Wednesday, September 23, 2015 | By: Drotuno

A Few Tables Away Chapter 15 & Pics

Chapter 15
“Take your break, kiddo,” Tanya said, ruffling my hair on her way back to the front counter, but she stopped and cupped my face. “Gonna miss you when you’re gone.”
“Why? ’Cause you got more shifts?” I teased her, jerking when she poked my side, and I almost spilled the sugar I was refilling.
“Well, there is that, but…” She narrowed her eyes playfully. “You know, I’m old enough to be your…very awesome young aunt,” she said, grinning when I laughed. “You’re a sweet kid, Edward. I’d warn you all about being safe and being a good boy, but I don’t think I have to. I’d warn you not to hurt Bells, but I damn well know I don’t have to do that, so just…hurry back, okay?”
When I nodded, she kissed my cheek and ruffled my hair again, and I remembered her saying something about her own father being a problem. “Hey, Tanya?” I asked, putting the lid back on the sugar. She stopped before heading out front, and I said, “You… Y-You said your dad was…”
“Toxic, Edward. He was bad news when I was a kid.”
Nodding, I tilted my head at her. “You ever see him now?”
“See him? No. Though, I do call him every few months or so to make sure he hasn’t drunk himself to death or…forgotten to pay his rent, so… He’s an asshole, but I’m all he has left, despite the fact that we can barely stand one another.” She walked back to me, tapping my chin gently. “You can’t pick your family.”
Grimacing, I nodded. It seemed to be a repetitive statement surrounding me lately. “Yeah, Bella’s dad said the same thing.”
“They love you. Hell, kid, we all do, so if things get shitty, then…remember that. Remember who’s in your corner here. You live here now, not back there. You’re just going back for a visit.” She tapped my temple. “Home is where this is,” she added, tapping my chest to indicate my heart. “And I am pretty sure you’re leaving it behind.”
She shot me a wink when I nodded. “Break, Edward.”
I put the sugar away and restocked the back of the counter before grabbing my backpack. This was my last shift at Sunset Roast until after the new year. I was spending the weekend at the Swan house, and Jasper and Bella would be driving me to the airport Monday morning. The closer it came, the more nervous I was becoming, and I wanted to soak up as much of everyone here as I could, but the mere idea of leaving Bella had me pulling out my journal.
As I sat in the booth, I lost myself to my words to Bella as the sun started to dip. I paused at one point, flipping through the filled pages from the very beginning and shaking my head at just how different things were from the start. And they were all to Bella – from that first letter to my Library Girl to my heart being scrawled out on the most recent page. So much had changed; I had changed. And I wasn’t sure who I owed it all to: my sister for making sure I came here; Bella for just being that sweet, beautiful thing she was; or was it me? I didn’t know where to place the value, because everyone, all of it, played some sort of role in it. Despite how badly I didn’t want to leave, I had no choice, but I had to figure out how to push through the next few weeks. I needed to cling to the good that was here in order to survive the stuff back home.
“You’re not allowed in here,” Maggie stated, pulling me out of my head, my writing.
Glancing up, I narrowed my eyes at Alec’s pompous grin as he shrugged a shoulder at her. Tanya was pulling her phone out of her pocket, sending off a quick text, and it was most likely to Jasper, who had left the café to pick up an order from the bakery. As I glanced up at the clock and stuffed my journal back into my bag, I expected him back any second, but I wasn’t sure how this guy would behave.
I stood from the booth, shouldering my backpack, and stepped behind the counter, coming face to face with him on the other side of the register.
“You gotta go, Alec. Jasper’s banned you from here,” I told him as calmly as I could, keeping my tone low because there were still customers in a few chairs.
A slow, humorless grin spread over his face. “Well, if it isn’t garbage boy… How’s Bella?”
The smile I gave him back was real, and I wasn’t sure where the words came from, but I said, “She’s fantastic, and I’d tell her you asked about her, but she doesn’t really like you, so…she probably won’t care. You still have to go.”
