A/N: Thanks to my magical beta for polishing me up real pretty and reminding me to put the words on the page. Any mistakes still lurking about are mine and mine alone.
$1.99, $1.99, $1.99, $1.99… gun jam. Two quick smacks in just the right place. $1.99, $1.99, $1.99, $1.99…. gun jam. Two smacks and a big long annoyed sigh.
"Go get the new gun, Bella," Mike called from the front register. He sounded both amused and exasperated.
Bella understood the exasperation but she couldn't sign on with the amused. For a solid half an hour she tagged post Valentine's Day discounted lube. In that time, she smacked the pricing gun a total of twenty-two times, morphed from annoyed to resigned, and contemplated the sad state of an unpurchased bottle of lube.
Sure she could have moseyed on back to the stock room and grabbed the new, less masochistic gun, but that would have required getting up. Way too much getting up.
Before she could remind Mike about her dedication to being as slothful as possible, Bella heard the soft slide of automatic doors as Mike called out the customary Walgreen's greeting. She shrugged to herself and turned back to the lube.
$1.99, $1.99, $1.99, $1.99, this time the gun was saved from her wrath by the unexpected whoosh of someone sliding down the heavily waxed isle on their knees. Bella's surprised confusion turned immediately into laughter when she laid eyes on Jasper Hale, otherwise known as Grandpa J, next to her with his curls shook down over his eyes. In his hands was a large sized Snickers bar he was using as a microphone as he belted out the words to Sugar, Sugar. She hadn't even noticed the song was playing.
Following behind Jasper, looking only mildly amused was Rosalie King. She tossed her messenger bag to the floor and plopped down completing their circle.
"Oh, my God, are you almost done with this shit? Class sucked. I need a drink," Rose huffed.
"I close tonight," Bella replied with yet another sigh.
Rose rolled her eyes and Jasper abandoned his serenade to examine one of the lube packages.
"I feel that unused lube is profoundly sad. Imagine all the people who are not using this lube to have complicated sex," he said shaking his head sadly.
"Imagine all the people who are wasting their time having uncomplicated sex," Bella replied and smacked the gun yet again.
Jasper nodded his agreement.
"I think all sex should be complicated enough to require all parties to sign a waiver," he said.
"I think you two are both directly out of your fucking minds and I'm not sure why I hang out with you," Rose said, blowing her bangs out of her eyes.
Japer and Bella both grinned. Annoying Rose with their ridiculous banter was standard operating procedure.
"Blow this shit off and come to the lake with us," Rose said, pulling on Bella's pony tail.
"Nah, Mike covered for me the other night so I owe him. I can meet you guys after if you're going to be there for a while," she told her friend.
Bella groaned a sad little groan because… the lake. Sure the entire town of Forks shared the lake. But Bella remembered when she was a lowly college freshman struggling through Calculus and the slightly awkward TA offered his expertise and introduced her to the most perfectly secluded, perfectly gorgeous, lakeside beer drinking spot.
"So this grandpa guy invited you out to his spot to drink some beers and didn't flip when you said you were bringing me?" Rose had asked when Bella told her that the TA who was tutoring her invited her to hang out. Rose had been referring to him as grandpa because to her twenty-five was ancient.
"I don't know what his deal is," Bella replied with a shrug. Jasper had been tutoring her for three weeks. He'd asked twice before she agreed to hang out with him completely non-school related. It was amazing how well they got along but Bella just didn't feel the click. Rose was sure it was because he was an adult.
She found out the deal later that night when Rose ventured off into the woods to pee. Bella was a six pack in. She leaned her head over on Jasper's shoulder and told him he could kiss her if he wanted to. She was hoping that maybe she could make herself feel something.
Jasper laughed. It started as a little chuckle and eventually grew into deep belly laughs. It went on long enough for Bella to get just a smidge offended. Then pretty offended. Then she smacked him.
"Bella, you're fucking great," Jasper told her with a smile as he pulled her into a hug. "But we're not that. You don't feel it. I don't feel it. And that's cool. We're good just like we are. I just want to be your friend."
Rose was both shocked and amazed when Bella relayed the story to her. But she accepted it for what it was.
