I do not own Twilight but I did donate this short story to the Fandom for Mental Health. Through donations to four very worthy causes, the compilation raised over $4000.00. Some fabulous writer entered really, really entertaining stories and I hope you get to read them. Thank you for your support.

Beachcomberlc was kind and patient with all of my insane editing needs for this story. Beegurl13 made a beautiful banner that practically tells the story in one picture. I'm so honoured to be allowed to work with such talent and grace as these two ladies.

Busting Outta Vancouver

The following is my entry for the Win a Secluded Dream Home contest your website is sponsoring. Please see second attachment confirming a $1000.00 donation to the Canadian Mental Health Association as requested. Thank you for your consideration.

PS: I do apologize for my use of adult language. It is only for emphatic purposes and I am more than willing to remove it or have it edited out if needs be.

To whom it may concern,

Vancouver is a beautiful city.

The ocean, the mountains and the architecture, all of them are breathtaking. Parks dot the city landscape liberally. The downtown core is populated with towering highrises, all of them walls of green-tinged glass and multiple balconies rife with vegetation. Almost everyone has a garden or at least a few dozen plants. It is one of Canada's greenest cities. Bicycles, scooters, skateboards and/or pedestrians are everywhere. Just outside the city there are mountains for skiing, snowboarding or hiking. There are rivers and inlets to canoe or kayak. The weather is fabulous, temperate and even. Once in awhile, there is a winter without any snow at all: very uncharacteristic for a Canadian city. Summers are warm, sometimes wet but never scorching or uncomfortable.

However, it is one of Canada's most congested cities. Traffic can be horrendous and tedious but rarely cantankerous. There are not many instances of road rage. I guess sometimes the polite Canadian stereotype is warranted. The public transit is acceptable; the SkyTrain is cool and the buses frequent, but it's still public transit. Which means it's slower and more inconvenient than driving and then there is the public. Need I say more?

Land prices and rents are quite high and rising by the day. The city is expensive, like really, really expensive. Apartments and condos are getting smaller and smaller to accommodate the need for affordable housing. Food prices are rising, too. There is a push and snobbery about local, fresh and organic food items. However, there is food from every culture on earth represented somewhere in Vancouver, you just have to know where to look.

The film industry here is thriving. A low Canadian dollar has half of Hollywood filming here. It does nothing to improve the traffic or the rental prices but it is good for all of us, or so I've heard. I'm not associated with that industry at all.

Vancouver is a multicultural city. A cosmopolitan city. However, Vancouver is not a friendly city. It's not blatantly unfriendly either. To tourists and new citizens there is kindness and help if needed, but there is coldness to Vancouver. It's difficult to make friends. People are not inclusive. It's lonely. I've lived here, in the same East Van neighbourhood for years and I'm lonely. Having grown up in a small town where everyone knew everyone else, I miss the close-knit feeling. I miss friendly people who know who I am. I go to the same stores all the time and I'm treated like a first-time customer. I get the barest of nods from my neighbours, maybe a slight smile once in awhile. Where I'm from, a new person is fought over, everyone wanting to welcome them and fold them into their lives. I miss that.

So, I'm moving. I mean, I want to move. I'd like to start over somewhere, somewhere easier to meet people. My job is portable; I could do it anywhere. I have the money to move and start again. There is so much I'll miss about Vancouver—the views, the trees, the parks and the water. The multitude of very fit men in tight cycling shorts.

I'll especially miss the sight of the guy in that second-floor condo of my building, when he walks his dogs past my balcony and I happen to be outside. Fine, I set a reminder to be outside when he usually walks by. I can't really tell how tall he is or what he looks like. I mean, not from the angle from my balcony. I'm on the third floor. I think he is one down and two over. He usually has a hat on like a beanie or a ball cap. But the way he treats his two dogs and the sound of his voice…. I wish I were brave enough to approach him. I wish I had a dog so that our leashes could get tangled and he would fall in love with me at first sight and we could live happily ever after and all that romantic crap.

But I don't have a dog or the guts to run out and meet him. And one potentially hot guy is no reason to stay here. As well, hanging out in the alley is generally considered a poor way to meet good guys.

Plus, I have cats so we may not be compatible anyway.

