Edward Cullen’s Little Black Notebook
Saturday, August 7
I think I’ve figured it out. I’ve replaced rational thinking with rationalizing instead.
That’s how I’ve managed to convince myself that I didn’t really push the boundaries of therapist/client relations by spending most of the day alone with Isabella Swan.
The rationalizations are plenty, and they come more and more easily. First of all, I haven’t breached the American Massage Therapy Association Code of Ethics in any way. Nor have I violated Washington state sexual misconduct laws for massage therapists, since our walk through the park today was not technically a date, but rather a part of Ms. Swan’s therapy, designed to build her strength and stamina. Likewise, seeing her Thursday night was business-related on her end, since she was listening to Jasper in order to report back to her boss. Nothing inappropriate has happened thus far, in the eyes of the law.
What a load.
Of course, I don’t believe any of these flimsy excuses. I know full well what I’m doing, and what I want. I want to have my cake and eat it, too. It doesn’t help matters when the cake seems so willing, even eager, to be eaten.
Yes, I know exactly how crude that sounds. And you know me well enough to know that my mind has already gone there a dozen times. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of me follows.
The jig is pretty much up, anyway. I was so close to telling her the truth about you today that I nearly choked on the words. Finding out that Bella and I have the same coping mechanisms drew me closer to her than ever before, yet I couldn’t seem to take that next step to let her in. I told myself that it wasn’t the right time; that I didn’t want to lessen the weight of her confessions by throwing my own into the mix.
The rationalizations of a coward.
At least I should ’fess up to you, Tanya. I don’t know why I use the pretense of writing to you when I know you’ll never read these words. I wouldn’t want you to. I’d never hurt you like that. I caused enough irreparable damage as it is. It’s time to drop the ruse and just admit that I’m only writing to myself--empty, hollow musings that give me the illusion that I’ll somehow come to grips with everything if I work it out on paper. At least Bella’s letters are written out of love. Mine are born of guilt and regret.
I didn’t plan to call her “Bella.” I was afraid to say it out loud. In my mind, I had finally allowed myself to think it, but it was attached to a modifier I could not seem to expel: my Bella. I’ve never felt such a need to possess someone before. Not in greed, as though I would let no one else near her; but in reverence, placing no one else above her. Letting her possess me in return is what’s difficult. Part of me is resisting with every fiber of my being--the part that is afraid I can never measure up, never be worthy of being hers. The part that’s afraid I can never love her the way she deserves. The part that wonders if I’m capable of loving anyone that way.
But the part of me that’s still willing to throw caution to the wind called her by the nickname she prefers before I left her on her doorstep Thursday night. She couldn’t possibly know what a concession that was--tantamount to my hoisting the white flag of surrender. Now I’m just biding my time before the next breeze catches it and it begins to unfurl.
Earlier in the week, I kept my time--and my mind--occupied by rehearsing with Jasper. I suggested that we play all of Thursday night’s set together and just swap lead vocals on a few songs. I knew I would be nervous with Bella’s eyes and ears on me, but I thought I’d breathe easier with Jazz there to back me up. He was probably aware of my motivations, but he refrained from comment. We managed to cover pretty much any and every topic except our love lives. He probably had no more desire to discuss his feelings for my sister than I did mine for Bella. We deftly, blithely avoided the elephant in the room.
I was happy when he offered to drive us all to the Java House the night of our set. It made the occasion feel a little like a double-date even though it technically wasn’t--another rationalization. I was becoming adept at creating them by then. I had one for nearly every time I touched Bella that night: I was just being polite; I was just helping her when she choked on her beer; I was just brushing that perpetually defiant lock of hair out of her face. But I could come up with none for the deliberate way I held her hand in the car. I simply couldn’t stop myself. We had both admitted that we couldn’t help thinking about one another. I had to touch her then; to put substance behind the words. Her fingers between mine were small but strong. She turned her hand and offered it to me, palm up, and I knew that was her moment of surrender. My own was inevitable, and yet that obstinate part of me still held its ground. It wouldn’t let me kiss her good night, no matter how badly we both wanted it.