Maggie and Tanya giggled, and I waited for Alec to move, but he shook his head. He tossed a look behind him, and I saw the two girls from the library that day Bella had pushed Alec away – the blonde and the redhead. I honestly didn’t want to know how that worked or even how they were possibly all together. I now knew their names from class as Irina and Victoria.
“I’m just trying to get my girls some coffee, asshole.”
“Oh, well…they can stay. You can’t,” I stated, shrugging a shoulder.
I wasn’t sure what this guy’s problem was with me, except maybe his sour grapes over Bella, but he leaned forward. “Tell me, garbage boy… Is Bella as freaky in the sheets as I think she is?”
There was movement behind him, and I smirked at who had heard him ask that question. Jasper sidled silently up next to him, a heavy hand reaching toward his shoulder, but it was the smaller figure I pointed to.
“Well, I’d say ask her, but… I’m not sure she’ll answer you,” I ground out through gritted teeth. However, my hands fisted at my sides as I shook to keep from hitting him. I was used to people picking on me, but no one disrespected Bella.
Bella’s face was a gorgeous, heady mix between pissed off and amused. When Alec saw she was standing there, she laughed outright in his face. “You’ll never know, Alec.”
Jasper’s hand finally landed heavily on his shoulder, making him jump, and when he turned Alec around to escort him out, the two girls had abandoned him. “Alec, the next time you show up in my coffee shop, I’ll have you arrested for trespassing. If you think I’m kidding, try me.” Gripping him even harder on the way toward the door, he added, “And if I ever hear you talk about my cousin that way again, then fuck the arrest. I’ll simply beat the shit out of you.”
Snorting, I shook my head. I had to admit that Jasper reminded me of Emmett more and more, but I looked to Bella. “Sorry, pretty girl. I tried to get him out of here before you got here,” I told her, but my voice was terse and a bit harsh.
She grinned, leaned across the counter, and kissed my lips. “You’re kinda sexy when you’re angry.”
Laughing, I shook my head and rolled my eyes. “Yeah, that’s me.” Turning to Tanya, I said, “I’m back from break, but I need to file a few things in Jasper’s office before we start closing up.”
“Yeah, yeah, kiddo. We’re fine. We’ll get you if we need you.”
My temper was still a bit on edge as I walked to Jasper’s office. I knew Bella was behind me, and once we were inside the room, I heard the door clicked closed. Setting my backpack down in one of his chairs, I grabbed the stack of papers out of the inbox and started to file. Turning back to the desk, I found myself nose to nose with Bella. She’d moved the inbox and plopped herself up on top.
Am I a freak in the sheets?” she asked, and I could see her amusement, her teasing, and her warm gaze just about everywhere. “Only you would know…”
The laugh that escaped me came out like a bark, and I sighed deeply, the anger at Alec dissipating almost immediately. I walked into her embrace, her legs and arms enveloping me completely.
Inhaling deeply the scent of her, I nuzzled her hair, the crook of her neck, all while she dropped kisses to my cheek, my jaw, my throat. “I think you’re beautiful in my sheets,” I told her, grinning when her giggle shook us both.
She pushed back and cupped my face, kissing my lips. “Ditto, baby.” Studying me with an adorably curious expression, she smirked when I raised an eyebrow her way. “I was just trying to remember if I’ve ever seen you mad, Edward. And I think that was the first time.”
I shrugged, shaking my head and reaching around her for the next stack of papers to file. “He was saying disgusting things about you.”
“He called you ‘garbage boy,’” she argued, sounding affronted.
“He disrespected you. I don’t give a damn about how he feels about me, but…no one…” I slammed a drawer of the filing cabinet closed after putting a page in its correct folder, spinning to face her. “No one can talk about you like that.”
Bella tilted that gorgeous head of hers at me, beckoning me back between her legs, and I went willingly. “Well, I appreciate the…chivalry, Edward.” She smiled, reaching up to rake her fingers through my hair, when I chuckled, but her smile fell quickly. “This weekend will fly by,” she whispered, wrinkling her nose when her voice broke a little.
