Summerboy

Blue Skies

Chapter Eight: Blue Skies


It takes me two weeks to feel comfortable at the group sessions at the Forks Abuse Program. It takes me another week and a half to realize I haven't been overreacting about the incident like Jess and Lauren told me. The nightmares, the creeping memories; everything has just been a reaction. A normal reaction. An expected one. Someone sexual assaults you, you cry. You judge. You blame. You alienate. You hurt yourself. You hurt others. You do anything to stop the pain, and anything to prolong it; to stop the numbness. Carmen says that I'm just like everybody else.

I cry the first time I figure it out. People understand at the group, and they believe me. There's something powerful in the undying belief of strangers. It's almost like my life has turned into a bad, inspirational movie where the protagonist finds a medium that helps them achieve self-actualization. Jacob has cheekily offered to direct in return for me sneaking him into a MA movie, bless his sixteen year old soul.

A month goes by in the blink of an eye. A month of fun conversations with Alice, of ignoring Ugly Braces Girl's comments in history, of wondering if Renee will bother to call anytime soon, of building a strange friendship with Rosalie Hale, the sarcastic girl from the meetings. Alice and I receive top marks on our little King Lear research assignment.

Look out GPA 5.0 classmates, here I come!

School lulls into a boring background blur of blah, blah, blah. I think the novelty of giving the once good-girl detentions has finally worn off on my teachers, because even the one time I fall asleep in Modern History, I don't get one. Charlie seems happy about that. We have dinner with Jacob and Billy a few times; Charlie goes fishing, does paperwork, and watches some baseball. Jake fixes my truck, finally, so I drive to myself school. Lauren glares, Jess whispers, Angela doesn't meet my eye. Mike Newton is….well, Mike Newton. There's a rumour that Tyler gave a freshman Chlamydia. Apparently, I'm still a slut who loves whatever attention she can get.

Bio is a silent class. Edward and I have barely spoken. That's the part that really sucker punches me. That's the part that's in sharp focus against all the blah, blah, blah.

It's a Friday, and it's almost lunch. Lauren's birthday party is tonight, and everyone is talking about it. I'm trying to shut out all the hype by sticking my head in my locker. Not Sylvia-Plath-Oven style - that's Ugly Braces Girl's job. But nevertheless, I'm attempting to ignore it all while I grab my pencil case out of my locker. I slam the door, and it slams right back at me, almost hitting my face.

"Stupid little fucker," I grumble as I try to close it again.

"Excuse me?"

Eyes wide, I whip around to see Angela Weber looking at me quizzically.

"I-I was talking to my locker," I stammer like an utter loser to her.

"Oh, okay. So…how was math?"

What. The. Flying. Fuck? What is she up to?

"Fine…" I respond warily.

"Mine sucked. I don't think I'll ever understand quotients!" She's all calm-voiced and beaming at me and acting like nothing ever happened.

"That's nice," I reply shortly.

Angela closes her locker door. "Look, Bella, I just wanted to let you know that I neversaid anything to anyone about what happened with you and your mom's bf. Not even Ben. Lauren and Jess just got totally out of hand."

I raise an eyebrow. Over my shoulder I can see Jess coming towards us, applying lip-gloss as she walks. "You do realize that not sticking up for me is just as bad, don't you, Ang?" I stress to her. Jess has seen that Angela is talking to me and struts over.

Angela's response is cut off by Jess. "Why are you talking to her, Angela? She's not worthtalking to."

I come up with a zillion replies. You have a massive zit on your forehead. Does Mike know you slept with Tyler? I think you have an insect in your hair. You suck. You're not worth talking to. I say none of these and instead raise my eyebrows like I'm waiting for a better insult than the one she just gave me.

Mike comes over and slings an arm around Jessica's shoulders. I think he saw her applying her lip-gloss and was turned on. How he imagines it to be like his penis, I don't know, but he nuzzles her hair and seems pretty smug. He laughs. "C'mon, Jess, give her a break," he says, like his girlfriend isn't thirty different shades of nasty and she's just been teasing me about something insignificant.

