June 20, 1996
Despite his insistence that I not make a sound, Edward isn’t quiet. Still pressing me against the brick wall, he brushes my hair from my forehead.
“Please,” he says, cupping the side of my face.
It doesn’t matter that I have no idea what he’s asking—if it’s within my power, he’s welcome to it. I just hate to see him hurting.
“Anything,” I whisper.
His pleas become louder, and though the pace of his thrusts borders on frantic, his eyes remain fixed on mine.
Not knowing what he wants, I tell him what I do know. “I love you.”
After he comes, he collapses against me, but the brick wall keeps us from falling. As his breathing returns to normal, I loosen the death-grip my legs have on his hips. When my feet are firmly on the ground, he releases his hold on me and closes his pants.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
My back is scraped up, my thighs are sore, and were I not leaning against our apartment building, I’m fairly sure I’d fall over. Then I look down and see the damage he’s done to my dress, and the sheer joy that comes with the knowledge I won’t have to wear it again more than compensates for my physical discomfort. I’m elated, until I realize I have to walk around the corner and into our building looking like…well…like I’d just had sex against a wall in an alley. I wonder how often he’s done this—if despite the fact he dislikes public displays of affection he has some kind of bizarre fetish for public sex. As much as I want to make him happy, I can’t see myself doing this with any regularity. The thought of someone seeing me like this is mortifying enough; if anyone were to catch us in the act, I think I’d die.
We were having sex ten minutes ago. Part of him is still inside me—even if gravity is doing its best to change this. I should be able to look at his face, but I can’t.
“I feel naked,” I say, staring at the ground.
There’s silence, and I think maybe he’s disappointed, that I haven’t lived up to his fantasy. Then I feel fabric cover my shoulders, and though I can’t see what it is, it’s starched and it smells like him. When I raise my eyes, he’s shirtless, holding his tie in one of his hands.
“Let’s get you home.”
It’s the best suggestion he’s had all night.
When we get back to the apartment, I head right to the bathroom.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I say, shutting the door behind me. It’s not exactly a lie—though I’m not okay at the moment, I think I will be if I have some time to myself to process things. After turning on the water so he’ll think I’m in the shower, I sit on the toilet lid and try to wrap my mind around the past few hours. It would be so easy to blame how I feel right now on Edward, but I know it isn’t his doing. I agreed to wear the dress; then I permitted him to rip it off me in public. If I feel like that kind of girl, it’s no one’s fault but my own.
I put his shirt and what’s left of my dress in the hamper. Even though it’s damaged beyond repair, I can’t bring myself to throw away something that cost more than the car I drove in high school. The thong is a different story; that shit goes right in the trash.
I put my hand under the shower stream, then adjust the temperature so the water is absolute hottest I can stand. Just because I can’t see any dirt doesn’t mean I’m not filthy. I mean, I just had sex in an alley. Something tells me it’s going to take a lot more than hot shower and a bar of Irish Spring before I feel clean again. Though I think I got a little carried away with the temperature—my back begins to burn the moment the water touches my body—I don’t make it cooler. I stare at the blisters on my feet, all the while trying to convince myself there’s no difference between dirt and feeling dirty. I pretend the water swirling around the drain contains both, and the sewer pipe buried beneath the asphalt of the alley will carry all of it away.
“I hurt you.”
I hadn’t heard Edward come into the shower, but it doesn’t surprise me he’s here.
“You didn’t mean to,” I say.
“Does that matter?” Standing behind me, he lifts my hair off my back and rests it in front of my shoulder. “Your back is all scraped up. I should have known that would happen–”
“Neither of us were thinking all that clearly.” I’d played along in the alley because I wanted him to feel good; I hate the thought of him feeling badly about it now. “You had a lot to drink tonight, and I…well…it’s just hard for me to say no to you.”
“That’s not good.”
I close my eyes, sighing. “I know.”
His lips brush lightly across my back. It’s barely a touch, but it’s there.
“I’m sorry,” he says.
November 29, 2009
Though the room is completely dark when I open my eyes, I know the reason I'm awake. Edward's always been an early riser. Evidence that time hasn't changed this is right behind me, pressing against my microfiber-covered ass. Despite the fact I've yet to touch him there again, I've grown re-accustomed to feeling it poke me. Though his part is anything but small, its obvious presence is only a small part of the experience of waking up in his arms. There's also his scent, the heat of his body, and the tickle of his stubble against my skin. More importantly, there's the overwhelming feeling this is right, that I'm where I was meant to be. It's wonderful beyond description, until I realize tonight I'll go to sleep alone. It makes me need more of him.
His embrace is tight enough that turning to face him is difficult but, after a bit of wiggling, my face is pressed against his chest. I’m about to fall back to sleep when he shifts his hips, causing his boxer-covered erection to poke between my thighs. Gasping, I lift my head so I can see his face.
“I know I’m taking liberties,” he says, “and I’m sorry.”
“About taking liberties?” He moves his hips again, this time rubbing himself against me. “Surely this qualifies.”
“I meant you’re lying about being sorry.”
He smiles. “Oh. You’re right.”
The next thing I know, I’m lifting my t-shirt over my head and tossing it onto the floor. I don’t do it thinking this my last chance to feel his skin against mine. I do it because this incarnation of us is just beginning, and I think it’s time for us behave like any other new couple who wants to get to know each other a bit better. I do it because despite the fact I want to wait to make love to him until after he’s seen my life in Chicago, I still want to lick him.