"I guess when you get that age you figure out how to have female friends," she laughed.
Sophomore year came and went and junior year flew by. Despite the awkward makeup, the trio worked. It practically gutted Bella to know instead of drinking beer on the tail gate of Jasper's truck at the lake, she would be spending the bulk of her night at work.
Bella glanced at the clock for what felt like the thousandth time that night. 11:42. It was like that time keeping monster was running more slowly just to spite her. She gave it the finger. She dropped the accusing finger quickly when the doors slid open.
"Welcome to Walgreens," she said slapping on her retail smile.
The grunt that came from the ball cap clad gentleman wasn't inviting but it was retail standard. Customers had a habit of forgetting the people behind the counter were real, live humans who addressed them. Bella felt her smile fade and she turned her gaze back to the clock. 11:43. Rat bastard clock.
She moved from around the counter to the magazine rack to straighten the misplaced gossip rags. She read the headlines without much consideration. Leo was dating another model. Brad and Angie were splitting up…again. Blake Shelton did something redneck. A Kardashian did something trashy. Edward Cullen was spotted hand in hand with the star of some new drama that Bella would never see. Bella wrinkled her nose. The allure of life where your every move was media headlines was lost on her. She didn't aspire to notoriety. Her goals were more along the lines of having enough funds to move out of her dad's place. She hoped that if she really worked hard, that place would have a fridge filled with Killian's instead of Bud Light.
"Excuse me," the guy from earlier was at the counter. The only item he placed there was a bottle of wine.
"Sorry," Bella told him slapping on the retail smile again as she headed over. "Just tidying up."
"No problem," he replied without looking up from his fishing expedition in his wallet.
His voice was nice. Melodic. And, bonus, he spoke real words to her instead of grunting this time.
"May I see your ID?" Bella asked picking up the wine.
His hesitation made Bella's nerves twinge. No freaking way was she getting into it with some underage punk who wanted to give her shit ten minutes before close. Then he looked up and she understood. Her mouth dropped open. Her eyes darted to the magazines she'd just organized.
"You're Edward Cullen," her tone was way more accusatory than she meant for it to be.
He looked both hesitant and amused.
"I am," he agreed.
Bella felt her nose wrinkle. Words were out of her mouth before she could put them together the right way. The right way being something without profanity.
"What the fuck are you doing in Forks?"
Three Days Before
"He's only going to retire once, Edward."
Edward Cullen pinched the bridge of his nose. The show last night was the first time in quite a while he'd really felt it. The venue was small and the set list was at least half acoustic. He felt it so good that he rewarded himself with a post-show celebration. The bourbon was smooth. The hits on Gar's hookah were smoother. He expected to have plenty of time to sleep off his excesses. He hadn't expected the landline next to his bed to be trilling like a shrill harpy at eight in the fucking morning. But only one person called that phone. In fact, she was the one who insisted that he have the damn thing.
"Mom, I don't know, there's a lot going on with the show. There's just….a lot," he groaned.
He could think of at least a thousand things he'd rather do than trek off to some Podunk town in Washington to celebrate the retirement of Dr. Carlisle Cullen. He'd rather have a sex tape with the ugly Kardashian leaked. He'd rather do Kimmel after swallowing a bucket full of acid. He'd rather cover Celine Dion for the rest of eternity.
There was a soft sigh on the other end of the line.
"Edward, it's been three years," she said softly.
"Mom, I sent tickets –"
"You know that makes me uncomfortable, Edward. I respect what you do. You know that. But when you're up there you're not… you're not my Edward. You're… you're a rock-star," she said, her uncomfortableness evident in her voice.
It was his turn to sigh. He could understand why his shows weren't her cup of tea. No one really wants to see their youngest child clad in only ripped jeans going on about sex and drugs and rock star shit. And he missed his mother. So much that it ached. But he was a whole other story.
"I'll send a gift, Mom," he said shaking his head.
"A gift?" Another sigh. "Edward, I miss you. I want to see you. I want to see my son. I want to hug my son."
He could hear that she was close to tears. No matter that he was twenty-seven and not seven, his mother's hurt made his heart fracture.
