A new story inspired by summer, Miami, glamour, and, of course, Lana Del Rey.
-Age gap between Bella and Edward (because I can't help myself). Bella is 19 and Edward is 31.
-Violence (nothing extreme). Message me if you have concerns.
"Come on down to Florida, I got something for ya." - Lana Del Rey, Florida Kilos
There's nothing to do but watch it happen. I know my place—so does everyone else on the boat. Aro makes sure of that.
"Do it," he tells Edward, smiling, like it's nothing.
To Aro, it isn't.
To me, it's everything.
Edward's jaw flexes, but he stays silent.
"Do it. I won't ask again." Aro pushes the gun against Edward's chest, waiting for him to take it.
A part of me is still naïve. A part of me is still the little girl who believes in fairytales, in happy endings and indestructible, incorruptible heroes.
A part of me doesn't think he'll actually do it.
But he grabs the gun. I watch as he turns towards his friend and shoots him in cold blood. Two in the chest, one in the head, and his life's over.
My ears are still ringing from the shots when Jasper and Felix toss the body over the side of the boat.
Edward lowers the gun.
Aro smiles and clasps him on the shoulder. "There. Good boy." He slips the gun from Edward's hand and glances over the yacht, at everyone who watches with frozen faces and still hearts. "Don't stop enjoying yourselves. This is a party! Where's the music?"
Allie jumps into action, the way she should. She turns The Weeknd up loud, and it's like a spell's been broken. Everyone's heart leaps back to life, and they all go on as before.
I stare at Edward, and he stares at nothing.
People start moving around again, dancing, laughing, smoking, drinking, as if nothing has changed. But everything has changed, really.
I know the moment Edward's eyes finally hit mine.
I know it, and I know we can never come back from this.
Miami is filled with beautiful people.
Beautiful people, white-sand beaches, electric skylines, and irresistible rhythm—that's what this place is made of.
The sunset is when it begins.
The pink-hued sky gets splashed with streaks of brilliant orange and dramatic red, and the sun turns into a wavering gold coin, dipping closer and closer to the soft horizon. The colors slowly shift, turning to electrifying blue and sensual violet.
Then the sky goes dark and the city lights up—comes alive.
There's this bench, right on the strip. It's where I sit. I can feel the gauzy breeze of the ocean from behind me and hear the rush of the water against the shore.
But I'm facing neon buildings and thrilling people.
I watch everything.
It never gets old. It's like my favorite movie, except every night, it's a little bit different. There are new clothes, new cars, new boys. New walks and new talks. New colors and rhythms.
I can't get enough.
This becomes the best part of my sun-bleached days and faded life. It becomes the reason why I get up in the morning.
It's everything to me.
But I just watch. I don't partake—of course not. Maybe one day, when I'm older and richer and more confident. Now, though, I just sit on my bench and eat ice cream cones and imagine what life would be like if I were living in such vibrant color.
Soon, I won't have to imagine.
"Jesus, Bella. What are you doing just standing there? There are orders waiting to be served!"
I find myself face-to-neck with Demetri. The veins around his throat are bulging. I don't have to look up into his eyes to know they're crazed and that he's only a few seconds away from firing me.
"Sorry," I mumble, ducking towards the counter. I load my tray up and shoot across the checkered tile, handing out plates of steaming burgers and crispy fries. Most everyone looks at me with pity. Any regular at Demetri's Diner knows how hotheaded he is. It's a miracle I've lasted this long as an employee.
"Chop, chop, Bella!" he calls before throwing up a sweet smile for the customer waiting at the register.
I know it's bad.
I don't do bad things. Ever.
But this is an exception.
I blow a cloud of smoke past my chapped lips, hunkered over in the alley behind the diner. This is what I do on my breaks. I escape out here, among the broken cartons and dinged dumpsters, and I blacken my lungs.
It helps my nerves.
When I get home, if I'm not too tired, I dance.
I don't really know if I'm any good. I have rhythm and natural sway, but I don't take actual classes—I've never had the courage to do that. I just stay content with watching videos online, over and over, until I pop my hips and roll my body the same way they do.
It's what I do to relax, to quiet my buzzing mind—or to at least turn the buzzing into white noise.
When my muscles are tired and achy, when I'm sweaty and sleepy, I take a bath and go to sleep.
I never tell a soul.
"You look… um, tired."
I cut my eyes over to Angela.
She smiles to soften the blow. "Maybe you should get some rest."
"I'll rest when I know I have the internship," I murmur, pedaling lazily on my bike.
