Saturday, June 12, 2010

Osa Bella - Chapters 13, 14 & 15 [Twilight Fan Fiction]


Dudes, preparing the chapters for today has kicked my ass so hard that I can't even write a proper intro. Mr. Myg, my tormentor and slave driver has graciously agreed to step in with a comment. 

Here's the .pdf and as always, thanks for commenting! I eat, breathe and sleep your comments now. If you want to read this on Fanfiction.net, you can do that but I'll be posting chapters a day later there. The link is right here  for all you iPhone readers.
____

Note from Mr. Myg: You people owe me. You’re getting THREE chapters today, and long ones at that. The word count is somewhere near 15,000.

Why are you so lucky? Because I want my wife back. If I had my way, this would end in Chapter 13 with Bella hit by a bus or Edward committing suicide because he can’t stand another day of high school (seriously, no vampire would repeat high school just so Carlisle could play doctor, not even Edward).

Joking aside, you get an extra long read today because the arc of the story demands it. Leaving you stranded at the end of the end of Chapter 13 would be a violation of your Eighth Amendment rights to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment even if you deserved to be punished, which you don’t. You deserve much better because all of you make Myg happy with your comments and banter and sharing of this ridiculous obsession. Thanks for that—if Myg’s happy, I’m happy. And though I’m not a Twilight fan (the first movie was okay, you don’t want to hear what I think about the rest of it), I believe reading and writing are essential to civilization. Really, I’m that dorky about it. Anything that gets people reading and writing and talking about reading and writing is worth doing. I place such high value on it that I’ve spent months talking to Myg about this story and Twilight in general, despite the recurring urge to stab myself.

All of that said, I hope you didn’t have any plans for the rest of the day because what follows is more than twice as long as the chapter you’ve just read. Order take out and send the kids to the neighbors now, because Kansas is going bye bye.



 CHAPTER 13

Do’s
I had to step up my relationship with Derek. He was a good man and he cared about me and when I was with him, I was able to think straight. I considered confessing what had happened with Edward, but I kept thinking of what Edward said, and I knew he was right—there was more at stake here than just my feelings. And although I feared that secret was going to breed like maggots on dead flesh I decided to keep it. Because he asked me to.

For the rest of break I called Derek every day. “Hi! How was your day? How are your parents? I miss you.” That sort of thing. Talking to him helped me feel safe. Normal. He was glad to hear from me, too. And when he got home from his parents’ the Saturday before break ended, I did something I never thought I’d do.

(much, much more after the break...)

 “I want to come to church with you tomorrow,” I said.

“Really?”

“Yes, don’t you want me to?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said, smiling. “I’d love to bring you to church. I just thought you weren’t interested.”

“I’m interested in anything that’s important to you,” I said.

The thought of going to Derek’s church made me nervous. I'd always been very philosophically and politically to the left. I was raised sort of a part-time Catholic, never going to church much outside of weddings and funerals. But I knew one thing. Church was a big deal to Derek, and if I was going to seriously consider moving forward in this relationship, I was going to have to check it out.

When he came to pick me up the next day he graciously let me know I was a bit over dressed, which I could see given he looked ready for an afternoon hike, not a morning worship service. “We’re not there to impress anyone,” he explained.

The unassuming structure that he worshipped in underscored that point. I felt like I was being taken to a morning shift at a warehouse. When we walked in, a Christian rock band was setting up. I felt my stomach lurch from nerves.

“You’ll love the band,” he smiled. “They’re really good. Totally uplifting.”

I doubted it.

But, I knew that I had deeply held biases about religion and I tried to be honest with myself. I wanted to be open-minded for Derek’s sake. If he had this kind of faith, then out of my respect for him I had to respect it. So I muzzled my inner bitch for the next two hours and just tried to pay attention to what the preacher had to say.

I was surprised to find that the message was something I could relate to. There was some talk of sin and hell that turned me off, but the core message was one of love and fellowship and aspiring to a higher purpose, and I could deal with that. I wished I could believe the fairy tale these folks believed about eternal life. In fact, I thought with a little more work I could stretch my empirical science loving brain enough to consider the possibility that the world was not just those things that we can see, hear, touch, smell or taste. Maybe there was some magic left in it after all. These people certainly believed so.

“So?” Derek asked me, beaming, over a post-church brunch. “Think you might come back next week?”

“Sure,” I said. If coming to church with Derek would clinch the deal between us, I was willing.

#

Ever since that day out on Reckoner Edward had kept to his word and stayed away from me. For a week after break he didn't even come back to school and I worried, but not seeing him definitely helped me hate myself a little less for what I'd done. Still, I missed him.

After two weeks of not speaking to him at all, I thought maybe I could really get over it. Maybe what had happened on Reckoner was just a momentary slip of mine, something I could move on from. I was only human, right? Things happen.

The more time I spent with Derek the safer I felt. He had strong opinions, a solid career, a 401K. He knew what he wanted and didn't play around. We even talked about taking a cruise to the Galapagos over the summer together. And as things progressed, I felt grounded in something very stable, like a tree in midlife with roots deep into solid soil. Sometimes it almost felt too stable—like having my feet set in concrete. But I knew the kind of emotional shipwreck I was capable of left to my own. Wallowing in self pity, popping pills, drinking too much, seducing teenage boys. I behaved much better when Derek was around. So as long as nobody tossed me into deep water, I'd deal with it.

And then, Edward’s prediction came true.

“Friday I want to take you somewhere nice for dinner,” Derek said one Monday morning at work. “For a change.”

“Chez Banner isn’t nice enough?” I asked.

“I have something special planned,” he said.

“What?”

“It’s a surprise. Wear the black dress.” 

There I found myself, on the precipice of something I knew was probably a very good thing for me: another chance at marriage with a solid man who loved me. On its surface, this was something to celebrate. But beneath the surface, I wrestled with doubt and insecurity. I'd expected to have a little more time before this moment came.

#

“Friday,” Edward said to me when he came to my office later that day. “He’s going to propose to you on Friday.”

“He told you that?”

“No,” he said. “But it’s going to happen. Trust me. What are you going to say?”

“I thought you were seeing Mercy now?”

“What does that have to do with anything? Tell me you’re not going marry someone you know is wrong for you,” he said, growing angrier.

“What makes you think he’s so wrong for me?” The size of his enormous ego made me want to hit him.

“What’s the big hurry?” Edward asked. “Is it the whole sex issue?”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I said, my face growing red.

“Don’t rush into marriage just because Derek wants to get laid.”

He could have just slapped me.

I walked to my window and stared outside, seething. Edward came and stood behind me and damn it if I didn’t feel every muscle in my body tense in reaction to his presence. He gently moved the hair away from my ear.

“Don’t do it,” he whispered, his lips brushing the back of my ear. I swear I couldn’t even remember what we were talking about for a full minute. He slipped his hands around my waist and held me, and I should have, but did not push him away. “Please don’t marry him,” he said more insistently.

There was no real reason for my heart to break in half the way it did when he said that. We were nothing to each other but a bad idea, and I could see that I’d nurtured his attachment to me far too much. For his sake, I had to put a stop to this.

“Edward Cullen,” I said, “The senior prom is in just a few weeks. There are at least eighty five girls in this school who would die to go with you.” I turned back to face him. “I went to prom thirteen years ago, okay? You are at a different place in your life than I am and you need to be with people your own age.”

“Bella, you don’t know the first thing about what I need.” And then he left.

I was overwhelmed. Confused. Upset. I had to talk to someone before I started to feel too desperate, so that very night I drove out to Port Angeles to see Illeana, the one person I knew I could confess everything to, the one person I knew would give it to me straight.

“How soon will he be eighteen?” she asked, shocking me.

“He’s a student. That doesn’t matter.”

“Well, legally it does, right?”

“I’ll lose my job,” I argued.

“Honey, he’s rich. Who cares if you lose your job?”

“I’m not going to marry him, Jesus!” I said. “I’m not going to do anything with him. He’s a kid. Besides, he’s going out with Mercy Brown now.”

“Bullshit,” she said. “Mercy Brown likes girls.”

“What?”

“She’s a lesbian.”

“How do you know?”

“I saw her making out with some girl in the club that night after the show.”

“So? She's probably bisexual,” I pointed out.

“She's not. Anyway, it doesn't matter. Edward is in love with you.”

“Illeana, he’s too young.”

“I don't know, Bella. I can't put my finger on it but he’s not normal. He's not just pseudo-mature, either. He's an old soul, I can tell that much. And besides, you love him. You know you do.”

“Don’t say that,” I said.

“It’s the truth,” she said. “You can fight it all you want.”

“What am I going to do about Derek?”

“You’re not going to say yes, are you?”

“I don’t know what to say."

“Then that’s your answer.”

The next day I called Jake and told him I needed to talk. When I told him I was going to be proposed to he actually sounded upset. He met me at the Mill and we ordered a pizza and Rainiers and it just felt so good to be out with him—so normal. I had no intention of telling him anything about Edward. I was too embarrassed and confused so I just stuck to the problem at hand.

“Why do you think he’s going to propose?” Jake asked. “Is he giving you signals?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Well, it’s not a typical kind of situation.”

“Why?”

“How do I explain this? Don’t laugh or I will hit you. We haven’t had sex yet,” I said.

“Go on,” he said.

“He’s very conservative.”

“I knew it.”

“And he won’t have sex with me until we’re married,” I said. “And it’s getting very obvious that he… wants to. But that’s not the actual reason he wants to marry me. It’s just… we've been… I tried… oh Jesus. I can’t even explain it.”

“Bella,” Jake said gently, taking my hand in his. I looked up at him and bit my lip to keep my eyes from tearing up. Damn him. Damn him for not being in love with me. It would have been so much easier to be with Jake. “Do you love him?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I do. We get along well. I don’t drink around him.” Jake rolled his eyes. “I guess I feel like I am a better person when I’m around him, you know? He makes me a better woman.”

“Sure, okay. Whatever. Are you still you?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Don’t do it. Don’t marry him.”

“Jake, I don’t want to be alone the rest of my life, you know?”

“You won’t be, Bella," he said. "Have a little faith.”

#

All week long Derek was extra sweet to me. He sent text messages, even during the school day, with hints about what might be coming Friday night. He sent email and dropped by my office during his breaks to hang out or sometimes steal a kiss.

I had been seriously contemplating a future as Mrs. Bella Banner. I didn’t like the sound of that name, though it was a small thing.  I could just leave my last name as Swan I thought, but then realized Derek might not like that. My nerves began to fray as I considered all of the different ways in which Derek and I were not all that compatible. Politics. Thai food. Porn. Early metal. And the disapproval from Illeana, Jacob and even Edward rattled my brain.

I was twitchy as the week wore on. By Thursday night, I found myself standing in my bathroom, staring at the pills in my medicine cabinet. I pulled out a couple of Klonopin and took them. As I felt the familiar waves of the sedative knocking me down several pegs, I remembered a past I didn’t want to revisit. I didn’t want to turn back.

When I came into work on Friday morning, there was a small bouquet of red baby roses sitting on my desk from him. “Can’t wait for tonight, my love,” the note said.

“Nice flowers,” Red said, dropping a pile of papers on my desk. “So you and Derek, huh?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“He’s a great guy, Bella,” he said. “You deserve a guy like him.”

“Really?” I laughed. “I’m not so sure.”

“Don’t be silly,” Red said. “Of course you do.”

