I couldn’t understand why Bella had ever been nervous about being around my mother. The second Bella walked through the door, my mom’s arms were around her. Bella whispered something I couldn’t hear, to which my mother responded, “I know.”

After more undecipherable whispers, my mom tightened her embrace and kissed Bella’s cheek. “I know that, too.”

Bella’s visit turned out to be just as beneficial for my mother as it was for me. Maggie went home earlier than was previously discussed after my mom insisted that she was ready to get back into her routine—or at least, what her routine would be now. Though my mother claimed she was ready to be on her own, I knew that she felt awful taking Maggie away from her children any longer than was absolutely necessary. Meanwhile, Bella and my mom had a lot of catching up to do—so much, in fact, that I was expelled from the kitchen so they could speak privately. When I checked on them two hours later, Bella was teaching my mother how to make to gnocchi from scratch. Because my mother was so curious to see how they turned out, for the first time all week, no one had to twist her arm to get her to eat dinner.

Once the dishes were cleared, my mother excused herself, saying she wanted to get her first night alone in the bed she had shared with my father over with as quickly as possible. Once my mother was upstairs, Bella picked up her purse and said that she’d see me in the morning. I hated the thought of her going anywhere.

“You aren’t staying?” I asked.

“I will if you want me. I didn’t want to presume.”

“I want you, Bella.”

And I did want her—in every way possible.

“Then I’ll stay. I should still run home and take care of a few things.”

“Would you mind if I go with you? The idea of getting out of the house for a bit appeals to me.”

“Okay,” she said, following me outside to the driveway.

It was unseasonably warm for April, and the late-evening breeze was heavy and damp. She stopped for a moment behind my car, closing her eyes and turning her face to the starless sky. I watched her in silence, fascinated by the sight of her unabashedly enjoying the spring air. It was a rare, unguarded moment, and one of only a handful of instances where I had no doubt I was I seeing the real Bella.

As if she could sense that I was staring at her, she opened her eyes and shook her head, causing her hair to fall into her face. Out of habit, I tucked the errant strands behind her ear.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“For what?”

She shrugged.

“Don’t ever apologize for being happy.” I opened the door to the driver’s side of the Volvo and gestured for her to get inside. “I’m just along for the ride.”

“Are you sure? I mean, you do realize…” She looked at me hesitantly, but sat in the driver’s seat anyway.

“I know,” I said, getting into the car. “In all the time we’ve known each other, I’ve never let you drive. If you’d ever decided to call me on it, I would have told you it was because your car was too unreliable. In actuality, I was being chauvinistic. I also very stupidly thought that you’d only see me as a man if I were the one driving.”

“What changed since then?” she asked, putting her hand on the gearshift.

I covered her hand with mine. “Everything.”

“I promise I’ll be gentle.”

I smiled, knowing full well she wasn’t talking about my car.

Twelve minutes later, I followed Bella inside the front door of her house. Bella immediately ran upstairs, but I stayed in the living room. Now that there were seating options on the first floor, it seemed presumptuous of me to follow her unless she asked me to do so. Instead, I studied my surroundings, still marveling at how different everything looked.

“Did you just paint downstairs, or did you work on the second floor as well?” I called after her.

“That’s right. Until last night, you hadn’t been here in over a year. I’ve done work on all three floors, though the third floor isn’t furnished yet. Jazz and Emmett actually did most of the intense labor for me. I’m so grateful to them. I could never have afforded contractors. They refinished the floors and skim coated the walls while Alice and I painted. You’ve never been on the third floor. You should take a look.”

It wasn’t presumptuous if she invited me. I climbed the steps to the second floor, but hesitated at the landing, remembering the first time I’d lingered on these floorboards, after our first date. Nervous and blushing, I’d been terrified that I would fail her physically. So much about us had changed, but my fear remained a constant with only slight modification—I was now afraid I’d fail her emotionally.

I finally understood why she’d pulled me into her bedroom and taken off her dress. Sex was the easiest part of a relationship. It enabled one to express affection without having to fully understand it or even think about it. Even bad sex felt good, when even good discussions about emotions could leave a person feeling bad. Even when sex failed, the loss of an orgasm was nothing compared to the loss of one’s self-esteem.

