Breaking Home Ties

We spent the final days of summer at the shore house, with Carlisle and Esme joining us when their schedules permitted. Photographs were taken, bags were packed, and I soon found myself in the classroom counting books and and dusting off lesson plans. Though fall in Philadelphia was my favorite season, this year its arrival was tinged with regret and more than a little fear.

Edward’s room assignment put him in one of the oldest buildings on campus. where he’d be sharing a bedroom and small common room with two other guys. As much as I wanted to be there when he moved in the next day,  I had to work. Although I was sure I’d feel very out of place among the students and their parents, I still felt more than a little sad that I was missing such an important milestone in Edward’s life.

Late that afternoon, we found ourselves on our bench at the Art Museum, where surrounded by the familiar we prepared to face the unknown.

“Nothing needs to change,” Edward said, bringing my hand to his lips. “We’re still us. I’m still me.”

For all his maturity, he still lacked the necessary experience to fully comprehend the magnitude of the journey on which he was about to embark.

“You’ll change. We will change. There’s no getting around that.”

He smiled. “For the better.”

“Maybe. Are you nervous?”

“Not really. I know that sounds cocky. I suppose I should be nervous about my ability to keep up with my course load, but I have no doubt I can do it. I’m actually looking forward to the challenge. Nothing else is really a concern to me.”

He stood and pulled me to my feet. “Come on.”

We walked through the modern gallery, to the dark room with the peepholes.

“Do you remember the last time we were back here?”

I nodded, smiling. “You were so—for lack of a better word—commanding.”

“That’s how it came off to you?” He laughed. “I was terrified. I knew I needed to change your perception of me, to get you to see me as a potential suitor. I thought showing you Ètant Donnès would let me know once and for all if you could be interested in me romantically.”

I stared at him in wonder. “It was a test?”

“More or less. It was just you, me, and a dirty, dirty work of art. You’d either admit to yourself you found me attractive, or you’d be revolted. Either way, I’d have my answer.”

His intelligence frightened me.

“Meanwhile,” he continued, “from the moment you arrived, I wanted to kiss you so badly. Did you know I could see your nipples through your top?”

I shook my head.

“Not only that, but your skirt hung low on your hips, and I kept getting glimpses of skin. I’d planned on being completely respectful—on waiting until I’d taken you out on a proper date to lay a finger on you—but when you leaned in to look more closely…” He gestured toward the doors. “Go ahead. Look.”

I turned and peered through the peepholes.

“Your shirt rode up ever so slightly in the back, and I could see the top of your thong. I needed to touch you, and this…” He placed his hands on my hips. “…seemed like the safest place. I could feel your body against me…” His chest was against my back,  and his lips brushed my ear. “…while sparing you my hard-on.”

“You were hard?”

He pulled my hips against his, letting me feel his answer.

“Yes.” He let out a small laugh. “Still, I didn’t want to assault you with it. I just wanted to see if you were as attracted to me as I was to you, and if I could arouse you the way you did me.”

He turned me to face him and ran his hands up my sides. This time, his thumbs grazed my nipples, causing them to harden under my tank top. My breath caught in my throat, and my hands found his face.

“I very nearly kissed you; I wanted to more than anything.”

This time,  he did.

I opened my eyes to his smile. “Why didn’t you?”

“I couldn’t. You were still making me call you Ms. Swan.”

“I  thought I wouldn’t fall for you if I had the constant auditory reminder of my position of authority.”

He rolled his eyes. “Look how well that worked. Do you know why I wanted to come here?”

“Foreplay?” I guessed, only half kidding.

“No. I know you fear change, but we’ve changed so much already.”

Knowing exactly what he wanted to prove, I pulled him against me and kissed his lips.

We didn’t linger at the Art Museum. His parents were planning a special dinner for him with all of his favorite foods. While Carlisle and Edward were packing up the SUV for tomorrow, Esme pulled me into the parlor and poured me a glass of wine.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you,” she began. “Has anything changed with Alice?”

“Not really. I haven’t spoken to her since she came by my house that day, though I did receive my dress for the wedding via FedEx the other day. There was a letter enclosed, but I haven’t read it. I sent the dress off to be shortened anyway. I have every intention of following through with the wedding.”

“Why won’t you read the letter?”

