Under the Apple Tree
Music for B & E at the end is: Matt Nathanson, Come On Get Higher
Chapter 62: Windows
"If someone looked into the window of your life, what would they see?"
That was the last question of the day from class. There is a piece of paper in my notebook that has that question written down. It is supposed to be our assignment during break. The girl behind me groaned and the boy at my side snickered and called it, "cheesy shit."
I stared at it and asked myself, silently.
My pen did not move.
I am in the doorway, trying my hardest not to laugh. Edward is on one side of the couch, Emmett next to him. Jacob sits on the coffee table facing them.
Emmett's turn. "So, you will have these urges. Urges you don't understand."
Edward. "Ever watch one of those Looney Tunes cartoons where one guy thinks the other guy is a Thanksgiving turkey?"
"That's kind of what it feels like."
Emmett. "Except, you're going to want to…you're gonna wanna…"
Brilliant Man One leans over and consults with Brilliant Man Two.
Edward. "You're going to want to do a lot more than just eat the turkey…and that's okay…but, just not right now. You see…you want to marry the turkey first. You and the turkey should be in love. Committed."
Emmett nods. "Exactly."
Edward. "And you don't want turkeys from Virginia. They are…you just don't want them. Trust me."
Jacob's face scrunches. "But…what about if you want to…you know…touch your own turkey?"
Emmett looks at Edward, smirking. "This is your area of expertise."
Edward makes a face. He looks back at Jacob. "That's perfectly normal and fine, but keep it to yourself. That is information you only want shared between you and…your turkey."
I roll my eyes and carry the tray of drinks into the living room. Jacob stands up, letting me put it down on the coffee table. Emmett and Edward take their hot chocolates. I hand one mug over to Jacob, but he doesn't take it.
"Come on, Jake. It's hot cocoa."
He shakes his head a little. "I think I'm gonna go upstairs."
My brows scrunch. "You have plenty of time to unpack. Sit and drink your cocoa."
"I'm not gonna unpack."
"Then what the Hell do you need to go upstairs for? There isn't even a TV up there."
He glances to the guys, then me. "I'm not supposed to say."
I cringe and he disappears up the steps. I look to Edward. I am not happy.
"When I said to talk to him about sex, I didn't mean to give him permission to whack off in the guest room, Brilliant Man One."
Edward pulls me to his lap. "I didn't. And Jesus. He better not go anywhere near Brianna with his sinful hands."
I laugh and so does Emmett.
"I'm serious." He sips his cocoa.
"Well, maybe you shouldn't have agreed to turn this place into a Lover's Retreat," I tease.
"I didn't know Bree would be coming here the same time Jacob would need a place to stay. Trust me."
"He could always stay with me and Rose," Emmett offers.
Edward shakes his head. "No. I told Billy I'd look after him this week. I'll just have to…really look after him." He brings the cup to his mouth and mumbles, "And buy a shotgun."
I pour coffee as Edward feeds Grace. Jacob has his cereal. He watches Edward. I watch Jacob. My mind goes back to the question in my notebook. I observe what they do. I watch this moment in my life.
I like how Jacob looks at Edward, when Edward looks at Grace. I like that he sees what a man be could. A man can be gentle with a child. I like him being here. I like being here. I like being off from school. I like being off from work. God bless snow and winter. God bless it. I like this house and the way it feels inside of it.
I don't like the fact that Billy is not feeling well. I don't like that being the reason why Jacob is here with us. I don't like that he is still too scared to go home and stay with his mother. I hate him feeling like he isn't as tough as those idiot boys who threaten and beat on him. I hate that his father doesn't do enough to protect him. I wish Emmett's lessons were giving him more strength and confidence.
I have a Holiday gingersnap recipe that will make it a little bit better.
I will teach Jacob tomorrow. I will let him bring some to Billy and his mother later this week. We will sit in the hallway as Carlisle runs tests. I have a wall picked out for where we will paint the Christmas tree Edward said the hospital was in need of. I'll take Grace's small hands and make small turkeys along the bottom of the wall, like Charlie used to do to mine- except it was on homemade greeting cards.
Turkeys. I laugh.
Edward looks up to me. His eyes expectant. I shake my head.
"When does Bree get here?"
We look at Jacob.
