AN: I am new to this fandom, however not to Fanfiction and have been an avid reader and contributor for a couple of years. Conversely, this is my first Twilight story. Have read some fantastic work around here and that got me inspired to dip my brush in the hypothetical paint as well. I hope you will give me a chance and most importantly enjoy reading. This chapter has become a bit oversized, but hope that won't be a bother. Please don't hesitate to leave me a PM or review. I would love to get some feedback.
Thank you for reading.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. All rights belong to Stephenie Meyer.
Chapter 1: Take Off
There are exactly 3951.2 kilometres between Jacksonville, Florida and Seattle, Washington. 2455.2 miles, 2133.5 nautical miles. Why one would use nautical miles to estimate the distance between two points solely separated by rock solid continent is beyond me, but it still left the fact – no matter what metric system I used- that there was a huge gap between my mother and me. It was not the first time she drove me to the airport with the windows down. I remembered almost as if it were yesterday that she drove me to the airport in Phoenix. I was going to live with my father. And I had lied to myself that it was what I wanted so many times, I almost believed it. Forks had been everything but exciting. It was wet and cold. It was too green, everything seemed to be stuck under a layer of vegetation and for a long time I was afraid I was going to disappear under the moss as well, but it didn't matter. I would survive. In the meantime my mother was happy. She and Phil could finally do what they wanted without having me as their ball and chain.
The moss didn't grow on me. Forks did. No matter how hard I tried to fight it, one morning I simply could not scowl at the rain anymore, nor my outlandish father and even though I never fully stopped feeling different I had found my place of sorts. Since then I had been unable to leave. After I graduated Forks was exchanged for Seattle. It was as if I was physically unable to leave north-western United States. I kept circling the area, like a cat trying to get comfortable on a pillow, yet unable to find that perfect spot. But I knew it was there. Somewhere. Seattle was as good a place as any to try and with my bookstore slowly coming off the ground, inch by inch, I was too busy too really give it much thought.
"You're so quiet," Renee observed and I turned to face her, her hands loosely placed around the wheel as she quietly hummed to the song on the radio. I shrugged as my hair blew in my face like a cobweb.
"I was just thinking," I answered peeling the tangle of tresses off my face, "Dejá vu."
"Me driving you to the airport?"
Renee always called me her open book. I was so easy to read, it was downright annoying at times. Yet, I missed that openness I had with her when I was thousands of miles away. To Charlie, even though he tried, I was an enigma. Then again, Charlie has never been outstandingly apt when it came to human interaction. We are similar that way.
"Yeah, it's just odd. Time passed so quickly and I remember it so well."
"It's been over six years." The concept of time is a completely foreign one to my mother. It's as if she is above it…or beyond it. Or that it simply does not exist. Sometimes I wonder whether she knows what year we live in. Thus the fact that she remembered struck a cord. She looked at me. The laugh lines around her eyes deepened.
"Oh Bella. I do miss you. I thought it would become less, but it hasn't. You are too far away. Why can't you move to Florida. You love the sun. And your bookstore… you could open one in Jacksonville." I smiled. I loved the sun and I loved Renee, yet I couldn't possibly deny that I had found out, I was not a desert plant after all. After two weeks of blue skies and sunrays, I missed the grey skyline of Seattle, I missed the tapping of rain against my window. I missed the smell of it as it hung in the air, or the freshness it left after it passed.
"I like Seattle, mom."
"It's wet and cold. And dark." She sighed, "At least you got a bit of a tan." She pinched my cheek lightly and turned her eyes back on the road resuming her hum, now acclimated to some sort of country song. I stared right in front of me, as the lines of the highway were swiftly swallowed under Renee's red Mustang. I liked Seattle. A smile tugged at the corner of my mouth. And it wasn't even a lie.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to New York. Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened as the Captain taxis our airplane to the gate. For those of you who still have a journey ahead of you, have a good trip. For those that arrived at their destination, enjoy your stay. We thank you for travelling with American Airlines."
I sighed. After two hour and thirty-two minutes I really couldn't thank them for having me. Having spent the entire time next to screaming toddler on one side, his even more irritating mother on the other, and another underage brat kicking my seat behind me, thinking big wide open spaces didn't alleviate the claustrophobia I was feeling.
The second the seat belt sign was turned off I jumped up and tripped my way in the aisle, yanking my backpack out of the overhead compartment and flying to the door. I must have looked like someone with a severe flying anxiety, or simply deranged, but I didn't care. I had to get out into fresh air, or at least an airport terminal that offered space to hide. The sudden thought of my fellow travellers accompanying me all the way to Seattle, tormenting me for another five hours and thirty-four minutes, was too much to bare. Despite my aversion to running - seeing it offered too many opportunities for injury - I jogged to the check-in desk and deposited my passport and ticket on the counter, looking over my shoulder as if I were being chased. They were nowhere in sight.
