Surprise! This was my entry in TwiFandomNews' Inked Contest. It earned second place in the public vote, so thank you to everyone who read, reviewed, and voted!
What was the contest entry is posted as the first three chapters, but I've gone back and tweaked them just a little since they were originally posted. Content-wise, there isn't much difference, but there is some.
Giant thanks to April, May, and Gail for pre-reading the original entry for me, and to jayhawkbb for editing this version of it. SunflowerFran edited a small chunk of this way back when, but it never got posted. Needless to say, I've been sitting on this one for a while. Well over four years, if you can believe that. Lol.
**A note before we begin ... this one may eventually dip a toe into trigger warning territory, so if you have any concerns, please message me. As I said, it's still very much a work in progress, so I can't guarantee any details of the story, since I haven't written that much of it yet.**
I've also created a video playlist for this story, and you can find it on YouTube under my pen name, Sunshine1220.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Twilight. No copyright infringement is intended.
What She Needs
"Hate My Life," Theory of a Deadman
"Fallen Angel," Three Days Grace
"Yeah, right there."
Not again. It's 2:00 a.m., and this is the second round for her tonight. I scrub a hand over my face and close my eyes, hoping her John gets his quick so he can get the fuck out of here.
"Give it to me, big boy."
I roll my eyes. Give me a fucking break. I'm never gonna get to sleep. I reach my fist to the wall behind me, banging a few times and yelling as I do. "Come on! Tryin' to sleep here!"
It's quiet, and I think the guy's finally done. Thank God. I'm not sure how much more of that shit I could take. I hear murmured voices before her door opens and closes, and I wait. If she's going back out, it'll be in a few minutes. Then I hear her shower start. Yeah, the walls are that thin. Must be quittin' time.
It's nothing new. Having temporary guests who entertain is a usual occurrence. Some of the girls are here for an hour or two, and some others rent the place for the whole night. On those nights, I pray I'm working late. But that's what I get for choosing to stay in some seedy motel in this part of town. Thank fuck it's a slow Tuesday for her.
I fumble for the snooze button for the second time. The tinny music pumping through the shitty speaker is not what it should be. Call me a weird motherfucker, but classical music not only puts me to sleep, it wakes me up, too. Though, looking at me, you'd never guess it. But it's been tuned to a rock station—the one we listen to in the shop all day—so it's good music ... I just know it's been changed.
The only explanation is the cute brunette Marcus just hired to clean the rooms. At least she has good taste.
The brunette's a tiny thing, too. I've tried not to be a creeper, but I've been watching her. She's short and curvy in all the right places. She zips around this place and does her job but keeps to herself. She must've been desperate to look for work at this shithole, though. As far as I can tell, she cleans all forty units herself. It's a lot of work for only one person.
Most of us living here at Sunset Motor Lodge are long-term guests, but a few of the rooms are like revolving doors. I'm supposed to be in what Marcus calls an extended stay unit. A mini fridge, coffee pot, microwave, and the occasional six-legged pest are included with the rent.
If this is what an extended stay unit looks like, I'd hate to see a basic room.
Anyway, this chick showed up here in March, almost two months ago. She's friendly but quiet; she keeps her head down and does her work. She says hello if I happen to see her when I'm coming or going, but she keeps her distance. She's actually living here, too—right above me, in fact.
Like clockwork, I hear her shower turn on every morning at the same time. Lying here looking at my clock, it should be in … three, two, one. There it is. Right on schedule. But earlier in the week, I could hear her retching bright and early, before her shower. I figure she must've partied a little too hard then because I haven't heard it since.
If I time my departure just right, I can catch a glimpse of her when she's between rooms. In the meantime, I'll lie here imagining what she looks like under the spray of the shower.
Arms up washing her hair. Head thrown back rinsing it all out. Hands using one of those poufy things to soap up her—I need to stop. Time to grab a shower of my own and get rid of some of the tension she causes every morning.