Jess rolls her eyes, and she and Angela stalk off past me. Mike shrugs at me. "I tried."

I give him a smile. "Thanks anyways."

Mike pushes me on the shoulder playfully, and of course I almost fall back into my locker and Phil pushes me backwards up against the wall and no, no, no. Mike pushed me as a joke, and that's IT.

He walks off and has no idea that I just actually stopped myself from freaking out for just about the first time ever.

I'm pretty sure I just stepped into some strange vortex and disrupted the space-time continuum. Or something equally disastrous. I can't shake the feeling that something is different today; something is weird. First Angela tries to talk to me, and then I stop the creeping memories. I'm not even sure if this is a good-weird thing.

As I attempt to shrug off the feeling, and fail horribly, I head to the cafeteria for lunch to meet up with Alice.

Alice has basically been my rock throughout this whole month-with-out-talking-to-Edward thing. She will bluntly tell me the truth when I need to hear it, sugar-coat things when I don't, and distract me when I don't want to talk about him. Alice had an interesting vision a week before about sitting in the diner she always goes to; she said she'd never felt so happy about a vision before, but for the life of her, she couldn't figure it out. We'd gone to the diner three times already, but it was like her vision didn't come true or whatever. It was weird, but in a cool way. Anyways, it took up a large majority of a lunchtime discussions when I wanted to be distracted from the distance between Edward and I.

I met Alice in the lunch line, and launched easily into my story of Angela trying to play the victim as we grabbed a portion of the crouton-overloaded Caesar salad. The remainder of lunch was spent on theorizing on Alice's vision and confiding to her that I actually didn't really enjoy Mansfield Park. I was more of a Wuthering Heights kinda girl, but she was totally loyal to Austen.

Somehow talking about how much I wanted to kill both Cathy and Heathcliff, even though I love their story, turned into us talking about Edward Cullen.

"He acts like he's in love with you, but that you betrayed him, or whatever," Alice observes, readjusting her pink headband. "Totally Heathcliff material."

I sigh, finish my mouthful of salad, and look at Alice. "I guess that's sort of what happened," I say, which makes her frown in response. I take a deep breath and start to explain.

You are so guilty of some major crimes, Swan.

"Edward has told me twice that he loved me," I explain, my voice heavy as I elaborate. "That he wanted to date me. But I always turned him down; I was always honest with him and said that I couldn't do the whole relationship thing. And he let me. He knew how I felt. If he really felt that way he'd just stand up and tell me he wouldn't do this anymore. But he never does. And I'm not sure I want him to. Alice, you know what its like. I can't be my mother. I can't let Edward be her, either. I'm so afraid of getting hurt. I just can't."

Alice looks at me. Just stares. Her eyes are heavy with the weight of the conversation. She's silent for a while before she swallows and reaches a hand out to mine. I take it. "But you're hurting yourself now," she replies earnestly. "Bella, you deserve more than just screwing some guy. You deserve to be loved by someone like Edward who isn't going to let you go. And he deserves you, too."

Time freezes and so do I. The enormity and truth of what she says weighs down on my chest, and god, it hurts, hurts so much. Suddenly, and oh so suddenly, I want to die. I want to drown in my tears. I want to hide in the hollowed darkness of all my regret. I want to tell Edward that I'll be whatever he wants, because I want it too.

I go to Biology with some kind of determination rising up inside me. I slam my books down next to Edward, which makes him jump a little and look at me. I look him right in the eye.

"I'm sorry I've been really fucking you over lately, but we've been great friends for so long and I'd just like for things to go back to the way they were. You probably think that they can't but they can. Look. Hi, it's good to see you again. I've missed hanging out with you. Do you think we'll get that assignment today?"

"But Bella-"

"Just forget for a while. We're just two friends sitting in bio not really paying attention to what the teacher is saying. Simple."

