I crack open a beer and open my latest self-help book.
"Don't dwell in the past or worry about the future. Simply BE in the present."
Easier said than done.
"So often we get stuck or paralyzed by thoughts of 'what if' or 'if only'."
True. 'What if' I wasn't such a freak? 'If only' my brain wasn't completely fucked up.
"The negativity that arises from these methods of thinking may create anxiety or depression, and may tempt us to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol."
"Very often these cycles are only broken by a major life change, an illness or accident, a bereavement or relationship breakdown."
Bingo for the last one.
"These are the types of events that jolt us awake and make us question the way we live. It's often only when everything falls apart that we are prepared (and forced) to make radical changes."
The words resonate so powerfully, I drain half the bottle of beer and belch loudly. Fuck it. I'm the only one home. Who cares?
I'm drawn back to the phrase, 'when everything falls apart'. It makes my stomach squirm, because at the moment, what I have with Bella is tenuous at best, and tenuous isn't enough for me any more. I want to be with her, in every way, but I only want to offer her something which I can deliver. If I hurt her again, I don't know how the hell I'd ever live with myself.
Radical changes, huh?
I can do this. Let's go, Buddhism. You and me.
I don't want to be at this stupid party, but I'm here because she is. Everything is aggravating me tonight. The noise. The laughter. I want her to myself, alone and intimate. Not even sex. Talking. Laughing. Whatever. But just us. I selfishly want every last second with her until she gets on her plane tomorrow, but it seems like she has other ideas.
Twenty-four hours. That's all I have until she leaves for the summer and I run out of time to change her mind about me. I've been trying to make us about more than just sex, but she's either oblivious to my subtle hints or is completely ignoring them.
Either way I'm not feeling optimistic, and I think that's part of the problem.
There's an old saying about not showing fear around animals because they can sense it. Well, I'm pretty sure Bella can sense my fear. I just think she's misinterpreting it. She probably thinks I'm afraid we're getting too close. Yeah, that ship has sailed.
What she doesn't realize it that my fear stems from being fucking terrified that she's too far away, and I'm not just talking about her being on the other side of the country for the summer break. These days, any time she's out of touching distance is too far for me.
I feel like I keep chasing her and chasing her, but she's always just out of reach.
Right now, she's dancing with Rose. Rose sees me watching and flips me the bird. She's still pretty bitter since she walked in on me and Bella naked on their living room floor. I don't think I've ever been bitched out so thoroughly in my life. If I hadn't been so self-conscious about standing there with an embroidered pillow covering my junk, I probably would have been impressed.
It was bad enough that she walked in on us about to have sex. It was even worse that Bella hadn't told her we were 'seeing' each other again. Somehow, she blamed that on me. Like I could have forced her best friend to confess or something. The truth is, I suspect Bella was embarrassed she couldn't stay away from me. Why the hell would I want her to admit that to anyone? I had enough trouble admitting it to myself.
I continue to watch her dance with her friend.
She's so carefree and happy with other people. I want her to be that way with me again.
Bella sees me and beckons me over. She does it with a subtle raise of her eyebrow that tells me she's drunk enough to want to do bad things to me but sober enough not to make it too obvious in public. Rose may know about us, but no one else does.
Being as casual as possible, I put my beer down and go to her. She pulls me into a hug with Rose, and if I didn't already know the definition of awkward, it would now be forever redefined.
When she lets go, Rose steps back and looks vaguely disgusted. "I'm going to get a drink. I'll see you guys later."
I shake my head and put my arms around Bella. We move to the music, grinding as subtly as we can while still looking reasonably platonic. "She really doesn't like me, does she?" I say.
"She doesn't trust you."
"Do you?" I want her to look me in the eye, but she doesn't. This isn't our usual type of interaction these days, and I can tell the honesty of it makes her uncomfortable.
"I trust you to give me orgasms."
"And that's it?"
I want to tell her to trust me with more than that, but I don't have the guts yet. I think I'm getting better at turning off my stupid reactions and paranoid fantasies, but they still happen, especially when Riley's around. I want to be more confident before trying to convince her to take a chance on me again.
I sigh. "Do you want to get out of here? I have some beers back at my place. We could … you know …"
She mouths, "Fuck?" and gives me that look again.
I shake my head. I was going to say 'spend the night together.' The last thing I want to do tonight is have meaningless sex. I want more than that. Kiss? Yes. Hold her close? Yes. Make love? Fuck, yes.
"Come on," I say, and pull her through the crowd. Maybe I can just show her without having to say words she'll likely throw back in my face.
I pull her out the back door and into the yard. There's no one out here and I lead her over to a secluded corner. When we're out of sight, I push her against the wall and kiss her. I make it sweet; unrushed and full of as much emotion as I can convey without using words. For a while, she goes with it. Just lets me kiss her and stroke her face. But eventually, she pulls back, completely breathless and judging from her expression, more than a bit freaked out.
"Come home with me tonight. Stay with me."
She won't look at me. "I have to pack. I have heaps of stuff to do before I leave."
"I'll help you. I can have you packed in about four minutes. It won't be neat, but it'll be done. Then, for the rest of night you're mine."
I kiss her again, but she's not letting me convince her. I'm frightening her. Putting too much pressure on her self-imposed boundaries.
Fuck. How the hell do I do this without pushing her away? None of my books covered this stuff.
I stare at her. She leans in to my hand as I stroke her face, but she won't look at me. Is she just avoiding what she knows I want? Or is she genuinely too shut down to feel it?
