Um, hai. Remember me? Probably not; it's been awhile. Things have been crazy these past few months and I appreciate y'all for being patient (well, most of you-poor Anonymous was about to blow a gasket... I'm so sorry!) .
But it's here. It's been a rough go, I have to admit it. Not only was I swamped with worky/real life stuff but we've spent the past few months trying to get about 130 peeps to hang with us in Forks. I've never planned a wedding but I think I know what to expect if I ever do.
Here's the deal: I want to finish this - I really, really do. However, I've bitten off far more than I can chew and unfortunately can't update this fic at an even remotely acceptable rate. So, I ask you, humble readers: should we carry on as we are with sporadic updates or say fuck it and you get the epilogue and learn how it's all going to end without knowing what happened in between. I'll leave it up to you lovelies. I might not know the juicy inner workings of right just yet but I do know how this tale ends. And I'm fine either way.
Anyhoo, here it is: Chapter 13 - Whalebones. When we last left our little balls of teenage angst and anger, some authorities were giving Bella the third degree over her shiner. You know, the one she got at the hardcore show? Well, it seems that Mr. Banner was a little concerned someone else popped her one in the eye. Namely, Edward. So Bella confronts him on it and, well, Edward's got a lot to say on the subject.
Need a refresher (c'mon, you know you do) - go here.
Newbie and want to start from the get-go? Go here.
CHAPTER 13 - WHALEBONES
My mind racing, I obediently started the truck, not even caring if a teacher heard the loud rumbling as I pulled out of the parking lot. Edward sat stonily next to me, his eyes dark as he stared intently out the windshield.
This silence was nowhere near as comfortable as the one we'd shared earlier. It hung, thick and heavy between us, threatening to crush all the breath from my lungs.
I couldn't stand it. "Well?" I prodded as I turned onto the highway.
"There's a small park near Lake Crescent," he said dully, running his fingers through his hair and messing it up even further. "Go there."
I bit back a snide comment about being bossy and did as he told. Edward didn't speak again and I got lost in my thoughts as we headed out of town and toward the lake. Part of me was curious about his mysterious past but another part of me was a little afraid of what he would say. And now we keep where we don't know/ All secrets sleep in winter clothes/ With one you loved so long ago/ Now he don't even know his name...
We arrived at the park after what felt like an eternity and the Chevy shuddered to a halt in the lot. A light mist had rolled in, and hovered above the lake, obscuring the tops of the mountain that towered like soldiers, intent on protecting the oddly blue water that lapped gently at their base.
There was a bench overlooking the lake and Edward mutely climbed out of the car and headed toward it, leaving me to follow in his wake.
He quickly sat down on the bench, long legs stretched out before him, his jaw ticking with tension. His eyes were nearly black and his expression dredged up the memory of the day he'd grabbed me in the parking lot at school. It was the day there was an ocean of anger swimming behind that arrogant facade.
It was the day I realized he was kind of like me.
"I grew up in Chicago," he began, his voice rough and low. "My Dad was a carpenter and we lived in a shitty part of town, on the South side. He died from brain cancer when I was ten."
"I'm sorry," I whispered, twisting so I could reach out to him but he jerked away and crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes still trained at the rippling water sprawling out before us.
"My mother was a nurse and she worked long hours. Even before Dad died, she was always working. He was the one who would be there when I got home from school and made me dinner and shit. But money was real tight after he died, you know? So she was gone all the time. I learned how to fend for myself and had to walk myself home from school and everything. I even did all the grocery shopping. Sometimes I'd go days without seeing her."
I couldn't help but be reminded of my own childhood, except that my mother wasn't a nurse who worked to support her son. Renee had been too busy trying to find a husband to pay attention to me. I didn't say anything but gestured for Edward to continue and pulled my coat up against a cool breeze that swept over us.
"I was scrawny when I was a kid," Edward nearly spat the sentence out, a glower spreading across his face. "And I used to have to walk past the high school to get home. There was this group of guys who were constantly starting fights with me. Fucking cowards." He glanced at me briefly, anger flashing in his eyes at the memories. "I mean, they were like sixteen or seventeen and I was eleven." He shrugged helplessly, as if he still didn't quite understand their motivation.
