Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and all character names. This plot belongs to this author.
No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: It's all on my blog. Music and references, including the three seashells: ireenh. blogspot. com
I am on twitter if you need to vent. I can take it. ajapersuasia.
Do I even need to say it? Dragonfly336. Gush. Uber-Gush.
Feels like you're making a mess.
You're hell on wheels in a black dress.
You drove me to the fire...
And left me there to burn.
~Disease by Matchbox 20
Bella Fucking Swan.
Pasta Fucking Puttanesca.
How the fuck does she get more enticing, more beautiful, more captivating, every fucking time I see her? Her poise. Her mouth. Her wit. Her eyes. She sees things… I don't. She thinks things that surprise me.
She makes me laugh.
She lightens my load. Sometimes even just for a minute. I want her.
I want her.
I don't know all the things I want from her. But I do know that I want to watch her eyes while she comes. I want to watch her mouth leading up to that moment.
I want to taste her skin, her decorations, everything that made it possible. All of her.
I don't exactly know all the things I feel when I watch the very beginning of her smile. It's the anticipation of all of it. The impending blossom of her whole face into the happiness she carries with her. It's having that lightness, that freedom, right there, for me. For me to have.
Ownership. Such a silly thing. No one owns anything. I am transitory. I seek only to make this existence more comfortable. Money can do that. It does that. The female form does that. Alcohol does that. Bella does that. Though, it's different with her somehow. I don't want her as I want other things, as I want other women. Possession takes on a whole new meaning when I look at her face.
I don't know exactly how I feel about that.
I don't understand why she is alone.
She said that she is broken, but I don't see it. I know what broken looks like. I know what it feels like. It doesn't feel like the unbelievable grace that is Isabella Fucking Swan. The honesty.
She is walking in front of me, towards the curb, just out of my grasp. Her slender neck disappears as she tilts her face up to the stars. I'm about to reach for her when she turns abruptly, walking backwards, checking back over her shoulder as she goes.
"Your favorite song on Revelator. I know it."
"Do you. And…?"
"Midnight in Harlem."
She knows it. How did she know it? "And is that also your favorite? Are you just guessing the song you like best?"
"No. My favorite… is a different track."
"I can't guess. I don't know you well enough, yet."
There is the beginning bloom of her secret-delight smile. The smile for a shared joke. The smile I like to think of as mine.
"Ah… and that is why we won't be sleeping together tonight. Or… as you say in Cullenese, why we won't be FUCKING."
That word, that mouth, that tone. Those eyes, those positively wicked eyes. Eyes that twinkle her soul at me, like so much starlit chocolate. The milky way. She is loose, she is light, she is floating backwards. She's happy. She's tipsy. I like her this way. A lot.
I pounce forward and pull her into me. She squeaks. Then she tilts her head back and laughs. I kiss her hot throat.
"Until You Remember." I guess, my nose against her skin.
"Can I have like… twelve more guesses?"
She laughs again. It vibrates from her to me. "You get two more. That's it."
I kiss her mouth. "You taste good. Like wine."
"You taste like anise."
"Like licorice. Like Sambuca." She breathes the words, putting one hand on my cheek. Her touch, as usual, is soothing. The way she presses her palm against my face, like she knows it holds me together. Like she knows exactly all the parts of me where I feel it. The way she looks into my eyes, like she sees into them.
"Say that again."
I growl and kiss her more. Not enough. Never enough.
The valet cruises up in my car and hops out, handing me the keys with a look that says, "Fuck yeah."
I return it. I feel like I have something worth celebrating. Something lithe, spicy and completely perfect.
Something whose mind I can hopefully change about how this night ends.
I think this is what Christmas is supposed to feel like. The glowing tree, the promise of mystery gifts from Santa. The cookies, the candy, the indulgence. The magic. The music.
Ripping brightly colored paper to reveal the treasures underneath.
The relief from months of frustrated anticipation and speculation.
She slides into the car and I circle it. I get in and she's facing me. That leg, the one with the fucking slit, is crooked and propped over my console again.
I am not going to think about what a flimsy barrier separates me, separates my hand, from her pleasure. I am not going to think about her panties clinging tightly, hotly, to something I can't touch.
I am a little light headed. Again.
My inseam is a little snug. Again.