"Mom," he began. He didn't really know what he was going to say. His stomach churned. He didn't know if it was more from the last night's excesses or the thought of being in close proximity with his father again.
"Edward, please," her voice was even softer and he knew without having to see, her cheeks were wet now.
"Mom, don't…. I just… Ok," he relented. "Ok, I'll come."
He heard her breath catch.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, Mom. I'll get my shit together. I should be there by Friday," he told her.
"Oh, Edward, thank you so much! Thank you, baby boy," she gushed.
"Mom, just… just…"
"Just what, sweetheart?" she asked.
Just keep your fucking husband in check, is what he wanted to say.
"Just don't make a big deal about me being there, ok?"
After he hung up the phone, he headed straight to the bathroom and pulled the "emergency only" Xanax bottle form the top shelf and shook one of the little pills into his palm. He downed it as the shower spray heated to nearly scalding. Under the water he made a mental list of all the shit he'd have to do before he left for Washington. Call the guys and let them know he wouldn't be around. Let the house cleaning agency know he'd be away. Call Alice. He leaned his forehead against the shower wall. Alice. Alice was going to fucking love this.
"Good Morning, Big Sister," Edward greeted when Alice answered his call.
"You're up awful early this morning. That can't be a good thing," she remarked dryly.
"You act like I only call when there's trouble," he said with a rueful smile. The meds kicked in just moments before he dialed Alice up. Between that and the late February LA sun shining through his floor to ceiling windows, things didn't seem quite as bleak as they had an hour ago.
"You do only call when there's trouble," Alice said. Edward could picture her with one perfectly sculpted brow arched. "Now get on with it. Tell me Alec isn't going to rehab again. Although, I suppose if there was a "best time" it would be now that the tour is over."
"It's not Alec, Allie," he said.
When Alice's manager switch flipped, she had to be rerouted pretty quickly. Calling her by the childhood nickname seemed to do the trick. When she spoke again her voice was softer. It was sister voice, not management voice.
"What's going on, Edward?" she asked.
"I'm going to Forks," he told her. Best to just lay it out there.
"Shit," Alice cursed. Then she was silent for a moment. Edward didn't reply. He let her compose her thoughts. "Mom got to you didn't she?"
"She did," he agreed.
For a moment they were both silent.
"I don't think you going to Forks is a good idea, Edward," Alice said.
"Are you speaking as my manager or as my sister?"
"Both," her voice sounded heavy.
"You just said that now would be the best time for Alec to go to rehab, but it's not a good time for me to visit our parents?" he asked.
It was easier to discuss the business side of things. Mostly because there was no argument on the other side. Edward being with his father for any amount of time was a bad idea.
"Because rehab is in LA. Rehab is not some backwoods town where they lock you up and throw away the key if you get into an altercation with your father," Alice huffed. "And Alec is the drummer. He's not the pretty face of Midnight Sun Alter. You have a shoot with Spin in two weeks, Edward."
"That's two weeks, Allie. I'll be back in three days tops," he said.
"Mom wants us there for a week," she informed him.
"Fine. A week tops," he said with a shrug. God bless Xanax. He should probably call the pharmacy and get a refill before this little adventure.
"She laid some guilt trip on you didn't she?" Alice asked.
"She cried," he said.
"Pussy," Alice snapped.
"She misses me," he retorted running his hand through his hair. "And I miss her."
"I miss her too, Edward. But this didn't go so well for us last time," Alice reminded him.
"Us? You're not the one who ended up with a dislocated shoulder," Edward snorted.
"Well, not to defend the devil, but you did swing on him first."
"Can we not rehash? I'm going to see my mom. I'm going to pretend I can stand to be in the same room as our father. And then, as soon as I can, I'm coming back to LA and I'm throwing a fucking rager," Edward told his sister.
"You're twenty-seven years old; you're too old to throw a rager. And if you're going, I'm going. Maybe I can keep you out of trouble this time," Alice informed her brother.
"That'll be nice. The whole family under one roof," Edward laughed.
"Just…. just be cool while were there Edward. Don't let him goad you," Alice implored.
"I'll be on my best behavior, scout's honor," Edward said.