My forehead dropped to hers, and I nodded against it when she asked if I had my things packed back at the dorm.
“Can we just…read tonight?” she asked against my lips, and I nodded again, smiling a bit. “Good, I just… I want to hear your voice.”
“I’ll read to you anytime, pretty girl. I swear it.”
It really was my favorite thing to do with her. We’d kiss and make out, though never really taking that big step, and that was okay because she was leading us. The physical side of our relationship was phenomenal, but to hold her in my arms afterward and read to her was the best feeling. She made me feel important, like I was taking care of her like she did for me. I could never find the words to tell her how I felt, so I showed her in every way possible – with my kisses and my hands and by reading to her.
And all of that reminded me of my journal, a plan forming in my head. Pulling back, I smiled at her, kissing her softly, deeply, but ended it before we lost ourselves in her cousin’s office.
“Dying to find out if Edmund finds the treasure?” I teased her, because we only read together when we could, so we were slowly working through The Count of Monte Cristo.
“Well…yeah! I hope he gets back at all those fuckers who screwed him over!”
Grinning at how adorable she was, I nodded, grabbing the last stack of papers.  “Yes, ma’am.” I chuckled and finished up the filing. “C’mon, I gotta help the girls clean up, and then I’m yours for the rest of the weekend.”
“I want longer than that,” she whispered, climbing onto my back, and I grinned over my shoulder. Dropping a loud, sloppy kiss to my cheek, she added, “I want always.”
Nodding, I sighed. “And you have me, pretty girl. I promise.”
The flicker behind my eyelids and the deep roll of thunder quickly brought me out of sleep. I tried to remember how I’d gotten into my room, but I barely remembered Edward carrying me upstairs. I had to have fallen asleep watching the movie with him and Jasper.
Rolling over, I frowned that Edward wasn’t with me, but rubbing my eyes, I glanced over at the clock, my heart breaking at the fact that I’d be putting him on a plane in less than six hours. The weekend had flown by just as I knew it would. I’d lose him for a little over three weeks, which would no doubt crawl like molasses. Suddenly, the need to touch him, kiss him, hold him was overwhelming, so I got out of bed and opened my door.
The guest room was wide open…and empty. I knew instinctively where to find him. He loved the library, in spite of its view. Curtains had recently been added to it – Aunt Jane’s and Mom’s idea, which was really sweet. I padded softly down the stairs and through the living room, finding him in the chair by the window, his journal open on the table in front of him.
God, he was beautiful. The small lamp on the table lit up his face, but it also cast shadows along his sharp jaw and furrowed brow as he wrote. Even better was the reappearance of the sweet, wire-framed glasses. They made him look so smart yet a touch young, but it worked for him. But then again, I wasn’t sure there was anything about him that I didn’t simply love. From the top of his messy head to the bottom of his bare feet, I just truly loved him. And I planned on telling him before he got on that plane. My hope was that he said it back, but I had no expectations. My Edward was shy and reserved, and he was dealing with stepping back into a shit-ton of drama at home, so I wasn’t expecting anything. However, I knew he cared about me. That was something he was really, really good at showing.
I shifted in the doorway, and Edward’s head lifted, the sweetest of smiles curling up his mouth as he sat up straight.
“Hey, pretty girl. What are you doing up?”
Smiling, I walked to him, and he sat back so I could curl up in his lap. “I could ask the same of you.”
Warm, strong arms wrapped around me as I sat sideways on his lap. I wanted to ask about his journal, but I knew if he was writing in it, then he was sorting out some tough things. He was about to go home, so I could imagine there were heavy issues weighing on him. We sat in silence just like that, wrapped up in a cocoon of arms and snuggles as I slowly ran my fingers through his hair.
Lightning flickered again, followed by the low rumble of thunder, and I pulled my face from his neck to just look up at him. I wished I could run away with him, that I had a time machine to fast-forward through Christmas – a holiday I couldn’t even find it in me to care about because the one thing I wanted under the tree wouldn’t be there. And I wanted to protect him from anything and everything that could hurt him. The mere thought of someone hurting him, saying mean things to him, made me shake with anger and worry and the love that had slowly built into a ginormous feeling I couldn’t control anymore.