Bella was my last client this morning. I always schedule her last. It’s becoming a regular appointment now, understood by us both: Saturday morning, 10 a.m. I see her last so that I am preoccupied with other customers before she arrives, and so that I have time to recover from seeing her afterward. Last week that entailed relieving my hard-on in the bathroom, a low moment that I had no wish to relive this time around. Today I would have to learn to tame the beast like the adult I supposedly am, since we wouldn’t be parting ways afterward. She would be spending the day with me instead.
I could think of nothing else from the time I asked her out until this morning. I’m pretty sure I’ve never looked forward to a simple walk in the park so much before. I had no intention of using the paved path that circles Seward Park; I was much more interested in taking the dirt trails that meander through the woods at its center. It would allow us more privacy so that we could talk. I decided it was imperative that I get to know her better, because my preoccupation with her was bordering on the ridiculous. It was high time for me to decide which part of me was going to win this internal tug of war over my feelings for her. To put it more bluntly, it was time to shit or get off the pot.
I was staring at Emmett’s notations on her chart with a sinking feeling when she arrived. I had planned to have her lie on her stomach this time and do some basic Swedish massage, giving her a break from some of the more intense myofascial work. But Emmett wanted me to work on her ribs and possibly perform a psoas release, if needed. That required her to be on her back, which now meant I would be distracted by her lovely face, not to mention the outline of her nipples under the thin flannel sheet.
I began to wonder if it wouldn’t be better to refer her to Katrina after all.
“Hi, Edward,” her warm alto met my ears. I looked up to see her staring up at me uncertainly, her bottom lip caught under her teeth until a smile tugged it free.
“Bella,” I said, the word sounding like a whispered prayer. I cleared my throat and asked, “How are you doing?”
“Really good,” she said emphatically. She pointed down at her feet and added, “I don’t have hiking boots, but I think these will do for a walk in the park, right?”
I peered over the countertop down at her shoes, a rather rugged-looking pair of leather sneakers. “Those should be fine,” I told her. “When we tackle Mount Rainier one day, we’ll get you some decent boots.”
She let out an incredulous laugh. “In your dreams,” she snorted. “You’ll be lucky if I make it a few miles through the woods today.”
“Are you trying to tell me I’m going to have to carry you back to the car this afternoon?” I meant it as a joke, but when our eyes met, they were dead serious for one heart-stopping moment.
Bella blushed and answered, “I’m pretty sure you won’t have to resort that that. One of us with back problems is enough.”
“Please. You look like you weigh about 110 pounds soaking wet. I think I could handle it,” I said with a smirk. I suddenly found myself wondering how long I could hold up her body weight if her arms and legs were wrapped around me while I bounced her up and down on my cock. Maybe if I pushed her up against a wall….
I shook my head as if to dispel the image, and led her down the hall to the massage room. I left her to get undressed, my vivid imagination wandering unfettered as I pictured her removing her shoes and socks, her cap-sleeved t-shirt, her cargo shorts and finally her bra, leaving only her panties intact by the time I returned. Would she actually wear lace panties to go hiking? I still couldn’t quite understand why she favored girly underwear underneath her decidedly tomboyish clothing. It was one of her many mysteries that I was itching to solve.
I washed my hands thoroughly in the sink and tried to wash away my lurid thoughts as well. I imagined them swirling down the drain along with the soapy water, leaving my mind clean and absolved of any impure thoughts.
It worked until I entered the massage room and approached the table. By the time her dark, languid eyes gazed up into mine, I was lost in my desire for her again. I closed my eyes for a moment to gather my wits, then managed to find my tongue.
“Did Emmett tell you that he wants me to work around your rib cage today?” I asked.
She nodded and looked up at me expectantly.
