AN:So, I'm back on FF. Hopefully, I can finish this story! I'll be posting two chapters tonight, because the first is mostly just explanation. I love feedback! Hope you enjoy.
Chapter 1: A Whole New world
Ah. There's nothing like the smoggy air of New York. I don't know if it's the bustling businessmen scurrying throughout the crosswalks or the loud blazing horns of the taxis as they shout expletives out the windows to the "oblivious jackass" ahead – but something about this city is exotic. I mean it sure beats dusty old Virginia.
"Well are you going to pay me or what?" the taxi driver barks at me in a thick accent. He goes on to mutter some other comments in his language and I'm tempted to ask him what he's saying, but the visual of the brown, nearly dilapidated apartments confirms that I have reached my destination.
"Oh," is all I can say. I reach into my pockets to pull out the seventy-eight dollars and forty-two cents the cabbie had to repeat two times. In the end he just pointed to the number blinking on pay meter.
"Thanks." I attempt to pull my suitcases from the seats with a strenuous tug, no thanks from the cabbie. It takes more yanks than necessary, but they finally emerge from the seat and onto the concrete. I fix the hair that has fallen out of place and sigh, cracking my back. Looking at the front door, I feeling a wave of anxiety begin to crash down on me. It arrives out of nowhere, the severity of all I'd done suddenly weighing on my shoulders like a hunch on Quasimodo. I thought that it would be gone, the panic attacks, the seizures – the everything. I thought it would have disappeared the moment I'd stepped off the plane. And it had. I'd been doing so well, right up until now. I can feel the sweat gathering at the nape of my neck, and I briefly consider going back to the airport.
No, I think. I know that I did not fly 348 miles, change my name and practically everything about me just to be right back where I started, scared old Isabella. I am not her. I am no longer shy and small-town Isabella. I'm not the self-conscious girl that cowered in her room. I am not the Isabella that is afraid of her own skin – and I definitely am not the Isabella that followed her parents every order.
No. After the seven and a half month planning process, I am now the twenty-three year old, independent Bella. I am sophisticated and head strong. I am beautiful and self-righteous. And even though deep down, I don't believe any of that, I force myself to act like I do. Like I am someone special – like I am Bella. The name isn't a far cry from my birth name, but, hey, it's a start.
I hasten myself to take the seven deep breaths Dr. Hale suggested I do when I begin to feel overwhelmed. Adjusting my gray hoodie and tightening my hold on my luggage, I walk towards the door. Within seconds my wrists start burning from the weight I'm pulling. I stumble inside.
"Ouch!" I cry, when my suitcase rolls over my toe. "Crap."
I slide into the closest sitting contraption I can find – a folding chair. I sigh and look up at the room I'm in. It's dimly lit with a couple of lights hanging from the ceiling, making the color of the brown walls appear burgundy. The room is rectangular and the left side is aligned with chairs, some fold ups and somewhat look like footstools. The room has two wide windows on the left, both of which are tinted and shut, making the air sultry inside.
"Can I help you?"
The right side of the room however, has no windows. There are three doors that have signs hanging up: custodial, utilities and boiler. Directly across from the door I entered is a staircase, one leading up and one leading down. Next to the staircase is a large painting of a forest.
I feel a grin stretching out my face. I've done it. I have made it to the one place I want to be, New York. I have never worked so hard for something in my life. After the tears and the arguing and the panic attacks, I have finally made it. I no longer feel the weight of apprehension on my shoulders. I don't feel the need to pop a Valium or any of the other prescription drugs stored in my travel case. I am utterly amazed with myself, especially the fact that I haven't been hospitalized through the whole adventure.
"Yoo-hoo, anyone there?" I snap out of my reverie to face an older man standing behind a wide circular desk in the center of the room. I am surprised I'd missed it.
"Oh, uh yeah," I mumble, "Yes." My cheeks start to heat but I walk towards the desk with a smile. "Uh, my name is Bella. I called in a few months ago about an apartment. I spoke to a woman named Kate?" the man spins around to a buzzing computer and types some things in.
"Bella Swan, correct?" I nod, tugging my wallet out and showing him my identification. He nods, creases etching themselves on his forehead. He adjusted the little, round spectacles sitting on his nose and peers at the computer.
"Ah yes, Bella. Your furniture arrived some months ago and is settled into your apartment. I see you've paid your rent in advance so you're covered for the next three months." He goes through some drawers before he pulls out a single brass key. "Room 28, follow the stairs up, it should be to your left." He places the key in my hand with a small smile. I blink.
"That's it?" I am taken aback as to how easy this is. The old man smiles again, his face warming and cheeks turning red.
