Chapter 11: Puberty Blues

Edward gets to take driving lessons during the summer. Dad found an old silver Honda Civic and set up a checking account for Edward. Once he passes his test and is 16-and-one-month old, Edward gets a job at Starbucks and is hardly ever home anymore.

“Gotta pay off the car,” he said to me and winked.

It’s unlikely that’s going to happen any time soon, though, seeing as how the car was $6000 and Edward only makes like $140 a week.

So it’s just Alice, Rose and me who are catching rays at the pool this Saturday. Jasper’s at an artist’s retreat, which is really only a hotel downtown, and Emmett is pounding the pavement looking for his own job.
I’m a little down because it’s not the same without all of us here. Why do people have to grow up anyway? Seems like a drag to me, except for the car thing. And maybe the more-freedom thing.
“You’re not going to tan if you don’t use some of the Hawaiian Tropic,” Rose tells me.

“Yes, I will. I’m just doing it without getting all oily.”

“Will you do my back?” She flips over and undoes her bikini top, and I rub some oil on her. She’s already darker than me and Alice put together. Of course, Alice wears SPF30 and a floppy sunhat. Sometimes she forgets that it’s still on when she jumps in the pool.

I’m trying out my new dark blue bikini. I still don’t have boobs, so I ordered some silicone bra inserts from Amazon. I told Dad it was for some new bras, and he waved his hands and told me he didn’t want to know. So now I have boobs, too. I stare down at my chest with the blue bumps. Not bad for $20.

“Mike and Erik are coming over,” Alice tells us. “And Jasper will be here once he gets done. So it’ll be almost like having everyone back.”

Rose groans. Erik has the worst crush on her, and Mike’s a big flirt who says the grossest things. “Allie, why? It’s just supposed to be us today, remember?”

“Erik overheard me taking to Mike about our pool, and thought I’d asked Mike over. So he was acting all hurt until I asked him. And then Mike wanted to come because Erik was coming. What was I supposed to do?”

“You still like Erik, don’t you?” I ask her. He’s a year younger than her, but Alice has a thing for blond boys with curly hair.

“Maybe,” she shrugs. “Maybe not. He likes Rose.”

Rose groans again. “I am not interested in Erik.”

I think she likes Emmett. He’s grown at least a foot in the last few months, and is now taller than Edward. He wants to join the freshman football team in September, so he’s been working out too. Rose has noticed, although she’s careful about showing it.

This is the first summer that I’m not playing softball, and I don’t really miss it. I wasn’t very good, but I did love the running part. Edward said maybe I should go out for track this coming year. I’m considering it.

When Erik and Mike show up, we’re ready to get in the water. Erik’s wearing green swim trunks and sporting a silver necklace that gleams against his tanned chest. I see Rose crook an eyebrow at me in appreciation. Mike’s got the pasty white boy look going on. We laugh at that until he and Erik bet us girls that we can’t make a bigger cannonball splash than just the two of them can.

We call Mrs. McCarty out to be the judge, and, sport that she is, she takes her place at the top of the diving board.

“Boys first,” she says.

Mike and Erik back up and get ready to run at us. “We’re going to send half the water out of the pool,” Mike brags.

“One. Two. Three!”

Erik does the perfect cannonball, but Mike slips and does a back splash instead. Not great. We can beat that.

“Okay, girls, show them what you’ve got,” Mrs. McCarty cries. “I have to warn you boys, these girls have been cannonballing in this pool for years. You better stand back.”

Rose, Alice and I hold hands and then on the count of three, we’re off! I’m not sure how Rose and Alice did, but my cannonball was perfect, tilted just so for the maximum splash.

Mike and Erik know we’ve won. They concede by crashing into the water with us.

We’re all splashing each other and taking turns dunking each other when Erik points at something behind me. “What’s that?”

My left boob is gaily bobbing along in the water.

. . .

Mrs. McCarty gives me a hug. “It’ll be fine, Bella. These things happen all the time.”

I’m on the edge of tears again. I’m never going back out there. How can I ever face Mike and Erik again? I want to die.

“They don’t happen to boys,” I cry and rub at my eyes. “Boys don’t have to worry about not getting boobs or how their hair looks, or have to bleed every month. It’s not fair.”

She sits me down at the kitchen table and pours me a glass of lemonade. “It’s not fair,” she tells me. “But you know what? Boys have to go through their own embarrassing moments.”