I love my cats. Well, cat; I have just one cat. Alice. She's a calico tortoiseshell, three years old. She's my girl, you know. Alice has a cat of her own named Jasper. He just showed up one day on my balcony and Alice took him in. I was sitting with my morning coffee watching the mountains in the rain and he popped in out of nowhere. He was soaking wet and really bedraggled.

Now, it wasn't the first time a foreign intruder came to our place. Alice can be really scary when she's defending her territory. For such a small girl she has a growl that makes even me afraid of her. But on that day, here was this sad-sack cat just outside the sliding door and Alice pranced over to him, gave him a head-butt and bathed him within an inch of his life. Now they're in love.

He has a nasty looking scar on his nose and his tail has been broken at some point but he's a handsome beast, steel grey with gold eyes. He sometimes sits on the railing and stares out at the city in contemplation but he seems really happy with us. He is a fierce hunter. He's woken me up a few times by presenting me his fresh kill. Sometimes it's a stuffed mousie or occasionally a scrunchie hair tie or stray sock. Once, he stalked and killed a tampon. God, he was so proud of himself; I could see his chest puff out when he gave it to me. It was worth the lost sleep, almost. I love him, too, but he's a lot more standoffish than Alice. Jasper makes you work for his affection.

I have this ingenious cat flap for my sliding balcony door. I love it. They love it. Before I got it they used to wail at the door at all hours for me to let them out. I had to keep their litter box in the closet but now I keep it outside in the corner. It's a win-win for all of us. They get to pretend that they're outdoor cats and my home doesn't smell like turds. Plus, heat is included in my overly-inflated rent. Bonus.

The good news is that I'm taking the cat flap thingy with me. I don't have a place yet, but if there is a sliding door I'll be able to give my kids their freedom in the new place, if it's not too cold. I'm just beginning to start the packing process and that's the point of this story.

I love my condo. It has a sleeping loft, generous kitchen, sliding glass door, good-sized balcony and a great big tub. There's also an office space, pantry and two walk-in closets in my bedroom. There is a great set of open stairs that the cats love to play on. I don't have a whole lot of furniture so that makes the space seem bigger, somehow. I do have a deceptively heavy folding couch/spare bed in my living area just beside the sliding door.

The other night I was doing research by looking at house and condo listings. I had printed a few of my favourites so I could compare them and make notes. Sometimes you just need a paper copy of stuff, you know? Alice and Jasper were having a wrestling match and Alice leaped over me, knocking some of the papers to the floor. A couple of them slid under the couch and were too far under for me to reach them. After swearing rather loudly, I huffed and puffed and moved the couch away from the wall where it had been nestled since I moved in. Yes, I've never cleaned under my damn couch. Who are you, my mother? Bite me— it's heavy.

There, on top of a thick layer of dust, were the condo listings. There were also a bevy of cat toys, which made an odd noise come out of Jasper. But the pièce de résistance was a pile of clothing stuffed in a back corner of the dusty imprint of the couch. Alice sauntered over to it and curled up on top of it. I had no idea where it had come from. I wasn't missing any clothes, towels or blankets. I shooed Alice to back off and picked up some of the pile. It was an armful. I brought it over to the dining table and set it down for a better look.

Holy shit nuggets, Batman. (There was one of those too; maybe I should clean under there more often). It was almost two-dozen men's boxer briefs and fifteen socks, ten of them paired.

Men's fucking underwear under my couch.

I'll be the first to admit, I've had the very occasional one night stand and I have brought a date or two home but definitely not two dozen. Nowhere near two dozen. Fine, it was once and he left with his underthings on, I swear.

The underwear was all the same size, too. Mostly the same brand. Solid colours for the most part, a couple with a staid pattern of checks or stripes. The socks were mostly all dark dress socks with discrete patterns. Alice sat on the table and watched me inventory her stash. I could tell it was her work. She had a look of pride about her, similar to Jasper's look when he gives me presents. Jasper hopped on the table, sniffed the pile, hissed and flounced away. Alice trilled to him but he flashed his butt at her and went upstairs to nap.

So, my cat has been stealing clothes from the neighbours. I repeat— my cat has been stealing clothes, intimate clothes. A stranger's intimate clothes. And then she's been secreting them under my damn couch.

