I liked her chaos,
The way she blew into my life
Like a fucking storm;
Tearing the nails and windows
Out of my soul
And opening me to the sky.
I don't know why I expected anything other than rain on Sunday, but that's exactly what I got. Determined to make the best of it, I plopped a roast into the crockpot and cranked it on, then made a full pot of coffee. I drank more than I know any person should, but it was an addiction. I didn't have any other vices, and I figured coffee wasn't likely to send me to an early grave. When the old grandfather clock chimed ten times, there was a knock on my front door.
I peered out the living room window first, spotting the honey of a Mustang parked along the street. When I opened my faded red door, there stood the best advertisement for menswear. Rain clung to his long lashes and brows, making me yearn to brush them off for him. His hair was wet, and I watched as he ran his hand through it, displacing the droplets onto his broad shoulders.
"Can I come in?" he asked. I blushed at being caught staring.
"Of course, sorry." I stepped back, inhaling his warm, enticingly male scent as he passed me. Fuck, I was so screwed. Who smells people?
He looked around, taking off his coat. I took it and hung it on the coat rack near the furnace. Suddenly nervous as a whore in church, I clasped my hands in front of me to try to prevent myself from simply mounting him in my living room. "There's coffee. Would you like a cup?"
"Why is it that you're so uncertain?" he murmured, standing closer to me. He placed his palm over my racing heart, long fingers stretching up to my shoulder. I shivered, and bit back a moan. "Normally that's me, but now I feel completely at ease." His breath fanned over my cheek, and it smelled of something spicy. Cinnamon gum, maybe. My own parched mouth watered in reaction.
"It's you," I admitted. "You make me feel… things I can't even explain to myself."
"Mmm," he hummed. The thumb of his free hand rubbed against my cheekbone, the pad a little rough; each ridge of his fingerprint seemed engraved in my subconscious. My brain muddled, and I blinked.
"How the fuck do you do that?" I hissed.
"Send my system into overdrive just by being close."
His grin was slow and only pulled up on one side. "I do that?"
"Well, somebody ate their Wheaties." I intended to sound sarcastic and witty, but to my own ears I sounded breathless and excited. "I'm glad you're so confident today."
"I did promise not to dip my pen into all of your luscious ink, didn't I?"
I pulled my lower lip into my mouth, biting on it to distract myself from the way his tongue and mouth formed the word luscious. "You're not playing fair."
"I haven't done a thing, Crush." Sadly, he really hadn't. I wasn't that hard up, either, it was just him.
I blew out a breath, ruffling the strands of hair framing my face. "Would you like some coffee?" I repeated my previous offer.
There went that grin again. "I would love to have some."
I turned, muttering, "For fuck's sake," on my way to the kitchen.
I felt fantastic. Bella wanted to get to know me; she didn't just want Jack, she wanted Edward, too. I'd turned her on without even trying.
Feeling smug, I sat down at her kitchen table. I watched the rain out the window over the sink, then accepted the mug she set in front of me. She was wearing jeans and thick socks, a long red sweater hitting her mid-thigh. She'd pulled her hair up on her head, but some of it cascaded like melting chocolate around her face.
When she sat across from me, I just started talking. I told her about being an only child and meeting Jane as a little boy. I told her how at first she was like my sister, because I was too young to be interested in girls. We spent a lot of time together, and our parents always spoke about us like we'd end up married. I first asked her on a date at 12, and our parents chaperoned, thinking we were adorable. I kissed her for the first time at 15, and she said I was awful at it.
"You've improved," Bella murmured at that.
"Well, I'll go ahead and admit that she hated any form of intimacy with me. She said she had PCOS, so of course I respected the times she said it would be painful. But she didn't like public affection, even holding hands, and she rarely allowed me to kiss her. I thought it was me," I said quietly.
"I have to say, you two could not have been less compatible. You are selfless, and she is clearly selfish. There are other things I could call her for the way she treated you, but I'll refrain for now." She got up, her chair loud on the old linoleum, but her steps silent. She crouched by my chair and took my hands in hers. "Even drunk, Edward, you thought of me. You weren't mean, even when you took what you wanted."
I could feel my face heat. "I still don't remember any of it. God, it kills me that I have that memory lapse, because I want to know what that first time felt like. The first time should be-"
"It should be whatever it is, not what someone else tells you it should be. Even if Jane was a lily white virgin the first time, it couldn't have been perfect. Nothing about sex is perfect, Edward. It's messy, sweaty, sometimes funny. Things go wrong, and God, sometimes things do go as close to perfect as possible." She looked down, and my heart was the one racing in my chest. "Tell me something, was that the first hummer you've gotten?"
I frowned, then cleared my throat. "I don't even know what that means," I admitted sheepishly.
She dropped her head back, then brought it up again. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear you were an old lady. A blow job, sweetheart."