"Bella?!" Rose's voice is so strident she sounds like a medieval fish seller.
I pull back and sigh. Guess our alone time is done.
Bella steps around me and heads back toward the house. I follow.
As we approach, Rose shakes her head. "For two people who are trying to keep the fact that you're fucking each other on the down-low, you have zero ninja skills. It's kind of pathetic."
"What do you want, Rose?" I say a little too sharply. Bella gives me a look. Screw it. I'm frustrated. Rose can take it.
"I'm going home with Steve. Just wanted to let Bella know." She hugs her friend. " I'll be back in the morning in time to take you to the airport, okay?"
I shove my hands in my pockets. "I could take her. No need for you to rush home."
Rose glares at me. "Taking someone to the airport is the job of a boyfriend or best friend, and since you're neither, shut the fuck up."
I glare back. Seriously not in the mood for this shit tonight. I'm well aware I'm in some sort of weird relationship limbo with Bella, and it drives me crazy. It's like standing in the doorway between two rooms and constantly being kicked in the nuts every time the door slams. I hate it.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Rose," Bella says and interrupts our staring match. They hug again and then Rose leaves.
I'm aware my fists are clenched in my pockets. I shouldn't be this freaking uptight, but I am. I exhale and try to calm down, but panic is building inside me, and I have no idea why. I feel like I'm on the brink of an anxiety attack and it's a truly fucking horrible feeling. I haven't felt like this since the day I broke up with Bella.
"What's up with you tonight?" Bella asks as I pace to work off some energy.
"I don't know."
I sit on a wooden bench and tug on my hair. I don't want her to go. I don't want to contemplate life without her for nearly three months. Thinking about it makes my throat close up.
She comes over and pulls my hand out of my hair. Then she strokes my forehead and I lean my cheek against her stomach and close my eyes.
I want this.
I want her.
"You're leaving tomorrow," I say, and wrap my arms around her.
"Are you going to miss me?"
"Certain parts of you."
I look up at her. "Bella, I'm being serious."
"Me, too." She cups my face. "I'm really going to miss having sex with you. A lot. Three months without an Edwardgasm? Tragic." She kisses me. "Is that why you're freaking out? Summer break?"
I shrug. "I don't know. I think about you leaving and it makes me want to heave."
She smiles. "You know, that's the sweetest thing you've said to me in a long time."
I pull her into my lap and hug her. Just breathe her air and press against her skin.
"Promise me you won't be with anyone else over the summer."
Okay. Didn't really plan on saying that, but … yeah. Kind of fucking important, I guess.
She tenses in my arms. "Who am I going to be with?"
"I don't know. Someone. Anyone. I know I have no right to ask, but, fuck, Bella please."
"Edward, you're not my boyfriend."
"I know this."
"And yet you're demanding I not be with anyone else? Entitled, much?"
"I'm not demanding, I'm requesting. Would you be happy if I started dating someone else over the summer?"
She thinks about it for a second before looking down so I can't see the flicker of hurt that crosses her face. "You're free to do what you want."
"I know that. But I don't fucking want someone else. I was hoping you wouldn't either."
Now it's her turn to freak out. She climbs off my lap and runs her fingers through he hair. I recognize my former anxiety in her.
Maybe I made a mistake in telling her. She's going to shut me down. I can feel it.
I stand and push her back into the shadows, against the wall. "Forget it. Rewind thirty seconds and pretend I didn't even bring it up."
When I sense she's about to protest, I kiss her. I give her my tongue and press her back into the wall, but the tension is still there.
I pull back and run a hand up her thigh, trying to distract her. "Seriously, Bella, date who you want. Fuck whoever. I have no say in anything. I gave up that right. I know that."
I kiss her again, harder this time, because what I've just said makes me fucking angry. I screwed up. I'm still screwing up. I need to stop doing that if I'm to have any chance with her again.
She lets me kiss her for a while, and soon, everything but the feel of our bodies against each other fades from our minds. When our actions begin to turn pornographic, she orders me take her home.
When we get back to her place, I take my time. Undress her so slowly she's begging me to go faster, but I refuse. I want every inch of skin memorized by my fingers and mouth. I want to commit every back arch and gasp of pleasure to memory. I'm not going to have her like this again for months, and I want to make it last.
I make her come twice before I finally push inside, and even then, I make myself last as long as possible. It's nowhere near as long as I'd like.
Afterward, I hold her. I can feel her tension building, but I want her to let me stay.
She doesn't. Without a word, she climbs out of bed and passes me my clothes.
It's okay. I get it. I need to earn her trust back. Maybe being apart for the summer will be the perfect opportunity. She needs to see that sex is just one of the many reasons she wants me. If we take that out of the equation, then it just leaves us, and if I can get my shit together, I'll prove to her that 'us' is something we need to be again.
Before I leave, I kiss her with everything I have. It's the kind of kiss she's going to feel for days. The kind she'll think about and go weak in the knees. It says "I'll miss you", and "I'm grateful for you", and if I did it just right, "I love you."
When I'm done, she looks dazed.
And a little bit hopeful.
And for the first time in a long time, she looks at me and really sees me.
Hope you enjoyed these outtakes, lovelies.
Just letting you know that BAD ROMEO is LIVE! I can't believe it's all happening. (Links on my profile.)
If you have a copy, please know that the dedication in the beginning and the last section in the acknowledgements is about you guys. There's no way I'd have had the guts to put my words out into the broader reading community without your incredible support. You'll never fully understand how immensely grateful I am.
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, and that 2015 exceeds all your expectation.
I love you all!