|Angel of Fortune
Author: Kimmydonn PM
Penny Parker follows a mysterious pint-sized heroine through her neighbourhood who shows up at the right time only to disappear again. This is her first REAL scoop. Entry for the Superhero contest. www. fanfiction. net/community/Superhero Contest/81828/Rated: Fiction M - English - Supernatural/Romance - Chapters: 2 - Words: 10,872 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 07-15-11 - Published: 06-28-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6091580
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
ENTRY FOR THE SUPERHERO CONTEST
Story Name: Angel of Fortune
Word Count: 9 377
To see other entries in the Twilight/Superhero Contest, please visit the following C2:
http:/www. fanfiction. net/community/Superhero_Contest/81828/
"I'm telling you, this is a bad idea, Alice."
"Oh please, Edward. You've seen everything I have. This is a good thing, and I can be careful. I can!"
My mother's purse was retrieved by a small woman from the monster of a thug that had snatched it from her. Mom told me that the young lady didn't give her name, but said that she was glad she could be in the right place at the right time. A few blocks away, and a few days later, a small boy was caught by a tiny woman after he fell from a balcony four stories above. I caught a glimpse of the mystery girl myself that time. She wore large dark glasses, a full brimmed hat, and an odd cape instead of a coat. She was gone before I could approach her.
I suppose I should tell you a little about me. I'm a freelance reporter for the Times - the local one, not New York. I wish. I do community pieces, feel-good stuff, like the Murphys' 75th anniversary. I interviewed all their children, looked at pictures, put together a nice article that got buried at the bottom of page nine. My Mom liked it. The Murphys liked it too. Of course hot news, it was not.
So, naturally, my reporter's nose twitched at the sniff of a mysterious do-gooder in my neighbourhood. I asked my neighbours if they knew anything about this pint-sized heroine. When that failed, I asked if any of them had run into any trouble, citing my mother's misfortune.
"Oh, no, Penny. Is your mother alright? I hope she wasn't hurt." Mrs. Lerner, the blue-haired lady upstairs, worried when I visited her.
"No, Mrs. Lerner, she wasn't hurt. This strange small girl showed up and got Mom's purse back. You haven't had anything like that happen to you, have you? I'd like to spread the word if a purse-snatcher is around."
Mrs. Lerner patted my knee and poured me another cup of Earl Grey. I hated tea, but I smiled and lifted my teacup anyway.
"Of course you would, dear. No, nothing like that. Although, my son, Vinny - you remember Vinny, don't you? He has that shop around the corner. You should go visit him sometime. A good boy, Vinny, well set up. I don't know why he hasn't found a girl yet."
I needed to stop this train fast. "Did something happen at the shop?"
"The shop? Oh, yes. Yesterday, Vinny was saying that he heard a commotion outside the night before and came out to find some girl screaming, her dress torn. He pulled her into the shop - Vinny would never let her go in that state, he's a good boy. She told Vinny that she'd been attacked by a man."
I was sure that there was more to it. It seemed I would be visiting Vinny after all.
"Apparently, another girl came to her rescue. Vinny made sure the poor girl who was attacked got home safely. You will visit Vinny, won't you?"
I smiled, answering honestly. "I will. I'll make sure he knows you sent me."
"Good girl, Penelope. How is your grandmother doing? Is her arthritis still bothering her?"
Once I extracted myself from the tea party, I headed to Vinny's store, a newsstand and smoke shop a few blocks from my parents' apartment.
Yes, I still live with my parents. Freelancers don't make nearly enough money.
The chimes on the door let Vinny know I was there. He turned from the tiny TV he had set behind the counter.
"Hello!" He rose to great me, slicking back his dark hair. I tried not to cringe at the thought of shaking that hand. "How can I help you? Are you looking for a magazine?" He sized me up quickly as a non-smoker. Good eye, I was going to count on that.
"You can help me, but not with a purchase. I heard you had an interesting visitor a few nights ago - a damsel in distress?"
Vinny's eyes narrowed. "Who are you?"
I chuckled a little. "Pardon me, please. I'm Penelope Parker. My parents live in the same building as your mother, Mary? I was having tea with her when she mentioned it."
He eased perceptibly. Then stiffened again. "Ma sent you?"
I rolled my eyes. "Yes, but that isn't why I'm here either. Not that..." I never finished the sentence, but he just shook his head and urged me to continue. Apparently I wasn't the first girl sent to 'visit Vinny.'
"I was actually wondering if you could tell me more about the damsel in distress and what happened to her. I write for the Times and I was working on a piece about the mystery woman who helped my mother with a purse-snatcher. You mother said this girl was helped by a woman as well? I'm wondering if it mightn't be the same one."
"Ah, I see. Well, she did say it was a woman, or a girl, she wasn't sure. She was very upset - hardly surprising. It was a bad date. I didn't tell Mama that part, please don't tell her either. Melissa, she, she's a working girl, you understand?" I nodded. "She was arranging to meet this john and he decided he didn't want to wait. Decided he didn't want to pay, either. She wasn't able to fight him herself, but she said this woman came and pulled him off. Melissa ran, and I heard her coming down the block. So I opened the door and brought her inside. She called... well she was picked up a little while later." Vinny looked at me to be sure I understood.
"Yes, exactly. He thanked me for letting her use the phone."
"So, Melissa, she works around here?"
I killed another couple hours looking for general scoops that might lead to this mystery rescuer. The diner counter was a great spot for gossip; from here I could hear most of the conversations in the room. Hitting up Dina, the waitress, was also a great source of information.
"Say, Dina, you hear anything about a girl helping people out in the neighbourhood?"
"Penny," she shook her head. "Always looking for the stories aren't ya? A girl... helping people out. You mean like the Johnson boy? It was a girl that caught him when he fell."
