The Gates of Hell


It was amazing what one could take for granted until it was absent. Like bathrooms. Edward’s dorm did indeed have them, though they were neither private nor located anywhere near his room.

“How do you shower?” I asked in disbelief.

“The same way I always did. It’s just a bit of a longer walk.”

“What do you do? Wear a robe?”

“No. I just wrap a towel around my waist and make a run for it. Speaking of the bathrooms, will you be okay your own for a few minutes? I doubt Mike and Tyler will be back any time soon.”

“I’ll be fine.”

He kissed my cheek and hurried out the door. A few minutes later, I heard a knock. Dizzy and still clutching the can of Natty Light, I walked slowly across the common room and opened the door, thinking Edward must have forgotten his key. A tall young woman stood before me.

“I must have the wrong room,” she said, apologetically. “I’m looking for Edward Cullen.”

“No, you have the right room. He just stepped out for a moment. If you’d like, you can come in and wait for him.”

“Thank you,” she said.

We sat on the futon awkwardly for about a minute before I began making small talk.

“How do you know Edward?” I asked. Something told me she was not one of the rabid skanks whom he’d described.

“I’m his lab partner,” she explained. “And you?”

“I’m his girlfriend.”

“I should have known. You look just like your pictures.” She gave me a smile that appeared to be completely genuine. “I’m Angela. It’s nice to meet you, Bella. I’ve heard all about you from Edward.”

Edward reappeared just as I tentatively shook her hand.

Angela stood as soon as she saw him. Much to my amazement, she somehow managed not to gawk at his bare chest. “I’m really sorry to intrude. I know how precious your time is together. I just had a question about one of our assignments.”

I zoned out as they discussed their course work, but I did notice that her eyes never left his face as she spoke. I managed a small smile for Angela as she left.

“She seems nice. I can’t imagine her throwing herself at you.”

Edward laughed. “That’s because she wouldn’t. She’s practically engaged to her boyfriend from home. He’s at Columbia. They try to see each other on weekends.”

“You seem to really like her.”

“I do. She’s probably the best friend I’ve made on campus. She’s really helped me find my place here.”

I found myself wishing his closest college friend didn’t have a vagina, but I kept this detail to myself. “I’m just surprised you never mentioned her to me. I mean, you said you were friendly with your lab partner, but you left out the part about her being female.”

“Are you suggesting I intentionally mislead you?”

“Didn’t you?” I asked.

“No.” He took the beer can away from me and gently ran his fingers over my scalp. I winced when he grazed the bump on my head. “Where would you like to sleep?”

“Wait, there are options?”

“We could sleep on the futon out here, if you’d prefer. Of course, I’m not sure when Mike and Tyler will get in and they won’t be expecting us here. It could get awkward if they aren’t alone. I don’t blame you for being hesitant to return to the accident scene, but my bed is probably the best bet.”

“You won’t let me fall out, will you?”

“I plan on holding you all night.”

“Fine, then. The top bunk it is.”

“I’ll take you to the bathroom so you can get washed up.”

I opened the closet door to get a towel, which I could not locate. I was too distracted by a piece of paraphernalia roughly the size of a preschooler.

“What the fuck is this?”

“That would be a three foot tall bong.”

“I can see it’s a three foot tall bong. What the hell is it doing in your closet?”

Edward shrugged. “The last time they did room inspections, Public Safety put a post-it note on it telling us we couldn’t leave it in the common room anymore.”

“They didn’t confiscate it?”

“If they had it wouldn’t be in my closet, now would it?”

“I really don’t like the idea of this being here. The University may not care, but it’s illegal to even have something like this in your possession.”

He shrugged. “It’s Tyler’s. We share a closet. There’s not much I can do about that.”

“How often does he smoke?”

“Daily.”

“Please tell me we’re just talking about pot.”

“Yes, with the exception of Hard Drug Tuesday, it is just weed. Well, in our room at least.”

“My concussion must be causing me to hallucinate. You did not just say your roommates host something called Hard Drug Tuesday.”

“I’m just happy they contain it to one day of the week.”

“Do you participate?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer.

“Not in Hard Drug Tuesday. I have taken an occasional bong hit when I’ve been incredibly stressed. I can’t see myself ever doing it with regularity. I don’t really see the appeal of stoner culture.”

I sighed, shaking my head.

“Aren’t we the little hypocrite,” he said, squeezing my ass.

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about. You know I don’t smoke pot.”

“You don’t now. But I’ve seen your college photo albums. Despite all of your claims to the contrary, you’re noticeably stoned in roughly fifty percent of the pictures, and so are Alice and Jasper.”

“That was different.”

He rolled his eyes. “I can’t wait to hear how.”

“I went to school in the middle of Amish country. There’s nothing else to do out there.”

