Disclaimer: All characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. I own a laptop and a 2004 Chevy Cavalier ... that's about it.
This one shot was inspired by James Blunt's Beautiful (which I, also, do not own the rights to). For those not in the "know," I am setting this in Boston, MA. If you look up "Park Street (MBTA station)" on Wikipedia you will get a pretty good picture of what it looks like. This is slightly AU, but I hope not too out of character. Other than that ... enjoy. Read and review please.
Crossing Brattle Street against the traffic, I shaded my eyes from the three o'clock sun glare.
The summer air hung heavy in my lungs as I ran down the escalator. Etiquette dictated: those riding the belt should wait to the right, while those in a hurry could pass by on the left. Manners aside, I clucked loudly as a gaggle of teenaged girls with too much eyeliner obstructed my way. Fixated in their own world of lip gloss and highlighted hair, I would have to wait.
Two tokens a day had been my routine for the last six years. One into Harvard Square and one to get me back into the city at the end of the day. The clerks in the cramped black MBTA token booths came to know me by name. Madeline helped me find an animal shelter and large gray tabby cat named Eliot to kill off the mice in my new apartment.
"Bella, Bella, how ya doin'?" drawled the woman in a blue shirt and stiff cap. "Ya forget ya tokens at home, again?"
"Madeline, I don't even bother bringing them anymore. I always forget them. Give me two, I've got to get up to Davis Square. I've got a meeting at Tufts University at 4:30, and then maybe the rain will hold up 'til I can get back downtown."
"Good luck, chicky," she answered, pushing the two gold colored tokens through the slot. Everyday was the same since I moved to Boston for college.
I was overlooked by most of the population because of my youth. There were thousands of twenty somethings in the city. Thousands. There were 49 colleges and universities in the greater Boston area. I was nothing but another face, another kid.
Working at Harvard, I'd met a few friends. No one in the world was as close to me as my mother who lived 3,000 miles away in Florida with her husband, Phil. She split from my dad when I was only a year. I spent the holidays and an occasional summer with him in Washington State but I never truly felt at home there. So, when Renee announced that she and Phil were moving from our home in Phoenix to Florida and that I was being given the option of Jacksonville, FL, Forks, WA, or college, I jumped at the opportunity to head out on my own.
Reaching Davis Square two stops north from Harvard on the Red Line of the T, I popped out of the subway station and called Renee.
"Hi, mom," I began speaking to her answering machine. "I know I promised you a call yesterday, but Eliot got out, again. I finally found him down the street eating out of a dumpster. He's at the vet's right now. I had to make sure he was ok. I've got a meeting with some people at Tufts to put together a symposium for the fall semester. I'll be home by seven at the latest. Call me then. I love you, mom."
I jammed the tiny red phone into a pocket of my tote before heading for the University about half a mile outside of the square. As a Doctoral candidate at Harvard, I'd been working most of my summer away to line up a six University symposium on Medieval English Language Literature. Five of the six partners had agreed to the $1.5 million donation to Harvard as a part deal making the three day event available to three hundred students from each school. Tufts was the only hold out.
After the meeting, I knew my mentor would be proud of me. I'd gathered $9 million for the program, more than enough to pay for the lecturers, renting buildings, and housing the lecturers. I'd probably posted them a profit on this venture. Tufts had agreed to our deal as long as they were given preferential setting for the final lecture given by a group of three of the greatest historians the world had known from a firm in Italy. Knowing what the University's support meant to the symposium, I agreed.
The day had clouded over as I walked the half mile back to the train station. The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority's subway, affectionately known by the locals as the "T," was notoriously late, if it even followed a schedule. The station was stuffy and humid as I sat waiting for the next train to appear.
The "Inbound" track slowly filled as commuters entered the station. I thumbed through the Tufts Daily, the daily newspaper on campus, which I had picked up as I was walking through one of the buildings. No news popped out at me from the front page or any subsequent ones. I knew I could be easily entertained by the crossword, so I flipped to the back page and dug through my tote for a pen.
Three down: Denizen of the night. The air blew past my ankles before I could write the answer. I looked up to see the train hurling down the tunnel, bound for the station. The air was finally moving deep in the bowels of the city and I inhaled the sweet breeze. More than 500 people crowded the platform now and I jostled for position in front of the still closed train doors.
Hissing, they opened and I entered to find an empty seat. Since Davis Square was the first stop after the beginning of the inbound line on the north side of the subway line, the car was virtually empty. I sat facing into the train as seats filled around me and the train shuttered and moved out of the station. I pulled through my tote, looking for the scratched, pink iPod mini that I bought with the first of my hard earned money three summers ago. Pushing the white ear buds into my lobes, I cranked up Butterflies and Hurricanes as the train hurtled towards Downtown Crossing, my ultimate destination.