“Cold?” he whispered, cradling me in his arms and reaching up to brush my hair out of my face.
I shook my head but smiled. “No. I just want to kiss you like crazy.”
His smile was brighter than the next flash of lightning. It was boyish and beautiful, but it was deadly sexy, too. It was something I’d learned he did when he just didn’t believe what I was saying, but it was a bit of embarrassment as well. It happened most often when I couldn’t control my verbal vomit, just blurting out the crazy honest shit I always said.
“We should probably go upstairs for that, pretty girl,” he suggested softly, but his lips betrayed him, brushing across mine in the lightest, sweetest kiss.
“Probably,” I agreed, kissing him back, and I chuckled at his smile but then forced myself to look away toward the table. “I’m sorry I interrupted.”
“S’okay,” he answered, lifting me to my feet and standing up. “I was just about done.”
He faced me, closing his journal and picked it up with one hand, cupping my cheek with the other. The expression on his handsome face was dark, heated, but his eyes raked all over my face with a warmth I wasn’t expecting. I took his hand from my face and tugged it gently to lead him back upstairs and into my room, closing the door behind us. His gaze was still heated, and he dropped his journal and glasses onto my nightstand.
The room seemed to feel close, tight with how much I wanted him, how much I loved him, and I couldn’t stop from staring. Blue plaid pajama pants, a plain white T-shirt, bare feet, and that handsome face with a touch of stubble to it – he was just gorgeous, and he had no idea. And that made him all the more beautiful because he only saw me. He’d said it time and time again, but as he gazed down at me with those warm, green eyes, I could see it wasn’t a lie. It was that look that told me how he felt about me.
“I want you,” I whispered out of nowhere, shaking my head at the truth of it. “I don’t want to stop, Edward.”
His face heated, and his smile was warm, but he sat me on the edge of the bed, kneeling in front of me. “Bella, I…” He took a deep breath. “I… You have no idea how much I want that. None. But… I don’t… I can’t do that and then get on a plane in a few hours. I’ll lose my mind. I know it’s old-school or old-fashioned to say such things, but it’s not about…sex for me. It’s about you and me, and I don’t want to do that and walk away from you for a month. It would kill me. I’d… I’d… I want something to come home to, Bella.”
My hands reached for his face, flat on either side, and I pulled him in for a kiss. “I love you,” I whispered against his lips, and his gasp made me smile, as did the twitch of his fingers on the outside of my thighs. “I do. And I know I say a lot of shit. That I blurt out stuff, but, Edward, I…do love you. So, so much. And I need you to know that before you leave.”
He kissed me stupid. It was deep and loving, it was sexy and almost harsh, but I felt it to my toes. When he pulled back, my forehead thumped gently to his.
“I… Bella, I don’t have words to explain to you how I feel about you.” He shook his head slowly against mine, his eyes still closed. “Saying it back seems trite because ‘I love you, too’ sounds unbelievably inadequate to me.”
My eyes welled up because I’d gotten more back than I expected. “But it sounds perfect to me.”
He grinned, a light laugh escaping him, and those long eyelashes swept up to reveal that warm green I loved so much. “Yeah?”
“Yes… The best thing I’ve ever heard.” I swallowed nervously before I asked, “Edward, would you… We’ve only got a few hours left, and I’m gonna miss you so much. I just… Will you just hold me?”
His eyes were a bit watery as he nodded and stood up.
I slipped under the covers, holding them up, and he joined me, pulling me close and kissing my forehead. Snuggling as close as I could get, I inhaled the warm scent of him.
“As long as you want, my pretty girl,” he whispered into my hair.
I thought that with Edward leaving, I’d find it hard to sleep, but the comfort of his warm arms and heartbeat put me right back to sleep. The alarm a few hours later shocked us both. Neither of us said anything when I shut it off and sat up. Edward slipped from my bed, taking his journal and glasses with him.