"Exactly." I seized the opportunity. "Just like that, like... an angel of fortune or something."
"Oooh, Angel of Fortune. I like that; that'll look good on paper."
I rolled my eyes. Maybe I'd tapped this gingham tree one too many times.
"Well, Miss Fancy Words," Dina continued, "it just so happens I did hear a story about a girl in the right place at the right time." The bell rang behind the counter and she winked at me. She picked up the order and delivered it before leaning on the stool beside me. "Louise Barrett said that her son was nearly run over by car. A girl came out of nowhere, plucked little Stevie out of the way, and smacked his bottom." Dina laughed and popped her gum. "Louise ran to catch up to Stevie, but the girl was gone around the corner."
"Huh. Thank you, Dina."
"Will I get a mention?" she asked hopefully.
"'According to Miss Dina Lawrence, this wasn't an isolated occurrence.'" I made typing motions with my fingers and she laughed. Sadly, she hadn't 'seen' anything, and likely wouldn't be mentioned. I felt bad about it, but there wasn't anything I could do.
After finishing my coffee, I made my way to Fifth and Seventh, Melissa's corner. The bleached blonde stood with her arms wrapped around herself in the night chill, looking up and down the street. I approached slowly and quietly. I took off my shoe, leaning on her lamp post. "Can I pay for a few minutes of your time?" I whispered.
The blonde peered at me sideways. "Yeah, for twenty you can have as many minutes."
"Excellent. Sit?" I offered, plopping down on the post office steps. I pulled a bill out of my purse. Good thing I didn't have rent.
The working girl tucked the bill in her bra strap and sat down next do me. "Damn, it's cold," she rubbed her arms again. I pulled off my overcoat, making do with my blazer for twenty minutes.
"Here, Melissa, right?" I verified.
"Do I know you?" Melissa lit up a cigarette after she had my coat on; I frowned, but said nothing. Her bright red lips puffed happily on the white stick.
"No. I heard you had a close encounter the other night. Needed a little rescuing?"
"Yeah. What's it to you?" the blonde asked, quirking a painted eyebrow.
"I heard it was a woman who came to your aid. Is that right? Because that is interesting, isn't it?"
Melissa blew out smoke and huddled in my coat. "Yeah, I s'pose it is. It really was." She took another drag. "An itty bitty thing, I don't know how she did it. The john was huge. I'd gotten a good knee to his groin and he still wasn't letting up. I didn't see what the little girl did to him, but he was lifted right off me. As soon as I could, I scrammed." She puffed again. "Who are you anyway?"
"Did you see the girl at all? You said she was small. Smaller than you?" Melissa was probably five five.
"Oh yeah, smaller than you."
I raised my eyebrows. I was only five three; the Angel was a little thing.
"Other than that," Melissa continued, "she was pale. I mean, I don't got no tan, but this girl, she was like a ghost."
I nodded. "Did you notice what she was wearing?"
"Wearing? Um.. not really. Just a dress, a really nice dress actually. Like something you'd see on one of those fashion magazines."
Melissa looked at me like I was mad. "I don't work during the day."
Right. "Anything else? Did she say anything?"
"Not a word. Didn't even hear her huff or heave when she pulled the john off me. She didn't call, and I wasn't coming back anyway. "
"Where was it? What direction would she have come from?"
"Oh, you can see it from the corner." She removed my jacket, returning it to me. We stood on the corner as she pointed to a cluster of trees across the road. "Right over there. If she came up behind him, she came from... that way." Melissa pointed north, toward campus.
"Thank you. Easiest twenty I ever made."
"I just hope I make it back with this story."
"You won't print my name, will you?"
"What name?" I asked innocently.
"Thanks. Oooh, scram, here comes Dennis."
I saw a car, her pimp's no doubt, approaching and quickly walked away. I had a map in my head, and all the incidents took place within a short jog from the college campus.
"Thanks for letting me stop by, Mrs. Barrett."
"No problem, Penny. Stevie! Leave Penny's purse be."
"Candy?" the toddler asked holding my bag.
"Sorry, Stevie. I don't have any candy in there. Just my camera, " I pulled it out to show the little boy, "and my notepad." I put that on the table along with my pen.
The tot stuck his nose in the bag anyway. "No candy?"
Stevie blew a raspberry and ran to the television.
"Sorry about that," Louise apologized. "His grandma's always got a sweet for him. Spoils him."
I smiled; my gran was just the same. "I was wondering if you could tell me about Stevie's accident the other day. Well, near accident," I amended.
Louise, devout Catholic, crossed herself quickly. "I will never let that boy out of my sight again, I swear, Mother Mary." She looked to the Madonna statue on her shelf. "The truck was right on top of him. I didn't even see the girl until I heard Stevie wailing. I was still staring at the place he had been. The girl was fast as light. As soon as I saw my boy was okay, I ran to him. The girl left as quickly as she came. I never saw her face."
"What did you see?" I asked Mrs. Barrett.
"She was tiny, a sprite. She had dark hair that stuck out all around her head, like a halo only black. She's an angel."
I smiled thinking of the name I'd given the mystery heroine. I planned to learn her real name, but until then I had more than enough to submit my first article on the 'Angel of Fortune.'
"Anything else? Her clothes? Her voice?" I probed.
"No, I couldn't say. Wasn't paying much attention to what she wore. It showed a fair amount of skin though, for such a cloudy day. Very pale skin, even her lips, she had no colour at all, really."
"She never said anything?" I tried to trigger some memory from Louise.
"Not to me. She might have said something to Stevie, but I was too far to hear. Stevie! Can you come here, sweetie?"
"But it's Sesame Street!" the boy complained.
"You can watch it another time, come here." Louise rolled her eyes.
