I could never tire of watching her sleep. I loved watching the rise and fall of the blankets as she breathed deeply, in and out, sighing during the good dreams and tossing during the bad ones. Well, I didn’t enjoy the tossing. Every grimace was like a knife to my already-still heart. She had done a good bit of both tonight, and I had done my best to calm her as much as I could. It wasn’t fair. I was the source of the problem, and the only one who could mend it as well.
Charlie was a different story. He treated me the way that I deserved to be treated and it was all that I could do to think of a way to win him over. I knew that the wounds would heal with time, but time was running out. Every day brought us closer to graduation, and I could not be sure that Bella would agree to my proposal. I knew that she loved me, she had certainly proven that, but I still could not understand her reluctance toward matrimony. I figured that her father might have something to do with it.
Damn biological clock. Charlie’s thoughts broke into my subconscious. I glanced at the green lights of Bella’s alarm clock, only 5am? Charlie’s thoughts then echoed my own. I sighed in frustration, but then decided to listen. His first thoughts dwelled on Bella, naturally, and then moved to me – exasperation at my persistent wooing of his daughter. Not exactly the kind of thoughts I wanted him to be thinking toward me. He was grateful that I was back, if only because it had brought Bella out of her depression. If my heart could move, it would have sunk right into my stomach.
If only there was some way to convince Charlie as well as I had convinced Bella. I knew that his problem rested solely with me – his positive thoughts toward Alice frequently confirmed that point. He was only angry that my absence had sucked the life out of his daughter.
I shuddered at that metaphor. He would have banned both Alice and I from the house if he had any inkling of Bella’s grand plans for her own self-destruction. Not that it would change anything. Bella was just as stubborn as her father, and that was what I had to contend with. I had to find a way to get Charlie’s blessing. Surely Bella would change her entire attitude toward marriage if her father started to take to me as he did to Jacob. I was no old family friend, but I did have her heart. Hook, line, and sinker.
I heard Charlie get up and drag himself about his room, trudging down the stairs on autopilot to turn on the television. There was nothing he loved more than watching sports. Any sport. Except perhaps spending a day fishing.
Fishing! Of course. What better way to a disgruntled father’s heart than through his favorite activity? I leapt to my feet, whipping around to settle the rocking chair before it disturbed Bella’s rest. Guilt crept into my chest – I would rather spend the day with her, but then I reminded myself that if she got her way, I’d spend the rest of eternity with her. It was worth it. I brushed my lips carefully on her hairline, inhaling the tantalizing scent off of her skin, enjoying the bouquet for a long moment. And then I was out the window, running home.
Alice was waiting for me on the porch.
“I think that’s a fantastic idea,” she purred. “And it will be cloudy all day, so you don’t even have to worry about the sun.”
I smiled at her exuberance. “Thanks, sis. I’m moderately concerned by my lack of fishing experience, but it can’t be too difficult.”
“Ten bucks says Edward won’t catch a thing.” Emmett’s voice drifted over from the garage.
“Fifteen says I won’t even have to ask Charlie for help in dealing with the, er, stick?” I stumbled over the words.
“Try rod or pole.” Emmett snickered. I panicked, but then felt a wave of reassurance.
“You’ll be fine.” Jasper had appeared, sitting next to Alice. “Let Charlie teach you how to do everything, even if you can figure it out on your own. He’ll feel good knowing that he can do something better than you can.”
I nodded. “Right, don’t be perfect, just let him teach me. I can do that.” Despite Emmett’s teasing, their thoughts toward me were all positive. My family believed in me. It was enough. I dashed up the stairs and changed into an old pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. Esme gave me a knowing smile on my way out and I nodded back, feeling my body tense with nervousness again. I did not run straight back to Bella’s house; rather, I went to our meadow. There was no better place to calm my fears than our meadow. The air was warm despite the clouds and by seven forty-five I figured that it would be safe enough to show up at the Swans’ front door.
I knew that Bella was awake and I knocked softly so that she wouldn’t hear. She would probably be wondering why I was not in the room to greet her. It’s worth it.
I buried the nerves again and plastered my face with a smile as Charlie opened the door. He just stared.