“You have to realize how you sound. We both know your drug use in college went well beyond experimentation, yet you judge me for taking an occasional bong hit. Here I thought we had progressed beyond the double standards.”

“It’s not a double standard. I just want better for you.”

“Duly noted. Now let’s get you ready for bed.”

He retrieved a towel for me and walked me to the ladies’ room. We’d had communal bathrooms where I’d attended college, but these were a new kind of foul. I made a mental note never to come up to see Edward without bringing flip-flops and found an empty toilet stall. Moments later I heard voices.

“Could today get any better? First I get an email telling me my morning class is cancelled tomorrow and then I see Edward Cullen shirtless.” Ivy League Skank Number One sighed. “Life would be perfect if he weren’t so wrapped up in himself.”

“According to Mike, he’s not wrapped up in himself at all. Apparently, he’s just devoted to his girlfriend from home.”

Ah, the voice of reason. Regardless, I shall still think of her as Ivy League Skank Number Two.

“Right. Well, that will probably be over by Thanksgiving. Do you know what the deal is there? Is she still in high school?”

Ivy League Skank Number Two giggled. “You could say that. Mike says he’s dating his former English teacher.”

“Oh my god, Jessica, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

“I wouldn’t make something like this up. Apparently, she’s twenty-five. Mike met her once. He says she’s hot.”

“She may be hot,” Ivy League Skank Number One said, “but she’s not here. Proximity is everything.”

I came out of the toilet stall and began to wash my hands next to where the two girls stood. One of the girls smiled at me, the other continued talking trash. I left the bathroom and found Edward right outside the door. I knew he’d heard their entire conversation. By the time the skanks opened the bathroom door, I’d pressed my mouth to his and wrapped my arms around his neck and my legs around his waist.

I patted his shoulder and broke away from our kiss, feigning embarrassment. “Edward, we’re not alone.”

“I’m sorry. You know I can’t control myself around you.” He turned around and addressed the skanks I’d overheard in the bathroom, nodding as he spoke each girl’s name. “Jessica, Lauren. I don’t think you’ve met my girlfriend, Bella.”

They looked shocked, but neither of them had the decency to attempt to appear remorseful. I didn’t extend my hand, I just nodded towards them.

“I’d love to stay and chat,” Edward began. “However, I really should get Bella in bed.”

I had no doubt that his double entendre was intentional.

“Goodnight, girls.” I used the most patronizing voice I could muster. “It’s been…enlightening.”

I could feel their glares burning into the back of my head as we walked away. Edward and I didn’t speak until we were safely back in his room.

“Could you hear what they were saying from the hallway?”

He nodded. “That was actually a bit mild for Lauren.”

“You seem to handle the attention well.”

“Do I?” he asked.

“Edward, there’s really no polite way to address being objectified like that. They’ll lose interest eventually. Unless of course you break up with me over Thanksgiving.”

He laughed, hugging me tightly. “Never.”

We went into his bedroom and he spotted me as I climbed up into his bed. I settled against his chest with my head in the crook of his neck.

“I’m sorry. This wasn’t how I envisioned this evening. I always want to spend the night with you in my bed, but waking you each hour to ask you inane questions was never on my agenda.”

“Huh?”

“I’m not supposed to let you sleep for more than an hour at a time. My mom says you could slip into a coma.”

“Oh. So why did you really need to see me tonight? It wasn’t entirely about sex, was it? I mean, you were going to see me tomorrow anyway.”

He sighed. “I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected lately.”

“From me?” I was suddenly in a bit of a panic.

“Not exactly. More like I have two very separate lives.”

“Do you mean you act differently here than you do at home?”

“A bit. I know I’ve only been up here for two months. I feel like I’ve already changed so much. I’m concerned that unless you start spending more time up here with me, one weekend I’ll come home and you won’t know me.”

“You mean I won’t recognize you because you’ve become pot-smoking man meat?”

“No. Just that I’m…different. When we met, I was completely isolated from anyone my own age. I was socially awkward and I had no friends. That’s obviously changing. I feel a connection to some of my classmates, a lot of whom are like me. I’m neither the youngest, nor the smartest person here. I blend. I almost feel normal.”

“I’ve never understood why normalcy matters to you so much.”

“You wouldn’t,” he said. “You’ve never felt like a freak.”

“No, I’ve just been mind-numbingly average.”

“There’s nothing average about you. I often wonder how things would be if things were reversed. If I’d met you while you were still in high school and I was eight years older than you. You probably would have stood out to me as much as you do now, though for entirely different reasons. Of course, I would have felt just as drawn to you physically.”

“My father would have shot you,” I joked.

“Some of the things I want to do to you, I can’t say that I would blame him.”

“Oh, fuck my head,” I whined. “I want you to demonstrate.”

“I will next weekend, when you’re not in pain.”

“Edward, do you really think that we’ll drift apart if I don’t visit you more often?”