He was right about one thing—Derek was a great guy. I knew Illeana and Jake had my best interest at heart, but they weren’t me. They didn’t know everything I’d been through, and they didn’t see how good Derek was to me. They didn’t see how well we operated together when we were facilitating our group, when we were cooking dinner or doing something stupid like picking out a movie. We were partners—a team. And we had fun together. We were comfortable. And if we got married, I’m sure the sex would be just fine and we’d be able to work out our assorted differences. People did it all the time. I wasn’t a kid, I knew no match was perfect. A good relationship takes work.

I needed something like this in my life. I needed a way forward into the future with someone who would make a good teammate. Someone who could keep me on the right path, away from pills and beer and off of wayward sea voyages with sexy young men who would cause my ruin.

If I was married, I knew I could keep myself away from Edward.

#

Friday night came and I was in the black dress, just as Derek had asked. I was nervous, but excited too. He picked me up, looking fantastic in his suit. I swear when I saw him, my fears about the future melted away in the comfort of his smile.

“You look beautiful,” he said. "Let's go."

The entire ride to Port Angeles he spoke of the upcoming camping trip to Lake Crescent and how beautiful Olympic Park would be in the spring. He talked about the lodge at the far end of the lake, and how he wanted to take me there sometime, maybe for a “special event” of some sort. My stomach did flips as I listened to him chatter on.

We got out at the waterfront and walked along the pier, stopping to gaze out over Sequim Bay. For a brief moment I was reminded of my frantic trip here with Edward, but I brushed the thought aside. That was the past. The sun was setting, making spectacular patterns across the clouds. Derek took my hand in his and squeezed it lightly.

“Bella,” he said. “These last months with you have been some of the best of my life. I feel like I can tackle the world with you,” he said.

“Derek,” I said, choking up, suddenly nervous as hell. I couldn’t speak as the tears came.

He got down on one knee and looked up at me. “Bella Swan, will you make me the happiest man in the world? Will you marry me?”

The sun began its slow descent into the bay and a single gull lit on the railing of the pier, watching me. I imagined it to be Zachary, studying me here in this new part of my life. The part without him. The part where I fought to be some version of the good person I had been before he died, sometimes more and sometimes less successfully.

Then I looked down at Derek intently, thinking this was it. It was time to take that step into my future. The one where I wouldn’t be alone.

“Yes,” I said.




CHAPTER 14

Flightless Bird

I walked into school on Monday with a shiny new rock on my left hand and received hearty congratulations from all my coworkers, especially Red. I retired to my office and began to dig into paperwork and waited. I knew it wouldn't be long.

Just after the first period bell, Edward showed up in my office. As I expected.

“You said yes,” he said. “You actually said yes.” He glowered at me in a way that probably should have frightened me, but just made me more convinced I’d done the right thing.

“Yeah,” I said. "I said yes."

“Why?”

“Because… “

“Because you love him?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said and looked away. I did love Derek. Of course I did. I wouldn't have said yes if I didn't love him. It just was a more mature, calm kind of love.

“You don't love him,” he said. “He’s just a safe bet and you know it.”

“I’m not discussing this with you.”

“Don’t do this,” he said. “You know it’s a mistake.”

“You’ve got to go now,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m the one who's sorry,” he said, and left.

Edward's reaction convinced me I was doing the right thing. My marriage to Derek would help him move on, and clearly he needed to move on. 

At Thoreau club the next afternoon, I was dismayed to see Edward had returned. I tried to think of an excuse to tell him he couldn’t be there, but I had none and Erik, Paige, Angela and Jessica were all excited he'd come back. Mike, on the other hand, gave him the third degree.

“Oh sure, now that we’re getting ready for the trip you come back. Mr. Banner, how is that fair?” Mike complained.

“You can’t get full credit, Edward,” Derek said. “I’m sorry. You can only miss three meetings and still get that.”

“I'm not coming back to the club,” he said. “I just had some information about the bears I thought you’d all be interested in.”

“What is it?” Erik asked.

“I was out sailing this weekend off of La Push and saw about fifteen bears swimming toward the shore.”

“So? Bears can swim,” Mike said.

“But they don’t live in big packs,” Angela said, excitedly. “They’re usually solitary.”

“Right,” Edward said. “This was almost like a tribe.”

“That’s so cool,” Jessica said. Mike bristled.

“Miss Swan, we need to go see Jacob Black again,” Paige said. "He must be able to tell us more about it."

“Can you call him, Miss Swan?” Angela asked.

“Of course,” I took out my cell phone and dialed Jacob and caught a very uncomfortable look on Edward’s face. So uncomfortable it caused me to pause and reconsider for a second, but then he looked away.

“Why, hello there Miss Swan,” Jake answered with a sarcastic edge in his voice. I wasn't sure what his problem was, and was in no position to ask so I just asked him about the bears swimming off of La Push. He confirmed it. In fact, they’d begun building shelter on the perimeter of the Reservation for them since their numbers were growing and they wanted to give them someplace besides their garages and barns to crash. He also said it wasn’t a good idea to bring the kids up until they could get a handle on what was going on.

“What do the elders say about it?” I asked.

“You don’t even want to know,” he said. “And by the way, congratulations on your engagement. I can’t believe I had to hear it from your father, though. You’re now on my shit list.”

#

The next morning I walked into school and saw Angela and Erik sitting at a table in the hallway, selling prom tickets.

"Monte Carlo, gambling and Bond, James Bond," Erik said in his best Sean Connery voice to Jessica and Mike and a small crowd of other seniors as they bought their tickets.

I hated prom season. It always meant a steady stream of girls coming into my office to stress over dates, boyfriends, booze and whether a blow job technically constituted sex. It meant worrying about drunk teens on the road. It meant worrying, period.

But I loved prom itself. Modern America's real coming of age party. The kids always looked so grown up in their formals and their updos. Prom always made me a little weepy as I compared the seniors with their freshmen selves and saw what huge changes took place in the four years of their high school careers. It made me laugh a little to remember what it felt like to be their age, thinking I knew anything about the way the world worked. By thirty years old I was convinced I might never know.

To my surprise, the first senior girl who came to me for prom related hand wringing was Paige. Paige and I saw each other every week at Thoreau club, and we got along great but she'd never been the type of kid to seek me out for assistance. But this morning she came in, looking fairly perturbed.

"I need your opinion." She fiddled with a loose thread on the edge of the sofa. "You're pretty close with Edward, right?" she asked.

"About as close as I am with any of you young philosophers,” I said, hoping my face didn’t show the discomfort I felt inside. “Why?"

"Do you think he'd go to prom with me?"

I wasn't expecting that. I'd always assumed Edward wouldn't bother with prom. He hadn't attended a school function all year. He wasn’t the type. Hell—who was I kidding? I didn't want him to go to prom. I didn't want to see him there looking heart-breakingly handsome in a tuxedo with some young pretty thing on his arm who had her whole life ahead of her.

But responsible me, professional me, knew that he should go. In fact, if he went and had a good time, he might start to get over me. And though I felt ill, really ill, when I thought about Edward falling in love with someone who wasn't me, I knew for his sake that he should. And if I had to pick one girl in the whole school who I thought Edward might actually take to prom, it would be Paige. She was smart, funny, easy to be around. No drama.

"Ask him," I said.

"Really? You think I should?"

"Sure," I said. "What's the worst that could happen?"

"He'll say no and hate me for making him feel awkward and not want to make eye contact with me ever again. That would suck."

"That won't happen," I said. "He'll be flattered you asked, regardless of his answer. But can I ask you a question?"

"What?"

"I sort of kind of thought you were a teeny tiny bit into Mike."

"It was that obvious?"

"Not at all," I said. "I just wondered."

"I've been in love with Mike Newton since tenth grade," she said. "But you cannot tell anyone that!"

"Paige, come on," I said. "You know I never would."

"It kills me because Jess doesn't really love Mike, but he's so in love with her and I think she takes advantage of him, like he's always going to be there for her no matter what. It pisses me off. It makes it really difficult to be friends, you know?"

I gave her a sympathetic smile. All she needed was a night alone with Edward and I was fairly certain her feelings for Mike would be a distant memory.

"Edward is so nice," she continued. "And I have no date and it's senior year and prom and I want to go, but I don't want to go alone and so I just thought… maybe, you know? Just as friends? Plus he's really hot."

"You should ask him," I encouraged. "The worst that will happen is he'll say he can't make it. But I doubt it will be catastrophic."

"Will you be there?"

"Of course," I said. "It's prom. I have to be on hand for punch bowl and drama duty."

#

An hour later Edward showed up in my office, looking like he'd just been punked.

"Did you put Paige up to asking me to the prom?"

"No," I said. "Why? Did she ask you?"

"Me go to prom? Are you kidding me? All that horrible pop music and gaudy overpriced dresses on the girls and tacky decorations? I'd rather spend an evening in hell itself."

"Prom is an important rite of passage," I said. "You shouldn't miss it."

"I can't believe this."

"Are your brothers and sisters going?"

"They are now," he said. "I'm not suffering alone."

"So Paige did ask you?"

"No, I asked her."

"You did?"

"Yes, I did," he said. "She was so nervous about the whole thing I couldn't stand it."

I couldn't help myself—I laughed. "Edward, that's just about the sweetest thing I've ever heard."

"This may come as a shock to you, but I can be sweet if the mood strikes me and why are you looking at me like that?" He glared at me suspiciously.

"Like what?" I said. I was looking at him like that because I'd been imagining him in a tux, at prom. The problem was he'd be there with Paige and not me. And he'd be dancing with her, not me. And I felt ridiculous, embarrassed at the thought.

He was only seventeen, I told myself. He probably couldn't dance all that well anyway. Stop fantasizing. No wait. I'd seen the Cullens dance and they were award-winning dancers, and supposedly Edward was better than all of them. I was engaged, I reminded myself. And thirty. And Derek was a fine dancer.

"Bella," Edward said, lowering his voice. He hesitated and then asked, “Do you have a date?"

"What?"

"For the wedding. Do you have a date?"

"Oh," I said. "June 30th."

"You can't marry him that soon. That's insane."

"We've both been married before, we're having something very small and I don't see the point in waiting and you know what?" I lowered my voice to try to contain my anger. "I'll marry whomever I choose, whenever I choose. I am thirty years old, thank you very much."

"God," he said. "You're impossible."

"Me? Impossible? I'm not the one trying to tell you who you can't marry."

"No, you just set me up with a prom date you know I don't want."

"First of all, I didn't set that up. And second of all, Paige is a great girl. Maybe you should get to know her better." I almost gagged as I said it, my stomach turned so hard.

"June? Are you kidding me?"

"Edward you'll be halfway across the Pacific, what do you care?"

"What do I care? Do you really have to ask that?"

I didn't have to ask and I shouldn't have asked, it was cruel. But the selfish part of me wanted to hear him admit it. I wanted him to admit it for the both of us, since I never would.

"What have I done?" I said.

"Don't marry Derek because you're trying to stay away from me. You'll be miserable and I can't live with that."

"That's not the only reason," I said.

"You don't love him," he said. "Not enough to marry him."

"You don't know that."

He looked out the window.

"I… " I choked up and looked away. "I'm just trying to do what's right."

"Why don't you do what's right for you for once?" he said. "Not what you think is right by everyone else's standards."

"Oh, my God," I said in frustration, putting my face in my hands. "I don't want to hurt you, okay? The last thing on this earth I want to do is cause you any more pain."

"Then don't marry Derek."

"Edward, come on. You're being completely unreasonable."

"I know," he said. "I can't help myself. I can't think straight. But you can't do this."

