A/N: So! This little ditty was originally written for part of the Carlisle, Uncovered Contest. I had to leave out a lot (I know. We're surprised my wordy ass couldn't be contained to twelve thousand words), so I'll be posting the original one-shot in chapter format and continuing the story a bit after that.
Thank you to everyone who voted for me. I hope you enjoy.
Normally, Bella liked that her father didn't hover. It was the kind of thing any teenager could appreciate. Moving in with him had been a relief after being with her mother. Renee was sweet, and she could be fun, but she was the kind of mother who wanted to be Bella's best friend. Of course, that meant her mother was also up in her business all the time. Not to nag her but to gossip with her and squeal about boys. Not that Bella squealed; just that Renee wanted her to.
Charlie was a whole different ball game. He wasn't in her business at all as long as she was doing well. It had almost been too easy to sneak a boy up to her room in high school.
But she was in college now. Truly away from either of her parents' influence, and maybe, kinda, sorta that had gone to her head a little bit.
She'd always been independent and responsible. Her parents had been barely more than babies themselves when she was born. She'd spent her early childhood with her mother and Gran Marie. Though Gran had done the heavy lifting, Renee was an adoring and attentive mother.
Still, when Gran got sick, it was Bella who started to fill in the gaps. She'd always paid attention when Gran cooked. She learned the days bills had to be paid and bugged her mother to pay them when they were due. She was the one who made lists of what they needed for the house and pantry. She even learned to scour the coupons every Monday to figure out what was on sale at which store.
As a teenager, after her mother had married a man with a firm grasp on adulting, Bella went to live with her father. He was a good man, a concerned father, and smart enough to recognize that Bella was pretty much done. She'd been raised. She had a good set of core values. He just needed to be there to pay the bills and offer advice the few times she needed it.
Given all that, living on her own should have been a cakewalk. Same old, same old, right? Except without a parental unit checking up on her at least once a day.
Yeah, wrong. There was just one or two wrenches in that line of logic.
Her parents had both put away a certain amount of money for her to go to college. Neither of them being in great financial shape, it wasn't enough to pay her tuition. She figured she'd just have to get loans—start off her adult life in an obscene amount of debt like so many others. It turned out that she was eligible for a certain amount of automatic financial aid, and she managed to secure a few small scholarships as well.
With a little effort and some fast talking, she'd been able to convince her parents that she should get a small apartment near campus rather than go to the dorms. They could use the money they'd saved to help her with a deposit and the rent, and their decent credit to secure the apartment. She had every intention of finding a job; she'd always known she'd work as soon as she could. Forks was the kind of town that didn't have enough work for the adults, so getting work while she was still a kid had been out of the question.
The point was, Bella saw college as the start of her independent life. She'd found the apartment. She'd found a roommate to supplement expenses, and she told her father no, of course she didn't need his help picking furniture. It wasn't as though he'd given her money for much, which was fine. She had some bohemian idea in her head that it would be like The Sims. She'd start off with the bare-bones, uncomfortable basics—basic bed, card table in the kitchen area, folding chair, maybe a cable spool for an end table—and upgrade as she went along.
The first day of her new life wasn't turning out like she expected. First, even though she'd been the one to insist repeatedly she could drive herself to college—it just hadn't made sense for her father to follow her across four states when she had to drive her dilapidated truck there anyway—when she finally arrived and saw all the students milling around the campus with their parents, she felt rather abandoned.
She spent the night alone in her new apartment—her roommate was supposed to arrive at the end of the week—curled up on the blow-up mattress she'd brought. In the morning, she set out, determined to be a strong, independent woman.
In the midst of her full day of furniture shopping, she texted her soon-to-be-roomie to find out if she'd be bringing any furniture. She received a text back, annoyingly, toward the end of the day.
I'm so sorry. I chickened out. I'm staying where I am. You can keep my half of the deposit and first month's rent. I'm so sorry. Good luck.
So, after the requisite amount of time pacing around the furniture store, scaring the other patrons as she muttered to herself and typed furiously on her phone, she headed back home. What she should have done was take the furniture she'd managed to obtain back. Who knew if she would be able to find a new roomie, in which case, she couldn't keep the apartment.
She was so screwed.
And, because she was having such a great day, she had just figured out there was no way she could get the things she had bought up to her second story apartment alone. Because she'd told her father she'd take care of everything. Because she was a strong, independent woman.