“He suspects that a group of muscles called the psoas muscles might be responsible for some of your back problems. That requires me to do some deep tissue work below your ribs and above your hip. I’m going to work on your neck and back a bit first to relax you before I move on to any psoas work, okay?”
She nodded again and closed her eyes as I made my way to the head of the table and stood behind it.
“Is there any particular music you’d like to listen to?” I asked as I swept her hair gently out of the way.
“I like to listen to you. Maybe you can just sing to me,” she answered, fixing me with her upside down gaze.
I stared at her a moment, startled. “I don’t think I can sing and concentrate on why I’m doing at the same time,” I finally said with a chuckle.
“I know,” she smiled. “I was only kidding. Sort of.”
I took a deep breath. “Maybe later,” I offered with a laugh. But I was only half-kidding, too.
I let my usual CD of Eastern-influenced music waft gently through the room as I began to work on her neck and jaws, slowly releasing the tension from her and taking great satisfaction as her forehead relaxed and a smile played lightly upon her lips. I felt my own tension drain away as I let myself get lost in the process of unwinding Bella’s fascia and soothing her muscles. As I worked my fingers down her back, I allowed myself to notice nothing but the feel of her flesh and bones pressing down on my hands, demanding that I concentrate on doing what I do best.
By the time I was finished with her back, Bella’s face was a placid sea. I had managed to reach a rather Zen place myself, the healer in me taking precedence over everything else.
“Bella,” I said softly as I moved around to her right side. “I’m going to work a little on your stomach muscles and ribs now. Try to stay relaxed.”
She nodded up at me. I allowed myself only a glance at her face, her eyes too tempting a distraction. Likewise, I refused to look directly at the soft swell of her breasts as I placed my hands gently on the flannel sheet atop her stomach, feeling the tight sheath of muscles stretching across her belly. I wondered if she did tons of sit-ups or crunches, though she didn’t seem the type. If not, then she carried a lot of tension there. I worked diligently to relax the muscles, easing my way toward her rib cage. I gently probed the edges of her ribs, one hand on each side. The right side was tightly bound, as Emmett had noted. I placed both hands there and began to press and push my way around the bones, deeper and deeper. Her stomach muscles began to tense in protest, and a peek at her wincing face revealed her discomfort.
“Try to hang on a little longer,” I urged as I probed deeper, forcing the muscles to release. “Don’t forget to breathe.”
She still let out a long sigh of relief when I finally removed my hands. “I’m sorry. I know it’s not fun for me to work on that area. But your back will thank me later,” I told her.
“It’s okay,” she said, her eyes steely with determination. “I can take it. I want to get better.”
“That’s what I want, too,” I assured her. “I’m going to have to slip my hand under the sheet for a moment so that I can find the group of muscles I need to work on,“ I warned her as I worked my hand under the flannel, being careful not to expose her in any way. I then explained what I was about to do as I probed deeply to find the posas muscles that connected her spine to her hip. I would have to push gently but firmly to force the tension from this hard-to-reach group of muscles, and she would have to put up with some discomfort once again.
She took a deep breath and nodded for me to continue. It took only a couple of minutes, but I had to push my fingers deeply and forcefully into the soft white flesh between her ribs and hip. When I finally felt the muscles give way, immense satisfaction flooded me. I lived for moments like this, when I knew I had succeeded in “fixing” someone. The fact that it was someone I cared about only added to my gratification.
“The worst is over,” I told her with a smile. “I’m going to check your hips again and then we’ll be finished for today.” She said nothing as I worked my way down to her hip joint. She giggled and her pelvis twitched under my fingers.
“Sorry, I’m ticklish there,” she apologized. Suddenly sexual impulses flooded me again at the knowledge of how sensitive the nerves were at the apex of her hip and groin. I pressed more firmly on the pressure points while I tried to suppress mental images of exploring the indentation from her thigh to her crotch… pushing the fabric of her panties aside …stroking the tender flesh there until she was wet and ready.