"I believe there is a slight problem," the lady behind the desk said warily when she ceased the rhythmic hammering on the keyboard of her computer and my head shot back to look at her.
"It appears to be so that your seat is already taken."
I groaned inwardly and furrowed my brow. Problem didn't seem so minor. Only one thing was worse than sitting next to toddler. It was sharing a seat with a toddler.
"What do you mean "taken"? I ordered this ticket months ago."
"The computer clearly shows a double booking and I'm afraid there are no other seats available. The plane is booked. I could book you another flight." She offered her perfectly tweezed eyebrows raised in question. I sighed in defeat.
"When would that be?"
Her fingers rattled over the keys and she pursed her lips.
"Tomorrow at 8 am."
"That's... horrible." I couldn't find a better word. "I ordered this ticket months ago. And the date was picked for a reason. I have to work tomorrow." And I had no desire to spend a night at an airport.
"I'll get my boss." The woman shot me an apologetic look and excused herself. I leaned on the counter, burying my head in my arms and ran my hands through my knotted hair. This journey was going to be hell no matter what. With a grave sigh I looked up when the desk clerk returned with a man, who offered me a gleeful smile.
"Can I help you, Miss?" He asked with overflowing enthusiasm to be of service. He reminded me of a wind-up toy and I silently waited till he ran out of bounce.
"I don't know, can you?" I sighed. The clerk quickly and effectively explained him the problem and I watched in amazement as his smile didn't falter for a second. Was he human?
"I see," he drawled sitting down behind the desk and running his fingers over the keys in a frantic staccato, then letting out a shriek.
"Oh goodness! Would you look at that! Indeed! A double booking!"
I speechlessly blinked at his perkiness.
"Well, we could book you another flight, Miss."
"Yes, and I cannot afford to lose a day," I added quickly.
I waited patiently as he started typing again in an unfathomable speed. I wondered whether he was typing something at all. Or just pushing random keys, to get annoying customers like me off his back.
Suddenly he smacked his lips.
"There is another option, Miss. I see we still have an opening in first class. For an additional fee we can offer you that spot." There it was again the smile.
"Additional fee?" I echoed warily.
"Yes. The ticket costs 942 dollars and 80 cents." He flashed his smile again as my eyes went wide.
"Are you out of your mind?!" I yelled before I could manage to control myself and the man jumped up, his smile faltering for the briefest of moments. I was sure he was going to call security on me and I would be thrown in jail for misconduct. Charlie was going to love that.
"I cannot afford to pay 942 dollars and 80 cents," I repeated in a calmer but shaky voice, "for a mistake I didn't make. I'm having a horrible time with you as it is! A child was kicking my seat for two. and. a. half. hours." I didn't notice when I started leaning over the counter and into the man's face, now reclining further and further backwards as he tried to keep distance. I was sure I was going to cry from misery soon.
"I paid for a ticket. My ticket." So you can stick your 942 dollars and 80 cents up your ass! "So I demand a solution that does not rob me of my time, nor of my money," I finished and took a well-needed breath. "I should have just flown with Delta." I mumbled to no one in particular and nearly toppled backwards when the man jumped up and started his rampage on the keyboard again. Before I could blink, there before me was a shiny new ticket.
"We apologize for the inconvenience and wish you a pleasant flight. Thank you for choosing American Airlines," he recited, turned around, and stormed off. My mouth was agape as I tried to make sense of what just happened when the desk clerk shoved the ticked in my hand and called: "Next!"
There on the voucher in bright black letters was printed: New York – Seattle. First Class. Seat 4b. All I could manage was a dazed thank you.
"Welcome on board, Miss Swan," the stewardess greeted brightly, handing me a flute of what I assumed was champagne and I took it awkwardly as I stammered a reply. She led me through the wide aisle to my seat, "Can I take your hand luggage?"
"Ehm…" I held on to my ragged back pack, still my loyal friend since junior high, with a bit of shame. I felt so out of place. My jeans, t-shirt, and sneaker ensemble was everything but chic, next to the perfectly groomed flight attendants and even more so the rest of the passengers trickling in, "I'll just put it under the seat."
"Very well. Can I interest you in something to read?" There she was again holding a bundle of magazines and newspapers and I hadn't even noticed she had gone.
"Ehm…" I started again, taking the pile from her and sitting down in the chair hesitantly, "Thank you."
