Off-Dry Spätlese


November 21, 1995

Edward and I have been alone for an hour now, and though it’s not as awkward as I thought it would be, I still can’t relax. He’s too distracting, and not just because he’s so beautiful that watching him has become my latest compulsion. I feel things when I’m around him I can’t explain, except that they’re exciting and different and way too good not to be wrong. Part of me wants to fight them, but I don’t. Instead, I pay attention to the way his eyes change shades of green depending on what he’s wearing, the strength of his jawline, and the way his hair becomes reddish in the sunlight. Just being near him does things to me—there’s a tingling deep in my belly that makes it next to impossible for me to focus on anything else—including normal, everyday things like walking.

Distracted by the perfect bubble of his butt, I fall flat on my face in the stairwell of his apartment building.

“Fuck,” I mutter, breaking my fall with my hands.

He helps me to my feet before carefully inspecting my palms for damage. It’s the first time he’s touched me, and I’m finding it hard to breathe. When he asks me a question, the words don’t register—all I’m able to process is the feeling of his hands on mine. His skin isn’t rough, but it’s not soft, either. He feels warm and touches me with a confidence I doubt I’ll ever possess. My eyes go back to his face, and he seems like he’s waiting for me to say something, so I do.

My words bypass my internal filter. “You have long fingers.”

His eyes narrow slightly, and his cheeks twitch near his mouth. I know he’s fighting the urge to smile.

“Lots of things I have are long.”

Before I can think better of it, I look at his crotch and then his thighs, searching for evidence of pant-leg penis. I’m squinting at his fly when he starts to laugh, and though I know he practically dared me to check out his junk, I’m almost as embarrassed as I was the time shoulder pads fell out of my bra in ninth-grade gym class. Unable to look at him, I close my eyes and try to ignore the fact my face is on fire.

“I’m sorry; I shouldn’t tease you like that.”

“If you’re sorry, why are you laughing?” I ask.

“Because I lied.”

“About being sorry or about your…” I can’t bring myself to say it. Eyes still closed, I angle my head toward his equipment.

“I’m not sorry. Let’s get you inside.”

As I follow him the rest of the way up the steps, I want nothing more than a minute or two to compose myself. Then he opens his front door, and I know it won’t happen. After dropping his keys onto the small kitchen counter, he places my bag on his bed. It’s the only padded surface in his apartment.

“Let me show you where everything is.”

It’s a strange statement given the fact his place isn’t much bigger than my dorm room, and everything appears to be in plain sight. I go along with it anyway, because it’s him.

“That would be great.”

“The bathroom’s in there,” he says, gesturing to a door on the other side of the kitchen. “There are towels under the sink. Feel free to make yourself at home. Eat and drink whatever you want.”

Frozen in place right inside the door, I nod like a tool. He takes a breath and opens his mouth, but instead of speaking, he exhales all at once, shrugging.

“You didn’t hurt yourself when you fell, did you?”

“Uh-uh.” I shake my head.

“Is something wrong?”

I don’t know how to say that though there isn’t anything wrong, everything is different. So I don’t say anything. I don’t tell him I’m thrilled to be staying in such cramped quarters with him—even if he is just having me here as a favor to Alice. I don’t admit that the idea of sleeping in his bed scares me, but not as much as the possibility he may not want me there.

I don’t mention that even though I’m too afraid of rejection to tell him I like him, I wish I packed cuter pajamas. Then I realize I don’t own any decent pajamas, but I want to buy some because he makes me want to feel pretty and sleep in sexy things.

I don’t tell him any of this—I’m not sure I understand it myself. I need some time without him to process how I feel when I’m with him, but given the layout of his apartment, that’s not possible. Unless…

“I need to pee!”

He points to the bathroom for the second time in as many minutes. “Right over there.”

I nod, but I stay where I am.

“Do you need help?”

My eyes widen in horror, and I run to the bathroom. “No!” I yell, slamming the door behind me. Lock in place, I’m able to exhale. The fan starts to hum the moment I flick the light switch, and though I can’t hear anything but white noise, I’m pretty sure Edward’s laughing at me.

When I come out of the bathroom, he’s lying on his bed reading a well-worn copy of Profiles in Courage.

“Is it okay if I…” I gesture to the empty space next to him. “I mean, I know there’s a connotation…”

“Not when there isn’t anywhere else to sit,” he says.

“True.” I sit on the edge of the bed and unlace my boots. I feel self-conscious—I don’t want to throw a disclaimer on the implied significance of sharing his bed. In the absence of any better ideas, I go for smalltalk.

“So you’re a first-year law student?” It’s a ridiculous question. Not only do I know he is, but he knows I know he is. But I’ve never been in bed with a boy, and even though we’re fully clothed and nothing is going to happen, I don’t know how to act around him.

“Yes.”

“Have you always wanted to be a lawyer?” I stretch out beside him, and though there’s about a foot of space between us, my body responds to his proximity anyway. There’s a nervous excitement in the pit of my stomach, the likes of which I haven’t felt since I was twelve and riding the Gravitron, and one of my idiot friends convinced me to do a handstand just as the centrifugal force started to push my body against the wall. Then, I wasn’t sure if I liked it; now I have no doubt.