"We have to pick her up from the airport in an hour," Edward explains. "Is there a reason why you ask?" He stares him down and normally, I would feel bad for Jacob and the fear on his face, but this is harmless.
It's just Cullen being Cullen.
I help Jacob tuck the gift for Bree into his jacket. It's our secret. We both smile like idiots and laugh as we go downstairs. Edward has Grace bundled up and I can't help but to smile wider at how ridiculous he is.
"Expecting a blizzard?"
"She's small," he shrugs.
I laugh, tugging down the scarf, trying to peak in. "I can only see her eyes, Edward."
"It's snowing. You know how easily one catches the Flu this time of year? Pneumonia? Bronchitis?"
I hear Jacob snort. So do I. Edward is not amused. "Alright, alright. I get it. Bundle at will."
He fixes where I pulled down her scarf and we walk towards the laundry room, the garage and we are off.
Bree runs when she sees him at the gate. He scoops her up and hugs her tightly. I look over to Jacob at my side and watch him smile and look nervous. I lean over.
"Remember to tell her she looks pretty. Um, the hair. Tell her she has pretty hair."
He smiles and nods. I hold Grace and wait as they walk towards us. Bree sees me sitting here and her expression changes. I get up and go to say hi, but she lets go of Edward's hand and walks ahead. Great. Another person who is pissed off at me.
She pauses when she sees Jacob. They stare at each other. I die a little for him. He must be so scared. He looks so adorable. Edward goes to say something, but I grab his jacket's sleeve and shake my head. He makes a face.
"Just give them a second. It's harmless."
He leans in to my ear. "Tell me that again when Bree is asking me for a pee test."
I snort. "They are just kids. Let them be kids."
He sighs and I kiss his chin as he waits patiently.
I want to watch what goes on in this window.
"Hi…um…I'm Jake. Um, Jacob."
She giggles. "Hi, Jakeumjacob."
He smiles and my heart is dying on site. In a good way.
"Just Jacob. Or Jake. If you like Jake. I like either one."
I tap Cullen. I nod towards Bree. My eyes make him do it.
"Brianna, this Jacob. He's a friend of ours and he'll be staying with us this week as well. Jacob…" a long pause and breath. "…this is Bree."
He blurts it out and poor kid. "You look pretty hairy."
Do not laugh at him. His face is red. His skin is dark, but his face is red. I fucking hate red.
"What?" She giggles.
"I mean…you have pretty hair."
Her face softens. She is shy. "Oh. Uh…" she looks up to Edward. Back to Jacob. "Thanks."
Jacob unzips his coat and pulls out the box. He shoves it at her and I cover my mouth when she trips backwards a little. He shoved it at her.
"Uhhmm, it's not Christmas yet. We haven't even had Thanksgiving."
Jacob is at a loss for words. I elbow Edward.
"We should get going." Edward takes her hand and we start to head towards the baggage claim. She holds on to the present in her free hand.
Jacob looks up to me as we follow behind them. I wink and he shakes his head, looking embarrassed. Bree glances over her shoulder to Jacob and smiles.
He looks at me and returns the same expression.
"That is huge."
He smirks. "I thought you liked it….you know."
I snort. "Was that your attempt at making a dirty joke, Edward? 'Cause if so, you failed."
He smiles and looks back to the tree. "Alice requested to have a large tree this year. She wants to take…what did she say…epic pictures at Thanksgiving this year. Yeah…I think that was the phrase."
He's funny. And hella sexy with a scarf around his neck. But the Alice shit is over riding my happy mood right now.
"She's still pissed at me."
"Probably will always be."
He takes a step back and sits on the couch. He tugs at his scarf. And the bottom of my sweater, until I am sitting on his lap sideways.
"She'll get over it."
"Edward, you have eyes that don't hide shit. You know this, right?"
That delicious corner of his mouth lifts. "Well, regardless of if she does or doesn't…nothing here changes. You're still my Bella." He leans his face to my chest, arms surrounding me.
"And what about Grace? I'm sure she misses her Aunt."
"She sees her all the time. Have you not noticed her pink toenails? Think I did that? I mean, I get bored when you're not here, Bella…but not that bored, " He laughs.
"I don't like seeing you guys fight. I don't like being the cause. I was actually…You know your mom had a good idea when I saw her."