"Ah, jeez. I didn't- I don't-"
"I'll take that as a yes. You know, your ex is a piece of shit. For someone I'd bet ten-to-one takes it up the ass, she sure wasn't kosher with deep throating her fiancé." At my horrified expression, she stopped speaking.
"Can we change the subject?" I squeaked out.
"Of course." She stood, then pulled on my hands to yank me out of my seat.
"What-what are you doing?"
"Just come on," she said, and ran to the back door. Throwing it open, she pulled me out into the pouring rain, spinning and melding her mouth to mine. It was freezing, but her lips were warm, her hot breath mixing with mine as our tongues met frantically. She made me feel like I could soar, the way she showed me the world from her perspective.
When we broke apart to gasp for air, she laughed, spinning in circles with her arms to the sky. She was wild and untamed, and she was choosing to be with me.
When we rushed back inside, laughing like crazy, I showed him where I still had a pair of my dad's sweats and t-shirt so he could change. When we were no longer soaked, I threw our clothes into the dryer before making grilled cheese for lunch. We curled up in front of the fireplace to finish talking.
I wanted more than anything to share my father with Edward. They would have liked each other, I was sure of it. "So, my dad was Charlie Swan. He always wanted to be a professional artist, but he couldn't summon the courage to show anyone but us his art." I shifted my legs, tangling them with his on the rug. "Then Mom got pregnant, and Dad knew he had to have a better paying job than starving artist slash diner cook. So he made a deal with the owner of the building where Charlie's is now. He would remodel it himself and pay a percentage of the first five years' sales to the old man. Duke wasn't making any money off of a run down building anyway, so he agreed." I took a sip of coffee. "Dad wound up paying old man Duke $10,000 the first year, ten percent of the profit every month. It's always been a success, because it's the only bar in Forks since prohibition. Dad was successful, he was teaching me the ins and outs, and I saved every penny I earned at the bar. The girls and I bought the shop, opening the first tattoo parlor closer than PA. While we weren't an instant success, we made steady money. Many of the Quileutes earn money from the government renting their lands, and the younger set spends it on booze and tattoos. I was dating Jake, and he was a decent guy. Then he started drinking heavily the busier I got, and I couldn't stand to be with him anymore. I pretended things were fine, though, to not cause stress for my dad."
He squeezed my hand as I took a deep breath, and I shot him a grateful smile. "My Dad started having pain in his abdomen. He told mom he'd see the doctor, but he was busy, so he put it off. When he went, three months after the pain started, the doc told him he thought he had bladder cancer. He set Dad up for the exploratory surgery." I wiped an errant tear from my lashes. "They went ahead and removed the lining of his bladder while they were there, because they'd confirmed it. He had to have chemo weekly for six weeks, then monthly for six months." A sobbing breath escaped my lungs. "It was awful. He looked healthy, because the chemo goes straight into the bladder. But it knocked his potassium levels off, and he'd have sudden muscle spasms. He kept ripping his shirts, clawing at his own flesh to try to stop the pain."
I felt Edward shift, and he wrapped his arms around me from behind, nestling my head back on his chest. "He drank pickle juice," I laughed through my tears. "It removes the sodium in your body, causing the muscles to relax. So coconut water, bananas, and pickle juice was his diet for some time." I traced a pattern on the back of his hand. "Then they did another scope of his bladder, and he was in the clear. We thought he was healed, and that life could go back to normal. Then he had a follow up three months later, and it was back." I stopped talking for a few minutes, staring at the fire and tracing stars on the palm Edward offered me. "Two years we went back and forth. Lining removal, chemo, rest period, scope. It was always there, taunting us. He never stopped going, working the day after his surgery most of the time. I started the routine of covering everybody, the bar and the shop, caring for Dad on surgery days and then Mom when she got too weepy. It was tragic in a way, to watch a man so full of life be so determined not to give death a chance to sneak in. He would use that quote, 'a body in motion stays in motion', and work, and teach me the paperwork at the bar, and take me target shooting, and hunting, and it was like he was trying to cram a lifetime into his last days." The tears would not stop even if I wanted them to, so they flowed down my face unchecked.
"It must have been hard for you to be strong," Edward said.
"Oh, but I put up one hell of a front. My dad would not see me cry, or slow down, or bend under all the motherfucking weight on my shoulders. I did everything, Edward, and I only cried when he took his last breath. Only when he was truly gone did I shed a tear, and then every night I would cry myself to sleep. I got this chest tattoo in his memory; the sands of time wait for no one, and the wings because he's my guardian angel."
I couldn't take it anymore; I got up and ran to the door, throwing it open and gulping in the cool air. The dampness left over after the storm swirled in patterns over the grass, and droplets lined up on the brown leaves that still clung to the trees. I felt him behind me, his large warm hands on my shoulders.
"When life is too much, and you have no choice but to bend, there should be someone to help to hold you up. You shouldn't have to carry all of that weight alone, Bella."
At his words, my heart swelled in my chest before beating twice as hard.