I get a good look at Edward as he struggles to formulate a sentence. His red-brown hair is messy as always, he's shaved recently, and he looks like he hasn't lost any sleep.

"Simple," he finally agrees in a cautious tone.

I feel my lips split into a smile. "Good. Yay!"

Did the exclamation 'Yay!' just fall from my lips? Who do I think I am, Barbie?

Edward laughs lightly at me and opens his notebook up. I get mine out too as our teacher enters. Mr. Banner begins the lesson by spilling his coffee all over his desk, so we gain an extra five minutes to talk while all the caffeinated milk is soaked up.

"You're in a good mood," Edward observes with amusement.

I fiddle with my blue pen. I can feel that my face is flushed. He hasn't made me blush in a long time. "Yep," I manage to reply.

Edward won't stop looking at me. My pen makes its way into my mouth, and I chew on the end of it nervously. That weird electricity is back. It's the same electricity from that lunch where he sat with the girls and me; the same electricity from the bio class when he convinced me to go to the support group. It feels like the same electricity that started this whole thing.

"I hope we get our assignment today," he says, answering my earlier question. He ruffles his hair habitually. "We'll work on it together, yeah?"

"Uhm, yeah. If you want to."

"Do you not want to work with me?"

"What? No! I do. I just wondered if you did."

"I wouldn't have asked you if I didn't want to work with you, Bella. Duh."

"Oh. Right. Well, I'd love to work with you." My face is red again. Why did I bother wearing make up today? My application of blush has now become irrelevant.

And then, Edward gives me his cheeky lopsided smile and I think I'll just die happy right now, please. "Great. I need to keep up my GPA, and since you're ranked second, I figured I'd keep you all to myself."

I say dryly around my pen, "I don't think anyone would want to work with me, anyways," before I fully register what he said. "Wait, I'm ranked second in this class? What the fuck? I thought I was failing everything."

Edward gives me a weird look. I think students usually care to know what their rank is. Ooops. "Well, you're obviously not failing Bio. You've always been smart, why would you think you were failing?"

It's my turn to give Edward a weird look. "I'm like the Detention Queen of Forks High."

Edward rolls his eyes like he doesn't believe me. I cock my head to the side, thinking. "You're ranked first, aren't you, Cullen?" I teased.

"Yeah. It's no big deal."

I snort. "Riiiight."

Mr. Banner has finished cleaning up his spilt coffee, but in the process has managed to come to the conclusion that Newton and his gang have been looking at porn pictures on Newton's laptop by the way they're all crowding around it and pointing. So, Mr. Banner's kinda busy yelling his head off at them.

"So, what have you been up to, Bella?" Edward asks me as he pulls a big book out his bag and drops it on our shared desk. "Oh, and I brought the textbook this time."

"Excellent, because I forgot," I reply happily. "Uhm, I haven't been up to much. Just chilling with Alice."

"The….meetings are going well?"

My smile goes deeper. "Yes, they really are. I owe you big time, Cullen."

Edward brushes off this offer with a flick of his hand. "Nah, don't worry about it. It was my pleasure to help you."

"Okay, then, I guess. Uhm. What have you been up to this past month, then?" I inquire, grimacing. Mike Newton is now yelling back at Mr. Banner.

Edward looks at me like he's going to tell me a secret. "I got through to my parents, finally. They're letting me apply to both Juilliard and Stetson."

I think my jaw drops to the ground in shock. For years, all Edward has ever really wanted to do is study music and do something with his piano skills as a career. Carlisle and Esme Cullen have always had steady, reliable jobs and weren't too happy about Edward doing something in the arts for a living. Hell, even Emmett had a dependable job. It must have been hard work to let his parents believe that in a family of doctors, builders and council workers that music was a suitable profession. It's not like Edward wasn't good enough; he'd done all of his piano exams and had won competitions. He could easily get a scholarship if he wanted to.

"That's so great, Edward!" I cry after a moment, which makes him grin like a little kid.