“Because if it contains more of the same, I don’t want to hear it.”

“But if it doesn’t?”

“There isn’t anything she could say to me right now that would make me feel better about things. What she said to me at her fitting went well beyond her disapproval of my relationship with Edward. She made it clear she disapproves of me in general.”

“It would certainly appear that way,” Esme said. “But you of all people should know how deceptive appearances can be. I’m going to miss you. I know you aren’t leaving our lives, and we’ll see you when Edward comes home to visit. As ludicrous as it sounds, I  feel as if I’m sending two kids to Princeton tomorrow. If it doesn’t seem strange to you, Carlisle and I would love it if you continued to come to dinner on Sundays. Please don’t feel obligated. We know you have friends and commitments, but we would like to see you if you have the time for us.”

I hugged her tightly, mainly so she couldn’t see my eyes start to tear up. “I’d love that.”

Dinner was served, and before long, the four of us we were sitting around the family room laughing. Carlisle and Esme seemed determined to give Edward advice, whether he wanted to hear it or not.

“What time are you leaving tomorrow?” I asked.

“Early.” Edward pointed to his parents. “They’re insisting I  get there before my roommates, so I can get the top bunk.”

“The top bunk?” I asked. “Why would you want that?”

“Bella, Bella, Bella! How little you know about boys!” Carlisle exclaimed.

I wasn’t going to confirm or deny his statement. Carlisle and Esme may possibly be the world’s most easy going people, and they may have more or less adopted me as their own, but I was still sleeping with their son.

“If he has the top bunk, he’s safe,” Esme explained. “You know, if his roommates are hard partiers. They can come in and pass out, yes. But if they puke, piss, or shit themselves, the odds of them doing it in his bed with him in it are slim to none.”

I turned to Edward, dumbfounded. “Did you think of this?”

“No, I did,” Esme said. “Oh come on, Bella, don’t look so surprised. I know how it is. Surely you had a few crazy roommate incidents of your own.”

“Well, I didn’t, no. At least there was nothing like that. Our freshman year though, Alice lived with a furry.”

Esme laughed hysterically;  Carlisle and Edward looked confused.

“What the hell is a furry?” Carlisle asked.

As Esme explained, I turned to Edward.

“Thus far, your advice for settling into school from your intellectual parents has included how to select the bed least likely to be defiled by other people’s excrement. Have I missed any other gems of wisdom?”

“Carlisle’s take on drugs,” Esme interjected, rolling her eyes.

“Don’t mock it,” Carlisle defended. “It’s good advice.”

I shook my head. “Something tells me I don’t want to know about this.”

“Obviously, I’d prefer if he didn’t partake of them. But I did my share of experimenting in college, and I’m not a hypocrite.”

I was beginning to see Carlisle more clearly. Edward was a fascinating hybrid of his parents’ personalities.

“Anyway,” Carlisle continued, “I told him to avoid anything that wasn’t grown in the ground. And if it happens to be something you ingest rather than smoke, let someone else try it first and wait to see if they die before you have any.”

“What ever happened to ‘Just say no?'” I asked.

“Unrealistic,” Carlisle explained.

Edward turned to me. “Have you ever–”

“No,” I lied.

Unlike Carlisle, I had absolutely no issues with hypocrisy. I was a teacher. Hypocrisy was what we do best. I was not about to admit to any use of illicit substances, even if it had been a long time ago. And I sure as hell wasn’t admitting to it in front of Edward’s parents, regardless of the fact I had a sense that Carlisle had done much more than I had.

“I haven’t either,” Esme said. “My husband seems to have this attitude that everyone goes crazy in college. I have my own theory about why he feels this way, but I won’t bore you with it.”

I laughed. “Oh, so Carlisle went crazy in college.”

“Exactly,” Esme confirmed.

“Where did you go to school, Bella?” Carlisle asked.

“A tiny liberal arts college very far away.”

“Well, then I can’t comment. However, Princeton does have quite the scene these days. Eating clubs have changed a lot since the days of F. Scott Fitzgerald and not just because of the women. Edward will know what I mean the first time he ventures out onto the Street on a Thursday night.”

“The way my father talks, you’d think there was a gene for binge drinking and passing the hash pipe,” Edward muttered.

