Edward's humming found its way into my dreams, waking me gently from my sleep.
I snuggled in deeper against him, sighing contentedly. But then I remembered what day it was.
Friday. Date night was upon us. I was both excited and nervous, which caused my heart to sputter.
Deciding to be honest, but careful, I answered, "I guess I'm just wondering how tonight is going to go."
He started stroking my hair, comfortingly. "Bella, love, please don't worry."
It was hard not to. "You said that Alice has seen that everything will be okay?"
He hesitated before answering. My nerves prickled. "Is there something you're not telling me?"
I didn't want to accuse him of anything, but my instincts were telling me that he was holding something back from me.
I was surprised by that. I honestly expected him to say no.
"But you needn't be concerned about it. It's nothing I can't handle."
"But, if you would just tell me—"
"No," he interrupted. "I'm asking you to trust me."
I did trust him. With my life. Literally. I conceded by dropping it. "You can't stay with me again at school today, can you?"
"No. There would be no logical reason to, as far as the school administration is concerned."
That was disappointing. I had enjoyed him being there. It made me wish he attended school with me.
"Will I see you at lunch?"
"Yes. In the cafeteria."
Jessica. She was still planning to follow me, if I went to the forest. I was starting to wonder if we'd ever get to go back there again.
"You'll hate me if I ask to ditch today, won't you?"
He chuckled. "I could never hate you. But you are going to school today," he added. Sternly.
I rolled my eyes, then lifted my head so that I could stare down on him. He was smirking.
"One missed day is no big deal. You do realize I have perfect grades, right? Well, except for Gym," I added. "There are only so many times they allow you to almost kill other students before they knock your grade down a point."
I grinned when he laughed again.
"The children in your class were grateful that you were excused from participating the last few days."
That didn't surprise me. "Yeah, well, I don't think they'll be so lucky today. I'm out of excuses for not playing."
He gave a nod, then he ran his fingers up into my hair. My breath caught, but I was able to get it back into rhythm quickly. When he pulled me to him, gently, I nearly collapsed into the kiss that followed.
It was brief, but perfect as always. And then he chuckled.
"Alice wants to speak with me. Your breakfast is almost ready. I will meet you down at the car."
I literally groaned with disappointment. I wanted to kiss him for longer. He smiled, then allowed me one last brushing of our lips before shifting out from under me. I watched him walk away before forcing myself to get up and face the day.
Esme was just finishing up setting my place at the counter when I entered the kitchen. She smiled at me warmly, like she always did, but then she did something she didn't usually. She joined me.
"Did you sleep well?"
I really liked Esme – well, all of the Cullens, really – but I suddenly felt awkward. Maybe it was because I hadn't really conversed with her much. Maybe it was because I knew she knew that Edward and I were now in a relationship.
This was his mother. Maybe not in the strictest sense of the word, but still. She seemed approving of me, but how odd was it for her really, that this plain, human girl was in love with her son?
"I did. Thanks. How was… your evening?"
I wasn't sure how to phrase the question. Maybe all of the Cullens had the same concerns about discussing their hunting activities.
Her smile widened. Or maybe not.
"It was fine. Thank you for asking."
I gave a nervous nod, then sunk my fork into my breakfast. Waffles again, but this time, it had some kind of cherry glaze instead of raspberry sauce.
"I want to thank you for all you've done for me," I said after swallowing. I waited to take another bite. "The meals… your hospitality… I really feel at home here."
"I'm very pleased to hear that. We've enjoyed having you."
I got the impression she wanted to say something to me. There was something in her eyes, maybe. Or in her tone. Like she was just trying to figure out how to broach the subject. It made me more nervous than I was before.
I smiled at her, then went back to my breakfast. She watched me for the longest time – I had almost finished what I could eat of the enormous waffle – before she finally spoke up.
"We've never seen Edward this happy."
I had to force the chewed bite down my throat. I couldn't think of a way to respond to that. I set my fork down and stared at my plate.
"I don't mean to make you uncomfortable."