Showers were taken, and I was dressed before him and downstairs pouring a cup of coffee that Jasper had already made. I’d thought maybe I’d have to wake my cousin, but he was dressed and ready when I got down there.
Jasper was quiet, sipping his own cup, but his dark-blue eyes locked on to me. “I bought the tickets…just in case,” he stated, shrugging a shoulder when I gasped. “I don’t like sending him home. He’s practically been sick since Thanksgiving.”
“I don’t want him to go,” I whispered, my voice breaking on the last word, and my gaze slipped from Jasper to the steamy mug in my hands. I took a sip, focusing on not losing it, because we hadn’t even gotten in the damn car yet.
The sound of Edward coming down the stairs caught my ears, as did the sound of his bags landing on the wood floor. When he stepped into the kitchen, I could see the wall starting to build up – the same wall he’d dropped inside my house…around me. His face was blank, indifferent, but everything he felt for me was in his eyes. Those warm, green, sweet eyes met mine. He no more wanted to go home than we wanted to put him on the plane.
“Ed, you want something to eat before we go?” Jasper offered, but Edward shook his head. My cousin stood up from his stool at the counter and gripped Edward’s shoulder on the way by. “I’ll go put your stuff in my truck, okay?”
“Thanks, Jasper.” Edward and I said it at the same time, making us smile at one another.
Walking to him, I offered him my mug, and he took a sip, setting it down and pulling me to him. A long, slow, heavy kiss landed on my forehead, along with the push of Edward’s exhale. He smelled like soap and shampoo, like toothpaste and now coffee. I held him close, neither of us saying a word, until Jasper called from the front door that we needed to go.
The hour ride to the Panama City Airport was just as quiet. As much as I teased my cousin, he was giving us space. Or maybe he simply didn’t know what to say to make it better on anyone. By the time we’d parked, gotten Edward checked in, and made it to security, I was shaking with the effort of holding back tears.
I barely heard my cousin’s request of Edward as he gave him a guy hug. “You keep in touch, buddy. Not kidding. If you need any-fucking-thing, just call us. Okay?”
“Thanks, Jasper.”
Jasper grunted but stepped away, and I felt warm hands on my face.
We spoke at the same time, and I surrendered to the tears, falling into him. I couldn’t help it. I loved him, I wanted to protect him and spoil him, and I very well couldn’t do that when he was across the country. And I couldn’t do that when he was with someone who had no fucking clue how unbelievably special he was. It made me angry, made me want to rage against Edward’s father.
“Bella… Pretty girl, please stop crying,” Edward begged softly in my ear. “You’re killing me.”
I sniffled and nodded, trying my damnedest to stop, but the tears kept coming. “I’m… I’m sorry.”
His smile was warm, but he kissed my lips. “Don’t be sorry.”
“I’m just… I’m gonna miss you, and I love you. I wasn’t playing around last night. I want you to know that. I wasn’t just blabbering on, and I…”
“Shhh,” he soothed against my forehead, and then he kissed me again. “You’ve never lied to me, Bella, so I know you mean it. You show me all the time. Please look at me,” he begged, and when I met his gaze, it was sad but loving. “And you have no idea what it’s like to hear you say you love me. I… I don’t know what I did to earn it, but God, Bella… I’m…I… I love you, too. And that doesn’t seem like enough for what I feel. Or maybe I just can’t say it right.” He cupped my face and kissed my lips. “If you want to know how I really feel about you, I left you something in your room. I want you to keep it, hold on to it until I’m home. And I am coming home, pretty girl. I know you’re worried, and I know you want to protect me, but nothing will stop me from getting back to you. Do you understand?”
Nodding, I was crying in earnest, and he kissed my lips, whispering, “I’ll call you when I land. I’ll text you all the time. Three weeks is nothing, Bella.”
“If I don’t hear from you…”
He smiled but glanced over my head. “It’s not necessary.”
“It is to us, dude,” Jasper argued. “Just…deal with it.”