We coast down the streets, early-morning fog rolling in from the ocean. It's relatively quiet this time of day. Everyone is still sleeping from the wild parties they had the night before. It's the perfect time for Angela and I to make our mad dash to campus before rush hour hits and we get run over.
"You've got the internship," Angela says, scoffing.
"You've been killing yourself for Newton for the past two semesters—getting his coffee, practically wiping his butt. And you're the smartest girl in his class. I know that for a fact."
I roll my eyes and smile. "Yeah, right."
"I'm serious, Bella. No one gets finance like you. It's, like, your thing."
Just what I always wanted my thing to be, I think, but I don't say it aloud. There's no point in being negative. That's what my Dr. Phil-loving mom says, anyway.
I don't always blacken my lungs alone.
Rosalie Hale joins me in sequined skirts and daring bra tops. She brings with her the smell of cigarettes and hairspray and a world I've never known. She shakes out her messy blonde waves and bats her starlet eyes, pretending we aren't night-and-day different.
And between shared cigarettes and clouds of smoke, we aren't.
We're two girls trying to pay for school—we just do it in very different ways.
We always meet in the alley behind Eclipse. It isn't so far that I don't hear the steady beat of seductive music or smell the liquor and expensive perfume.
Even staring at the back side of the club, where the walls are flat-black brick, I know it's a universe away from mine. I know that behind those walls are light and life.
"There's Rosalie Hale."
I don't have to glance up to know what I'll see: Rose and Allie gliding across the quad, dressed in clothes a little too tight and shoes a little too high.
I don't bother ever saying hello to Rose, not when we're at school. Our worlds don't converge here. There's no sense in upsetting the natural balance of the cliques.
"Did you hear me?" Angela presses.
"Yeah," I murmur, scribbling neat notes in the margins of my textbook.
"I swear she does more than strip."
"She's not a stripper, Ang. She's an exotic dancer."
"Okay, even if she doesn't take it all off, she dances on a pole, Bella. A pole. In spiky high heels. She probably twerks to Iggy Azalea." Angela shudders and pretends not to harbor any jealousy.
I just roll my eyes.
"But seriously, Bells. I hear she does a little extra on the side." Angela arches her neat brows and leans into me. "I heard she's part of an escort service—and Allie Brandon is, too."
"Those are just rumors."
"Those girls have a lot of money, Bella. You can't deny that. Do you see the kind of cars they drive? The clothes they wear?"
"Their families could be rich."
Angela just scoffs. "Yeah, right."
"Phil's doing better. But the doctor bills are coming—they're insane. And then he has to go to physical therapy every week to get his shoulder right again, so that's even more money. I honestly don't know what we're going to do," Mom tells me over the phone.
I watch the popcorn bag grow bigger as it spins in my microwave. "Insurance isn't helping?"
"Helping a little, but we're drowning already. I just don't know… I don't even know why I'm worrying you with all this, honey. I'm sorry. Let's talk about something. Tell me about Professor Newton. How's the internship looking?"
I frown, but there's no deterring my mother. Once she's decided there will be a subject change, it's just the way it is. "It's fine."
"Yeah. It's… fine," I say, unable to find a new word. My brain's too tired.
Mom pauses. It doesn't even take her freakish motherly instincts to pick up on my misery. "Are you okay, sweetie? I feel like we haven't talked enough lately. You should come up this weekend. I can come pick you up. We can just unwind."
"I can't, Mom. I'm sorry." I sigh and rub at my gritty-feeling eyes. "I have to work this weekend."
Mom's the one sighing now. She does that more and more lately. "I don't like that man you work for. He treats you like a dog. I wish you could get a better job. Actually, I wish you didn't have to work at all. I wish you could just focus on your school work."
"I know, but it's not so bad," I lie. I'm too tired to make it sound all that convincing, though.
"I wish we had more money," Mom tells me.
She's never said that before. She's always been too much of a free-spirit bent on the world's currency being love.
But colleges don't accept love as payment.
The energy is frantic tonight, so many people, so many cars—so much laughter and smiling and talking and walking. I get dizzy watching it all, trying to see everything and everyone.
It's a constant cycle, an ever-changing cast and crew with new props. It switches every five minutes and I try not to miss a thing.
Rose sashays down the Strip around midnight, headed for Eclipse. Her dress is tight and sequined, and she shimmers in the neon-cool lights. People turn their head to watch her go. They let their eyes linger just a little longer to see if she'll smile again or flip her hair.
I wonder what it's like, to look like that, to carry that kind of magnetism.