"Are you okay to drive?" I realize my eyes have been closed a little too long. Again.
"Yeah. Fine." She is looking at me with alert curiosity. "You may want to stop distracting me though. Your leg is in my dance space."
She straightens, her cheeks pinking in a happy blush. "Sorry. Is this better?"
"At least I didn't wear thigh-highs."
I groan. "Bella. Hush. You're playing very dirty right now."
"Fight fire with fire."
"I pray I burn to death." She laughs and I pull out into traffic, my speed a tad more aggressive than altogether necessary.
Paragon is loud. Jazzy music is seeping out the double doors and Bella is shimmying before we even get inside. I check our coats and follow her into the bustling club. A dark haired, dark skinned, dark voiced femme fatale is crooning "Walk Right In" on the small stage. An army of musicians back her up.
Well I met this guy, he loves to hucklebuck, well, he's a real fine dancer, loves to hucklebuck. Man we get on the floor, all he wants to do is… Walk right in, walk right out…
Bella's face, when she turns to me, is lit with pure joy. An intoxicating, entrancing, infectious childlike excitement that comes from someplace I've never ever understood. Her hand is warm when it finds mine and before I can say, "let's get a drink," we're on the dance floor.
"I LOVE this song!" she exclaims. Like I couldn't already tell.
And she's answering back with the rest of the crowd, singing along. She's got a groovy little hip sway, her fingers holding fast to mine. The song fades into a jump-swing version of "Girls On Film" by Duran Duran and the dance floor crowds as the familiarity of the tune draws out more dancers. It's a nice arrangement. I say so. Bella nods, hoisting up the skirt of her dress and attempting a spastic looking Charleston. And then, for some reason that is way beyond me, I'm doing it with her. There is delighted surprise in her eyes. It's a look I've never seen on her before. I want to see it again.
The song dissolves with our laughter, and a soft horn rings out, filling the room steadily. Then a drum beat. Then the fatale is letting everyone know that they're bringing it down a notch. It's a slow dance.
The maddest kind of love, is a love you know is wrong. It burns a hole right through your soul…
I pull her in close to me. Her face is flushed, stray strands of her hair coming loose from her coronet. She looks up into my face and smiles before turning her cheek and tucking her head under my chin, wrapping her arms around my torso. Hugging and touching seem so natural to her. Like she was caressed or held often as a child, and it's her best and most reliable form of communication. It's not sexual. It's simpatico.
Does she gift everyone with her touch, the way she does me?
There is no expectation in the way she touches me. It's all give, no take. For some reason I think back to my childhood, and one of my favorite books, The Giving Tree. I ponder it as she sways gently with me. Do I just want to take from her and not give? Will I leave her with nothing after I take what I want? Can I have what I want without damage? Is it even possible for me to give and take at the same time?
Does she take anything from me? I feel like she does… I don't know.
I've never really considered it before. As a child I always hated the boy, the man, for leaving the tree a stump. For using up everything the Giving Tree had to give, and in the end, she's still there, providing a seat for a tired old man.
You're like a vampire, you suck the life out of people and leave the corpses behind.
I always wanted the end of that book to be different. With the tree still tall, throwing shade, her generous limbs offering fruit, season after season.
I press my nose against Bella's hair. It smells like her. Hot, humid Bella.
The night races past. A heady mixture of Bella, her smile, her eyes, her arms. Long decorated arms whose hands find me often. I drink alcohol, she drinks water. I find the float and fly I was looking for, while she finds the rhythm in every song, as it surges up through the floor, our seats, the soles of my shoes.
When the band announces last call, Bella reaches for me. "We should go. Hit the road before the drunks do." Then she looks into my face, her expression serious, and holds up her hand, showing me her palm. "Give me your keys."
I don't argue. I slip the cool metal into her hands and get rewarded with her mouth. "Thank you."
I shrug. It feels good. Like tightening the spine and letting go. Like squeezing a slinky before pushing it off the stairs.
I follow her out into the cool night. The damp Sound air hits my hot skin in every exposed place. I suck in untainted atmosphere, free of sweat and smoke and music.
She leads me. She pulls me. She beckons me. All without so much as touching me, until we are approaching the glinting silver and chrome of the Jag.
She turns to me, walking backwards. There's that smile again.
