Thank you to ShearEnvy for her radness. Thank you to stephk0525, ilsuocantante and bashfulfan for the support and love and smoohs.
I watch her take it in, the bright colors laid up on the brick. Her hand covers her mouth and she holds a breath for so long that I almost reach out to snap her out of it. This was either a great idea or a really fucking bad one. I'm not sure.
Everything depends on her reaction. I might break again but at least I'll know. At least I put it out there.
A tear shines down her cheek, reflecting the street light. She drops her hand and her lips form a word that she doesn't say out loud.
Slowly, she turns to face me.
"Why are you showing me this?"
Maybe I thought it would speak for itself, because I don't have an answer ready. After a minute I can see her frustration.
"Because, it doesn't just-"
"I want to try again," I cut her off.
She stops short, and I take a step toward her.
"I'll do whatever it takes."
She looks back at the mural and I wonder if it's too late.
My next words don't come easily. I take another step closer. "Rose told me you're dating someone, so I wouldn't blame you if you walked away right now."
She looks at the ground and I wait for her to turn and leave. I wait to hear her footsteps fade into the city sounds. Her hand reaches out and I can't move—can't breathe. She grabs my t-shirt and makes a fist, but doesn't pull me closer. She pushes her knuckles against me, like she's thinking about pushing me away. My muscles flex in response and she drops her head further, taking a deep breath.
There's so much in that word. There's hope...there's aching... and a heavy, heavy weight.
I want all of it.
I'm still and balanced, waiting to see which way we'll tip. Her fist tightens and she's gripping so hard it must hurt. She doesn't look up and I step closer again, pushing her fist harder against my stomach. After a second her hand relaxes and she slides her palm flat, lower, low enough to make my breath stutter and my muscles shake.
"We can't start this way again," she whispers.
I'm so hard it hurts, but I take a second to get my shit together and try to think rationally. She's right. She's so fucking right.
She said start again. My head snaps up and she's staring at me. She's also saying that she's with someone. I bounce between hope and jealousy.
"You really want to do this?" she asks.
I nod, but I think she needs me to say it out loud. "I really want to do this."
She exhales. "Okay. I need to..." She gets a pained look on her face and I can tell she's thinking about the guy she has to break up with. I don't envy him, and maybe I should feel bad, but I don't- not even a little. Fuck that.
"Yeah?" I ask.
She nods, hesitating, but then she smiles and it's like mine, like it's taking over her whole body. I want her lips so bad I lean closer, but back up after a second. I have to wait. I bite my lip hard and her eyes are on me.
Her thumb circles once just above my belt before she drops her hand. She smiles.
It takes everything I have to not touch her.
When I walk her to her car she walks close to me, but I keep my hands shoved in my pockets. Her arm brushes against mine and she smiles.
She glances at the spot at the front of the record shop where we kissed for the first time and pauses, looking down at the keys in her hand.
"I want to do this right, Edward."
I nod. I know exactly what she means.
She calls at 2am. I've been asleep for an hour but I answer anyway. My shoulders are stiff from painting. I stretch.
"Hi." It sounds like she's in bed, too. Her voice is muffled. "Do you want to come to my parents' house tomorrow? My dad's complaining that no one uses the pool anymore."
She pauses and I rub my eyes, smiling because all of this suddenly feels fucking real.
"He wants to see you. Rose and Em are coming, too."
I try not to sound as eager as I feel. "Yeah. What time?"
We work out the details and then it's quiet for a long moment. I want to ask her if she broke it off with that guy, but I'm not sure how.
"I told Alec I just want to be friends."
Apparently we're both thinking about the same thing.
I realize I have no idea what the right response is. Maybe I should stop grinning.
"Was it bad?"
She sighs. "No. No, he's a nice guy, which is almost worse. It's not like it was serious, though. We only went on a few dates, so... yeah."
Somehow that doesn't make me feel better, but I have no right to be angry about any of that shit.
She laughs. "No, you're not."
We both laugh. I can hear her shift around in bed. It reminds me of being locked up, of closing my eyes and pretending I was with her, blocking out the brick wall in front of me.
"This feels... fast. Not in a bad way, just... fast," she admits.
I close my eyes. "Really? 'cause I was going to ask you to come over right now."
I adjust my dick in my boxer briefs and then I'm only half kidding.
"That's actually really tempting," she says, and I can picture her in bed, in a t-shirt and panties and nothing else.