She sounded truly remorseful. I shook my head. "I'm not. It's just… this situation is a little… unusual. For me. I know you guys know what's going on. Everything. Because of your hearing, and because of Alice."
I saw the movement out of my peripheral vision, and then I felt her cold hand on top of mine. It was a consoling gesture. Very mothering. I had to wonder if Esme could control moods like Jasper could. I suddenly, instantly, felt better. Relaxed. Not at all nervous.
I smiled up at her.
"We want you to know that you are always welcome here."
I believed her without question. I could feel the sincerity. Her acceptance of me, not just in her home, but in her son's life.
"Edward is waiting for you now," she said as she stood. Then she kissed the top of my head before gathering my dishes and heading for the sink.
My heart lurched a little at the thought. I thanked Esme again, then rushed through the rest of my morning ritual.
Edward was waiting for me by the door as I descended the stairs, his smile wide and knowing. I blushed a little, then allowed him to help me with my jacket before following him out the door to his car.
He said nothing to me until we were halfway up the winding trail that led away from his house.
"You had a good conversation with Esme."
I blushed again. "Yeah. Your mom is really nice. I thanked her for all she's done for me."
"She's happy to do it."
"Does she have the ability to control moods? Like Jasper can? When she touched my hand, I suddenly felt very at peace."
"Not in the same way. She has a strong motherly instinct. It's not recognized as a gift amongst our kind," he added.
"I would call it a gift."
He smiled, then offered me his hand. "Human traits often linger, and intensify, after the change, but they don't always manifest into gifts."
Interesting. I had to wonder what human traits Edward possessed specifically, that transferred over after he was changed.
He could read minds. Maybe as a human, he was good at reading people. Their facial expressions and body language. Sensing their moods. He was also chivalrous. Gentlemanly. Of course, he was born in an era where that wasn't all that uncommon.
"What are you thinking?"
I didn't feel that I could share that with him. He didn't like that he had been changed. Bringing up the subject of when he was human would probably upset him.
So I skirted the question. "Today is going to suck without you."
He laughed, and I instantly smiled. I loved the sound of his laughter. "Yes, the day will… suck… while you are at school. With the exception of your lunch period. But then we will have the evening together, and the weekend beyond that."
That lifted my spirits. I would have the entire weekend with him! I kissed the back of his hand as I squeezed it a little tighter.
"How would you like to spend it?" he asked.
"I'm open to suggestions," I answered.
His grin grew. "I have a few ideas in mind."
"Care to share?"
"I would rather surprise you."
Normally, I didn't like surprises, but the possibilities of what he could have in mind made me almost giddy.
Last weekend had been interrupted in the weirdest way possible. With Jasper trying to kill me, and the pain of my condition limiting what Edward and I could do together. This weekend would be different. And our last before my parents came home. Sure, we would probably be spending a lot of weekends together in the future, but they wouldn't unfold in the same way.
I wouldn't be waking up in his arms. I would have chores to do before being allowed to leave. I would have a curfew. I wouldn't get to fall asleep with him beside me as he hummed my lullaby.
That realization dampened my good mood slightly. And of course he noticed.
"What is it?" he asked. He tightened his grip on my hand.
"This will be my last weekend at your house."
"But by no means our last weekend together."
I shrugged. "I know. But it won't be the same."
"The differences will be slight, I promise."
I took comfort in that. Not because of the promise itself – he couldn't really ensure that – but because of his desire to promise. To try and make me happy.
He parked again when we drove into the parking lot. I figured by that, since I knew he wasn't staying, that he was walking me to my first class.
I was right. Angela met up with us halfway to the building. Jessica was nowhere to be found.
"Your shadow is giving it a rest today."
I could only hope. "At least for now," I said. Edward's grip on my hand tightened. He knew something, but I couldn't ask him with Angela there.
"Kirk ordered extra copies of the paper. He's really proud of his… package, apparently."
I couldn't help but laugh. "Maybe he doesn't pad his Speedo after all."
"Or maybe he's trying to hide the fact that he does. Overcompensation and all that."
