Vin de Garde
November 21, 1995
Edward doesn’t react to our kiss the same way I do—or if he does, I can’t tell. When I open my eyes, he’s smiling, but otherwise he seems unaffected.
“Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, you can cross it off the list and come up with a new goal in life.”
Though his tone is teasing, I know he thinks I’m ridiculous. I don’t tell him that I already have and my new goal is for him to kiss me with tongue. He’d think I was a boy-crazy kid, and though I feel like one when I’m around him, it’s not who I am.
The mattress bounces beneath me, and when I look up, Edward’s gotten out of bed. After grabbing a pair of flannel sleep pants and a t-shirt from a dresser drawer, he turns back to me.
“We should probably discuss sleeping arrangements,” he says.
“The floor is fine.”
“Maybe for me, it is.”
“Please. You’re in law school. Surely you know that squatters have no rights–”
“As if you know squat about squatters.”
“I know that’s what I’m doing.”
“No,” he says, shaking his head. “You’re my guest.”
“Only because Alice put you on the spot.”
“You don’t know me very well—not at all, really—so you’ll have to take my word for this. When I do something, it’s either because I want to or because it’s necessary to get where I want to be. I never do anything out of obligation, or because someone put me up to it.”
“I appreciate your hospitality, but I’d never be able to sleep knowing you were on the floor because I was in your bed.”
“Then I guess we’re sharing the bed.” He goes into the bathroom, and when he re-emerges a few minutes later, he’s changed into his pajamas. “So, Isabella…” He stops when he notices I’m cringing. “Is something wrong?”
“Are you always so formal?”
“No.” He smiles, creating five-o’clock-shadow-covered dimples. “I just didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.”
“It’s your formality that’s making me uncomfortable.”
“Oh. Well, in that case…” His smile widens, and he takes off his shirt.
I try not to gawk at his chest, but it’s hard not to, because his chest is so…well…hard. I want to touch it because I think it would feel the same way another part of his body feels when it’s hard, but I know I’m not ready to touch that yet. I mean, I can’t even bring myself to make eye-contact with him now that he’s shirtless. Instead, I study the rust-colored hair around his belly-button, wondering if it would feel soft or wiry against my skin.
“I hate wearing shirts to bed,” he says.
Now that I’ve seen the alternative, I think I hate it, too.
“And though I also hate wearing pants to bed, I think under the circumstances I should just deal with it. And on that note, Isabella–”
“That’s what I was talking about,” I explain. “The only other person who calls me Isabella is my father, and even then it’s usually because I’m in trouble for something. Every time you address me by name, I think I just got busted for breaking curfew. Then I feel awkward and flustered and I inevitably embarrass myself.”
“Do you do that often?”
“I embarrass myself more than you could possibly imagine.”
“I meant disobey your parents.”
I shake my head. “I’m a good girl.”
“Somehow, I don’t doubt that. This is your first time, isn’t it?”
His jaw drops.
“Why are you surprised?” I ask.
“I was asking if it tonight was your first time sharing a bed with a guy you hardly knew, not if what happened earlier was…”
“My first kiss?”
“Oh. Well, it was. As far as your other question is concerned, I’ve never done that before, either.”
He nods his head slowly, still seeming a little stunned. “I’m sorry.”
“If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have–”
“You wouldn’t have kissed me?”
“Not then, and certainly not like that.”
I’m afraid to ask him to elaborate. Instead, I pick up my bag and bring it into the bathroom with me. After I wash my face and brush my teeth, I study my reflection in the mirror. My hair is nice, but I can’t be bothered to do anything with it besides throw it up in a scrunchy. It’s a good thing I don’t have pimples—my skin is so pale I’d never be able to find concealer in a light enough shade. My face is round, and my boobs are small. Now that I think about it, I look like a child. It’s no wonder Edward thinks of me as one—and if I leave the bathroom wearing what I’d packed for me to sleep in, it will only get worse.
“Shit,” I mutter under my breath.
“Is everything all right in there?”
Though I hadn’t meant for him to hear me, I see this as a unique opportunity.
“Yes,” I say. “Except I forgot to pack something to sleep in. Can I borrow a t-shirt or something?”
“Sure, no problem.”
A few seconds later, he knocks on the door. I open it a crack, and he hands me a white, v-neck undershirt. It’s not as seductive as lingerie would be, but it out-sexes my flannel sleepshirt. The fact it smells like him is an added bonus. I put it on, and try not to be bothered by the fact my nipples and my panties are plainly visible through its sheer fabric as I rejoin Edward in the other room.
“Would you please call me Izzy?”
“No,” he says.
I wait for him to elaborate, but he doesn’t.
“Do you need anything from me?”
“I need you to stop calling me Isabella.”
“I meant before I go to sleep.”
Something comes to mind, but I’m not sure if it qualifies as a need or a want. Then he yawns, stretching his arms above his head. The muscles around his nipples flex, and I no longer question the validity of my request.
“I need you to kiss me again.”