I’m all ears. What do boys have to go through?

“This is just between you and me, okay?”

I nod solemnly. I’d promise almost anything at this point, I was dying so badly to know what could possibly compare to my latest humiliation.

“Nocturnal emissions,” she whispers. “Wet dreams.”

Oh boy, am I disappointed. “But those happen at night. Nobody sees them. How is that embarrassing?”

She gives me a look heavy with significance. “Stained sheets.”

My frown lightens somewhat at the thought that maybe Mike’s sheets are stained.

And then, “Sheets that Mom sees?” she finishes with a slam dunk.

I’m red from head to toe. Seeing this, she laughs and pats my shoulder.

“So, all,” I stutter. “All boys go through this?”

“Every one of them, I assure you. No one gets to escape puberty, honey.”

. . .


“Yes, Bella?”

He puts the newspaper down when I don’t answer.

“What is it, Bella?”

“Uh.” I fidget. How do I say this? “Do you … ever see Edward’s sheets?”

He frowns at me. “His sheets?”

“Yes. Edward’s sheets. When you do the laundry, you know?”

“Oh,” he says and immediately raises the paper up again, so I only get to see the top of his head. “No. Edward does his own sheets. Always has.”

I’m disappointed, but I grin anyway. Busted!

. . .

It’s Monday, cleaning day at the Swan household, which means I’m on my hands and knees scrubbing the bathtub. I’m panting and grumbling through every minute, too, because this is hard work and my muscles can’t take it. Edward should be doing the bathroom, he’s stronger than me, but nooooo. He got kitchen and living room duty. All he had to do was scrub the floor, wipe the counter tops, dust and sweep. Oh, and take out the trash. Big whoop.

“You done yet, Grumbleasaurus? I have to use the john.”

“No,” I snap. “And you can’t use the john until I’m done in here because I’m not scrubbing the toilet just after you’ve gone in it. Urgh!”

He’s laughing, which just pisses me off more. “No, really, Bella, I have to go.”

“No, really, Edward, you have to wait.”

He grabs my arms and hauls me up from the tub, then pushes me out the bathroom.

“Hey!” I bang on the closed door. “Don’t you dare take a dump!”

I slide down the closed door with a huff, waiting for him to be done. He’s probably going to take a day and a ha—

Suddenly I’m on the floor looking up at Edward’s upside down face. He’s still way too jolly for me. “What are you doing down there?”

I jump up and join him at the sink, where he’s washing his hands. As soon as I have the thought, my hands are cupped under the water and then I flick them at his face. Water goes everywhere, but it’s okay because I haven’t gotten to the sink to clean yet.

I’m laughing at Edward’s startled, wet face when he takes the cup at the sink and fills it with water.

“No way,” I say and back up. “That’s not fair.”

“You started it,” he says with a wicked grin. “Now I’m going to finish it.”

I grab his wrist with both hands and try to hold the cup away, and some of the water splashes out on both of us. I laugh and knock his hand back so more spills out on him. The top of his head is all wet. Then so is mine, and Edward’s back at the sink getting more water.

I race for the tub and the detachable shower head. Just as a whoosh of cold water climbs up my back, making me scream, I’m turning with the shower head and aiming it at his face. Seeing what I’m about to do, he lunges forward, yanks it out of my grip, then sprays me with it!

“Better get in the shower,” he yells over my screams. “Or say I’m sorry.”

The water is freezing! My shoes are squeaking against the linoleum. I can’t see anything but our feet, so I aim myself at them. Water is getting all over the floor.

“Edwarrrrrrrd! Stop!”

He lowers the spray from my head to my chest. “Say I’m sorry.”

I gasp and cross my arms over my chest. I’m not wearing a bra! “I’m sorry! Dammit! I’m sorry!”
The water stops and the sound of his laughter is echoing off the walls. I take a step, slip and then crash to my butt.

Through wet eyelashes, I see him bent over at the waist with his hands on his knees because he’s laughing so hard. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him laugh like this. And then I’m laughing, too, because it is funny, even though I now have an even bigger job ahead of me.

And then he stops laughing and he’s looking at me all funny. At my chest. I look down and see my nipples poking at my wet shirt, and gasp. I grab my cold, wet shirt and pull it away from my skin. It makes a squelching sound.

“Stop looking!”

“Wear a bra next time!”

“Get out!”

“Make me!”