Even Edward smirked at that.
"I'll see you inside." Angela gave me a little smile, and then she jogged up ahead, allowing us a few minutes of semi-privacy before class started.
"My shadow won't be giving up so easily, will she?" I asked him. He shook his head.
I figured as much.
We entered the building, but before he walked me into the classroom, he stopped and turned to face me. His eyes were intense. Luring. Instinctively, I knew why.
He raked his hand into my hair, then slowly closed the space between us and touched his lips to mine. It was a quick peck more than anything – he probably didn't want to overwhelm me – but it was perfect.
I was able to keep my heart from racing too much, and my breathing remained close to normal.
He then took my hand and led the way, straight into the classroom and to my desk. Mr. Jefferson huffed, but Edward ignored him.
Once I was seated, Edward locked eyes with me.
"I will see you at lunch," he whispered.
Then Mr. Jefferson cleared his throat. He was undoubtedly annoyed.
"No, sir," Edward said as he walked away from me and headed for the door, "I won't be staying."
He didn't look at the teacher or even pause in his steps as he said it. Angela smirked. Then I did, too.
It was funny how he could be respectful and impolite, all at the same time. Mr. Jefferson obviously didn't see the humor in it.
"Will this be a regular thing now, Miss Swan?"
I wiped away my smile and shrugged. It probably would be, but I wasn't about to admit that to the teacher.
He huffed again then turned his back on the class. Angela nudged me, a grin exploding across her face. I could tell she was trying to prevent it.
Mr. Jefferson wasn't a disliked teacher, but he certainly wasn't anyone's favorite. He was a bit too hard-nosed. Seeing him flustered was amusing.
The three periods before lunch seemed to drag like days. I considered texting Edward between classes, but with the light drizzle, I knew I would end up killing myself if I didn't watch my every step. Besides, he did have a life beyond just me. I'd see him at lunch. And that thought kept me going.
I saw him at our table as I walked through the double doors. Jessica was in her usual spot, but she avoided looking in my direction as I stepped past her. Yeah, she was definitely mad at me.
Edward stood as I approached, then held my chair out for me. But before I could sit, he wrapped his arms around me.
"I missed you," he whispered into my hair.
Maybe I should have texted him between classes.
"I missed you, too."
I heard him inhale deeply before releasing me.
I took my seat shakily, smiling at him as he joined me. When he raised his hand, like he was waving someone over, I turned to see who he was flagging. Angela. She was all smiles, her hand in Eric's as she walked straight for us.
She was clearly in a good mood. She usually was on Fridays. Not only because the weekend was upon us, but because she was often congratulated for her piece in the school paper, which was always issued on a Friday.
"You're here so much, maybe you oughta enroll!"
Edward smiled. "I might just do that," he said. And then my heart lurched.
I knew he had heard it. It was obvious he had by the way he stared back at me. It wasn't a look of concern, really. It was more like he was trying to convey that he was seriously considering it.
The idea of it thrilled me. He would probably be bored to non-tears, but at least we could be together. At least for some classes. There was no way he wouldn't be placed in the gifted program, and since I was in the program as well, it increased the likelihood of that.
"Why are you homeschooled?"
Eric's question made my smile drop instantly. I'm sure I looked terrified as I stared at Edward. But he didn't seem fazed at all. He could read minds, after all. He probably knew the question was coming.
"It was my parents' decision," he answered. "They wanted a curriculum that this school didn't offer."
I quickly changed the subject before Eric could pry further. "I'm really looking forward to tonight. Though it's not exactly a celebratory thing for me, since I have to take Wednesday's test next Friday."
"It's not your fault you got sick," Angela said. "Maybe I should make that the topic of next week's editorial. I wonder if anyone else has gotten sick eating here."
That made me feel guilty. I didn't want anyone to get in trouble, especially since I hadn't actually gotten ill.
"I'm sure it was just fluke." When I glanced up at Edward, his eyes shone with compassion.
He knew how much I hated to lie. He could tell I was berating myself.