Edward grinned, his face heating, but looked up when his flight was called. He turned back to me, kissing me softly. “I love you. And you are reading tonight.”
A sniffly laugh escaped me, but I nodded. “Love you.”
Watching him walk away just about broke me, but watching his face go blank of all expression as he stepped around the corner caused a sob to rip through me. Jasper’s warmth wrapped around me, and he guided me out to the truck. The ride back home was filled with the occasional sniffle from me and Jasper’s constant assurance that everything would be okay, though I wasn’t sure he believed what he was saying. He just hated it when I cried.
The house was quiet when we got back home, but it was still pretty early, so I imagined Aunt Jane was still asleep and that Mom and Dad were on campus for a few last things before locking up their offices for the next few weeks.
I rushed upstairs to my room, tears starting all over again at the sight on my pillow. Not only had he left the copy of The Count of Monte Cristo we’d been reading, but his beautiful, leather-bound journal was sitting next to it with a sweet flower sticking up out of it. The petals were a very pretty purple, and I recognized it from the flowers my mother had planted in front of the house.
Picking up the journal, I brought it to my nose, smelling its soothing scent. The leather smell had pretty much faded, but it smelled like Edward. Opening it to where he’d put the flower as a bookmark, I sniffled again at how much I missed him already. But the journal entry was addressed to me.
My beautiful Bella,
My mother once told me that falling in love was the easiest, most amazing feeling. She said it truly felt like falling – where your stomach flips, your hands sweat, but your face smiles…all the time. She also said that your heart just…knows. That it tries to break out of your chest in order to get closer to its mate. As a kid, I always thought she was talking about my dad, but now, I’m not so sure. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she was right.
Pretty girl, that’s how I’ve felt since the first time I saw you in the library. I didn’t know you, but everything I’d ever held back, everything that kept me quiet, wanted to explode. Instead of wanting to stay invisible, I wanted to know everything about you – your likes, dislikes, your laugh, your voice. I thought you were the prettiest thing I’d ever set eyes on, that your eyes were the window to everything you were feeling, and that you had amazing taste in books. I kept telling myself it was that last thing which kept me coming back to the library, but it was you. Everything about you drew me in and stole my heart.
I think I’ve loved you from that first day we worked in Jasper’s office. You blew away every assumption I had of you. Everything in me shifted. I went from a crush on a pretty girl to getting to know the most amazing, giving, loving, and beautiful person. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever get the chance to TALK to you, much less become friends. And now we’re so much more than that.
I love you, Bella.
I wanted to tell you that before I left, but every chance I had, the words simply didn’t form. I couldn’t express just how much you’ve come to mean to me. I wanted to. God, I’ve wanted to say it for weeks now, pretty girl, but I was scared. I wasn’t scared of you, but of me, of what it would mean, offering up my heart like that. However, I came to realize something that my mother hadn’t told me. That love makes you powerful. Yes, it can make you feel vulnerable, but my God, Bella, it makes me feel so strong.
I know you’re worried, that your family is worried. You know my past, my family’s history, and you know I came to Glenhaven to escape it all, but what I found was something more. I know where I’m going in life, my Bella. I know I can survive a lot of things, knowing where I’ll end up at the end of the day. With you.
I’m leaving this journal with you for safekeeping. There’s nothing I would hide from you, so this journal and I are open books to you. I’m leaving it to show you just how much you’ve changed me, what your love and gentleness have done for me. I’m leaving it with you because my dad – no matter what he says or does – can’t touch the VERY BEST part of me. You showed me that, my love. YOU did. And you’ve already said the words – you said them first, my always brave girl, and they were beautiful. The very best part of me is what now belongs to you, pretty girl, so I need you to do me a favor while I’m gone.
Look after my heart. I’ve left it with you.
All my love, all my soul,
A sob ripped through me. He was all things beautiful and sweet. And he loved me – really, truly loved me. But I needed more of his words until I could hear his voice once he landed. Settling back against the pillow that still smelled like him, I flipped to the front of the journal to lose myself in his writing.
To the girl at the table near the back of the library…


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