A/N: Single dad Edward won out. In this story Bella refers to him as 'Frowning Daddy'. Strange that uploading Twilight AF made my mojo crash back. I've been writing a lot the last week. Fingers crossed it lasts. I have 10 chapters written of this fic, and since it's me, expect humour and angst. As with all my stories there will be a HEA, and I will finish it.
This chapter is Not beta'd. Again, I'm not going to bother Kim for the meantime. StarryEyedWriter has pre-read a couple of chapters for me, so thanks doll. I'll send you more soon.
Footprints in the Sand
At the age of six I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. I found it hard, if not near impossible, to keep my focus, and I struggled at school.
Charlie, my father, took an unorthodox approach. Not medication, but jogging. Every day, before school or after—and no matter what the weather—he took me on a five mile trek through Forks; the backwater logging town where I grew up. His theory was that it would help tune out distractions, help me stay focused, and center my thoughts.
He was right.
In the beginning I resented him for it. I was a kid, and the last thing I wanted foisted on me was mandatory exercise, but little by little my body adjusted to the physical strain and I grew accustomed to it. When I ran, I concentrated on keeping my breathing, and my gait, even. It was a necessity to get through it, and after only a couple of months, I realized I unwittingly pulled my mind from its constant tangents and kept it focused.
It soon became part of my everyday routine, and Dad and I were famous for it. You couldn't miss the Chief of Police and his daughter running through such a small town. Ironically, once I hit my teenage years it was me who started dragging my father out the door for our runs. Not only did it keep my thoughts centered but it proved to be a great stress reliever. Without it, I would never have made it through senior year and college, or my first arduous year as a Labor and Delivery nurse.
Or that day two Novembers ago.
After a routine traffic stop, my father, Charlie Swan, was hit by an oncoming car; he was killed instantly. I was twenty five, and with my father's departure from this world, I was left essentially without family.
My parents' marriage came to an end not long after I was born, and while my mother initially had custody of me, that changed when I was almost two. My mother, Renee, who Charlie always told me worked for Motley Crue, was in fact a traveling groupie who had abandoned me for a life on the road with has-been rockers from the 80s.
I found that out vital piece of information when I was sixteen; when Renee had unintentionally outed herself. I was mortified, but it only brought me and Dad closer. While Renee and I are complete opposites, Dad I were alike in both appearance and personality. Dark haired and eyed, reserved but not shy; friendly but not overly sociable. We both preferred our small selection of friends to large crowds. Dad had Billy Black and Waylon Forge, I had Jess and Alice.
Now it's just Alice. At seventeen the three of us made a pact to move to Seattle and leave Forks behind us once and for all. Alice and I honored it, but Jess fell pregnant six months after graduating high school. She married Mike Newton a couple of months before their baby was born, and is now a happy homemaker with three kids in tow.
Alice and I both went to SU College of Nursing, and we now, somewhat, work together at Harborview Medical Center. Alice snagged herself a day shift position as an RN in the ER in her first year. I did three grueling years of nightshift before I finally landed myself an afternoon shift.
I still go jogging. It started with Charlie, and it will always keep me connected to him, but now not only does it free me, body and mind, from the shackles of work, it gets me out of my apartment where I recently started living on my own. And most importantly, it keeps my thoughts off my cheating ass of an ex-boyfriend.
The latter has been an abysmal failure.
I will not think about that bastard, I will not think about that bastard, I will not think about that bastard, I chant my inner monologue mantra, in tune with each intake of air I take, each thud of my sneakered feet against the tree-lined sidewalk, when a familiar blonde-haired head, covered in a multi-colored beanie, comes into view.
"Hi, Bella!" Adalyn choruses out her greeting from behind the fence of the Dutch Colonial mansion that neighbors my apartment block.
"Hey, Addie," I reply, matching her bright smile as I come to a stop a couple of feet before her. "What have you been doing today?" I ask, bending momentarily forward and leaning my hands on my knees in an effort to catch my breath. I work three, twelve to fourteen hour shifts and run on my off days; the first day back always kicks my ass the hardest.
"I drew you a picture—see?" she announces, producing a large, crumpled piece of lined paper from behind her back, revealing three colorful stick figures. "This is you, this is Daddy, and this is me." She points out each drawing individually. I'm the pink one with an even pinker triangle as my dress, long brown hair that falls to the grass, and a wide, bright red smile and even bigger lips. Addie is a near identical smaller version, sans lips, and with yellow hair, and Daddy is the frowning figure with flame red hair who stands on the other side of her.