"I can't wait to hear this."
I make a face. He smiles. "She thinks I should ask Alice to go shopping. Like, to ask for her help shopping for Grace. For Christmas."
He shrugs. "It couldn't hurt, I guess."
I watch his eyes. "But?"
"But…just don't expect her to say yes, Bella. She's very…well, aside from you, the most hardheaded person I've ever encountered."
I push against him until he is on his back and he brings me down to his chest.
"Grace won't be up for another thirty minutes, don't make me use that time to teach you a very….valuable lesson, Cullen."
His eyes lower. "Mmm…and that would be?"
I let my palms slide until the tip of my nose touches his.
"Torture. Pure torture, Edward."
"Mmm." And that noise never sounded so good.
"Oh, I'm sorry. There's nothing here I think you will like." Alice turns around and goes back to making fresh pots of coffee in her bakery.
I try not to say what I would like to. "I'm just here to ask a question." She's ignoring me. Keep calm. "I just wondered if maybe you'd like to join me for some Christmas shopping. I have to buy some stuff for Grace and I'm not really good at picking out clothes and…"
She spins around. Hand goes on the hip. Great. "So, you want to use me so you'll look like you know how to buy your daughter clothes? Sorry, I think one Cullen is already filling the "I need to be used" section of your life, Bella."
Calm. Calm. But fuck no. "You don't really give him very much credit."
Her eyes, they say shit worse then her mouth could. "Don't tell me about my brother. I know him. I know him very well."
"Then you would know that he's not stupid. As much as he is naïve, he's not dumb, Alice. If I was trying to use him, I wouldn't be around. There's a reason why I wasn't in his life for the past year, you know."
"Yeah, because you ran off."
Okay. Honesty the shrink says. Fine. Honesty.
"No, because Edward didn't want me around like…like I was. He's not stupid, as I just explained. You think that you are hurting me when you hold this position, but the truth…the truth Alice, is that you only hurt Edward. I can take it. I'm used to people not liking me. And if you weren't connected to him, I could careless if you didn't like me…but you are…so…I have to care. Because I care about him."
She's just a sister. I know this. "You don't show it very well."
"I'm trying to. I'm trying. I'm here."
She thinks for a moment but turns around and goes back to her coffee duties. I feel defeated. I hear Edward's words from the day prior and I knew it was a tough sell, but I don't want it on my shoulders any longer. I want the ball in her court.
I glance around. And you know…if someone looked into this window, under the brown letters that spell the Bakery's name…they would see my pissed off faced and her pissed off face and someone would think this was a rather unpleasant situation. It wouldn't be a window I'd like to look into. That's for sure.
My fist taps gently to the counter. "I'm going to be at the mall on Friday. When they open. I'll sit on the bench at the main entrance. I'm sure Grace would like a day of shopping with her Aunt. We hope you'll be there."
A hard tile floor has never felt so great.
"Her hands are perfect." Bree smiles, helping Grace press her fingers into the paint and then to the wall. I am forgiven at the moment. Or at least, she is speaking to me.
"I know. Me and um…me and my dad used to do this when I was little."
Jacob's ears are perked. "You and Charlie?"
I nod. "Yeah."
"Your dad must have been cool. My mom won't even let me hang posters in my room. She hates the holes the thumb-tacks make," Bree grumbles.
I smile. "Well, we didn't paint them on the wall, just made cards for the people he worked with and stuff."
"It's still cool," she shrugs.
"Did he ever let you shoot his gun?" Jacob asks.
I laugh. "No. Never."
"Grandpa Billy says he's gonna teach me when I turn fifteen." His chest puffs out. He's trying to impress Bree. I love it. "We're gonna go hunting."
"Ewww. No. Killing animals is cruel!"
"You ate a hamburger at Dr. Cullen's house last night," he argues.
"Yeah, but those came from the grocery store." She makes a face and keeps painting with Grace's hand.
We are up to about ten turkeys. They are walking under the huge blob of a green Christmas tree we painted earlier. It is hideous and I love it dearly. The nurses passing by all make faces, but say it's nice. Lying bitches. I never said I was an artist and fuck, it's not like we are getting paid. Plus, I'm working with kids. Give me a damn break.