So, this is the icing on the cake and now I really have to move because tomorrow I have to plaster the neighbourhood with flyers admitting my cat's thievery and find the man who is missing all his gotchies. I can't live here any longer. I need to win the house you've put up for auction. Please, you can tell I'm desperate and I really hope this essay shows that I'm deserving, as well.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Isabella (Bella) Swan

Ibeaswan at writersinternational dot com

Dear Committee,

Not to hound you about the contest but I have a follow-up to my story that may be of interest to you.

The next day, fifty flyers graced my neighbourhood. Twenty of them were placed in the various mailboxes of my own building. All day I could hear laughter following me as I gave out or placed the flyers. Yes, it was cute and funny, and yes, the picture of Alice sitting with her hoard was adorable, but I was still mortified. I went to bed that night hoping that my phone would ring and the injured party would come forward without fuss.

All the following day and into the weekend, I waited and waited. I did receive four prank calls from what sounded like teen boys and one heavy breather. I'm changing my cell phone number as soon as this is over, by the way. I had thought of adding my email address but I'm really happy I didn't; could you just imagine the spam? It makes me shudder to think of it.

The call, I reiterate, THE CALL arrived early afternoon on Sunday. I was working. I haven't told you what I do for a living, have I?

I correct recipes for a publishing company. Like an editor but with food instead of prose. I first follow the directions given by the cookbook author and compare the final results. A tweak here, a measurement change there, a total ego crush once in awhile, makes for a fun job. The company pays for produce and supplies and I deliver most of the food to the editors for sampling if there is a correction to a recipe. If it works out just as the author has written, I just take a picture and nosh away. I also do restaurant critiques for a few local blogs, lunch/brunch fare mostly for business meetings and such. My world is surrounded by food and I adore it.

I've been doing this chef's book right now and he thinks he's the next James Beard. He is really, very not the next James Beard. He's even tried to name his book Black on Bread like Mr. Beard's seminal work of 1973. Who would buy a book named that anyway? The cookbook writer had some fame with his restaurants and moderate success with another cookbook, a barbeque one, but this bread book sucks. He really only has four bread recipes but he's padded the book with glamour shots of him. He's stretched out the recipes by making small additions to basic recipes like he has re-invented the wheel. I mean, really? Basic white bread with the addition of dill is not a brand new, spectacular recipe, it's just bread with dill. At the end of the basic white bread recipe he could say, 'add a teaspoon of dill' and be done with it. Mind you, that would be a really, really slim cookbook. Plus, I do get paid for this shit. Whatever floats your boat is no skin off my nose.

However, my bosses really want it published and are breathing down my neck for it. I'd spent the entire morning working on his cornmeal bread trying to place the error. Attempt number three was in the oven when the phone rang.

The voice on the other end of the phone was quiet, well spoken and polite. He mentioned the flyer and asked if he could look at the hoard as he thought it could be his stuff. I agreed, with the condition that he meet me outside my building as soon as possible. A girl can't be too careful, you know. There are weirdos about. When I gave him the building address, there was a short pause before he mentioned that he lived there as well. I was a bit unsure about giving him my condo number but it was a secure building and the council was strict about who they let live here. I gave him my unit number and then set out an array of very sharp kitchen knives and cleavers, just in case.

A few moments later there was a soft knock on my door. Upon opening it I found a young-ish man, maybe late twenties, wearing a backwards ball cap and glasses standing on my welcome mat. The mat says Go Away; by the way, it doesn't work. He's taller than I am and lean. Not overly muscled or scrawny. He's not hard on the eyes but not so beautiful as to cause depression and feelings of inadequacy. He's dressed in a plain red t-shirt and dark jeans. At first glance he seems normal, but I'm still cautious 'cause at first glance I seem normal, too. He spoke first, said Hey, I called about your cat. About the cat, not about the underwear. Me thinks that someone is a little embarrassed about his panties.

I showed the man in and led him to the bags on the table. As he looked through the clothes, the colour of his ears changed from flesh to flash (The Flash wears red, right?). As far I can remember, and it was yesterday, the conversation went like this:

ME – So, are they yours?

