A/N - Sorry about the major delay everyone. I really don't like this chapter; again, it's a bit of a filler gone wrong haha. But it's an update so bleh, now I can get on with the interesting stuff!
As I mentioned, Uni's still pretty hectic, so I'd be hoping to update soon but we'll see how it goes after I get my essay handed in on Thursday.
Hope everyone's good and as always reviews are greatly appreciated ^_^
As I drove unsurely through the unfamiliar city streets, I realised it was true what they said; this was the city that never slept.
It had just gone two in the morning, yet you could feel the buzz in the air, and despite my exhaustion I grinned. This atmosphere was uplifting, exciting, and I already found myself spellbound. I pulled into an empty parking space and stretched out, pausing for a moment to watch the world around me.
A woman strolled past in heels, perfect make-up and Louis Vuitton bag, chatting on a cell phone as she walked a Chihuahua with a hot pink collar. Two suits walked swiftly by her in the opposite direction, briefcases swinging, stern expressions on their faces. Across the street, a glass wall revealed a gym, where every machine was occupied, lean-looking people pounding away on treadmills.
Feeling some form of happiness for the first time in months, I took the keys from the ignition and hopped out of the truck, grabbing my bag and hauling it over my back. As I strolled uncertainly down the street, I couldn't help but think how glaringly obvious it must be that I wasn't a native - as if to confirm my suspicions, a drunk-looking girl called across the street to me, "You looking for something, hon?"
She was on her own and posed no immediate threat, so after dodging a few yellow cabs (even the roads were mobbed!) I joined her. "Actually, yeah," I replied.
She smiled at me - she had a warm, friendly face, and reminded me a lot of Angela Weber. I felt a twinge as I thought of Angela; she'd be worried, I'd really have to call or write or something...
"Need a hand?"
"Em, please... where's the nearest hotel?"
She laughed lightly. "There are hotels everywhere here! You looking for anything in particular?"
"A warm bed will do me just fine," I smiled back.
"Well..." she paused, tapping a heel as she looked around her. "There's a Radison, just round the block?"
Not cheap, but I had a fair stash of college money left, and I haven't even started on the emergency card yet; plus, I wasn't planning on staying too long. "That'd be perfect."
"Right, well..." she looked to the nearest street sign. "We're on 6th and 30th right now, you wanna go thataway-" she pointed north, "til you're on 32nd. When you see the sign, take a right."
"Thank you so much, em... " I said gratefully, trailing off as I realised I never knew her name.
"Angie." I raised my eyebrows and laughed. Someone was watching over me.
"I'm Bella," I nodded in reply.
"Well, you enjoy your stay!" she said happily, wandering off with a wave. I left the truck where I had parked it and walked briskly in the direction she had pointed, soaking up the city air; I let out a low whistle as I looked up and caught sight of a huge, illuminated building. The Empire State Building. I had seen pictures, of course, but nothing could prepare you for how breathtaking it was in real life. I paused for a moment, suddenly feeling very small and insignificant as I looked up at this wondrous building.
A passer-by grinned at me as he caught my eye, breaking me out of my spell. I walked on quickly and found myself in the doorway of the Radison; it was beautiful for a hotel, very expensive looking. The doorman gave me a smile as he opened the door for me.
"Welcome, ma'am," he said, with a courteous nod of his head and a huge smile. This really was a friendly city.
I quickly got myself checked in, surprised that the nightly rate was a lot lower than I thought, and ditched my bag in my room. I flopped down onto my bed and closed my eyes; within a minute I realised it was pointless and there was no way I was going to be able to sleep. Eyes bright and body pulsing with adrenaline, I had a brief freshen up, ran a brush through my hair, changed my top, had sent me and ran for the door.
"Have a good one," the doorman nodded once more as he let me out.
"Oh, I will!" I smiled back, practically bouncing. It wasn't hard to find the Empire State Building; it was towering over me, only a two minute walk from the hotel. I gazed up at it for a moment, awestruck, before darting in the door and to the queue.
The lift was the quickest I had ever been in, and I could hardly believe that I had just climbed 86 floors in less than 60 seconds. Nothing could prepare me for what I saw when I got outside.
City lights of enormously tall buildings as far as the eye could see, in one direction. A river, to the other. I could hardly believe how enormous New York was, as I watched the cars rolling through the streets, tiny dots far below me; it hit me that for every light I could see there was at least one person, and my mind boggled. I wondered why they were all here, what their lives were like, their worries, what made them happy...
"Frankie, if you drop that camera, I'm going to throttle you!"
I turned to see the trace of the unfamiliar accent, and found myself looking at a tall, slim but toned boy with striking cheekbones and a well cut jaw, his green eyes alight with laughter. I followed them to find a slim, pretty girl with glossy brown hair standing right at the edge of the concrete, her camera thrust out to the very edge of the wall, pointed down into the city streets.
She turned to him with a grin. "If I don't hold it still off this the pictures go all blurry!"
He walked over to her, taking her hand and pulling her away. They looked at the map he was holding.