What I really wanted to do was sit in his lap, wrap my arms around him and tell him it was all going to work out. He was going to be okay. I wanted to absorb whatever agony he was feeling right out of him, to leave him free of it. I hated seeing him upset. I hated more that I was the cause of it. He needed support, and I couldn't give it to him.

"Maybe we should talk to your father," I said.

"What for?"

"I'm worried about you."

"You're unbelievable," he said and then laughed. "What do you plan to say to Carlisle, exactly?"

"I'll tell him the truth. I seduced you into an inappropriate relationship, and I'll ask him to help you through this because obviously, it's causing you a lot of stress."

"You know, I almost wish you would, just so I could see the look on Carlisle's face when you make such a ridiculous confession. It would be priceless. Just promise me you'll do it in person and not over the phone."

"Could you not be a jerk for a second?" I said, getting angry. "I want to fix this, Edward. I'm not trying to make you feel worse, and I'm definitely not trying to be funny."

"Bella, look," he said. "What do you want me to do here? Do you want me to leave? I'll leave school."

"No, no, no," I said, shaking my head. "Don't be crazy. Why would you even consider doing that?"

"If I'm not around, you won't have to worry about anything happening between us and you can back out of your engagement."

"I'm not going to back out," I said. "Whether you stay or go. So you may as well stay."

"You don't love him. I know you don't."

"Edward, this isn't healthy."

"I know," he said.

The bell rang and there was a knock at my door, and then Doreen opened it and stuck her head in.

"Mr. Colter needs to see you," she said.

I waved her out of the room.

"If you truly love Derek and want to marry him, I'll drop the whole thing," he said. "Look me in the eye and tell me you're in love with him and you won't hear another word from me about it ever again."

They were only words. All I had to do was say them. I could just say them. I didn't even have to mean them. And as I looked into Edward's eyes, I tried to open my mouth and force the words out. "I'm…" I took a deep breath and stopped.

"Say it," he said.

I turned away from him and exhaled. A very, very quiet "fuck you," escaped from my lips, muttered angrily, I thought camouflaged by my exiting breath. Apparently I was wrong.

"That's what I thought."

The second bell rang and we walked out into the hall. Derek was standing at the counter going through his mail and he gave me a concerned glance before turning to Edward.

"Why weren't you in my class today, Mr. Cullen?" he asked.

"Sorry Mr. Banner. I had a personal issue I had to talk to Miss Swan about," he said.

"I'll write him a pass," I said. "Give me a minute, I have to talk to Mr. Colter first."

Derek stared at Edward with an edge that made me particularly uncomfortable, as though his intuition had sniffed something out that was going to cause some real problems. He gave me a perplexed look and after Edward left the office said, "What was that all about?"

"Prom."

#

In the two weeks following our quarrel, I was nervous Edward might challenge me again, in some other way. But instead he avoided me. And as fucked up as I felt about it all, I was disappointed. I expected him to come to me and try to argue me out of my engagement again, but he didn't.

It didn't escape my notice that he started to hang out with Paige more. I'd seen them several times in the parking lot in the mornings before school, hanging out by his car. Walking to class together. He'd even given her a ride after school at least twice.

I hated this. Absolutely hated it. Where I used to love Paige, I found myself noticing her bad hair days and her too tight skinny jeans and her little muffin top and her acne, which wasn't bad at all, but still. She was a teenager. And so was he, I had to remind myself. He should forget about me. And I had to forget about him. I had a wedding to plan.

But I had some problems with that.

I wanted something small and casual. Derek wanted something formal. I wanted a live acoustic band, he wanted a DJ. He wanted a plated sit down dinner, I wanted a buffet. I was tired of arguing the details and capitulated much of the event to him. I'd had my big day where everything was perfect and how I wanted it. I could compromise this time, I told myself. Problem was, I was doing all the compromising.

 #

Prom night came. I'd been dreading it as I'd watched Edward and Paige spend more and more time together. But I prepared myself mentally. I would be working at prom. I would be the counselor, not the jealous jilted girl who didn't get the guy. I was a trained therapist. I would check my personal feelings with my coat and pick them back up when the night was over. Or maybe never.

Every year I wore the same dress to senior prom—an heirloom, antique tea dress that I'd picked up on a whim back at a yard sale in New Jersey when I was in college. When I moved to Forks it traveled across the country with me in a box but it wasn't until I began working in the high school that I'd had the idea to have it restored and tailored so I could wear it to prom. It was a mid-calf length lace dress, a champagne color with appliqué roses. It was not terribly sexy, nor revealing, nor flashy or stand out in any visual way. It was sort of on the dowdy old chaperone end of fashion, but then that's why I thought it was perfect for prom. And it was one of a kind, like I imagined the woman who'd first owned it 90 or so years ago.

"Ah yes, the yard sale prom dress," Derek said when he picked me up. "I thought this year you might have worn the black one."

"Hey, this might have been great-great Aunt Tilda's best party dress. Don't tease or she'll haunt your dreams tonight."

"You look gorgeous," he said and gave me a kiss. "Classic. But I can't see your shoulders and that's a crime."

"Maybe you can see them when we get home," I said. "If you behave."

At the hotel ballroom Angela and Erik were there early, chipper as they arranged favors and chatted up the DJ about shout outs and playlists. Kids began to trickle in and there was the usual excitement of girls fawning over each others' dresses, gossiping about who got stood up or who was going to put out, and who might already be drunk. 

Mike and Jessica came, Jessica in a hot pink gown showing off her cleavage. Any typical senior guy would have been beaming with pride, but Mike was fidgety and distracted as they walked in and had their picture taken by a dozen friends and then the official photographer. He caught me watching him and came over.

"Can I talk to you?" he asked.

"Sure," I said, and we walked outside where we could get a little quiet and watched the rest of the seniors arrive. "Looks like things are better with you and Jess."

"For now," he said. "I'm really worried she's just being sweet because of prom. Like she wanted to be sure she had a date."

"Now that's a cynical view if I ever heard one," I teased him. "Can't you just enjoy the night with her? She's your date, it's your senior prom. Let it go."

"It's not that easy," he said. "It's like I can't trust her."

"That's up to you," I said. "You can choose to trust her if you want to."

He looked over his shoulder, back toward the glass doors where the rest of the students were settling in at their tables and we watched Jessica fawning over Angela's dress.

"What if that's because who she really wanted to go with was already going with someone else?"

"Mike, you guys had this planned months ago."

"He's probably just using Paige for…"

"Come on," I said. "You know that's not true. And you know Paige would never put up with that."

Edward's Volvo pulled into the parking lot and he and Paige got out, looking like they stepped right out of Teen Vogue. Paige wore a pretty, simple sea blue gown with cap sleeves and a square neck and strappy heels and her light brown hair had been done in loose curls, piled on the top of her head. She had on just the right amount of make up, too.

And Edward? He was any girl's dream, as I'd expected. He wore a vintage tuxedo, I don't know from what era, but it had been meticulously maintained. He wore one white rose on his lapel, matching the one he'd given to Paige, which she wore across her shoulder. They chatted casually, oblivious to all of the students and faculty who eyed them curiously as they stood by his car. Then the rest of the Cullens pulled in and got out wearing red carpet worthy threads and perfectly sculpted hair and they laughed as they made small talk with Edward and Paige, who seemed strangely more at home among them than I might have guessed.

I could feel the tension coming off Mike like heat from an electric stove. "I hate them," he said under his breath.

"Come on. They're not going to bother you."

"Their existence bothers me."

I put my arm around Mike's shoulder's and steered him back inside. "You know what, Newton?" I said. "You are a totally great catch, and that girl over there?" I nodded to where Jessica was standing with Angela and Erik. "She's here with you. No one else. So you can spend the evening sweeping her off her feet, or you can wallow in self-doubt and negativity. But I know if you go out there and just laugh and have fun and be your usual smart, funny self, she will only have eyes for you."

"Okay," he said and then gave me quick a hug. "I'll try."

"Good man."

I walked over to Derek at the punch bowl.

"It's gonna be a long night, I see," he said sympathetically. "Starting already."

"Yep," I said.

 Paige and Edward and the rest of the Cullens came in, making a grand entrance. The students all stopped to notice them, to gossip about their designer gowns, to nod in respect or in some cases to snicker. But the Cullens were like the young jet setters in Rio, already a little bored with a scene like this one because it paled in comparison to what they'd seen in the real world.

Then they all came over to where Derek and I stood to say hello. I was about to compliment them on how suave they all looked, but then my eyes caught Edward's and his grew wide and alarmed.

"Oh my God," Rosalie said, laughing sort of sarcastically, like she'd seen something that was funny to her, but wouldn't be funny to anyone else. And by the look on Edward's face I could see it wasn't funny to him. At all.

"What is it?" I asked.

Alice looked a cross between alarmed and amazed. Edward quickly excused himself to Paige and walked back outside. Alice followed him out.

"Great outfit, Miss Swan," Emmett said. "That's very original. You don't see dresses like that anymore."

"Thanks," I said, confused.

"That's a really cool dress," Paige said. "Where did you get it?"

"It's vintage," I said. "I like to play dress up once a year. Keeps my inner girl alive."

Jessica came over and grabbed Paige and dragged her back to where she, Angela, Erik and Mike were sitting and began grilling her, I could tell from Paige's smug but somewhat ticked-off look, and Mike's growing angst. Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie went on their way about the party. But a few minutes later, Alice returned, her mouth in a twist, her eyes narrowed with concern as she approached me.

"Can I speak to you privately?" she asked. I nodded and joined her in a short stroll out to the patio. "I think Edward is having a bit of a PTSD moment."

"Oh no," I said. "What happened?"

"His mother—his biological mother—was a big fan of turn of the century fashion like that," she said, fingering the lace of my dress. "This really is a gorgeous piece. Where did you find it?"

"Is he okay?"

"He's a little freaked, to be honest."

"Because I reminded him of his mother?"

"Yes," she said. "They were very close. He took it terribly when she died."

"Oh no," I said, my heart breaking. "Where is he?"

"He's out on the gazebo," she said. "Maybe you should go talk to him."

"I will," I said. "Thanks."

I took several deep breaths as I walked over to the garden. Could I fuck up with Edward much more? From making out with him to haunting him with memories of his dead mother, I expected him to run when he saw me coming.

Around the corner, I saw him leaning over the railing, looking out at the valley. I watched him for a few moments as he stood motionless in the empty, lighted structure, like he was a figurine cut loose from a snow globe, waiting for someone to shake his world back to life.

"Edward?" I called as I approached. He turned and smiled politely. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," he said. "I'm okay. Just thinking."

I leaned over the railing next to him and looked out at the view. Mist was settling in the cleft of the hills, tinged pink where the last sun of the day spread out its dying rays. A breeze came up and brought his scent back to me and I took a small step away from him. I can do this, I told myself. I am a trained professional. Edward is upset and I can help him. I will help him. And I absolutely will not think about how much I wish I could just hold him, kiss him, dance with him. I will not think about those things, I told myself, as I thought about them. Okay then, at least I will not act on them. That I could manage.

"So I hear your mom was a big collector of Edwardian era fashion," I said. "That's an interesting hobby."

"Yes, she had a closet full of dresses like yours," he said.

"Is that why she named you Edward?"

"I was named after my father."

"I see," I said. "Well, I'm sorry if this old dress of mine brought up a painful memory for you. I'm sure you weren't expecting that tonight."

"I never know what to expect with you," he said and gave me a small smile.

"I guess I'm just full of surprises," I said.

"That you are." He turned to face me and was quiet, but his eyes were filled with stories—memories and feelings from some almost forgotten past, things he longed to tell but probably never would. I really wanted to know, but would never have a chance to ask.