I removed my hands immediately and walked to the other side of the table, this time working on her left hip through the flannel sheet. I couldn’t afford to touch her skin anymore. I could barely look at her as I told her to get dressed, and I wondered if the huskiness of my voice gave away my lust. I also wondered if my touch ever felt sexual to her… if it sent her mind wandering to the same playground I always visited whenever I had my hands on her. Sometimes when she looked at me, I was sure she wanted me as much as I did her. Or was that just another trick played by my desperate mind?
I ditched my white overcoat in the laundry basket in the back room of the office, then removed my glasses and put them safely in their case. I really only need them for reading, but often wear them while working so that I don’t have to take them off and on all day just to make notations and read patient files.
I shoved the glasses case into a side pocket of the small backpack I had brought with me today. So far it contained only bottled water, a first-aid kit and bug repellent. I planned to take Bella to the coffee shop nearby and order a lunch to go.
I returned to the massage room, which Bella had vacated. I turned off the iPod and stripped the bedding from the table, resisting the urge to take a deep whiff of the sheets like I usually did. I threw them in the laundry basket, hoisted it up and carried it out front with the backpack. I had dressed in a t-shirt and jeans under my coat today so that I was ready to go.
Bella stood near the counter, pulling her long hair into a ponytail and wrapping a hair band around it. My favorite lock of hair drifted out of captivity and settled at the side of her face. Her eyes were bright and she smiled as I approached.
“I have to warn you, I’m not the most outdoorsy person you’ll ever meet. And not the most graceful, either. I hope you have a first aid kit with you,” she said, eying my backpack.
“I do, actually,” I said with a grin.
“You must be a mind-reader,” she joked.
“Or maybe I know you a little better than you think,” I suggested.
“Maybe,” she said dubiously, biting her lip.
I ignored the urge to kiss her and instead nodded my head toward the door. “Are you ready to go? I just need to put the laundry in my car and then we can grab some lunch.”
“Sounds good,” she replied, heading for the entrance as I followed close on her heels. When we got there, she pulled the door open and held it for me since my hands were full.
“You didn’t need to do that,” I admonished. “But thanks.”
“I wanted to. And you’re welcome.”
She followed me silently to the Volvo and waited as I deposited the laundry basket in the trunk. I led her around the corner to the café, where Bella surprised me by ordering my favorite sandwich, the chipotle chicken. I ordered the same, plus some kettle chips and their truly decadent cheesecake brownies for dessert. I didn’t know if Bella had a sweet tooth, but it was better to be safe than sorry. She didn’t seem like one of those girls who pretends to eat only salad and then chows down on Ben and Jerry’s in secret every night. If she wanted a brownie, I hoped she would just take one. I stowed everything in the backpack and we headed back to my car.
“Why don’t I drive us there, and then I’ll bring you back to your car later,” I suggested.
“Sounds good,” she agreed. I opened the passenger door for her and she smiled up at me as I closed the door behind her. She did say she liked a guy with manners. That’s good news for me. My mother would have a conniption if any of her children were ill-behaved, and she drilled proper etiquette into our heads at an early age.
The drive to Seward Park from our office was about twenty minutes when the traffic wasn’t bad. I turned on the radio and let Bella choose the station, unsurprisingly a local one that played some lesser known artists. We listened without speaking for a few moments, and I began to worry that we were both too shy to even have a normal conversation together without anyone else around.
“Have you been to this park before?” I asked, determined to end the awkward silence.
“A couple of times, with some college friends. We had a picnic and the guys went kayaking. It’s really pretty, from what I remember.”
“I love it because it’s got a little bit of everything. Swimming, hiking, a playground for kids. My parents used to take us to Seward Park all the time when I was a kid. You can’t beat the views, either,” I said.
“So you grew up in Seattle?” Bella asked.
