I felt silly, sitting alone in the middle of this crowded room as the sequins on my short dress shimmer under the strobe lights. I looked around for the umpteenth time, a sigh escaping me as the faces continue to be unfamiliar. I turned back to the bar in front of me and focused on the bottle of beer delivered by the bartender instead.
"Thanks," I called out although his back was already turned to me.
I gripped the bottle and brought it to my lips, the malty liquid passing quickly through my throat. I was almost able to finish the whole bottle in one big gulp but the blur of someone sliding to the stool beside mine caught my attention. Slowly, I placed the bottle back on the counter in front of me and inclined my head to the side. I moved my eye starting from this person's feet, quickly determining that it was a guy who sidled up next to me.
"Hey," he started, his voice barely audible under the loud music coming from the dancefloor.
"Hi," I said, turning fully in my seat to face him.
"So," he gulped, "Do you want to dance?"
I quickly averted my eyes to the packed dancefloor, the sweaty bodies all pressed up and grinding against each other. I felt a shiver run through me at the thought of being in the middle of that.
"Oh, uhm," I smiled nervously at him, "Thanks but I was just waiting for a friend."
"Are you sure? You look all lonely up here," he grinned, showing me his all white, perfect teeth. I held in a chuckle as the thought of him momentarily blinding me with his shiny teeth entered my mind.
I shook my head at him slowly, a small smile playing on my lips. "I'm fine, but thanks."
"Well, at least I tried," he chuckled, giving me another blinding smile before backing away with his arms raised as if he was being arrested.
I watched from the corner of my eye as he turned to get the bartender's attention. He must have felt my eyes on him because he swiftly turned back around and caught my eyes, raising his beer bottle to my direction. I smiled at him, shrugging my shoulders before chugging down the rest of my beer, completely oblivious to the world around me. I finished the bottle in record speed, bringing it down on the counter with a bang. I was inclined to wipe my mouth with the back of my hand but I caught myself just in time. Instead, I daintily wiped off the remnants of the beer with a handkerchief.
After putting back the handkerchief in my purse, my eyes automatically moved towards the door at the farthest left corner of the room. Irritation bloomed in my chest when I didn't see my friend's giddy face by the entrance.
I turned back to the bar to order another beer, my hand frantically waving for the bartender to notice me. My furrowed brows and upturned mouth seemed to have made the bartender take his damned time approaching my side of the counter, his gait slow and lazy as if to taunt me further.
"Another one, please," I said in my no-nonsense voice, my finger tapping on the empty bottle.
He simply nodded his head at my request before quickly snatching the bottle from me. I followed his movements as he reached below the counter and retrieved another bottle. He stood in front me, staring at my face before he slowly uncapped it. Without taking his eyes off of me, he reached out for a coaster before setting the freshly opened Stella Artois on the counter.
I refrained to huff out a frustrated sigh since I know that it would do me no good to irritate the bartender. Instead, I sent a silent thanks to his direction before tipping back the bottle. My eyes flew to the direction of the entrance doors again, but with less expectations this time. I know that Alice isn't going to show up now.
"Isabella? Isabella Swan?" a voice called above the noise of the crowd.
I felt my heart racing and thumping in my chest at the same time, my breathing coming out in quick successions and my palms getting damp. My back was ramrod straight as I strained to hear if I heard his voice correctly. I tried so hard to avoid looking in his direction without making sure it was who I think it is, but the effort was futile. My stool was already swerving to face him even before I could get a hold of myself. The moment my eyes landed on him, I felt my heart almost giving out with how hard it was beating.
"Professor Cullen?" my tone was breathless, as if I'd just ran a marathon up the hill and back.
"My God, it is you!" he exclaimed, his green eyes piercing me with his stare. I felt the warmth of his palm as it seeped through my shoulder, his long fingers gently gripping the soft flesh underneath.
I was still staring at him with wide eyes, my mouth probably gaping open as I was bombarded with his handsomeness. Of course, it was something to be expected from Professor Edward Cullen, but I haven't seen him in years, and I was stupid enough to think that his attractiveness would wane over time. Obviously, it didn't. Not even a little bit.
I scrambled to stand from my stool, the sudden movement causing it to fall back against the counter. I winced as I heard the loud crash, the bartender tsking behind me from the counter. I was tempted to turn back to him and give my bitch brow, but I restrained myself since the fine form of Professor Cullen was still in front of me.
I was frazzled, completely caught off guard by his sudden reappearance in my life. My arms were already poised to wrap around his form, but thankfully, I caught myself. I was sure that the awkwardness that would ensue after that could threaten me to my early death. He didn't seem to notice my monumental hesitation so I held out my hand for him to shake instead. Professor Cullen eagerly took my proffered hand and shook it firmly, while I wallowed the loss of his warmth as he removed his hand from my shoulder. Regardless of my sweaty palm, Professor Cullen's grip didn't falter.