I start my shower and let it heat up. Hopping in, I let the warm water wash over me. Yeah, warm, not hot. Like I said, Marcus is an asshole. A cheap one at that. I wash my hair, which could probably use a cut, and grab the bar of soap, working up a lather. I scrub the colorful skin—swirls of ink, black and vivid color—that covers my arms, chest, and back. I tilt my head back and let the warm water rinse the suds from my body.
With my eyes closed, I let thoughts of the sexy housekeeper flood my mind. Thoughts of her washing that cute, tight little body of hers. Thoughts of her in the shower with me, pressed against the wall as I hover over her. It doesn't take long for me to get hard. I grasp my dick. I'm still a little tender, though. My apadravya piercing was just done about two months ago, so I gotta take it easy. I use gentle strokes, thinking of her down on her knees, my cock in her mouth.
It doesn't take long until I'm shooting my load all over the shower wall. As good as that feels, I'm anxious to take the piercing for a proper test drive—with a copilot. Waiting for it to be healed enough to try has been a lesson in patience.
I usually get a pocketful of phone numbers every week, but I've yet to pull the trigger. Needless to say, my dick is not very happy with me.
After I take care of business in the shower, including washing away the evidence of my self-love session—don't want shorty to have to see that—I get out to dry off. Looking in the mirror, I decide to skip a shave. It's only been a few days; it can wait. I rummage through my drawers, find my last pair of clean boxers and slip them on. I sip coffee, scarf down a meager breakfast, and watch TV to pass the time until I have to leave for my shift
Looking around, I spot the jeans I took off last night thrown over the back of a chair, and I pull those on. I'm having a hard time finding a t-shirt that doesn't smell too bad, though. Damn, I need to do laundry. Noticing the time, I realize I'm somehow late, and I need to get moving. I grab my wallet, keys, and all my other shit and head out.
As I'm turned toward my door, locking up, I hear the music before I hear her voice. She's in the neighbor's room, and the door is wide open. Standing just to the side, I have a perfect view of her. I'm pretty sure it's Theory of a Deadman playing on the radio, but it's her voice I hear over the music, belting out the words.
I still hate my job
My boss is a dick
I don't get paid nearly enough
To put up with all of his shit
Well I hate my job, all of my rich friends
I hate everyone to the bitter end
Nothing turns out right, there's no end in sight
I hate my life
She's swaying her hips as she sings. I'm unsure if I want to say something or not. But before I can decide, she spins around, and I'm caught staring. Her squeak lets me know me she wasn't expecting to be caught either. In a flash, she steps behind the poor excuse for a chair in the corner of the room, and her gloved hands firmly grab onto the wood. Even from my spot in the doorway, I can see how fast she's breathing.
"Hey, sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. You okay?"
She laughs, her breaths stuttering, and it's uncomfortable to even hear. Her eyes flash to an abandoned aerosol can on the desk before they look back to me. "Yeah, you just surprised me. I don't usually see anybody this time of day." She takes a deep breath and blows it out slowly, trying to calm herself, I guess. "Sorry if my pathetic attempt at singing disturbed you." Her voice is small, quiet, and the way it's shaking—hell, the way her whole body is shaking—tells me something is wrong. It almost looks like shit I've seen in movies or on TV when someone has a panic attack or something. I can sense she's wary of me, so I take a step back and slip my hands into my pockets.
"Nah, it actually wasn't too bad. You sang it with ... feeling ... from the heart." I shoot her a wink, causing her to roll her eyes and shake her head as she loosens her grip on the poor chair. She looks a little more at ease as her tense stance relaxes.
"Feeling? I guess you could call it that. You have met Marcus, right?"
I bark out a laugh and nod "Yeah, he's not very good management material, is he?"
"Honestly, I don't know how he manages to keep this place afloat. I think it's a front for something. He can't possibly make enough profit to keep it running." She steps away from the chair and picks up the can she's been eyeing.
I shrug. "Whatever it is, it's a roof over my head. And it's cheap enough that hopefully I'll save enough to get outta here soon."
She nods and smiles. "It's definitely cheap. And you're not the only one who's counting their pennies to get out of here."
