More than anyone
Isabella Marie Swan
A story based on true events.
Chapter 1 - Him
He is rugged, warm, and cool in his tweed pea coat. The sneakers on his feet are rubbed and worn like he'd walked through a lifetime and just got back. All he did was walk through the door every morning.
He is cultured, passionate about human rights, and fascinated with structure. Yet, he is always late. He carelessly misplaces keys and shades. He hands over ideas on wrinkled paper. He tells facts and philosophies on random topics casually in conversations at parties. They're always fitting and insightful, never out of place. He corrects and answers with complete confidence and he knows how incredibly charming he is. Nothing phases him.
But I laugh at myself, you know, so I won't cry, because he knows things but not about me, not the inner things that are buried in thoughts and wants. Things you couldn't read over micro prickled skin when he walked by or dilated eyes with his smile. Inside I am shredded with love.
He slams his satchel on his desk and it flutters the papers in front of me. Every day I slap at sheets to settle them. I was forced to buy a damn paperweight. And when I mean buy, I really mean place my glass mason jar on them, because who buys paper weights? Everyday my eyes roll to the back of my sockets. Every day I flick a hand at the brown, worn leather of his, stupid, sophisticated, and ridiculously sexy satchel away from my vicinity. And every day the warm scent of him wafts so gently through my nostrils on the ready, already flared with annoyance.
I hate to admit that just once I took a whiff of his coat after it fell off his chair. I had to pick it up. It was the nice thing to do. For a co-worker. For a friend. For a pseudo-boyfriend. Whatever. It was quick and had to be done. That one whiff was worth it—in the packed elevator standing behind him. He didn't notice. No one did. Being slightly short has its advantages. I swear these were the only two times I violated his space and my sanity. I questioned it. Him. Wondering how this enigma exists.
He has a few outfits he ever wears; plaid, black knit sweater, t-shirts, a wrinkled button up, layered thermals—olive sleeves on white pushed to elbows. But the jeans...the jeans are a tragedy, the good kind. Blick pen through my heart or between my teeth right now just watching him in those jeans. The t-shirt is my favorite, though, his chosen attire for today. It's fitted over his arms, torso, and chest. Pecs like The David. The shirt with Ché Guevara's silhouette on it was made to kill me. I look away before he'd think I was acknowledging his presence.
"Some moonshine to start the day?" he asks, his faithful good morning.
"Loads of it. Already drunk and ready to strip and thrash my glistening naked body around." No emotion in my words. He chuckles.
Just because a jar is used for lemon infused water these days, doesn't mean it's fucking Moonshine. What is this, the 1920's? Such a hot jerk.
"Do you want to know what I ate last night?"
Please, don't say Jess. Please, don't say Jess. "Not really," I say instead.
He tells me anyway. "Opened a can of spam, I sliced that baby up. Slapped it on rye, bit of cheese whiz and tomatoes. Grilled it. I can still taste the oozing saturated fat." He smiles.
I slowly move my head to glare into his, stupid, gray eyes framed in pointed Panther-like tear ducts. "Do you even know how many preservatives and enzymes spam has? And what grown ass man eats cheese whiz, for crying out loud?"
I'm in this clean eating phase in my life, you know. A raw-eating vegan who still eats meat and cooked meals. I asked him once what that made me. He scoffed and said a normal person, but I refuse that answer. My nutritionists are stacked pics on Instagram. I put hearts all over those every day. Meals and tips at the stroke of my thumb. Chia seeds in my green smoothies. Organic honey in my teas. Coconut oil in my scrambled eggs. I'm an expert now. This, of course, amuses him to no end.
He begins licking his fingers one at a time. The index last. He sticks it into his mouth, sucks, pulls it out. I'm not glaring anymore.
"Mmm," he hums and proceeds to flick my bottom lip with it. "Meeting in the conference room." He stands and rushes off.
"Fucking piece of...gross!" I wail with flailing arms. I march after him. My dress sways around my thighs. My Martens thump on linoleum. I hate him and I love him, but I really hate him. I find him across the room with his arms over his chest and a smirk on his face.
Emmett is at the end of the wall pointing at post-its stuck to it in rows. "House visits today. Who's got yesterday's addresses?"
Ben nods and lifts a finger. Everyone stares and waits. "I dug those up. I did my part." He shrugs like 'don't look at me.'
Emmett sighs. "Fine. I'm choosing then. Masen, Bella, you're up." I look up when my name is called. The chuckle coming from Masen at his corner is infuriating. I notice Ryan beside me flex his jaw muscles but keeps silent. I can't seem to ponder further on that as my tongue sweeps discreetly over my bottom lip.
He drives. Of course, he does that well, too. I sunk into the passenger side. The cushions are springy and old. The dashboard is that old model tinge of maroon on hard enamel. The trimming painted metallic, cracked around panels of false wood. His Sedan is an old hideous mess...but it smells like him. I'm floating on a cloud created with vapors of his musk. It's delicious, and I'm sitting on 9th with a harp.
A dog barks far away. I look up. It tugs and it tugs until my shoulders start bobbing.
"Don't even think about it. I know you're thinking about it," he warns me. I can't help but let out the guffaw. He growls. The sound goes straight to my thighs crawling up. I sober for a second.