"What direction are we looking in?" she asked, furrowing her brows slightly.
"Here," he pointed on the map, folding it up and wrapping his arms around her from behind. He cuddled her tight and I heard him say, in a low voice, "You know those perfect moments you were talking about earlier?"
"Mhm?" she replied, nestled closing to him.
"This is one of them," he sighed happily, turning her face to his and giving her a short, loving kiss. "I love you so much."
"I love you too," she exhaled, kissing him more passionately, intensely this time. I looked away jealously as I felt tears stinging my eyes. They looked like they were destined to be together, so happy, so in love, and that was all I longed for. I had been that happy, I was that in love, and I knew in my heart of hearts Edward was my destiny. He just didn't seem to think so.
I discreetly and angrily brushed away the tears threatening to fall. There were going to be happy couples all around me, and I had to get used to it. Starting now.
I looked up to see the brunette haired girl smiling at me, still soaring on her happy cloud of love. I raised my eyebrows enquiringly.
"Would you mind taking a picture of us?" she asked, and I could see her beautiful blue eyes looking at my own with concern - stupid observant people!
"Of course!" I replied, falsetto happiness bursting through my voice as I extended my hand to take her camera.
"Thanks a lot," she said, looking unconvinced by my act but handing it over. "Just that button there."
I quickly snapped a shot of them both smiling happily and exposing perfect teeth - they were going to have some mighty fine looking kids one day - and handed it back. "It's a good one," I said, laughing as the girl checked the camera and pulled a face.
"Don't you dare delete that!" her boyfriend said hastily, grabbing the camera from her hand and turning it off. He turned to me. "Cheers. So, where are you from?"
Damnit, I wasn't getting away that easily. "Forks?" I replied, a slight question in my voice. I was met with two blank stares. "Em, near Seattle."
This seemed familiar to them. "Oh, cool!" The girl smiled.
"What about you?" I asked, feeling it would be rude to leave the conversation at that.
"Scotland," the boy replied, somewhat proudly. "Which, by the way, is not in England."
I laughed. I knew that, but I was also very aware the majority wouldn't. "Annoying, huh?"
"A pain," he nodded, and we all looked out towards the skyline for a moment, in a not entirely uncomfortable silence.
"So, where are you staying, ....?" the girl trailed off awkwardly.
"Bella, my name is Bella," I introduced myself. "And at the Radison Martinique."
"Oh, us too!" she said gleefully, "We'll walk you round." Evidently, she had gathered I had no company. "I'm Frances, but my friends call me Frankie, and this is Gordon."
"Nice to meet you," I said sincerely, and I was happy to have gotten talking to someone. I was going to have to make some new friends, and while I had never been completely withdrawn, I wasn't exactly confident, either. Maybe it wouldn't be as difficult as I thought.
I walked back to the hotel with them, and quickly found out that they were both 19, and had been in Orlando before travelling up to New York for a few days. Despite my initial nausea at their coupley-happiness, they weren't acting quite so touchy-feely now, and I began to relax as we chatted away in the lobby. Thankfully, they weren't very nosy, and so I was able to gloss over my reasons for being in New York with relatively little questioning - they accepted I was doing some travelling.
Eventually, when Gordon started to fall asleep, Frankie shook him a little.
"C'mon, sleepyhead. Time to call it a night."
He stood up, looking a little disorientated, and waved me goodnight. Frankie held back a little as he walked to the elevators.
"Listen, Bella, we're here for another couple of days. We're in room 263, so if you need any help with anything, or just, y'know, want to go for lunch or something...?"
"I will, thanks a lot," I said happily, making a mental note of the number. "Goodnight, Frankie."
"Sweet dreams!" she smiled, jogging a little as she jumped into the lift.
I watched her go and grinned to myself. Maybe this being out on my own thing wasn't going to be as bad as I thought.
The next two days passed in one happy blur. I done everything a tourist possibly could do; I went and had a picnic in Central Park with my new-found friends, explored the largest shop in the world, (but only bought the bare essentials - I had to be careful with my cash,), went to Ground Zero, took the ferry to Staten Island to see Lady Liberty... Frankie had persuaded me to buy a cheap digital camera to document my experiences, so I luckily had this all on film.
The night before the pair were due to go home, we all went for dinner at the Times Square Hard Rock Café. I shouldn't have; I had to watch my funds closely, but I was going to miss them, despite only having known them for three days time. I let my mind wander as we had our meal, thinking of what lay ahead... I had seen everything there was to see in New York, and it wasn't as if I could stay to spend time shopping. I had bought some basics from Macy's; plain vest tops, a hoodie, a couple of pairs of jeans, some new underwear, and I had packed my holdall before we left tonight, ready to go. But to go where?
Frankie's voice snapped me out of my reverie, and I looked up into concerned blue eyes.
I gave her a smile. "Fine."
"I thought we'd lost you there," she nodded, returning my grin and tucking back into her meal. She chewed thoughtfully, then looked back up to me. "So..."
She paused. "What are you going to do now?"