"Quit teasing me, woman," I mumble.
She kind of giggles and yawns at the same time. It's fucking cute as hell and right then all I want is to just have her next to me. Not even to touch her. Just to look at her.
"So... see you tomorrow?"
"I'll be there," I say.
There's a pause where we used to say 'I love you'. I think we both feel it.
"Night," she says quietly.
I say the same and wait for her to hang up. It takes me another hour to get back to sleep, and I dream of running my paintbrush over soft skin, kissing each spot before I cover it.
"Oh, Edward, you shouldn't have." Mrs. Swan takes the flowers with one hand and pats my shoulder with the other. "I'm so glad to see you," she says quietly.
She pushes me toward the living room, where Bella's dad is on the couch, looking thinner than usual but other than that, pretty good. He tosses the remote on the coffee table and gets up, wincing a little. He gives me a look that tells me not to comment.
"Hey, kid," he says, sticking his hand out. His grip is still strong, and he gives me that same look as always, part father and part friend.
"How you doin', Mr. Swan?"
"Fine, fine." He waves his hand in the air, dismissing the question, and starts in on preseason football. If I was sick I wouldn't want to talk about that shit either, so I roll with it, letting him dictate the conversation. He asks me what I've been up to and I break it down for him. He seems happy.
Mrs. Swan comes in with two pills and a glass of water. He swallows them without taking his eyes off the TV, but before she leaves the room he reaches over and squeezes her hip. She leans down and kisses him.
The sliding door in the kitchen opens and slams shut. Rose pokes her head in the room. "Oh good, you're here. Quit sucking up to Charlie and come out to the pool, E."
"Rosalie," Mr. Swan warns, his eyes still on the TV. He's not mad, though. "Go on. Get out of here." He nods toward the back.
Rose disappears and as I get up Mr. Swan stops me. He looks at me for a long moment and then nods. "It's good to see you."
"Good to see you, too, sir."
He turns back to the game, a smile on his face.
This girl is seriously trying to kill me.
She's wearing something that might technically qualify as a bikini but looks like I could tear it apart with my bare hands. She floats on a raft, her hand anchoring her to the side of the pool where I'm sitting.
Emmett and Rose watch us like they're waiting for something to happen. Em keeps smiling at me. I get the feeling that he's been forced to hang out with the two of them all summer and probably doesn't mind having another guy around.
Bella fills me in on what she's been doing for the last year, and even though she acts like it's a recap, it's not. Rose really didn't tell me shit, maybe because Bella asked her not to... I don't know. I listen carefully to every word she says.
Either way, I didn't know she completed her internship at the law firm but decided not to continue. I didn't know she's not sure what she wants to do after college anymore. I didn't know she took a life drawing class last semester.
"I was bad. Like, so bad it wasn't even funny."
Rose chimes in. "I disagree. It was actually really fucking funny. That one with the guy bent over..." she throws her head back and laughs. "His balls... oh my god it was amazing."
"You suck." Bella rolls her eyes.
"You swallow," Rose fires back, still giggling.
"That's true," I say automatically.
I freeze, and the three of them stare at me with their jaws dropped. Bella cracks up and the tension breaks. She kicks water at me and calls me a prick.
I fucking missed this shit.
We talk about nothing and laugh a lot. Emmett and Rose sit on the diving board and whisper to each other.
I stare at the curve in Bella's waist and the angle of her hip, thin material knotted there, low. I could reach out and untie it right now. Her muscles tense under my gaze and she runs her fingertips over the back of my hand before letting herself drift away from the side of the pool, almost like touching me was an accident.
I jump in, mostly to hide what she's doing to me. She's smiling all smug and shit, so I flip her off of her raft. She stands up, pushing her wet hair out of her face.
Lunging forward, she tries to push me under with both of her hands braced on my shoulders. I would be laughing harder if her tits weren't in my face.
Her skin is slippery with sunscreen and when she loses her grip she slides down my body. Her inner thigh presses against my dick and she stops there for a second with her legs partially wrapped around me. She looks up, her mouth open a little at what she feels, pressing firmly and deliberately into it before pushing off of me. She kicks her feet, splashing water in my face.
"This is so National Geographic," Rose says from the other side of the pool. Emmett laughs. "The mating rituals of middle-class North American Caucasians." She says it in a bad British accent.
Bella adjusts her top and Rose speaks into an imaginary microphone, ignoring Mrs. Swan as she slides the back door open and waters her flowerpots on the deck.