"Oh, that's great, sweetie," I acknowledge, my smile inching broader. Addie is my neighbor's granddaughter, four years old and sweeter than honey. We met not quite a year ago in the exact same place. I had only just moved into my apartment and was just getting over the worst cold I'd had in almost a decade of winters. It was my first attempt at running in more than a month and I was rusty and struggling. I barely made it home, and I almost keeled over and puked up my lungs right by the white picket fence, when a little chirpy voice asked if I wanted a glass of water. I looked up and into a pair of beautiful, clear, jade green eyes.
"Hello, I'm Adalyn Katherine Cullen," she introduced herself proudly, and pretty articulately for such a little thing, "but you can call me Addie."
"Hello, I'm Bella Swan," I croaked out in return, and so our friendship began.
She waits in the fenced-in front yard for me to return most days I go running now; usually with an offering of some sort. Last week it was cookies, the week before that, red cool aide, and the week before that, Junior Mints. Sometimes Grandma is in attendance, but today she's alone; though, Grandma and I became acquainted with each other very early on.
Ninety years ago, the block of land that housed the Dutch Colonial was subdivided to build an apartment complex. I fell in love with it on sight. Built in 1926 it's a beautiful red terracotta building with twin rendered bay windows on the front façade from the second to the fourth floor. I bought a one bedroom apartment on the second floor after I received Charlie's life insurance payout; I would have never been able to afford to live here otherwise. The entire neighborhood of Queen Anne is way beyond my salary.
My acquaintance with Mrs. Cullen was forced through the ineptness of Seattle Post. Her address is 12 West Highland Drive, while mine is apartment 12 - 25 West Highland Drive. Therein lies the problem. For the past twelve months our mail has been constantly mixed up—as it's apparently been since the apartments were completed. We often meet in the middle to exchange it. On the odd occasion Mrs. Cullen invites me inside for tea. The last time was several months back after I just arrived home after a run. I was a sweating, disheveled mess, and I haven't been invited since. Though, she's always very polite and accommodating.
"You can have it if you like," Addie offers, holding her picture out to me over the fence.
"Why, thank you, Addie. I'm going to put it on my fridge right away."
She giggles in reply, and taking it I gaze down at the crude drawings, my eyes lingering on the over-exaggerated sad face on her father.
This is the third picture she's shown me, and drawing Daddy with a frown seems to be an emerging trend. While I haven't met her father formally, I have seen him in the flesh several times; albeit from a distance as he comes by his parents' house to collect his daughter. By all appearances he appears to be a happy, devoted father. He's tall and handsome with hair not nearly as red as Addie likes to depict. While it's on the plane of red, it inches closer to brown, but I don't expect Crayola make his exact hair color. He's the second son in the family; I know this because his father, Carlisle Cullen, is a neurosurgeon and affiliated with multiple hospitals in Seattle; one being my place of employment. I've often seen him in the cafeteria, and everyone knows who he is. It's hard to miss him; he's still in possession of every strand of blond hair on his head, and way too handsome for a man in his late fifties. What makes it worse is he's the most charming man in existence. Unlike a lot of specialists of his caliber, he doesn't look down on interns and nurses like we're peasants. He always passes with a smile, a nod, and a friendly 'hello'. Half the nursing staff are in love with him. If he was any younger, I would be too. In my mind, I might be. It still has a habit of skewering off into a thousand different directions at once.
The two Cullen sons I'm not as familiar with outside of idle gossip; one is Addie's dad—profession unknown. Though, judging by his attire, he's definitely not holding down a blue collar nine-to-five. Construction workers tend not to wear three piece suits and drive Mercedes Benzes. I heard through the grapevine that he's gay. You'd think the existence of his daughter would disprove that theory, but he could be late out of the closet. Another rumor is he's divorced, and while Addie has never mentioned her mother, apparently it's all on him. Not the nicest guy by all accounts; though, witnessing him galloping Addie out to his car on his back while she squealed with laughter the previous week, definitely doesn't fit the profile.
The oldest son, Emmett Cullen, is an architect – slash – weightlifter. I'm guessing the latter, because the guy is huge.
"Do you like it?" Addie asks as her large eyes fix to mine in obvious appraisal. She really does have the prettiest eyes; they're round and bright, specked with cerulean blue, and flatter her long, flaxen blonde hair. She's a definite beauty this little girl, but then she's a Cullen; beauty is a part of their genetic makeup. Her mother is more than likely one of those obscenely beautiful women who make Victoria's Secret runway models question their existence; one that regular women avoid like the bubonic plague.
"I love it."
Her grin turns cheesy and she giggles again; clamping a chubby hand momentarily over her mouth. "It's almost my birthday. I'm turning five."
"Really?" Four going on thirty would be more accurate.
She nods and clumsily wipes her long hair out of her face. She often wears it loose; the last time I was invited for tea I braided it. It's as soft as it appears, and I could run my fingers through it forever. "Do you want to come?" The tone of her voice goes higher with genuine hope.