This was…awkward. Going from murderous hell to champagne serving crew, was almost too fishy to be true. Trying as well as I could to take it as it came I opened one magazine and started leafing through, scanning the celebrity gossip and interviews without really paying attention. As I flipped the page, my eyes settled on the picture of a man, casually leaning against a wall. Shirt hanging open and revealing a body that had to be either sculpted by Michelangelo or photo- shopped into painful perfection. I cocked my head to the side slightly to marvel at him from a somewhat different angle. Edward Cullen. From all the drool that pooled at his feet from the seas of his admirers, I was surprised he didn't get sued for dehydration. But goodness, as I let my eyes drift over his features, the exquisite shape of his face, the piercing green eyes, messy bronze locks falling over his forehead, and the lean muscles of his body, I could not blame them one bit.
"The much discussed project of director Ewan Laughlin starring Edward Cullen as the conflicted Liam Adair and Tanya Denali as the beautiful Rose, did not disappoint. Laughlin's perfectionism is nothing if not matched by Cullen's devotion. Once again the young actor proves to be a chameleon in his own right as he moulds seamlessly in the raw yet soulful Irishman. The chemistry shared with the enchanting Tanya Denali is sizzling off the screen despite (or perhaps thanks to) Laughlin's love for subtle facets. "Flightless Bird" is a stunning epic set against the grim reality of the social inequality between the Irish and the English still so very much alive in the 19th century. It is a tale of bitterness, perseverance, and an impossible love, that is unlikely to be forgotten soon." I read the review and let my eyes drift back to the picture letting out a sigh.
"Well… that's embarrassing." I looked up in the direction of the male voice that was responsible for the comment and nearly died. Nearly. Instead I shrieked and flung my glass of champagne right in the lap of the owner. I was clearly hallucinating. Because the man sitting next to me, could not possibly be… I closed my eyes and opened them again. But he was still there a slightly uncomfortable look on his beautiful face as he retrieved my glass from his lap and inspected the damage to his trousers.
"This is a new reaction," he mumbled all the while I gaped at him and glanced at the magazine checking whether he had jumped out of it. But Edward Cullen was still gazing at me from the page, his eyes hypnotising and in addition the exact -slightly displeased- replica (with perhaps a bit more facial hair, and clothes) was undeniably sitting in the chair next to me.
"I'm so sorry!" I finally managed to croak out when I remembered how to speak. Before I could thoroughly think it through I grabbed a napkin from my backpack and dove to dab his pants. He was not the only one who jumped up as my hand came into contact with his crotch.
"I got it," he said louder than I had heard him speak so far. For a moment he cast me an exasperated look and I almost felt the need to ensure him I was not trying to feel him up. He held up his hand as a stop sign and snatched the napkin from my hand, still hovering over him. I wasn't sure whether he was mad or embarrassed. I was too busy trying to sink through my chair in shame.
"I'm sorry!" I adamantly repeated retrieving my limbs as far as possible from the general area. This nightmare of a journey could get worse after all.
He let out a deep sigh for a moment leaning in his chair and closing his eyes as if trying to collect his thoughts.
"I really am-" I started again meekly, daring to peek in his direction.
"-all over the place," he finished the sentence for me and smirked as my cheeks heated up.
"Is everything alright here?" The stewardess came flying to our seats like a mother hen in six inch heels. She hovered over him and her mouth formed a silent "oh" as she saw what I had inflicted on him.
"I have had a bit of an accident," Edward explained and I had to give him credit for not pointing the finger at me, "Is there any chance I could change? I know the plane is about to taxi."
"Of course, Mr. Cullen," the blonde flashed him a smile, "No problem at all. Do you want me to call someone at the airport to bring you some fresh clothes?" I gaped at her. Was she willing to delay the plane to get a passenger fresh clothes? First class was indeed something else.
"That won't be necessary," he smiled and grabbed his bag from the floor before getting up. He was tall. Weren't movie stars supposed to be short? I swallowed. Like Tom Cruise?
"The lady needs a new glass of champagne," he said glancing at me and I forcefully shook my head. I was never going to lay eyes on champagne in my life again.
"Is there any way I could get another seat?" I begged the stewardess after he had gone, "It doesn't matter where. The luggage compartment is more than fine."
The woman looked at me as if I was out of my mind for more than one reason and struggled to keep her smile on.
"Is something not to your satisfaction?"
Let's see, I thought. I was sitting next to a man I had marvelled at in a magazine and which he knew. And not only had I throws my drink in his lap, I also had to feel him up.
"No, just…peachy." I sighed, burying my head in my hands and letting out a grown. All I could think about was how slow those 5 hours and 34 embarrassing minutes were going to pass.