"Not your plan to stick around here for long ..."
"Oh, I'm Bella."
"It's nice to officially meet you, Bella." I reach out my hand to shake hers. "Edward Masen."
She holds up her gloved hands, wiggling her fingers. "You really don't wanna shake my hand right now. If you'd seen the woman who stayed here last ..." She visibly shudders, and I chuckle.
"Yeah, I caught a glimpse of her last night, and I heard her for that matter. You're right; I don't want to shake your hand right now." Her soft laugh and smile widen my own. "So, it's not your plan to stick around here for very long, Bella?"
She shakes her head, her smile still in place. "No. As soon as I can, I'll be moving on." Her grin falls just a little. "But I'd guess a lot of people say the same thing, huh?"
"True." I study her for a little longer than I probably should, and what I see—her fallen smile, the tension that seems to radiate from her, and a not so hidden sadness in her eyes no one her age should have—makes me even more curious than I was before we spoke. "But I have a feeling we just might be two of the lucky ones."
"That would be nice," she says softly.
I blow out a breath, suddenly needing to get the hell out of here. The heaviness of the moment is a little too much. "Well, I need to hit the road. My boss isn't gonna be happy with me; I'm already late. Sorry again for scaring you."
She shakes her head, smiling, and walks toward the bin of cleaning products sitting on the counter. "Thanks, but I'm pretty sure I'll recover. And as nice as this was, I really need to get back to work myself." She looks up at me and smiles. "And it's Swan, by the way. Bella Swan."
"Well, Bella Swan, it was lovely meeting you," I say with a slight bow. "Maybe someday we could split a pizza or something, get to know each other better? Since we're neighbors and all."
She looks pensive, like she's deciding if it's a good idea. Finally, she nods her head. "Sure. Can't have too many friends in this town, can you?"
"No, I'd say you can't. Catch ya later."
"Good meeting you, too, Edward."
Walking away, I've got a skip in my step. The cute, little shorty is actually pretty cool. Maybe I'll have to order that pizza soon. As I walk to the parking lot out front, I pass the pool that was advertised as sparkling in the online ad, but hasn't been anything except bright green since I moved in.
Climbing into my monster of a truck, I crank it over, hearing it rumble to life. L.A. traffic can be murder, but considering I leave so late in the day, it isn't bad. I pull into the lot behind the shop and into a spot. Over the Moon Tattoos has been my home away from home since the day I got to L.A. a little more than a year ago.
Being low man on the totem pole, I scrub the nasty toilet, take out the trash, and do all the other grunt work. At least I've been able to quit the stocking job I had right after I rolled into town. It feels like it's been a long road to get here, but I'm finally finding my feet.
Walking into the shop, I notice Liam and Stefan both have customers in their chairs. The piercing room door is closed, so Maggie must have a client, too. Vlad, Stefan's partner in the crime that is Goth, is at the counter looking through a copy of Inked Girls, no doubt looking for spank bank material.
"You're late." He doesn't even look up from the magazine.
"Yeah, sorry. Overslept." Lies, all lies, but no one else needs to know that. He must mistake my meaning, though.
"Oh yeah? Hot piece of ass keep you up too late last night?" He looks up, smirking at me.
"You could say that. Chick was screamin' all night." He doesn't need to know that it was the whore next door.
"All right, Masen." He puts up his fist for a bump, and I oblige just so I can get to work.
"So, do I have any actual appointments today? Or am I on walk-in duty?"
"Uh, other than one appointment later, it's all walk-ins for you, buddy."
"Who's the appointment?"
"One of your regulars. Ms. Tanya Denali is back for more. She asks for you every time. You hittin' that? 'Cause, damn, she is hot."
Shaking my head, I give him the answer he probably isn't expecting. "Nah, man. Not my type."
"How is she not your type?" He sounds personally offended, and I laugh.
"Plastic parts and a bottle blonde job to go with them aren't my type, no matter how hot."
"So, it won't be steppin' on your toes if I try to get her number?"
