After the Bath (Woman Drying Herself)


Wednesday morning, summer weather settled in the way I’d come to expect out here—with extreme heat and a level of humidity that defied logic. How was it possible to be so muggy all the time and yet not rain?

I finally bit the proverbial carbon-footprint bullet and fired up the window air-conditioning units that came with my house. I was actually grateful that I was not using the third floor. I shuddered to think at how much it would cost me to cool those two additional rooms.

I sat at my dining room table with my laptop and started reading about IUDs. There were aspects about it that scared me, but they didn’t scare me nearly as much as the fear that I would forget to take my pill. I decided to go ahead and do it. I called my doctor’s office and let the nurse know. She said they would be able to insert it at my appointment on Monday. One less thing to worry about when Edward and I have sex.

If Edward and I have sex. Not wanting to push the issue, I hadn’t made any advances toward him since our first date. It was less than a week ago, and yet it seemed like so much longer.

The sound of a lawn mower firing up outside  reminded me of another thing I needed to do. My yard may have been very small, but it still required upkeep. I hadn’t mowed the lawn since I moved in. I went to the dining room window to assess the situation and saw the grass was freshly cut. I went out to my porch and looked at the front lawn. It had also been mowed, and a strange SUV was parked in my driveway. The sound of the mower ceased, and Edward appeared before me, shirtless and drenched with sweat.

“Good morning,” he said, pulling me into his arms.

“Did you just mow my lawn?”

“No, you had a visit from the landscaping fairy. Of course, I mowed your lawn.”

“How did you know I didn’t have a lawn mower?”

“Because if you had, you would have mowed it yourself by now.”

“Thank you.” I hugged him even more tightly, wrapping my arms around him.

“I know how you can thank me.” He kissed my mouth.

By the time we pulled apart I was every bit as hot and wet as Edward was, though my condition had nothing to do with yard work or humidity.

“Is there any other way you’d like to be thanked?” I asked, sliding my hands into the back pockets of his jeans.

Fuck going slowly.

“You can let me inside out of this heat.”

“What makes you think it will be any less hot in there?”

“Because your air conditioners are running. Oh. Um… you’re being naughty, aren’t you?”

“Do you want me to be?” I squeezed his ass through the back of his jeans.

He blushed so intensely he looked sun-burnt.

“Let’s get you cleaned up.” I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable. I took him by the hand and led him inside.

“I haven’t showered yet, but you need one a lot more than I do,” I said as we reached the top of the steps. “Let me get you a towel and you can go first.”

“Or we could shower together.”

“Are you sure you’re comfortable with that?”

“I wouldn’t have suggested it if I weren’t. But if it’s not something you want to do, I’d be happy if you’d just let me see your boobies for a few minutes.”

I rolled my eyes at him.

“Mowing a two-hundred-square-foot lawn is a lot of work.”

“I would show you my boobs even if you hadn’t mowed my lawn.”

“And I would have mowed your lawn, anyway.”

Well, good thing we cleared that up. I pulled my tank top over my head and walked into the bathroom where I started the water running. When it was warm enough but not quite hot, I switched the stream from the tub to the shower. I stepped out of my shorts and underwear and climbed in, closing the curtain behind me so water wouldn’t get all over the place. After a couple of minutes, Edward joined me.

We stood there in the shower with the water flowing over us, without touching or speaking for several moments. His eyes never left mine, his internal struggle written clearly on his face. When he finally did lower his gaze, it lingered at the junction of my thighs.

“Are you always so…bare?”

“Only in the summer.”

His eyes narrowed slightly. “Why just in the summer?”

“It is called a bikini wax.”

“Oh. That makes sense, I guess.” He swallowed. “So, what do you do the rest of the year?”

“I have a landing strip.”

He swallowed again.

The entire time we’d been in the shower, I hadn’t moved my eyes away from his face.

“May I look at you?”

“I think I’d rather you didn’t.”

I took a deep breath. I knew I had to be very careful about how I handled this. A few poorly chosen words would fuck him up for life, and there were already quite enough of us walking around wounded.

“If you’re not ready for me to see you, that’s one thing. And that’s okay. Really. I can wait. But if you’re just concerned that I won’t like what I see, I would ask that you trust me. Do you trust me?”

He nodded.

“Are you ready for me to look at you?”

He whispered his answer. “Yes.”

I slowly lowered my gaze from his eyes past his face to his chest. I followed the trail of the shower stream down his chest, past the narrow trail of reddish hair beneath his navel, settling finally on his dripping-wet erection.

He wasn’t looking at me. He was looking somewhere over my shoulder.

“Is it…” He paused before continuing. “Is it okay?”