“You’re up early, Edward,” he grunted. “Bella should be down soon. Why don’t you come back later.” Of course. I was the last person he wanted to see on his doorstep at 8am.
“Well sir, I actually wanted to talk with you before Bella came downstairs.” His thoughts were a mix of confusion and disbelief, and then chagrin as he realized that I was being so polite. He had no choice but to accept.
“Sure, Edward. Why don’t you have a seat.”
“Thank you, Chief Swan.”
I followed him to the familiar kitchen and settled myself in a chair at the table. I could hear his confusion and anxiety over the awkward situation. What am I supposed to say to this boy? There was nothing to say. I glanced around the room and gathered my wits.
“Actually sir, I was wondering if you would like to accompany me on a fishing trip today.”
I could barely keep from laughing as his mind exploded with doubt, clearly evident on his face. I didn’t need to read Charlie Swan’s mind to know what he was thinking. I wished that I could say the same for his daughter.
“You want to go fishing with me? Right now?”
“Yes,” I replied quickly, hoping that my resolve showed and not my obvious discomfort. Charlie wasn’t the only one who felt out of place.
“Instead of spending the day with Bella?” He still was not getting the idea.
“Of course I would love nothing more than to spend the day with Bella. However, I also want you to get to know me, sir,” I explained, keeping my voice even. “I am going to be around for quite some time. I think it is important for us to have some kind of rapport.”
Yeah. Quite some time. Try eternity.
He was still not buying it. “And you think spending the day with me will do that?”
Well, I certainly hope so.
“It can’t hurt, can it?” I tried not to grin wildly when he conceded to the plan mentally. He knew that it would make Bella happy if he showed some effort, though he obviously would have preferred to fish with Billy, or even Jacob.
“Edward? Dad?” I turned toward to see Bella, knowing that she would be upset at having awoken without me. Charlie wasn’t looking, so I hurried to her with a bit more haste than was absolutely necessary to grab her hand and guide her gently down the stairs.
“Good morning, love. Your dad and I were just talking,” I explained. I decided to wait to see how Charlie would respond as I held out a chair for Bella and then returned to my own seat next to her, fingers lingering entwined in hers. There was no way I was going to let go of her now if I had to spend a whole day without her. Especially if I was going to suggest that she go down to La Push. It broke my heart to think of it, because I knew how happy it would make Jacob. I could only imagine what he would fantasize about with this beautiful woman, but doing so would significantly help endear me to Charlie. I gripped the table with my free hand.
“Edward and I are going fishing today.” Charlie’s voice ripped through my thoughts. I looked to Bella for her response.
She turned to me and whispered, “Edward you don’t have to do that.”
Oh, thanks, Bells. Charlie was hurt. There was only one remedy.
“Actually, Bella, it was my idea,” I insisted.
To my relief, Charlie corroborated my story. “Yeah, male-bonding and such.” I let my hand fall into my lap and implored Bella to see reason with my eyes.
“Um. Ok. I guess I have homework I could work on until you get back,” she replied glumly. I knew that I would have to make it up to her later, and I had no problem with that. As long as I did it better than Jacob could.
“May I suggest going to La Push while we’re gone? I am sure Jacob would love to see you.” I tried not to grit my teeth. The ploy had to be believable. Charlie was incredulous, and for good reason. He thought I hated Jacob Black, and that was true, but it wasn’t because we were in competition over Bella. Sure, I would rather that she just make her choice, but he meant a great deal to her. He had been her life preserver while I was gone. It wasn’t so much that I hated Jacob Black as that I hated myself for pushing her toward Jacob Black.
Bella stared at me for an eternity, trying to figure out what was going on in my mind. I knew exactly how she felt.
“All right, you two go. I’ll call Jake, if that’s okay,” she replied hesitantly. I nodded slightly.
Charlie didn’t notice. For the first time, he was ecstatic. “Of course it’s ok, Bells! You and Jake have fun. I’ll take care of Edward.”
“Bella, you know I love you,” I began softly, not wanting to ruin my fortune for the day with Charlie by being overly devoted and sentimental. I saw him turn slightly from what I assumed seemed like a very intense moment between Bella and me. I rubbed my thumb along the back of her hand and tried to assure her as much as I could that this was a good idea. Finally, she nodded slightly, too, and we rose from the table as one.