"It takes longer than a few minutes for the symptoms of food poisoning to present. Usually, it takes twenty-four hours. Perhaps it was something that my mother prepared for you."
I tensed when Angela and Eric looked up at Edward with surprised expressions. He sounded too medically knowledgeable. My brain scrambled for a way to fix it, but I couldn't think of anything.
"According to my dad," he added. Then he shrugged.
Eric went back to his lunch and Angela sighed.
"Then I need another topic," she said.
I almost sighed, too. With relief. I threw a discreet smile at Edward before starting in on my lunch.
"You always panic about that," I reminded her, "but you've never missed a deadline. Don't worry, an idea will come to you."
"Perhaps the movie we are seeing tonight will inspire an idea," Edward offered.
Angela seemed grateful for the suggestion. "Yeah, maybe. That's a good thought, actually. And even if it doesn't, maybe I could just do a movie review." Her smile widened. "Thanks, Edward."
"You're most welcome."
His response was a little too formal, but he said it in a casual manner. Neither Angela nor Eric seemed to notice anything amiss, though. I chalked it up as a win and moved on.
"So, Eric, you're on the prom committee, right? What's the theme?"
He held a finger up as he chewed, then swallowed before announcing with considerable enthusiasm, "Monte Carlo. Gambling, tuxes, and Bond… James Bond."
Angela laughed at that.
"Seriously?" I asked. Not that I would be going, but it seemed to be a weird choice.
"Yeah! Oh and hey! That reminds me… I need your guys' playlists."
"Bella, we should head down to Port Angeles before all the good dresses are taken! You are going, aren't you?"
Angela's eyes twitched in Edward's direction as she asked me that. I turned six shades of red in response.
"I hadn't planned on it, no."
She seemed genuinely surprised. So did Edward.
"Me and dancing? Yeah, not so much."
"You don't have to dance, Bella," she countered. "Just come and hang out!"
I forced myself not to look at Edward. My vision almost blurred with the effort.
"I don't have anything to wear," I said.
"That's why we're going to Port Angeles!" she said with a laugh.
I wondered how weird it would be if I just crawled under the table. Where was a sinkhole when you needed one? Not a big one. Just one directly under my chair.
"I'm not sure if my parents can afford a new dress for me right now. The trip out for Waylon's funeral probably cut into their savings a bit."
Her smile faltered a little. "I'd help if I could," she said. "But hey, what about that gorgeous dress you borrowed from Edward's sister?" She looked directly at him then. "Do you think she would mind loaning it to Bella one more time?"
"No. She wouldn't mind." He seemed uncomfortable. It made my tension worse.
"Great! Problem solved! You'll still come with me to Port Angeles, though, right? I need your opinion!"
I glanced at Edward before answering. "Sure. When?"
Please don't say this weekend.
"Probably next weekend. We have family plans this weekend. Maybe Edward and Eric can come along? They can guy around while we shop, and then we can all grab some lunch."
Sure. Edward and Eric could stand around awkwardly for a couple hours, and then we could all go to a restaurant, where Edward would feel obligated to eat something he'd have to hurl back up later. That sounded like a great idea.
"I'm not sure if Edward's free next weekend," I said.
I nearly choked on my own spit. What the hell? I was trying to give him an out! Why didn't he take it?
"I wouldn't have to hold your purse or anything, right?" Eric asked Angela. She laughed.
"No. I'm perfectly capable of holding my own purse."
Eric shrugged. "Then I'm in."
I wanted to include Edward in my world, but I hadn't expected it to happen so quickly, or to that degree. It seemed like too much too fast. My expression gave me away, but Angela mistook it for something else entirely.
"Don't worry. It'll be painless, I promise."
It was common knowledge that I hated shopping. I went with it.
"Painless? Getting stitches without anesthesia is less painful."
"You would know!" she teased.
I grinned, then went back to eating my sandwich.
"Seriously guys… playlists? Help me out here."