"I didn't care that they made fun of me and shit, called me a loser. I had too much other crap to worry about. Sometimes they would throw rocks at me, or push me down and try to steal whatever the fuck it was I was carrying at the time – my bookbag or groceries or laundry. I just took it because they were so much bigger than me. But I hated those fuckers so much. I would have these fantasies where I would fight back, kick their asses." Edward paused and licked his lips, his voice dropping low as he said, "kill them, even."
"Then one day they jumped me. I was carrying laundry back to the apartment. I wasn't even really paying attention. I just wanted to go home." He looked contemplative for a moment before continuing, his voice a mixture of gravelly anger and velvet sadness. "I didn't even see them and the suddenly I'm on the ground and they were punching and kicking me."
"That's totally fucked up." I couldn't think of anything else to say but I thought Edward wanted me to say something. He looked over at me again and this time, when I reached for his hand, he let me take it.
"Something inside me snapped that day," he continued with a sigh. "I don't even really remember how but I got my hands on a metal garbage can top. I mean, one minute I was on the ground and they were fucking me up and the next I was on my feet and swinging. I was just so fucking angry – I didn't know what else to do. I just wanted them to stop, to leave me alone. I bashed one guy in the face, over and over again and the other one took off." Edward shuddered a little, looking bleak.
"They didn't fuck with me again after that but it was a good lesson learned. I had no one else to watch my back, no real friends or anything. I had to fend for myself, Bella. Because even though I got those assholes to leave me alone, there were just more to take their place. Guys in gangs, guys that dealt drugs and shit. Trust me, Chicago is nothing like Forks.
"I knew I could never let anyone try to take me down without a fight. So I started working out, renting karate videos from the library and-."
A staccato laugh burst from my lips and Edward glared at me. "I'm sorry," I said immediately, swallowing a chuckle. "It's just that you totally just reminded me of that movie from the eighties. You know, Karate Kid."
"You think this is fucking funny?" Edward snarled at me, wrenching his hand from mine and leaning near me so our faces nearly touched. "I'm trying to tell you how I ended up in this fucking town, trying to share my past with you - let you in - and you're comparing me to a fucking movie?"
"No!" I exclaimed, scooting back as the heat of his rage washed over me. "I'm sorry, Edward, that's not what I meant to do. I swear!"
He stood suddenly, towering over me as he stepped in front of me. I shrank back against the bench as he leaned forward, placing his hands on either side of my head.
"You want to know what's really funny, Bella?" Edward's voice was arrogant ice again and I shook my head, because I didn't know what else to do. He ignored me. "What's really funny is the guy who's head I bashed in with a baseball bat when I was twelve because he kept fucking with me, threatening to kill my mom if I didn't join his stupid-ass gang. That's really ha-ha, isn't it? I nearly killed him, Bella. He was in the hospital for weeks because of me. He's got a metal plate in his head, that's hysterical, right? Because of me, because of what I did. Or how about that I spent three months in a juvenile facility because of it? Do you think that's fucking funny?"
"Edward, stop," I pleaded. "Stop being mad, I'm so sorry, I'm a total asshole. Please."
He stared at me, wrath still dancing across his features. "Or how about the fact that my mom was killed driving home from my court date. Do you think it's funny that some drunken douchebag in an SUV plowed into her Corolla? Are you still amused?"
"I'm sorry!" I exclaimed again, as his expression changed, his eyes growing cloudy with a grief so strong even I could feel it. Then, just like someone snapping their fingers, it was gone, replaced with the cold mask of Edward Cullen. He stood over me, stance aggressive as he stared out into memories only he could see.
I sat there for a few seconds, breathing heavily, my mind reeling. Tentatively, I half-stood and extended my hand to him, pressed it against his cheek. Edward growled and caught my wrist, jerking me fully upright. He pulled me to him, wrapping his arms tightly around me, forcing me to turn my head to keep from suffocating in his jacket.
I was slightly frightened both by Edward's behavior and his story and more than a little confused as to why he was hugging me when I had clearly insulted and upset him.