"You do look beautiful in that dress," he said. "Well, you always look beautiful, but you are exceptionally beautiful tonight."

"So are you," I said and then laughed at the stupidity of my own words. "You look very handsome. Paige will be the talk of prom, no doubt, as long as no one shows up puking from too much pre-prom party."

Alice and Jasper approached us tentatively, and Edward nodded to them that they should join us, his mood much more relaxed.

"Everything okay?" Alice asked.

"Yeah," he said. "You worry too much."

"I know, I can't help it," she said.

The music came up and she said, "Oh I love this song!" And then she put her arms around Jasper and they began to dance, an exaggerated but technically flawless waltz that made us both laugh. Then Edward took my hand in his, put his arm around my waist and began to waltz me around the gazebo too, a much more subtle version of the step his siblings were demonstrating, but a perfectly executed number all the same.

It was a good thing he didn't ask first, because I would have said no. And that would have been a terrible shame, because dancing with Edward was probably one of the highlights of my life up to that point. He was that good. And as much as I tried to tamp it down like a small flame threatening a dry field, I loved him. I'd cherish that one dance the rest of my days.

"You're not that uncoordinated," he said, smiling. "I expected us both to be injured by now."

"Well, I've improved a little since high school."

There were a good, respectable six inches of space between us as we danced, the length of an average adult hand from wrist to fingertip. Our bodies only met in three places. One, where his hand held mine and the coldness of his touch relieved the intense heat I felt radiating out of my palm. Another where my other hand landed on his shoulder and I had to consciously stop myself from moving my fingers lovingly over it. And the third where his left hand rested on my lower back. That was my favorite. I imagined that hand pushing me to him, holding me against him. There was so much potential for that hand, but out there in the open, with witnesses and all, it behaved itself.

I forced myself not to breathe, not to look into his face, because in the one small glance I gave him I saw him radiating a happiness that was likely going to make me weep with relief.

The other Thoreau club students came down the path, noticing I suppose the funny scene under the gazebo, and they were curious to see what was going on. Angela and Erik joined the waltz, laughing as they tripped over each other's feet. Paige and Jessica came up to us, Paige smiling curiously as Edward broke off our dance and said, "Thanks for the warm up, Miss Swan, but my date is available now, and she's looking so very lovely tonight."

"Of course," I said. "I have to agree."

"You're a dope," Paige said to Edward. "Nobody waltzes anymore except the very old and senile."

"And all those Arthur Murray students," he said as he twirled her happily under the lights. "Some of them are merely middle aged."

Then Mike pulled Jessica into his arms and began slow dancing, glaring at Edward over Jess's shoulder, though Edward was obliviously chatting with Paige, who was smiling, laughing, happy as could be. The official dance party portion of prom had begun, albeit not in the location intended by the hotel manager. But it was a much nicer view.

I stepped back and watched them all, young and excited and hopeful about the future and I remembered being in that place, thirteen years ago, with the love of my young life and never, ever being able to guess I'd end up in the spot I stood in that moment. Derek came up behind me and put his arm around me.

"The kids are waltzing?" he said. "They're not too bad at it."

"No," I said. "Not bad at all."





CHAPTER 15

Lake Crescent

"I think I'm in love," Paige confided in me Monday after prom.

"Oh?" I said, feeling myself turn a little green. "You must have had a great night."

"Yeah," she said. "Edward was just so—I don't know. He's such a gentleman, you know?"

"Yes," I said.

"We talked all night, I don't even remember what about. And he's funny, too. He's usually so quiet at school, I had no idea how funny he was. Maybe he's more comfortable when you get him alone, you know? He opens up more."

"He opened up more?"

"Yeah—did you know he has some sort of rare medical issue with his circulation? His hands are like ice cold. And he's on a special diet, too."

"Huh," I said.

"I really felt so comfortable with him. More than I expected, and he's so hot. Well not his hands." She laughed. "I wonder if he likes me."

"Of course he likes you," I said, dying a little. No, this was good, I told myself. Maybe Edward would fall for Paige and move on. That would be age appropriate. Healthy. Healthy was good.

"You know what I mean," she said. "He didn't try to kiss me." She slumped down, a little dejected. "Not even once."

Yay, I thought. Then, grow up, Bella. "Maybe he's just being respectful," I said.

"That would suck," she said. "I hope he's not that old fashioned."

"Are you guys going out again?"

"He's coming on the Lake Crescent hike. Jessica, Angela and I convinced him to come. So that's a good sign, right? If he didn't want to hang out with me, he probably would have said no."

How did Edward really feel about Paige? I didn't know and I didn't want to guess. I hadn't spoken to him myself since prom. From everything Paige said, it sounded as though maybe he was interested in her. And that was good if he was, my inner adult told me. I should encourage that connection. But it wasn't what I wanted to do.

I wanted to crush it.

#

We met at the school Saturday morning for the Lake Crescent trip. I twisted my engagement ring absent-mindedly as I leaned against the van, watching Edward walk across the empty parking lot. It was six in the morning and he didn't look tired. He never looked tired, I thought.

"Good morning," he said as he got close. I smiled politely.

"You really aren't a morning person, are you?" he said. I took a gulp of my weak coffee and shook my head no. "You know it's a lot easier to wake up in the morning if you don't drink any caffeine."

"That's what I keep telling her," Derek said as he picked my backpack up off the ground and shoved it in the back of the van.

"Never," I said. "Caffeine makes you smarter. Or something."

Jessica, Paige and Angela all drove up in Jessica's car and dragged themselves over to where we were waiting. Mike and then Erik showed up and we piled in, Paige happily wedged between Edward and Angela in the back, with Jessica a little sulky between Mike and Erik just behind us. I was beginning to think all the potential drama made this trip a bad idea.

We took turns playing DJ until I finally got a turn and put the Mercy Brown cd on. “This is a good friend of Edward’s,” I told them and observed his reaction. He looked at me with a blank, look-right-through-you kind of expression.

“Really?” Paige asked, impressed. “She’s awesome.”

“She’s an old family friend,” he said. “She stays with us when she’s on the west coast.”

“Edward can play guitar, too,” I said. “You should have brought it so you could play for us.”

“Now Miss Swan,” he said. “Don’t give away all my secrets.”

“You’re too modest, Edward," I said, sincerely. "You should share your talents more.”

“Dude, we should start a band,” Erik said. “I play bass.”

“You guys can play at their wedding,” Paige said, enthusiastically. “That would be so cool.”

"Oh, are we all invited?" Edward said, and I'm fairly certain I'm the only one who picked up the sarcastic tint of the question. Derek turned the stereo off and changed the subject.

“Okay folks, let’s think about one single Thoreauvian question for meditation while we’re on our hike. Who’s got a topic?”

“Does a bear shit in the woods?” Erik said, and the kids laughed. “Just kidding, Mr. Banner. Sorry.”

“Can people ever really return to nature?” asked Paige. “Maybe Thoreau thought we’d moved too far away from nature with the way our culture evolved. So, how far back can you go?”

“That’s a great question, Paige,” Derek said. “If you dropped a human off in the middle of nature, would he adapt to it or would he just try to recreate the environment he came from?”

“I have another question,” Mike said. “It’s been bugging me a lot the last few months.”

“What is it?” I asked, glad that Mike was participating in the discussion rather than sulking.

“Can you ever really change what you are?” Mike asked. “I was thinking about the shape shifters, you know? They change from people to wolves, or to bears. But who they are inside, that never changes.”

“But those are just stories, Mike,” Jessica said.

“What if they're not?" he asked.

"I think it's still interesting to reflect on what those stories mean, whether they're real or not," I said.

"Like the Quileute who become wolves in order to protect their tribe, right? How does confronting a challenge change a person?"

"It can either break you or make you stronger," Edward said. "It's a matter of what you do with it."

"I'm arguing that it reveals who you are, it doesn't shape who you are," Mike said.

"But if that's true, then we'd never grow, would we? We'd be these static, boring beings," I said.

“I don’t think so,” Mike said.

“Okay, I think my brain hurts now,” Erik said.

“We're talking about transformation,” Derek said. “Let’s spend part of the hike in quiet meditation on that and see what we come up with.”

We arrived at the trail head and unloaded the van. At the Ranger’s station the kids asked questions about bear activity but there was nothing out of the ordinary there, much to everyone's disappointment. I showed the staff photos of the Kermode on my iPod, but they just didn’t believe they were taken in the park.

We filed a hiking itinerary and took off up the rocky trail. The weather was cloudy, as we’d expected. Looked like it might rain but we were prepared for that. It was the Olympic peninsula—rain happened in spring. A lot.

Derek and I walked at the back of the line, keeping an eye on the students and staying close together. At one point when no one was watching, he took my hand and I felt his fingers run over my engagement ring, a sweet gesture but one that mysteriously drew a pained backward glance from Edward.

The kids became completely absorbed in their conversations. They were so animated and noisy they forgot to pay attention to the nature part of the nature walk. Finally, Erik turned around.

“Mr. Banner, I think we’re lost.”

“Let me get the compass out,” he said, digging into his pocket.

“I know where we are,” Edward said. “Marymere Falls are right up this way.”

“How do you know?” Mike asked.

“I’ve hiked around here a lot,” he said.

“So you can be our guide, then,” Paige said to him.

“If you like,” he said.

“Definitely,” Erik said. “I have no idea where we’re going.”

We took a break when we reached the falls and broke out our lunches. The rest of us devoured sandwiches, but Edward had nothing.

“Dude, why don’t you ever eat? It’s weird,” Mike said to him.

“I do eat,” he said. “I’m just on a special diet.”

“Of what? Air?”

“I have a medical condition,” he said, getting irritated.

Their exchange was interrupted by a screeching sound. It was Jessica.

“I was stung, I was stung by something!” she cried, and her hand started to swell dangerously. Derek went to get the first aid kit from his pack, but before he could turn around, Edward was already next to her.

“Are you allergic to bees?” Edward asked calmly, pulling out some type of ointment.

“No! I don’t know!” she said, crying. “It hurts!”

“Okay, hold on,” he cracked the package open and smoothed some onto her skin. “This will draw out the poison quickly,” he said. “It should feel better very soon.”

Derek came over with an epi pen and some Benadryl, but her hand had already begun to shrink back down to its normal size. She relaxed.

“Oh my God, Edward, thank you,” she said, and then threw her arms around him. He looked perplexed, and shot a look over to Mike Newton as if to say, Hey man, I did not want this, but Mike wasn’t having it. He stormed off and Erik went after him. Paige glared at Jessica, who pretended not to notice.

“What is that?” Derek asked, pointing to the packet Edward applied to Jessica’s hand.

“It’s a homeopathic remedy from my father,” he said. “Works better than any anti-sting medicine I’ve ever seen. He sent me out here with a stocked first aid kit, just in case anyone got hurt.”

We hiked to the far side of Lake Crescent, where there were no parking lots or cars or families on holiday. We found a small clearing up the hill from the lake where the view was stunning. The water was a dazzling aqua blue, unlike any lake I’d ever seen anywhere.

“It’s a glacial lake,” Derek explained. “There’s barely any nitrogen in it, so there’s no phytoplankton. That’s why the water is so clear. In some places you can see as far down as 60 feet.”

We set up our tents and Derek fired up two small camp stoves to boil water for the freeze dried dinners contributed by Mike Newton's parents. In the evening air after our long trek, they tasted like gourmet meals. Again, Edward ate nothing.

“You’ve got to be hungry,” Paige said to him.