"Go for it, Vlad. If you can get her number, more power to you."
And with that, I head back to the supply room to check inventory. It's a slow day, being a Wednesday. Usually, the weeks are full of regulars, or people coming in for one of their multiple sessions for large pieces. The weekends see more crowds of tourists, partiers, or bachelor or bachelorette parties coming in for something fun.
When six o'clock rolls around, the bell rings, and Ms. Denali saunters in, swaying her hips as she moves. Compared to shorty's swaying hips ... well, there's no comparison.
"Masen, your six o'clock is here."
Breathing deeply, I take a moment to steel myself before dealing with the barracuda. She's been relentless. She even caught me on my way out of the shop one night, propositioning me in the parking lot. I've turned her down repeatedly, but she won't let up. Her persistence is one of the biggest turn-offs to me. I don't like to be pursued. I like to be the one ... pursuing. My thoughts automatically go to a particularly shy brunette.
I walk up to the front counter, a smile plastered on my face, trying to appear professional. "Ms. Denali, if you'll follow me."
"Hello, Masen." She's attempting to sound sexy, but it just seems to me like she needs to clear her throat. I show her to my chair, and she has a seat. I see she has my portfolio binder in her lap.
"So, what can I do for you today?"
She hands me the binder, opened to one of the tats I've done in the past. She points to the picture of a sunflower nipple tatt. "I want this."
Great, I'm about to get up close and personal with her tits. Before I can even get started, she whips off her shirt, putting her oversized, disproportionate rack out on display. The woman has no shame.
"All right. Just give me a few minutes to make the transfer, and we'll get started."
I spend almost two hours on her tattoo, trying to ignore the peaked nipple taunting me as I ink her. Liam told me a long time ago that skin is skin, and not to think about what I'm working on. Although I've had a few ladies in my chair lately who got my attention, I always keep it professional.
"Okay, all done. You know the drill. Keep it clean, and after tonight, you can use the A+D ointment on it. I'd suggest skipping a bra for a few days, too. Don't wear anything too tight."
"Okay. If I have any problems, can I come see you?"
Wondering how many days before she has a problem I need to help her with, I give her a curt smile. "Sure, but this isn't your first tattoo. You should be fine."
"Well, here." She thrusts a piece of paper in my face—her number, I'm sure. "In case you want to call and check on me."
I gently, and as politely as possible, push her hand away. "Tanya, if you have any problems, you can just call the shop."
Her pout says she isn't deterred. I swear, she's so goddamn persistent. I wonder how long it'll take her to figure out I'm really not interested. I watch as Vlad rings her up. I'm guessing he goes for her number when she glances my direction, and I give her the best disinterested look I can manage. I recognize the moment she gives up and slides that slip of paper his way. Vlad grins like a loon as she makes her way out the door.
"You know, she might back off if you'd just give in and fuck her." Liam's chuckling behind me. He knows how much trouble Tanya's been and how many times I've blown her off.
I just shake my head. "No way, man. I think there's more plastic in her than the play place at McDonald's. Besides, she strikes me as the type who's been around the block more than a few times. That shit's not for me."
I get an understanding nod from my friend, mentor, and now boss. He's known me long enough to realize girls like Tanya Denali just don't do it for me.
I met Liam Donnelly and his girl, Maggie, the day I walked into the shop where they worked in Chicago. It was almost five years ago. I had just turned eighteen, and I was there to get my first tattoo. That tattoo—the bold script letters spelling out my last name across my back—is still one of my favorites. Liam had his own chair, and I was in it many times over the next few years, as well as in Maggie's chair for all my piercings.
It was through them I realized I wanted something different than the life my parents had planned for me. It was enough to cause a rift between me and my folks. So much so, they cut me off.