"Looks great." Familiar. I look over my shoulder. Fuck he's good looking. He shoves his hands into his pockets and studies our Christmas disaster.
Bree. "Look. Grace made turkeys." She points to them. He kneels down.
He speaks to her with his hands. His eyes. "Did you make those?"
Grace smiles, but who wouldn't. It's Edward.
And then….her paint-filled fingers smack right into his face. His eyes close. Lips pull tight. And three children die of laughter.
This is an awesome window.
I have officially fallen in love with this part of the house. Kid One, Two and Three are sleeping soundly. There is only fragrant bubbles, hot water and my ass wedged in between Edward's thighs. I sink down into the tub further and relax against his chest.
"I would like to die here."
I feel his laughter. His hands find mine under the water and lace together. "Sounds like a good idea."
"Think Bree will care that we stole most of her bubble bath?"
If I looked at his face I'd see a smile. "I'm sure she won't know," he assures.
"Edward, we are going to smell like a candy store. She'll know. This is like bubble gum scented or something."
He only answer me by playfully tasting my neck. I push him away. He finds my hand again and we are quiet for a moment.
"What are you thinking about?" He asks.
I shrug. "Christmas, I guess."
Lips kiss my head. "What about it?"
"Just how weird it is to actually…it's been a long time since I actually celebrated Christmas."
He extends his arms out. I slide my palms over his. Back and forth as we talk.
"We had a Christmas together. I remember it quite well. We almost were attacked by moose. All your fault, by the way."
I laugh. "I remember."
"But this is different….right?"
I tilt my head back. I nod. "I don't know what to get Grace and then…then there's your family and friends and stuff…and…I'll play along…I just…"
"Don't want to," he smiles.
His shoulder shrugs. "Bella…I don't want to play either."
"As much as I love them all…I'd rather be sitting my ass in front of the television watching a movie. It's not weird, you know. Most people dislike the holidays."
My ears are interested. The ears that go to school. "Why?"
"I think it's just more stressful than enjoyable. Look at us," he lets go of one of my hands and sweeps my wet hair from my forehead. "On our own, we're fine, right? Happy?"
I nod. "Yeah."
"But then add in my sister and all of the other bullshit we both carry…plus having to buy gifts and remember everyone and making sure what you buy them is appropriate and good enough and…." he sighs. "Who in their right mind enjoys this?"
I smile. "On TV and in movies they always make people seem so happy."
His eyes lower, with his voice. "A conspiracy, I tell you."
I love his teasing. I kiss it.
"What were you thinking about?"
His hand finds mine again. I lean back into his chest.
"So am I."
"What about me?"
"Your schooling. Your therapy." He shifts his hips a little. "Amongst other things."
I laugh. "I must add to my list of things to do: 'teach Cullen how to make a proper dirty joke.'"
"You have a list, do you?"
"My shrink forces me, against my will. Yes."
His smile is in his tone. There is also honest curiosity. "What else is on this list?"
I shrug. "A lot of things."
"Mostly boring shit. But some serious stuff….like he thinks I need to set goals on paper in order to make them seem less challenging or something. Like that's possible."
A pause. He's being careful. "What's your next challenge?"
"I'm supposed to go see Renee. Talk to her or some shit."
He doesn't press any further. My mouth won't shut up though.
"You really believe what you said, Edward?"
"About your mom. That if she wanted to know you she'd come and find you."
And he knows what I'm asking. The pause tells me so. "That's what I think, Bella. Yes. But…but there is always room for misunderstandings, I suppose. Not everything is always black and white."
"What if it's black and white between Renee and I?"
He shrugs. "Then she gets to miss out on knowing a really beautiful girl."
I meant to wonder silently. "What if it's not black and white?"
"What do you mean?"
Have to say it now. "What if she wants to know me? To fix this shit?"
His hand finds my face. "Is that what scares you most?"
"I'm used to her not being around. Not wanting to give a shit about me. What if she…what is she wants to and I can't forgive her? What if I don't want to know her?"
"I think I already answered this." Lips kiss my face.
I find his eyes and see the love in them. It burns so brightly. My fingers touch his chin.
"Would you go? If I go and try to see her someday…would you come?"
He pulls my fingers down, until they are over his lips. "Mmhmm."