It killed me that he wouldn’t make eye contact.

“Edward, look at me.”

He slowly raised his eyes to meet my mine. They were filled with the fear of rejection.

“It’s perfect. You’re perfect.”

He exhaled. I could see the tension fall from his shoulders.

“May I wash your hair?” I asked. “You’ll have to get on your knees for me to be able to reach.”

He got down on his knees so I could touch his head. I put both of my hands in his hair and tilted his head back so he could see my face.

“I don’t want you to ever doubt yourself. Not with me. Not ever.”

“Okay.”

I squeezed a bit of my shampoo into the palm of my hand and started gently massaging his scalp. When I had worked up enough of a lather, he stood up to rinse while I began on my own hair. He stared at me as I worked the shampoo through to the ends of my hair, running my fingers through it before nudging him out of the way so that I could take his place under the water.

“That’s looks complicated,” he said.

“What, washing long hair? You get used to it.”

“No, that.” He angled his head down toward my crotch.

Laughing, I put my hands on his cheeks and gave him a quick peck on the lips. “You get used to that, too.”

I shut off the water and stepped out of the tub. I wrapped myself in a towel and handed another one to him before heading off to my bedroom. I threw on a tank top and a pair of sweat shorts. Edward rejoined me a few minutes later, towel dried and wearing boxer shorts, just as adorable as ever. He got right into bed with me, and I cuddled against his chest.

“So Carlisle is your wingman. The mystery of how a sixteen year old bought a glass of wine at the Art Museum is finally solved.”

Edward laughed. “Yes, I had help.”

“Your father. Now there’s a twist I didn’t expect. How’d you get him to do it?”

“Actually, it was his idea.”

“Whoa, your father encouraged you to hit on a teacher at your school?”

“Pretty much, yes.”

“Wait, how does that work?”

“He knew I’d been pining after you–”

“Pining?” I asked.

“Are you going to keep interrupting me?”

“No. You pined?”

“Yes, I pined.” He was getting exasperated.

“Wow,” I said.

He rolled his eyes at me. He was cute when he was pissed.

“I’m sorry. So you were pining–”

“Yes, I had been pining away for you for months and my father knew this. He gave me this huge pep talk and said that most women will be polite to you if you approach them with respect and that I should just go for it. He said he was fairly sure by the color of the wine you were holding that it was chardonnay, so he went to the bar and got some for me to give to you as a way to break the ice.”

“Was he expecting it to work?”

“No. He was actually really surprised that you spent the rest of the evening talking to me. Then he got kind of irritated because he had to wait for me outside for so long. He’d thought that because you taught at my school you’d let me down gently and that I’d learn that I had nothing to lose by putting myself out there like that. He never expected it would actually work. Of course, he’s happy for me that it did.”

“Your parents seem fun.”

“They are. You’ll see next weekend. I’m really glad you’re coming. I hated the idea of going nearly five days without seeing you.”

“I understand the feeling.” Oh, did I ever.

“So Emmett invited me to the Phillies’ game Saturday.”

“That’s should be a lot of fun. You’ll probably be in his father’s seats. They’re right behind home plate.”

“I wasn’t sure if I should go,” he explained.

“Why not?”

“I wanted to determine the origin of the invitation.” He looked at me quizzically.

“You mean you want to know if I asked Emmett to include you? I didn’t.”

He was quiet.

“Does that surprise you?”

“No, but I was starting to second guess myself,” he admitted.

“Will you go?”

“Yes. Do you mind if I borrow your laptop? I should send him an email and tell him we’re on.”

“Of course you may. It’s on the dining room table. Why don’t you bring it up here? I’m not ready to let you out of bed yet.”

Five minutes later, Edward had returned with my computer and I was leaning against his chest again. It was my new favorite place. My eyes were closed, and even though it was early in the day I could have fallen asleep on him so easily.

“Bella?” he asked.

“Yes?” I spoke with my eyes still closed.

“What’s this?”

I opened my eyes to the Firefox window detailing the pros and cons of IUDs.

“Something I’m getting. It’s not a big deal. You can close the tab.”

I truly hoped he wouldn’t push the issue. I’d had the birth control discussion exactly one other time and that was with the guy I dated for a year while in college. He was twenty-one and he wasn’t able to discuss it like an adult. I didn’t relish the idea of having the same discussion with a seventeen year old.

“Birth control?” he asked.

Fuck.

“Yes.” I hoped he would let it drop.

“Wait, you’re going to have that stuck up there?” He was bright red as he pointed to the picture of the IUD on the screen.

“Yes.”

“Will it hurt?”

“Probably a little.”

“Are you’re doing this for me?”