The spring inside me uncoils, and before I've considered it, I'm lifting her, perching her on the trunk of the vehicle. Her legs part, splaying to let me close, one on each side of my waist, as I fill my mouth with hers. Her arms circle my neck, pale hands limp and relaxed, as mine become claws, bringing her closer to me, holding her tight to me. I can feel her hot pulse against the fly of my pants, pounding through thin material.
Or maybe that is my own heart pounding.
My brain is fuzzy, distant, registering this body as a triage of parts. Parts that are touching Bella, parts that aren't. Parts that are alive and parts that don't exist. What exists are my hands and her hips and her heat, her lips and her tongue and her teeth. I am aware of every part of me in contact with her. My mouth, my hands, my cock under these clothes. My chest. Hers. And then my voice.
"Don't take me home."
I open my eyes to see hers, big and dark and glinting the moon back at me. "What?"
My voice, in my head, is pleading. In between us, it's depleted and scarce. "I don't want to go to my condo."
Her eyes dart over my face, performing a careful examination. I don't know what she finds there, but her hand is against my cheek, her thumb tracing the hollow under my eye. I hear the hand behind my head close around my keys and I'm hoisting her down from the Jag. She opens the passenger door for me. Then she closes it.
I am moving inside this vehicle before it even starts. Spinning, wobbling. I recline the seat slightly as Bella turns the engine over and glides backwards, easily, righting the Jag and pointing it towards the exit. Her exposed knee is propped against my driver's side door, her arms stretched out, her hands operating the car like she owns it. She guides us out of the parking lot, and then smoothly finds overdrive on the highway.
"I see why you like this car."
"Are you okay?"
She looks over at me, stretched back in the seat, my eyes on her. My brain using her as home-base, a safe place where I can't be tagged. A still solid refuge against which I can lean.
I've never been a passenger in this car before. I've never watched a woman drive it. I like watching the muscle in her leg go taut as she depresses the clutch. I feel the pulse of changing gears in my ribcage, in my legs, in my ears.
"You look good, driving my car."
She smiles. "I haven't driven stick in a while." She shakes her head. Before I can say anything she laughs. "I can't believe I said that."
"Tsssokay. I don't have anything witty at the moment."
"Phew. I thought I walked right into one there."
I realize for the umpteenth time this evening that I'm smiling. That I feel infected by her levity. "How is everything so easy for you, Bella?"
Her smile is gone. "Everything isn't easy for me."
"Fooled me. You are one beautiful liar then. The most beautiful fake I've ever seen."
The quiet thuds inside my skull as I look at her. The birds, the flowers, the fruit, the lyrics, the poetry that is her. The darkness, the light.
"Don't you worry… about what you will look like… when you're eighty? With your skin all crêpe-y and all your paintings smudged by age?" I reach out and glide my fingers over her forearm.
Her answer is quiet. "No. I don't worry about that."
"Your skin will look funny. When you're old." I hear myself saying stupid things, but I don't know how to stop myself. Sober or drunk, it's all the same. I need a verbal chastity belt. My mind starts constructing THAT monstrosity.
"Edward… have you ever seen a hot eighty year old, anyway?"
"How old is Sophia Loren? I'd still break one off for her."
"I don't think she's THAT old."
"However old she is. Don't really care."
I nod. It feels random. I drape my arm over my face.
"Besides, I don't care what I look like when I'm old. Eighty would be such a gift. Eighty would be almost a century of time on this planet. Imagine all the things I will have seen in eighty years."
"Maybe it will just end up being the three seashells. I could skip that."
She laughs. "No, I want that. I've often wondered how they work."
"She doesn't know how to use the three seashells?" I mimic Demolition Man with my arm folded over my eyes.
"Shut up. You don't know how they work either."
"Rinse, blow, powder. That's what I think."
"Powder? Not for men? Do you powder your ass?"
I make some sort of not on your life noise.
"I'm glad. Manscaping has a hard limit. Anyway. I don't mind the aging. It's part of living. The alternative to living is dying."
"Are you afraid to die?"
She is quiet for several moments. I don't think she is going to answer me when she finally says, "Sometimes."
I move my arm so I can see her profile. "Me too. Sometimes."
"And other times?"
"Other times, I'm okay with it."
She pulls the car into an all night grocery store. "What are we doing here?"