"Little lady, you've already completed the paperwork, mailed in everything, right?" I nod. "Then that's all. If you need anything, office hours are from ten to five, Monday through Friday. Feel free to stop by. Oh!" he reaches into another drawer, producing another key. "This is for the entry door. Don't forget to lock it after you enter, we don't have a security system and we don't like being robbed, so if you could do that we'd be very grateful." He hands me the key. "The manual should be on your kitchen counter, you can consult that or your neighbors if need be."
I look at the old man and smile. "Thank you," I say, my country accent sounding thicker than ever.
"You're not from around here, are you?" he raises an eyebrow at me. I duck my head and blush.
"Oh no, I'm from Virginia."
"Phew!" he gasp. "That's a mighty long way to travel! You here by yourself, little lady?" he has a great bellowing voice. It is enthusiastic and makes me smile.
"Please, call me Bella. And yes, I'm taking up a photography job at H&B Imagery." I gush.
"You take photos?" he assesses me, looking me up and down. His ocher eyes are full of knowledge and comforting.
"Yes sir, I'm a photographer." I smile.
"Small world!" he laughs. "Turns out that your neighbor does photography also. Handsome boy, keeps to himself though." All I can think of to do is nod. I turn back to gather my suitcases and begin to make my way to the expansive stairs when I stop.
"Thank you, uhh . . ." I stammer. He laughs.
"Call me Garrett."
"Thank you Mr. Garrett." I say with a small smile. I may have changed a lot of things about me, but my manners are one of the things I didn't.
"You're welcome, Bella, good luck with the job and all." I reach the stairs and look up, my eyes nearly bursting from their sockets as I took in the endless flight of stairs that seem to reach out to heaven. I couldn't help but mindlessly think of how helpful an elevator would be at the moment, and desperately prayed that I wouldn't have one of my episodes on this hellish mountain. I take another seven deep, soothing breaths before I begin to climb this behemoth. I can practically feel my biceps growing as I pull my bags up the stairs behind me. I again absently thought of an elevator, but then wondered if I should ask Mr. Garrett for his help, but almost immediately decided against it.
'I can do it', I tell myself. I didn't need help. I can't allow myself to rely on others when things seemed tough. I have had enough of that from my parents. I have had enough of their scrutinizing, overprotectiveness and their pity, that's why I came here; to prove not only to them, but to myself that I am capable of surviving and taking care of myself. But, instead of thinking of all that and the perilous stairs, I try to busy myself with musing about all the adventures I'll have in New York.
When I finally find the corridor with my number on a tag by the door, I can't help the grin, thinking: this is it, the end to a new beginning. I sigh and let my heart slow down and take even breaths. I open the door — my door! I laugh to myself, filling the flat with happiness.
I made it.
I have to go shopping. This meager amount of clothes I'd brought is not going to last me very long. I notice this as I unpack my suitcases and neatly place my clothes in the mahogany dresser in my bedroom. Clearly the shopping spree I'd gone on is not going to appease the New York weather. And aside from the fashionable hoodies and designer skinny jeans, I'd need a countless number of underwear, jackets, scarves, etc… to better equip me to the arctic climate. Not only do I need to buy clothes, but I also need food. Unless I am going to feast upon my medication, I'd have to find the nearest Cost-Co.
My phone rings as I contemplate calling out for food, the sound echoes in my small room like footsteps in an alley. And it is really that precarious to me because a phone call is the last thing I want to deal with on an empty stomach.
It frightens me more than it ought to, it is just a phone after all, but perhaps the Jaws themed ringtone makes it worse. I'd have to change that. I almost consider letting it ring, but I think I owe him that much to tell him I'd landed safely and everything. I reluctantly grab my phone and answer it. Before I can even utter a formal greeting, he beats me to it.
"Oh my goodness, thank god you picked up! You are supposed to call us Isabella! Your mother almost have a heart attack when you didn't call us like you promised. The plane arrived precisely at 3:09, Isabella! That is almost 5 hours ago! Your mother has been worrying that you have an attack or something! What are you thinking? are you even thinking? Huh? Talk Isabella!" I pull the phone away from my ears the moment he starts shouting. His voice is loud and coarse as he yells, and I can almost see the spit coming out of his mouth as he enunciated every word. I should hang up. I wanted too.
"Dad —" I start.
"Look, Isabella, I don't know what little phase you're going through, but it better end soon. God, just to think of you out there in that enormous city by yourself . . . what if you have another attack or a seizure? What if your beta-blocker goes awry? Who's going to take care of you, huh? Why are you doing this to us Isabella? Where did your mother and I go wrong? We only want what's best for you! I promise you, if you come back to Charlottesville we can put this whole thing behind us and –" this is where I cut in. My dad's voice is getting hoarse and I can tell he is getting choked up because he is begging. My father is never one to beg, never has and I didn't think he ever would. But what do I know? I've never really truly known my father. The restrictions he put on my life because of my health have makes that impossible.