I chuckled as she rose a minute later. Stevie must have heard the creak of her chair because he jumped up and came running to us.
"The letter of the day is P, and the number is six," he told me with a smile. "See, over now."
"Don't sass," his mother warned him.
"Six. How old are you, Stevie? Not six yet?"
"No!" he laughed. "I'm four." He held up a pudgy hand to show me.
"Four. So close to six. How many more birthdays?"
He got a thoughtful look on his face and then shrugged.
"Two," I told him, taking his little hand. "Next birthday you'll be five." I pulled out his thumb. "And the one after that..."
"Six!" he said happily.
"Right. Stevie, what happened to you when you ran into the road? Do you remember?"
His brown eyes went wide and he looked up at his mother who nodded. "I saw a cat on the road. I wanted to chase him. Someone grabbed me, and then I was on the sidewalk. The truck was where the cat was." I watched Stevie's eyes water. "The lady told me not to cry, that the cat was fine and to go to Mom. Before I stopped crying, Mom was there." He hugged his Mom's leg now. "Was the lady right, Mommy? Did the cat get hurt?"
"I don't know, sweetie. I never saw a cat."
I ran a hand through Stevie's, light brown curls. "I'm sure she was right. Cats are much faster than four year-old boys, aren't they?" I nodded, encouraging him to agree with me.
He nodded along and relaxed. "Yeah, they're real hard to catch."
I chuckled. "So the lady picked you up?"
"Yeah. And she must have been fast too, right? Like a cat?"
"Must have been," I agreed.
"Her voice was really pretty. Mommy sings nice, but it was like she was singing all the time." I looked up to Louise who blushed.
"Did you see the lady? Was she as pretty as her voice?"
Stevie shook his head. "Not really. But I remember she was cold."
"Thank you, Stevie."
"Can I watch more TV now?" he asked his Mom.
"How about you run outside?"
"Oooh! Yes!" He started putting on his shoes.
I jotted down what Stevie had told me and put my notebook in my bag, following mother and son out. "Thank you so much, Mrs. Barrett. I'm sure the woman who saved him is an angel."
"Thank you, Penny, dear."
I wrote up what I had so far and submitted it to my editor that evening. It wouldn't make the next paper, but I would have time to make any changes before the following deadline. I got a call two hours later, just after supper. Dad had just sat down to watch a game.
"Yes? Mr. Jonas?" I had never been called by the editor himself. He usually had his secretary do it.
"Yes, I want you to find a name for this person. I understand 'Angel of Fortune' is a place holder, but you will be following this up."
"Of course, Mr. Jonas. I'm on my way to the campus now. I suspect she's a student, everything happening so close to campus. I'm hoping to find more information at the local dive, the one the students frequent."
"Good, good work. This is a great piece, Parker. We might have to look at getting you something more steady."
My eyes widened and my foot tapped. My mother noticed as she was packing up the last of supper. "That would be great, Mr. Jonas."
"Assuming, of course, that you can pull this piece off."
I grit my teeth. I wasn't letting this story get away, promotion or no. "Absolutely, Mr. Jonas."
"Good news?" Mom asked when I hung up.
"He said I might get more steady work." I squealed jumping up and down on my toes.
Mom laughed and hugged me as I bounced. "I'm so happy for you, Lopey. What's the story again?"
"Mo-om!" I moaned. "Your purse rescuer, remember?"
"Oh, that lovely little girl? Why are you writing about her?"
I thought I might kill my mother. I realized then that I hadn't done a proper interview with her. I looked at the clock, quarter to eight. An hour would still leave me plenty of time at the clubs.
"Can I ask you some questions about her, Mom?" I asked, grabbing my pad.
"Ummm. Okay. It was last week."
"I know. I should have asked you sooner, but I didn't realize it was a story then. Let me get the date and time. You were shopping at two right?"
"There abouts," Mom nodded sitting across from me. "Two, two-thirty. I was on Third, just about to pass the bus stop."
"Right and the mugger came from behind the stop, from the alley, right?"
"Did you see him at all? How big was he? Big as Dad?"
"Bigger, and bald. His head shone in the sun."
"Bigger which way, taller? broader?" I continued to scribble details.
"Both. Looked like he could have played football."
"So he grabbed your purse off your arm?"
Mom nodded. "Broke the strap, remember? I had to get it fixed."
I did remember. I'd picked it up from the leather shop. "So he grabbed it and ran, which way?"
"West, toward the bank." I could see her picturing it in her head.
"And the girl came from that direction?"
My mother blinked several times. "You know, I didn't see where she came from. Suddenly, the mugger tripped and there was a girl behind him."
"She was facing you?"
"No, she was looking south. So maybe she came from the north." Mom looked at me now, confused. "I don't know."
"It's okay, Mom, you're doing great. Now tell me about the Angel... I mean the girl. She dropped the thug, tripped him, let's say. Then she grabbed your purse from him?"
"It was already in her hand." Mom was bewildered now. "I was so relieved at the time, I didn't really notice."
"Hmm, so the mugger ran off after that?"
She nodded. "He stumbled to his feet and kept on running. I walked up to her, and she handed me the purse. She was wearing gloves - white, with lace on the cuffs. I remember that."
"Anything else? She was really small, really pale?"
"Yes, yes. Well, I don't know that she was pale, she was all covered up - big hat and glasses, long jacket."
"Could you see her hair under her hat?"
"Not really, not much. Just that it was dark."
I nodded. "That's great, Mom. Did she say anything to you? Or you to her?"
"I thanked her, of course. And she said, 'I'm glad I could be in the right place at the right time.'"
"Great! Anything about her voice that was special or different?"
Mom shook her head. "It was very nice, almost musical, but not really high or anything."
"Stevie said she had a pretty voice too. I should have asked you sooner so I could have put all this in the last article."