"Sit tight," is all she says before striding into the store. She can't have been gone more than five minutes when a twinge of worry spikes through my mental fog. I should have gone in with her. She is so delicate, and that dress. And it's the middle of the night. I'm just unbuckling my seatbelt to go in after her when I see her reappear at the entrance. A few seconds later she is climbing back in, setting a bakery pie in my lap.
She looks over at me as I click my seatbelt back shut. "You okay?"
"Stop asking me that. I'm fine." I think. I think I'm fine. Maybe not.
"Just drive, lovely."
She does. Turning the jag this way and that, weaving us towards her house.
"'Simple Things,' track number five." I guess, randomly.
"Are you just guessing your favorite songs on the album?"
She is so astute sometimes.
"How did you know 'Midnight In Harlem' was my favorite?"
She looks like she is considering her answer carefully before she says, "Well… I think it's probably fair to say that it's the best song on the album. It's very… haunting."
"But not your favorite?"
"No. I think maybe it would be… except another song sort of grabbed me. You know?"
It's quiet again as I contemplate Revelator in a muddled haze. I feel like I should know this. I feel like… she isn't telling me because it's obvious somehow. I am trying to remember all the songs and their names. "Ball and Chain," "Bound for Glory…" No. Not those.
She reaches out and turns up the volume on the radio. Bing Crosby is singing about a white Christmas. I reach out and turn it down.
"I'm not ready for Christmas carols yet."
"How do you spend Christmas? Away from your family, like Thanksgiving?"
"You spend Christmas alone?"
"I don't usually spend it alone. And, sometimes, I go to dinner. Depends on my state of mind. Do you have dinner with your dad?"
She nods. "And his fiancée, Sue. And Leah and Seth, and sometimes Sam and her family, depending. And usually Jasper. Typically, we have a handful of people from the Co-op and the station that don't have family to spend the day with. It's usually a crowded, noisy, incredibly fun day. We drink eggnog and eat lasagna. Sue makes a bolognaise lasagna to die for. I make a veggie one. Sam usually brings a Stouffer's frozen lasagna. We have chess tournaments and Acquire tournaments, and play dirty Scrabble. You're welcome to come. If you like."
"It's a board game from the '60's. Best game ever."
She pulls into her driveway and we get out. I follow her up the steps and into the dark fragrant house. It smells homey, like fresh laundry and cinnamon tea, and Bella. She kicks her shoes off, leaving them in an untidy pile by the front door, flipping on lights as she makes her way into the kitchen. Jake comes ambling out of her bedroom and sits in front of me, his luxuriant tail wagging back and forth across the wood floor.
I kneel, kind of shakily, and he rewards me with a kiss on my face. "Good boy." I remember the last time I met Jake, the last time I stood right here. I remember thinking that I needed to fuck Bella Swan and forget her.
I tell it to myself again.
I pat Jake between the ears as I watch Bella set the pie on the dining room table with two forks. I hear her rummaging in the kitchen. I stand and round the corner to see her switching on her coffee pot. She hands me a big glass of water. I take it. I drink it.
She fills it back up for me and sets it at the table next to the pie. Then she disappears into the hall cabinet, coming out with a blue box about the size of an encyclopedia. The box is faded and worn around the edges. It's got a rubber band wrapped around it to hold it firmly closed. On the top it says Acquire.
"Are we playing a game?"
"Yes. I'm going to take advantage of you in your drunken condition."
She turns on her iHome and pushes her iPod into the slot. I don't really want to play a game. I don't really want to sit in that chair and have her explain rules and stuff to me. There is no way I can keep up. Really, I want to distract myself with all the nuances of her body and her mouth. I want to pull the band from her hair and see it tumble down. I want to hear her say my name in a voice full of Please. I want to see her look at me with eyes full of Thank You.
She is pulling two mugs out of the cabinet when I brush aside the loose hair that curls gently down from the base of her neck. I touch my lips to a small crest of bone, her spine, just under the skin. She shivers. I can imagine her nipples pearling up under her dress. Under my hands, under my mouth. Tender, light pink nipples that taste like Bella. I kiss her again.
And again. Tracing down from her neck to her back. She tucks her chin, bringing her bones closer to the surface. Her exquisitely fine bones. Her nearly iridescent skin. Her scent, hot molten strawberry sauce served over crushed jasmine blossoms.