“I’m not, really,” he said and smiled at her. “I know, it’s weird, but I’m used to being weird. It doesn’t bother me anymore.”

Derek and Mike built a fire and we all sat around it, reflecting on the day.

“So let’s hear what conclusions you all came to about human transformation,” Derek said.

“Everything is always changing,” Angela said. “Look at the landscape as it goes from the dormancy of winter into the lushness of spring. Change isn’t just possible, change is life.”

“But it’s always changing into the same thing,” Mike argued. “Every season brings the same change. So I still say the inner nature of things never changes. Just the outward expression, like shape shifters.”

“So then, if you apply that logic to humans, are you saying people can’t change?” I asked. “We’re just born onto this earth as something, and that’s what we’ll always be?”

“I think so,” Mike said. “Look at criminals. We try to rehabilitate them, but they just come out and do the same thing again.”

“But look at how people change from life experience,” Paige said. “You’re not the same kid you were in junior high, Mike.”

“Deep down, I say I am,” he said. “I just know more now.”

“So there’s no hope for redemption, then?” I asked.

“I think some people are just born bad and they’ll always be bad.” There was no mistaking the look he shot across the fire at Edward. If it alarmed me, it appeared as though Edward didn’t even notice it.

“There’s always salvation,” Derek said, quietly, his eyes trained on the flames before him.

“What do you mean?” Jessica asked, a concerned look on her face.

“Well, through Jesus,” Derek said. "God gave us free will, and that allows us to make choices that can redeem us. We can all make up our own minds, and Christ has shown me a path that has led to profound changes in my life. A transformation, if you will."

I was caught completely off guard. I was not prepared for my co-facilitator and fiance to use this as an opportunity to witness his faith. My ears began to burn with my fierce anger, my deep offense.

“I believe there are many paths to change and to redemption,” I said, looking directly at Derek. “Religion is one way. Maybe Christianity is your way, Derek,” I said.

“And yours too, Bella,” he said. “Right?”

“No,” I said, defying him. The kids began to look stressed out with the exception of Edward, who looked amused. Derek looked surprised that I wasn’t backing him. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” I walked away from the kids and he followed me out of earshot.

“What?”

"This is a public school event. You know you can’t push your faith like that here,” I said. “You’re in a position of influence.”

“I don’t see how I’m not entitled to an opinion like everyone else,” he said, angrily. “You were pushing your opinion on them. Your opinion just happens to be secular. Maybe some people find that equally offensive.”

“That is a totally specious argument, and you know it,” I said. “These kids and their parents trust us. We’ve led them here, we’ve asked them to consider some heavy topics. They’re out in the middle of the woods at night. They are the definition of vulnerable. Now is not the time to be bringing up Jesus.”

“We are in the middle of God’s creation. There is no better place to talk about Jesus.”

“This isn’t Youth Group, Derek!” I couldn’t help raising my voice. “Jessica is Jewish. Aren’t you worried you’ll make her feel like you’re invalidating her world view?”

“Look, those kids can think whatever they want. I’m just giving them one perspective.”

“You have to shut up about Jesus for the rest of this trip.”

“You can’t tell me to shut up about Jesus.”

“I just did.”

It was our first real fight.

We went back to the kids, but when we returned they hardly seemed to notice we'd been gone. They were completely over it and absorbed by Edward, who was telling a story about the Spanish Influenza pandemic in 1918. Even Mike was riveted.

“People of all ages, all walks of life were dying,” Edward said. “People your age—our age—with their whole lives ahead of them, dropping dead. Thirty million people, more than all the people killed in World War I. It was carnage.” He looked upset, so much so I felt moved to comfort him. But I stood still, listening as he continued. “Imagine what it does to a person to live through such a thing. Entire families were wiped out. Babies abandoned. Children would be playing on the street together in the afternoon and dying in their beds at night.”

“What a nightmare,” Paige said.

“You have no idea,” Edward said, bitterly. “But what I’m getting at is that an entire generation of people were transformed, the entire globe. Life expectancies dropped by more than ten years around the world. People were living in fear of an enemy they couldn’t see. It changes you. You see life differently after living through something like that.”

“You sure do know a lot about the Spanish Influenza pandemic,” Derek said. “Did you do a paper on it or something?”

“Yeah,” he said, digging a long stick into the fire.

“People must have just focused on survival,” Angela said. “Like the normal things that they might be worried about—grades in school, bills—weren’t important anymore.”

“Right,” Edward said. “It’s the kind of experience that strips you of all distraction.”

“Transformative,” I said.

“Very much so,” he said, looking at me.

“So, how can people be transformed outside of disaster?” Derek asked, his tone far more subdued. “Or do we need to be in a life or death situation to really, truly be transformed?”

“I still say people don’t change their natures,” Mike said. “You can take a fish out of water, but it’s never going to breathe air.”

“What about evolution?” Paige asked. I shot a look at Derek, who just poked a stick into the fire. And for an hour or so, there was a good debate between the optimists and the pessimists, with no referee and no changing sides. The discussion went on, the kids’ eyes lit with the intensity of their revelations until Derek finally had to tell them it was time for bed.

"Look, I'm sorry," Derek said to me after the kids went to bed and we were putting the fire out. "I didn't mean to offend you."

"I'm sorry for overreacting," I said. "It just caught me off guard."

"I think we need to talk about some things before the wedding though."

"I think you're right," I said. "Let's save it for when we get home."

"Right," he said, and then kissed me quickly. "Night."

I crawled into my tent alone and fidgeted awhile, a new unease about my future husband causing me such anguish I could do little but pray for sleep. Luckily the long hike had worn my body out, and sleep came mercifully fast and hard.

#

It wasn’t long past midnight when all the hydrating I’d done on the hike came back to haunt me and I had to pee. I crawled out of my tent and surveyed the camp. All was quiet. No obvious signs of teen sex or drunkenness, either. Clearly this wouldn’t have been my crew of friends in high school, I thought. Good for them.

I walked down the path to the lake. There was a full moon high in the sky, bright enough to see without a flashlight. After I relieved my bladder I walked down to the shore to gaze at the water for a few minutes. The lake sparkled under the touch of moonlight like it was lit from beneath. I stood there at the water's edge, marveling at the beauty of this otherwise irksome night. And then I saw something impossible.

A figure was moving, fast and graceful, across the surface of the water, reflecting moonlight back toward the sky. The form looked human, but what human could swim that fast, or in water that cold? I saw a pile of clothes on the beach and picked a shirt up. Edward. I held it to my face and inhaled as I continued to watch him swim.

He swam quickly to the far shore, more like a dolphin than a man. Then he dove down and stayed under water for so long I began to fear for his life. Then he popped back up closer to the shore where I stood and started swimming right towards me. As he drew near I saw it was indeed him, naked, swimming across the lake. But nobody could swim that long underwater, and certainly not that fast. He walked out of the lake and I blushed as I turned my head.

"You peeked," he said. "I saw that."

"No I didn't," I said, my face growing hot.

“Would you mind giving me that, please?” he asked, as he pulled on his pants. I kept my eyes averted and handed him his shirt.

“What are you doing, swimming in the middle of the night? You’ll freeze to death,” I said.

“It’s a beautiful night for a swim, don’t you think?”

“You crossed the lake in about fifteen seconds. How did you do that?”

“You’re dreaming,” he said. He started to walk back up the path.

“I’m not dreaming,” I said, trotting behind him.

“Yes, you are.” Then he leapt straight up in the air and grabbed onto a tree branch, high, high up. I shook my head in disbelief.

“How are you doing that?” I called to him.

“Doing what?” He jumped down and landed softly behind me.

“If I’m dreaming, this is a lucid dream and I should be able to fly,” I said.

“So go ahead then,” he said.

Dream or no dream, I was not going to flap my arms and make an ass out of myself in front of Edward.

“I’ll pass.” I pinched myself.

“Pinching yourself won’t work,” he said.

“How do you know so much about dreams?”

“I am a dream,” he said, pulling me into his arms. “You’re dreaming me right now.”

I liked this idea very much.

I reached my hand to his face, thinking it might turn to dust or air, but instead I felt his smooth, cool skin. My fingers lingered for a moment and he smiled, his expression softening. He put his hand over mine, holding it gently and then he kissed the palm of my hand, the underside of my wrist and I tingled everywhere. I almost wished it wasn’t a dream.

“You don’t feel like a dream,” I said.

“I can prove this is a dream,” he said and grinned. “Hold on tight.”

He pulled me onto his back in one smooth movement and flew, or so it felt, off the path and deep into the woods. He sprinted, agile like an elk but faster than any earthly creature could run. He leapt over rocks and downed trees until we finally came to a small clearing, somewhere far from camp, maybe far from earth, where he set me down on my feet. “I want to show you something,” he said, taking my hand. “But you have to promise to be very, very quiet.”

We crept through the thicket to the base of an enormous tree. Beneath it slept the Kermode bear and two adorable little black bear cubs.

“Oh!” I gasped, but Edward quickly put his hand over my mouth.

“Shh… you’ll disturb them,” he said. I nodded and he put his arms around my waist. “I thought you’d like to see them,” he whispered. We watched them for several minutes, peacefully asleep.

We wandered away, holding hands, back to the clearing.

“Edward?” I asked.

“Bella?”

“Are you still angry with me about Derek?”

“Disappointed is a better word.”

“Don’t you understand why I’m marrying him?” I asked.

“You're not marrying him,” he said.

"I'm not?"

"No, you're not," he said and pulled me down to the soft ground with him, holding me close.

"So you can see the future too?"

"Not personally, no. But I have a reliable source."

“Are you sure this is just a dream?”

“Why?”

“Because I want to check something,” I said.

I laid my head on his shoulder and let my nose nudge his neck. He smelled incomparable, unearthly good, a mixture of all those things that make the world worth living in. I breathed him in and tangled my fingers gently in his hair, feeling it still damp and thick in my hands.

“You symbolize everything that’s wrong with how I’ve gone about relationships ever since Zack died. My fear of making a real commitment again.” I paused in revelation. “Wow, I am totally analyzing my own dream while I’m having it. That’s so cool.”

“I represent everything that's wrong?” He frowned.

“You’re the impossible. The unattainable.” I said. “Yet I still can’t stop obsessing about you.”

“Obsessing?”

“You have no idea. I haven’t felt anything like this since… ” I marveled at how real my tears felt. “What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing,” he said.

“You have no idea how badly I want to believe you.”

Edward looked quite sad and then he pulled me into a tight embrace. “I’m sorry,” he said. He kissed my forehead, and then the corners of my eyes, his lips cool and smooth and soothing.

“God, I wish you weren’t seventeen,” I said, pulling back. “I feel like such a predator.”

“You’re killing me,” he said. “You’ve no idea how funny that is.”

“The real you, not the dream you, would be very disturbed if you knew how I really felt.”

“You know very little about the real me,” he said.

“I know enough to know that I’m hopelessly in love with you.”

The look on Edward’s face when I said that would have melted the Eiffel Tower into a pool of molten steel. He held my face in his cool hands and kissed me tenderly, his lips unexpectedly soft on my own. It was as though he feared I might break. Then he pulled his face away.

“Bella Swan, I will always love you, no matter what you do or where you go or who you marry, do you understand? If we can’t be together, you must know that I will always be here, silently watching out for you, for as long as you live.”

I started to cry and he kissed me again, softly at first, then an urgency crept into his kiss as hot tears rolled down my cheeks, over our lips and off my chin. He chased them with his fingers, then tangled them into my hair.

