Sunday, September 6, 2015 | By: Drotuno

A Few Tables Away Chapter 10 & Pics

Chapter 10
My eyes couldn’t focus on the notes Professor Swan was writing at the front of the classroom. Instead, they raked along tight, faded jeans and the hand slowly doodling at the top corner of her page. My brain was still scrambled from our kisses. The one from the night before in the guest room of Bella’s house, to the one this morning on her front porch, never mind the few minutes we’d lost ourselves in her car when she’d pulled into the parking lot at Edgewater – my thoughts were consumed with her, the feel of her, the taste of her.
Rubbing my face, I forced myself to pay attention to the front of the classroom and take notes on what the next assignment was before he released us for the day.
He shot us a smile and wave as we left the room. Bella’s hand slipped into mine as we walked across campus to the dining hall. She stayed quiet, which was a bit unusual for her, so when we were finally outside at our table under the shade, I glanced up at her.
“You…okay?” I asked, scanning my head for something I might have done wrong.
She smiled and nodded, dragging a fry through ketchup. “I’m…perfect. I just… I have a question for you, but I’m not sure how to ask it. Or if I should ask it.”
Frowning at her, I took a deep breath. “Did I… Is there…”
Suddenly, her smiling lips were on mine. “Shh, you’ve done nothing wrong, baby. I just…” She pulled back to cup my face. “I just… What are you doing about the holidays?”
“Oh.” I smiled a little and nodded but then shrugged a shoulder. “I’m, um…I don’t know. I’m pretty sure I can avoid going home for Thanksgiving, but Christmas is a different story. The dorms close, and then there’s Alice… I don’t know. I don’t want to go, but I’m not sure I can get out of it. I’d be willing to bet my dad’s already bought that ticket.”
“You can stay with me,” she blurted out, grimacing a little, but then smiled when I chuckled. I loved her habit of just saying whatever she was thinking. “I’m sorry, but I just…” She sighed, her eyes sad and worried. “The thought of sending you home…”
She dropped her gaze to the table, and her hair covered her face, so I reached up to tuck it behind her ear. I needed to see her.
“He can’t hurt me, Bella,” I stated softly, shaking my head when she looked at me. “He can threaten and yell and say shit, but…” I shrugged a shoulder. “There’re only three people on this planet that can hurt me – my siblings and the pretty girl at this table. That’s it. He has power over me, but that’s because he signs the checks for the part of my schooling that my scholarship doesn’t cover, like books and housing. If he takes that, then I don’t know what I’d do. I don’t make enough to cover both working for Jasper. I have to appease my father in order to stay here.”
Bella’s face darkened, but she nodded. “I would never hurt you.”
Smiling, I nodded. “I know.”
“Do you?” she asked, narrowing her eyes at me, but her fingers reached up to toy with the hair in the middle of my forehead. When I nodded again, she smiled, but it fell immediately. “Good, because your dad sounds like a selfish jerk – an abusive, selfish jerk.” Before I could argue, she gently added, “You don’t have to touch someone to abuse them, handsome. Words hurt. Control hurts.”
Nodding, I looked down at the last half of my sandwich, picking at the bread. I knew she was right. Hell, even Alice had lost her temper on our father once or twice, telling him those exact words, but he’d merely smiled at her, taunting her to “prove it.” Nothing he’d done to us, to me, after Mom died was illegal, just unfair.
Bella’s warm hands cupped my face, making my gaze meet hers. “I want you to remember something for me.” Pulling my forehead to hers, she smiled. “You’re not that little boy anymore. There’s nothing he can do that we can’t figure out how to fix – books, housing, whatever. And despite what he’s told you, that accident was not your fault. You’re not weak; you’re stronger than you give yourself credit. The title of parent doesn’t make him right. Just means his sperm got to the right place.”
Grinning, I brushed my lips across hers before pulling back. “Yes, ma’am.”
We finished our lunch and made our way to the library. Just as I was reaching for the door, my phone vibrated in my pocket. I smiled at the goofy picture of my brother’s face on the screen.
“My brother,” I told Bella. “I… I actually need to talk to him.”
“Sure.” She smiled, pointing in through the door. “I’ll save your spot.”
I held the door for her, answering the phone. “Hey, Em.”
“I was wondering if you’d gotten eaten by an alligator or some shit.”
Laughing, I walked away a bit, leaning against the closest oak tree. “No, just busy. How’s U-Dub?”
