Dinner Knives (six)

Internal metronome notwithstanding, I was never quite sure if Edward did count each second of the next twenty-two days at the time passed. I just knew that eventually it did pass. The days grew shorter, the air was colder, and the trees became bare. One day a giant vacuum rumbled through the streets, loud and foreboding, unceremoniously sucking fallen leaves from their curbside mounds and effectively erasing all evidence of summer. As I watched from my porch, I wondered where it took the leaves—if they’d end up in a landfill along with arcade tokens, boardwalk prizes and other souvenirs of summer that were once loved but now forgotten.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I found myself sitting in Tanya’s office. She really was rather pretty. Her strawberry blond hair fell to her shoulders and her skin was flawless.

“You seem in good spirits this afternoon. Anything exciting planned for the holiday?”

“My boyfriend is coming home. Even though I usually see him on weekends, it never feels like enough for me.”

“We haven’t talked about him yet. You’ve just mentioned your fear that you subconsciously withhold bits of yourself, as well as your fear that you sabotage your relationship with him because of how others have treated you. But you’ve told me nothing about him specifically. What is his name?” she asked.

Her question caught me a little off guard. Since Esme referred me to her, I’d assumed she’d already known about my relationship with Edward.


“And how did you two meet?”

Huh. Apparently not.

“At the Art Museum last February.”

“So you’ve been doing the long distance thing for a while then. Has it gotten easier for you?”

“Well, he’s only been away since September, so it’s actually fairly new. Although we met in February, we didn’t become involved right away because he was a student where I teach. We began dating in June, after he turned seventeen and graduated from high school.”

To her credit, if she thought there was anything wrong with my being involved with a seventeen year old, her face didn’t betray it.

“It’s not as bad as it sounds.”

She still had no reaction.

“You think I’m awful,” I muttered.

“Do you think you’re awful?”

“Sometimes.” I sighed. “Actually, I usually think I’m awful.”

“For being with Edward?”

“For being me, and in turn for corrupting him.”

“Is your relationship sexual?” she asked.

“Is there any other kind?” I pulled out my ponytail and put my hair into a loose bun. “Okay, that was stupid of me. I know other kinds of relationships exist. I’ve just never had one.”

“So tell me about Edward.” She flipped to a clean sheet in her legal pad.

“He’s brilliant. He has this way of seeing straight through my shit, and he’s never afraid to call me on it. He’s innocent. I mean, obviously not sexually, at least, not anymore. I kind of took care of that.” I giggled nervously.

The blank look on Tanya’s face made me extremely uncomfortable. I knew how it must sound to someone who didn’t know me. Shit. Who was I kidding? I knew how it sounded to me, and I knew all of the mitigating circumstances.

“You think I’m a pedophile, don’t you?” I asked.

“Do you think you’re a pedophile?”

“You answer questions with questions. Edward does that, too. He picked it up from his mother. It must be a mental health worker thing. ”

Tanya smiled. “Probably. So do you think you’re a pedophile?”

I sighed. “No. In fact, I know I’m not. I know there are women out there who are, some of whom are teachers. You see it on the news all the time. I think they get off on the idea of power, on being someone’s first everything, on being in control.”

“And you don’t?”

“No, I don’t.”

She flipped back a few pages and glanced at her notes. “You’d said that in the past you enjoyed the power you felt from participating in random sexual encounters. After discussing it at great length, you decided that you liked that you could experience physical release without sacrificing emotional control, and that was your primary motivation in pursuing serial one night stands.”

I nodded. “That’s true.”

“And you don’t feel that your sexual involvement with a minor is merely an extension of this? One could argue that you’re only allowing yourself to become emotionally involved with Edward because his age and inexperience allow you to retain complete control.”

I laughed. “Have you ever met Edward?”

“When would I have?”

“I figured you knew already. He’s Esme Masen’s son.”

A wave of recognition came over her face. “Yes, I have met Edward Cullen.”

“Then you know him.”

“I don’t know him, I know of him. I have met him a few times in passing when he was with Esme.”

“But you know Esme…”

“In a professional capacity, yes. I don’t know her personally.”

“Oh. Well, Edward is her mini me. He would never let me control him. Each and every time I have attempted to manipulate him, not only does it not work, but he calls me out on it and makes sure I realize that he’ll never fall for my shit. He’s far smarter than I am.”