"It's not that tragic." I jumped up again at his voice, warm and soft, as he sat down next to me again and stretched his long legs, now clad in loose fitting sweats, "I wish I could say it happens all the time, but this is definitely new." He smirked and proffered his hand, "Edward Cullen."
Of all the redundant information in the world…
"Bella Swan," I answered automatically and lay my shaking hand in his. His skin was cool, his grip steadfast as he gave my trembling limb a light squeeze before letting go. I let my hair down from behind my ear, forming an emergency hideout that had been in use since my childhood days and pretended to read the newspaper in my lap. I just had to keep this up for the following 5 and a half hours. Just… sit still and stare at the paper, though he might notice that I never turned a page.
"Are you going to do that the whole flight?" What was it about his voice that had me on edge like some neurotic wreck.
"Huh?" I asked throwing a quick glance his way.
"Hide behind your curtain?" he specified, his green eyes resting on me. Having lived in Forks where everything was a shade of green whether it was supposed to be or not, I still found that the burning emerald green of his eyes was somewhat surreal.
"I'm not—I'm just—I don't know…" I then answered and could hit myself for the dense reply that left my mouth before my brain could stop it. He had to think that I was mentally impaired. Spastic as I was acting.
"Relax, Bella, you're not being graded," he laughed. I felt as if I already had been graded. Weight, measured, and found too light. I had gotten a big stinky F, for the first time in my life. F for…fidgeting ….freak.
"What are you thinking about?" Again I gazed up at him. The quizzical look on my face probably gave him the idea that I didn't understand his words. But it was something entirely different that was beyond my comprehension. Why was he talking to me?
"About my disastrous journey today," I then answered. It wasn't far off. He let out a deep sigh and smiled as if he shared my day. He did and I was at fault.
"So where are you coming from?"
"Jacksonville." I hesitated biting my lip before I threw his question back, "You?"
"London," he smiled as if rewarding me for the progress in our, dared I say, conversation.
"That's…far," I concluded. Eloquent, Bella. I sighed.
"It is." He sighed and I only then noticed the dark circles under his beautiful eyes, and I was pretty sure the stubbles on his chin were not a fashion statement. He looked exhausted.
"You could sleep on the plane, though," I offered. Maybe he would so I wouldn't be forced to keep talking to him and my heart could stop trying to break through my ribcage.
"I can't," he answered studying my face.
"No, I don't sleep on airplanes, or trains, or cars… Whichever."
"Never." He smiled, briefly parting his lips as if wanting to say something more but then shook his head lightly pressing them together again.
"What?" I asked feeling uneasy. My heart bounced with every word that left his mouth, but as he seemed to swallow them back my stomach knotted.
"You don't have to talk to me, Bella, if you don't want to. It's not my mission to make you uncomfortable. You can sleep or read. You can pretend I'm not here. Just say the word and I will be quiet." For a moment I debated his offer. It seemed appealing and I gazed outside through the airplane window as we taxied towards our runway. The silence however soon proved even more unbearable than his voice prodding my ears.
"So what do you do then? To function I mean? A person can go only so long without sleep." I cut through the silence.
"Coffee," he smirked.
"Lots and lots of coffee." I managed to pull up the corner of my mouth in a half hearted smile and I hoped I didn't look like I was in pain instead. The Charlie in me was incapacitating. Why couldn't I just talk to him like I would to any other person? He was just a man. A gorgeous man even though looking a bit shaggy at the moment and for some reason he was set on finding something to talk about with me. I watched as his left hand curled around the arm rest in a firm grip, when the plane came to a halt in its ready- for- take- off position. And as his whole body seemed to tense I couldn't help but wonder: Was he afraid of flying?
I didn't dare to ask him, so I decided to talk to him instead, since that was what he seemed to be after. Something to talk about as a distraction. It was the least I could do. After the way I behaved I should be juggling on a unicycle while balancing a duck on my head and it still would be not enough to erase my past spasm of clumsiness. Both physical and verbal.
"So what kind of coffee do you like?" I asked at a loss of a better question.
"The caffeinated kind," he replied.
"That's a good kind," I mumbled and against all odds caused him to laugh. A pleasant laugh. Deep and smouldering. One that infected me with a chuckle as well.
"I usually don't have such a trouble reading people. Your mind though, Bella, is like a pesky jar lid."
"I'm sorry?" I raised my eyebrows, "Everyone always says I'm like an open book…"
"Really?" he seemed genuinely surprised and I nodded.
"Need to work on my reading skills then." The plane accelerated and he tensed even more, the tendons in his hand showing from the force he put into his clutch on the armrest.
"Does that help?" I asked quietly glancing at his hand and then back at his face. He looked at me with smiling eyes for a moment.