“Pfft, you know…sex, girls, and parties.”
Laughing softly, I shook my head. “Right, ’cause Rose allows all that to happen.”
“Truth.” He chuckled low but asked, “I got your text, little bro, so what’s up?”
I took a deep breath, bracing myself for an epic amount of teasing. “I…I need your advice.”
“Mine?! Not the little midget? Must be serious if you aren’t talking to Ali-boo about it.”
I laughed again, and I’d missed my brother, because he never took anything seriously – our dad being the only exception to that. “Actually, she told me to talk to you.”
“Ah, shit…what’d Daddy Dearest fuckin’ do this time?” Emmett asked, and even though sarcasm laced through his tone, I could hear him bracing himself for the answer.
“No, no…that’s not… Emmett, I need your advice. Seriously.”
“Two things, really. First, I don’t… What’re you doing about the holidays?”
“Oh, um… Rose and I will be there for Thanksgiving but not for Christmas.” My mouth fell open, but he went on. “Rosie’s family has invited me to New York over Christmas break. I’m going. Let me guess… You’re doing the opposite.”
“Yeah, I think so. I mean, I don’t see the point in going for Thanksgiving. It’s not even a week, and it’s not like we do anything.”
Emmett snorted derisively. “I’m surprised you’re even considering Christmas, Ed. I would’ve bet that you’d never come back to Washington.”
“It’s not for him,” I snapped, sneering a little. “I want to see Ali. If you’re there for Thanksgiving, then I’ll go for Christmas just to make sure he doesn’t ignore her the whole fucking holiday season.”
Emmett sighed, but it came out like a growl. “You know she applied to Edgewater.”
“Ah, hell…” I groaned, raking a hand through my hair. “Oh, he’s gonna so blame me for that.”
“Mmhm, probably, but knowing Alice, she’s gonna shrug a shoulder and dare him to stop her. You know, I’m waiting for the day she calls me and tells me he’s shot off at the mouth on her. I may have to kill him.”
His voice was grim but honest. He’d done his best to step in for me when we were growing up, but Dad had seen through it, making the punishments that much longer. Emmett was so damned big and strong that, by the time he left for college, I had been afraid he’d actually punch Dad square in the face. I was pretty sure the only thing that stopped him was that our father would’ve taken it out on us once he’d left.
“I can’t wait until she’s out of that house,” I sighed, shaking my head. “I may never go back.”
“Don’t blame you, Ed. I sometimes wonder if Mom knew, you know? Like maybe she was what kept him reined in, but when she was gone, he just…lost his shit,” Emmett said, and again, the old grief fell heavily over us, in spite of the distance.
“She was leaving him, if you listen to the rumors around good ’ol Forks,” I teased, which made him laugh a bit. “I don’t know, Em. I just… I live with it every day. I don’t need him telling me what I’ve done, how I’m such a loser. I’m aware.”
“Fuck him!” Emmett snapped. “You’re no damn loser! One day, you’re gonna be on the shelves at the bookstore, just like Mom. And I want the first signed copy!” When I laughed, he huffed. “I’m dead-fucking-serious, little bro. And when he’s all old and crusty and rotting away alone in that house, then we’ll see who the goddamn loser is, okay?”
“Thanks, Em.”
He tsked a bit over the line. “Now, you said two things…”
I felt my face heat, even more than the Florida temperature around me. “I uhh… I have…a girlfriend, and I…”
“Shut the fuck up! Go, Edward!”
Grinning, I shook my head. “Shut up. I need… I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I need…”
“Oh. Have you cashed in your V-card yet?”
“Don’t be foul. I need your advice, Emmett.”
“Okay, okay, okay… Is she pretty?”
“Nice, Ed,” he said softly. “So what do you wanna know?”
“I…I’m… I’m not like you, Em. I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s overwhelming, and…I’m nervous I’m gonna fuck up. I want…everything all at once, but I don’t…and she’s…and—”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Edward! Slow down! I wanna tease the shit out of you, but I can’t. I know you, man. You’re probably panicking all to hell and back.”
“Emmett, don’t you dare!” I heard in the background, and I groaned that Rose was hearing this shit.
Emmett chuckled but then grunted when she most likely smacked him. “Ow, okay! Damn it. Ed, listen. Just…be honest with the girl, okay? What’s her name?”