Several sarcastic comments came to mind, but they stayed there. Why was it so hard for me to tell him what I had no problem telling my doctor? To let him know that I wanted to be with him and him only?

“When the time comes I don’t want you to worry.”

He continued reading the page. “Are you sure? There’s a lot that can go wrong with this. It seems kind of invasive. Some people have crazy side effects and it still doesn’t protect against STDs,” he stated matter-of-factly.

“Is that something you’re worried about?”

“Should I be?” he asked.

I knew what he was asking but I was searching for an out.

“In general? Yes, it’s something that any responsible, sexually active person should worry about.”

“I wasn’t asking generally. My parents are doctors, I’ve been getting the safe sex talk since before I could walk. Specifically, as it pertains to us, is this something I should be worried about?”

I should be able to talk about this with him. Why was it easier for me to have sex than it was to discuss its repercussions?

“If you’re asking if I have any STDs, to my knowledge the answer is no. However, it’s been over a year since I was tested for HIV so I had the lab work done again last week. I’ll find out the results on Monday.”

“So you’re fine then.”

“We can’t assume that.”

“How many sexual partners can one person have in a year?”

Shit.

If only he knew.

Hell.

If I only knew.

“It only takes one.”

“True, but there’s more to this than that. Bella, the number of people you’ve slept with changes nothing. You’re older than me, I knew you were going to have more experience. That doesn’t bother me. The fact that you won’t tell me does bother me. It tells me you either don’t trust me or you don’t think I can handle your answer, and you were so convinced of this that you thought you needed to do all of this on your own.”

“It’s my body.”

“I know. But I still want to come with you on Monday.”

He had to be kidding.

“To my gynecologist? We’ve been dating less than a week! What’s next? Tomorrow are you going to run to Target and buy me tampons?”

“I’d go right now if you needed them. Look, I don’t need to be in the exam room with you. I’d actually prefer if I weren’t. But if you’re nervous about your test results, then you shouldn’t be there alone. Is that okay?”

“Yes,” I answered. Yet again, Edward Cullen managed to surprise me in a good way.

“Can I ask you something? You don’t have to answer.”

I nodded.

“You really did all this for me?”

“Yes.”

“You know I’ll wear condoms, right? I fully expected that when the time comes I would. You don’t have to do this for me.”

“Condoms as birth control are not infallible.”

I knew this. God, did I know this.

“I just wish you felt you could talk to me. There’s nothing you could say that would change how I feel about you.”

“I’m starting to believe that,” I said.

He sent the email to Emmett and closed the laptop.

“I should get going. I told my dad I’d have the truck back before lunch.”

He got up and threw his jeans back on. I walked him out to the door.

“Thank you, Edward…” I could thank him for specific things, but I knew I’d run out of time before I finished the ever-growing list. “…for being you.”

He smiled down at me and kissed me gently on the lips before stepping out on to my porch.

“You’re welcome. You’re always welcome.”

He got into the truck and left. He was seventeen. We’d been dating less than one week. It was insane. No amount of time could change that. But then again, traditional methods of measuring the passage of time had lost all meaning.

I knew I was falling in love with him.





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8 Responses

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  1. on 09 Sep 2010 at 5:24 pmAnnichka

    K, so I am just going to take this opportunity to shout out my Seinfeldian love for my birth control method of choice: “I LOVE MY IUD.”

    Sorry, I had to share ;)

    [Reply]

    Colleen reply:

    Youngward is totes IUD-worthy. :)

    [Reply]


  2. on 29 Sep 2010 at 7:49 pmlisa89

    Man, there’s so much about this fic I love. THANK YOU for writing this. I adore Edward mowing her lawn – I can’t get over how much I love this Edward – and his insecurities make him so sweet and innocent and beautiful and realistic. I really felt for him in the shower scene; that was beautiful written and I adored it.

    I also really love Edward’s relationship with his parents. For real. For really really real.

    [Reply]


  3. on 25 Nov 2010 at 1:24 pmBooksgalore/Bookishqua

    I like that they are building their way to intimacy. And that both are putting thought into this.
    Books

    [Reply]


  4. on 08 Dec 2010 at 10:46 pmNKubie

    I think I’m falling in love with him too. ;)

    [Reply]


  5. on 29 Dec 2010 at 4:11 amFancastride

    Edward acts more like an adult.

    [Reply]


  6. on 03 Jan 2011 at 10:44 pmSea4Me

    Both with their insecurities. So good he is trying to stop her from ‘protecting’ him. Really love this story!

    [Reply]


  7. on 28 Jan 2011 at 3:40 pmJanice

    I am having a hard time not falling in love with this story . . .

    [Reply]