“So is it his intelligence that makes you different from other teachers who have pursued their students?”

“Edward was never my student, he simply attended the school where I taught. I interacted with him exactly twice while I was working. I’m not with him because of his age, but in spite of it.”

“And taking his virginity?”

“That was just the natural progression of the relationship. I wanted to have sex with him right away. It had been a while for me and my attraction to him was intense. Plus, sex is something I can do for him. I don’t have much else to offer him, really. I would have put out on the first date, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Ultimately, he wanted me to be in love with him before we consummated our relationship, and I was. It was a wonderful experience because it was with him, not because it was his first time. I never found Edward’s inexperience exciting. If anything, it was exhausting. I teach all day, and I relish it, I do. I love my job, but it’s work. I don’t like to work when I’m at home, and certainly not when I’m in bed. I just want to be thrown down and fucked. I’ve told you how I was in college. I was used to being with people who were the same way. In the early stages of my relationship with Edward, it was all so much work.”

“You mean the sex?” she asked.

“Sexually and emotionally both. It just took a lot of effort on my part.”

“Do you feel as though it’s one-sided?”

“No. As much as I put into things, he puts in far more. I know that. I don’t deserve him.” I looked up at Tanya. Her face still betrayed none of her thoughts. “You do think I’m awful.”

“No, I don’t. I think it’s good that you’re here.”

“Because I’m a depraved, sexual deviant who preys on young boys.”

She let out a small giggle.

“Oh my god, there’s a real person under there. I was beginning to think you were a robot.”

“Do you frequently use humor as a form of avoidance?”

“Yes, though Edward would tell you my preferred method is sex.” I gestured towards her left hand, which wore a rather sizable diamond on her fourth finger. “Something tells me though, that you don’t swing that way. Besides, I think there are laws against that, and Edward would consider it cheating.”

With that she really did laugh. “I know I seem somewhat reserved to you, but your therapy isn’t about me. You need to feel comfortable enough to talk to me and know that I won’t judge you. If I reacted visibly each time you confided in me, it would become harder for you to talk to me, which would defeat the purpose. We’re out of time this week, but we’ll pick up where we left off next Wednesday.”

I thought about my sessions with Tanya as I made my pie crust later that evening. I didn’t mind going, but I couldn’t see where they were helping. I wondered if I had so many issues that it would take years for me to have a break through. Still, having an hour each week where I could talk about whatever I felt I needed to without burdening Edward was nice. It made it easier for me to protect him from the mess that I was inside – even if he did claim to love me anyway.

Edward picked me up for Thanksgiving dinner looking more as if he were headed to a country club than to a family dinner, and I immediately questioned my fuck me boots and pencil skirt.

“Am I okay?”

I gestured to my body and Edward pulled me against him. “You are perfect.”

“I was going for young, but next to you I feel kind of slutty.”

Edward laughed. “You said it, Bella, not me.” He gestured to the high-neckline of my blouse. “Besides, you’re all covered up.”

He gave me a squeeze and I recalled that family dinner during which I first met Esme. To say it hadn’t gone well was an understatement.

“Edward, I need a crash course in your grandparents.”

“What would you like to know?”

“Well, for starters, why you’re dressed like that.” I gestured to his dark sport coat.

“My attire has nothing to do with them. It is customary to wear a jacket to dinner, Bella.”

“I understand that. What I don’t get is why you look like Brooks Brothers threw up on you.” I touched his hair. It was heavy and held in place with product. “Nor do I comprehend what is up with the CEO hair. You know, there are entire blogs devoted to mocking how you’re decked out right now.”

“Am I that much of a clichè?”

“Maybe I’m being a little hard on you. It’s not like you’re wearing a Princeton tie or something.”

“It’s in the car,” he admitted sheepishly. “I didn’t want the seat belt to pull on it.”

“You do understand that Halloween was over a month ago?”

“I do not look scary.”

“Scary is too mild a word. Quite frankly, I’m terrified. Since I’ve never met your grandparents, nor have I ever seen you dressed like this, I can only assume the two are related. So spill it. I need all of the details on them so I can mentally prepare myself. What are their names?”

“Jack and Kitty. They will tell you to call them that.”