"Not at all." He shook his head.
"Then why do you do it?"
"Because screaming is so theatrical."
"Ah," I looked out of the window as the ground beneath us and everything on it was reduced to miniature size till it couldn't be distinguished anymore at all, and we dove into a cloud bed.
"Ladies and gentlemen," one of the stewardesses started, "Welcome aboard American Airlines Flight 4589 to Seattle. In order to ensure your safety we will guide you through some safety procedures." She retrieved a belt and held it in the air, "To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab in the buckle and pull tight." She followed her own instructions and I wondered how in the world she could make something so stupid looks almost enviably refined.
"It works like every other seat belt." Edward's murmur compelled me to look at him. "And if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised."
I watched him in amusement and in pity, because I was sure he was talking to no one in particular, just fighting the nerves.
As the stewardess continued her demonstration, I lifted my hand and took a deep breath before placing it over his as if I was afraid the touch would sting me. He looked at me, and I was at a loss of what to say. As if my hand on his could eradicate his fear that we were going to crash, burn and die. Most likely, with my hand on his, the chances of doing so were considerably higher. I am accident prone.
He smiled turning his hand and curling his fingers around mine. A crimson heated up my cheeks again and I turned my gaze outside again to hide it. It didn't sting. It felt nice. So nice in fact that my heart skipped a beat when his thumb brushed over my knuckles.
For a while that is how we sat, in silence listening how to inflate a life vest with half an ear, while our hands lay between us, intertwined. It was Edward who broke the silence. His stance less rigid it seemed when we reached cruising altitude, yet his hand remained firmly around mine and I didn't mind. I was more than content.
"You were in Jacksonville for business or pleasure?"
"I was visiting my mother," I answered.
"And that falls to which category?"
"Pleasure, I suppose."
"Hit the beach?"
"Of course." I bobbed my head.
"Didn't really get a tan, though," he observed.
I furrowed my eyebrows at him and pouted, not caring about how childish I looked. I was sensitive about my skin. It could be quite satisfactory, blemish free and smooth as it was. The only downside was that it had never known anything beyond different shades of white. And after two weeks in Florida I could definitely see a change. However slight.
"As if you can brag about a russet complexion," I retorted and he raised an amused eyebrow at my hostility.
"Well I was in London. Global warming is not quite that established."
I fought the urge to stick out my tongue at him and stared in front of me instead.
"I apologise. You look very beautiful," there was a smile in his words and I shot him a glare. Overzealous compliments like that, however jokingly meant always worked on my nerves. Especially coming from someone like him. It was the sun complementing a fire fly for its brightness. And the firefly was having severe heart arrhythmia to begin with from the sheer fact that the sun was speaking to it.
"I really cannot help it. I'm curious what is going on in that head of yours." My inner rant was cut short as he addressed me. Again.
"Shrimp." I said blankly staring at the plate of hors d'oeuvres the stewardess was holding in her hands.
"Shrimp?" he echoed in puzzlement, yet followed my gaze.
"Canapé?" The woman flashed her pearly whites, her eyes settled on Edward. I was not surprised I was being ignored. Fire fly.
"No, thank you," Edward replied with a polite smile and turned to look at me again as I took one little shrimpy bite off the plate and put it in my mouth.
"What?" I muttered, feeling perturbed under his gaze, "You don't eat on planes either?"
"That depends on the food," he quipped.
"Expected caviar, huh?" I only half joked. What did one like himself eat if canapés that looked too good to eat were not good enough plane food?
"I'm dying for pancakes actually."
"Pancakes?" It was my turn to be puzzled.
He hummed, "With maple syrup."
"Right." Once again I felt like a fool even more aware of his hand around mine.
"Do you live in Seattle, Bella?" he asked. He sure liked questionnaires.
"I do." Edward nodded.
"Do you?" Probably a stupid question. Where was it that movie stars resided? Los Angeles?"
"Not really." That was a strange reply. How could one "not really" live somewhere? Either they did, or they didn't.
"So where do you really live?"
"Nowhere," he shrugged. An even stranger reply. "Hotels mostly. I don't keep an apartment or anything of sorts. But I suppose Seattle is more home than any other place."
I eyed him struck by curiosity. Till now it had been nothing like I had expected to. He was nothing like I had expected. Not that I had expected much. What were the odds to end up next to him like that? So why waste time expecting? But he was not how I would imagine a person of his calibre to be. He was strangely down to earth and for someone who crossed the Atlantic without sleeping a wink, very nice. And even though I knew in essence that he kept talking to me for the sake of a distraction from his fear of flying, it felt like he was truly interested in what I had to say.