"Dad! Stop okay? This is not about you or even mom for that matter. This is about me, dad. Me. Can I please just do this one thing on my own?" apparently old habits die-hard. I am grown, I can make my own decisions, and I need to learn that. Accept it.
"Isabella, stop it! Stop acting like this, I don't even know you anymore. What's happened to Isabella? Huh? Where's she gone?" he is making my head hurt.
"Gee I dunno. You must have the wrong number though. There's no Isabella here. Not anymore."
And I hang up. As I go about putting stuff away, I try not to think too much of the conversation with my dad because I know that he is right – for some of it. I am alone, really alone. If my heart stops doing what it's supposed to, I'll have no one to help me or know what to do or who to call. I'm stranded here in this great city and I'm not sure how good that is anymore. I'm not sure if I makes the right decision and maybe I should take up on my father's offer. I pull my iPod out of my hoodie and connect it to my I-home speakers praying silently to the purple device to take my mind off of things. Instead the song that comes on makes me even more apprehensive.
Is anybody there?
Is anybody there?
You cry to the full moon
As your thoughts run wild like the
Thoughts of a child
You wonder if you'll be there soon
I say slow me down, down
Slow me down
I wanna hear that sound,
Slow me down
What the heck am I doing? He's right; I have no friends or anything. I'm really left high and dry out here like an exile. Only, this is by choice. I chose to banish myself. But why?
I don't know anything no more
I don't know anything
I don't know anything no more
I don't know anything
For freedom. Yeah, I did this for freedom. So I wouldn't have to obey every single thing my father said. So I can make mistakes, so I can live to be on my own and not be dependent on my parents. So I wouldn't let my condition make decisions for me. So I can be me, Bella.
I just need to remember that. With a sigh, I lean over to change the song and immediately feel relieved when Minus the Bear's "My Time" comes on. Nothing like upbeat alternative music to make you feel better.
Grooving to the beat, I am finish putting my clothes away pretty quickly. I stand up and stretch and take a peek at my apartment. It's true; it is really small – but it's comfy and homey. When you enter the front door there is a small walk in kitchen to the right with a refrigerator, cabinets, dishwasher – everything it needs to have.
Thanks to my savings account I am able to equip myself with everything that a normal house would have and then some. I have nearly eight figures in my account and it is still increasing. Just one of the perks of having a world-renowned lawyer for a dad. I had never really thought much of the money, it was just there sitting untouched, and in my name. But when I turned twenty three, the more I thought about it, the more I figured I should put it to use, especially if it was going to double within the next year, if my parents don't cut me off.
To the left is a living room/ dining room/office. I have a flat screen TV hanging against the wall, with a complicated sound system to the right of it. Since the color of the walls in the house is a beige tone, I'd decided to have the color scheme of my apartment my favorite pigment, burgundy. It makes me laugh now, because it is almost the same as the office downstairs. A long dark red couch is in front of the TV, it is velvet and accompanied with black and burgundy pillows to match it. There is also a black mahogany table straight across from the door, for eating. It is tall and has two small chairs on each side. I also have a computer set up on a desk (I'd have to call Comcast to help get it going) and bookshelves against the walls, my beloved books all in boxes waiting to adorn it.
I have a long maze looking rug that is black and burgundy on the taupe tinted carpet. That is about all that is set up for the moment, all my movies and music collections and art is all safely wrapped (I hoped) in the boxes on the floor. Well, mostly. Then there is the short hallway leading to my room. My room is square and undersized but it have a rather spacious bathroom and closet that makes me feel less cramped. The bathroom has a walk in shower, which looks like it has been remodeled recently, a toilet, sink and mirror – the basic stuff. I have a window to the far right of my room that has a decent view of buildings and a park. I also have a TV and sound system in my room, but that is about all I have that is of stealing value. My bed is pretty big, queen sized and it takes up most of the space, but it is pretty and has bed posts. I have a teal bedspread on it, big and fluffy.
I fall onto it, curling into a ball, and snuggling into the soft plushy pillows, listening as Thom Yorke sings about disappearing completely. I don't notice I have drifted off to sleep until I heard a loud pounding on my door, waking me up.
The music from the stereo is blaring – louder than I remembered, and the heavy hip-hop is obviously the reason I have someone at my door. I slide off my bed lazily, feeling around in the dark for my phone to check the time. 1:14 am.
"Shit," I mutter, my voice thick with sleep. I clear my throat and rub my eyes, picking the crust out. There isn't really a point of trying to better my appearance because I can tell that my hair is sticking up in awful directions, so I give up and just let it be. Stumbling towards my iPod, I shut it off and head towards my door.
Please don't be the manager.
I throw the door open with a pant, and the person at the door jumps a little, his hand in mid-air, muscles clenched so tight, his knuckles are as white as snow.