She looks back at me, over her shoulder, and I kiss the corner of her mouth. And then she turns to me and I have all of it. Slowly, slowly, her mouth opening, letting me in. All the way in.
My fingers find hers and they tangle next to us, just gently, simply, by our sides. I open my eyes in an attempt to regain control of this tottering floor I stand on. Trying to calm the pitch and roll of my muscles inside my skin, exaggerated by the relocation of my blood away from my brain. Her face, her simmering cheeks and faintly fluttering lashes do nothing to assuage the buck and shift of my bones, this room. This turbulent life.
Her eyes languidly open. Hungry, insatiable eyes eliminating the need for words.
I pull my hand from hers and glide it up her arm, running it across all her stories, all the symbols of things she doesn't want to tell me, yet. Her skin is so soft, her collarbone a smooth and fragile ridge under my fingers. I let my thumb play in the hollow there, before sliding my hand down to cup her breast through the dress, exalting in the feel of the slight swell above the fabric. I can feel the pucker of her nipple through the material, and she gasps.
That gasp. I am trying to distract myself from all the things I could do to her right now to get her to gasp again. And again.
My inebriated confused mind creates imagery that only makes sense in the most sensual of contexts. Her mouth, her belly, her as eroticism itself, her as food, as a ripe sweet-tart grapefruit, partially peeled with exposed pink flesh. Juice running around my lips, down my chin.
I could devour her. I could spend hours, just devouring her.
Her eyes are downcast as she pushes my hand away.
"Bella. Let me. Please." I can't get enough air, and I can't even begin to comprehend all the things I want her to let me do. I don't think she has any idea either, all the things she is denying with the vehement little shake of her head.
I reflexively push into her a little. "End my torment. Please."
I kiss her. It isn't soft. It isn't sweet. It's demanding. But she kisses me back, her grip on my wrist firm, keeping my fingers from finding her again. Keeping me from her. I yank my hand away and grasp her hip, pulling her against me, trying to spread my frustrated pain to her by touch. Trying to douse my internal flame with her mouth, which only feeds it.
I wanted to die this way, I prayed for it.
She breaks away again. My frustration spikes. I drag a hand through my hair as she says in a husky voice, "You are here to sober up."
I think I snarl. It startles her.
Her surprise turns to stubbornness. "Don't make me use Disco-Force."
I pull her back against me just as she starts to sing quietly, in her shaky, off-key voice. "At first I was afraid... I was petrified…"
I sigh and put my hands up, surrendering her. "Okay. I stopped."
"Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side," she sings.
"I call foul."
"But then I spent so many nights just thinking how you did me wrong, and I grew strong..."
I cover my ears dramatically as her voice gets louder. She slides across her floor and jumps on her couch. "And I learned how to get along!"
"Are you seriously doing the Sprinkler right now?"
"And so you're back! From outer space! I just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face." Jake whimpers and then lets out a quiet "Arrrrrooooooo".
"Bella, I shit you not, I will get my keys and drive myself home."
She reaches beside her and plucks the keys from the side table, waving them in my face. "I should have changed the stupid locks, I should have made you leave your keys..."
I reach for them, but she flings her hand up and out of my grasp. Her smile, a-fucking-gain, is contagious. It's that secretive shimmer to her eyes. I'm smiling, too. And I must be drunk, because then I'm singing along with her.
There is that delighted surprise, again. Just for me.
"If I had known for just one second you'd be back to bother me… go on now GO! Walk out the door."
She's laughing. "You know the words. I thought you hated disco."
"Come on, Bella. Everyone knows that song. And, I think Jake and I both felt we had to drown you out somehow."
Her face is mock surprise. "You just… crushed my hopes and dreams." She bends down, from her position on high and kisses my forehead. Then she runs her fingers through my hair. "You have beautiful hair. So thick. Do you make it look like this on purpose?"
"My hair is probably the second most tormented part of my body."
"I don't even know what to say to that." She hops down off the couch and I trail behind her towards the kitchen where she pours coffee into two mugs.
"Maybe I wasn't talking about my cock. Don't assume. You know what they say about that."
"Yeah, yeah. Ass out of you and me. Sit down."
"Do I have to?"