I was thankful for the darkness surrounding us, for surely, my blush would have given me away if the room was brightly lit. Still, I was surprised that Professor Cullen seemed to not have noticed the warmth of my skin. I'm pretty sure that my blush wasn't restricted to my face and neck because it felt like my whole body was on fire. This, all because of a simple touch from Professor Cullen.
With our firm handshake still intact, I could feel my palm starting to get clammy. I tried to shake off my hand from his hold in embarrassment, the blood rushing to my face excessively. Our hands lingered for one more moment before they fell away listlessly to our sides. My eyes moved to the bar I previously occupied, and as Professor Cullen followed my gaze, he grinned at me and started for the stools I was eyeing.
We settled down to the adjoining stools in front of the counter, silent but not uncomfortable. My long forgotten beer sat alone on the countertop, the condensation coming off of the humid air creating a small lake around the base of the bottle. I released a sigh as subtly as I can, mentally and emotionally preparing myself to face the onslaught that is Edward Cullen.
"So, how have you been, Professor?" I asked him, a timid smile playing on my lips. I tried so hard to quell the grin off of my face, but with one Professor Edward Cullen sitting in front of me, it was inevitable.
"I'm good, Isabella, really good," he beamed at me, showing off his crooked smile.
I think I felt myself blushing further as I noticed again how more beautiful he's become. I nodded dumbly at him, my eyes straying from his face to focus on his hands. More specifically, his bare ring finger. I did a happy dance in my head at that one.
"That's good to know," was my reserved answer. I didn't want to say and ask for more and give out too much and reveal myself, especially since I haven't seen him in years.
"So," Professor Cullen started after a lull in the conversation, "What have you been up to? I believe you've already graduated?"
"Yes, I have, last June actually," I told him, feeling quite proud of myself.
"Wow, congratulations, Isabella," he grinned at me, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
"Bella," I said without thinking, the automatic response whenever someone would call me by my first name.
Professor Cullen just smiled at me before flagging down the bartender. When the latter was within a few feet away, he gestured to my warm beer and raised two fingers, smiling politely at the bartender before turning to face me again.
"What are you up to, Professor? We haven't heard from you in years," was my subtle inquiry. The good Professor had suddenly left the faculty in the middle of junior year in college and no one, well, no one in the student body, knows the reason why he left. To say that I was heartbroken then would have been the understatement of the century.
"Well, after leaving U-Dub, I went back to Chicago," he said before taking a sip from his cold beer, "I taught in University of Chicago for a while before I moved back here."
I hummed in response, my mind too clouded to actually form a follow-up question.
The silence that blanketed us could have engulfed the whole room with its intensity, the buzz it brought along was creating a palpable energy in the space between us. I chugged down my beer to hide my discomfort, and from my periphery, I could see the professor watching me.
A shiver ran down my spine as I feel his eyes continue to wander, his gaze penetrating the exposed skin of my arms. I swiveled a little to my right to hide the blush covering my face and neck, my hair creating a thick curtain that hinders me from his view a little.
"You're teaching in U-Dub again?" I asked him, my gaze directed to the beer bottle I carefully settled back on the counter.
"Yes," he said, his voice almost drowned out by the loud music playing overhead.
"I loved attending your classes back then," I murmured under my breath, the blush on my face intensifying as soon as the words were out of my mouth.
"Really?" he asked, the surprise in his voice was unadulterated.
I nodded timidly for confirmation, my eyes firmly fixed on the counter to avoid his gaze.
God, I can't believe I let it slip out like that.
"I mean, you were my favorite professor ever, and you were really good with the subject matter," I explained, but as the words registered in my mind, I discovered that I only dug myself in a deeper hole.
"Favorite professor?" Professor Cullen asked, disbelief evident in his voice.
"Well you were really good with the subject, and I really learned a lot," I started, "Actually, you helped me choose the career path I wanted for myself."
"What?" he asked, his eyes widening as he stared at me.
I backtracked my words in my mind and when I had it figured out, I tried to defend myself by saying that my chosen career path wasn't solely based from his inspiration, because it really wasn't. I chose to be a network engineer because I liked the challenges that come with the job. And I wasn't really good at programming. At all.
"Well, that was good to hear," he grinned, showcasing his perfect white teeth. I nodded mutely at him and excused myself to the restroom.
I waded through the tight crowd as I spotted the doors leading to the restrooms. I was feeling a little lightheaded, and the sweat forming at the back of my neck wasn't helping matters. Finally, I reached my destination and sent a silent thanks to the heavens when I found the space empty. I quickly took care of my business and got out to the hordes of people dancing. The number of people in this place seemed to have doubled in number while I was in the restroom.