“Yeah. My folks have a place on Bainbridge Island. They keep talking about finding a place in Bellevue or Mercer Island so dad wouldn’t have to take the ferry every day, but they like the shoreline property and it’s been in Mom’s family for years, so they’re kind of attached to it,” I explained.
Bella let out a low whistle. I gave her a questioning glance.
“I kind of guessed that you came from a wealthy family. Despite the holey clothes,” she added with a laugh as she looked at my bare knee poking through my jeans.
“We do all right. I’m not into flaunting it, though. And I make my own way, for the most part. My apartment is the only thing I don’t pay for, since my family owns the property.” I hoped I didn’t sound too defensive, but I really hate judging or being judged on any kind of class system. We all put our pants on one leg at a time.
“I wasn’t trying to imply that you’re spoiled or anything. You seem really grounded, like you had a good upbringing. By a family who loves you, I mean,” Bella said, starting to sound flummoxed. “I’m sorry, this is just not coming out right.”
“You’re fine,” I assured her. “I didn’t take it that way. It’s true that I had a privileged upbringing. Maybe it shows more than I think it does.”
“No, it doesn’t. I mean, it does show in the way you carry yourself--the way you behave, like a gentleman. But you don’t come across snobby or arrogant or entitled at all. None of you do. Your parents did a good job raising you, I think. I like your dad a lot, from the little I know. He was really helpful when I went to see him after I hurt my back again. He sent me to you and Emmett,” she reminded me.
“My dad’s a good guy. He has good intentions, anyway,” I allowed. He never voices the disappointment I see in his eyes sometimes, at any rate, I added mentally.
“What about you?” I asked her, eager to change the subject. “I get the impression you didn’t grow up in Seattle.”
“I didn’t,” she confirmed. “My parents were both from this area originally. Dad was content to remain a small-town cop on the northwest peninsula, but my mom was itching to get out and see the world. They married young and had me pretty quickly, but then Mom grew more and more restless. They finally divorced and Mom and I moved to Phoenix. She wanted to go someplace where the sun was always shining.”
She stopped and looked out the window at the blue skies overhead as we cruised down Columbian Way. I waited for her to continue, but she remained silent.
“So you came back up north to go to college?” I questioned, anxious to hear the rest of her story.
“No, actually I moved in with Dad when I was sixteen. Mom and her new husband were talking about moving to Florida and I didn’t really want to go there. So I ended up in the tiny town of Forks with my dad. Kind of a big culture shock at first,” she said with a tiny grin, finally looking back at me. “But I got used to it. Now this seems more like ‘home’ to me.”
“Well, I’m glad you stayed here,” I told her. “Otherwise I never would have met you.”
She looked up at me in surprise, and then pink crept into her cheeks. I wondered how she could doubt my interest in her. I felt as transparent as cellophane, struggling continually to hide my feelings.
Bella was quiet after that, but the silence didn’t seem uncomfortable this time. We listened to the radio and made small talk about the songs that were playing. Every time I took my eyes from the road to glance at her, she wore a tiny Mona Lisa smile. She looked happy. She looked like I felt.
Once we arrived at our destination, I chose the parking area closest to the wooded trails and was lucky to find a spot. The park was crowded today. Plenty of Seattle natives were taking advantage of the nice weather to jog, walk their dogs or have picnics.
“I thought we’d start on the dirt trails that go through the woods, if that’s okay,” I told Bella as we got out of the car. “Less crowded than the loop.”
“Sure,” she said amiably, following my lead as we started down the paved path that circled the island. We took the first marked entrance to the forest, and within minutes we were swallowed under a tranquil canopy of green. Only the sound of our footsteps, and the occasional bird, met our ears.
“It’s really beautiful here,” Bella said at last, staring up at the massive firs, cedars, hemlocks and yews as we walked. “It feels sort of …sacred.”
“This is one of the few places left around Seattle that has old forest growth,” I informed her. “Some of these trees are over 250 years old.”