Bella broke contact with my hand and grabbed her father’s arm to turn him into a hug as we walked toward the front door.
“Dad, please go easy on him,” she pleaded in what she thought was a low voice. I could hear her just fine.
I had been hanging back to give them some space, but then Bella whipped around and embraced me so quickly that even I was surprised. I reached out to grip her arms so that she wouldn’t stumble over her own feet, and both felt and heard her pulse racing through the thin sleeves of her nightshirt.
“Bella,” I whispered, “It’s going to be fine. Don’t worry about spending the day with Jacob, try to have fun.”
I could feel Charlie’s discomfort, but I tuned him out even as I felt his narrowed gaze on the back of my head.
“Really, you don’t need to go fishing with Charlie. He can’t do anything to keep me from loving you, and once I’ve changed it won’t even matter and –“
Panicked, I leaned in closer to quiet her protests, but Charlie coughed rather loudly and I straightened again. Bella blushed and I could not help but laugh at the disparity in my emotions – desire, nervousness, love, panic, admiration, confusion, all at the same time.
“We’ll see you later, Bells. Edward, let’s go. We’ve already missed the best fishing hours of the day.”
He turned to go and I kissed Bella’s cheek quickly. “Bye.”
I had to hurry to catch up with Charlie and I bounded into the car, still reeling with the conflict burning inside my cold veins. What I wouldn’t give to have Jasper with me. I barely registered Charlie explaining that he knew where all of the good fishing spots were, just nodded my agreement and tried to quell my feelings enough to think of a conversational topic. Though my mother had made sure that I knew how to act in polite society, no amount of cotillion affairs could have prepared me for sitting in a squad car with the chief of police, trying to think of a way to catch his regard as surely as I had caught his daughter’s. My tutors had always suggested a man’s occupation as a key point of conversation so I began with that, but Charlie was not very forthcoming. I wracked my brain for a different subject.
“So, sir, Bella hasn’t said much about her family, other than yourself, Renee, and Phil. How are they doing?”
“Bella is my only family.”
“Oh.” I shut up. It was not much farther to the fishing spot and Charlie led the way through the trees to the small pond where Billy and he fished almost every Saturday, according to his thoughts. I saw the serenity and joy of past experiences flash through his mind as he drew closer to the edge of the water and knew that this was where Charlie felt most at home.
“I can see why you like this place, Chief Swan. It reminds me of a meadow I visit when I want to clear my head.”
“I am a water man, myself. Here, grab that tackle box and let’s do some fishing.”
I jumped to do as I was asked and helped Charlie paddle out to the middle of the lake, taking care not to catch too much water with my oar. We would surely tip if I used too much force, and that would not do much to help my case. I was still unsure about exactly how to use the rods, not sticks, to fish, but I figured that I would be able to copy Charlie’s movements once we had reached his intended destination, the center of the lake.
Not so. Charlie moved so quickly to attach a worm to his hook and throw the stringy line that I did not have time to examine his actions. I searched his mind briefly for the memory of what he had done, but that was not helpful at all. Charlie fished too much; it was routine for him. I sighed and stared down at the tackle box, lightly handling the thin rod to ensure that I would not break it in frustration.
Charlie noticed my hesitation. “Edward, have you ever been fishing before?”
“No, sir. I must admit it seems a bit unclear. How do you choose which equipment to use?”
Damn. There goes fifteen dollars. I could almost hear Emmett’s glee. Charlie, however, was delighted to know that he could do something that I could not. Luckily, I was much more adept at following his explanations and reasoning as he explained to me how to use floaters, sinkers, hooks, and bait and came to understand what it meant for fish to be caught hook, line, and sinker. I was very interested in Charlie’s explanations, but I soon realized that I was staring at him a little too much. I had to remember to blink and fidget just a bit more. The theory was easy enough to apply and I was able to cast my line fairly quickly.
And then I had to wait. Contrary to Bella’s belief, I’m not actually much of a fan of waiting. I’d much rather do something than sit waiting for something to happen to me. I suppose learning to do that must be a sign of character. If so, I must have the best character of any person on Earth.