He shakes his head, but moves toward me anyway. As soon as he’s close enough for us to touch, the tiny hairs on my arms stand up, and my senses go into overload. He tucks my hair behind my ears, then brushes his hand across my forehead. When his lips replace his fingertips on my brow, I close my eyes in anticipation of what I know is coming.
Except it doesn’t. I wait a few seconds, and still, there’s nothing. When I open my eyes, Edward is getting into bed.
“Do you need me to leave a light on for you?” he asks.
“Okay.” He reaches for the switch on the lamp but instead of turning it off, he just looks at me.
“What?” I ask.
“Do you sleep standing up?”
“Then come to bed.”
The way he says it makes it sound effortless, natural—as if it’s our bed and not only have we shared it countless times before, but there’s no reason to doubt we won’t again and again. Nothing about his tone indicates he meant to let me down just now, but that doesn’t matter because it’s a rejection nonetheless. My ego wants me to sleep on the floor, but my mind knows I won’t be comfortable enough there to get any rest. The rest of me—my heart, my body, and my girly bits—just want to be close to Edward, regardless of whether or not he wants to be close to me. So when he pulls back the covers, I can’t help but slide into bed beside him.
He turns off the light and rolls onto his back, staring up at the ceiling.
“You think I didn’t want to kiss you.”
“Then why didn’t you?”
“Because I don’t think I would have been able to stop.”
“I wouldn’t mind if we spent the night kissing.”
“I would,” he says, laughing.
He pulls me into his arms, and I lean into him with my back against his chest and my butt against his…
Oh my god.
I think maybe the floor would have been the softer of my two options.
November 22, 2009
It doesn’t surprise me that Edward invites himself to stay for lunch. Alice is in the kitchen just long enough to whisper that she’s sorry before Jasper and Edward stroll in behind her. Edward is cavalier to the point of cockiness, and while in the past I would have found it annoying, today I’m grateful for it. It grounds me and forces me to remember that none of my feelings for him have changed. Without this, I’d let love and heat consume me, just as they had before. We’d burn; I’d burn. The flames would extinguish themselves only when there was nothing left. I wouldn’t cease to exist, but I’d die. I know it all too well—even if I mistook it for compromise at the time. I also know that without the luxury of naïvetè, it would hurt even more.
The four of us gather around the table to eat, and Edward is charming and witty. He’s being who he always was, and I go out of my way to be who I’ve become without him. After identifying each of the cheeses, I pour the wine and explain why I selected it. Edward’s fingers brush mine as he reaches for his glass and grasps it by its stem. His wrist flicks back and forth with a greater range of motion than what is necessary, and despite the fact I’m focused on the table, I feel him staring at me. My eyes meet his, and one corner of his mouth turns up in a silent dare. His gaze travels downward, lingering on his lap. He looks briefly at his still-moving hand then lowers his eyes again before bringing them back to mine.
“How long do you expect me to do this?” he asks.
The implication of his statement both amuses and enrages me, but I can’t call him on it, because we’re not alone. I don’t doubt for a second that he planned it this way.
“Until it softens,” I say.
He laughs, and the moment I’m back in my seat, I find myself doing something I haven’t done in years—I gulp my wine. Needless to say, the bottle doesn’t last long.
I don’t wait for Edward to leave before excusing myself to my room. I kick off my shoes and stretch out in bed. Moments later, I hear a knock at the door.
“It’s just me,” Alice says.
“Come in.” I wait until she’s closed the door before speaking. “This is going to sound completely hypocritical–”
“You’re mitigating,” Alice says, flopping onto the bed beside me. “This should be good.”
“I can’t believe you told your brother to make himself scarce this week. I mean, it’s a holiday–”
“Exactly. And I’ve spent every holiday with him since…” She empties her lungs in a gush and shakes her head. “Since I started spending holidays with him,” she says, shrugging.
“It’s a waste of effort.”
“Holidays?” she asks. “Agreed. That’s why I’m making you cook.”
“Good food is never a waste. I’m talking about the way you’re constantly censoring yourself with me.”
“Fine, then,” she says, sighing. “Edward and I have spent every holiday together since you moved to Chicago, though not because he asked for my company. That would have been a verbal acknowledgment that he has emotional needs.”
“And Edward doesn’t do that. He expects you to just know; then he holds it against you when you don’t.”
“In your case, that’s a valid criticism. It’s different for me—I do just know—and some of those years despite his insistence otherwise, I knew I couldn’t leave him alone. Thanksgiving is always rough for Edward, and Christmas is usually worse. We spend holidays together, but we don’t actually celebrate them—he’s easier to deal with if we don’t. Most years we get Chinese food and go to the movies.” She yawns. “I don’t know why I’m so tired; it must be the wine. This is the time I usually have dinner, but I think if I were to close my eyes right now, I’d sleep until morning.”
“Then maybe that’s what you should do.”
“Probably. I just miss you so much. I don’t want to waste a moment of your visit–”
“I know I’m going home to Chicago in a week, but as far as we’re concerned, I’m not going anywhere. You understand, that?”
“I do now.” She smiles, and a few seconds later she’s curled up on my bed, fully clothed and fast asleep.
I can’t shake the feeling there’s something she isn’t telling me.