Her voice brought me out of my thoughts. “You can go up to the third floor by yourself; it’s not like I’m hiding anything. I’ll be done in a minute.”

“No longer hoping that if you ignore it, it will go away?” I teased.

She laughed from behind her bedroom door. “That never works, you know.”

I knew she was right. Still, my thoughts shifted to my father’s attorney and my mother’s cryptic explanation of his request. After all, he’d said there was no rush. Most of my life, I’d been the exception to the rule. Maybe if I ignored his request, it would go away, thus absolving me of any obligation to meet with him. I put these thoughts aside as I trekked to the only part of Bella’s house still unknown to me. Once on the third floor, I looked around and realized why she had been so insistent on showing me these two empty rooms. She’d done the dirty work necessary to make the most damaged part of her home structurally sound. Though her third floor was far from perfect, it was warm and stable, and I was welcome to it. I was welcome to her. Overcome with emotion, I ran downstairs, wanting nothing more than to throw my arms around her.

“I had no idea you’d done so much work up there.” I pushed open her bedroom door, where I found her standing beside the bed in nothing but a thong.

Her breasts were just as I remembered them, and I wanted more than anything to throw her down onto her bed and fuck her senseless. With the exception of the length of her hair, she looked exactly the way she had on our first date. She was perfect.

She crossed her arms in front of her chest in annoyance. “Do you mind?”

“Not at all,” I admitted. “Though it would be better for me if you dropped your arms to your side and did a little turn.”

She rolled her eyes and told me to wait downstairs. My erection and I sulked off to the living room. Though I had no doubt it was for the best—that if we made love under these circumstances, I’d always wonder if it was a condolence fuck on her part—I was still disappointed.

“I’m good,” she announced when she rejoined me four minutes later, overnight bag in hand.

“You were better than good.”

“Get your mind out of the gutter. Would you like me to drive again?”

“If you’d like.” I hoped maybe she’d accidentally grab my cock while reaching for the gearshift. It would be an easy mistake to make; they were equally hard.

I spent most of the way back to my house trying to ignore my hard-on.

“Do you remember David’s bris?”

A conversation about ritual circumcision was just what I needed to stop the flow of blood to my crotch.


“When you left, you let Angela drive your car.”

“I did.” Though I was grateful for any conversation that helped calm things down below my belt, I had no idea what her point was.

“Why did you let her do it?”

“I was upset, and Angela didn’t think it would be wise for me to be behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. That’s the reason she was there in the first place—emotional support.”

Bella seemed shocked. “You two have never been involved?”

“No,” I confirmed. “She and her boyfriend from home are still very devoted to each other.”

“Then how…” She shook her head.


She took a deep breath. “I’d like to preface this by saying that I fully appreciate whatever you do sexually is none of my concern.”

I laughed. “Oh, this should be good. Please continue.”

“What were the two of you were doing in the powder room together?”

“We’d been standing in the hallway when you arrived. I wasn’t mentally prepared to see you yet, so I opened the first door I could find and pulled Angela inside with me.”

“Did you…pee in front of her?”

“What? No.”

“Then how does Angela know what your penis looks like?”

Good question.

“Well, there was that porno I made last semester–” I joked.

“I’m serious, Edward.”

“Fine, then. In all seriousness, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I may have been listening in on your conversation,” Bella admitted. “I’m not proud of myself for doing it. Anyway, Angela made reference to the fact you’re circumcised…”

“Which I am.”

“Right, but how did she know that if you’ve never been more than friends?”

It was a damned good question. I thought back over the past year, and when the answer finally came to me, I couldn’t contain my laughter.

“There is a story there,” I explained, “but it’s not what you think. One night freshman year, Mike was being…well, Mike. He took pictures of his cock with my cell phone and sent them to all of the girls he knew who lived in our residential college. Anyway, some were amused, some were appalled, and all of them thought it was a picture of me. Unable to live it down, I may have…er…whipped it out one night at a party to provide visible proof that the cock in question was not, in fact, mine. As you know, I am circumcised. Mike is not. Poor Angela was in the room for all this. You know, I should be annoyed that you had the audacity to feel territorial after you dumped me, but at the moment, I’m just too grateful to be laughing like this again. I thought I never would…”

“In that case, I don’t mind the fact that you’re doing so at my expense.”