“What do you call them?” If he addressed them formally, as Grandfather and Grandmother or something equally affected, that would speak volumes. I’d have a better idea of what kind of people they were, and could tailor my behavior accordingly. I may have come from a working class background, but I’d spent enough time around Alice’s parents over the years to have cracked the code.

“I call them Jack and Kitty.”


“Jack went to Princeton and graduated in 1962. Kitty’s from the Main Line and was a debutante, a fact which embarrasses her tremendously. Both were active in the Civil Rights Movement.”

“Didn’t Kitty go to Princeton?”

“No. We didn’t take women until 1969.”

His choice of pronouns made me uncomfortable. My man was becoming The Man. I didn’t like it one bit.

“Of course not. Got to keep the women folk barefoot and in the kitchen.”

“Right. This is why my grandmother has a graduate degree from Penn, a live in housekeeper, and a shoe fetish. Speaking of a woman’s rightful place, where’s my pie?”

He tickled me lightly underneath my arms and I collapsed against him laughing.

“In the kitchen. I made it from scratch with a pumpkin picked from a local farm, just like you wanted.” I playfully smacked his chest. “Are you saying that’s where my rightful place is? In the kitchen next to your freshly baked pie?”

He started unbuttoning my shirt. “I’ll show you where your rightful place is.”

“Stop it. We’ll be late. Besides, I totally can’t fuck you with your hair like that.”

“You’re kidding. All that time in the beginning when you tried to seduce me at every turn, I could have warded you off with a little bit of Fudge?”

I couldn’t contain my giggles. “Your hair product is called Fudge?”

He nodded.

“You do realize what that makes you when you pack it in your weekend bag, right?”

“No, I don’t. I need a demonstration. Why don’t you bend over the dining room table and show me?” He reached up my skirt and palmed my ass. “I’ll pack your fudge.”

“You can’t.” I pushed his hand away. “Not only am I out of lube, but then we’d be really late.”

He sighed and began to refasten the buttons of my blouse. “You did say you’d be willing to try that and you’ve yet to make good on your promise.”

“I am willing to try it, just not today. If it doesn’t work, do you really want to have to explain to Jack and Kitty why I’m sitting funny?”

“Good point.”

“Anything else I should know about your grandparents?”

“Bella, relax. They’re normal people, and not all that different from my dad. They’re going to love you.”

I was at Edward’s house for about five minutes when I realized exactly how relative the word ‘normal’ can be. John Carlisle Cullen III and his wife, Katherine, were nothing at all like Edward’s parents, despite Edward’s claims to the contrary. In fact, if Carlisle were not the spitting image of his father, I would seriously question his parentage. It turned out the man I’d come to know as Carlisle was actually John Carlisle Cullen IV. Alice and I used to joke the higher the Roman numeral was, the smaller the penis. Our methods of coming to this conclusion were not at all scientific, and I hoped for Esme’s sake we were wrong.

Kitty’s blond hair was pulled off her face in a chignon almost as tightly as her face had been lifted. Her make-up was flawless. They were dressed expensively but conservatively.

“Jack, Kitty.” Edward nodded to each of his grandparents as he addressed them. “This is Bella.”

I was mildly put out by the fact that he didn’t introduce me as his girlfriend, and wondered briefly if they were aware of the nature of our relationship.

I smiled. I shook his grandfather’s hand first, followed by his grandmother’s. Her hand was very bony, much like the rest of her. I doubted this woman had consumed a carbohydrate since the 1960s.

“Edward tells us you’re a public school teacher.” Jack sipped scotch as he spoke. “We’re always grateful to brave young people who are willing to work in the trenches to better our children’s future.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, but I teach in the district where Edward attended. It’s hardly a war zone. It’s not like I teach in Camden.”

“Is there a difference?” Jack looked genuinely perplexed. “Don’t public schools have to accept all students who live within the geographic sending area?”

“More or less.”

“You can’t be selective. There are inherent dangers in forced inclusiveness. Look, I would never dream of belittling the economically disadvantaged, as they certainly are not without their challenges. They are equally as deserving of a quality education as we are, but even the best public schools are still a bit…rough.”

In other words, the masses deserve to be educated as long as it’s someone else teaching them.

“I don’t see it that way.”

“You wouldn’t.”