"I'm so sor-," I choke. The man standing at the door is obviously pissed at me, and I don't finish my sentence. My eyes bugged out of my head while I assessed him. He isn't much older than me; maybe a year or two and he looked beautifully outraged. His nose is flared and his jaw is clenched tight enough that I felt sorry for his teeth. Pretty green eyes glare down at me. His eyebrows are rutted and thick – a tiny part not shaved in his right, down cast in aggravation.
Basically, he looks angry, so much so that I take a step back. I can feel Isabella taking over me, or rather me taking cover in her. I am starting to seek refuge when he speaks.
"Do you have any idea what time it is?" he demands. His voice is husky and deep and it makes me shiver. Though it is rugged, it have a smooth tint to it – even with anger – that makes the girly part of me swoon. I blink and he takes that as a no.
"Well, it's two mother fucking thirty in the morning, and your music has been blaring since I got home. Now, I don't know if you have some nocturnal sleeping disorder or something, but I for one am tired. But I find it hard to sleep when your neighbor is blasting Heavy D all night long. So if you could kindly turn your music down, I would ever so appreciate it." He seethes, putting a muscular arm against my doorframe. My mouth hangs open at his words. Mixed in with his New York accent is a tongue that has a considerably healthy knack for profanity. I don't appreciate it one bit, and I especially didn't like that I nearly melt like chocolate in a pocket during summer at the sound of his voice.
I feel lightheaded and my heart flutters in my chest, but before I can actually worry myself that I will faint, the beta-blocker kicks in and sets it up to normal tempo. I still can't speak though. This boy standing outside my door with a tank top and basketball shorts has me tongue-tied. He is beautiful throughout his aggravation and I can't help but imagine how gorgeous he is when he smiles. This has to be my neighbor; the one Mr. Garrett had been referring to.
He cocks his head to the side as if he is waiting for me to retort. When I don't do anything but ogle him, he smirks at me, shiny white teeth showing in the dark hallway. He removes his hand from my frame and turns to walk towards his apartment.
Meanwhile, there is a brawl in my head between two personalities. My Bella persona has sucker punched my Isabella persona in the throat and claims my poor gelatin excuse for a body. She yells at me to say something while I still have the chance to, reminding me that I am pulling an "Isabella" and to "woman up" because I am in New York and they don't have room for sissies here. Before I realize what I am doing, my mouth opens and the words come out.
"Its 1:16, jackass." I quickly clamp a hand over my mouth and gasp. Where in the hell did that come from? I felt my face heat up, and I knew it probably looks even frazzled than my hair. The man turns on his heels, his head whipping towards me, tendons casting tents on his neck.
"What the hell did you just call me?" he asked, looking slightly amused and surprised at the same time. I clear my throat and remove my hand off my mouth. I rub the back of my neck, hoping to play it off.
Well, no turning back now.
"You – you heard me." I mutter again. In my head, Bella is slapping her forehead in annoyance at my stuttering comeback. Isabella is just slowly rocking back and forth. The beautiful man in front of me smirks to the point where it could have been a smile. It is . . . sexy and my heart flip-flops again. His green eyes looks me up and down, and I feel nervous in my shorts and oversized jersey, but I stand firm.
"Would you like to repeat it again?" he quirks an eyebrow, his eyes squinting to the point where they almost disappeared.
"Why? Didn't make myself clear the first time?" Surprisingly, my voice is even and it makes me smile. I knew I look crazy smiling at him, but I can't help it. Point for Bella for holding firm.
"Oh, I wouldn't be talking. I'm not the one blaring music at one o'clock in the morning like I'm audibly challenged am I? What, are you trying to feel the vibrations?" is he seriously making fun of Deaf people in front of me? He speaks like he doesn't give a darn that anyone heard it; in fact he smiles. This isn't the smile I am looking for though. It is evil and annoying the hell out of me. Despite the obvious attraction I feel for him, his attitude is horrible and a turn off. I roll my eyes.
"How's this for a vibration?" I ask sweetly, and then I slam the door in his face. When my door is shut, I do a little happy dance. I just stood up for myself for the third time and without realizing it at first, I felt like I was getting stronger. People did things like this every day so it may seem a little silly to be feeling a tremendous buzz like I was, but I never did things like this before. I could never curse at someone and roll my eyes to their face. Never in all my life could I ever insult someone – not even in my mind.
In my attempt to break free, I was still pretty shy about it. I told my parents I was leaving without even looking them in the eye and I swear that in that time period I have never spoken so little about something so significant regarding what I wanted.
Speaking up is so hard for me to do; I never expected to pull myself out of the hole my parents left me in. I'd lived under my parent's restrictions for my whole life, believing that they are doing what's best for me. But no one knows me like I do, and I finally understood that. There is still a tingling in my wrists. From adrenaline? From Isabella? Or from me? Whatever it is makes me feel bionic, like I can lift a car off a baby or fly. I skip all the way to my bedroom and flop on my bed.
I felt good.