Every once in a while, in the tunnels under Cambridge, I caught my reflection bouncing off the darkened windows. My skin looked unnaturally pale, even for the New England, considering it was mid summer.
Too much time in the office, I decided pinching my cheeks for a little burst of color. My hair, long and brown, hung heavy in the heat and I considered looking for a hair tie to cinch it up, away from my neck. Too lazy to move in the hazy heat of the T car, I pulled my feet up and repositioned myself on my seat, so I could look out at the Charles River when the train pulled itself from the outlying area of Cambridge and into Boston proper.
I always loved looking at the city against the dimming evening sky. Everyday. I did this everyday of my life, watching the city settle in for the night. Easily identifiable, I picked out the Hancock Building and, farther south, the Prudential Building loomed, tallest in the capital city. The Citgo sign brightened and I smiled. I was only 20 minutes from the soft sofa in my living room and a cold bottle of Coke.
I turned to look back at the departing city of Cambridge as we lurched to a stop at the MGH/Charles station. People walked in and out of the car as I pulled the buds out of my ears and rolled the headphones around the metallic body of my mp3 player.
The train began moving and I stood with a sigh. One more stop and I would be home. The train rocked as it banked around a corner and I stumbled. A chuckle from the far end of the train car caught my attention and I turned. A small intake of air was all I allowed myself.
Seated by himself, a young man stole my breath. Legs stretched out before him, he was a sight to behold. A god, I decided raking my eyes up and down his perfect form.
He was young, no more than twenty, I surmised. His features were chiseled and muscular though, ever so slightly, feminine. His arms were taut and corded with definition. His shirt collar, opened to the second button, showed his chest. Creamy, ivory skin peaked out from beneath the well tailored button down. Untidy and ever-moving in the breeze of the air conditioning, his hair sparkled bronze in the muted light of the cloudy evening.
I'd never seen a man like him. Everything in my body screamed for me to walk to him and take his hand, introduce myself as Bella Swan, and ask him if he'd have dinner with me. He was striking. No. More than that, he was beauty incarnate. I was dizzy just looking at him. Drunk with apprehension, I took a step away from the doors and towards his bench of seats.
With my slight motion, he looked up from the floor, where his eyes had rested since I discovered him. Every notion of beauty that I had previously held was thrown out the window in an instant. His eyes were breathtaking. Simply magnificent. My own ruddy brown ones met the deep pools of golden honey that smothered, almost audibly popping and hissing with fiery life.
The train shuttered to a stop and I couldn't tear my eyes from his. I wanted to touch him. To feel the velvet of his face, the silk of his hair.
"Pahk Street. Downtown Boston. Change he-ya fah the Green Line. Doh-ahs open on both sides," the train's conductor drawled in her Boston accent. Both sets of doors opened and passengers pushed their way into the over crowded train. I desperately fought against the tidy of humanity pushing me out of the car and away from the man with the topaz eyes.
I fought for every breath of air, it felt like. My lungs burned and my calves ached as I tried to hold my ground inches from the opening. The doors before me, on the right side of the train, began to shut. I was on the wrong side of the glass! I wanted to be inside, with him.
I caught his eyes once more as the door closed with a hissing, pneumatic finality. Hauntingly beautiful, he smiled.
I turned and stepped away from the tracks as the dinging of the left side doors closure began. Up until now, I had always found it funny that the doors didn't close at the same time, but right side and then left, staggered as if to let more people squeeze against the far wall.
I found myself on the farthest side of the track, the right side. I had been pushed away from the center island of the platform. I would be forced to exit from a different entrance to the Park Street than I usually escaped by, adding a couple of extra minutes to my commute home. I stood there staring into the train as it began to pull away.
In three brief minutes, I had been so possessed by this man, this man I never said a word too, that I felt hollow. I had to sit. A homeless man lingered on a bench, plucking at a withered finger to his guitar. I sat beside him, listening to the evocative melody. It seemed to fit my mood.
Before me, people moved and scurried out of the station. The train had left, snaking its way towards Downtown Crossing and South Station, the hub of the commuter line to the south lying suburbs. Business men in suites and college students going to dinner scurried on the center island on the other side of the tracks. I watched them move, hoping, in vain, that the repetitive actions of a few hundred people would bring some normalcy back to my day.
Minutes passed but I couldn't think. I couldn't move. Rooted to the spot, I watched as another train pulled into the outbound side of the platforms. Another belch of passengers departed and moved towards the stairs and the fresher air outside. No one listened to the homeless man play and no one paid attention as I let my head drop to my hands. Tears welled behind my eyes, inexplicably. Rent in two, my heart hurt.
Beyond the strumming of the guitar, I heard someone clear their throat. The homeless man stopped playing and I looked up. Across the deep ravine of the tracks, stood a man, his bronze hair moving in the phantom wind of the departing train. A tear ran across my check when he raised his hand and waved "hello."