/

/

/

chapter twenty: gelos

\

\

\

"Hold it!"

I'm slipping my coat on when my mom calls to me from the kitchen, appearing in the hallway. She's covered in flour, spending the day making sugar cookies like she always does for Christmas. Usually I help her—at least help frost and taste-test them.

This year though, I have more important things to do.

"Where are you going?" she asks, her eyes narrowed. Suspicious. "You haven't been here at all since school let out. I miss you, kid."

I swallow my guilt, zipping my coat up as high as it'll go.

"I'm sorry, I've just been…I've been hanging out with my friends. Like tonight. One of my friends might be going away soon so I'm trying to, you know, pack a lot into a little time."

Vague.

Keep it vague.

However, Mom doesn't fuck with vague. I can see her mouth forming a question, so I do my best to cut her off with a, "I'll be home later, bye!" and slipping out the door.

The truth is something I can't tell her.

I mean, besides the whole, Bella Swan is not completely human thing.

That could not compare to me telling her what I'm doing tonight.

You know, going on a date.

With a girl.

With Bella.

It's one of the final things on my list. She'd told me she'd never been on one before and truthfully, I've never been on one either. I've hung out with girls, but it's all hooking up in dark closets at parties.

No more of that.

Bella's more than that, which is why when I reach her house, I don't go to the side door that leads directly to her room. I take note of her dad's police cruiser in the gravel driveway as I sound two knocks on the front door.

Chief Swan is as intimidating as I'd imagined. He's got a thick, dark mustache and a hardness in his steely eyes. His arms are crossed, his sleeves rolled up enough to see the edge of a tattoo on his forearm.

"Hello, sir," I say, trying my damnedest to not sound sarcastic. His eyes narrow.

Have I mentioned that I've never been good with authority figures?

"I'm here to pick up Bella."

A grunt.

Does he know how many nights I've spent under his roof?

I'm guessing not because I'm still standing with my balls intact.

"Is she, um, here?"

He hesitates before shouting her name and retreating down the hallway. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to follow, so I stay put, feet frozen to the porch.

Bella's amused when she appears, shaking her head and trying to hide a smile.

"I won't be too late, Dad," she calls over her shoulder as she grabs my hand and pulls me away.

"I can't believe you went to the front door," she laughs, her breath coming out in a fog in the crisp air.

"I told you I was taking you on a date. That's what you do! At least in the movies. Unless you're ashamed of me," I tease and she knocks her shoulder against my arm.

"How did you figure it out?" she quips back and I ignore her.

"So, your dad seems…nice."

"Don't let him fool you. When I told him I was going out tonight he got so flustered he paced around the house until you got there. He's really protective, since it's just the two of us and all."

"Does he know about all your bench sitting? Late night walking?"

"I said he was protective, not present. He works like, 70 hours a week or something."

"A lot of time to be alone," I murmur, mostly to myself. She clucks her tongue.

"It used to be but now I've got this guy who's always hanging around."

I give her a look, knowing she's joking but deep down, I'm always waiting for her to tell me to go.

"You know I like you, I'm only kidding."

We're nearing on the diner, the only place to eat that's within walking distance, and I want to keep her talking about stuff like that. About her life here.

"Where's your mom?" I ask, knowing it's tactless but going for it anyway. Bella's eyes shine in the street lights.

"God, no one's brought her up in so long. I never really knew her, she left when I was two and basically disappeared."

I open the door for her and she laughs as she steps inside to the warm, soft light of the diner, the smell of fried food surrounding us. We take a seat in a booth in the back, avoiding the tables of our classmates nearby. Bella shimmies out of her thick coat, revealing what looks to be an equally thick sweater. It's got a hole in the collar and she's drowning in how big it is.

"So, you've like, never heard anything from her since then?" I prompt as her eyes scan the menu. She sets it down, her eyes meeting mine intensely.

"Why do you care?" she asks, her voice suspicious.

"Because I don't know anything about you."

Bella snorts, because, well, I know some things about her.

"You know what I mean," I mutter, then louder, "I don't know this stuff, I don't know the little things that make you…you. Earth you. Human you."

Her eyes return to the menu and I reach across the table to cover her hand with mine.

"I know what you're trying to do," she says quietly. "And that stuff doesn't matter."

"It does to me," I tell her, as earnestly as I can. She gives me a watery smile.

"Then I guess you should know, I love strawberry milkshakes."

"Nobody loves strawberry milkshakes," I laugh, feigning disgust. Her grin is real as I ask for two of them when the waitress comes to take our order.

\

\

\

Bella is a messy eater, especially when it comes to cheeseburgers. I watch her devour it in what seems like two bites, ketchup seeping its way down the side of her hand.

"My dad isn't allowed to eat red meat," she explains, dragging a fry through the condiments that dripped onto her plate. "It's not good for his cholesterol."

"It's not good for anyone's," I say, grabbing a fry from her plate. She swats my hand away.

"Neither is stealing," she chides, fighting a smirk.

/

/

/

We fight for the check, engaging in a ruthless battle of tug-of-war. Her grip is unbreakable.

"I'm paying! I'm the guy, it's what I'm supposed to do!"

"That's sexist," she replies. "Besides, I ate way more than you."

"But I asked you out."

"And I agreed in some horrible lapse in judgement."

"That hurts."

"Edward."

"Isabella."

She cringes.

"Don't call me Isabella," she groans.

"If you don't let me pay this check, I will call you Isabella for the rest of our lives."

Her hand jerks away, her eyes wide at my phrasing. She blinks and her cheeks flame.

She lets me pay the bill.

\

\

\

The walk back to her house is never long enough. Even though it's freezing, I'd stay out here all-night listening to her make fun of me and look at me like I'm not some dickhead guy with a shitty past.

She's giddy, running ahead of me and in circles around me, high on sugar from her milkshake and half of mine, answering my questions too loudly so that her voice echoes across the dark street.

"If I had to pick one place to travel," she practically sang, "I'd go to Tokyo I think."

"Why?"

"It's like Seattle, times ten and also if Seattle was on acid or something."

"Interesting."

"I'm a very interesting person," she jokes and I have to smile because while she's kidding, there's merit to her claim.

Ignoring the whole basically-a-goddess-thing, it's answers like that that pull me impossibly deeper.

So, while she's running around and her cheeks are pink and her skin glows in the low lamplight, it hits me that I've hit the bottom of the fucking Mariana's Trench.

I'm stupidly, impossibly in love with her.

And it still might not be enough to get her stay.

Her grin is wide her eyes are bright and though the air is bitterly cold, there's not a cloud in sight. I grab her hand as she whirls past me and pull her close. She shakes with laughter against my chest and I'm so, so warm.

"Bella, I—" but my proclamation is cut off by the sudden pick up of the wind. Bella stills and tenses.

Rosalie Hale is standing in the middle of the road, near the bench Bella and I'd shared so many times. Alice is cowering behind her, biting her nails and looking…devastated.

Rosalie steps forward.

"We need to talk."

/

/

/

This thang is nearly over!