"I'm glad you think so, too. There's been no one to celebrate with. Emmett doesn't really get into the whole Mozart thing," he replies, before taking a deep breath. "The whole convincing my parents thing was why I chucked I hissy fit in the car that day. I'm sorry about that."

Edward's taking a great leap of faith once again and is ignoring my stupid actions – so I guess I can too. His rejection hurt, but it felt as though it was truly in the past.

"Wow. I bet you'll get into Julliard," I marvel instead. Edward smiles, seeing that I understand and forgive him. I take a deep breath, and after a moment, take the plunge. "Maybe you could play for me sometime soon?"

"Sure," Edward replies without a moment's hesitation.

"Really?"

He winks at me. He. Winks. "You better believe it, babe."

I pull a face. "Ew. Never call me that again."

"Sweetheart."

"Gross."

"Honey."

"Disgusting."

"Angel."

"Okay, shut up, we're getting our assignment!" I exclaim quietly, nudging him in the ribs playfully so that he'll be quiet. He pretends that I've really hurt him. I ignore him and listen to Mr. Banner. I feel kind of giddy. It's just like it's always been between Edward and I: easy.

Everything's falling into place.

Later that night, I procrastinate on my maths homework by flipping through the TV channels. Charlie's trying to persuade me to at least put the news on, but I want to watch some terrible TV. Why isn't Days of Our Lives or some reality talent show on at seven pm? Laaame.

I give up and surrender to the seven o'clock news. Charlie and I are sitting on the couch, watching as the news anchor reports on a disastrous fire in Seattle, when my phone signals that I've got a text. I grab my phone and see that the message is from Edward.

Hey Bella! What u up 2 2morrow? Wanna watch my excellent fingers play sum piano? Maybe we can work on our bio assignment 2…

I reply quickly, knowing I have nothing on this weekend until Sunday, when I'm meeting Alice is the local Forks diner again to see if her vision comes true.

I respond teasingly. Sounds cool, but only if you play me the Harry Potter theme. What time do you want me over?

2 sound good?

I reply after a beat. Sweet. Cya then.

Bye xx

I go to bed, and after waking up from a particularly bad nightmare about Phil coming back to Forks to find me, I stay up and play solitaire on my computer until the ghosts fade away. I try to distract myself to analyzing on why Edward put two kisses after 'bye' in his last text.

It's a very good distraction, because all too soon it's like three in the morning. I go back to sleep for a while, and when I wake up at ten-thirty, I stay in my cosy covers for a while. It's raining pretty heavily, the clouds angry. I reflect on the previous day, what Alice told me, and the resolution I made; the resolution that I wasn't going to shut my heart away from Edward anymore. It's not like I'd be skipping down the aisle to him anymore soon, but I realized that it was time. I was ready.

At one-fifty, I load my truck with all my Biology shit and tell Charlie I'll probably be home late, and not to worry if I don't call, because I'm only going to the Cullens. I dress warmly, in a jumper and even stockings under my skirt, because it's fucking freezing. I make it to the Cullens' house in record time and Esme, Edward's mom, lets me in just as I'm about to knock on their front door.

"Oh, Bella, it's so good to see you!" she says warmly and envelopes me in a hug. We get out of the rain and I sigh as I step into central heating. My hair is now a wet, frizzy mess around my face and over the shoulders of my maroon jumper. I'm glad I wore waterproof mascara. Of course, the weather hasn't affected Esme's hair. She's like the perfect MILF married to an equally attractive husband. It's kinda scary.

"It's great to see you too, Esme," I reply with a small smile.

"Edward should be down in a sec, dear…I don't know what's taking him so long. Edward! Bella's here!"

"I'm coming!" is Edward's shouted reply. Their house is huge, so it echoes. I hear him rambling down the steps, and then, he comes into view.

"Hey!" he greets and easily gives me a hug. I don't freeze, and lean against him. He's nice and warm. His broad shoulders feel nice underneath his thick jacket.

"Hey," I mumble happily after a moment, and I shrug out Edward's embrace.