Working as union organizers is a task. You have no personal life. Nights are never off and weekends are eventfully rushed with meetings to get signatures from workers. I'm single, and it's best I keep it that way. I'd never have time for a normal settled family life. I see this guy more times than I see my bed, which I crawl into around 1 a.m. on random nights if I'm lucky. Otherwise, I'm at Jane's apartment crashed and trashed. Waking up in unfamiliar territory is a norm after a pub night with the team. We do that. A lot. We're like family. We're all we've got.
House visits are the manual way to get signatures from workers who are still adamant about joining. Door-to-door people open up and we explain all the benefits of working for a unionized company. Safe, secure, with rights. The trick is if their employers are against it and find out, workers get fired. Hence the adamancy. Hence us having to run into house pets who want to kill us.
How do we get the address you might ask? Well, as Ben said, you dig them up. Find that dumpster by the corporate buildings and go fish—employee info on the ready. It's amazing what you can find in garbage. So much secrecy and grunt work goes into this job, not many know. We're fucking spies.
"The way you freaked when the dog ran up," I say wheezing through laughter. "Your knees touched your chest you ran so fast."
He grumbles, swearing under his breath. I reach and tug on the brown curls at his nape. "Down, boy." He sighs, but I see a suppressed grin. He purrs after a while. I let go before I rip a lock and stuff it in my purse for some sniffing later.
The gear shift clicks in place with the force of his grip. "Just for that, you're leading this time." I smile. Fine by me. We're down the list by half. Most were folks in their late 30s and 40s who made our job easy.
We knock and Ms. Jimenez opens with curlers in her hair. Her eyes go wide. She runs inside. Masen and I look at one another and frown. Just when I'm about to call her, she pops out again. Her hair bounces around her shoulders. She smiles up at Masen, and a clip goes flying out of her head. A small mutt comes racing out. It clamps its teeth on it and off it goes towards the grass.
"Umm," I point. But Jimenez and Masen seem to be battling it out in a stare-off. Masen stiffens beside me but stays silent. I don't ask. I clear my throat and introduce myself. The speech goes on for 5 minutes.
She was an easy sign. I gather the papers and get in the waiting car.
"What the hell was that?" I spit, slamming the heavy door.
He doesn't look at me and fiddles with the heat that rarely works. "What?"
I flick my hair and pucker. I gesture a thumb over my shoulder. "That."
"Fuck if I know. Next address, please."
My stomach clenches at the thought. All the thoughts. Masen naked with a woman in curls. Not me. Usually, he'd spill, but he's not. It's unnerving. The rest of our day is spent awkwardly. He doesn't even attempt to tease me.
We get back to the office and it's after 2. Ryan is smoking on the stoop leading to the doors. He doesn't look up, not a nod, not even an acknowledgment, as he takes a puff. I climb the steps, Masen, behind.
"Bella, come here for a sec," Ryan says through smoky lips. He gestures towards the cement at his side. I don't mean to, but my heel slips as I make the turn and I'm snug to his arm. He lifts it, and it goes around my back.
Masen chuckles humorlessly as he walks passed us. I squirm.
"Why did you leave so fast last night?" He asks, bringing my attention back. I shrug-hoping his arm slips off me in the process.
"Tired, I guess. Long week."
"You said you'd be back, but you left. Some manners you have. You owe me a drink."
"I owe you nothing," I say. The truth is I do since he covered for me at a workers meeting Thursday. I stepped out of work to go...sulk. I didn't tell him it was because of Masen and Jess outside at lunch sucking on each other's tonsils.
These pub nights aren't healthy. They really do make people look hotter under alcohol and dim lights because Jess is nothing but a half dollar whore. My opinion but not my words—Kate's from work. Our team has more coupling than Pretty Little Liars, or so she tells me. I've never watched the show. The worst part is Ryan was out getting lunch at Chipotle with me after badgering for half hour to got with him. No way he could've missed my expression. My red face. My fury. I told him I had to help my mother as she was supposedly not feeling well. Poor mom, she's always the scapegoat of false excuses. She's healthier than me at 26 and runs a yoga class every other night. I get winded going up flights of stairs.
Ryan chuckles like I'm bullshit and I am. He knows. He'll use this against me until he gets what he wants—a full night with him and not a blurred one. It was a drunken mistake I'll always regret.
Now Ryan carries a knowing look, a smirk when he looks at Masen. I'm terrified he'll tell him about my sick obsession, but I can't bring it up. I won't. What if it's all a bluff?
"So, it's settled. Sunday night it is. Dinner at that place, what's it called? I'll pick you up."
I sigh. "I'll meet you there." No way he's coming into my house again.
Masen ignores me for the couple of hours left to work. He doesn't turn on the radio, not even a bit of R-Kelly like he always blasts on Fridays just to watch me squirm. I leave. Not a word. And the only thing I can think about is the look on his face when he kissed Jess, eyes open, watching her. Then, just to ease that knife deeper into me, his eyes slowly closed as his hands moved into her hair.
A/N: Hello again. :-) Still trying to figure out the names since this was an original fic. I still had Edward in my mind while writing. Always.