I ended up on Liam's doorstep, begging for an apprenticeship and a couch to crash on. He offered me both. So, for a few months, I slept on his sofa, ate ramen, and did grunt work in the shop, all while learning the fine art of tattooing. My own skin became a canvas, and a few of the images blended into one of my sleeves are some of my first attempts at ink. When I became comfortable, I worked under his careful eye, honing my craft. Not long after that, Liam got a call from a buddy here in L.A. saying that he was selling his shop, and he wanted to sell it to Liam. Needless to say, he, Maggie, and I packed up and moved out here a month later.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
The rest of the evening is quiet. Thankfully, throughout the week we close fairly early. Friday and Saturday nights we're open until one in the morning. We're closed on Sunday, and I have Mondays off. It's been a good schedule. Unfortunately, this weekend I didn't get my laundry done, so I'll have to find some time this week. The last pair of clean boxers is on my ass right now.
We lock up and head out at the same time. Liam and Maggie turn down the sidewalk toward their apartment, while me and the Goth twins hop in our cars to head home. I need something to eat, so I stop at the grocery store on the way.
Tonight's end-of-the-day discounted deli feast is a few pieces of fried chicken with some macaroni and cheese. Food in hand, I head to the register, and as I do, I spot the shorty brunette, Bella. She looks different from this morning. Her hair is down, not up in its usual bun. And damn, it's long. Like almost-to-her-ass long. She's in the produce department, minding her own business as she fills her cart. I start in her direction. I wouldn't want to be rude, after all.
"Hey, Bella. Fancy seeing you here."
"Oh, hey, Edward. How are you?" She pushes her hair behind her ear, and in the bright light of the supermarket, I notice the small jeweled stud in her nose. It's perfect for her delicate features.
"Good. Just stopping in to grab a late dinner." I shake the plastic box in my hand. "What about you? You always shop this late?" I can't help but look into her cart, curious to see what she's out for at his time of the night. She has some produce, a couple of canned things, some peanut butter, and juice. It's an odd mix for someone living in a motel.
"Not usually, but I had a late appointment after work, and the bus always makes everything take ten times longer."
"I'm headed back when I leave here. You wanna catch a ride with me? Save the bus fare?"
"Oh, could I? I usually wouldn't bother you with it, but I'm wiped out. It was such a long day. Marcus had some extra work for me, which took longer than I thought it would, then the bus ride to my appointment. So, yeah, that would be great."
"It's really no problem. I have what I came for, so whenever you're ready, we can go."
"Yeah. Let me just ... " She points to the back of the store. "I need to grab some milk and cheese. Why don't you go ahead and check out and I'll be right there?"
"Yeah, okay." She's trying to scoot me along, though I don't know why, so I head to the checkout. Once I'm finished, I hang out just past the registers and wait for her. The cashier eyes me like I'm gonna rob the place or something. I know people look at me, see all the ink and metal, and think the worst, but I'm used to it. That still doesn't stop me from fidgeting, clacking my tongue ring against my teeth.
I see her coming after only a couple of minutes. She stops, and I see her fumbling with her bag, looking for something. She must find it because she steps up to the register. I'm close enough that I hear her speak to the cashier. Her voice is low, and she almost sounds embarrassed.
"This is a wick purchase."
Wick? What the hell is that?
The cashier nods, and proceeds to ring her up. When she gets a total, Bella hands over a stack of what looks like coupons. Oh, it must be some kind of assistance program. I wonder how she qualifies for that. I looked into it for about five minutes before I realized I made too much money. I know she works, so it's not like she's milking the system. But if she's on food stamps, why is she buying such weird food? You'd think shit she could microwave would be better for where we live.
The cashier seems friendly enough, making small talk as she checks off items on the slips of paper and hands them to Bella to sign. "Have a nice night."
"Thanks. You, too." Bella's smile is as genuine as the one she usually gives people, even after a long day.
"Ready?" I push off the wall I was leaning against, walking with her toward the door.
"Yep. Thanks again for doing this. I really appreciate it."
"What kind of asshole would I be if I didn't offer my neighbor a ride?" She's smiling but shaking her head.
"No, not an asshole, but not everyone would be that thoughtful. Really, thanks."
"You're welcome. Anytime you need a ride, you know, you could ask me. If I'm headed that direction, I don't mind giving you a lift." We've reached my truck now, so I unlock and open her door for her.