He paused before answering. “Yes.”

“My hesitancy to come up here has nothing to do with how I feel about you. I worship you. I’ve just done the undergraduate thing already. I loved nearly every second of it, but I have no desire to relive it. I feel kind of like a third grader trying to squeeze myself into a baby swing.”

“Would you like me to look into off-campus housing next year? There’s not much of it, and it’s very hard to get but if that would be better for you–”

“Do you enjoy living on campus?”

“I kind of do, but not as much as I miss seeing you during the week.”

“Then you should stay in the dorms. I want you to enjoy yourself; I never want to hold you back…”

I stopped talking when I heard voices.

“Hi, honey, we’re home,” his roommates called from the common area.

“I should go explain to the guys that you’re still here. I’ll be right back.”

Edward hopped down from the bunk and went into the other room.

“Hopefully, you got laid and you’re done being emo,” Mike said, presumably to Edward.

“Yeah, about that. Bella’s still here, so do you think you guys could behave yourselves for the next twelve hours?”

“Wait, she’s in the bedroom? Is she naked?”

“No, she’s not naked. She’s also not deaf, so you may want to try to keep your voice down.”

The door opened and Edward came back in, followed by his roommates. I gave them a small smile. “Thanks for letting me spend the night.”

“Decide to keep Eddie on a shorter leash, huh?” Mike asked.

“Bella hit her head on the ceiling getting down from my bed and she has a slight concussion. I wouldn’t let her drive home,” Edward explained.

“Are you okay?” Tyler asked. He seemed genuinely concerned.

“I’m fine, thank you for asking. I’m just a little dizzy.”

Tyler opened the closet and retrieved his bong. “Do you smoke?” he asked me.

I shook my head. “Not anymore.”

“Will it bother you if we do? We’ll keep it in the other room.”

“No, that’s fine. Thank you, Tyler, for being so considerate.”

He turned to Edward. “Care to partake?”

“No, thanks.” He angled his head towards me as he spoke. Tyler nodded before leaving the room with Mike.

“Don’t decline on my account,” I said to Edward after he rejoined me in the top bunk.

“I didn’t,” he explained. “I have an exam tomorrow, and I need to be sharp for it.”

“Oh.” I stared down at his chest.

“Does it bother you that much?”

“Yes, though I know it shouldn’t. I know I’m being a hypocrite. I just hate the thought of Mike and Tyler corrupting you.”

“I understand.” He stroked my hair gently.

“How can you?” I asked. “I’m not even sure I do.”

“You feel excluded.”

“I guess I do.”

“I’m not saying I agree with it. I think you’re being completely irrational, but I understand why you feel this way. You think that as long as you’re the person corrupting me, whatever evil in which I partake is simply part of coming of age. If you’re not there to supervise, you complain I’m being reckless. You both want me to experiment and fear me doing so simultaneously because you still don’t feel secure in our relationship. I’m telling you right now, Bella. You need to get over that or you’ll spend the next four years panicked.”

I played with the trail of hair beneath his navel as I muttered into his chest. “I know.”

He kissed the top of my head. “Now try to get some rest. I set the alarm on my phone for an hour from now to check on you. You’ll be fine.”

“You’ll be so tired for your exam tomorrow,” I whispered in protestation.

“Taking care of you is more important to me than my GPA.”

I snuggled closer to him and shut my eyes, grateful for my place by his side even if it happened to be in a tiny bunk in a two-hundred-year-old dormitory. The wind rattled the ancient leaded glass windows, drowning out the noise from the drunks in the next room. In one hour increments, I slept contentedly.





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  1. on 01 Oct 2010 at 1:43 pmlisa89

    I’d feel weird about Edward’s best bud at school having a vagina, too, if I were Bella. :(

    I know it’s going to be rough on them, the next four years, but hopefully they can make it through without too much heartache!

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  2. on 12 Nov 2010 at 8:05 pmkng1986

    First Edward said they may drift apart and then he tells her not to feel insecure. I think at twenty-five, I would have felt insecure.

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  3. on 25 Nov 2010 at 4:31 pmBooksgalore/Bookishqua

    I can already tell the separation is not going to be fun. I found it fascinating that Edward wants to include Bella on his life and while she wants the best for him and “doesn’t want to hold” him back she refuses because she’s too old to participate in college events. It sends the message to Edward that she’s ashamed of them. Excellent work on their characterizations.

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  4. on 05 Jan 2011 at 10:15 amSea4Me

    I dated a boy four years older than me. He was home while I was away at college. Pretty normal stuff, but since he had never been to college, he assumed the worst at every turn. It was hard & you’re representing it well.

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  5. on 29 Jan 2011 at 8:05 pmJanice

    Bella is already panicked. I think this is going to get harder and harder. I hope not, but I think it is.

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