"I'm so sorry, Edward," I apologized again, my voice muffled against his coat. "I swear I didn't mean to offend you."
As quickly as he pulled me into the embrace he pushed me away and I stumbled to catch my balance. By the time I had righted myself, Edward was stalking back to the truck.
"Let's go," he said, his voice devoid of emotion.
My heart hammering, I trotted after him and silently got into the truck. Edward slumped down in the passenger seat, his eyes unfocused.
"Edward, I'm truly sorry," I whispered, the words barely audible over the groaning of the engine.
"You're an idiot sometimes, Bella," he replied. "You seriously don't think about how the shit you say or do affects other people."
He was right. So I kept my mouth shut.
Edward sent Emmett a text asking him to pick up the Volvo and told me, curtly, to take him home. He didn't look at me until I had pulled the Chevy up the horseshoe driveway in front of the Cullen's mansion. His eyes were dark but he leaned in and gave me a gentle, if not chaste, kiss on the lips.
"I'll call you later," he grumbled. Then he was gone.
Charlie wasn't home when I arrived and I made a beeline for the answering machine. I had to make sure the school didn't call to report my mysterious absence from my afternoon classes.
Sure enough, the light was blinking and I hit play. The first message was some automated recording about a sale on rug cleaning and I skipped over it. The second was from Billy's friend, Harry Clearwater, confirming some fishing trip they were embarking on that weekend. I made a mental note and fast forwarded to the third, and final, message.
"Hi Chief, it's Mrs. Cope. Bella didn't show up for any of her afternoon classes. Please give us a call back if there is a valid excuse. If not, she'll have to serve a detention. Hope all is well!"
I cocked my head, listening to Mrs. Cope's cheery message. Then I deleted it. I was fine with taking the detention but I didn't want the Chief to know that I had cut class. Once I was sure that I'd covered my tracks, I trudged up the stairs to my room and flopped down on my bed, carelessly kicking my sneakers off and digging through my back pack for my iPod. There was simply too much going on in my head and I needed to not think.
For the first time, the music did nothing to soothe my racing thoughts. I couldn't lose myself in the words of another, or the drumbeats. The wail of the guitar did nothing to make the story Edward told me go away. I couldn't stop replaying the awful way I laughed and compared his life to a cheesy fucking movie.
Edward dropped an emotional grenade in my lap and I pulled the pin on it immediately. I wished he had never told me about his past. I didn't want to know. I didn't want to think about Edward as a child, alone and scared. He was no longer impervious Edward Cullen to me; instead, there was a broken, fragile piece inside of him and that meant that he could hurt, really hurt. That secret that you knew/ But don't know how to tell/ It fucks with your honor/ And it teases your head/ But you know that its good, girl/ Cos its running you with red...
I didn't want the responsibility of that knowledge. Those were the dark secrets that could be filed away for future use, emotional tools of destruction. Secrets were ammunition – the more you knew the easier it would be to use them against the person, tear them down. There was a weakness to Edward now, and I knew of this frailty. I was in possession of something that could hurt Edward and that was exactly what I had done. I'd hurt him.
I reminded myself of my mother and was disgusted. Renee was a master at sniffing out people's weaknesses; she collected their secrets, their fear, and their failures of all her boyfriends and stored them up. Every misgiving, every flaw they had, Renee kept track, made note. When the time came for her to move on, or if she suspected they were planning on leaving her, she would release a blitzkrieg of their failures, their fears upon them. Rumors would start amongst their shared friends and tidbits of information, once held so sacred, were given freely until everyone turned away from whoever it was that had been unlucky enough to invoke Renee's wrath.
Then we'd leave for another town, in search of another true love that Renee could destroy.
I languished in my thoughts for an hour when suddenly I heard, over the sound of the music, an insistent, though faint, pounding. I pulled my earbuds out and sat up, cocking my head to listen. The pounding resumed, this time even louder and I realized someone was banging on the front door.
Cautiously, I walked down the stairs-trying to peer through the side window near the door-and got a glimpse of tousled bronze hair.