"So what else have you learned?" Mom was curious now.
"You aren't the only person this heroine helped," I said with a smile. "I'm calling her the 'Angel of Fortune' until I learn her real name. You remember me telling you a similar girl caught little Billy Johnson? I think it was the same girl. If so, she also saved Stevie Barrett from being run over by truck and a whor- horrible rape was stopped. She pulled the guy right off the victim."
"Rape! Are you sure you're safe, sweetie?"
"I am looking after myself, Mom, promise. But it's always a small, pale girl with dark hair, sometimes with a big hat and glasses. And if she did come from the north, I'm almost certain she's a student on campus. She's young enough, isn't she?"
"Yes, I could picture her attending classes. So that's where you're headed?"
"Be careful," Mom said, kissing my temple.
"I always am."
I sat at the bar, trying to listen over the band. I felt like I didn't fit in. It was the reason I didn't usually go to places like this. I was the right age, but I felt like I wasn't dressed right. My pencil skirt and sweater seemed out of place among the miniskirts and dresses.
I tried to talk to the girl next to me, but she never answered, probably unable to hear me.
So, I ordered a drink and turned, slopping it on myself.
"Oh, crap. I'm sorry. Are you all right?" the boy with curly red hair and freckles asked me. He seemed too young to be in a bar.
"Yeah, it's fine. It's tonic water, doesn't stain." I smiled and took a sip of gin. "Are you a student?"
"Yeah. Coke?" he shouted over the counter. "I'd replace your drink, but Hank won't let me pay for alcohol."
He sipped his drink once. "What's your major? Oh my god, I swore I'd never ask another girl that, I'm sorry. Might as well ask you 'what's your sign.'" His blush brought my attention back to his freckles.
I laughed. "No, no, it's fine. I'm not a student. I'm thinking about taking English though."
"Yeah? I'm in Chemistry." I nodded. "I'm Barney."
I resisted a chuckle at the old fashioned name, mine wasn't much better. "Penny."
"Like Penelope? That's a nice name. So why are you really here?"
I faked horror, my mouth falling open.
"No, you wouldn't still be talking to me if you really are old enough to be drinking that." Barney nodded to my hi-ball.
I chuckled again. "Why? You think I don't enjoy your company?" I flirted back, something else I rarely did.
"No, I don't. I think you want something."
I frowned a little. "Maybe I do."
"Maybe I can help you," he suggested, leaning his freckled face closer to me.
This was not the way I normally sounded out a possible lead, but I decided to take a chance. Besides, he was rather cute. "Hmmm, maybe you can. Maybe you have just what I need..." I put a finger under his lightly stubbled chin, pulling him down to me. His eyes widened in shock, obviously not expecting me to take his bait. I was so mean. "Do you know a little girl with exceptionally pale skin?"
Barney bit his lip and closed his eyes. "Can I still kiss you?"
I laughed and set my drink on the bar. I grabbed his speckled cheeks and smacked his lips hard with my own.
He frowned. "That was like kissing my cousin, or something."
I laughed harder and picked up my drink again, ruffling his red hair. "Well, that really is what I'm looking for, sorry. I'm a reporter following a lead, and she is short, pale, with dark hair. I don't have any more to go on."
"Short or really short?" he asked, leaning against the bar.
"Shorter than me. So, really short."
"That is really short."
I elbowed him and he apologized quickly.
I choked on my drink as the most beautiful man I'd ever seen walked into the bar. He had the oddest shade of hair that curled haphazardly around his head. It was brown with just a touch of red. Bronze, I finally named it. His features were perfectly balanced, eyes equally spaced under thick but not bushy brows, a straight nose and angular jaw. It turned out he was accompanied by a giant that could almost have raised the bar on beauty. He had darker hair, also curly - possibly a brother? His features were equally perfect. Holy cow. Mom said the hormones would kick in one day - one day I'd want the boy more than the story - I thought she was nuts.
"Don't choke there, Penny." Barney clapped my shoulder. "Swallow wrong?" Then he waved to the men who had just entered.
"You know him?" I asked, my eyes not leaving the bronze-haired man.
"Not you too," he whined. "Edward gets all the girls."
I chuckled meeting Barney's eyes now. "No, not me too. He is very good looking, but I told you, I'm looking for a girl." I hooked his arm. "Sorry, freckles, neither of you are my type, way too tall."
He scowled. "I don't know if I like you, Penny."
I laughed. "It's too late; I already like you, Barney. You just in town for school?"
He nodded. "My folks live upstate. I'm liking being on my own."
My head bobbed with his as though I understood. I didn't of course. Maybe soon, if this story panned out, I could finally get a place of my own.
"So, any short girls in your classes?" I asked.
"Yeah, a few, not many though. None really short. Some around your height, but no. I'm pretty sure the girl you're looking for isn't in the sciences."
"She's also haut couture."
Barney looked at me like I was speaking another language, which of course, I was.
"High fashion," I clarified.
"Oh... definitely not in sciences. Maybe in the arts. Hmmm, who do I know in arts?" he rubbed the back of his head. "Whoa... who is that?"
I followed his eye to the leggy blonde that was moving to join Edward and the giant with him. "Not short enough," I teased.
"She's short enough for me..." he mumbled. "Are you kidding? Edward's got her too? Oh, not him. The other one." Barney seemed to relax when the blonde cuddled up to the giant.
Well this was getting me nowhere. "Do you know anyone in the arts?" I asked bringing him back to the topic.
"Umm, I don't think so. Oh, Jesse's got a girlfriend in arts, maybe he can set the two of you up. Is he here tonight?" He stood up, using his bean pole height to look around the place. "Nope, not tonight. I bet he comes tomorrow. Can I see you tomorrow?" he asked with a sly smile.