I’m afraid to stand, though. It’s slippery, plus I’d have to let go of my shirt.
“Just go, Edward.”

“Fine. I’m done anyway.”

Now he’s all moody. He slams the door on the way out and suddenly I want to cry.

“What stinks while living, but smells good when dead?!” I yell after him.

. . .

It’s after ten-thirty on Friday night and Dad is mad because Edward isn’t home yet. He got off work at nine and was supposed to be home over an hour ago. Plus, he’s not answering his phone, so Dad is worried, too. And so am I. This isn’t like Edward. Responsible is his middle name, for crying out loud.

“You go to bed,” Dad says at eleven. “I’ll wake you if I need to.”

A frog is in my throat. I couldn’t sleep if my life depended on it, but the look on Dad’s face, and the tone of his voice tells me to do exactly what he says or else. So I climb the stairs slowly, straining my ears for the sound of a car coming up the driveway, but there’s nothing.

Where is Edward?

. . .

I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I hear are footsteps stomping up the stairs. Turning to look at the clock on my nightstand, I see it’s just after midnight. I’m about to get up to investigate when I hear a second set of footsteps. These steps pause outside my door and I hear a knock.

“Yes?” I say around my furiously beating heart.

Dad pokes his head in my door. “He’s home. Everything’s fine. Go back to sleep.”

But I don’t. I wait for another hour before I creep across the hallway to Edward’s room and knock softly on his door. If he’s awake, he’ll hear it.

A moment later, his door opens. His eyes are bloodshot and he’s shirtless.

“What?” He’s belligerent.

“Are you okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

I step back. Why is he so angry? “Where were you?”


“I know that. Why? We were worried.”

“Didn’t need to be.”

What a grump. He’s obviously in no mood to talk. “Why did you even answer your door?”
“I didn’t want you to just walk in.”

I made a sound of disgust. “Sorry I bothered you.”

“Yeah, me too.”

I’m not in my bed for five minutes before the door opens. It’s the grump, who didn’t bother to knock. I guess it’s okay if he just walks in.

“Look, I’m sorry. I’m just in a bad place right now.”

“And you don’t care about anyone else’s bad place,” I sniff.

“Bella,” he sighs and pulls my hair.

“Mom didn’t come home that time,” I tell him. “I was worried that you wouldn’t, either.”
He groans and lays his forehead against my back. “God. I didn’t even think… I’m sorry, Bella.”

I still won’t roll over to face him. “Where were you?”

“At a party. With a guy I work with.”

I laugh a little. “So you were out having fun, ignoring us while we worried. That’s just great, Edward.”

“Hey, I already got the third degree from Dad. I don’t need it from you.”

“Then go back to your room and leave me alone.”

“You came to me first,” he gritted.

“Yeah? Well obviously I didn’t need to worry, like told you me, so you can go to bed with a clear conscience now.”

He pulls my hair until it hurts and I ask him to stop. Then, he leaves.
. . .

Things are tense between the three of us for the next few days. I’m not talking to Edward, and Edward’s not talking to me or Dad. What a big baby.

“I packed your lunch, Dad. Leftover meatloaf and mashed potatoes.”

“Thanks, Bells. Any chocolate chip cookies left?”

I grinned at him. “I packed a few of those, too.”

Edward makes a face at me after Dad leaves. “What a perfect little daughter you are.”

I scoff. “Not really. I’m same as I was yesterday. If anything, you were the perfect son. Top of your class, fencing champ, responsible kid with a job and a car. But you’re the one who screwed up and feels bad about it.”

He’s quiet for so long that I have to look over at him. His face looks like a mix of humor and anger. “How’d you get so smart?”

I take my dishes to the sink and begin rinsing them. “Same as you, Edward. Bad stuff happened. We had to deal with it. Everything else just seems kind of … stupid and tame, you know?”

He brings his own dishes to the sink, then hugs me from behind. I keep rinsing, trying to hide that his hug goes a long way to healing the hurt inside. He rests his forehead on my shoulder and it’s nice.

“I really do love you, sis. You know that, right?”

“I do. Even when you don’t act like it.”

“Which is rare.”

“Which is rare. You can make it up to me if you load the dishwasher, though.”

He laughs and kisses the skin at my shoulder. And suddenly I’m breathless as goose bumps raise all along my skin.

. . .

Bella’s angry riddle answer for Edward: a pig.

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