Chapter Eleven: The Call
Tonight is a big night. I'm going to Edward's apartment and he's going to cook dinner for me.
And I'm as nervous as a cat about to be dunked into a bucket of cold water.
I've grown used to spending time with him, but alone in his apartment? That's a big deal, for me at least. I just...never dated. I've never even kissed a guy before. It has always seemed like such an intimidating and intimate thing. Before Edward, I'd never met a man I'd liked and felt comfortable enough with to want to kiss. Maybe that was the main reason I was nervous. I wanted to kiss Edw-
My thoughts were interrupted by a knocking on the door. Six o'clock on the dot. He was punctual, I'll give him that. I looked down at the simple purple dress that went down to my knees and felt heavenly against my skin. I tightened the hair band in my ponytail quickly and made sure I hadn't put my simple silver pendent necklace on backwards. My heart was pounding as I walked to the door and opened it carefully.
"Good evening, Ms. Swan. I must say you look beautiful tonight," Edward said gracefully. I blushed and gave him a look over. The dark wash jeans fit him perfectly and matched the purple of my dress. The simple white button-up shirt provided a great contrast with the dark jeans and hugged his chest snugly to show off his muscles. His hair was his normal just-rolled-out-of-bed-but-I-make-it-work style. I started when I noticed he was waiting for me to take his arm so he could escort me out of my apartment building.
He was trying to be a gentleman and I was giving him the once-over. Great.
"Thanks." I let him lead me to his car in a comfortable silence. After he opened the passenger door for me, I slid in and he walked around to the driver's side. I was relieved when he broke the silence with a compliment on how helpful the band had been with unloading the truck this morning.
"I am very proud of my kids. Class wasn't the same without Claire, though. I hope she gets better." My favorite opinionated, but loving, student was indeed missing. After Edward followed her during third quarter, he came back a few minutes later and told me Claire threw up and had to go home. Class was quiet without her.
"Yes, well…I hope she'll be back soon," Edward said, but his voice sounded off. He stared at the road blankly. I didn't press it and chose to stare at the passing buildings.
I'd never been on this side of town. It was the rich side, where you had to have money and belong to a country club to own an apartment in this area. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that Edward had money as well as good looks, a good heart, and musical talent.
"This is a great building," I said as he pulled up into a parking spot in the front of a dark brown building that reached at least thirty stories high. It had an aura of class and elegance. I was afraid that I'd feel over dressed, but now I feel like my dress would fit in.
"It was a graduation present from my parents last year. Their friends own the building and they felt safer with me close to family friends," Edward explained as he led me through the wide front doors. Instead of heading towards the elevators, he went straight across the marble lobby floor to a door with a large number one on it. "I live on the first floor. It was easier to move my furniture in," he told me with a smile that nearly made my knees go weak. I gasped when I saw his living room. I slowly stepped in the apartment and Edward followed behind, closing the door softly.
"Welcome to my home," he said, waving an arm as if to introduce it.
"It is perfect, Edward," I said, and I meant it. There were beautiful shades of brown all over the perfectly decorated room and the accent color, blue, was skillfully incorporated throughout. The highlights of the room were the large, brown leather couch and the flat screen TV hanging on the wall across form the couch.
"I like it. Esme and Alice sure had a blast decorating it for me." I smiled, imaging the two of them running around with paint chips pressed to the wall, trying to figure out how to match the color to the lighting in every area of the room. "Are you ready to eat?" Edward asked.
"Sure, it smells great." I followed him into what appeared to be a breakfast nook that was set up with a table for two. Wine, plates, silverware, and breadsticks were waiting for us when we walked in. Edward pulled out a chair for me before excusing himself to get the lasagna. He came back carrying a piping hot and heavenly-looking container of lasagna.
"Some for you," he said as he served my plate, "and some for me," he finished, setting some on his plate before setting the whole container on the closest kitchen counter. "I hope you like lasagna," he said as he sat down.