“And now we just sit here?”
“We have to wait for the fish to bite.”
I sighed again. Charlie laughed. “Well, what did you expect, Edward? We’re not going to dive in and chase the fish.”
That could actually be enjoyable, and I’d probably be better able to catch one that way.
“I’m sorry, sir. I guess I’m just accustomed to hunting. It is a more proactive venture.”
Charlie glanced at me out of the corner of his eye. “Well, I don’t see how. You’re just waiting around for a deer to stroll by so you can shoot it.”
“Oh, right.” I had to remember to be more careful. Being with Bella had made me lower my defenses more around humans. Charlie Swan could know nothing about the double lives of my family members, Jacob Black, his daughter, and myself. I tried very hard to keep my chagrin at the almost-slip off of my face, but, to my relief, he interpreted the silence as a stinging blow against my interests. I’d take that.
“Your family goes camping a lot, don’t they?”
Excellent. Easy enough to answer. “Oh, yes, sir. We all love the outdoors. You must think I am crazy for never having fished before.”
“Well, yeah. It did surprise me. I was sure your dad was the fishing type.”
Too bad fish don’t have much blood. I smirked at the thought of what we would do with fish once we had caught them. “He is more of a big-game man. I guess he has rubbed off on us in that respect.”
Shoot. Charlie had realized that we were getting on friendly terms. His defenses were about to go back up.
“Well, I’m glad your family’s love of the outdoors has started to rub off on Bella. She never mentioned an interest in baseball or hiking or anything like that until she started hanging around you all.”
Charlie seemed pleased that he had brought the conversation back to Bella, but didn’t seem to have realized that that would only encourage my smile. I couldn’t help it. To not smile at the thought of that woman would be criminal.
“Of course, after we found her soaking wet in the woods and limp as a rag-doll, I was sure she would never go into the woods again. I guess I was wrong.”
And then I was drowning, tortured by the mental images he was reproducing in his mind. I had never talked to anyone about that night that had been there to remember it. Bella had no real recollection of what had occurred, and I wasn’t going to discuss it with Sam Oley. I knew how they had found Bella, but I had no idea what she had looked like. I mentally reminded myself to do anything she wanted to do, within reason, for the next few weeks.
The pain was overwhelming. I tried to push it away while thinking of an appropriate response, but I had to pinch the bridge of my nose. It was a somewhat terrible habit, but it seemed to work to help me clear my mind. Charlie’s thoughts had turned to glee over my discomfort, but now he was nervous, and rightfully so. He had unknowingly tortured a vampire. My natural instinct would have been to drain him of his life right then and there, but my human side was winning over, as it always did when dealing with matters relating to Bella.
Charlie began to wonder if I was going to turn violent, and I had to pull myself out of my pain and respond. This was the moment I had been waiting for, my chance to show Charlie Swan how ardently and fervently I cared for his daughter. How much I wanted her to be my wife. I snapped my hand back to the rod and straightened my spine.
“I am sorry sir. I just get so frustrated with myself when I think about the pain I caused Bella, and you, and my family … when I, when I …” I faltered. There was no way I could finish that sentence the way it had turned. He seemed to be relieved that I was not angry with him and I rethought my explanation and continued.
“I can never take back leaving Forks. All I can do is try to make up for it every day for the rest of my life. It may be hard for you to believe, Chief Swan, but everything I have ever done I have done because I had Bella’s best interests at heart. I will never forgive myself. I don’t expect you to forgive me either.”
But I hope that you’ll at least accept me as a suitable son-in-law. This had turned into a disaster. How could I ask Charlie for Bella’s hand when he had brought up the worst thing I had ever done to her. How could I atone for the sin of destroying and stealing so many months of her life, of throwing her into a deep depression? Such actions had hurt so many more people than myself, the intended victim. I would gladly remove my own happiness if it meant that others would be the better for it, but I had so poorly miscalculated my own actions and how they would affect everyone most important to me.
The fact remained that both people and vampires were unpredictable. No matter how well I could read someone’s mind, they could still change their decisions in a split second. Bella was no exception, and neither was Charlie or any other member of my family. Alice’s visions proved that. I thought my actions would result in one timeline, but they had created something totally different, a world that I now had to survive. A world in which I would be forever in debt to the ones I loved the most.