She gives me a look that says, yes I have to. A look she probably uses with her neighbor's kids. A look that tells me I need to behave. I adjust myself and sit.
She opens the box and pulls out a plastic yellow grid, a tray full of play money, and stacks of cards. She starts laying everything out. Organizing, explaining. All I really hear is her voice. All I see is her mouth, her teeth, her eyes.
She hands out the money and says, "Got it?"
"Bella… this looks boring." I sound petulant. I sound whiny.
She just smiles and places a small black tile on the board. "Your turn."
"What do I do again?"
The next hour passes in a blur of playing tiles, buying stock in hotels, counting money, letting Jake out, eating pie. Bella laughing, making more coffee, licking her fork absentmindedly. Biting her lip as she places tiles on the board. Explaining mergers, making me eat pie. Filling my water glass, letting Jake in, wiggling in her chair when her iPod shuffles to this song or that. Until finally, a little after three a.m. we count all our money and she says, "I win."
I look at the grid, how her hotel chain dominates three quarters of the board. I think about all the moves I made, the strategy I didn't have. I know where I lost. I look up at her, into her smiling eyes.
She sets the board back up. The play is faster this time. I make different moves. I watch how she plays. She is so cunning. It's nearly four in the morning when we count our money. "I win, again."
"Once more. I think I'm almost clear-headed."
We move the game to the floor, setting up on the carpet, and she sprawls out on her stomach, her legs bent, the pink soles of her feet facing me. Her coronet is half undone, with a swath of dark hair falling out on one side. Her eyes are tired, the shadows underneath them prominent. I slip my shoes off and sit cross-legged across from her.
About ten minutes in, her iPod shuffles to Tedeschi Trucks and at the sound of the twangy bluesy intro, Bella's huge brown eyes sweep up to mine. Her cheeks instantly flush.
Tired of living without, when others have so much…
This is Bella's favorite song on the CD. "Learn How to Love." My eyebrow goes up, looking for confirmation without words. She gives a small nod. Then she plays a tile and buys some stock. But as long as the song plays, her face flames.
This song grabbed her, she said. Why would that be? Maybe because the lyrics felt personal, or, maybe just because it's a rockin' blues tune. But, she's blushing, like it's personal.
Why do I feel like I'm eight years old all of the sudden. Eight years old and Heidi Shoemaker just got busted trying to pass me a love note during morning prayer. Her cheeks went scarlet too, as she stood at the front of the class and read aloud about how nice she thought I was. How she thought my eyes were pretty.
God, Catholic school was so awful. Poor girl. I had totally forgotten about that moment. Trying to sink into my chair, into my shoes, into invisibility, while everyone turned to look at me.
And now, watching Bella, nearly twenty five years later, here I sit trying to be casual when on the inside I feel, again, like I want to evaporate.
It's music. Stop reading so much into it. Maybe it isn't about you.
It's about her, I realize. She's never been in love. Her clock is ticking.
She doesn't make it through this match. She falls asleep about halfway through the game, her lightly freckled cheek pressed against the vivid color of her arm, her fingers curled up slightly, her hair draped around her face. Her other arm is tucked across her chest. The curve of her back, her waist, her hip keeps drawing my gaze and dragging it down along that fucking slit in her dress. I finish the game, playing her tiles for her. Evaluating strategy, hers and mine. Counting her stock, counting mine.
I count her money at the end. She still fucking won. But it was close this time.
I get the box and carefully pack up her game, sliding the rubber band around the flimsy careworn container. The light, swimmy headedness has given way to fatigue. Intense marrow-deep fatigue. I turn off her coffee pot, her kitchen light, her iPod.
I go back to her bedroom, making sure her bed is clear. It isn't. There is a jumbo box of condoms lying casually on the bedspread. I laugh quietly to myself.
So close. And yet… so far.
I push them off the side and pull down the coverlet.
I imagine coaxing her sleepily out of her dress and into my embrace, and the fantasy is an odd one. It isn't a this is how I fuck Bella for the first time kind of fantasy, it's a this is how I get closer to a woman I can never get close enough to kind of fantasy. It's… weird. It's like the way she touches me. It's a liberty granted by time and experience. It's intimate. It's older than our association. It's older than I am. It's ancient.