I gave Eric a nod. I was sure I had a few songs on my iPod that would be considered prom worthy. As much as I adored Edward's compositions, I doubted the party-going crowd would feel the same.
"You know I'll help you out," Angela told him. Her smile was a little flirtatious. I hid a grin.
"Excellent. What about you, Edward? Can I count on your help, too?"
He hesitated before responding. "My taste in music is a bit… old-fashioned."
"Really?" Eric asked. "Like, the oldies or something?"
Edward shook his head. "Classical."
"Seriously? Like, Mozart and Beethoven?"
I couldn't tell if Eric was surprised or impressed. Or maybe it was a little bit of both. But then Edward smiled just a little, so I had to assume he was at least a little impressed.
"Bella was saying that you're a pianist?" Angela asked. I could tell by her tone that she was trying very hard to sound like she wasn't prying.
Edward first looked at Eric, then at Angela. "Yes to both," he said.
Okay, in hindsight, I don't know what the hell I was thinking. Well, I do, but it wasn't a well thought out idea. Pride made me do it. Not pride in myself, but in Edward.
I yanked my iPod out of my pocket, cued up track number five – one of my favorites – and extended the earbuds towards Eric and Angela. They each took one and listened.
Within seconds, both of their jaws dropped.
"Dude! This is you?" Eric asked. He didn't even wait for a response. "You got mad skills!"
And then I was punished for my bragging. Eric leaned across the table and put his hand up, palm out.
Fear shot through me in an instant. Edward wouldn't be able to return a high-five. Eric would feel the cold and hard of his skin. Possibly even hurt himself if he hit it too hard. But he couldn't just leave him hanging, either. It would seem weird. And rude.
I needed to create a distraction. The moment the thought hit me, I acted.
As soon as I allowed my iPod to slip from my fingers and onto the floor, I reached down to grab it. Then I purposefully fell out of my chair. Edward was by my side in the flash of a second.
"Bella…" The concern in Edward's tone as he whispered my name made my guilt soar.
"Bella, are you okay?" Angela sounded concerned, too, but there was confusion mixed in.
I could hear laughter in the distance. "Yeah, I'm okay." I was an idiot, but I was okay.
I felt Edward helping me off the ground, back into my seat. He never let go of my hand as he pulled his chair over to right beside mine.
The attention I was being given was almost unbearable. I didn't like attention when I actually hurt myself, let alone when I was faking it. Not that I'd ever had to fake it before.
I answered Angela's question with a joke. "I can't even sit in a chair, apparently. And you want me to go to a dance."
She laughed. "I told you, you don't have to dance. Maybe you shouldn't," she added, teasing me.
I smirked back at her.
"I think you busted your iPod," Eric said as he passed it over to me.
Great. There was no way my parents would buy me a new one.
"Should I call my father?"
Oh, God. Yeah, that's what I wanted. More people involved in this. "No, Edward, I'm okay. I promise."
"At least let me take you to the nurse."
I stared back at him pointedly. "Edward, I've fallen often enough to know when I'm injured. Relax."
If he didn't stop with the intensity and anguish, Angela and Eric were going to notice. I needed another distraction. A less dramatic one, preferably.
"So, what are your plans this weekend?" I asked Angela.
She took to the new subject without hesitation.
I squeezed Edward's hand a little tighter. It was at those times that I wished he could read my mind. If he could, he would have known I was alright, and that I had dropped out of my chair on purpose.
There was no way to convey it to him. Subtlety seemed to be lost on him, due to his concern for me, and his protective nature.
Eric seemed oblivious. He started sorting through papers in his binder, nodding and 'hmm'ing as Angela shared her itinerary with us.
But Angela wasn't. I could just tell by the expression on her face that she was fully aware of Edward's abnormal behavior.
Couldn't he read her thoughts? He had to know she was scrutinizing his reactions. He was staring at me like I was on my deathbed.
I could feel the panic rising. But then I remembered something.
Alice. Yesterday, Edward merely decided that he wanted her to show up, and she did.
Maybe. Just maybe.