"Um..." I hesitate as I wrack my brain for a plausible excuse to let her down gently.
"It's at mine and Daddy's house. I'm having a jumping castle, Elsa and Anna are coming, and a fairy face painter," she adds, her enthusiasm increasing.
"What day is it, sweetie?" I ask, knowing it's more than likely going to be a weekend. In which case I'll be at work and won't have a reason to party crash frowning Daddy's house. January I'm rostered on for weekends.
"Saturday," she answers as expected.
"Oh, Addie... I'm working every Saturday this month," I explain with genuine apology, because it's criminal to disappoint her. Her expression immediately falls, and I feel positively rotten. "But how about I buy you a present to make up for it?"
She smiles, only moderately appeased, and nods her head. "Okay..."
"I'm sorry, sweetie."
"Addie!" Mrs. Cullen appears in the doorway and calls out. "Oh, hi, Bella," she adds, her smile turning warm before she ventures out into the questionable weather to greet me. "How are you?" she asks, placing her hand on Addie's shoulder and drawing her close.
"I'm good. How are you?"
"Fine, fine... I have your mail inside. Would you like to come in?" she offers.
I open my mouth to decline, knowing I will only pollute her lovely home with my sweaty ass, but Addie's already reacting with excitement, and I've disappointed her enough for one day. "Okay, sure."
Opening the gate, Mrs. Cullen opens her arm and ushers me into the yard, and grabbing my hand Addie drags me toward the house.
I've never been big on tea, but Mrs. Cullen is an expert at making it. Setting a china cup and saucer before me, she takes the chair opposite at her informal dining area. Though her informal furniture makes mine appear flea market-esque.
"Sugar?" she offers, grabbing a cube of it from its silver dish with a small matching pair of tongs.
"Two," I say, sliding my tea cup closer to her.
Mrs. Cullen takes hers without sugar—without milk—and going from her slight frame, she must barely eat. I'm sure it has to be superior genes, though, because she has amazing skin and hair.
"What's that drawing of, darling?" she asks Addie, after relaxing back in her chair. Addie's beside me loudly slurping whipped cream from the hot chocolate her grandmother made her.
"It's me, Bella and Daddy," she answers brightly, and from her very subtle expression, it's clear Mrs. Cullen doesn't approve.
"That's lovely," she compliments her regardless as her blue eyes move to mine. Her smile broadens only to fall, and I really can't decipher the meaning behind it. It's not hard to guess the tenor behind it, though.
We might be neighbors, and I like you and everything, but you're in another universe from my son and granddaughter.
Perhaps I'm being paranoid. Whatever the case, I only smile with feigned oblivion and pick up my tea cup with the objective of sculling it like a beer. That's when Addie almost kills me and her grandmother both.
"I asked Daddy to marry Bella for my birthday, and he said 'yes'."
"Um, you asked him what, darling?" Mrs. Cullen questions as I make every effort not to asphyxiate on my tea and ruin the upholstery on the dining chair.
"This morning," Addie elaborates. "I said, 'Daddy, for my birthday can you marry Bella?' and he said, 'I'll think about it'," she lowers her voice in impression of her father, while I only continue to choke. "When Daddy says 'I'll think about it'"—she imitates him again—"he always means yes."
"Darling, Bella already has a gentleman in her life," Mrs. Cullen explains tactfully, while I choose to omit the unfortunately truth of my philandering ex.
"Really?" Addie gazes over at me, her large eyes wide with continued disappointment. I really can't fathom how anyone can have children; Addie's not even mine and the guilt's unbearable.
"Sorry, sweetie," I offer up weakly, shrugging a shoulder helplessly. "I should go." I turn to Mrs. Cullen who offers up a sympathetic smile.
"I'm sorry," she replies in a practically inaudible voice, her expression as equally pained.
I shake my head. "It's fine."
"Bella, can you braid my hair?" Addie suddenly pipes up, the business of marrying her father seemingly already behind her.
"Addie, Bella's very busy," Mrs. Cullen scolds her.
"I-I don't mind—really," I assure her, and when I turn to Addie she's already produced several multi-colored hair bands.
"Bella, you're too lovely," Mrs. Cullen notes with a sigh as if Addie is exhausting, and pulling herself to her feet she leaves the room; returning a moment later with a hair brush. "Here you go."
In five minutes I've parted Addie's hair into twin braids that fall to her waist.
"You like it?" I ask her after tying the second.
Moving her hands to the back of her head, her fingers run down her hair and her grin grows wide. "I love it—yay!" She jumps on the spot and claps before wrapping her arms around my legs. "Thank you, Bella."
"You're welcome, sweetie."