She smiled up at me and said, “Thanks, tour guide. So what other nuggets of information do you have for me?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “God, I sound exactly like my father. He loves this shit. He used to make us all learn the different trees and ground cover when we came out here. Some of them are native to the area and some aren’t. I’ve forgotten a lot of it, but if he were with us right now, he’d be giving you the lowdown, believe me.”
“That’s cool, though, that your dad took time to teach you stuff. My dad did take me fishing with him a couple of times when I was a kid, but he gave up after I refused to kill the worms by putting them on the fishing hooks,” Bella laughed. “He was not impressed with my campaign to save the poor, defenseless bait.”
“I can just see you, all riled up over the injustice of it all,” I grinned at her. “I’ll bet you were cute at that age.”
“I was cute until about eleven. Then the dorky years began. I grew so fast that I was nothing but skinny, uncoordinated limbs everywhere. You do realize you’re hanging out with a closet geek, right? Geekdom never truly disappears. Once you’ve lived there, it sticks with you.”
“Is that so?” I said, giving her a once-over. As pale and reedy as she still was at twenty-two, I could believe that she was quite thin and gawky during puberty. I suddenly felt overly protective of her, wishing I could go back in time and clobber anyone who made fun of her or picked her last for their team in gym class.
“Yes, it is. Not that you would know anything about that. You were always popular, with your pick of girlfriends, right?” she guessed.
I was unsure how to respond. “I did all right,” I finally admitted.
“I’ll bet you did,” she said with a snort. “There are people in this world who are empirically beautiful…people who are universally acknowledged as being attractive. That’s you. Then there are people whose looks grow on you when you get to know them better, and people who start off as ugly ducklings and then finally blossom into swans.”
“And which category do you think you fall into?”
“The grower,” she said with a shrug. “To know me is to love me,” she added with a self-deprecating laugh.
I stopped dead in my tracks. Bella took a few steps forward, then turned and gave me a puzzled look.
“The very last thing you said is the only true sentence that’s come out of your mouth in the last minute,” I told her. “The rest is complete crap.”
Her eyebrows shot up in surprise, then furrowed in confusion.
“You really don’t have any clue, do you?” I said in amazement.
“About what?” she demanded.
“How beautiful you are.”
She stared at me with huge doe eyes, uncomprehending.
“Has no one ever told you that before?” I asked in disbelief.
She regarded me silently for a moment. “You’re the first person who makes me believe it,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
I closed the distance between us with a few steps, then reached out and gently tucked her ubiquitous stray lock of hair behind her ear. I ran my fingers along her jaw and under her chin, tilting her face upward.
“The other men in your life have been fools,” I said, running my thumb along her plump bottom lip.
“There haven’t been any men in my life. Only boys,” she answered.
“Then let me be your first,” I whispered, lowering my face gently to hers. Her lips were tantalizingly close, her breath warm on my face. I wanted to taste her so badly that my mouth was watering. I watched her eyes close and her lips part slightly; my face mimicked hers as I leaned down closer. At last my lips brushed hers, light as butterfly wings; tentative, searching, asking for permission. In answer, her lips--so soft, so tender--began to press more firmly against mine. I raised my other hand to her face, holding it gently, caressing her silky skin. I was about to deepen our kiss, to taste her with my tongue, when a cacophony of voices met my disbelieving ears.
Bella jumped away from me slightly. I raised my head to see where the infernal, cursed noise was coming from. A large group of hikers was rounding the bend just ahead, their chatter preceding them and ruining what could have been a perfect moment. It was a good thing I wasn’t armed, because I wouldn’t have left a single one of them standing.
Bella let out a ragged breath as she drew back, her face flushed, suddenly bashful. She was adorable. I wanted to put my arm around her and pull her to me as we began to walk again, but I settled for staying close by her side as the talkative group approached. By the time they would finally be out of earshot, I knew the romantic moment would have long since passed. I supposed I should have thanked them for saving me from giving in to temptation.
The problem was, I no longer wanted to be saved.