"Thanks." She walks a wide arc around me and climbs in. I walk around and get in on my side. She clears her throat and speaks over the rumble of the engine. "And thanks for the offer, but I wouldn't want to put you out."
"You wouldn't be. If you need a ride, just ask. Worst case, I say no. Best case, you get a ride. No big deal."
"Okay then. Thanks."
The rest of the ride is quiet. Before too long, were pulling up to the motel. Her head is leaning against the window, and I'm not sure if she's fallen asleep, so my voice is low to get her attention.
"Bella? Hey, we're home."
I guess she was sleeping because she discreetly checks her lips for drool, and it's fucking adorable. "Sorry, I must've fallen asleep. Not very good company, huh?"
"No worries. I probably would've conked out too if someone else was driving. Do you need help carrying your groceries up?"
"No, I've got it, thanks. I was gonna have to lug them all home on the bus, remember?"
We both get out of the truck, me with my pathetic dinner, and Bella with her bags and milk. She heads toward the stairs to go up to her room.
"Thanks again for the ride, Edward."
With a smile and a nod, she turns to go. I make my way toward my room, stopping to watch and make sure she safely makes it into hers. Unlocking my door, I listen. Next door is quiet. Maybe I'll luck out and the room will stay empty tonight. I can only hope. I toss my keys on the table near the door and set down my already-cold meal. I take a minute to crack open the window; a little fresh air couldn't hurt.
After hitting the bathroom and washing up, I grab my food and plop down on my bed. It's not as I left it, though; I know I didn't make it before I left this morning. Knowing Bella was in here making my bed makes me equal parts happy and, as I look around and see the empty wastebaskets and wiped down surfaces, self-conscious. I heave a sigh and remind myself it's her job to clean, even if it was my mess. I turn on the TV to catch the late news. That lasts for about five minutes. There's only so much bad news and political coverage I can stomach.
Marcus offers limited channels, so I find some half-decent episode of Austin City Limits on PBS. It's then that I hear it. Yelling. Bella must have her window open, too. I mute the TV and move to the window, straining to hear.
"No, I'm not. You're the one who wouldn't help me." It's quiet for a minute. "I'm not coming home, Charlie. You believed that piece of shit over me, and I can't forgive that."
Charlie? Is that the boyfriend? Does he think she cheated or something?
"I'm sorry, Dad, but if you don't even believe me, I'm not coming home." Silence follows. I'm sitting up now, perched on the edge of my bed when she starts shouting again. "No, you sided with him over your own daughter. I only called home to make sure you were still alive, not so you could harass me. I see that you're okay, so you won't be hearing from me for a while. Goodbye, Charlie."
She must end the call because it's quiet again. That is until I hear her frustrated scream, followed by a crash. I almost run and see if she's okay, then I hear her again. She's crying.
I rub at my chest, my heart hurting for her. She sounds so broken, nothing like the smiling girl I talked to earlier. Her sobs finally quiet down, and the sound of her window sliding closed is the last thing I hear from her. Guess my snooping is done for tonight.
Thankfully, the rest of my night is quiet, blessed silence coming from next door, and I get a decent night's sleep. The next morning is uneventful, and for once, I arrive at work on time. My day is slow, even for a Thursday. My thoughts drift to last night, running into Bella so late, and what she said to the cashier. Maybe Maggie knows. She's at the counter looking through a magazine, wasting time between customers like the rest of us.
"Do you know what wick is?"
"WIC? Like the assistance program?"
"Yeah, I guess, like with the coupons. To get groceries. Is it, like, food stamps or something?"
"Not exactly. I had a friend who was on it a couple years ago. It stands for Women, Infants and Children. It's for pregnant or nursing women, and kids under five, I think. It's a supplemental program. Helps them get food that fills in the gaps of what they're not getting. Why?"
"Um, no reason. I heard someone say it at the store last night."
My mind is spinning. I'm pretty sure she doesn't have a kid, so that can only mean one thing.
Bella must be pregnant.