Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas


The first day of my summer vacation I slept well into the afternoon. I very carefully budgeted my salary during the school year, enabling me to spend my time off unencumbered by responsibility. I puttered into my kitchen and started the coffee pot. While I pondered breakfast,  my iPhone chirped with a message from Edward:

Meet me at the art museum at four. I’ll be on our bench.

That gave me just enough time to shower, dress, and get myself over there. Food could wait. I chugged some coffee and ran upstairs to get ready.

After I finished in the bathroom, I stood in front of my closet in a daze. My fashion crisis was ridiculous; I didn’t need to impress him. This wasn’t a date, and even if it were, I never wasted time second guessing clothing choices. I settled on a white camisole and a black, knee length a-line skirt. The combination left a sliver of flesh exposed where the top ended and the waistband of the skirt began. It was slightly suggestive, but I went with it anyway. I put my hair up in a sloppy bun, stepped into flip-flops, grabbed my bag and caught the next train into town.

It seemed to take  longer than usual to find my way to the European art wing, and my excitement about seeing Edward fueled my impatience. I rounded the corner toward our bench to find Edward waiting for me, wearing dark jeans and a fitted white T-shirt and looking far too tempting for his own good.

He rose to his feet when he saw me. “Shall we?” he asked, gesturing to the exhibition hall.

We made our way through the galleries, keeping our conversation light.

“How does it feel to be a high school graduate?” I asked.

“Honestly? I feel as if I’ve just been paroled.”

I chuckled.

“No, seriously. It’s amazing.”

“And you decided to spend your first day of freedom with Degas?” I gestured to the bronze sculpture in front of us.

“Wouldn’t you?”

We rounded a corner before he spoke again; this time, his tone was serious. “No, that’s not why I came here today. I wanted to spend some time with you, and I thought the Art Museum was my best chance at making that happen.”

“Ah, subterfuge,” I teased.

After passing a few Monets and a Renoir, he spoke again.

“Do you have anything planned for the summer?”

“Nothing whatsoever. My plans are to have no plans. My best friend, Alice, is getting married in September. She’s been borderline psychotic about the whole wedding thing, so I’m sure she will keep me busy. There’s  also work to be done on my house, and I’d like to go to the beach when possible. Even without school, the next two months will probably fly by.”

“Where are you from?”

“When did we start playing twenty questions?”

He laughed at my evasiveness; I decided that I loved his laugh.

“You mentioned going ‘to the beach’. No one from around here would use that expression. We’d say ‘down the shore’.  This tells me that not only are you not from Philadelphia, but you haven’t lived here long. Colloquialisms tend to be infectious.”

I stopped walking and studied his face. I’d never met anyone who noticed so many tiny details.

“I’m from a small town in Washington State, near the Olympic peninsula.”

“Is your family still there?”

“My father is, yes.  I think my mother is in Florida.”

“You’re not close with them.”

“No. They married at eighteen and had me soon after. My mother left when I was a baby. My father is a police officer who words nights; I was usually left with our neighbor.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be; it’s fine.”

“No, it isn’t. Familial support is so empowering. It saddens me that so few persons experience it.” He must have sensed my discomfort, because he quickly changed the subject. “What brought you to Philly?”

“I went to college in Ohio. I’d tell you the name of the school, but I doubt you’ve heard of it. They offered me a full ride, and I saw it as my opportunity to start living on my own terms. Let me tell you—setting foot on campus that first time was the most amazing feeling ever, and knowing I had no ties to home was empowering in its own way. I met Alice my freshman year, and we became instant friends. We moved to Philadelphia together after graduation to be close to her fiancè, Jasper, who is at Penn. Alice and I lived in Center City until she moved in with him in December; I moved to Jersey earlier this year.”

“That’s it?” He sounded surprised. “No husbands?  No children? No stalkers?”

“No,” I confirmed, laughing.

“No boyfriends?”

Oh.  I should have known  Edward wouldn’t do small talk.

“None worth mentioning.”