Esme tells us that she'll leave us be, but that she wants to chat with me later. I tell her I can't wait. I rummage through my big duffle bag and pull out a container. I offer it to Edward. He takes it and opens the lid.

"Double choc-chip brownies," he says, looking at my baking reverently.

I duck my head shyly. "My truck got fixed like two weeks ago, but I never got around to thanking you for giving me all those lifts to school…so, this is my way of saying thanks."

"Yum, thanks! They look awesome," he replies, putting them in the fridge. "And it's good you got your truck fixed. Did that Jacob Black kid fix it?"

"Yeah. He's great with cars."

"You know, I could have probably fixed it."

I giggle. "Hmmm. Let's just leave your talented fingers to the piano, shall we?"

Edward pretends to look seriously wounded by my comment, which makes me laugh even harder. We spend the rest of the afternoon at the piano. I suck at the Harry Potter theme, which Edward tells me imperiously is Hedwig's Theme, but whatever. Music is not my forte. Emmett and Carlisle arrive home later in the day after going to a football game. Emmett quizzes me on how he should ask Rosalie on a date. He understands that she's at a sexual assault support group for a reason, but says that she seems pretty interested in him. I try and help him as best as I can; after all, I would be the best person to go to on how to approach a person who's been through something like that. Esme insists that I stay for dinner, and afterwards, Edward and I eventually concede that we should work on our bio assignment.

We head up to his room. I spend a good few minutes looking at his large black desk, his double-bed, his shelves lined with comic books, and his CD collection, before we finally get down to business. I pull my bio textbook and some rough notes that I'd made on his desk. I try and sort through the papers, trying to find the one source that I thought was super interesting. Edward hovers over me, reading. He's very close. So close that I notice his proximity. The feeling between us positively electric. Not a calm hum like that time we got together in his car. It's the feeling that screams hold me closer.

"You lied yesterday," he says mysteriously after a long silent moment. I frown, giving up on my search now that he's distracted me.

"Huh?" I reply, turning around to face him.

"You said that we were just two friends. As simple as that. But we're not."

He must feel the electricity too. "You're right. I lied," I agree after a moment. My voice is so low it's almost a whisper. "We're not that simple."

Our mutual wants hang thick in the air, unspoken. I place my hand on top of Edward's, smoothing the skin there, until I run my hand up his arm so that I reach his shoulder. My eyes rake over his body, and I smile as I see I've made him shiver. I meet his gaze, and I notice that he looks nervous, unsure of how to respond to me initiating contact. He's frozen with - what? Fear, excitement, adrenaline? I can bet he's thinking what I am thinking – about the last two failed attempts in his car. They were the only times we had failed. The idea that we couldn't, wouldn't connect on that physical level was foreign. In that regard, we were always there for one another.

I feel like I've grown up since we last really spoke. I'm sleeping better. I'm more focused on school. I'm on my way to stop hating myself. Stop doubting myself. I know in this stormy, quiet moment, I want Edward, got to have him, need to have him, will have him.

Edward was always the one who was more sure of himself, more mature, and more controlled. But when it came to sex, when it came to Edward, I was the one who knew myself and how to act. I was rational and rough, whereas Edward was curious and sometimes clumsy.

I look into his strange green eyes. I don't need to say, I'm sorry I pushed you away. I'm sorry I'm being such a bitch. I'm sorry I'm so confused. I'm sorry I want help. I'm sorry when sometimes I don't. Just like he doesn't need to apologize for confiding in Lauren about our summers. We've both fucked each other over lately, so much so that all the awful little things just cancel each other out. I press my lips against his gently, and just like all those summers ago, when he tasted like fifteen-year-old boy and sand, we start on a clean slate.