GUY - Um, yes, I believe so.

ME - I'm not going to ask you for proof, like a picture of you in them previously or anything. (Cue nervous giggle)

GUY - Aah, good. Yes, they are mine. I thought my cleaning lady was setting up a shrine or something. My stuff just kep disappearing from my drying rack.

ME - No, just my cat.

At the sound of the word cat, Alice came running down the stairs to the loft, chattering the whole way. She jumped onto the table and knocked over the bag of socks. She almost fell off the far end of the table herself, but managed to dig her claws in, just in time. Thank goodness for distressed wood. It didn't matter if she left claw marks; it just adds to the charm of the table. She then stood in front of the guy and, talking all the while, stood on her back legs and wrapped her front paws around his neck. She climbed his chest and curled herself around his shoulder and then proceeded to lick his neck. Jasper sauntered down the stairs at a sedate pace, wandered over to the man and sat on his foot.

I tried, I mean I tried really hard, but the look of shock and confusion on his face, the way he looked so uncomfortable, I had to laugh. I had to laugh but I also felt a bit unloved. Alice never greeted me that way. And, it took Jasper months to warm up to me even though I fed him and cleaned up his shit. Ungrateful little bastard. Usually Jasper was very protective of his mate. If I had friends over and they were playing with Alice, he would always hover and lash his tail until Alice told him to knock it off. But here she was in the arms of a strange man and Jasper just sat there, doing nothing. This guy must give off some weird pheromones or something.

Either way, the guy put up with Alice and her licking and didn't object to Jasper on his foot. He did laugh at little. He introduced himself as Edward and held out a hand. The wrong hand because his right one was holding Alice steady on his shoulder.

We were interrupted by the timer going off on the stove so I left him to grab the bread. When I walked back to him, his stomach let out a very, very loud rumble. So, out of consideration for the fact that my baby had pawed through his gotchies and stolen some of his dignity, I invited him to tea. We tried the bread, still not right but passable. We drank the tea. And we talked the talk. You know, the superficial crap, how long you've lived here, what grocer you go to, which mountain is your favourite. Just regular Vancouver conversation. The answers for him were nine months, in the neighbourhood and none. Not a real mountain person. Although he did confess to paddling so there's that. Big shoulders come from paddling, I'm just saying.

It was a light conversation, nice but not too in-depth. He thanked me for the return of his unmentionables, forgave my psycho cat, laughed when I told him not to worry we were moving soon and went about his merry way.

It wasn't until after dark that night and I was on the balcony again that I saw the dog guy and thought that it might be him. Edward, I mean. Something about his gait. So I gave a sharp whistle and whisper/shouted his name and he looked up. He was hot dog guy. Not Hotdog guy, that's another story and in my defence, I was plastered. Edward was the hot sounding guy who I had seen walking his dogs. He waved and smiled and then I thought to myself, maybe Vancouver isn't all that bad and unfriendly. Maybe I just hadn't tried hard enough or found the right person to try to befriend.

Anyway, I'd still like to be considered for the secluded house. I think maybe I need a place away to decide what I really want to do. Maybe I need to take a page out of Alice's book and steal Edward to come with me. That idea is a just smidge too appealing. Perhaps it's better if I'm not left alone with the population.

Sincerely,

Bella Swan

Dear Ms. Swan,

We regret to inform you that you did not win the Secluded Dream Home contest. We thank you for your entry and for the donation you made to the cause we are supporting. We hope that you will continue to support the Canadian Mental Health Association for years to come.

Most sincerely,

Philip Dwyer

Solicitor for The Platt Foundation

Please see enclosed letter from the contest's founder, Mrs. Charles Platt, philanthropist.

Dear Bella,

Please forgive the informal nature of this letter but I feel as though I have found a kindred spirit in you through your writings. I put my ex-husband's playtime cabin up for auction to raise money for a cause near and dear to my heart. As well, I did it to piss him off. He's one of those assholes who believe that feelings are for the weak and those who have too many feelings should just suck it up.

Well, the only sucking that gets done these days is by him, as he works janitorial services at the Matsqui Institution in Abbotsford where he's serving 10 to 15 years for embezzlement. I divorced him and took him for whatever was leftover after the government took its share.