"Hi," I said curiously as I opened the door and let Edward in. He was still wearing the same jeans and t-shirt he'd had on at school, but now they were damp from the incessant drizzle.
He just stared at me and didn't respond, his eyes swimming with so many emotions I couldn't decipher them. I stepped aside to let him in.
"I thought you'd understand," he said hoarsely. I didn't need to ask what he was talking about. It was the same thing that was running through my mind since I'd dropped him off.
"I do," I replied softly. Edward just continued to stare at me until I began to squirm under his intense gaze.
In the blink of an eye Edward was on top of me. My back slammed against the wall as his arms snaked around my torso, lifting me, and my legs were wrapped around his waist even as my hands were against his chest, forcing him to keep a small distance. My heart thudded and he lowered his eyes to mine, searching for something. Son, What have you done?/ You're caught by the river/ You're coming undone/ Life, you know it can't be so easy, but you can't just leave it/Cause you're not in control no more/...
"Edward?" My voice was small. He only grunted and rested his face in the crook of my neck, his weight pushing pressing against my body.
We remained like that long enough for me to start wondering how Charlie would react if he came through the front door and then I felt Edward's lips move softly against my skin. He nibbled his way up to my ear and I sighed, simultaneously confused and aroused.
"You think I'm a monster," Edward said, his voice muffled against my skin. His breath was hot and ragged.
"No, I don't Edward, I swear I don't." I leaned into him. I knew what monsters were. They were women who abandoned their daughters. They were the teenage girls who fought first and asked questions later. They were girlfriends who laughed at their boyfriend's pain because they simply don't know what else to do. Edward wasn't the monster. "You were protecting yourself. I understand that."
He shifted and dropped me to the ground. I stumbled a little but Edward caught me easily, bending down to close the distance between our heights and catching my lips in his.
My brain reeled as it tried to make sense of what was going on but the thoughts threatened to get lost under the haze of lust that was rapidly growing in me. One hand tangled in my hair as he traced the length of ribs, his fingers ghosting across my breast.
"When I first saw you I just had to know you," he whispered, his lips brushing against my cheek, his nose nuzzling in my hair. "Your cocky attitude was infuriating but there was something about you, your eyes maybe, that made me need to know you."
I moaned as he paused to nip at my earlobe.
"I don't know, maybe you reminded me of myself," he continued, his hand sliding back down to my waist, his fingers pulling at my t-shirt, looking for entrance to my flesh. "It's like I know what everyone else is thinking, all that mundane bullshit, all their minds alike. You don't need to be a mind reader to know what they're all thinking. It's all the same shit. But you? You were a mystery. I had no idea what you were thinking. I was intrigued."
I was trying to process his words but as his hand made its way back to my breast my brain began to flutter and I had a hard time trying to focus.
"I thought that maybe you would understand me, that maybe I could finally feel normal around someone instead of being this fucked-up guy with an even more fucked-up past."
"You can," I gasped as his fingers plucked my nipple. "I mean, I do. Jesus Edward, I can't think when you do that."
He slid his hand from my shirt and I couldn't stop the pout that was forming on my face. Before I could say anything, he grabbed my hand and practically dragged me up the stairs.
He was already kissing me roughly the moment he shut the door to my bedroom and we stumbled to the bed. Edward's hands kneaded into my flesh, insistent and demanding before he stopped briefly and wrenched his shirt over his head. I hastily mimicked him and groaned when his flesh finally came into contact with mine. With a small amount of shock, I realized he felt like home to me.
Even as we tumbled into bed together, hastily pulling at each others' jeans, trying to expose as much flesh as possible to each other to feel, I knew this was different than all the other times we'd had sex. Edward needed something from me and it showed in the insistence of his touch, the way he kept looking into my eyes, like he was trying to read my mind. Or my soul.
He thrust into me with our eyes still locked, our moans leaving our mouths at the same time, our breath mingling together between us for a quick moment before his lips found my mine. This wasn't just about sex, or lust, or hormones. Edward was looking for something. Something more.
And I was going to give it him.
Whalebones - Man Man
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel
Blood Bank - Bon Iver
Caught by the River - Doves