I chuckled again and shook my head in mild disbelief. "Sure. Set me up with Jesse's girlfriend and you can have another kiss." I puckered up, making fish lips, and he grimaced. I laughed again.
"Nope, I don't like you at all." He frowned and looked out over the crowd.
I noticed his eyes shifting back to me as I tried to listen in on the girls next to me, all about Edward Cullen. It was obvious that it was the same man. His last name was all I learned as they went on endlessly about how amazing he was.
"You're a liar, Barney," I told him after I caught him glancing my way the fourth time.
"What?" He was offended, perfect. Now, to knock this lead down.
"You like me. You want to see me again, and you'd rather it wasn't here."
"You're pretty sure of yourself, Penny."
Barney's eyes narrowed. "Well, it so happens that I am going to take you out. That's the only way you're going to meet Jesse and... his girlfriend." He hesitated, carefully avoiding saying her name.
I saw where this was going. Still, if I could get a personal encounter with this girl, outside a formal interview, it might be worth it. And Barney was such fun to tease; I definitely wanted another opportunity to do that.
"What do you propose?" I asked.
"Double date," he turned to face me properly now, taking my empty glass. "But I'll have to coordinate, so I'll need a way to reach you." He smirked. He was getting my number out of the deal too. Smart boy.
I pulled my tiny pad and pencil from my pocket, writing down my parents' phone number. Barney smiled as he took it.
"You sure you wouldn't rather give this to someone else?" he asked.
I shook my head, chuckling. "I'm going to see if I can find the girl I would rather give it to."
He raised his Coke to me as I left the bar.
I didn't have any more luck that night, leaving all my eggs in Barney's basket. I really hoped Jesse's girlfriend would be the lead I needed.
The next day was a cooker. I spent it wandering around the arts buildings, looking for my Angel. I neither found her, nor anyone willing to stand in the sun talking with me. Everyone was very quick to return to their air conditioned lecture halls; I didn't blame them.
The phone rang, interrupting supper and pissing off Dad. I hopped up to grab it anyway, risking raising his ire further.
"It could be the paper," I told him. Dad rolled his eyes, obviously not thinking that was a good enough reason. "Hello?"
"Penny? It's Barney." Crap, my Dad was not going to like a boy calling me during supper.
"Yes, sir," I said, hoping he'd play along.
"You live in your parents' house?" Barney asked, appalled.
"That's right." He had the nerve to laugh at me. "Look, I'm rather busy now, if this isn't urgent..."
"Okay, okay," he went on quickly. "Jesse had a date planned with Stacy tomorrow night. He says she won't mind if we crash."
"Okay, I've got that."
Barney snickered again and I ground my teeth. "Sorry, too funny. It's at the steak house, Louie's? So, wear something nice. And, would you like me to walk you there or...?"
"I can find that."
"Heh, don't want to introduce me to Mom and Dad?" Barney taunted. He was so getting a foot stomp when I saw him next. "We're meeting there at six-thirty. I tried to talk to Stacy a bit, get her thinking about short yet flashy classmates."
"Thanks for trying." My Dad gave me a look. What had I said? Double Crap. "Right. Thanks for that. I'll make sure I get that together for you by morning. I really need to go now."
"Can't wait for that kiss," Barney teased as he hung up.
"Sorry about that, Dad." I sat back in my chair and tried not to look up through the rest of dinner. Mom nudged my shoulder though, and I knew she'd figured out it wasn't the paper on the phone. Triple Crap!
Mom was more than willing to help me prepare for my date the next night. She fussed over me, pinning my dirty blonde hair up, trying to force it to curl with the iron.
"Where is he taking you?" she asked
"Oooh, that's a nice place. He must like you." Mom smiled at me in the mirror as I applied shadow to my eyes.
"Mom, try not to get your hopes too high," I warned
"Oh." She frowned. "This is for a story isn't it?"
I nodded, painting my lips. "The same one. Barney's a real nice guy though. Hope isn't completely lost." I smiled at her, hoping to please her a little.
"Thanks, sweetie." Mom patted my beaded comb into place. "I'll know it's not a story when he comes to the door, right?"
"Right." I kissed her cheek, leaving a big red mark. "Zip me up?" I asked pulling my cocktail dress on over my nylons.
"You look wonderful, Lopey. Even if is just a story, he's going to eat you up."
"Thank you. Okay." Still nervous enough to watch my hand shake on the knob, I opened our apartment door and walked to Louie's in my pumps.
Barney was standing outside the steakhouse, even though I was sure I was early. I checked my watch. It was only quarter after six.
"There isn't a problem, is there?" I asked, rushing up to him.
"Wow. Uh, no, no problem." He blushed suddenly, drawing attention to his freckles. What was wrong? I looked over my shoulder wondering if my skirt was tucked into my panties or something.
"You look amazing," Barney said huskily.
Uh-oh. This was a complication I hadn't fully anticipated. I knew Barney liked me, but I thought he was just doing me a favour; I hadn't been on a real date in over a year.
"Thank you. Are Jesse and Stacy here as well?"
Barney blinked and seemed to recover a little. "No, but I didn't want you to be waiting alone."
I looked up at him. He'd known I'd be early? I didn't think I was that easy to read.
"You wouldn't want anything to mess this up, would you?" he asked.
I smiled. "You weren't just hoping to get your kiss so you could bail on me?"
Barney chuckled, shuffling his feet. "I'm not going to bail on you, Penny. But I wouldn't say no to a kiss. Did I mention you look really good?"
I laughed again. "Come on, you." I hooked his arm and pulled him to the door.
I sipped water, nervously, sitting across from Barney, waiting for the other couple to arrive. The evening now had double meaning, double importance. I was a nervous wreck. I felt Barney's hand on my knee and jumped, bumping hand and knee on the bottom of the table and knocking one of the glasses over. Luckily it was empty. I righted it quickly and tried to get my heart out of my throat.