“I’m not laughing at you; I’m laughing with you.”

“I’m not laughing,” she stated emphatically.

“But you want to.”


After she pulled into my driveway, I brought her bag up to my room, but she stayed in the hallway, unwilling to cross the threshold.

“Just direct me to a guest room,” she said.

“Oh.” I was unable to hide my disappointment. “I was hoping you’d sleep in my room with me. I promise to be a gentlemen. I’d just like to hold you, unless of course you mind–”

“I don’t mind.” She walked into my room and sat on the edge of the bed.

I wondered if being back in my room felt any more surreal to her than waking up in her living room this morning had to me. “What are you thinking?”

“Just that it’s exactly the way I remembered it.”

“I know what I like and what I want. I always have,” I said, shrugging. “I’m nothing if not consistent.”

She nodded, and I wondered if she fully understood what I was implying. I debated elaborating, then decided it against it, not wanting her to disregard my declaration because of my bereavement.

After she excused herself to the bathroom, I wondered how the rest of the evening would go. I’d told her I didn’t have any expectations, but I wasn’t altogether sure that she didn’t. Though there was no denying the shift in our dynamic, I didn’t want to make love to her until I was certain that was how she would see it—an expression of my unwavering devotion to her mind and soul, not just my obvious physical attraction to her body. I changed into sleep pants and a T-shirt, hoping that not being bare-chested would strengthen my resolve. I got into bed and waited for her; when she returned, she was wearing loose-but-tiny shorts and a see-through white tank top.

For the second time that night, she crossed her arms over her breasts. “I’m sorry. I thought I’d be in a guest room.”

“It’s nothing I haven’t seen before. I mean, less than an hour ago…”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” she asked.

“Your virtue is safe with me.”

She climbed into bed with me, laughing. “As if I have any of that left.”

I put my arms around her, and she rested her head on my chest.

“Oh, but you do. Bella, I want you to know that this isn’t about the comfort of female company as much as it is about the comfort of your company.”

“I know.”

I closed my eyes, and with Bella in my arms, it was not only easy to sleep; it was easy to dream.


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  1. on 09 Apr 2010 at 5:51 pmLiviaCullen

    YAY! I loved this lighter and brighter chapter after those pretty heavy chapters! I like the easy dialogue Edward and Bella share!


  2. on 09 Apr 2010 at 5:58 pmlvk1978

    I'd almost forgotten how "delicate" the relationship was upon their reacquaintance. It seems that Edward is much more open to the re-establishment of their romantic relationship, but, sadly, I can't remember how Bella was feeling at this point. It is funny, though, that he always seemed to be the adult in the relationship — at least to me.

    Your Edward is one of my most favorite Edwards in existence. I always felt that your Edward would have been the template for Mrs. Meyer's Edward had he been contemporary and, you know, non-vampiric. I can't tell you just how much I appreciate your efforts to bring us his unique POV. It's been an absolute joy going through a beloved story from his viewpoint.

    Thanks for posting.


  3. on 09 Apr 2010 at 6:14 pmitlnbrt

    Wow, thanks for the quick update. Again, I just love this story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.


  4. on 09 Apr 2010 at 9:45 pmTippyL

    "A conversation about ritual circumcision was just what I needed to stop the flow of blood to my crotch." LOL – I was glad for this chapter with a little bit of levity and hope thrown in for good measure. I adore this Edward and his POV, and he just seems so hopeful and almost ready to trust her with his heart again.

    Thanks for the quick update too.


  5. on 10 Apr 2010 at 5:59 amIrene

    There are so many little scenes that I had forgotten about since it has been a while since I read AA5, Edward's reaction to seeing Bella topless was too funny. Another wonderful chapter. Thanks for posting.


  6. on 11 Apr 2010 at 5:51 pmElizabeth440

    The metaphor of Bella's house for her psyche is so beautiful. Not only is she letting Edward know that she did all the work necessary to change, but she is also crediting the help she received from her friends in doing so and telling him that he has full access to the product of all that hard work. Between the life-as-a-house metaphor and Bella's clothing metaphor, your use of symbolism is so subtle and sublime.


  7. on 02 Jan 2011 at 5:12 pmFancastride

    Together in bed hmmm???