"Do you have family there?" I wondered.
"Yes. My parents and my siblings."
"It is. Haven't seen them in months."
"Downside of your career choice?"
"One of the many."
"Well there are upsides as well, I'm sure." I tried to put it in perspective, "Or you wouldn't be doing it. I mean…the pay check?"
"The pay check isn't bad," he smirked.
"And to be seen." It had to be nice to be seen. If one was comfortable with it. He seemed to be. I preferred to just… blend in. It was so much easier. Not that a person like Edward could blend in. It was becoming harder and harder to keep my eyes off of him. The refined bone structure of his face, his mesmerizing eyes decked with long eyelashes.
"That's debatable. Most of the time it feels like being a zoo monkey. People keep tapping on the dividing glass and snapping pictures. And screaming. Lots of screaming. I could do without the screaming." He smirked at me and I remembered the shriek that was my greeting to him. I blushed.
"I did catch you of guard," he chuckled, "so really, the fault is inherently mine."
And then the gallantry. I was still confused whether it was an act or it was genuine. Sometimes it felt like he taunted me. And he probably was. Oh what did it matter? It was not like I was ever going to see him again after this glitch in reality. As if relaxing at the thought I stifled a yawn with my free hand. His eyes squinted slightly as he fought a smile.
"You should sleep."
"I'm fine," I replied, fighting the suddenly heavy eyelids. These chairs were too comfortable. The soft cushions were drawing me in and the soft monotonous buzzing of the engines lulled me into drowsiness.
"I won't break down in hysterics, I promise," he offered, disentangling our hands to emphasise his point. I looked at my hand, strangely naked without his around it and dropped it in my lap purposelessly. Then with a sigh I leaned back. I was just going to close my eyes for a second.
I awoke from the sunny beach of Florida. My mother was suddenly gone and I took in my surroundings peeking through my eyelashes. The slumber had still not let me go entirely and I didn't deem it necessary to open my eyes completely. I was mystified to find myself under a blanket. Edward was sitting next to me, his ears plugged by earphones as he was reading some book, a cup balancing on his knee - saucer and all. He seemed to notice that I was awake and turned to face me with a smile while pulling the plugs from his ears.
"Sleep well?" he asked. I hid my yawn in the blanket and nodded.
"How long did I sleep?"
"Little over two hours."
I shot up and rubbed my face.
"I'm sorry. I just…closed my eyes."
"Don't apologise, Bella." He laughed, "Besides your mind is more insightful when you sleep. You are quite…vocal when you dream."
I stared at him still drunk with sleep before my face lit up in belated embracement. I hid my face in my hands slumming back in the seat. Of all the things I did, I had to talk in my sleep.
"No need to be embarrassed. It's quite adorable."
Adorable. There was a word. I tried to sink deeper in the seat, when it shot backwards and I yelped as it propelled me with it. My limbs splayed in shock and I could hear the clattering of tableware. I probably had stained his pants yet again. My handicap was worse than ever. I groaned.
"Christ…Ouch…what…seriously. Sorry…" I struggled to get myself out of the seat and grabbed Edward's proffered hand. He pulled me up and pressed the button that tamed the chair.
"I'm so so-" I started but noticed that his left hand was firmly gripping the cup and saucer and they were still on his knee however slightly off balance. His pants were untainted.
"Good reflexes," I then mumbled followed by my gratitude as he let go of my hand again.
"It seems I need them around you."
"I bring bad luck," I sighed, "everything I touch or do ends up catastrophic. I'm surprised I'm still alive. My number has been up a couple of times already. You are probably better off on a different plane. We will most likely crash." I hit my head. Stupid, stupid, Bella! "I didn't mean it like that. I just—I'm sorry. We won't crash. The engines are purring like kittens and everything is going to be okay. I'm sorry for being an idiot."
He was staring at me with raised eyebrows. I didn't see distress in his eyes. Not more than there had already been. Surprise was the dominating factor, before he started laughing.
"Oh Bella, you are something else." I was not sure that was meant as a compliment. Maybe his laugh was neurotic.
"I'll just be quiet." I mumbled, "And still. Maybe if I don't move you will survive."
"Don't be ridiculous, Bella. And don't worry. Odd as it may sound I'm quite enjoying this flight." He winked, picking up his reader again.
"What are you reading?"
My interest was peaked. Owning a bookshop I was surrounded by books and books were my life, but a script, a genuine script, that I had never laid my eyes on.
"Can I see?"
"Of course." He handed it to me and I turned the flap so I could read the title. Northanger Abbey. I gaped at him.
"I love Jane Austen," I said, "This is one of my favourites."