An old lady smiles as she passes by. Not at me. Grace. On my lap. I'm asked her age by almost every person entering the mall. She is asked if she is here to see Santa. They don't wait for an answer. They just make faces and give praise. I have said a million thank you'sthat I don't mean. I am too irritated to be honest.
"This is boring."
I look over to Bree. "Just five more minutes."
"We have been here for forever," she whines.
"I know. Just…just a few more minutes, okay?"
She sits back on the bench, arms crossed. Jacob hops off the bench and makes a game, tossing rocks into the parking lot. She joins him. Grace starts to get cranky. I bounce her on my knee and Edward will kill me if she catches a cold from being out here this long.
"Come on." I stand and place Grace into her stroller.
We walk around the mall and buy presents from Edward's list…and over-priced pretzels. I am supposed to help Bree find gifts for her parents. They will be here tomorrow. Cullen is helping out at the hospital this week still and I just hope I get this shit right. I try to stick to his list of things that are okay and not okay.
I have another list, of sizes from clothes Grace has in her closet. Numbers Esme gave me, too. I wish she was here. Damn Alice.
I also have a list of things to get for the tree. Rose and Emmett are going out of town for the holidays and Alice has decided to decorate Jasper's tree instead of Edward's tree - that damn HUGE tree she requested - and I haven't decorated a tree since I was a kid. I hope he doesn't expect that classy shit they used to do. I'm not the matchy-matchy type.
By the time we get home, I am exhausted, but then there's that damn tree again.
"Do you guys know what bag the lights are in?"
I only help with the stuff they can't do. They seem to be having fun.
At least someone is.
A few hours later, I hear the garage door and then his keys.
I know she can't….fuck I just say it anyhow. "Daddy's home." I walk with her on my hip and she doesn't need words. She sees him and says with her arms what she wants.
His lips kiss her neck repeatedly as he hugs her to his chest. His eyes closing briefly. He's tired, sure, but that's not why.
He looks at me. "Hi, baby."
He holds her head as he leans down to kiss me.
"I bought pizza for dinner. The kids wanted it. It's cold, but I can reheat it."
He nods. "Pizza sounds great."
"Didn't catch a break today, huh?"
"Nope." He sits down at the counter with Grace. "But I'm sure we both could say that."
I want to laugh, knowing he means the kid situation, but there's a lot of truth to that sentence. My face must show it.
"Alice didn't show up, did she?"
I shake my head. His face isn't happy, but I don't want that.
"It's alright. I still got everything done. It's fine." I turn around and place the pizza in the oven.
What is there to say? Food. Food. Food. It is pretty much the same as the first one I spent here. Except, I don't end up with Edward in my room, eating pumpkin pie in the midst of a mental breakdown.
Alice is here with Jasper, but they are putting on smiles and not really paying too much attention to us. She pays attention to Edward, just not me. I just hang out with the kids for the most part. Bree's mother is actually a warm, kind person in comparison to Alice. I talk with her for a while. I want to give Edward time with his family. I don't want him to feel like he has to choose.
Plus, there is Jacob. I don't want him to feel like an outcast among a bunch of….I pretty much don't want him to feel like me.
We sit on the couch together and eat our pie. He is mostly watching Bree as she parades around in her red dress.
"Is she a dancer?"
I nod. "Yeah. Ballet."
"Is that what she's doing? Ballet?" He's talking about the little act they are making her put on.
"I guess. I don't really know a lot about dan…" I nearly choke on my words. "I don't know, Jacob."
He grins. "She probably looks hot in one of those stretchy things."
I make a face. "Do you want me to have Dr. Cullen end your life?"
He laughs and shrugs. "It's true."
"Keep those thoughts to yourself. Seriously. Edward will kill you."
"Why does he care so much anyhow? It's not like I like Grace or something…I mean, I like her, she's cute, but not like Bree."
"Bree is his niece."
"Yeah but…she's not his daughter. Why does he care?"
I talk around the pie in my mouth. "Because he's a good person, Jacob. And they have a special bond type of thing."
So does he. "Why?"
Cool whip is grand. "She has one of his kidneys."
Jacob's eyes go wide. "What? Eww. Why?"
I lick the back of my spoon. "Because she needed one. She was sick. She would have died."
His face looks back to her. And I think over the course of the next fifteen seconds, Jacob goes from being eleven to thirty.