“If I’m having a lucid dream, I am totally having sex with you, right here, right now. I may never get this chance again,” I said. He laughed and I unzipped my hoodie and unbuttoned my shirt as he watched me, a new look about him. One that made me lust for him greedily, supernaturally. I kissed him again on the lips and then slipped my tongue into his mouth as he ran his cool hand over the skin between my breasts and held it right over my beating heart.

He pulled my shirt open, exposing my naked breasts to the moonlight and his dark, narrowing eyes and I had to catch my breath. Then he put me on the ground and was on top of me instantly, his mouth hard, insistent as it covered mine, his tongue deep in my mouth, filling it. I pulled his shirt open and spread myself beneath him, but then he suddenly pulled himself off of me.

“Please, please don’t reject me,” I sat up and pleaded with him. “That will turn this into every other sex dream I’ve ever had.”

“Never,” he said, pushing me gently back to the ground. Then he kissed me again and lowered himself onto me.

"God, now, please, now," I said as I ran my hands over his shoulders and down his back. He covered my mouth again with his own and I grasped at the opening of his pants. He kissed my neck, and then suddenly his hard body went even more rigid. Something flashed in his eyes, something dangerous and delicious as he began to kiss me harder, softly biting at my lips and then scraping his teeth over my neck. Then again, he pulled himself suddenly back.

“What is it?” I asked, sitting up. “Did I do something?”

“It’s nothing,” he said, but he didn’t look as though it was nothing. I put my arms around him and kissed him again. He pulled me into his lap and kissed me harder, delving his tongue deep into my mouth. I thought I’d die from the feeling of his cock under me. He again slid his mouth down to my neck and then pinned me to the ground again. I moaned as he moved over me and then he suddenly pulled back again, apparently frustrated about something.

“Oh God, this is going to be like every other sex dream I have. I suck at this,” I said. “I’ve got to loosen up or something.”

“It isn’t you,” he said.

“Don’t even,” I said. “Don’t even say what you’re about to say or I will hit you. I don’t care if you can breathe under water.”

“No, it isn’t that,” he said. “I want you. My God, you have no idea how I want you.”

“What is it then?”

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You can’t hurt me,” I said, tracing the contours of his face. “I’m unbreakable. Indestructible. I swear to you.” I furiously kissed his neck, his ear.

“Oh Bella,” he growled, burying his face into my neck. “How I wish you were right.” He held me tightly and I began to think about how much it was going to suck to wake up from this.

"This is my unconscious self telling me not to do this," I said. "You are my unconscious self. You're telling me this is wrong. If I do it, it will hurt me."

"No, no way," he said. "That's definitely not true."

I started to cry and then decided I’d had enough. The dream had begun to torment me with frustration, just like every waking moment I had with Edward.

“I need to wake up now,” I said, expecting the words to be magic and transportive to consciousness.

“It doesn’t work like that,” he said.

"Yes it does." I imagined the sleeping bag and the tent, imagined myself sleeping there, and willed myself to get back into my body. But nothing happened. “Oh no, no,” I said, beginning to panic. “It’s turning into a nightmare.”

“Just relax,” he said. “Don’t try to control it so much.” I stood up and backed away from him. I was starting to feel freaked, like maybe I was losing my mind, or maybe I’d already lost it. “Bella, what are you doing?”

I didn’t see Edward the same anymore. He’d transformed from the love object into something destructive. He was a test and I was failing. He was in this dream, in my life, to reveal the weakness of my character. He would prove I was unworthy of love, of marriage to any decent man.

“Stay away from me,” I said. I began to walk backwards so I cold keep my eye on him and be sure he didn’t come any closer. Then I turned and broke out into a run, going as fast as I could will myself to go. He was following me, I could feel it and he was a thousand times faster than I was. He was going to destroy me.

The only thing I could think to do was to run right to the Kermode bear. Maybe she'd been placed in this dream as a protector—like the fetish. Maybe she would save me. I could feel Edward right behind me, his hand brushing my arm as he yelled, “No!” just as I launched myself right into the sleeping white bear.

“Help me!” I screamed, and she roared, so terrifying I thought if I didn’t wake up right there and then, I’d surely be waking up in an institution. I fell onto my back and she towered over me. She was about to strike when suddenly I felt Edward pulling me away. I fought him as hard as I could and he tried to restrain me and carry me away, but the Kermode ripped Edward off of me.

I was frozen with horror as I watched Edward move like a demon, strong enough to wrestle the bear to the ground. Once she was subdued, he leapt off of her, but she swiped at him and knocked him to the forest floor and then pounced on him. He threw her off again, but she was right back on him and continued to paw at him until his eyes flashed something evil and he finally sank his teeth deep into her neck. I watched in frozen horror as she roared painfully and then succumbed to his deadly kiss. He crouched over her and drained her dead.

The last of her blood dripped from the corners of Edward's mouth as he looked up to see me staring in terror at him. His eyes glowed red in the dark and he stood up and started to stalk toward me. Then he stopped dead and commanded me.

“Run, Bella!”

I scrambled to get to my feet and launched myself through the clearing, into the thick of the dark forest. I ran, and ran, and ran until I felt like my lungs would collapse, my brain would burst. I had no idea where I was going. None. But I ran until my legs would no longer move. Then I stood there, in the middle of the tall trees and the darkness and just surrendered, but nothing came for me. I lay on the ground, curled myself into a ball and passed out. I’d no idea you could feel such exhaustion in sleep.

#

“Hey Bella,” I heard Derek call quietly from outside my tent. “Can you get up? We should get moving.”

“What time is it?” I asked.

“6:00,” he said.

“Right.” I opened my eyes onto the yellow nylon dome of my little tent. My head ached. I began to orient myself to where I was. Lake Crescent. Thoreau club camping trip. May.

In a moment, the horror of last night’s nightmare came back to me and I startled. But there I was in my tent, safe and sound. I lay there for several minutes, listening to the sounds of the students and Derek breaking camp.

I finally poked my head out and heard Erik tease, “Hey it’s sleeping beauty! Good morning Miss Swan.” Mike and Jessica were sitting near him and Angela, waiting to leave. Edward sat on the ground, making quiet conversation with Paige. His gear was already packed. He had on sunglasses like a hungover rock star. But otherwise he seemed normal. He didn’t even notice I was up.

Jessica walked over to them, chatting incessantly, "I can’t believe what a good night’s sleep I got,” she went on. “It must be the outdoors. I think I’ve found my new passion.”

“Fresh air is good for the soul,” Edward said, subdued.

"Edward, you should bring your guitar on Tuesday and play for us," Jessica continued. "I really want to hear you play. Don't you, Paige?"

Paige nodded, but gave a concerned look to Mike, who was obviously irritated that Jessica was flirting with Edward. He stormed off and Paige got up and followed him. A few minutes later, they came back, Mike now a little happier.

“Jess, I want to show you something,” Mike said and steered Jessica away, walking her off to the side of camp. Suddenly I heard her shriek, delightedly.

“Look!”

We all hurried to where they were standing, and there we saw two small bear cubs, wandering out of the trees. My heart stopped.

“Okay people, we need to move away from here, quickly,” Derek had a new edge to his voice. “If there are cubs here, the mother bear can’t be far behind and we don’t want to run into her.” We all hurried to gather our packs. Edward lingered by the cubs for a moment.

“Cullen, let’s go,” Derek said. “We need to move. Now.”

“Right,” Edward said and then joined us. We hurried away from the cubs and hoped we were not going in the direction of the mother bear.

I kept as quiet as I could for the hike back. My head never stopped pounding. At one point Derek whispered to me, “Are you okay?” I nodded as much as I could without making my head pound worse.

“Migraine,” I told him. He understood, and I was off the hook for chatter for the rest of the day.

We never did run into the mother bear, but I never lost that memory of the agonizing, disorienting nightmare the entire six hour hike back to the van.

#

The following Monday at school I got a call from Jake. He’d told me that they had a very strange experience out at La Push that morning. A very old man, an American Indian they were sure, speaking some dialect they couldn’t understand, had been found wandering the beach naked at sunrise. He was staying with the Blacks and Jacob was trying to locate an academic who might be able to decipher what dialect the man was speaking.

“Maybe he’s got some form of dementia,” I suggested. “Or sometimes people can have dissociative fugues and turn up like that.”

“We’re trying to decide what to do with him,” Jacob said. “I wanted to take him to the hospital but Dad won’t hear of it..”

“So what are you going to do?”

“I’ve got to find some kind of expert in obscure indigenous languages. I don't even know where to start though."

"You need an academic. There's probably somebody at UW. Want me to call around?"

"Would you?"

"Sure," I said.

"Thanks Bella. And can you let Charlie know? Just in case someone is out there looking for him. My dad is being a total pain in the ass about this.”

“Of course.”

There was a knock at my door and Mike Newton poked his head in.

“Got a minute?” he asked. I hung up with Jake and waved Mike in.

“What’s up?” I asked him, though I was fairly sure what it would be.

“It’s Jessica. I know—for a fact—that she’s into Cullen.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. She stares at him constantly in lunch. And in her notebook, she wrote ‘Jessica Cullen’ about fifty thousand times.”

"I thought Edward and Paige were sort of together now," I said.

"Like that matters?"

"Do you ever wonder if deep down, maybe you don't want to be with her?"

"I don't know what I want," he said and then buried his face in his hands. “But I can't keep dealing with this.”

“Oh Mike,” I said. “I’m sorry. I know you guys have had a lot of ups and downs this year.”

“I really hate that kid,” he said. “Edward Cullen is a freak. Why would she like him? His money?”

“You know, sometimes it’s just fascination with something different. ”

"She’s got issues,” he said, blowing his nose. “She never knows what’s good for her.”

“It’s really hard to know that sometimes.” I hadn't spoken truer words in quite some time.

52 comments:

  1. I love Mr. Myg. There I said it. I have not started OB yet but I need to thank Mr Myg for 1) 3 chapters!! **WooHoo** and 2) making me need to change my pants because I was laughing so hard at that introduction I wet myself!

    That said... damn you Myg... I have people coming over in less than 2 hours... how am I supposed to be prepared for them (and no I am not even close to prepared), cook them a fabulous meal, served in preferably a clean house, and enjoy their company when all I will be thinking about is Osa Bella. Seriously Myg how?? OK I do puffy heart you. Thanks.

    I'll be back with my comments for the chaps..

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  2. SIGH....so truly wonderful!

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  3. Mr. Myg, you have our heartfelt thanks! Ok, I'm gonna come down from my soccer high (Seriously, ladies, the most gorgeous men play this sport - I highly suggest watching the World Cup! They take of their shirts when they score!) and settle in for an afternoon of AWESOME Osa Bella!

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  4. I haven't commented - or read the comments - on this story yet, and I have no clue why! I am totally loving it. The whole "dream sequence" was great! A very clever way of sort-of exposing Edward. I would never have been able to come up with that! (but I have nowhere near the talent that the lovely Myg has).

    Something is totally wrong with Mike. He's going to flip out on us. I'm hoping Alice catches it in time to keep it from escalating though.

    I think the Kermode is a shape shifter from a tribe in Alaska that is similar to the Quileutes (Probably butchered that spelling, but you know what I mean). Billy knows, and that's why he's being a total pain in Jake's ass about the old naked man. I'm just hoping Edward didn't start Word War 7. Maybe the Kermode isn't a shape shifter and the other bears are from Alaska and protect it...

    I'm starting to feel like Virginia Woolf with all of this stream-of-consciousness.

    I can't wait to see how this story comes together!

    P.S. Mr. Myg rocks too hard for words.

    word verification: inkingl - I hope Myg is inkingl away at the next chapters of Osa Bella!