"The female specimen displays her plumage, hoping to entice the male with her bright colors and prominent assets."
Rose's accent starts to turn Australian.
Bella struggles to get back on her raft, her cheeks pink. "You're such a bitch."
"Language, Bella," her mom says. We try not to let her hear that we're laughing.
Rose continues in a loud voice, turning to me. "The male plays hard to get, but it's clear that he's interested, evidenced by the drool on his face and his massive erection."
"Rose!" Mrs. Swan opens the sliding door again and closes it behind her, shaking her head. Rose laughs, jumping into the water and dragging Emmett with her.
Bella laughs, lying on her stomach on the raft with her face buried in her arms. .
I flip her off of the raft again. We repeat the last dance but this time I run my hands down her back and don't let go when she starts to pull away.
"Massive might have been overselling it a little," she whispers.
I just smile, smug.
She pushes away, but keeps her eyes on me.
"Want to come over for dinner tonight?"
She pretends to have to think about it. "I don't know. Are you cooking? Because remember that time you tried to make-"
"We can get take-out."
She agrees and I'm fucking happier than I have been in a long time, but as I'm leaving her parents' house I start thinking about whether or not we can just do this. Without hashing all our shit out and talking, I wonder if we can just pick up and start again. I hope we can actually fix this.
It takes her too long to knock, but I know she's standing in front of my door because I buzzed her in the front a few minutes ago.
When she does it's quiet, like she's not sure.
I try not to think too hard about that.
I step aside so she can come in. She looks around, glancing over her shoulder at me. "It's really cute."
I can tell she means it. She pulls her purse off her shoulder and after a second of hesitation, tosses it on my bed. One of my paintings is hanging on the wall, and she walks over to look at it, chewing on her thumbnail.
"This is great. Reminds of the caves."
"Yeah." I could tell her more but I'm not sure we're ready for that yet. I pull two beers out of the fridge and open both of them. She takes it without looking at me and brings it to her lips.
The ceiling fan spins, and I've got a fan in the window, but it's still hot as fuck in here. Bella takes off her cardigan and tosses it next to her purse.
"So…" she looks around.
I didn't really think about where we would sit. It's either my bed or the stool in front of my drafting table.
"Do you want to go up to the roof?"
The view isn't as impressive as Esme's and it's not as big, but there will be a breeze, at least.
She follows me upstairs and I give her the good chair. Well, they're both shitty but at least there's one for each of us. I watch her turn her face toward the fading sun.
"This is perfect," she says.
I want to touch her skin.
"We have to talk about it, don't we?" she asks, her eyes closed.
"Yeah," I answer honestly.
"Why did you shut me out?" It's blunt and I cringe, but it's not an unfair question.
"I was scared."
She watches the sky for a minute before she turns to look at me. Her eyes are clear, her lashes long.
"I was scared, too. That's not a reason, though."
"I didn't think I was good enough for you." The words spill true and cancel out everything before them.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" She laughs in disbelief, but she softens when she sees how serious I am.
She stares at me. Her jaw sets.
"I never meant to make you feel that way."
"Nothing could have changed it. I hung on to that shit since junior high...since my mom left." I hate talking about this, but there's no judgment on her face. "I needed to figure my own problems out before I could be any good for you... or anyone."
"I thought you wanted me to be like those guys at those law firm banquets and shit. Wearing a suit and talking about how my stocks are doing."
At that, she drops her gaze to exclude me and it reminds me that I've said this to her once, just with a raised voice and harsher words, my fist slammed into the wall next to her. I wish I could forget that day. I give her a minute.
"In some ways that's true. I mean, you look hot in a suit." She slides her eyes to mine so I know she's joking.
Both of us smile, but she sobers quickly. "But no, really, I put all this stuff onto our relationship, like we were going to suddenly fall into this mold that I had in my head. How unfair is that?" She shrugs. "I mean, I could have had that. It was all laid out with Jasper. I guess I don't know how I lost sight of what I wanted."
I think about my perception of what she wants.
"What was this Alec dude like?" I think I already know, or I've made assumptions, at least.
She laughs, shaking her head. I can tell she feels bad about breaking it off with him. "Rose called him 'B-squad Edward'."
"He was into hip-hop and wore wife beaters."
I just stare at her. She glances down at my torso and back up, raising her eyebrows. I'm wearing a wife beater.