There is nothing better than Edward in Christmas pajamas. Nothing.
Okay, that's a lie.
Grace in her pajamas with messed up hair and a sleepy face.
But that's about it.
We are having our own 'private' Christmas morning before the madness begins again. Over at his parent's house. Grace is crawling through the crinkled up paper as we take a breather to drink some coffee.
I glance over. We are leaned against the bottom of the couch, On the floor.
"No offense, but that is the ugliest tree my house has ever had," he laughs.
So do I. My jaw drops in false-horror.
"But you know what?" He continues.
My brows answer.
He leans over, under my ear. Low. "I love it." A kiss to my neck and Jesus. Happy Birthday.
A small hand on my foot interrupts. I lean forward and pull her into my lap. I have learned this part. With my fingers. It took fucking forever. I swear, Edward's brain must be twice as big as mine.
"Are you ready for Mommy's present?"
She smiles and I swear it is the best smile ever. Edward grabs the last gift for her on the floor. I hold her while he helps her unwrap it. Well, her version of what unwrapping is, anyhow. When they get to the white box, my heart is so nervous. I'm not sure if I did okay. He said the clothes were perfect. But this…this isn't clothes.
I watch his face as he lifts the lid. He glances up and I think I did okay. He looks back down and his fingers pinch the string, pulling it from the box. Grace reaches for it and my heart feels light and high. He extends his arms and takes her, rising to his feet. He whispers something in her ear, which is odd, but he does, as they walk to the window.
Edward licks the back of the suction cup and then sticks the sun-catcher to the glass. He takes a seat on what used to be Tanya's bench. Grace points at it and just stares.
And this window…this window is ever changing and always…for the better.
As we clean up the paper from the floor, I am presented with a gift that I never saw. He smiles shyly.
I shake my head. "We agreed not to buy presents."
"I didn't buy it."
My eyes question him. He laughs.
"Okay…I had to buy a part of it…but trust me, the repercussions for not doing so would have been far worse."
"Am I supposed to understand that?"
"Just open it."
I roll my eyes and tear at the paper. There is a journal. It has an elastic band over the front, holding a card. I glance up and he is looking at it. Open it, dummy. I pull the card out and almost let the contents fall. My fingers grab the paper before it escapes. But the paper is more like…
He smiles. "They're from my parents. Esme thought that maybe…we could use a little time to ourselves. A little vacation."
And the picture on the card makes sense when I look at the tickets destination. "Italy?"
"I told her it was too much."
My face agrees.
"That's why I bought the journal. In case you wanted to hit me with something." His attempt at holding a serious face fails…and I love his smile.
"I like the journal. I don't get it, but I like it."
"Just not the tickets?"
"It's a little much, like you said."
He nods. "We don't have to go…I know there's a lot going on."
"But…you want to…right?"
His eyes say it. I look back down to the journal. I lift it up and wiggle it.
"Why did you really buy this?"
He shrugs. "I thought if we went, you might want to write in it. And if we don't go…then maybe you'd still like to write in it."
My heart could burst from the love I have for him. And I think this is where I'm supposed to try. I'm supposed to step over that invisible line and cross it, where it isn't comfortable.
"I'll think about it. Okay?"
It's a hopeful nod. I place the gifts down and wrap my arms around his neck. He holds me tightly and tells my ear sweet things. I tell them back to his shoulder.
Grace just 'talks' to her sun-catcher.
Saturday - Work
I never realized how much I hated this place until I was free from it for a few weeks. The weather has cleared up and things are back in full swing. I am trying to figure out this damn table chart as one of the other waitresses pauses, smacking gum in my ear. She's cool, but a little…yeah.
"Man, did I just score."
I look over to Peg. "I didn't know you and the bus boys had it like that."
She snorts and nudges me. "No. Not like that. Table fifteen. Total hotness. I'm going to write my number on his ticket." More nudging. "If ya' know whatta mean." Laughter.
I look towards the table. My heart pauses. Then, I laugh too. At the unbelievable.
I look down to the seating chart. Still feels weird. "That's my boyfriend."
She is still staring at him. "He's in my section, Bella. My boyfriend. You're stuck with the geezer and Tom Gropey Fingers at three."