I turn off the light and a glimmering moon and stars nightlight blinks on in one corner. I head back to the living room and stoop to gather her up in my arms. She is light, rolling into me easily, making a confused noise in her sleep. I don't want her to come fully awake… so I shush her. "I'm just taking you to bed." Her arm comes up around my neck and I feel her sigh sleepily against me.
Something in my chest still feels drunk. Heavy alcoholic thump.
When I lay her down, she rolls and curls up into herself. In the dark, I can see the outline of her skin against the cool clean white of her sheets. Her silken hair scattering around her face, against her pillow.
Looking at her there, alone in her bed, alone in this house, alone in this life, I find myself wondering again, why? Maybe she really is the most beautiful faker I've ever seen. Maybe it's more than her paddle that is broken.
She's confident. She's got this ethereal beauty that smacks of divinity. She's smart. She's funny. She's strong. She's humble. She's… kind. There is something here I'm not seeing. Something obvious.
She is so unique. Not afraid of anything. Not of looking awkward or silly. Not afraid to laugh at herself or stand her ground. Not afraid of new things or the quiet. Is she afraid of me? I thought once that she was and now it seems impossible. She said that she was afraid to die – sometimes.
I just don't get her at all.
I don't want to leave, don't want this night to be over. It's like a vacation from real life and now I have to go home.
I bend and tuck a lock of her hair back behind her ear.
I lay next to her, pulling her bodily into me, wrapping myself around her.
I will only stay for a minute.
I just want to hold her, just for a minute.
I just need to close my eyes, just for a minute, and then I will be good to drive home.
Just… for… a minute. Or two.
I will never get to where I'm going.
I will never get there.
I run and run, but it's all in slow motion. I'm panicking, my heart like a grenade with the pin pulled. I won't make it. I never make it. And I'm tired, I'm so tired.
But I have to keep going. I don't know where I am going but I have to get there.
If only I didn't have to carry all this weight. Maybe then I could move faster. Maybe then…
I'm holding something. Someone. A child?
And it's already too late. It's ALWAYS too late.
I go to my knees, the dry dusty earth does nothing to cushion the impact. It reverberates through my muscles, punishing my bones. My arms relax against my will, it hurts to move them, they've been in this position for so long. Bent around this body, for so long. This sticky, tacky, limp body that used to be a life. Now it's just so much meat. So much meat rolling from me to the dirt. We all become dirt.
Everywhere I look, dirt.
I wish, for the millionth time, that the next bullet finds me. That the next explosion claims me.
And it does.
My dress has shifted, it's twisted and pinching me. Is that what woke me? This tight capsule of a dress, the bulk of it tangling around me?
No. Something moved and it wasn't me. In my haze, I think it must be Jake, jumping up on the bed. But it's not.
It's Edward. He's in my bed with me, and he's having a nightmare. A quiet nightmare.
I can see him faintly in the pre-dawn glow filling my bedroom. He's facing me, on his side, his hand clutching the pillow with white knuckled ferocity. His whole body is rigid, his whole face is strained. The only movement comes from his chest, which heaves forcefully under the starched gray of his unbuttoned dress shirt.
His heavy lids show the rapid eye movement underneath, and then they still. His face relaxes slightly as a tear seeps out one eye, slides down his nose, curls under his nostril and drops down to the pillow.
Something inside me crumbles. This is a little boy in front of me. A lost little boy, living in the body of a man. Alone, a pretender, not that different from myself. I reach for him. I wrap my arms around him, pulling his face into my neck. I shush him, even though he makes no sound. I push my hand into his hair, brushing it back. "It's ok," I tell him, quietly. "It will be ok."
He exhales against me, a quivery exhale, unsure and jagged. A sob of an exhale. And then he jerks, as he comes awake, pulling back and searching my face like he doesn't recognize me.
His eyes are colorless in the murky morning light. I run a thumb over his cheek and kiss it. "It's ok. It's over. You're awake now."
He blinks, confused.
"It was just a nightmare. It's over now."
His eyes just stare as another tear falls.
"Do you often cry in your sleep?" I ask gently, wiping it away.
His eyes close. He just breathes. Deep, unsteady breaths. I pull him into me again. He lets me. I feel him exhale against my neck as he calms down. I hold on to him.
He holds on to me.
I fall back asleep.
When I wake again, he's gone.