"Are you all right?" Barney asked. "I noticed your foot bouncing. Is something wrong?" He leaned across the table, his hands reaching for mine, which were clutching my napkin.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. "I've let a little too much ride on this possible connection. If Stacy doesn't like me, doesn't introduce me to her other friends, I think I've lost this one." I let him take my hands from the napkin. They were warm and large, a little damp. He stroked my knuckles with his thumbs.
"Just don't be mean to her. She's not like me." Barney smiled and I chuckled again. Both made me feel better.
"Check, be nice. I can do that."
"Are you sure?" he asked cocking a red eyebrow. I smirked and kicked him under the table. "See, mean."
I sent him an air kiss and pulled my hands back, leaning into my chair. I taunted him with my toe this time. His nose scrunched and he flushed a little, freckles fading slightly. "Really mean," he murmured.
"You like it," I teased back. "And thank you, I feel much better."
"You look better." He smiled and eased up as well, just in time for Jesse and Stacy to join us. We both stood as Barney introduced me to his friends.
"So, Stacy," I began once we were all seated again. "Barney told me you're in Arts, what are you studying?"
"Psychology, with a Philosophy minor. Are you a student?" Stacy asked, looking over the menu.
"No, I'm a freelance reporter, but I've been thinking about going back."
"For 'the Times'?" she asked, interested.
"Yes. I don't get published more than once a week right now, though. All community interest stuff." I felt self-conscious. I was supposed to be asking about her, not the other way around.
"Oh, I'm not from here, so I don't usually read those."
"Penny still..." I shot Barney a death glare, attempting to shut him up by will alone. If he mentioned that I lived with my parents, he could forget about that kiss I had promised. "Lives in the old neighbourhood, close to her folks." He winked at me. He was going to pay. "I can be mean, too," Barney mouthed silently.
The four of us chatted about family and friends for a while. I had the least to say on the sibling front, being an only child, but I talked endlessly about the neighbours.
"No wonder you write community pieces; you really care about your neighbours, don't you?" Stacy asked.
I nodded, chewing. "I've lived with the same families all my life. Grew up with their kids, watched some of them move away; they are my family."
Stacy nodded. "My block at home was like that. All the kids played together, all the Moms met to play Bridge or Scrabble."
Jesse and Barney started talking about their chemistry lab, apparently not planning to join our conversation.
"Professor Martin knows better than to pair Edward with girls; I don't know why he did it," Barney replied to a comment I had missed.
I kept the majority of my attention on Stacy. "Oh yeah, my Mom is ace at Scrabble. Do you play?"
Over chitchat with Stacy, I caught another snippet of the conversation between Jesse and Barney. "Did you see that tiny brunette? Edward said she was his sister, but I don't buy it," Jesse told Barney. I hoped Barney wouldn't mind me asking him about that later.
The waiter came, asking if we wanted dessert. I declined, but Barney insisted I share his chocolate cake. The other couple excused themselves, planning to hit a dance club.
"So, a tiny brunette?" I asked Barney, spearing a sliver of his cake, leaning toward him.
"How do you do that?"
"What?" I asked rudely, around the cake in my mouth.
"Listen and talk at the same time. You were listening to us the whole time you chatted with Stacy, weren't you?"
"I don't do it well," I continued after swallowing. "I bull-rushed her into agreeing to play Scrabble with me because I was trying to listen to you and Jesse. Or possibly it was just the name of that gorgeous..."
"Stop," Barney interrupted me. "Are you interested in Edward?"
My brow furrowed. "No. But he's almost inhumanly beautiful, with that bronze hair. I remember things like that. So his name drew my attention, brought his face back to mind. But, no, I am absolutely not interested Edward Cullen."
"Good." Barney speared the cake almost violently. I couldn't help but taunt him.
"Unless he's interested in me of course."
Barney's fork clattered to the plate. He glared at me and I felt bad for what I had said. "I'm sorry, Barney. I was only teasing." I stroked his hand. "Why does he get your back up? Did he steal your last girlfriend or something?"
Barney relaxed a little and picked up his fork again. "No. But the last two girls I kissed said his name. It's because I'm the same height with red hair, but I don't look anything like him."
"No, you don't."
He frowned at me.
"Oh, crap. I don't mean that you're not good looking, Barney. But you're hair is red, his is not. Your nose is long, and slightly crooked." I stroked a finger along the bulge. "Courtesy of your brother, I would guess." He nodded. "And you have these lovely freckles that I did not see on Edward." I traced my fingers over the tops of cheeks as I spoke. "Granted, maybe that's because I was too far away. But I have to say, I like them, your freckles . I especially like how they look when you blush." I rubbed my instep along the inside of his calf until the blush did spread from his ears to his cheeks. "Just like that." I leaned forward a little more, risking my breasts collecting smudges from the table. I pressed my lips gently to his and then backed up.
He sighed. "You're mean."
My jaw went slack. What had I done wrong? I dropped my head to check my dress and cover my disappointment. When I had determined I was clean, I raised cold eyes. "So, the brunette?"
"I didn't see her. Jesse said he saw her picking up Edward at the library." Barney paused, scrutinizing my face. "I didn't hurt your feelings did I?"
"No," I said too quickly. The waiter had just brought the bill, so I pulled up my purse and started fishing out cash. Barney didn't have information for me, and he obviously didn't want me.
"What are you doing?" Barney asked, grabbing the folder.
"Please, Barney, I've bullied you into dragging your friend and his girlfriend out, or into pushing us into their date. Either way, you shouldn't have to pay for me." I pulled out the bills. "Besides, I can call it a business expense."