“Okay, well, just be honest with Bella. Chicks dig the whole honesty thing.” He hissed the last sentence, making me laugh. “Seriously. They do. And really, your dick may be a virgin, but your eyes aren’t. I know that laptop of yours has seen some deviant shit.”
Grimacing, I neither confirmed nor denied that fact.
“Look, Edward, girls will let you know what they like or don’t like. You can tell, you know? If this girl is worth a damn, then…”
“Emmett, she’s…amazing and funny and smart and gorgeous. She’s... She knows everything about me, and she’s so patient… I mean, I really like her.”
“Sounds like more than just like.”
Emmett was quiet for a moment, but I heard a commotion on the other end, and then it was Rose’s voice over the line. “Hey, Edward.”
“Hey, Rose,” I mumbled back.
I’d met her handful of times. To look at her, it seemed she’d be a cold, snobby girl, but she wasn’t. She was very pretty – blonde hair, tall, confident – but she was actually one of the nicest people I’d met. She was loyal and completely over the moon for my brother.
“Don’t be embarrassed. I want to help, okay? Just…a girl’s point of view?” she offered, but it came out like a question.
“Edward, your brother’s right. Be honest. But follow your heart. You… You’re pretty picky about who you let in, so that right there tells me this girl is special. Go with that. There’s no need to rush, but let this Bella guide you. It doesn’t have be about sex. It can be about expressing how you feel about each other. Your brother wasn’t exactly pure when we met, but experience isn’t everything. Okay?”
“Yeah, but…”
“Look, I’m all for some porn, but knowing the basics is enough. Honestly. How you care about someone will guide you on how good you want them to feel. If you care about someone, you’ll want to show them, not just…get off.
I laughed nervously, running a hand through my hair again. “Thanks, Rose.”
“You’re a helluva bookworm, buddy,” Emmett said, back on the line again. “You can’t tell me you haven’t read some fuck-awesome shit out there. All that throbbing manhood, quivering what-have-you… His love-rocket exploded into her gaping…ugh…I can’t even.”
Grinning, I shrugged a shoulder he couldn’t see and said, “Umm, yeah…a bit.”
He laughed. “That’s my boy. Okay, then you know what to do. It’s just…scary when your heart is on the line.”
“Yeah! Exactly.”
“Then be honest. Tell her what you want. Let her tell you. Fuck, little bro, learning is half the fun. And sex is fun, so…don’t make it out to be more difficult than it is. I know you tend to overthink stuff. Don’t do that here. Make sense?”
“Yeah, okay.” I took a deep breath and let it out. “Thanks, Em.”
“Sure, Ed. No problem. So…I’ll call you when I’m home for Thanksgiving, and I’ll let you know how the midget’s doin’.”
“You’re taking Rose?”
“Yeah, but only because she isn’t going home, either. Though, I’ll probably warn the old man to keep his fucking mouth shut around her. He isn’t exactly shy about how he feels.”
“Mmm,” I hummed in agreement. “Well, don’t tell him shit about me.”
“Never.” Emmett laughed, and we ended the call.
Stepping into the library was a relief from the heat outside, though I had to admit that October was much cooler than it had been when I’d arrived on campus in August. I walked to my usual table, smiling at Bella’s things sitting across from me, but she wasn’t in her seat. I set my backpack down on the chair, took out the book I needed to return, and dropped it in the chute. When I looked up, I smiled at the sight of Bella turning down one of the aisles.
Just out of simple curiosity, I followed her. She was in fiction, of course, standing on the very tips of her toes as she reached up on a high shelf. I stepped up behind her, grabbing the book she wanted.
“Better?” I asked in a whisper, but I couldn’t keep the chuckle back as she spun in front me, and I held the book out to her.
Her grin, her sweet, musical giggle made my damn day. “Thanks,” she whispered back, and I started to turn back down the row, but she stopped me. Her head swiveled left and then right, only to look up at me. “Kiss me, Edward.”
“Hell, yes, here!”
Something about her tone made me narrow my eyes at her, not because I didn’t want to do it but because I really, really did.
“Have you… Have you thought about us…here?”
She bit her lip, her cheeks flushing a touch pink. “M-Maybe.”
Giving the aisle one last glance either way, I saw there wasn’t anyone near us, and I faced her again, but her lips met mine quickly. Just like on her front porch, I lost myself to her. She tasted like the cherry soda she’d been drinking at lunch, she felt like heaven and all things I never dreamed I’d have, and she smelled like books and fruit and flowers. My right arm wrapped around her waist, but I had to brace my left on the shelf by her head in order to not slam us into the bookshelf. The last thing I needed was to cause a domino effect with every bookcase in the library toppling over one after the other.