My face falls slowly, along with my heartbeat.
"You're not giving me the internship," I repeat calmly. Everything goes numb like a shot of Novocain to my entire system.
"Yes, that's right." Professor Newton stares at me carefully, his baby blues dancing with mistrust. "I'm sorry, Bella. It's just… you aren't the right fit for this job."
"I've worked with you for a whole year," I whisper. "I've run errands for you. I've graded papers for you. I've done everything you asked. You told me last week that the job… that it was mine."
"I think you might have, ah…" Professor Newton mashes his stubby fingers together and purses nonexistent lips. "I think you might have misunderstood."
"Misunderstood." All I can do is repeat words.
I'm nodding, my mouth dry.
"I really do regret this, Bella. You're a very bright girl. I hope you'll continue trying to get into the program. I know you'll do great things in the world of finance."
"Great things," I whisper.
Professor Newton shines with a rainbow-sheen of sweat. He mops his forehead and offers a twitchy, impatient smile. "Well, I hate to rush you out, but I have a lecture in ten minutes—"
"Who?" I ask. "Who got the job?"
Professor Newton hesitates. "Ah, well, I really shouldn't—"
"Who got it?"
He blinks and pushes at his glasses. "Jessica Stanley."
Jessica Stanley, who's only real area of expertise is giving head—or so I've heard.
My stomach turns as I realize what happened.
A year of working my butt off was gone as soon as Jessica unzipped Professor Newton's fly.
Just like that.
"Fuck," I say. It's the first time I've ever said it aloud, and it feels good.
Professor Newton clears his throat, surprised at my profanity. "I'm sorry, Miss Swan. Really. It's unfortunate."
Unfortunate that I didn't get acquainted with the head he obviously makes his decisions with, I guess.
"I can give you recommendations for other jobs this summer, of course."
I look up at him, at his blue button-down. There are dark stains beneath the armpits—sweat stains. And he's wearing this horrible tie. It's terribly red. Fiercely, glaringly red.
I think of screaming, of throwing things.
But I don't because I'm still too much of a good girl.
So all I can think to say is, "Your tie is ugly," and then I get up and leave.
"Bella! Jesus Christ. Are you brain-dead?" Demetri demands, waving his thick hand in front of my face.
I blink and stare up at him, lost in my spiraling thoughts.
That internship was everything. It would get my foot in the door. Not only that, it would keep me from lapsing into utter poverty.
Mom and Dad were already paying on loans. Dad dips from his retirement savings. Mom works a second job.
Just to pay for my college education.
I work full-time, myself.
I live off ramen noodles and steal my neighbor's Wi-Fi and have no life. I do it all for my college education. And it was supposed to pay off. This internship was supposed to come through. It would give me work and money all summer. It would help me network. And then maybe, just maybe, I could afford next year's tuition, because the banks weren't going to let us take out any more money.
I jump, my ears ringing with Demetri's scream.
"Get moving," he growls.
So I do. This job is all I have left.
I cry myself to sleep, and I skip classes the next day.
What's the point?
I'm going to have to quit school anyway. Scholarships and financial aid only got me so far. And the University of Miami isn't going to be very moved by my sob story.
I'm crying as I sit on my bench.
No one really notices, though. People are always doing strange things on the Strip at night. Maybe someone actually thinks I've done something halfway interesting, like drugs or fight with my boyfriend.
Then I see her—Rose—and she really is doing something interesting.
She struts down the sidewalk in six-inch heels, never once wobbling, because she's got it down to a science.
She's on the arm of a gray-headed man. She gives him the same thousand-watt smile as she does the other men I've seen her entertaining, and she's got him—he's captivated.
I watch her lead him into the club and then they're gone.
Eclipse's sign is hot pink and neon. The glow it gives off seems to brighten in my curious eyes. It grows lighter and lighter, until a bulb flickers on inside my head, and that's it.
This is where it starts.
Despite most stories I write, I want this one to be fairly low angst. It won't be a perfect world because that'd be boring, but I don't foresee any rip-your-heart-out pain. This is just something I wanted to write while it's nice and hot, something fun and a little dangerous. ;)
Let me know any questions you have so far, pretty please!
Thank you to Kim for being the best beta... EVER. Thank you to Time Lights and Romy for being amazingly talented and making banners for this story. (Time Lights' banner is the cover photo on here. If you want to see Romy's lovely work, hop on Facebook and see them there).
If you'd like to see images that have inspired this story, go to my author's profile. There won't be any spoilers in the collection, either.
Thank you for reading this far! oxoxoxox