"Put that away," he ordered.
I knew I shouldn't be reacting this way, but I'd been rejected as a date and now I was being rejected as a friend. I dropped the bills on the table and jumped up, striding for the door.
"Wait, Penny. Please."
Damn him and his long legs. Barney's hands closed on my shoulders stopping me.
"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I thought you were teasing me again. It's hard to tell, you know?"
He was right, I did send mixed signals aplenty. I turned to face him and felt a traitor tear on my cheek. I sniffed, hard, and wiped it away quickly. "I know it is. And I know you didn't mean to hurt my feelings. So, just let me pay my share of dinner and we can just be friends."
My eyes went wide as he kissed me, not at our secluded table, right in the middle of the restaurant. Barney's lips were firm against mine, warm, demanding. My lips trembled against his.
"No," he declared his nose against mine. "We're not going to be friends. I'm picking you up at your parents' house on Sunday afternoon."
"Who said you get to be in charge?" I teased.
Barney settled the bill, pushing my money back into my hand. Then I let him walk me home.
"Do you really think the girl I'm looking for might be connected to Edward Cullen?" I asked him.
He shrugged. "Tiny brunette, you know as much as I do. Is she ridiculously beautiful? Because it seems all the people around him are," Barney grumbled.
I chuckled and squeezed his hand. "You're turning green, freckles."
He hmphed and moved his arm around my waist, possessively.
"Will you keep an eye out for me? And tell me if you see her?" I asked when we reached my door. "I mean, you're in class with Edward, right? If she meets him at the library or in study hall, you would tell me, wouldn't you?"
"Sure. Why is this so important to you?" He fiddled with my fingers, stroking my nails.
"Because my promotion at work is riding on it. If I can get a steady column, I can finally move out." Things hadn't worked out with Stacy, but maybe Edward Cullen would lead me to my Angel.
"I can understand that." Barney leaned in for another kiss. I put a finger to his lips.
"I also want to thank her," I continued, finishing my thought. "That Angel has saved a lot of lives in my family." I waved my arm to take in the building. "I want her to know it didn't go unnoticed. Thank you for helping me." I hugged him, wrapping my arms around his chest. It was broader than I had thought. I put my cheek to his tie and sighed a little. I felt his head resting on mine.
That was when my mother opened the door. "Oh, hello."
I turned, keeping one hand on Barney's back. "Mom, I'd like you to meet Barney." My first boyfriend in a very long time.
"I told you, Alice. You're in the paper. You can't keep doing this."
"Fine, fine. I'll stop. But people are going to die, Edward."
"People always die. It's not your job to stop that."
I got a call at home from Mr. Jonas, my editor, the afternoon following my date. "Parker? I need you to come in, now." The line went dead.
"Nice talking to you too, Mr. Jonas," I muttered at the receiver.
I walked into the editor's office. I didn't know what to expect after my story had run. Mr. Jonas was reading an article from the pile on his desk. He looked up, over his glasses, when I opened the door.
"Parker. We've had calls about your 'Angel of Fortune'. Any luck identifying her yet?"
"No, but I have a couple leads I'm following." If getting Barney to watch Edward Cullen and attending random classes counted as leads.
"Well, I have something for you. Here is a list of people who claim they've had encounters with your Angel."
My eyes lit up and I handled the paper like porcelain. "Thank you, Mr. Jonas. This is perfect." I scanned the list quickly; several numbers were from the far side of campus, based on the prefix. "I'll start ringing them up."
"Parker?" he called as I turned to go. "You'll have another piece ready for Wednesday."
"Absolutely." If nothing else, I could tell the stories these people would give me. If Fortune or her Angel were with me, I might have a name by then.
I used the phone at the front desk and called the first name on the list. The Flamans invited me to come right over.
"Miss Parker, a pleasure." Glen took my hand in his calloused one. "I read your article and it struck a chord. I'm glad you came over."
Mrs. Flaman, Cindy, brought me a coffee while I sat across from Glen with my notebook out.
"When was your accident, Mr. Flaman?"
His brown eyes crinkled as he smiled. "Glen, please." He ran a hand through his grey and brown hair, poker straight, and sighed. "Oh, it was six o'clock on Friday, the twentieth. I was on my way home from work."
Glen paused. "Just tell me what happened," I prompted.
"I was driving home, making my left on Twelfth, when a truck ran the red and slammed into my car, just behind me. I tried to get myself out, but couldn't. There was no sign of the other guy; turned out he was unconscious on his own steering wheel.
"This little girl, well woman, I guess, came to my door. She told me to hold still, and then she ripped the door right off my car and helped me out from under the dash. She told me to help the other driver, and when I turned around, she was gone."
I nodded at his recounting of events; they weren't very different from the others. Now for details. "She came to your window. Did you see her approach?"
"No, she seemed to appear from nowhere. Of course I was trying to get out, so I might have just not seen her."
"There were other witnesses, did any of them mention where she came from?"
"Not to me."
"She ripped the door off your car. Right off? She didn't just rip it open - leave it hanging by a hinge?"
"Nope, clean off, like she was opening a can."
"And she talked to you, told you to hold still. What do you remember about her?"
He leaned back in his chair again, sipping his coffee. "Her... She was short. She had a long cape-like coat the covered her from neck to knees. A nice one though, very classy. I remember because the door left an ugly grease smudge on it. She wore big, dark sunglasses and a wide flowery hat. I wouldn't have any idea what she looked like if the wind hadn't caught the brim and pulled it off. The sun hit her face and it lit up around the glasses, just like a real halo. Her dark hair stuck out all around, drawing attention to the brightness. That was when she told me to help the other driver and walked away."
This was the first time I'd heard about her face lighting up. "It lit up? How so? She glowed?"
"No... not a glow, more of a sparkle."