Thankfully, Carlisle appeared and handed his mother an empty martini glass. She pulled a plastic flask out of what appeared to be a vintage Chanel bag, poured some clear liquid from the flask into the glass, and downed it.

“Edward tells me you were active in the Civil Rights movement.”

“Yes, I was. It’s such a tragedy when individuals are discriminated against for things over which they have no control. I was lucky enough to meet the late Dr. King. He was such a great man.”

I smiled and nodded, but chose not to point out that discriminating against one because of class was just as bad as doing so because of race.

As the conversation went on, I realized that Carlisle came from limousine liberals. It actually made a lot of sense – the money, the contradictory politics, the over-the-top preppiness, and the condescension.

“If you’ll excuse me, I should go see if Esme needs help with anything.”

I made my way into the kitchen where Esme was preparing a salad.

“Decide you needed to hide?” she laughed.

“Jack is an interesting guy.”

“Do you think so?”

“Was your father like that, Esme?”

She shook her head. “Hell no. And my mother is nothing like Kitty.”

“What a bizarre nickname.”

“When Carlisle and I were newly married, he wouldn’t let me drink around her. It was awful, because she’s always drinking. He was paranoid I’d slip and call her Pussy.”

I laughed so hard club soda came out of my nose. “Did you ever do that?”

“Not to her face,” she admitted. “But wait, it gets better. Apparently, her childhood nickname was Beaver.”

I smacked my hand across my mouth in disbelief.

“Get your mind out of the gutter, Bella. It was because of her overbite. No matter how you look at it, Kitty is an improvement over Beaver.”

I wasn’t sure how long I sat there laughing. My cheeks were still flushed when I heard Edward from across the room.

“I must have missed something very funny.” He sat next to me at the island.

“Why does your grandmother have a flask of pre-mixed martinis in her purse?” I asked him.

Edward laughed. “You met my grandfather. If you were married to him, wouldn’t you?”

“Probably. But it’s not like you don’t stock Grey Goose and vermouth.”

“That’s the thing. She doesn’t actually put vermouth in her martinis. She opens the bottle, passes it in front of the vodka and declares it ‘enough.'”

“So the flask is…” I stammered in disbelief.

He smiled. “Pure vodka.”

“She’ll be drunk before we even sit down for dinner.”

“What makes you think she’s not drunk already?” Esme asked.

She hurried off to the dining room with the salad bowl as Edward stood up and put his arms around me.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

“For what?”

“For not getting into an argument about classism with my grandfather.” He kissed my cheek. “He means well, you know.”

Half an hour later, we were seated around the dining room table. Carlisle said grace, and then asked Kitty to begin.

She turned to me and explained. “It’s a tradition we have. Every year we list one thing for which we are thankful. I’m thankful that despite the dour economy, the charities I support haven’t lost much funding.”

Amazingly enough, Kitty didn’t slur her words.

“I’m thankful for Bella.” Edward looked over at me, and there was no mistaking the emotion in his eyes for anything other than love.

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  1. on 01 Oct 2010 at 2:00 pmlisa89

    Haha, Jack and Kitty are very interesting characters. And that was a very sweet ending to the chapter. :)


  2. on 12 Nov 2010 at 9:04 pmkng1986

    After reading about Jack and Kitty, I wonder how Carlisle and Edward are so normal. The way Esme talked about Kitty made me laugh.


  3. on 25 Nov 2010 at 4:49 pmBooksgalore/Bookishqua

    OMG the conversation with Esme killed me. Very good thing I was not drinking at the time.


  4. on 30 Dec 2010 at 6:05 amFancastride

    So Tanya is helping Bella, can’t wrap my head around that. Edward’s grandparents are different.


  5. on 05 Jan 2011 at 8:47 pmSea4Me

    I’m glad Bella is talking in therapy. I’d love to know what Carlisle thinks of his folks. Beautifully poetic beginning.


  6. on 29 Jan 2011 at 8:39 pmJanice

    Funny chapter!! Poor Carlisle being the “IV” according to Bella and Alice – very funny – loved it!!
    It took Bella an awful long time to start talking about Edward. She’s really pretty messed up isn’t she?? I’m glad she’s getting help.


  7. on 17 Mar 2011 at 7:39 pmNHJO100

    Oh the shit that Bella is having to endure…geez. She really held her own though, and Esme is just a dream. Love her.