I look up and shake my head. "No, I'm serious. That's my boyfriend. His name is Edward."
Her eyes think I'm joking until no more laughter comes out of me. Her face sours.
Disappointed. "Shit." She glances at him. "Should have known. His clothes are too nice to eat here. Damn. I bet he would have tipped good, too."
I smile. "Sorry."
I walk towards him and feel nervous. I'm not sure what he's doing here. But my heart feels high. A foolish part of me wants to skip. He looks up as I slide into the booth, across from him.
I smile. "Stalking me in your free time, Cullen?"
His eyes like my words. "Nope."
"Have a serious craving for barbeque?"
A faint smile, but it doesn't reach his eyes. "Esme and Alice are hosting Girl's Night. Billy's doing better and Jacob is back with him. Emmett and Rose are doing their family thing." Eyes look to my hands. He reaches over and takes one into his.
There's something going on with him. There's that lost look.
He's talking to my hand. "And you're here. So…home isn't…" he pauses and then, presses my palm to his lips several times. And without words, I know what he's saying. I feel it on my skin and wetness stinging my eyes.
Both of his hands cup mine. "I just miss you, Bella." Another kiss. "I don't want to get you in trouble, though. I'll order something." Another kiss and he lets go, picking up the menu in front of him. My mouth should be used to this by now. It should know what to say to a Cullen who is lost. A Cullen who is deliciously sweet and fucking charming.
"What's good here?" He asks, eyes down on the plastic menu.
I find a voice. "You."
His lips smile, but his eyes don't look up.
"On the menu, Sweetheart."
I shake my head. "Nothing."
He looks up. He's teasing. "I think you're supposed to suggest something, anyhow."
I watch him for a moment. I glance to my surroundings. Back to him.
"The problem with going to therapy, Edward, is that I am supposed to be honest and shit. The problem with drinking is that people do it to mask themselves. So, between having loads of one and not the other…it's kind of hard to bullshit, now. I'm not…" I look down to the dirty on this table. I feel how my clothes stick to me and how I know I reek of fried food and hickory smoke. I know my bed upstairs is cold. I know the guy at table two is going to check out my ass when I get up.
"The truth is that I'm a shitty waitress. Most of the time I can't remember what table order what drinks or food and it pisses off the cooks because I fuck up their tickets. I get shitty tips because of my killer personality and I really don't even care. I'm not good at faking it…not anymore. And tips…I used to make great tips. I used to be a great actress, Edward. But that's when I was good at it. When I wanted to be. I don't want to be."
His hand finds mine again and he talks to them. "Then…come home."
He's looking at them because he thinks I'll say no and let him down. His face…it just kills a part of me. If someone looked in this window right now, they would see the broken and the pain in his eyes. That he came all this way just to see me. Just to not be alone.
He puts himself on the line. He puts his heart out there even though I've done horrible things to it in the past. And while his hands hold mine, I want to reach over and if I could, just hold his delicate heart in my hands, like a fragile paper-winged butterfly. So gently and not let it fly free. Away.
I watch as his brows scrunch. As he looks up. He's waiting for it to get snagged away.
"Alright." I smile a little, so he knows I'm honest.
We lay quietly on the couch. The fireplace is burning and Grace is sleeping in her room. There's no TV on. Just music, softly. There are bags that still need to be unpacked on his bedroom floor. An hour away, there is a rather pissed off ex-boss/landlord. Here, there is lavender-scented cotton pressed against my face and under my palm. There are fingers sliding through my hair and whispered words in between stolen kisses.
"Have I ever told you I love you?" That's one of them.
I kiss him back. "I loved you first."
He smiles as he disagrees. "I said it first."
I try to convince him with my mouth. Both ways. "Doesn't mean you did."
His laughter feels like Heaven against me. A kiss to my forehead. His hand is held out.
"Depends what you are asking."
"Have this dance," he clarifies, with a nod toward the speakers.
I give him my hand and he pulls me off the couch, into the open space of the living room. And in the dim blue and golden, there is everything. Fingers to spin me around, twirl me in a circle and then hold. Surrounded in arms and warm. My cheek to the white of his shirt. Heart to ear and everything. Chin on my on head and safety.
And if they looked through the window right now, they wouldn't see fighting. They wouldn't see anyone lonely or in need. They would just see…