“Any not worth mentioning?” His voice wavered ever so slightly.

“No.”

He seemed to relax, and we passed the next several minutes pretending to pay attention to the artwork until Edward  broke the silence.

“Do you have any plans next Saturday?”

I shook my head. “What did you have in mind?”

“I’d like to surprise you.”

“I hate surprises.”

“All surprises?”

“Yes, all surprises.”

“You’ve never had a good surprise?”

“No,” I assured him. “Not that I can recall, anyway.”

We reached the dimly-lit doorway at the far end of the modern art exhibition I’d always assumed was a service entrance.  I turned around, thinking we’d start working our way back.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“We’ve seen everything in this gallery.”

He took my hands and pulled me into the dark.  Once my eyes refocused, I realized we were in a small room. The wall opposite us had a set of wooden doors with two small openings, set apart like peepholes. He stroked my knuckles with his thumbs as he led me to the doors.

“Have you never been back here?”

I shook my head; the amount of effort I was putting into ignoring my body’s reaction to his touch rendered me incapable of speech.

“Go ahead,” he said, stepping to the side. “Look.”

I let go of his hands and peered through the peepholes.  A nude woman was sprawled on a bed of twigs with her legs spread , her most private place on display for all to see.  Gasping, I rose onto my toes to get a better look.

Then I felt it—Edward’s hands rested on each of my hips, and his chest pressed against my back.

“Are you surprised?”  His breath teased my ear as he spoke.

“Yes,” I whispered.

“Would you consider it…unpleasant?” His tone was shockingly suggestive.

“No.”

Placing a small amount of pressure on one of my hips, he turned me to face him. Keeping one hand on my waist, he dragged the other up my side. Carefully avoiding my breast, his fingertips slid over my rib cage, my shoulder, and my neck. He tucked  a loose piece of hair behind my ear,  then angled my face toward his.  The pad of his thumb grazed my  face, from my cheekbone to my mouth,  where it applied soft pressure to the center of my bottom lip.  By the time my mind caught up with what was happening,  he’d dropped his hands and stepped away.

I looked at him with what I could only describe as wonder.

“You aren’t mad at me, are you?”

I shook my head.

“Isabella, please say something.”

His use of my given name cut through my intoxication.

“Bella. I prefer Bella.”

“Bella,” he repeated, a triumphant smile spreading across his lips. “Are you meeting your friends tonight?”

I nodded.

“You should get going then.”

I was still in a daze as we left the museum.

“About next Saturday,”  he said. “Can you be ready at six?”

Wait. Had I actually agreed to go on a date with a boy who less than twenty-four hours ago was still in high school?  Thankfully, I was able to reclaim articulation.

“I don’t recall saying yes.”

“Bella,” he said, laughing. “We both know you have no intention of ever telling me no.”

He opened the door of a waiting cab and gestured for me inside.

“Until Saturday then.”

“Until Saturday.” He waited until I was situated then shut the door.

As the cab moved into traffic, I replayed the past couple of hours. I wasn’t sure which I found more surprising—the fact that Edward was brazen enough to almost kiss me, or that fact that I was disappointed he hadn’t.

When I arrived at McGillin’s, I was grateful to find Rose sitting alone.

“Bella! I’m so glad you made it. Alice called, Jasper and Emmett are running late and she’s waiting for them. It’s just us for another hour or so. I ordered a pitcher.”

“I am so fucked.” I sank into the chair and told her everything, starting at the very beginning.

She listened intently, only interrupting to order us another pitcher of beer.

“Seventeen? Okay, I have to ask, and don’t get pissed off. Is this just about sex?”

“We haven’t even kissed.”

“I know. I also know that chronological age in and of itself isn’t an indicator of sexual experience. There are seventeen-year-olds who’ve had more sexual partners than Alice has shoes. Edward, however, seems to have had no experience whatsoever. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the little incident you two just had at the Art Museum was the first time he’d ever touched a woman besides his mother. If you do fuck him, he’ll be enthusiastic and very willing to please. You could train him to do everything exactly how you like it.”