"I love it. It was the only thing my mother could make so we had it a lot growing up," I explained. We proceeded to settle into a nice rhythm of flirting and conversation. As pathetic as it sounds, this was the first true blue dinner date that I'd ever had. He made me laugh and I made him smile his beautiful smile and I had never felt more happy and carefree.
"…and then Emmett started stripping and running around Wal-Mart in nothing but his underpants. Esme, of course, took a picture, framed it, and has been hanging in their bathroom for over a decade now." I was clutching my sides as Edward finished his story.
"No way! It's great to have some dirt on Emmett. I'm sure I'll be able to use it sometime," I said with a wide smile. Edward was about to say something else when his phone rang. He held up his finger and his face looked apologetic as he looked at the caller ID. His face fell quickly.
"Hello? Are you OK? What's wrong?" I answered quickly, instinctively rising part-way out of my seat.
"Mr. Cullen, she…passed. I won't be at school tomorrow. Will you please tell the school? I'll be back Friday." Her voice cracked at the end.
"Listen, are you alone?" I asked. Bella gave me a questioning look that I had to ignore.
"I'm fine. Peggy is with me." I stood completely up and began digging through a cupboard until I found the school directory.
"Listen, I'll be at your house as soon as I can."
"Mr. Cullen, you really don't have to do that. Really, I'll be fine. I just need a day," she insisted, but I could hear the strain in her voice.
"Bella is with me." I finally found her address and realized it was only five minutes away. "I'll be there in five minutes. Do you mind if I explain to Bella on the way?" I heard her sigh before she accidently let out a sob.
"No." She began to cry softly.
My heart was breaking for this young teenage girl. I felt the urgency of the situation running through my veins.
"We'll be right there, I promise. We'll work this out." I hung up quickly and ran towards the door. "Bella, we have to go. Now. Claire is in trouble."
"What?" She started sprinting towards the door. I slammed it closed after her without bothering to lock it. She barely beat me to the car. I started the car and began driving furiously towards Claire's address. "Explain it to me right now or so help me-"
"Claire's mother just died of cancer. She has no other family. She told me last year when her mother was diagnosed so that someone could handle the school and not make it a big deal. She didn't want anyone else to know. She became a master at hiding her home life and living fully for the school hours. She called me and told me that her mom had died and that she would be missing school tomorrow but back on Friday. I insisted that we come over because she only has the hospice nurse with her and I can't leave her like that. She needs you, Bella. She needs a mature adult that can help her handle this. She's been so strong, but she needs a person that she can trust to completely fall apart around. That's not me, that's not Peggy, that's not any friend at school, it has to be you."
"Oh Claire," Bella whispered. I expected for her to start yelling, or to start crying, but she just looked determined. "She's spending tonight and tomorrow at my apartment. She can't stay in that house tonight with all the memories of her mother." I was shocked that she took it in so quickly.
"Are you OK? Can you handle this? It's kinda out of the blue…" I asked as softly as I could as I slammed to a stop in front of Claire's address.
"I will process this later, but now is not the time." She looked at me intensely before throwing her door open. As I started to get out, I saw the curtain on the front door's window open slightly before Claire threw the door open. Bella and Claire sprinted toward each other before collapsing in the middle of the yard. I caught up to them quickly.
"Shh, it's OK Claire. You don't have to carry the world alone. We're here sweetie," Bella whispered soothingly.
"I know, I'm sorry Bella. I just…." Claire cried into Bella shoulder. Bella kept shushing her and rocking her.
"You can explain later, sweetie. Right now, just cry. I've got you, I've got you." Bella's hand began stroking Claire's hair softly. I saw one tear slide down Bella's cheek before she wiped it away quickly, determined to not let Claire see her cry.
In that moment, my heart broke. I knew I had to protect that little girl crying into Bella's shoulder.
AN: I know, its sad. Poor Claire.
FUNFACT: I had the day off from school today for some teacher developement crap, but I had to get up at before SIX IN THE MORNING to interview a man with an English social history PhD. He was cool, but it was crazy early.
Thanks to Music ADD for everything. Thanks for reading and I like reviews, Emma