“I heard that,” Carlisle interrupted. “I just think you don’t fully understand because you haven’t been there. Your course load is going to be somewhat intense and mentally exhausting. There’s a reason for the debauchery on college campuses, you know. It’s not just about being away from parents and rules for the first time in your life. At least —it won’t be where you’re going.”

Esme looked annoyed. “Not everyone goes that route, Edward. I didn’t. From the sound of it, Bella didn’t.”

Oh, but I did. Esme just didn’t need to know that.

“And you may not, either,” she continued. “But if you do, for god’s sake, don’t be a dumbass.”

An hour later, Edward drove me home. He took a large gift bag out of the trunk before walking me to my door.

“Shit,” I said. “How did you find out?”

“Find out what?”

“That my birthday was Sunday. I never mentioned it.”

“Wait, did I miss your birthday?” He seemed horrified.

“No, it’s this coming Sunday. So this isn’t-“

He shook his head. “No. It’s not a birthday gift. Just something I wanted you to have. Let’s go inside and you can open it.”

We went inside the house and I sat on the piano bench and reached into the bag. I pulled out a second bag, this one a very distinctive shade of blue.

“You’d better not have.”

“I didn’t. At least, not what you’re thinking.”

I reached inside the bag and pulled out a flat, rectangular box. Its size was reassuring. I lifted its lid and exhaled when I saw the contents. A simple sterling silver frame held a black and white photograph of Edward and me on the beach from the photo shoot with the Cullen family photographer. In the picture, he was looking down at me with complete adoration. It was impossible for me to doubt how much he loved me while looking at this photo. I was sure his selection of this particular shot was deliberate.

“I love it; thank you.”

“Now that you are holding the finished product, was posing for these really all that bad?”

“Yes, but the end result was worth it. I’m going to miss you so much.”

He dropped to his knees in front of the piano bench and wrapped his arms around me, pressing his face into my chest. I placed the box on the floor next to me and put my hands in his hair.

“You know this is the beginning, right?”

“For you,” I qualified.

“For us.” He lifted the hem of my shirt and kissed my stomach. “Now, why don’t you come down here and show me just how much you’re going to miss me.”

He moved his hands under my skirt and tugged at my underwear. I lifted my bottom off the bench and stepped out of my panties before falling into Edward on the floor. After some quick fumbling with his pants, I wrapped my legs around him and brought him inside me. He cupped my ass under my skirt and shifted me up and down as he moved. He wasn’t gentle, and it wasn’t about love. We were possessed of a sudden mutual need to be as close to one another as was physically possible.

Afterward we sprawled out on our backs on the floor,  disheveled though still fully clothed,  staring at the plaster ceiling.

“Why were you so scared?” he asked.


“I saw the look in your eyes when you pulled out the bag from Tiffany’s. It was pure terror.”

I didn’t answer.

“What specifically made you uncomfortable?”  He rolled onto his stomach and looked at me.

“I don’t like the idea of you spending money on me.”

“I have plenty of money.”

“Actually, you don’t. Your parents do.”

One corner of his mouth turned up. “Give me a few years. Look, I get that in many ways I’m at a point in my life where I have nothing of my own to offer you. But I do have an income of sorts. I may not be able to sign a check yet, but I have been picking up the tab so to speak.”

“I know you don’t have a job. You couldn’t. You’re with me every waking moment.”

“No, I don’t work per sè. I do have a trust fund which I gain control of in a few years. I’ve also saved every penny that has ever been given to me. The interest from it provides me with ample spending money. So although I don’t have a job, I’m not running up to my dad and asking him for a few hundred dollars every time I want to take you out on a real date.”

“No wonder you and Emmett get along so well. He claims he’s still living off of his bar mitzvah money.”

He let out a small laugh.”I didn’t know that.”

“You know my financial independence is a huge source of pride for me.”

“Oh, I know.” He smiled widely. “Just another reason why you’re a great catch.”

“I’m serious.”

“So am I. Back on topic,  I know you’ve been looking at tomorrow with great trepidation, and I understand why. Tell me something. Are you more frightened by the idea of commitment in general or the fact that I am committed to you?”

It was a valid question, which I didn’t want to answer. I fumbled with the drawstring of my skirt instead.

“Bella, look at me.” He put his hand on my cheek and gently turned my face towards his. “We’ve never talked about the future.”