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  5. I love these 3 chaps. I'm going to give 'em a 2nd read tomorrow and give you a decent review on ffn :)

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  6. Hi! Stopping by to say, Woot! Thanks for the love folks. So, so glad you are enjoying this.

    You all know I love Mr. Myg too but he nearly killed me this week with posting three chapters. But he was right, as he usually is about these things.

    Now back to a human posting schedule.

    mwah!

    Myg

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  7. I HAVE NO WORDS.

    Except this: Mr. Myg has just placed himself alarmingly close to my Freebie Five.

    Myg: Your Edward is 2,456,786,5045 times more alluring than SM's. He literally makes my extremities tingle.

    MC

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  8. Myg-
    I love you, I love your husband and I love OSA Bella! Keep goin' you are making some real life tired as shit teacher types really happy!!

    SparkleMindy

    verif-sneero

    Derek is gonna really sneero when he finds out who Bella really loves!

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  9. Mr. Myg is a rock star!
    These 3 chapters were great! Thanks Myg for doing so much hard work and we understand about the human schedule.

    That being said, update, update, update!!! I'm so hooked!

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  10. Omg, SOOOOOOOOO excited 3 chapters!!!! SQUEEEEE. this fic is seriously running my life now, I love it, love you Myg's for putting the time and love into this that you have! I have to go hunker down and get my fix now....

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  11. Totally wow! I need more! Not enough!

    Are we supposed to feel this dusgusted with Derek?! Ick!

    More more more!!!!


    Cheryl

    P.S. You are brilliant!

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  12. Wow. Brilliant! I need so much more -and get rid of that Derek guy. Ick!

    Cheryl

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  13. Oh, wait- I need to go back and reread it! You really are brilliant :)

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  14. stilllookingformyvampJune 12, 2010 at 6:46 PM

    Myg,

    I am so far behind on this I think I need to start at the beginning and DO OVER.

    However, I do have to comment on Mr Myg.

    Awesome! Loved the whole reading/writing rant.

    I am currently alone in my house, which happens just short of never, so I am diving in again, at the beginning. See ya Kansas.

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  15. Mr. Myg thank you for being so kind to share Myg and this story with us. I know it takes her away from you, but she's enriching all our lives.

    Myg girl you rock! This story beyond belief, it's more adicting than the origanl Twilight!

    Loved the dream or was it a dream? This Edward rocks my world and Bella is real, not some twitchy nit. Keep it coming girl!

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  16. this is so damn good!
    that "dream" sequence--brilliant!
    and i'm so relieved that derek went and witnessed all inappropriately so that I can stop feeling just the tiniest bit sorry for him.
    i was kinda hoping bella might take a shot at the praise band in the warehouse church. if it was writerly restraint that kept her from doing so, then I can't fault you, because that's what's making this story all kinds of awesome.
    thanks for writing!

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  17. Hmmm....dream or no dream? I'm thinking Sailward can be more vampiric in this tale, so maybe he's exerting some influence over Bella that we and she aren't aware of yet? Intriguing as hell either way, Myg!!!!

    And Mr. Myg, you are second only to Edward in my affections. Lucky Myg to have you!

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  18. Mr. Myg- thank you, thank you, thank you! Oh, and thanks to you too Myg :) Three excellent chapters. Reading FF is such a tease. Dip the tip, dip the tip, dip the tip... give it too me already!!!!!!! I'll be waiting anxiously for the next update.

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  19. stilllookingformyvampJune 12, 2010 at 9:24 PM

    K, Myg, all caught up! Whew. I love having the house to myself.

    I love this story. I love this Bella and her imperfections and her attempt to overcome them.

    Derek needs to be eaten by a bear. Or something. I respect him and his values, but he needs to be tossed out of the picture.

    I look forward to reading more in this saga!

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  20. Great update....and three chapters worth....thanks to you both! Loved the dream that wasn't a dream (or was it?). Love this Edward...it's kind of fun knowing some of the "inside secrets" (like why Edward is wearing the sunglasses after feasting on some bear) but it all still feels so fresh with your story and characters. Looking forward to how Bella deals with Derek and reconciling her feelings towards Edward. such a good story....going back now to read the lake scene....I really liked that part!

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  21. Okay..... Is it Wednesday yet!!! Help, I'm OB addicted :)... Yup that's me drooling

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  22. Oh Delicious Lakeward, My Heart Belongs To You!

    Myg, that Chapter 15 Rocked. My. Socks.

    I'm definitely going to reread. I feel so connected with this Edward, I'm sure it's because of his deeper maturity. I loved how he did a semi-reveal to Bella and their kissing and her trying to analyze her "dream" while "dreaming" haha, and I even like how her conscience has her freak out over being with him, even though her BODY knows how RIGHT it is.

    I think I could ramble on and on about this fic.

    Like how Bella launches herself at the bear for protection and how Edward has to kill it to protect her... and how sad he is about that..and his red eyes... and then Bella wakes up in her tent, I can picture him carrying her back there and all the thoughts that tormented him as he did that... *sighsighsigh*

    Some of my fav lines from this posting:

    We even talked about taking a cruise to the Galapagos over the summer together.
    How...geriatric compared to the Reckoner.

    He was only seventeen, I told myself. He probably couldn't dance all that well anyway. Stop fantasizing. No wait. I'd seen the Cullens dance and they were award winning dancers, and supposedly Edward was better than all of them. I was engaged, I reminded myself. And thirty. And Derek was a fine dancer. LOL!

    “God, I wish you weren’t seventeen,” I said, pulling back. “I feel like such a predator.”
    “You’re killing me,” he said. “You’ve no idea how funny that is.”


    That made me GRIN!

    Thanks Myg and Mr. Myg for all your words and effort and time spent! I adore this fic!

    (word verif: oportu... "I love how Bella grabbed the oportu to fuck Edward since she thought she was only dreaming....")

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  23. Thanks Mr. Myg! Don't know if Ms. Myg told you but I for one need more Osa Bella just like I need more cowbell. Quite simply, there is never enough.

    We will be happy to give you your wife back, once she completes all eighty chapters of OB. :) That means she's ours till at least christmas, right?

    Seriously, she's an awesome writer, the plot is complex and intriguing, and you're one fuck-awesome beta. Keep the magic words coming, and we'll keep spreading the love!!!!!!!

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  24. OME, you guys, you have NO idea how much I want to ramble and ramble in response to your comments, thoughts, ideas. But alas I cannot.

    When it's all said and done, any of you who want to have long and involved talks about this will have to come meet me in FFFFOOOORRRKKSSS (you know the date). I suppose I'll have to charter a boat. And a captain. And I think we all know who that ought to be. Sailward ho! Day trip!

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  25. "You can't tell me to shut up about Jesus." BEST. LINE. EVER!!! I'm gonna be laughing about that for a long time.

    Myg, you are an amazing writer. There is not one detail about this story that I don't like. The twists and turns and humor and angst - all wonderfully written and edited.

    Mwah! back at ya for sharing this story with all of us.

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  26. Hmm... So I wonder what color Edward's eyes were? If the bear was a shape-shifter, would his eyes have been red? I'm sure they've already seen them in various stages of golden-yellow-amber-butterscotch-topaz-etc. so that shouldn't be enough to drive him to wear his sunglasses... Am I reading too much into things?

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  27. MYG!! I love you girly, can't wait to meet you in Fooooorrrkkksss!

    I want you to know that I settled in to read this this afternoon, and got SO into it that I had no idea that it was nearly 5:30 by the time I finished... and I had to be ready to leave to perform in a choral concert at 6!!! I FLEW out of the house and barely made it in time! This is what your story is doing to me, haha! :) You're gettin me in trouble!

    That said, I luuurve this story with such a raging passion - I keep posting about how much I love it on FB and I am pimping it hard every chance I get (I am a pimp after all!).

    I will have you know that when Bella said yes to Banner, I said, out loud, "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" Scaring the hell out of my cat and the neighbor through the open window. I really liked what you did with Banner. I had *still* been feeling kind of bad for him, even after the oops-sorry-i-came-so-quick incident and the parents thing, but preaching to the kids did it for me - kick that mothafucka to the curb, Bells! Totes not cool. It was a totally in-character way for him to act, but it still got me pissed at him!

    Also, holy hell that last chap was hot! I need to go back and read it again, but I'm dying to find out what's going on with the bears - I got sad when Edward spotted the two cubs at the end. I have some theories but they all sound dumb in my head so I'll wait for the big reveal! Also, the dress! Did it belong to Edward's mother?! Crazypants. And on a side note - I'm feeling like poor Mike has some serious shit going on! Kid can't catch a break!

    If I have not emphasized it enough, I love this story! Sorry if this is terribly incoherent, I just spent hours sweating onstage to Brahms for the third night in a row in a hideous polyester dress - enough to make anyone delirious!

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  28. ok, seriously......I have no idea how you have time to write all this.....(not that I am complaining!) I have two kids, and they aren't even the same age and I hardly have time to read it let alone write it.....you are amazing, and I am so lovin the Mr Myg......too funny!
    These chapters are great, i think derek is a tool of epic proportions, i think edaward makes my panties melt, i think bella kicks ass, and i think newton is two seconds away from going postal.......so excited for wed!
    kelly

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  29. Myg - more fabulousness! Thank you!

    Love, love, love this story. And what a treat to get three chaps...

    Just wanted to briefly say that altho SM's characters have been completely eclipsed (ha ha) for me by all the fan fics I read, I really like the little touches you add of bringing in small things from the original books/movies. For example, the whole 'say it...' and the bit about the Bond prom theme. Brings it all back for me.

    You're amazing. I can't even comprehend where you find the time to write and I don't have kids! Long may it continue and long may Mr Myg offer us more chaps...

    W/V - Paleme - Edward you lovely vamp, you can pale-me anytime

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  30. Oh boy... I LOVED Bella's "dream" - I've certainly had lucid dreams before where I've gone "hey, I'm dreaming and I can now do anything I want". I tried screwing a young guy in a lucid dream once, but my unconscious punished me by morphing him back and forth between an old man and a baby ;-(.
    Another brilliant installment, Myg. One thing I really love about your writing is that I never know what's going to happen next. And thanks to Mr Myg too for sacrificing so much for your muse. He seems like a damn good egg.

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  31. Myg- that dream sequence WOW. The imagery was amazing. Loved the part about shutting up about Jesus. And I love how intricately woven this story is. And I love Edward's use of Alice's gift in seeing Bella's future. I can't wait to see what else is in that future.

    Keep the story coming. 3 chapters at a time is fine by me, I will not make any plans next Saturday nigt.

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  32. who needs the short second life of bree tanner, when we can have three chapters of osa bella?! loved the "dream sequenz" - the story is just amazing.

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  33. Myg, I haven't commented before, but I was inspired to do so by your poor husband. ;) I promise to comment after every chapter now. I just am so infatuated with this story. I love the way you write. I love how Bella is optimistic, irreverent, and just REAL. And the fact that she's struggling with a choice we've all had to make at one time or another...what we think is good for us, or what we might really want. Thank you so much for your dedication to writing. I can't imagine how much of your time and energy and effort you put into it. SO thanks, and I can't wait for the next chapters. And thanks to Mr. Myg for the 3 chapters. It was like heaven on a Sunday after a particularly hairy weekend!

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  34. I think Derek is on his way out. At least I hope so! I love this Edward.

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  35. Myg (and Mr Myg) - this story is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good. I haven't commented before, but that's usually because I've downloaded the pdf and read it at work on my breaks and then forget to come tell you what I thought when I get home. Information overload.