He pulls me into his arms and kisses me, and all I can think is how he isn’t close enough.
“Can you be quiet?” I ask.
“Take off your boxers and give them to me.”
Two seconds later, there’s a wad of gray cotton in my hand.
“I doubt I’ve ever seen a lawmaker move so quickly,” I say, straddling his lap.
He rubs himself against me, letting out a low moan.
“Not one more sound out of you!”
He opens his mouth to speak, then closes it without saying a sound. He’s smiling when he nods.
Separated by microfiber, we move as if we’re joined. He comes seconds after I do, and even though we’ve both had orgasms, we know we’ve yet to climax.
“I swore to myself I wouldn’t cry.” Alice wipes her eyes with the back of her hand. “I was smart to make Edward leave the room for this; I’d never hear the end of it. It’s just…” She throws her arms around me, pulling me against her. “I’m being silly. I mean, I’m seeing you at Christmas.”
“You’ll see me more than that,” I say. “Edward sent me his schedule; once I know mine, we’ll be able to plan my next visit. It won’t be another decade. I promise.”
“Oh, I know.” Her arms tighten around me. “I’m so happy to have you in my life again. The past ten years, I wasn’t missing a friend. I felt as if I’d lost part of myself. God, that makes me sound insane.”
“No, it doesn’t,” I say, resting my head on her shoulder. “It was the same for me.”
When I look up, Edward is standing in the doorway.
“And me,” he whispers.
“You can just drop me off,” I say. “There’s no need to deal with parking or anything. It’s not as if you can wait at the gate with me, and I know it will get complicated if anyone sees you–”
“I don’t care about that.”
“–and I don’t want you to see me cry.”
“Bella.” Keeping one hand on the steering wheel, he rests the other on my knee. “This isn’t the end.”
“I go to Illinois all the time.”
“I know that, too. I just…” I close my eyes, sighing. “This is going to sound crazy, but I have this sense of dread…I can’t even explain it. I mean, I know we can’t stay in our bubble forever, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to be without you again.”
“You won’t be,” he says.
I lay my hand on top of his, and he threads his fingers through mine. We remain silent as he pulls up to the loading area. I expect him to just pop the trunk, but he doesn’t. After putting on the hazards, he gets out of the car. I wait on the curb and focus on breathing.
When he hands me my suitcase, my eyes fill with tears. I’m only seconds away from losing my composure; then I feel his arms around my waist and his breath against my face.
“I’m not going to say good-bye to you,” he says. “It doesn’t seem appropriate.”
“No, really. I love you, Isabella. One way or another, we’re going to make this work.” He leans forward as if he about to kiss me.
“People will see,” I say, turning my face.
His lips touch mine, and there’s no longer any space between us. A moment later he’s gone.
The line to go through security is long. Surrounded by people, I work my way through it alone, mentally replaying the last time I walked these steps. Just when my fatalism overwhelms me—when I start to think maybe everything is the same now as it was ten years ago—a TSA agent reminds me I need to place my Docs and any electronic devices I may be carrying into gray plastic bins to be x-rayed. It’s not a foreign concept to me—I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve done this before—it’s strange to me because I didn’t do it then. It finally occurs to me there was no need. In 1999, it hadn’t occurred to us that terrorists would use airplanes to bring down buildings. The world has changed so much since then—never again we will be lulled into a false sense of security thinking the preservation of everything we’ve worked to achieve requires no effort on our parts. We learned this the hard way. By the time I board my flight, I’ve stopped wondering if this time things will be different—I know they will be.
When I land in Chicago, Carlisle is waiting for me at the baggage claim. Though we hadn’t discussed how I’d get home from the airport, I’m not entirely surprised to see him. Since the moment we met, he’s been protective of me in a way that would infuriate me if it came from anyone else. But Carlisle doesn’t do it because he thinks I’m incapable of taking care of myself, nor does he have an ulterior motive. He does it because he wants to, and he knows I’d do it for him.
The moment he sees me, he smiles.
“You didn’t have to come get me,” I say, throwing myself into his arms.
“I was in the neighborhood.”
“You’re a terrible liar.”
“Well…yeah. It’s not as if I’ve had much practice.”
Laughing, I step out of his embrace. “Not that I mind being spared from a cab-ride, but…”
“You’d like to know why I’m really here.”
“Well, yes. When my flight came in from Paris four months ago, you texted me saying you were too hungover to come get me. The words ‘deal with it’ come to mind.”
He shrugs and, when he speaks, his voice is soft. “He wasn’t in Paris, Izzy.”
“This time it’s different.”
“Who are you trying to convince?”
I know where this conversation is headed, and no good can come from it.
“Where’s Esme?” I ask, changing the subject.
“She’s at home, working on recipes for the Christmas tasting menu. You should expect a phone call from her later to discuss wine pairings.” He stops talking and shakes his head. “I’ll never understand how you two can eat carcass.”
“Don’t get me started.”
“Oh, life of a vegetarian chef!” I tease. “A superfluous trip to O’Hare is preferable to seeing carrion on your Corian.”
On the drive to my apartment, we discuss everything but Edward. I know better than to try to convince Carlisle he’s changed; it’s something Carlisle will have to see for himself.
And come Christmas, he will.