"See you tomorrow!" she chirps, holding out her hand for me to high-five her.
"I'm dreadfully sorry, Bella," Mrs. Cullen feels the need to apologize again as she sees me off at the door. "She says the darnedest things sometimes."
"It's fine—honestly," I reassure her before stepping out into the early afternoon mist that's beginning to set in. "Thank you for the tea, Mrs. Cullen."
"Please call me Esme." It's a request she's asked of me several times already, but so far it hasn't stuck.
I'm not sure why.
After collecting my mail in the foyer of my apartment block, I head toward the stairs.
"Electricity, credit card… Mrs. Cullen, Dr. Cullen… Ugh..." I mutter, sorting through it as I go. I forgot to pick up mine when I was in the Dutch Colonial, I realize.
I'll get it tomorrow, I decide after letting myself in my apartment and dumping the stack of bills, misdirected mail, and catalogues on my kitchen counter.
"Did you get it?" I receive a text from Alice the moment I step out of the shower, five exclamation marks deep. She's referring to her and Jay's wedding invitations, of course. Jay's a first year resident; she met him as an intern and after a seven month whirlwind romance they got engaged. There's a running bet on Labor and Delivery that she's pregnant. She isn't, but regardless, I'm not allowed in on it. Insider trading, or something to that effect
"No, but I think my neighbor has it," I reply in an effort to pre-empt her hysteria. I'm really not sure whether weddings are as stressful as Alice likes to proclaim them to be or whether she just gets off on overreacting. Whichever's the case, her next text doesn't surprise me in the slightest.
"WHAT? GO AND GET IT?"
"Can't it wait until the morning? I've already got my pajamas on." And it's not as if I'm not intimately familiar with every detail of her upcoming nuptials. She's spoken of nothing else these past several months. Even with the knowledge of becoming a bridesmaid, my enthusiasm was snuffed out after month two; now it's just ad nauseam. It's not as if I can say anything without sounding like I'm raining on her parade, though, so I don't.
"I'm freaking out, Bella! If you didn't get yours who else didn't?" Six exclamation marks this time. After seven she'll rock up on my doorstep, then after getting me suitably wasted she'll hamstring me into a two-hour discussion regarding seating arrangements at the reception.
"Okay, fine, I'll go and get it," I cave, because it's easier just to humor her, "but I'm eating dinner first!"
"Call me the second you do."
Rolling my eyes, I switch my phone off and throw a god-knows-how-many-months-old TeeVee dinner in the microwave. I've been slack on the grocery shopping lately. My break-up bingeing is not showing any signs of letting up soon.
At seven pm I yank my arms irritably through my parka, shuffle into my Uggs and shove a beanie over my head before grabbing Dr. and Mrs. Cullen's mail and trudging back down the stairs.
It feels rude to be knocking on their door at such an hour, but I decide to use Alice's oh-so-important wedding invitation as an excuse.
After the sound of footsteps along the marble, the door is pulled open, but instead of Mrs. Cullen, or even Dr. Cullen, on the other side of it, it's Addie's frowning daddy. I know this by the color of his well-kept hair, the grey three piece suit, and the pair of beautiful, jade green eyes he's in possession of.
She has his eyes. She has his eyes and absolutely nothing else.
He stares at me for a moment, but not before something starts in his expression. I can only attribute it to his surprise over finding an obvious vagrant standing on his doorstep, before his eyes break from mine and he draws them meticulously over my flannel-parka-Ugg-clad body.
"May I help you?" he speaks in a voice that matches his father's rich timbre; though, there's something notably restricted in Frowning Daddy's. As if he just swallowed a fly.
Finding myself surprisingly dumbstruck by such a grotesquely handsome man gazing at me as if I just crawled from the sewer, I thrust out my hand, highlighting the reason for my untimely visit. "I have Mrs. Cullen's mail…"
His gaze zeroes in on it, and without hesitation he takes it from my grip. "Thank you," he says in monotone after clearing his throat, and without another word spoken, he closes the door on me.
My mouth immediately falls open, and I scoff to myself in utter disbelief at how rude he was.
"Jerkoff!" I mutter, turning to leave when the door suddenly swings open again. I whirl back around, almost tripping over my feet, as those acutely green eyes fix to mine again.
"Yours," he says by way of explanation, holding out several envelopes in his hand, one obviously being Alice and Jasper's wedding invite.
"Thank..." I begin, when the door is unceremoniously shut on me a second time with me staring blankly behind it.
I go to bed that night with my thoughts simmering with the memory of Frowning Daddy. After getting within several inches of him I'm fairly certain the gay rumor is bullshit. The second however seems to be a definite.
He's an asshole.
A/N: So, you coming along for the ride with me?