't know why I'm feeling so... angry?"
There's so much helpless confusion coloring his voice. I tilt my head back to seek his eyes. His lids flutter open; he blinks rapidly a few times and then he says,
"I don't know what you did. Not exactly. I'd just rather you didn't do it again."
Oh, that's really helpful! Damn...
"I need to think about it," he adds.
"We'll talk tonight then?"
I kiss his lips. He kisses me back, with his mouth closed. I climb off of him and compose myself to exit the car. When I cast one last glance over my shoulder, he has turned away from me already. His hands are back on the steering wheel and his eyes are back on his hands.
"When shall I pick you up?" he asks, all business.
"You don't have to do that. I can take the bus."
That queasy feeling in my stomach won't go away, I'm still all churned up inside, seeing him wring his fingers around the wheel like that. Also, he doesn't reply to my comment, so I guess it's best if I just answer his question.
He nods. "Six. Okay."
I love you!
I don't say it.
I open the car door and get out.
I watch him drive away.
I raise my hand and wave. So silly...
Then he's gone. The queasy feeling stays.
When I enter the store, Tanya is nowhere to be seen. At least she didn't watch us then. I find her in the backroom, slouching on the bench with her legs on the table, ankles crossed. Her shoes are off and she's wiggling her toes.
I can tell she's excited about something, even before she notices my return and greets me with a loud "Ha!"
Ignoring her outburst, I walk past her to my locker, shrugging off my coat on the way. As I put it on the hanger, I can hear Tanya rumble behind me. She's up and standing next to me before I've turned around.
"Swan!" she whisper-screams and waves a copy of the Peninsula Daily News in front of my face. "Why the fuck didn't you tell me that you are dating a celebrity?"
"Not now, Tanya, okay?"