“Well, Bella seems to have forgiven you,” Charlie reminded me. How I loved to be reminded of that fact! Even if I would never understand how that beautiful, compassionate woman could love me as much as she did, I could be comforted by it. And I loved her. I loved her so much more than I loved myself. I hoped it would be enough.
I took a deep breath. “Despite what you may think, I do love your daughter, Chief Swan … I am in love with your daughter. She knows me completely, for better or for worse, and she loves me anyway. You can’t find that kind of love and acceptance everyday. Every century, for that matter. I am here to stay. Whether you like it or not. I just wish that you would like it, sir.”
I took a couple deep breaths. Though I did not need them to calm a thumping heart, I certainly needed them to still a tongue that longed to explain my feelings with even more words. Sometimes waiting can result in a situation even better than the originally desired action would have produced. It certainly would have been to my benefit to have waited before making such rash decisions as leaving Forks last fall and going to Italy in March.
Charlie was mulling over the intensity of my fervor for his daughter, his Bella, and trying to judge if he could quell it in any way. I knew how our relationship looked to 21st century humans. We were in too deep and moving too fast. Renee had already complained about my intensity for Bella. It seemed that Charlie had never thought about our relationship enough to realize what Renee had seen in five minutes last year in the Phoenix hospital. We were deeply, irrevocably, absolutely in love with one another.
I tried not to chuckle as his mind shifted to confusion about what to do.
I should get an award for dazzling humans.
“Edward, you have given me a lot to think about.”
“I know. I apologize, sir. When I start talking about Bella I just can’t seem to stop.”
“I noticed,” grunted Charlie. He paused and then burst into laughter. This man had so much more in common with Bella than he realized! The laughter had come out of nowhere.
“Is something funny, sir?”
It was no use, he only laughed more. What in the world was the matter with him? Should I join in? I tried extra hard to read his thoughts and found him silently recognizing how absurd our fishing trip was. Well, I could not disagree at that, but I did not want to laugh about it either. My emotions had been haywire all day. I had gone from adoration, to inspiration, to apprehension, to boldness, back to adoration, to confusion, to the depths of despair, to determination, and back to confusion again. I would need a strong dose of calm from Jasper after the trip and before I saw Bella again.
“I’m sorry, son. I don’t know what came over me. This afternoon, well, it has been quite overwhelming.”
Tell me about it, I thought, but I could not suppress a grin. He had called me son. Triumph.
“Now, what do you find so amusing?”
“You called me son, sir.” Now it was his turn to despair.
“Don’t get excited. I can be caught calling a person “son” when I am bringing him down to the station, too,” Charlie retorted. He congratulated himself mentally on the save, but nothing would steal the joy of this moment from me.
“In any case, Chief Swan, I am glad I got to talk to you this afternoon.” Every little bit helped.
Charlie was quick to resume his fatherly duties. “Don’t think this changes anything. There are still visiting hours for you.”
Like that mattered. There was no use arguing with him. Maybe waiting wasn’t so bad after all.
“Hey, we have been out here all day and not a single bite!”
I realized with growing horror that Charlie was right. Twenty-five dollars to Emmett! Not that the money mattered, but I was sure that he would continue teasing me about the afternoon for decades to come.
“I think the fish are scared of me,” I replied, sulking. It was probably true. The fish had good sense to stay away from the ultimate predator.
Charlie was incredulous. “Nonsense, Edward, they are just fish. They don’t know we are out to get them.”
“Of course, sir. But sometimes raw animal instinct beats out human intelligence.”
“In my experience, generally not with fish.” Charlie reached for the oars and handed one to me. We paddled back to the shore and set off for Forks. I couldn’t help but grin at the small victory that I had achieved. There was so much to think about, to plan for, that I could not think of a single word to say to Charlie, but he did not seem to care. Charlie Swan was a man of few words, and that was just fine with me today. I won an even bigger victory when Charlie mentally conceded to the fact that I meant his daughter no harm (well, not totally true) and decided to at least act like he was happy for us.
First step acceptance, next step matrimony. It was certainly a start.