"You were never a scout, dipshit," Alice said and hung up on him.
Edward stared out the window for a bit. That went much better than he thought it would. He felt better knowing that Alice would be there with him. Alice would be there to have his back. Even if it all went badly Alice would help him pick up the pieces, just like she always did.
Alice opted to get an earlier flight. And there was a delay at the airport. And another at the rental counter. More like a rabid fan girl at the rental counter. But, on the bright side, all it took was the signature Edward Cullen smirk and he was leaving with a sleek BMW SUV.
All he needed to do was get to Forks and pick up a bottle of wine for Alice. Apparently his mother had been hovering over Alice since she arrived and Alice needed a drink…STAT! He sent Alice a quick text to let her know it would probably be after midnight when he got there. She replied that she'd be up finishing some work stuff. Edward was pretty glad for that. He'd opted out of the prescription haze today and his stomach was in knots. And it wasn't just the anticipation of time with his family, it was the town of Forks itself. After LA, Forks just seemed so…. oppressive. Like the tiny town had four massive, invisible walls that started to close in on him as soon as he entered the city limits.
Luckily there was Walgreens between him and his parents place. He eased into the parking lot and pulled a hat out of his bag before heading in. He wanted his little excursion to the woods to be as low-key as possible. That meant being seen as little as possible. He muttered a hello to the cashier as headed toward the booze isle. He found a mid-range bottle and headed back up to the front. He took a second to admire the cashier's ass in her company khakis before he said anything.
He fished his debit card out as she headed back behind the counter. When she asked for ID he was shocked. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been carded. He was on the cover of the magazine she'd just put away for fucks sake. And normally, that would bug the shit out of him. But when he lifted his eyes to meet hers, the annoyance melted into amusement.
"You're Edward Cullen," she announced.
"I am," he replied.
There were plenty of things she could have said next that wouldn't have shocked him. Declaring herself his biggest fan, saying she had every one of his albums or some obscure relic from eBay, or even a random "I love you" were par for the course. Instead, she asked him what the fuck he was doing in Forks. He died laughing.
"That's what I've been asking myself," he told her.
Regardless of his laughter, her face turned a lovely shade of pink.
"I'm so sorry. That was really unprofessional. But…you're in Forks," she babbled gesturing to the window.
"Are you a member of the paparazzi?" he asked.
She cocked a brow at him.
"I saw Dave Matthews getting a cab once when I was in Seattle and I snapped a picture with my phone," she said.
Something about her dry delivery got to him again. He couldn't help but laugh.
"My parents live here," he told her.
"Oh," she said absently. She scanned and bagged his wine. "That's 22.99."
"No discount?" he asked.
She rolled her eyes.
"You're not worth my job, Mr. Cullen," she told him.
He smiled again as he swiped his card. He glanced at her name tag. Bella.
"Fair enough," he said. "So, Bella, can I ask for a favor that won't cost you your job?"
"Sure," she replied.
"Can you keep this quiet?" he asked.
It took just a second for her to process what he was talking about.
"What's it worth to you?" she asked. Now she was smirking.
He felt his smile melt away. Was she blacking mailing him with paparazzi? Suddenly it was her turn to burst into laughter. Her laugh was nice.
"Kidding," she told him. "I don't really have anyone to tell. Besides I doubt they'd be able to find Forks anyway."
Edward shook his head and smiled. This girl was certainly out of the ordinary.
"Thanks, Bella," he told her as he grabbed his bag. "See you around."
A/N: Hey y'all.
For Those Who Are Familiar With My Writing: Good to see you, glad you're giving me and my writing another go. Grab your snacks (you're sharing right?) and settle in.
For Those Who Are Not Familiar With My Writing: Hi. Nice to meet you. Things I WON'T promise you about this story: HEA, categories/tags, or that you won't wanna meet me for throat punch Thursday over the course or at the end.
Things I will promise you about this story: I will tell you a story that I've crafted to the best of my ability.
If you're cool with that then awesome, I hope you brought snacks. If not, I respect that and I wish you luck finding stories better suited to your tastes.
Chapter Songs: I've Seen Better Days – Citizen King
Gasoline – Halsey