I loved your essays and I'm dying to know more. More about you, more about your cats and more about your budding romance. I need a friend like you with a wicked sense of humour. All of Charles' (the ex) friends were boring planks, bigger than sticks in the mud. I, too, have a new man in my life. Carlisle. I'm sixty-three and he's forty-four. He surfs and he needs large-sized board shorts, if you know what I mean.

Please call and promise you'll visit.

604-555-1102

Your new bosom friend,

Esme Platt

PS: I don't understand the word gotchies. Could you explain?

Dear Miss Platt,

Thank you for your very kind letter letting me know that I didn't win the house. It was the sweetest, kindest rejection I've ever received. Much nicer than the folks at Chatelaine magazine when you send them unsolicited recipes, that is. I feel I've learned so much about you, I would be proud to call you a friend.

And to answer your question, yes, I'm staying in Vancouver. I've found a reason to stay and a group to stay with. Turns out Edward had been stalking the scents coming from my place and huffing the yummy (his words, NOT mine) every time he walked by with his dogs. He works in the film industry behind the scenes. He started as a python wrangler, which is nowhere near as smutty a job as it was in my imagination. Then he worked boom (big fuzzy microphone, I had to look it up) for a few films and TV shows. But what he'd really like to do is be a Foley artist, otherwise known as a sound effects guy. Whatever floats your boat, I guess. He, with much encouragement, has stopped practising weird sounds at odd times and especially in bed.

I'm in love with his dogs. Much to my surprise, so are Alice and Jasper. Emmett is a Scotch-poo, a mix between a Scottie and a poodle. That means he looks like a Scottie but has softer fur with a waviness to it. Rosalie is an apricot miniature poodle. Pure-bred, but a rescue. Edward found her in an alley, abandoned and injured. He took her home and fixed her up. She's a bit haughty with people she doesn't know but so loyal to Edward. She just loves Emmett to pieces. Edward said she was still a bit scared of him and growly before he brought Emmett home. She peed in his shoes and even ate his pillow once. However, one look at the fluffy bastard and she was dancing around Edward and licking whatever she could reach. She's been good as gold with Edward ever since.

It takes a secure man to own a miniature poodle and be proud of it. That's one of the things that led me to fall in love with Edward. He's a good man, hard working but playful, smart and kind. We hang out with a lot of his friends and they are a delightfully strange group. I fit right in.

We started dating just a couple of weeks after Alice's heist was revealed. First a coffee date (he prefers non-organic, full cream and refined white sugar), then a lunch. After a couple of romps in Stanley Park with his dogs and cosy dinners at my place with my cats, the romance really took off. His place is smaller so we hang at mine mostly. Emmett and Jasper play fight and wrestle while Alice grooms Rosalie.

I have no idea what's in store for me or for us, but I think it will be fine from now on.

Yours truly,

Bella Swan

PS: Yes, sorry I forgot to clarify before, gotchies is a homegrown thing my mum used to say. It mean underwear. It's Ukrainian in origin, I think. Gitch is another phrase but gotchies work best for me. Apparently it's not manly to call them undies or panties, Edward informed me of this last time we did laundry. He got right huffy, too.

Dear Esme,

I really enjoyed meeting you for coffee the other day. I felt as though I was reuniting with an old friend rather than meeting an acquaintance. And to answer your question, yes Edward and I would love to come up to Galiano Island to visit. The dates you suggested are perfect, Edward is in-between gigs and Chef Black's book is finished. Thank you for the tips. You were right, honey is a much better sweetener for baking than agave syrup.

This may be too much information for you, but I doubt it because your other letter to me was chock-a-block with cursing and colourful language about your ex-husband and the reasons you decided to give away his dream home, but I'm going to cover my ass just in case you let your new boyfriend read this.

Hey Carlisle, heard alot about you, Big Boy.

Anyway, just so you know, I am now a python wrangler too, the fun kind. So worth the wait, let me tell you. Have I ever told you, Esme, just how much I love living in Vancouver?

See you soon,

Bella

PS: He's moving in when we get back from your place. Yay, me!

AN: This story is based on a news article out of New Zealand and my sister's condo. And my own twisted imagination. Thank you for reading.