“Of course we haven’t. You’re seventeen, and we’ve been together less than three months.”

“We both know your reaction earlier went a bit beyond discomfort with my spending money on you. It was the connotation of receiving a gift from Tiffany’s. I know the intensity of what we have isn’t something that comes along often. Meanwhile, I’ve watched you cringe every time anyone mentions my leaving for college. You’ve insisted we have all this dialogue about what I want and what’s best for me, despite the fact that from day one I’ve made my desires perfectly clear. Now it’s your turn. Bella, what do you want?”

I didn’t answer him. I knew exactly what I wanted, but I hadn’t dared to dream it was even a remote possibility.

“I want you to enjoy yourself, to go off to school tomorrow completely unencumbered. I’ll be here when you get back.”

He rolled his eyes. “I’m coming home this weekend.”

“Are you crazy? We discussed this. You should take the first few weekends and stay on campus until you settle in.”

“I’m not missing your birthday.”

“For the record, I hate my birthday. Birthdays involve two things—being the center of attention and receiving gifts, neither of which I enjoy.”

“Then come see me on campus.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why? It’s easy. You shoot straight up 295 and turn right at the Gothic architecture.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Do I? Because it seems like you’re trying to pull away from me.”

I absolutely hated that he could see through me.

He sat up and  fixed his clothing. “This isn’t how I envisioned our last night at home together.”

“Edward,” I said. “I love you.”

“Then trust in me. Trust in us.”  He took me into his arms and kissed me.

“Take me upstairs.”

It was the middle of the night when I finally walked him to my door. Despite having spent the past few hours making love with a desperation I’d never before felt, I wanted a quick good-bye. I doubted I’d retain my composure if we prolonged it.

“Good night, Bella.” He kissed me lightly on the lips before walking to his car. “I’ll call you.”

Smiling, he sped away.

In the end it was just like any other night, except I didn’t know for sure when I would see him again. I did, however, finally know what I wanted. I went inside and picked up my iPhone from on top of the piano. I felt like a bit of a pussy answering his earlier question via text message, but decided it was better than evading him indefinitely.

I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

I typed and pressed send. Fifteen minutes later, I read his response.

You will.

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10 Responses

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  1. on 24 Aug 2010 at 10:06 pmchansen

    Beautiful, sweet. Now why do I feel there is a storm of trouble coming for them? Maybe Bella’s job. Maybe some skank in the dorm and bad timing on Bella’s part?


  2. on 29 Aug 2010 at 3:19 amizziey

    i love your comments about teachers and hypocrisy. i’ve never used any drugs, well, besides alcohol, so i never had to lie to my students about that. i do know teachers that go off on their students for turning in late work, but don’t do their own on time.

    i’m falling for esme.


  3. on 04 Sep 2010 at 2:49 pmpitterpatt

    By any chance, did Bella have a Midwest college experience that involved carrying a COW card for all on-campus meals and bookstore purchases?
    Just wondering. I love this story. The characters are so real to me.


    Colleen reply:

    Why yes, she did.


  4. on 30 Sep 2010 at 3:37 pmlisa89

    I absolutely love the ending to this chapter. I’ll be back soon to read more! I just love (once again) how Edward is the confident one – it’s a very wonderful role-reversal. They have a very unique relationship.


  5. on 25 Nov 2010 at 3:38 pmBooksgalore/Bookishqua

    absolutely loved the ending.


  6. on 09 Dec 2010 at 11:55 amNKubie

    It warms my heart. Edward is so sure and Bella is so not. I wish she could understand his devotion to her. Maybe then she’s understand.


  7. on 29 Dec 2010 at 7:51 pmFancastride

    Edward is so sure of his feelings, I can see why Bella is not.


  8. on 04 Jan 2011 at 8:44 pmSea4Me

    WOW. As much as I love her comment, his is OUTSTANDING! Yum! I also love how he stops her evasion so well. Go Edward!! I hope she fesses up about her college days, just so there aren’t any lies between them. Great chap all around! (and fun references to canon throughout your story! I think my fave one so far was last chap, but can’t recall right now, oops!)


  9. on 27 Jan 2011 at 11:03 pmDenyse

    I love everything in this chapter. Especially the last part.