I rolled my eyes.

“What?” she asked.

“That hadn’t occurred to me.”

“You just said the kid barely touched your face and you wanted to rip his clothes off.”

“That’s the thing—I want so much more. He’s amazing. I wouldn’t dream of cheapening him with a zipless fuck.”

“He’s going to start college in the fall. You know what that means.”

“I know,” I said, sighing.  “Drugs, booze and random sex.”

“No matter what you decide, it’s all just a matter of time. Do you have any idea where he’s taking you Saturday?”

“Well, he’s too young to get a hotel room.”

“He wants you, but I suspect it goes well beyond the physical—for both of you.” She drummed her index finger on the table, then took a sip of her beer. “What now?”

“I need to pursue this.”

For the first time since meeting Edward, I was completely honest with myself.

“Okay,” she said. “You would know better than anyone else. But don’t tell Alice. I know you’ve been friends forever, and you might as well be family. You think she’ll love you no matter what. Trust me on this. She won’t. She will never get past his age and that he was a student at your school —even if you didn’t know that when you met him. If there’s one thing you don’t need, it’s her shit storm of guilt raining down on you while you try to figure this out. I think we should keep this between us, for now at least.”

“Thank you.”

“I hope we’re not interrupting.” Jasper’s voice startled me. “You two looked pretty serious.”

Alice looked at me questioningly  as Jasper and Emmett joined us at the table.

“Of course, we’re serious.” Rose explained. “We were having a very serious discussion about the attributes of letter pressing over cheaper printing methods. I was explaining to Bella that there are lots of snobby bitches out there who feel the backs of invitations to check if they were properly engraved.”

“Like my mother!” Alice said, sliding into the booth. “See, Jazz, people totally notice these things.”

All tension was soon lost in cheap beer and bad singing.





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11 Responses

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  1. on 14 Sep 2010 at 7:08 amAshley (Design Major)

    Just to let you know, I when I first read your fic, it was on Twilighted, so there was no image. I swore you made up the Duchamps installation, so I searched on multiple occasions until I FOUND IT! I was like, (=O)! And now, I will forever associate the museum with you and your story.

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  2. on 28 Sep 2010 at 8:52 pmlisa89

    I really enjoy your Rose. She’s not a bitch, but she’s blunt, honest, to the point, and seems like a really good friend to Bella. Awesome.

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  3. on 24 Oct 2010 at 9:58 pmWendy Ross

    I LOVE this Rose- finally a deep, honest, to-the-point portrayal! I also love your use of artwork- both the image and the symbolism- I died today because I had a bunch of stuff to do instead of reading! I thought about Edward and Bella every second and was lost in my little world! Thank you for that- loving this fic!

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    Colleen reply:

    So happy you’re enjoying it.

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  4. on 11 Nov 2010 at 5:10 amkng1986

    I forgot how much I enjoyed reading these two getting to know each other. Thank you for posting it here.

    I haven’t been to the Art Musuem in several years but I’m recently retired and after reading this again, I will make sure to visit soon.

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  5. on 25 Nov 2010 at 12:49 pmBooksgalore/Bookishqua

    Rose is hell on wheels.
    Books

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  6. on 08 Dec 2010 at 5:03 pmNKubie

    Jeez, how can a non-kiss be so hot?!?

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  7. on 28 Dec 2010 at 6:25 pmFancastride

    Love how you put the art work in the story. Love to know is that art piece really there?

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    Colleen reply:

    Yes, it is. Everything mentioned (places, restaurants, art, etc) is real.

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  8. on 03 Jan 2011 at 9:09 pmSea4Me

    Wow! Which is more exciting? Peepholes in a museum or the crazy hotness of baby Edward? Sheesh, he has some moves! (great writing!)

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  9. on 26 Jan 2011 at 4:19 pmTennesseeLamb

    FB has been chatting this up..I couldn’t wait to dive in! Thanks for sharing!

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