"One of mine as well," he agreed, "It contains one of the earliest occurrences of the word "baseball" in print. Deserves some acknowledgement." I chuckled leafing through the reader, letting my fingers run over the lines and the many notes scribbled in the margins.
"Which character will you be playing?" I asked.
"Henry." Of course. Why would he settle for anything less than the male lead.
"Is that why you were in London?"
"Not this time." He smiled and I felt like I prodded too much, "Mostly promotion for "Flightless Bird". This I have been doing on the side, when I could find a patch of free time. It's not a feature film. Just a BBC series."
I cocked an eyebrow. Just a BBC series. And I couldn't even roll my eyes, because he didn't sound arrogant.
"I love BBC series," I then said, "Some things just should be left to the Britons."
"Hear, hear," he chuckled. I handed him back the script and we fell into a comfortable silence till I heard him put away the reader with a sigh and his gaze fix on me. It would come any second now. A question.
"So what is it you do in Seattle, Bella Swan?" I suppressed a smirk.
"I own a bookshop," I answered.
"Really! That would be something for you," he then mulled out loud, "What kind of bookstore? Do I know it?"
I studied his face, searching for any clues that he wasn't seriously interested and why would he be? But I came up short.
"It's not Borders. Just a little bookshop. I'm sure you have never heard of it. It's still sort of new." I stared through the little window over the endless clouds.
"I'll just be quiet," he mumbled. My head shot around in question. But he had plugged his ears already and was reading the script again. I bit my lip. Did I say something to upset him? I went over my words, but couldn't come across anything. I debated whether I should say something but he looked busy and when the food arrived we ate in silence. His eyes never leaving the script before him, mine set on my plate where I sat prodding my dinner. What had I done? One moment he was chatting my ear off, the next not even casting a glance in my general direction. I let out a deep sigh and pulled my ragged copy of "Little Women" from my backpack.
"He looked like an Italian, was dressed like an Englishman, and had the independent air of an American--a combination which caused sundry pairs of feminine eyes to look approvingly after him, and sundry dandies in black velvet suits, with rose-colored neckties, buff gloves, and orange flowers in their buttonholes, to shrug their shoulders, and then envy him his inches." Oh great. As if I could concentrate on reading this while he was sitting next to me. I closed the paperback with a flop and dropped it on top of the table glancing at Edward Cullen, still successfully ignoring me. What was his problem?
The minutes crawled by and turned into hours, all the while I was staring at him. I willed him to look at me and by the way he clenched his jaw it seemed he was willing himself not to. For a moment he even plucked at his hair as if trying to get the insufficient length of his bronze locks to shield his face from my stare. Was I that horrible? And how did I turn so horrible in matter of seconds? Finally I gave up. I sighed and steered my gaze away, directing it on the pile of papers. Then the second wind came.
"Are you going to shun me for the rest of the trip?" I asked crossing my arms in front of my chest. He looked up and stared before him for a moment with raised eyebrows before slowly turning to face me.
"I was under the impression you were not in the mood to talk."
"I never said that!"
"You didn't have to."
"Oh…says the guy who can't read me." I used air quotes to emphasize my point.
"Are we fighting?" he asked, an amused spark suddenly nestling in his eyes.
"Do you get a kick out of that?"
He smirked a crooked smirk that made my heart beat faster and crossed his arms behind his head.
"I never had a domestic with a practical stranger before."
"This is not a domestic. This is me being displeased with the situation," I hissed trying to ignore the brilliance of his smile when he flashed his teeth.
"Well let me rectify the situation then," he offered.
"Not sure I want to," I huffed. From the corner of my eyes I saw that he rolled his.
This was strangely feeling like a couples fight, even though I hadn't been in many couples. Even more importantly, even though we were nowhere near a couple.
"What are you listening to?" I then asked still pouting to break the cycle.
He pulled one of the earphones from his ears and handed it to me. I leaned in and prodded it in mine. Soft piano tunes drifted in my ear and I raised my eyebrows in surprise and recognition.
"Clair de Lune?" I wondered out loud.
"It's beautiful." I handed him back the earplug.
"It is. I never tire of it."
I studied him again for the millionth time during the journey, trying to make sense of him. I was passed him sitting next to me. Now I was just trying to put the puzzle that was Edward Cullen together. The way he looked, beautiful but unconventional. He had this air about him. The way he carried himself; graceful for lack of better word; the way he spoke, his voice almost hypnotic, the choice of his words articulate. It was as if he belonged in a different time. I smirked. He would make a perfect Henry.
"What?" he asked with a crooked smirk, his green orbs studying my face.
I shook my head.