Pulling back, I closed my eyes as I pressed my forehead to hers as we both tried to catch our breaths. “Me, too, Bella. I’ve thought about it, too.”
A sweet little squeak escaped her, and I opened my eyes to see her mouth hanging open and her eyes wide. It made me chuckle a little.
“I may be inexperienced, Bella, but I have an imagination.” I pulled back and tapped my temple. “Writer…and bookworm,” I said, picking up her hand that was holding the book I’d pulled down for her. “Speaking of… What’d you pick out?”
“Don’t judge, okay?” she said with an adorable wrinkle to her nose.
I grinned, turning the book over to read the back. It was a modern romance – the love-hate between two people, but with the undeniable attraction for one another. It was as close to erotica as the school’s library probably carried.
Handing it back, I said, “Let me know if you like it.” When her eyebrows shot up high, I kissed the soft spot between them. “Bella, stop. I can’t judge you on anything you read. I’ve pretty much checked out every title I’ve ever seen you crack open in this library. You have fantastic taste in books.” What I didn’t say out loud was that one of my fantasies was simply the ability to discuss said books, so I was pretty damn close to perfect right at that moment.
“Want me to read it to you?” she taunted, and with that, I did spin to leave her in the aisle with a laugh. She rushed to catch up to me. “Could be fun… We could read it together.”
I was thinking about the advice that my brother and Rose had given me – to keep things honest and fun. We walked back to the table, taking our seats, but I pointed to the book in her hands.
“And just when and where do you want to do that?” I asked her with a laugh.
Her grin was adorable, if not slightly evil. “We’ll figure it out.”
Shaking my head, I started to pull my laptop out in order to get to work on the homework her dad had given us today. However, her statement seemed to mean…more. Glancing up at her as I turned on my computer, I knew she meant more than just the romance novel in her hands. She meant us, me, my inexperience with all of this. Hell, she probably meant the holidays coming up, too, if I was reading her correctly.
Suddenly, the thought of following in Emmett’s footsteps came to mind – to bring Bella with me to Washington, if only for a portion of the break. Alice would adore her; they’d probably end up the best of friends, but the mere thought of my father saying something negative, derogatory, or even passive-aggressive toward my girl… That wasn’t going to happen. I’d never allow him to hurt her.
“My girl,” I whispered to myself in pure adoration and awe at the reality of it. Shaking my head, I focused back on her. “You sure?” I asked, tapping the book in her hands.
“Yes.” Her eyes never left mine, and they were warm and sweet, but they were sincere and comforting, too.
I couldn’t stop my smile if I tried as my head shook slowly. “Um…okay. Whatever you want, Bella.”
She giggled, got up, and pressed a rough kiss to my lips, spinning around to head up to the check-out desk. As I watched her, I caught sight of a few people staring our way – the girls Bella had forced on Alec were two of them. I found that I honestly didn’t care what anyone thought, because the only opinion in the room that mattered belonged to the girl happily taking her seat back in front of me.
“Maybe someday it’ll be your story you’ll read to me,” she said hopefully, and there was a touch of teasing there, too, but not a harsh tease.
Grinning, I shrugged, knowing full well Bella could ask anything of me and I’d give it willingly, but I wanted to tease her back.
“Maybe.” I pointed to the book that she was about to open to the first page. “Don’t start without me. Homework first.”
Bella groaned but smiled my way. “Okay, okay.”
We grew quiet, getting to work, but my mind kept straying to everything that had happened since I’d told her about Mom, the wreck, just…all of it. I knew I needed to speak to my dad, that I needed to get with Alice about some things, but for the moment, I needed this normal, this comfort that I’d never had before. But I realized there was something I needed to do.
“Hey, Bella?” I whispered, and she glanced up from her Lit homework. “Thank you.”
“For what, baby?”
Smiling, I shook my head but shrugged a shoulder. “For just being…you.”
“See? That… That shit makes it hard not to kiss you stupid!” she hissed dramatically, smiling when I laughed silently…well, as best I could.
“Homework, pretty girl.” I pointed to her books, chuckling a little more when she narrowed her eyes at me.
She went back to her textbook, grumbling, “Long damn day.”


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