Seconds later, Edward's cell started ringing. The relief I felt from that was short lived, though. He made no move to answer it.
"Edward…" How weird would it seem if I dug into his pocket and answered it myself? Too weird, I decided. "It could be important," I said.
His eyes never left mine as he reached into his pocket, retrieved his phone, clicked 'talk', and raised it to his ear.
"Hello." His expression remained unchanged. "No." Then he quirked his eyebrow at me. "She did?"
"Maybe you should take it outside?" I suggested.
Finally, it seemed I had broken through to him in some way. He nodded, then stood and left the cafeteria.
Crap. She was going to question it. It didn't really surprise me, but I had hoped…
"He's just a little intense because I'm so accident prone." That was an understatement, but I downplayed it. "He's okay."
She chuckled a little, but her concern was still present. "Well, he'd better get used to it, or he's going to give himself a heart attack. I've never seen anyone look so tortured. And you didn't even actually hurt yourself!"
"Dude's got it bad," Eric muttered. He scoffed in amusement as he shook his head.
I went for the joke. I needed to lighten things up. "I bet he'd even hold my purse for me if I asked him to."
Okay, that worked. They both laughed, and then they started playfully bickering with each other.
When Edward walked back in and retook his seat, he seemed much better. Calm. In control.
"Alice says hi," he said. Then he smiled.
The ease in his tension finally allowed me to relax. The potential crisis seemed to be averted.
One thing was clear to me, though, as I finished my lunch and redirected the conversation into safe areas…
Edward needed more coaching.
To be continued…
Insanely long babble session in three… two… one…
I'm starting to think that, by some of the reviews I've received, that this story might not always be appealing to the readers. I apologize for this, but want to explain something…
I started and continued to write this fic for me. I'm not trying to sound rude or snobbish, so please forgive me if I come across as such, because that's not my intention, but this was always intended to be for my amusement only. When I realized I had something that others might enjoy, by the encouragement of my beta, I decided to post it.
There will be no newborns, no nomadic vampires trying to hunt Bella, and no Volturi throwing their weight around. This will simply be a domesticated telling of Edward and Bella's love story. How they are with each other, how they deal with their differences, how they find a way through all of it.
I like to psychoanalyze characters, essentially. I like to strip them emotionally bare and work out how they think, how they come to certain conclusions, how they reason and reconcile events in their lives. That's what the goal was for this story, and hopefully, others will enjoy the journey as much as I have.
The characters will most likely seem OOC at times, but I've tried very hard to keep their core personality traits intact, and feel that by the end of it all, they are true to form with few differences.
I do hope that I don't disappoint, but can't help but believe that some might very well be (disappointed) when all is said and done. Again, I apologize for that.
I'm the kind of person that, when something strikes my interest, I go all out. I proudly wear the Cullen family wristcuff, I have a Twilight messenger bag I use as a purse, I have a team Edward canvas bag I carry on the back of my wheelchair, I have Edward 'dog tags' (from New Moon) that I have attached to my keys. Etcetera. If it brings me an ounce of happiness, what's the harm?
Anyway, I went to the store yesterday, and while shopping, I was approached by three women who near about attacked me. Also fans, obviously, and quite excited to see all my Twilight gear. One actually offered me fifty dollars for the wristcuff!
I'm meeting up with two of them later today, to see Eclipse again before it leaves the theaters. This will be my thirteenth time seeing it.
Obsessed? Yeah, pretty much, but again, what's the harm? I don't bother anyone else with it. I don't spend money I don't have to spare on the merchandise. I don't do anything but sit here in my little corner of the world and enjoy it.
It's just after four in the morning now. I can't sleep (typical for me; long story as for why), so I'm going to go ahead and post this chapter now. I'll be busy later, and won't be able to post it, if I wait, until early evening.
The next chapter is one of my faves, and then the one after that covers 'date night'.
Thanks again for the wonderful reviews! Please continue to do so, and I will continue to be grateful!
P.S.: Still not smoking. Patches are great! I don't want to rip my own arm off anymore. (grin)