I took a long time to answer this question. It had been fairly obvious, during conversation, that I didn't want to discuss much of my past, and they avoided asking. However, Frankie was extremely perceptive, and I had no doubt in my mind she was aware that I was running from something, and that I wasn't stopping here. I shrugged. "I'm not sure."
She raised an eyebrow worryingly. "Are you going to stay in New York?" she pressed on; Gordon was watching me intently, his meal forgotten.
"I don't know."
"Bella..." Gordon spoke, looking at me attentively, his green eyes trained onto mines. "We're a little worried. I mean, you don't know anyone in New York... what if something were to-"
"I'll be fine," I cut in hastily. They exchanged looks. "I'm a big girl," I added with a smile, trying to lighten the sombre mood that had rapidly invaded our table.
Frankie cleared her throat. "Listen, Bella... why don't you come back with us? You could stay in Scotland for a while, yknow... stay at my place. See the sights. Just til you work out what you're doing..."
I paused. It was such a gracious offer, and I was tempted, sorely tempted; if I was being honest, now that I had gotten over the rashness of my departure, my violent emotions, I was feeling scared and apprehensive about what was to come now. About being alone again. "Frankie..."
"You don't have to, don't feel pressured," she said quickly. "I just feel guilty leaving you. And I'd love you to come."
"Maybe I will, one day..." I trailed off, looking between them. "But not now. Thank you, though. So much. Really."
They both smiled warmly back at me.
"The offer's always there, OK?"
I nodded. I would visit. I didn't know when, but I would. "Thanks."
I slept badly that night, my mind whirling with thoughts of aloneness and the future, yet for some reason I bounded out of bed with less than two hours sleep. I had been encompassed with a sudden drive, a sudden desire to get up and go, get the hell out of New York and get on with my running. It seemed some sleep was all I needed to clarify that there was really nothing for me here, and I had realised that instead of running for a while then going home with my tail between my legs, I wanted to start a new life, away from Forks and all of the memories it held for me. Could I see myself settling here? If I was honest with myself, the answer was a big, fat, resounding no.
Not to say I didn't like the city - far from it. But something told me I wasn't meant to live here. I felt more like a tourist every step I took. Besides, living here wouldn't be cheap; I'd struggle to find somewhere to live, and I doubted it'd be easy to find a job, either.
All of this progress took me to where I was standing now; at a very crowded JFK, with Frankie and Gordon, my stuffed hold-all in one hand, my purse in the other.
"This is the last call for flight GLA8597, departing at 12:30 for Glasgow," the tannoy voice called across the airport.
Frankie bit her lip, torn between going and staying with me. "Bella, are you sure...?" she began uneasily, and I knew what she was going to say.
I gave her a reassuring hug. "I will visit, one day," I promised, pulling back and looking straight into her rapidly welling up blue eyes. "Just not now."
"I'm gonna miss you," she sighed.
"I'm going to miss you too," I said sincerely, unusually feeling my own eyes sting with tears; I hadn't realised how much I would until now. "Both of you." I wasn't good in emotional situations at all, and this made me feel extremely uncomfortable. "Now get going before that plane leaves without you," I grinned, trying to diffuse the sadness that had descended.
Gordon enveloped me in a huge hug. "Take care of yourself, Bella."
"And please e-mail us and let us know where you end up!" Frankie added hastily.
"I will," I nodded. This was it. Goodbye, for now.
I watched as they walked over to the gate, handing their tickets over to the attendant. I waved back as Frankie waved enthusiastically; with a nod of Gordon's head towards me, he wrapped his arm around his girlfriend and they turned, then were gone.
I suddenly felt very alone. I was insanely jealous - I wished it was me, travelling with the one I loved. But now I was out in the big bad world, with all of my posessions in one bag, not a clue where I was going.
I thought remorsefully of my truck, wishing I could have taken it. I fingered the keys in my pocket, wondering how long it would be before it was towed and scrapped as I studied the departures board above my head. It had been the nicest present I had ever been given... I could hardly believe how considerate and thoughtful Charlie had been...
Not now, Bella, I stopped myself with a jerk of my head, focussing intently on the board. Orlando Sanford, Buffalo, Toronto... something near the bottom of the board stopped me and I couldn't help the huge grin that suddenly erupted onto my face. Perfect.
I could picture it now; strolling past that famous river, (the name escaped me,), wearing a silly little hat and eating a baguette. I walked rapidly to the nearest desk, smiling up at the lady behind it.
"Can I help you, miss?" she returned my smile.
"I was wondering if there were any tickets left for the 3 o'clock flight to Orly airport?"
"One way?" I nodded. She tapped away at the keys on her computer with manicured hands and inclined her head. "Yes. First class only."
I couldn't care less, at this point. Now this grand plan was forming in my head, I could practically smell the croissants. "Slap it on this," I said, placing my emergency credit card on the desk.
She raised her perfectly plucked eyebrows, but said nothing. She tapped furiously a little more, before handing my card back to me, a ticket wrapped around it. "Enjoy your flight."