Loosely based on the film Dogfight, c1991 staring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, released by Warner Bros. The premise stuck with me, not only because of the death of River Phoenix a couple years later but because of the loveliness of Lili Taylor. I wrote down the title and a brief outline a few years ago while story plotting and decided to finish it for the Midnight Delight NYE contest. Yeah, that didn't happen, too much real life got in the way; obviously, if I'm just now posting it in March. So instead, I offer this story up as a birthday present to all of us March babies.
The chapters are short but this story will post daily until it is finished on a very special day. Reminder, this is a work of fiction. I have tried to stay true to the time period but I have taken some artistic licence with a few bits and pieces.
Thank you to LizziePaige for the banner and the pre-reading.
A big thank you to the lovely Beachcomberlc for wading through a myriad of errors to make this story readable.
She was used to being overlooked. Every once in a while someone would notice her and they'd try not to stare, but for the most part, Bella Swan travelled through life with near-invisibility. From her current position on her knees, she listened with horror as the boys talked. Steeling herself and her emotions, she didn't react to their conversation, but let it wash over her, leaving a grimy trail across her skin.
"So, the winner gets to be president of the fraternity next year and wins the pool? How much money are we talking here?"
There were five of them in the fitting area, all getting new suits before college started again in a few weeks. The young man Bella was measuring kept moving, shifting from foot to foot as she tried to pin the hem of his gabardine trousers. Swan's Menswear was the premier tailor shop in town, using the finest fabrics and hand sewing every stitch. Bella's Uncle Charlie would not appreciate her sticking a pin into the ankle of a well-paying customer, even if deserved.
"Please hold still, sir." Her quiet voice was ignored as the overgrown boys chatted.
"With everyone ponying up fifty bucks, last year's winner got over a grand. A few years ago, the pot was over two thousand. It all depends how many join in. So, what do you say? Want to ring in 1961 with a bang, Emmett, Jasper, Mike, and Edward? Are you in?"
Bella didn't need to look up to see that they all agreed. The gentleman she was pinning cheered when they all said they were in. None of them noticed the girl stand up and leave the room. Tyler was the last to be measured and hemmed. Mr. Swan came back into the room and let them know when they could expect their suits to be ready. The other four wandered to the front of the store as Tyler changed back into his tennis whites before they went to the club for lunch.
She wasn't there the day most of them picked up their freshly tailored suits. However, she was working behind the curtains the day the last one came in. He was painfully handsome and spoke in a soft voice. Bella remembered him as the one who held still the best for her, as if he realized she was there pinning his hem, unlike the others.
"I'm sorry I'm late with the last payment, Mr. Swan. It was very kind of you to let me pay installments. I think this should cover the last of it."
"Very good, Edward. I was happy to help. Your father has been a good customer over the years; I was sorry to hear he had fallen on hard times."
"Things are much better now. I received a partial scholarship for my last two years of college and with my prospects, Father insisted I have one of your suits now that I've stopped growing. It will last me well until I'm my own man out in the banking world."
"Your father doesn't want you to follow in his footsteps and be a lawyer as well?"
"No, it seems I'm more inclined to numbers than arguing. I don't like confrontation."
"Stay away from tailoring then, my boy. Lots of fighting over seams and hemlines. Not to mention when it comes time to pay the bill. Anyway, here's your suit. If you need any further alterations, my niece is one of the best in the city. I'll make sure she's the one to look after you."
"Thank you, Mr. Swan. Good day."
Blushing crimson at her uncle's compliments, Bella went back to work. Her uncle's shop was her favourite job of the four she was currently juggling. Five, if one were to count the occasional baby-minding she did from time to time. However, Bella desperately needed the money; every penny she earned was earmarked for something important. She was close to her goal, perhaps one more year and she'd have enough.
Now that she had noticed the beautiful boy she began to see him everywhere, taunting her with his perfection. He was tall and slim, where she was not. His features were pleasingly arranged and the correct size for his face, hers were not. He came from money, he had style and grace; all Bella had were problems.
The first time he seemed to notice her was when the bakery was short-staffed one Saturday morning. Aro, her boss, had begged her to help out at the counter instead of making pastries in the back. Bella liked working in the back away from all the customers. People in general weren't kind to someone like her, with the way she looked and moved. Not in this day and age when ladies were supposed to be cultured and refined, elegant like Jackie Kennedy. Bella was no Jackie Kennedy.
Helping several customers as quickly as she could, Bella eyed the line at the bakery door. It seemed endless. His copper hair could just be seen over the other heads in line. Bella hoped that she would be excused back to the kitchen by the time he reached the counter, but it was to no avail. When it was his turn, she had to be the one to wait on him, fate made sure of that. He barely glanced at her, rattling off his order with ease. It was a huge order of cookies and pastries for a tea party at their sister sorority. He tried to make her laugh and engage her a bit, but Bella stuck to her task. She tied his boxes and tallied his order.
Edward's mother had always insisted he use his best manners when dealing with those under him. A man should be judged by the way he treats those who serve him, not by those he serves. He tried to catch the eye of the girl helping him to show his sincere thanks, but she wouldn't look past his chin. Her apron and uniform was different than the other girls working behind the counter. The name Bella was stitched in blue across the bib, so he made sure to thank her by name.
Bella let out a sigh of relief when he left. She helped out for another twenty minutes before she was allowed back to her station. She didn't see him again for a couple of weeks.
Thank you for reading.