"Ladies and gentlemen, shortly we will start our descend to Seattle international airport. Please fasten your seatbelts and put the tables in upright position. Make sure your luggage is in the overhead compartment or safely tucked under your seat. The lights will be dimmed for your comfort."
I watched Edward's jaw clench as he seemed to remember where he was and snatched the papers from the table stuffing them in his bag and kicking it under the seat. Maybe he was not perfect descendant of Roman God after all, but I was glad that he was at least that bit human.
"We won't die, Edward," I said, "not even if a bird is sucked in the engine. It takes a whole swarm to take this baby down." He squinted his green eyes at me, and I bit my lip as to not laugh. He deserved a bit of payback.
"I'm sorry," I then said in remorseful tone and grabbed his hand, patting it with my other. The lights dimmed and I heard him sigh. He swatted my right hand away lightly and laced the fingers of our adjoining hands. Once again the feel of his skin on mine was exquisite.
"You know the airplane is the safest way to travel. It's statistically proven."
"Well I have two remarks on that," he started. I could not distinguish the features of his face in the dark, but his voice was tense, "First of all there are lies, big lies, and then there are statistics. Only one thing is worse and that's Chinese statistics. Secondly, seeing that a phobia is an irrational fear I do not have to justify me freaking out even if provided evidence that proves the contrary of my worries to be true," he ranted in a raised whisper.
"Shhhh. Let me go in peace."
I fought my laughter. Edward Cullen, drama queen extraordinaire. I was sure he was overacting. The plane shook lightly and he nearly crushed my fingers. I opened my mouth in a silent cry at the force he inflicted on my limb.
"Just a little turbulence," I said, "Could you perhaps… not squeeze so tight?"
He pulled back his hand entirely.
"I'm sorry. I just hate landings." The agony in his voice was almost tangible. "How I wish I were back in Thailand and receiving scalp massage," he muttered with a sigh and I could see him rub his face in the faint light, his hand lingering as he pinched the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. I hoped he wouldn't get an aneurysm.
I bit my lip and extended my arm hesitating when it reached over his shoulder. He was going to think I was crazy. Totally crazy. I thought I was totally crazy and with that thought I delved my fingers in his locks, marvelling at how soft his hair was against my skin. For a moment he flinched and I was about to pull my hand away and hide under my seat, but he seemed to relax slightly into my palm as I scraped my fingers over his scalp, lightly plucking the hair in his nape.
"God, you're fantastic," he sighed and my stomach jumped at the words carried on his breath. I was glad it was dark. My face was probably bright red. I ordered myself to get a grip, it wasn't as if I was performing sexual favours. I was just…plucking at his hair. All very PG rated. I fisted a handful of hair pulling lightly before letting go and burying my fingers in it again. It slid through my fingers like silk. The plane touched the ground with a slight bump and came to a rapid halt.
As the stewardess announced our destination and thanked us for choosing her airline, I smoothed out the mess I had made, resting my hand in his neck for a moment, reluctant to stop. The lights flickered on and his eyes met mine. I retrieved my hand with the speed of lightning, glancing away.
"Let me buy you dinner," he said leaning in, "To thank you for your… services." The corner of his mouth pulled up slightly.
"I think you should buy the pilot dinner instead," I replied as my heart thudded in my chest. It was an automatic reaction. For some reason I was terrified of his presence, of his request and pushed myself in the farthest corner of my seat.
He sighed, creating some distance, then dug something out of his bag. It was a pen and a little piece of paper. He scribbled down something before handing it to me. I took it hesitantly and looked at the Starbucks receipt in puzzlement. There was a number on the back.
"If you change your mind, I will be in Seattle for a little while."
I nodded dumbly. My mind blank. My voice gone.
"It was lovely to make your acquaintance, Bella Swan," he smirked getting up, "Dare I say, you are a life saver. Next time I am forced to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, I'll be thinking of you."
I blinked, biting my lip. Trying to fathom it all. Part of me wanting to say 'yes'. To call him before he was out of sight. The other one, the sensible one knew it was just a stupid idea. It could and would never work. I swallowed.
Edward swung his bag over his shoulder. For a moment I thought he was going to say something more, but changed his mind. With a little wave he made his way through the passageway, briefly stopping next to the flight attendant who asked him for an autograph giggling when he took her notepad and pen from her. As he complied without any thought, he turned his head slightly and as his hand swiftly scribbled a short message and his name, his blazing jade eyes lingered on me a final time before he made his exit.
So that was that. With a sigh I got up as well, taking my backpack. The little piece of paper nearly burnt a hole in my hand and I swiftly stuffed it in my bag before actual burn marks would appear. Back to reality. I had to go pick up my cat.