I tug at the waistband of his jeans, and obediently, he shuffles them off and steps out once they have fallen to his feet. His body is warm and hard as I press myself up against him. Edward grabs me, and leads me back onto his bed, so that we are sitting towards the edge, Edward kneeling behind me. His tongued kisses on my arms, neck and face threaten to distract me as I feverishly tug off my purple stockings and pull down my skirt. Edward helps me take off my jumper, my shirt and my bra. He places a trail of kisses along my back, starting at my tailbone and ending with the freckle that adorns my left shoulder blade. He inhales, revelling in the clean, rainy smell of my milky skin. I pull down my underwear and throw them away, not embarrassed by the fact they are white cotton with blue and green butterflies. I'm too sexed up to be embarrassed.

I move around so that he's facing me. His hot, delicious mouth starts to work on my right nipple, the sound of his tongue against my skin making me gasp a little. It feels so good. It feels just like I remember. It feels better. His tongue flicks and swirls around the skin of my nipple delicately before his lips enclose around it and he sucks hard and good. Edward's teeth lightly skim across the edge, hinting that they'd like to bite. He wouldn't, but the idea excites me. His next suck is painful – it hurts so good. "So good." The words tumble out of my mouth before I can stop them. I don't care. His mouth slowly starts to depart from my now swollen nipple. He flicks his tongue once more, making me hiss in response. My eyes are closed, but I can imagine his cocky lopsided grin is set on his lips.

I open my eyes, and watch as Edward presses his hand to the breast his mouth has left alone. He massages his long, expert fingers against the thick tissue. The pressure meeting with the resistance from my breast is warm and exciting. Soon, my mouth meets Edward's, and my tongue meets his, and the introduction melts hot and readily as Edward lies back on his rumpled bedcovers. It's nice to see you again, Mr Cullen, I think giddily. I crouch over his form.

"Are you ready?" I ask, my hair falling around my face.

Edward's features soften for a moment. "Shouldn't I be asking you the same thing?"

My eyes meet his, so that he can see that I'm truly happy. "I am ready," I say in a low voice.

He can hear the purr.

I watch as he gazes back at me devilishly, hungry for more. His hand slides down along my cool back, caresses across my right cheek, to my thigh, where his reach ends. I can feel all of Edward pressed up and against me. I move backwards so that I'm sitting on my haunches, in between Edward's strong, pale thighs. I can feel that my wet hair is probably a dark, long mess, contrasted against the hazy glow that his desk lamp projects.

My gaze slowly drips down Edward's form.

I smile as I take in his neat figure of fine, muscled arms and a fairly toned stomach. He's certainly not the skinny, gangly boy he once was. I feel a wicked sense of longing as my gaze reaches one of the most fantastic parts of my summerboy. Brilliantly erect, I long to push myself towards him, on him, until he's deep inside. Edward starts to move, sensing what I desperately want to do, knowing how much he wants it himself. I gently push him back down, arching over him so that my sex ghosts his tip. It twitches in response. He groans. My adoring smile thins so that it's a bit naughty. I move back onto my haunches, slowly take his cock into my hands, and get down to work. Soon, his balls are in my mouth, and I'm sucking, nipping, groaning, licking, and rubbing, until neither of us can stand it any longer.

Our mutual desire is intertwined with something deeper that I won't admit, but take absolute pleasure in feeling. Our hard and fast foreplay smooths out into gentle touches and butterfly kisses. My groan is guttural as Edward whispers those three forbidden little words in my ear. I'm wet, and there's something beautiful in the hushed, strained sounds Edward makes. I'm almost sitting in his lap, and his reddish bronze hair screams unexpected sex as his head rests against his bed's headboard. His cock is right there, and in a heavenly moment, he makes his way inside, and thrusts deep within me. Deep, hard, and good. I cup his face, and as the thunderous rain beating the bedroom windows mutes my hushed thank you, we make love.

.

I wake up the next morning and can't believe that I actually fell asleep. The rain isn't as heavy; Edward's snoring can be heard over it, in any case. I spend an hour being an absolute creep by watching Edward sleep. His snoring patterns are kinda interesting to watch. As I watch his face twitch in response to something he's dreaming about, a jittery sensation starts to scratch deep within me. At first, I try to tell myself that I'm still horny – but after three rounds of sex last night, I feel satisfied. I pull my underwear and the rest of my clothes back on slowly, and snuggle under the warm, cosy covers once more.