Sparkle? What was she? "All over her face?" I verified.
"Everything but the glasses."
I jotted that down. "That's great, thank you, Mr. Flaman, Glen."
"I hope you can find her so I can thank her myself."
"I do too," I said as I excused myself. I had a whole list to call and I should be able to line up another interview tonight.
After three more interviews and an afternoon picnic with Barney, I wasn't any closer to identifying the Angel of Fortune. I was a little closer to getting laid though.
"So, you really do like me," Barney murmured as I lounged against him on a park bench, throwing our crusts at the ducks.
"And you like me, just like I told you."
Barney laughed. "Yep, you had me pegged." He ran one large hand along my thigh eliciting a lovely tingle. Why hadn't I had a boyfriend before now?
"I saw an interesting young woman at the library the other day."
I sat up suddenly. If Barney had seen the Angel, he wouldn't really wait this long to tell me, would he?
"She had this lovely blonde ponytail, and a pencil skirt, and she couldn't stop asking questions."
I shoved him; he was describing me.
He laughed. "Okay, sorry. I am watching for her though. Angel of Fortune, right?"
"You read my article?"
He rolled his eyes. "Of course I read your article! Good grief. I've been buying the Times since I met you, looking for it."
I blushed and he kissed my cheek.
I took my assembled notes into a philosophy lecture on Monday. I hoped no one noticed an odd face in the room. If my Angel wasn't here, I could get a start on the article while looking like I was taking notes. I read briefly as I watched people file in.
-strong, rips off car door (Not news, though a more concrete example.)
-face seemed to glow (I wasn't sure this wasn't someone reading into the 'Angel' name.)
-covered head to toe (That wasn't consistent; see next note.)
-miniskirt showing pale legs
After the lecture started, and I knew my mystery girl wasn't going to show today, I focused on those last two. What was the difference between them? One was in the afternoon, one was at night. I squinted into the sunlight coming in the window. Was she avoiding sunlight? I looked back at the interview about her face lighting up. The Angel's face sparkled in the sun. What was she?
I listened to a little bit of the lecture. Was it right to sacrifice one life to save another? One life to save four? Old questions and old answers. I wondered if the Angel was dealing with the same. She seemed to be risking something, or she wouldn't be running, hiding.
I couldn't stop hunting though. For one thing, the mystery would drive me mad. For another, I needed this promotion.
I saw Barney running across the quad, waving to me. He picked me up and swung me in a circle.
"Whoa, what was that for?" I asked.
"How much do you love me?" he asked.
Love? When had we said anything about love?
Barney had pity upon seeing my flabbergasted face. "Just say 'enough'," he offered.
"I love you enough to give up my weekend," I finally recovered.
"Excellent! I'm taking you up on that. I found her. She is a Cullen. Edward introduced me to her this morning."
"Are you serious? Really?" I was suddenly excited. "You're sure it's her?"
"Musical voice, pale as a ghost, about this tall?" He held his hand a little above his waist. "Yes. I'm sure it's her, Penny. I would love to say I could introduce you to her, but she dragged Edward out of our lab. 'Family emergency,' she said."
I pulled Barney's head down for a kiss. It was smacking, but much better than my first one. "I do love you. I can find the Cullens. This is perfect. I'll meet her tonight and write the article tomorrow."
"And I get you for the weekend?" he asked, hopefully.
"The whole weekend," I promised.
It took more digging than I expected to find the Cullens' home. The hospital had Doctor Cullen's address, otherwise I might still be looking. The large white house looked abandoned. I knocked loudly on the door.
"Hello?" I yelled. "I'm looking for Alice. Anyone home?" I peeked in a few windows. There was plenty of furniture, nice stuff, even a piano, but no people. I walked all the way around and found nothing.
I sat on the step, planning to wait them out.
I woke up when the sun shone in my eyes. Crap. Mom and Dad were going to kill me for not coming home, or at least calling. I noticed a slip of white paper under the grey step I was sleeping on.
I pulled out the note and opened it.
Dear Miss Parker,
Please don't print my name. We like using Cullen. I'm sorry I couldn't stay to help more. Thank you for writing such wonderful things about me!
Not print her name? Couldn't she have asked anything else of me? I had to give a name, didn't I? I got up, moving awkwardly as all my muscles remembered how they attached. I dragged my dirty, tired butt home to try to apologize to my parents.
After a hot shower, I sat to my typewriter. How could I do this? I went ahead and typed up what I'd put together in Philosophy class. The conclusion came more easily than I expected.
In the end, it seems, the Angel has decided to leave us for Heaven. Her earthly home is abandoned. Her job her finished, she has packed up and left. Those she has touched will remember her and thank her for all the extra days she has given them.
Mr. Jonas was going to flay me. I pulled the paper from the drum and stacked it with the other sheet. I grabbed my purse and headed out.
I was crossing Fifth when I heard a honk. I looked down the street and saw the car approaching me. I closed my eyes, holding my breath. It felt like I'd been hit by the car, only from the wrong angle.
When I opened my eyes, I was sitting on a trash can in an alley looking up at Edward Cullen. "What?"
"Don't tell Alice," he said and ran away, faster than my eye could follow.
I shook my head, gathering my wits before continuing to the paper. I still didn't know what they were.
"And you tell me to be careful. She saw you, Edward."
"And how many people saw you, Alice?"
"None of them knew who I was."
"Thin, Alice, that's pretty weak."
Alice stuck her tongue out at her brother. Then she smiled. "Thank you."
Alice grinned holding the latest copy of the Times. Penelope Parker's photo sat in a small square on the front page next to the second installment on the Angel of Fortune.
Gigantic hugs and kisses to Detochkina who held my hand through this one. If you want to thank her for me, go read Sinnerman and leave a review!