I looked at my watch. We'd been at the garage sale for hours, but it was not going well.
We'd had plenty of traffic. Half the school seemed to show up, and plenty of townspeople, as well. Everyone looked, everyone fingered and ogled the pristine merchandise, but nobody tried anything on and almost nobody had made a purchase.
I sat with Edward, leaning my head against his marble shoulder, watching Jessica and Lauren off in a corner.
"They've been looking at those jeans for twenty minutes," I complained, annoyed at their giggling.
"They don't want to admit that they can't fit in them," Edward muttered. "They're busy convincing themselves it is not possible that all of these things are real. They're concocting some story about our family being brand counterfeiters."
I rolled my eyes.
I straightened up as I saw Jessica sauntering toward me.
"Hey, Bella." She was studiously avoiding Edward's gaze.
"Hey, Jess. What's up?"
"Umm. I was wondering?" She was using her annoying up-talk voice. "Are all those Prada backpacks real Prada? Or fakes?"
"Uh, I don't know which ones you're talking about but everything here is real."
"Are you sure?" She asked, cocking one eyebrow skeptically. "Lauren, show Bella the Prada backpack."
Lauren pouted. She did not like being told what to do by Jessica. She took her time walking toward us, being sure to look disdainfully at all the other shoppers.
She thrust a teeny black bag at me.
I was confused. "That's not much of a backpack, is it? I mean, you couldn't even carry a text book in it." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Edward trying to hide a smile behind his hand.
Lauren snickered and Jessica rolled her eyes.
"It's not for school, Bella. But forget about that, is it real?" Jessica placed one hand on her hip, waiting for my answer.
A white hand snaked out and snatched the bag from Lauren's grasp.
"Of course it's real," sniffed Alice, holding the bag to her body. "But it's not for sale," she declared, floating away.
"Alice…" Edward called after her, a warning in his voice.
"Deal's off, Edward," she retorted over her shoulder, sticking out her tongue for good measure.
Lauren and Jessica huffed away. Edward threw up his hands in frustration.
"This is going nowhere. You know that Jasper has been sending bad emotions out here?"
"What?" I asked, startled.
"He's scaring away the shoppers, or making them too depressed to shop, or making them embarrassed to buy at a garage sale. Anything to keep them from buying. He isn't doing it constantly, just every once in a while, when it gets really busy. Anything to keep Alice happy."
"Oh, brother," I said, remembering Esme's promise that Alice could keep whatever didn't sell.
"I've got an idea," I said, wondering if I dared to do what I was about to suggest.
"I'm all ears."
I leaned close to Edward and whispered in his ear. He didn't say anything. I pulled away from him to scan his expression, worried that I'd gone too far.
His eyes sparkled with delight. "Did I ever tell you how much I love your mind?" He smiled my favorite crooked grin and my stomach did a little flip.
"Are you sure? I mean, I don't want anyone to…"
He laid an icy finger across my lips. "Don't even think of it. It's brilliant. We just need to get a crowd here again…."
We huddled together, coming up with our plan.
"I'm going on a fast food run for Bella," Edward said casually to no one in particular. No one noticed the markers and paper he shoved into the passenger seat of his Volvo before he climbed in. He carefully threaded his car through the tables and idle browsers in the driveway and was gone.
I made a slow circuit through all the tables, ending inside the garage. Things were relatively untouched in here. Most of the attention had been on Rosalie's BMW. It still bore the sign, "Not for Sale."
I surreptitiously pulled the sign off, crumpling it in a wad and throwing it in a dark corner.
Edward was back within the hour. We waited for twenty more minutes, hoping our plan would work. We perked up when we noticed a flood of new shoppers hurrying down the driveway. They didn't hesitate to buy this time. In fact, they were falling all over themselves to grab clothes by the handful and make their way to the cash box to pay. The crowd was buzzing. Edward and I rapidly made change, writing out little tickets for every five dollars spent. The line to pay became five deep. The crowd would periodically surge as people tried to push their way to the front. The tables in the driveway were nearly empty. Carlisle and Esme began to look confused.
Then Jasper and Alice popped their heads around the corner.
"You aren't," Alice said accusingly.
"Oh, yes, we are." Edward said smugly. "You've forced our hand."
"Bella!" Alice turned her angelic face to mine, pleading for intervention.
"It was my idea, Alice," I answered. Her face fell.
Jasper laughed. "Pure evil, Bella. Well done. I hope you've come up with as good of a plan to protect yourself afterward!"
I gulped. Surely, it wouldn't be that bad? I didn't have time to wonder, though, for at 3:00 on the dot, Edward cleared his throat.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, as promised, we will now begin the raffle for the mint condition red BMW M3 convertible! If you haven't had the opportunity to look at this beautiful specimen, it is parked right behind me in this garage. And remember, all proceeds go to charity."
He gestured grandly and the crowd surged again.
"You have a ticket for each $5 purchase. My beautiful assistant" – he grinned at me – "has the matching ticket stubs, which she will now place in this box for the drawing. Miss Swan, please mix them well. We don't want anyone to accuse us of cheating."
I dumped all my handmade stubs into the box with a flourish.
I thought I heard Carlisle say something, but the buzz of the crowd was too loud; I couldn't make it out.
Edward shot a look over his shoulder. When he turned back to me, he looked a bit anxious.
"Miss Swan, the winning ticket please!"
I reached into the box and stirred the tickets around. I pulled one out and held it high in the air.
"Number 67! 67 is the winning ticket!"
A chorus of disappointed sighs filled the air. Then, a voice called out excitedly. "That's me! That's me! I won, let me through!"
The crowd parted like the Red Sea, and there, standing before me waving his ticket around, was Mike Newton.
"Bella! Bella! This is so sweet! I won the convertible. Maybe I can take you for the first spin!"
Edward thrust the keys at Mike, looking over his shoulder again. "She's already been in it, Newton. I'd take your car and get out of here. The crowd seems a little…jealous."
Mike winked conspiratorially at Edward. "Right, Cullen, right. Don't want to rub it in, do I? Thanks, man. Cool garage sale. See ya, Bella."
He pushed past the table into the garage. The crowd was already dispersing, headed down the driveway with their purchases.
We heard the purr of the engine as Mike started the car. It was quickly followed by a bang and crash.
"Get it out of reverse, stupid," Edward muttered. "What a waste."
The gears ground out a complaint and I winced. Mike edged the car out of the garage.
"Bye, Bella!" he said, hanging excitedly out of the window.
"Eyes on the road, Newton," Edward said, his jaw tense.
As the last people trailed down the driveway after the red convertible and disappeared beyond the trees, I heard the sounds of Emmett's laughter, mixed with howls of rage.
"I am going to make you pay for this, Edward Anthony Masen Cullen!" Rosalie shrieked.
Emmett tried to drown her out with his own call from inside the house. "You better run for it, bro. I don't think I can hold her back much longer!"
Edward and I grinned. "Climb on board, Miss Swan," he said, offering me his back.
"I'm glad you're the fast one," I said as I wrapped my arms around him.
"Me too," he laughed as we headed for the trees.