I feel cold. But I don't feel Phil's clumsy fingers at my memory-jeans, or my back against that cold, kitchen wall. It's nothing concrete. I don't feel scared lying next to Edward.

Then what's the matter with you, Swan? Cold feet? You're starting to sound like Renee. Running away for no good reason.

Edward had said those three words last night. I love you. It was like it was just an offering, like it had been last summer as we sat by the piano. He hadn't expected it in return. But I want to say it. I want to say it back without being afraid that I've trusted in the wrong person. How can I think that when he's one of the few people I can trust? How can I think that when he cares for me, no matter if I'm that girl from his summers, Forks-Bella-Swan, or someone new and not so shiny? He's perfect for me. Even Jacob likes him, for crying out loud.

Alice said I deserved happiness. But mistakes of a generation past make me choke. The blood-oath Edward and I sworn on that first summer still makes sense to me. I had witnessed unhappiness, and I had vowed I would live a differently unhappy life if I could escape that type of heartache. I had never thought that a different type of unhappiness would come in the form of an almost stepparent's foolishness and the unforgiving nature of friends.

I feel like I've almost reached my resolution. But the niggling doubts and insecurities and fears bite at me until I'm bloody and bruised, a shadow of my former self. The cosy sheets are now cold and Edward's snoring is a muted buzz in the background of my screaming thoughts. I lay, silent, until he wakes up.

I watch as Edward sleepily opens his eyes. I smile lightly.

"Hi," I whisper, guilt dried on my lips.

"Hi," he whispers back in a sleep-slurred tone, smoothly sliding an arm around my waist. We just snuggle for a while, my face burrowed in Edward's chest, his arm around me. All cosy and cute, almost like what a real relationship is probably meant to be like. Finally, I dig up my courage.

"I-I've got to go," I announce unsteadily into his chest. I'm disappointed in myself, just as I'm sure Edward is.

He replies after a moment's pause. "Okay."

I remove myself from Edward's embrace and look at him. I skim my hand across his lovely cheek. "Thank you for not getting tired of forgiving me," I thank him ardently. "And thank you for such a wonderful night. I just need a little more time. I'm almost there, 'kay?"

"I love you."

Those three little words so desperately want to reverberate back to him from deep within my throat, but I lock them inside my lips. My horrible memories of Phil and the actions of my parents keep the words unbidden for now.

"I care about you more than anyone else," I gift Edward instead, and part with a kiss. His returned sleepy, lopsided smile sparks a light in my eyes that had for so long been extinguished that when I get home, Charlie offers to cook breakfast.

I have my reservations, and my fears, but I feel like I'm getting somewhere. If we hold out just a little longer, and I can become more brave, I think things will be great.

I eat two helpings of eggs and I don't even care that Charlie burnt them.

...

"Doyouwanttogooutwithme?"

I raise an eyebrow. Edward looks embarrassed. We're fifteen, and it's the middle of summer vacation. I'm licking the remains of my honeycomb ice cream off of my fingers. "Try annunciating, Edwardo," I tease.

"Do you want to go out with me?"

I frown. "That wasn't part of the deal, that isn't what we blood-swore to," I say warningly. He better know to stop right now.

"But I really like you," he continues. I put a sticky honeycomb finger to his lips.

"Suck my finger," I command, trying to remember how Jess did this with Eric Yorkie. He wouldn't shut up, so she distracted him with…other things. I could do that. I could be naughty like that. Hell, I'd already lost my virginity this summer, so what else was there to do?

Edward laughs nervously. I grin. I can tell this will be fun. It feels fun. It feels good to be in control. "Suck my finger," I repeated in a lower voice.

Edward does what I tell him to. And he likes it.

By the end of the summer, I become very good at distracting Edward Cullen.


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