"Is it any consolation that he didn't look half as good as you do in them?" She smiles hopefully, apologetically. There's no seriousness to it. Clearly she's not heartbroken over him.
"Whatever," I say, but I can't help grinning.
"So... who did you date?" Her thumb picks at the label on her beer.
"Mostly brunette cheerleaders."
It takes her a second to catch the joke, but when she does she bumps my shoulder with hers and blushes. "Asshole."
We laugh. "No one, really. I'm always painting or with the kids at the Center."
She's quiet for a long time. "You seem different. Happy."
I shrug. "I guess I am." She's right, though. "I figured out that the only person making my life hard was me."
That's some simple-ass shit, but it took me a long time to get there.
"That's very mature of you, Edward."
She's teasing me a little, but I don't mind that. Sometimes when I think back on how things were with us all I can remember is how fucking serious it was. Maybe we made it that way, or were thrown into heavy shit too young, but it doesn't really have to be like that. I'm gonna embrace this right now, because it feels good and right.
"God, it's hot," she says, tying her hair up with a band that was around her wrist. She glances at me. "Are you looking at my tits?"
"No," I answer. But I totally fucking was. I smirk and she rolls her eyes.
We're sitting close. I stare at her and when she meets my eyes we get that intensity that I'm used to, but it doesn't feel awkward.
"If we were smart, we would be friends and just see what happens," she says.
Something's pulling me toward her, though, like I may not be able to stop it even if I want to.
"But I don't want to be smart," she says, her lips barely moving, her voice almost lost to the sound of traffic from the street below.
I ask the stupidest fucking question.
"Can I kiss you?"
I don't know if I've ever asked anyone that before. I need her permission here, though, because we both know I'm going to do more than kiss her if she'll let me. I knew that the second I saw her sitting in the coffee shop last night.
She nods, and I stare at her for a few seconds longer before I lean in and press my lips to hers. She smells like sun and coconut and tastes just the same. It's slow and I help her turn in her chair so her knees are between mine. The kiss gets closer, harder, and her palms push my chest backward and without breaking the kiss she straddles my lap. I pull her weight against me and she bites my bottom lip.
This feels better than anything-better than any fucking drug I've ever taken-better than hitting a train and watching it roll by the next morning.
"I forgot how..."
The sun goes down and the air gets cool. She gets goosebumps and I back up.
"Want to go inside?" I ask. I'm asking her more than that.
She gets up and grabs my hand.
The apartment cooled off, at least. She uses the bathroom and I sit on the edge of the bed, my elbows on my knees, staring at my hands. I have a second to think and now I'm fucking nervous.
I imagine the aftermath and can't picture it this time.
When she comes out I look up but don't move.
She walks over and sits next to me on my bed.
I try to put it into words. "We're good at this part."
She reads the silence after that sentence.
"Like, really, fucking good." I'm fighting with my body, here. The ache comes out in my words.
"But after..." she starts.
We're quiet, and the city is, too.
"Maybe..." she pulls one leg up on the bed and turns to face me. "Not everything has to be so... final. We could date. Like, we could go on an actual real date. We could talk on the phone. We could flirt and fuck and fight..."
She pauses and I try not to focus on the word 'fuck', but my body's already there.
"...and sometimes when we fight we could let it go. We could laugh. We could try to be good for each other."
I close my eyes again and now I can see it the way she describes it. It's almost... normal.
"I miss you, even the parts that were angry and distant." She pauses to smile sadly, and I want to cry. "I want that, though. I want all of it."
Her hand makes its way to my shoulder, then the back of my neck. Her thumb rubs circles on my skin and I think about how similar my thoughts are about her.
She presses her lips against my shoulder and I sway, taking a deep breath.
I can feel her eyes on me.
"If I could show you the way you show me..."
She's thinking about the mural behind the record store, maybe a train car, maybe a thousand places I wrote her name.
She kisses my shoulder again and I watch, her eyes looking up at me. Her mouth meets mine and I pull her up onto my lap, falling backwards onto the bed. Laughing, she straddles my thighs but stays raised up on her knees, looking down at me. We both stop smiling. Her eyes close for a second when I run my hands up the outside of her thighs and just under the hem of her tank top.
"Show me," I say.
Thank you for reading!
I'm writing up a storm but I'm getting married in a few weeks ::fist pump:: so things are a little nuts. Hee. Little nuts.
Anyway, I'll be back soon, lovers! You complete me. :)