The larger crowd made it harder for me to return to the bar, countless number of dancing bodies obstructing my path back to the professor. With still a few feet away from the bronze-haired man I have been harboring a crush for in the last two years, I stopped in my tracks and just watched him for a few moments. He was still perched in front of the bar, seemingly mindless of the blonde beside him who looked to be desperately trying to get his attention.
Professor Edward Cullen was a graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a PhD in Electrical Engineering. He's worked at the Chicago offices of Intel Corporation, that American multinational technology company. From the limited knowledge that I knew about him, he was born and raised in Chicago before he moved to Cambridge for college. Quickly after graduation, he flew across the country to teach at University of Washington, where he handles the Computer Communication and Networks class for juniors and he was a damned great professor. He has the ability to communicate well with his students, something that some professors lack. Even though his classes were always full, somehow, he was able to know the names of all of his students, a feat that I haven't had the pleasure of encountering before him. Lastly, Professor Edward Cullen was inevitably handsome. With his sharp jaw and green eyes, every female student's attention was solely focused on him whenever he's standing at the podium. I know that my focus was on him.
We didn't know each other on a personal level, but I couldn't deny the fact that I was attracted to him, even before then. He was nice, friendly, and an all-around respectable man. All in all, Edward Cullen seemed like a great catch, the one I wouldn't mind snatching.
Suddenly, the crowd in front of me parted like the Red Sea, clearing my path back to Professor Cullen. And as if our lives were a romantic comedy, he slowly turned in his stool to face me and sent a huge grin in my direction. Self-consciously, I stumbled my way back to our spot, my woozy head thumping in time with the music.
"Hey, Professor," I said goofily, my smile stretching wide on my face.
"You can call me Edward," he smirked, "We're not in the classroom anymore, you know."
"Oh, I know," I giggled, almost falling to the empty stool beside him.
"Isabella, are you alright?" Edward asked, concern etched on his face as he tried to reach out to me.
"You can call me Bella since we're not in the classroom anymore, you know," I teased him, his blurry face forming a grin in front of me.
I watched in rapt attention as he suddenly leaned in close to me, his scent washing over my senses as he inched closer. I heard my breath stutter in my throat as the distance between us lessened, our foreheads almost touching before he abruptly turned to place his lips near my ear.
"Do you want to get out of here?" he asked in a low voice, the heat from his breath sweeping over my neck. I shivered in response, my mind momentarily rendered blank from his nearness.
I blinked rapidly to regain my thought, my hands slightly trembling in my lap. Professor Cullen backed away from me slowly, taking away the heat directed my neck. I breathed out a sigh of relief as I gathered my wits. I straightened subtly in my seat, gathering as much dignity as I could before I faced him as if he didn't just render me speechless.
"Yeah, let's get out of here," I acquiesced, a small smile playing on my lips.
"Okay, let's go," he said, standing from his stool before offering me a hand.
I gently grasped his warm hand and pulled myself into a standing position, my head coming up short before his shoulders. I felt his fingers squeeze mine for a second before he released my hand altogether, the pressure sending a tingling sensation up my arm. Professor Cullen directed me through the dancefloor before he stopped briefly at a table with four people casually hanging out. The occupants of the table were obviously paired off, and they were all looking between the professor and I. I averted my gaze from the obvious appraisal, my blush creeping up on my face from self-consciousness. I darted my eyes around the room, avoiding the eyes of the four people who have yet to say anything.
"Heading out already, Edward?" I was startled at the deep voice from the table, my eyes immediately scoping out its source. The huge guy with bulging muscles was smiling widely at Professor Cullen, showcasing his dimples.
"Yeah, we're getting out of here," Professor Cullen shrugged, his arm casually brushing mine.
"Alright," the muscled guy chuckled, his eyes glinting with mirth. I heard Professor Cullen release a sigh beside me, prompting me to turn my questioning eyes to him.
"Okay," he dragged out, "Bye, guys."
A collective murmur of goodbyes echoed from the other three, but not before Professor Cullen gently grasped my arm and dragged me to the exit. I was barely able to keep up since it seems like the people were closing in on me, but the professor's grip didn't falter. He only released my arm from his hold once we were breathing the air outside the bar.
The air was refreshing, despite the obvious smell of smoke in it. Regardless, I breathed in as much as my body allows, willing the air to replenish the alcohol in my system. From the corner of my eye, I catch the professor watching my face, an unidentified expression playing on his face.
"So," I started, "Where to, Professor?"
"It's Edward, Bella," he smiled cheekily, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
"Okay, Edward," I rolled my eyes playfully, "Where are we going?"
"Anywhere," he said, grasping my hand in his, "Everywhere."
AN: Hi! I hope you enjoyed the first chapter. Let me know what you think!
Thank you for reading.