I freaking love it.

“Not exactly. I’ve always wanted to be President.” Leaving his book open, he places it face-down on the bed. “Law school is a logical place to start.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes.”

“Huh.” I’m not sure what to say.

“This surprises you.”

“Well, yeah,” I admit. “I’ve never known an adult who wanted to be President.”

He smiles. “That means I’ll have less competition. I know it’s a crazy dream, and I’m willing to accept failure—but only if I know I gave it everything I had.”

“Alice was right; you are type-A.”

“Tell me, Isabella.” He turns onto his side and props his head up with his hand. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“Are you implying I’m not a grown-up?” I don’t care how Edward sees me, as long as it isn’t as a child.

“Well–”

“My parents didn’t even want me home for Thanksgiving. I think it’s safe to say I’ll be on my own from here on out. As far as my career aspirations are concerned, I don’t know. Whatever pays the bills, I guess.”

“That’s depressing. Not that you can’t go home to your parents—that happens to most people eventually—but that you feel you needed them in order to have choices. There are always options. You may have to compromise a bit, but you shouldn’t stop dreaming.”

“Believe me, I still dream.”

“Of what?”

I dream of him, but I won’t tell him that.

“Nothing that will ever happen in reality.”

“Then forget realism. Forget your sense of responsibility. What do you want?”

I answer before I can think better of it.

“I want you to kiss me.”

“Seriously?”

“I was serious; now I seriously want to die. Forget I said anything.”

Except he doesn’t. His hands cup my face as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, and he closes the space between us. Even after his lips are pressed against mine, I still can’t believe it’s happening. I wasn’t expecting this, and that’s good—my shock outweighs my performance anxiety. I’m too busy trying to convince myself his kiss is real to worry that I may be kissing him the wrong way. By the time I accept that I am indeed experiencing my first kiss, it’s over.

And I already want him to kiss me again.


November 22, 2009
I thought the plan was to have a light lunch.”

“We are.” I smile at Alice as I arrange some crostini on a platter. “Just some cheese and bread—and wine, of course.”

“Why did you make apple-pie filling?”

“It was for the brie en croute. I’m chilling some Riesling to go with it. It’s an off-dry Spätlese; I think you’ll like it.”

“Where wine is concerned, I defer to your expert–” She stops when we hear the front door open. “That must be Jazz; I’ll be right back.”

Contentedly, I return to the task at hand. Cooking makes me feel connected to nature and humanity; cooking for people I love makes me feel connected to them. It’s something I don’t get to do often, so when I do, I go into a mental place where I do nothing more than savor the moment. I’m slicing a baguette when his voice startles me out of my zone.

“Hello, Isabella.”

The bread knife slips, and I cut my hand.

“Ow!” I yell.

I drop the knife and shake my hand in the air before bringing my fingertips eye-level. Though the slit in my flesh is narrow, it’s bleeding heavily. Keeping it elevated, I apply pressure to it with a dishtowel.

“I know where Alice keeps the first-aid kit,” he says. “Let me clean it up and bandage it for you.”

Before I can protest, he’s gone into the pantry. When he returns, he’s holding a small white box.

“I appreciate the gesture, Senator Cullen, but I think I need a doctor, not a politician.”

“Healthcare is very important to my office.”

I roll my eyes at him, but he ignores me. Instead, he takes my hand in his and starts to clean my cut.

“What are you doing here?” I ask.

“My sister lives here, remember?”

Though his eyes are fixed on my hand, my eyes are fixed on him. Sighing, I fold my un-injured arm across my chest and wait for him to stop fucking around with gauze and first-aid tape so I can excuse myself.

“Oh, you mean why I am here despite the fact she asked me to make myself scarce this week? You should know me better than to ask that question, Isabella.” After securing the bandage, his eyes meet mine. “I’m willing to accept failure, but only after I’ve given it everything I have.”

“You already have,” I remind him. “You told me as much the day I left you.”

“I lied.” Smiling, he vanishes as quickly as he’d appeared.





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6 Responses

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  1. on 03 Nov 2010 at 10:15 amGabi

    And it gets better and better!

    [Reply]


  2. on 09 Nov 2010 at 8:01 pmlourdes

    You are such an amazing writer. There is nothing that you write that I don;t love. I love this one so much.
    Thanks

    [Reply]


  3. on 10 Nov 2010 at 10:19 pmCarol Hansen

    Here I sit–sighing with satisfaction! You are so good!

    [Reply]


  4. on 29 Dec 2010 at 12:09 amrosy

    so, he had to be her first for everything…
    and, now after 10yrs they are having Thanksgiving to share with..
    ummm…i really hope bella will be honest about her own feeling for
    him. i dont want her to trow another 10yrs to realize that he is the only one for her.

    [Reply]


  5. on 25 Apr 2012 at 1:59 amStormDragonfly

    Oh, Edward. Such a liar.

    This has become a story that’s keeping me up later than I should be.

    [Reply]


  6. on 28 Jun 2012 at 5:12 amSimone

    I’m loving the slow building of their relationship–in both timelines. More, more, and more, please.

    [Reply]