She could be as strong and independent as they came, but she couldn't lift furniture and mattresses by herself. She ran her hand through her hair, scratching her head.
"Does the truck do tricks or something?"
Bella spun around and found herself staring at a pair of gorgeous green eyes set in a pretty, pretty face. The boy tilted his head and raised an eyebrow.
"Maybe it's some kind of modern art."
Again, Bella's head snapped, this time an inch or two up from the pretty boy's face. She took a physical step backward. The man standing beside the pretty boy was, well, he was pretty too, but it was a more distinguished kind of pretty. Well, no, no, in his case, pretty wasn't the word. Handsome. The sharp lines of his face were cut just right. His smile was soft where the boy's was a smirk.
The boy snorted. "This truck is older than I am. There's nothing modern about it."
"Hey, lay off my truck." Indignance was enough to break Bella's slack-jawed silence.
"Phew." The man's smile broadened, and Bella's heart did a weird sort of pitter-patter in her chest. He just had a great smile, that was all. "At least we know you weren't trying to figure out how to steal it."
The boy snorted. "Who the heck would steal this monstrosity?"
Again, Bella's eyes snapped back to the boy and narrowed. "What's your malfunction, pal? I like my truck."
"Even monstrosities need love," the man said. "Be nice, Edward."
Hands on her hips, Bella turned to give the man a piece of her mind, but his smile, again, was disarming. "Sorry," he said. "We shouldn't tease. It's just, you look like you're about to attack the mon...er, the truck. Trust me, it's not good for your knuckles."
Bella's lip twitched, and whatever was left of her defensiveness drained away. "It's not the truck. It's the furniture. The bastards won't get up and move themselves up to my apartment."
"How dare they," the boy said in mock outrage.
"You can't call any friends?" the man asked.
Bella gave a small laugh, trying to ignore a wave of loneliness. "I'm starting at the university in a couple of days. I'm from out of state."
The man hummed, looking between Bella and her furniture-laden truck. He gave the boy a tap to the back. "We can help," he said. It was an order.
"Oh." Bella was startled. "I couldn't… That's not…"
"We were just headed to the gym anyway. It's the real world equivalent of weight lifting." There was that smile again. Damn, it was such a pretty smile.
"Just without the eye candy," the boy said ruefully. "Gym bunnies are obnoxious, but they're nice to look at."
Looking at the two of them, Bella couldn't argue with that last part. "That's really nice, but I don't even know you."
The man offered a hand. "My name's Carlisle. This is my brother, Edward."
Bella took his hand and shook, ignoring the weird tingle that went through her as she smiled at him and Edward. "I'm Bella."
Some hours later, there were two extraordinarily attractive men sprawled on her floor, stripped down as much as they could be against the heat. She enjoyed the view for a minute before she groaned and flopped down beside them.
College was quite the adventure so far. Not even here a day and she was surrounded by sweaty men. Too bad one of them was as gay as the day was long and the other…
Well, she wasn't going to get anywhere thinking about the other one. It had to be some kind of wrong. He was a realadult—a job, a home of his own, plenty of money. In fact, she should stop looking at his muscular arms. He seemed tame and mild mannered, but his arms were pleasingly muscular. And she thought she'd caught a hint of a tattoo as they worked, but that couldn't be right, could it? He was so clean. Almost innocent. Not in a naive way. Maybe pure is was the right word. She felt like maybe she shouldn't curse around him, and that was strangely charming.
Carlisle turned his head to the side, and Bella quickly looked to the ceiling, chastising herself for staring. All her last high school semester, and all this summer, her mind had been in overdrive. That was the problem. One too many clandestine fantasies about falling for her handsome professor.
If any of her professors looked like Carlisle, she was never going to pass.
Edward let out a sigh. "So, what do you think?"
"Huh?" Right. They'd been in the middle of a conversation. "Yeah. Yeah, I'll play the damsel in distress this once if it'll solve my roommate problem."
As it turned out, Edward had a complicated home life. From what Bella gathered, Edward wanted to live away from home, but his and Carlisle's mother would have some kind of breakdown if he'd suggested he wanted to leave her side and go to the dorms. Helping out a friend who'd been left high and dry, however, was a whole different story. These men were raised to help others where they could.
Bella thought it was a great idea. Edward was wicked funny. Carlisle would make sure the rent got paid.
The first major disaster of her adult life didn't turn out so bad after all.
A/N: I'll see you soon!