    Three chapters made my Sunday morning! Yaaaaaay! I can't wait to see what happens next - thanks so much for this story and for sharing it with us. I love how real Bella feels, and can relate to her in a way that s much more current than the way in which I related to Twilight Bella. And it's interesting to put Edward into a different conflict with Bella being older than he is and their initial relationship being compromised by that. And I am endlessly amused that she's dating and engaged to Mr Banner. That's awesome.

    Enjoy your wife, Mr Myg, but let her back to contiue the story as soon as you can bear to do so (pun intended, of course)!

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  36. Ok, Myg. So I figured out the best way to do this when you post more than one chapter at a time. Imma just open up the comment window while I read so I don't forget things. I suppose that's one benefit for posting on ff or twi'd. No matter. I have a plan :)

    Ch. 13
    Now this would have been one FUCK of a cliffie. Not even a cliffie. More like a "WHAT.THE.MOTHER.FUCK.?!?!" Never have I ever read anything like this, Myg, my dear. I love how in any other world, or any other Twi-related male suitor, this event would have been amazing. But since you threw born-again-virgin Derek at us, all we readers can think is "NOOO!!!!!!!" And I love how both Illeana and Jake know that something else is going on, and that this isn't a good fit. Trust the people who love you, Bella...It's almost as good as trusting yourself!

    Ch. 14
    Interesting with the bears! Are they a visiting tribe of shapeshifters? Or do the wolves become bears in your fic? Hmmm...
    As for prom, I wasn't sure about the image of the dress here on the blog, but once I envisioned it on Bella...I was sold. So sold, I started doing more image searches for similar styles. Lovely. And any mental image of Edward in a tux is a good reason for my panties to start sparking! I'm both pleased and dissapointed that the prom night didn't go any further. *sigh*

    Ch. 15
    Bahaha! Bella's endearing envy makes me smile. Poor Paige! If she had any idea, she'd have to hide in her room for the rest of her high school career. It seems Edward might be trying to ignite some of that jealousy, also. I like it.
    The hike up to Lake Crescent was interesting! Love the "homeopathic" remedy from Dr. C. I'm surprised Edward didn't just lick her hand :)
    Yes! The Jesus Itch has been scratched! I find it horribly offensive that Derek would bring up something like that, especially from a position of authority. How crass. Yay for Bella throwing down the gauntlet of that.
    ...I need to read me some more about lucid dreams. With all the fanfic I read, maybe I can find a way to have my own lucid Edward dream. I'd go into a voluntary coma....Except for the blue balls and the running away part. DAMN. "Duhn.Duhn.Duhn. Another potential orgasm bites the dust." PS...Is it sad that I totally almost cried over Edward having to kill the bear?
    And now I have to know about the old man! I feel so bad for him, and now I'm super worried about the cubs! WHICH BRINGS ME BACK TO MY ORIGINAL THOUGHT ABOUT THE FIRST THING I SAID ABOUT THIS CHAPTER!!!! :)


    Keep it up, Myg. You've got a fucking WINNER in this fic.

    And Dear Mr. Myg,
    I understand that you are focusing on the fact that there is something out here on the interwebz that is making your lovely wife happy, and your reluctance at the source of it all. My dear love shares the same apprehension. However, thank you for allowing Myg to use this outlet of creativity, as you of all people recognize how powerful and fulfilling creative writing can be. As you can see, she has so many people giving her well-deserved praise for the story that she is sharing.

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  37. My dearest Myg ~ you have rendered me speechless...

    This is so fucking...unf...
    see I got nothin except my gratitude ~ Thank you!
    I am truly at a loss to describe what this is doing to me!
    I just can not get enough.
    The writing ... the plot... the characters... it's all amazing and has left me breathless more than once.
    I think we are all in agreement that Mr. Myg is one of the coolest, most understanding guys in the fandom!(and funny as fuck)
    You lucky girl!



    @stilllookingformyvamp ~
    "Derek needs to be eaten by a bear"
    I choked on my drink at this ~ and I totally agree!!
    I can't understand it ~ I don't want to hate him... he's a good guy... but I so hate him!!
    (at least I hate him with Bella)

    Thank you for sharing your talent, your time, and this story!

    Much love ~ Ginny

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  38. I love, love, love this fic!! Can't wait to read more. Thanks, Mr Myg!! Bella has GOT to get rid of Derek! I keep trying to think of ways she and Edward can be together and the bears absolutely fascinate me!

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  39. Love this story, you always keep me in suspense. I cannot wait to see what happens, how things resolve themselves. I really loved the last chapter, especially the 'dream', I'm getting so impatient for more! Keep it up, we love reading this story!

    And thanks Mr. Myg for the multiple chapters, I love updates like this one.

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  40. Myggggg!!!!
    WOW
    The wait was so worth it.. THREE CHAPTERS! I gave out a little squeeeeeee when I read your and Mr. Myg's intro :D
    He is such a sweetheart. I wish all men would see the wonders that Twilight has to offer lol
    ummm and why do I have to be so greedy?!?!?
    I wanted to read little by little... I sound like an addict but it's true. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. It's too good!
    Waiting for the next update is killing meeeeee... Your style of writing is amazing, the twists in the story have me completely hooked, and thank you so much for sharing.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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  41. I'm sorry I haven't left feedback until now. I read Osa Bella on my phone and for some reason I can't access the comments from there. I do not have words to tell you how much I love this story. It's smart, it has intrigue, the emotional angst for both Edward and Bella KILLS me. Bella wanting to do what's right as opposed to what is right for her.... fjksjfksd!! I can't take it sometimes. This last chapter with the "dream" worked so well. There has not been a writerly awkward moment in this entire story. I totally look forward to your updates and go back and read them over the week. I hope this story goes on forever and then I hope you write another one!

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  42. Awesome read, talented lady. You are rockin' my world with your story. Can't wait for Wednesday.

    As for Mr Myg, well, I am pea-green. Yikes, he writes hilarious words, tolerates Twilight, and loves you. He's a keeper!

    Confidential to Bella - my wedding anniversary is June 30. That date hasn't worked out so well for me -a word to the wise...

    'nuff said.

    xx

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  43. Myg- Thanks so much for the 3 chapters and tell Mr Myg not to stab himself. That would take to much time away from your writing J/K Mr Myg is awesome. We really appreciate the sacrafices he is making so we can get out Osa Bella fix.

    I don't have words good enough to comment on these chapters. This story just keeps getting better which makes it that much harder to wait for the next update.

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  44. I am totally in love with this story. Myg, you are awesome and Mr. Myg is wonderful too!

    I LOVED the dream sequence, I have to go back and read it again. Your Edward has that touch of danger that SM's Edward didn't always have. You never know what he is going to do.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us and I can't wait for the next update!!!

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  45. i have become obsessed with reading this! so great

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  46. I'm so in love!

    I loved the vintage dress fiasco--so well thought out! Ha, poor Edkins seeing something he likes too much, no?

    I like Ileyna, more of her please.

    Less Derek, he is such a prat.

    Once again Myg, you have outdone yourself, so well crafted. I loved that he convinced her she was dreaming.

    All hail Mr Myg!!

    Hip hip hooray!

    smoochies

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  47. myg..I am love love loving reading Osa Bella!!
    Your Edward is adorable...and hot.

    Can't wait for new chapters.
    I am a huge ff reader and I have to tell you this story is on the absolute top of my list.
    So refreshing reading a new angle...younger Edward,older Bella.
    I am sensing Derek is going to fade into the background soon.
    Well I hope so anyway.

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  48. i can't say anything that hasn't already been said, but this is seriously hot and i can't WAIT to read more!

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  49. I just want you all to know how much it means to me that you come, you read, you comment. Thanks for taking the time. I really love you all for it.

    The rewrite on 16 is KICKING MY MoFo sorry ASS right about now. I had to come back here and re-read all your comments for inspiration. So thanks.

    xoxo
    mygs

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  50. Myg, I am so sorry, I didn't know that my comment here was eaten by the Blogger Gremlin. Basically it means for sure that my Chapter 15 comment is gone as that wasn't on FF yet. Dang it. I will have to see if I can remember what I said. Here are the other two chapter reviews though.

    Chapter 13:

    "In fact, I thought with a little more work I could stretch my empirical science loving brain enough to consider the possibility that the world was not just those things that we can see, hear, touch, smell or taste. Maybe there was some magic left in it after all." I believe she is really going to need this in the coming chapters ;)

    "another chance at marriage with a solid man who loved me." Hmmm but she doesn't say that she loves him.

    The torture of wanting someone to NOT do something is painful. I have been the Edward asking someone to not do something because you know it isn't right for them. That was all too real through your writing (but that is a good thing).

    "If I was married, I knew I could keep myself away from Edward." HA is all I have to say to that.

    ""Yes," I said." Dang it!

    Reading back over this comment I see that I am treating Bella like my friend. I am trying to have her hear me and do things I wish I would have done. So real and so good, Myg. Thank you.


    Chapter 14:

    "And though I felt ill, really ill, when I thought about Edward falling in love with someone who wasn't me..." Why don't women listen to themselves? ARG!

    Wow, I can feel Edward's desperation with Bella like it was my own. Why do people settle? Why do people feel the need to do what others want them to do in opposition to what they should do for themselves. And why are psychology people so much better at helping others than themselves?

    *fans self* "There were a good, respectable six inches of space between us as we danced, the length of an average adult hand from wrist to fingertip. Our bodies only met in three places. One, where his hand held mine and the coldness of his touch relieved the intense heat I felt radiating out of my palm. Another where my other hand landed on his shoulder and I had to consciously stop myself from moving my fingers lovingly over it. And the third where his left hand rested on my lower back. That was my favorite. I imagined that hand pushing me to him, holding me against him. There was so much potential for that hand, but out there in the open, with witnesses and all, it behaved itself."

    I think I might go cry for a little bit now - big sigh.

    ====

    Off to see if I can recall my Chapter 15 review.

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  51. Myg, I am so sorry but I can't find my Chapter 15 review. I had lots of good stuff in it too. I even just re-read the chapter and I can't remember what I said except for your ending... you always write such amazing endings (and beginnings and middles but the endings are extra special)....

    "She’s got issues,” he said, blowing his nose. “She never knows what’s good for her.”

    “It’s really hard to know that sometimes.” I hadn't spoken truer words in quite some time.

    Truer words never written either ;)


    Oh and the "dream" *gulp* reading it a second time made me crazy all over again - heart pounding, pulse racing, little beads of sweat on the forehead... and that is alllll good.

    Thanks for 3 amazing chapters!

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  52. I haven't commented - or read the comments - on this story yet, and I have no clue why! I am totally loving it. The whole "dream sequence" was great! A very clever way of sort-of exposing Edward. I would never have been able to come up with that! (but I have nowhere near the talent that the lovely Myg has).

    Something is totally wrong with Mike. He's going to flip out on us. I'm hoping Alice catches it in time to keep it from escalating though.

    I think the Kermode is a shape shifter from a tribe in Alaska that is similar to the Quileutes (Probably butchered that spelling, but you know what I mean). Billy knows, and that's why he's being a total pain in Jake's ass about the old naked man. I'm just hoping Edward didn't start Word War 7. Maybe the Kermode isn't a shape shifter and the other bears are from Alaska and protect it...

    I'm starting to feel like Virginia Woolf with all of this stream-of-consciousness.

    I can't wait to see how this story comes together!

    P.S. Mr. Myg rocks too hard for words.

    word verification: inkingl - I hope Myg is inkingl away at the next chapters of Osa Bella!

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