Author's Note: So I started writing this for no apparent reason (I am, in fact, also writing the conclusion of 'Letters' and working on the 'Tinsel Town' sequel as well as something else, but, why not?) So anyway, this Edward is a little different from the version I usually write, but I hope you'll still like him as much as I do. I don't think I mention it in this chapter, but it's set in San Francisco. Also, there are a couple pictures for it on my profile. Enjoy!
Nice reviews are better than chocolate, unless maybe you're licking that chocolate off someone.
The Life and Times of the Painfully Shy
How I Finally Stopped Being a Wallflower
One: Getting the Right Name
There he was, the guy of my dreams with the ever expanding nickname. It started out simply enough – Mr. Perfect, a little obvious, but it got straight to the point, right? And he was, from the way he stretched his legs out when he sat at the little table on the opposite end of the café, to the way he could focus so intently on whatever he'd brought with him to read. That first day it was the newspaper. After a couple weeks of blatantly staring at him when he wasn't looking, his name changed to Stupid Mr. Perfect, not because he was, but because all my staring just reminded me of how lonely I was and how no one ever looked at me the way I looked at him. After the two weeks became one month, he became Stupid Mr. Perfect with the Sexy Hair, self explanatory.
I noticed something during that time – he got hit on, a lot. At first, I thought it was the same girl, but it was actually several girls that all looked the same. Enhanced blondes with curves and courage I didn't have; they'd sidle right up to him and smile and flirt in ways that made me blush. His reaction to them made his nickname even longer – Stupid Mr. Perfect with the Sexy Hair that Ignores the Beautiful Blondes but Will Still Never Notice Me. When I realized how long that would be to write out, I stopped adding to it.
He came to my favorite café, Oatmeal Hermit's (it's better than it sounds) every day at the same time and sat at the same table underneath a black and white picture of a lighthouse surrounded by fog attached somehow to the brick that made up the walls of this place. He ordered what I assumed was coffee and a pastry - a different pastry every day. I wondered if he was working his way through the menu. Oatmeal Hermit's specialty was desserts for breakfast – danish and cinnamon rolls, lemon bars and several varieties of tarts, oatmeal hermits of course, apple crumbles and crisps, molten chocolate cakes served in little white cups, coffee cake and scones, zucchini bread (my personal favorite) and other things I didn't know the names of. They also had just as many varieties of coffee and a secret recipe for hot chocolate that would make your toes curl; I had that in lieu of a boyfriend.
That particular day was not a good day. I woke up later than normal and had to rush if I wanted to spend any amount of time at Hermit's before I had to be at work. I got there just after eight o'clock which gave me a little less than twenty minutes to sit and ogle. I had my laptop in my bag and wasn't paying much attention, so it came as a surprise when I almost sat in the lap of the person sitting in my usual seat in the corner. I mumbled a quick apology and sat at the first available spot, a small maroon cloth covered booth a little too close to Mr. Perfect's table.
I decided to forgo the long line and just sit and wait for him (yes, sometimes I make myself sad too). As my computer warmed up, I looked through the books sitting on the table. It was a strange thing at Hermit's and I'm not sure when exactly it started. The story is that years ago, a too busy university student came in to study and ended up leaving a book on her table. Someone noticed it and thought it belonged to the café; she read some of it and for reasons unknown left one of her own books in return. Apparently, things snowballed from there and now there were books all over the place; some people read them and left them there, some took one or two, replacing them with one of their own. It was like an impromptu book exchange.
I opened my internet browser and logged into my guilty pleasure. You wouldn't know it by looking, but I'm a secret Cosmo reader – online only. How to Ace a First Date!, Sexy Lingerie to Drive Him Wild!, How to Ask Him Out!, yep, all of that, I ate it up. I made sure to position myself so no one would see my screen and opened some article about little things a woman could do to build confidence; I wouldn't ever actually do any of these things, but they were fun to read. I was on number eleven – walk around in skimpy lingerie when you're home alone – when Mr. Perfect walked in. His hair looked damp and I wondered if he'd just gotten out of the shower; he'd caught a break in the crowd and didn't have to wait in line. I heard his voice, which I'd heard before and it still brought me as much enjoyment as it did the first time. He got a cup of black coffee and a small piece of apple crumble. He pulled a folded up section of newspaper out of his back pocket and sat down at his usual spot. I made a mental note to make this booth my new usual spot; it had a perfect view and though I didn't much want to sit in the middle of the café, it was worth it.
He brought a forkful of apple crumble to his lips and I imagined him making a low sound in his throat at the sweet taste of it. I shivered involuntarily. After another bite, I tore my gaze away long enough to check the time and discovered I'd have to walk pretty quickly if I wanted to make it to work on time. I shut off my laptop and stuffed it in my bag before taking one more quick look in his direction. He was still reading his paper. I stepped outside and realized it was raining…crap. I had no umbrella and my thin jacket was already beginning to soak through. And did I mention I was going to be late for work? In a stroke of good fortune, a cable car was braking near the top of a steep decline, so (ticketless), I ran over and jumped on, grasping tightly to a pole. I just needed to make it to the bottom of the hill.
I made it down without falling off and walked into work from the back even though the front door was unlocked, that might mean small talk and I wasn't very good at that. I walked through the short, tiled hallway into the largest room and smiled. "Hi Beau! How's my favorite guy?" My voice sounded high and girly. I walked over to the blue merle Australian Shepherd, who went from prancing around his cage to flopping over on his back. Like all the animals, Beau was a rescue. His owners were abusive and when they moved, they abandoned him in their apartment. He was brought in by the landlord and Beau and I hit it off right away. He was sweet and curious and well mannered, seemingly not at all scarred by his previous life. I'd take him home myself, but I doubted he'd enjoy living in an apartment with no yard.
I spent some time taking care of the dogs, cleaning cages, refreshing food and water dishes, and doling out medication disguised as treats before crossing through the lobby where I was greeted by the receptionist. The building was split into three sections, to the left of the lobby was the area for the dogs; it included a small space for basic and sometimes emergency vet care and a larger room where they did behavior evaluations. To the right of the lobby was the area for other animals, mostly cats although on this day we had two bunnies and an iguana as well. It mirrored the dog area, except for the lack of an evaluation room. I took care of that side and talked with the two vets on staff; both were women, married, and deliriously happy.
My typical day was spent crossing back and forth between the cats and dogs and that day was no exception, except for maybe that it was busier than normal. The shelter was finishing getting ready for an adoption drive and we all had to make sure the animals were in top condition. This meant bath time for everyone. Luckily, as in – luckily because the adoption drive was starting that day, most of the animals were clean and ready to be taken home. I had a few more dogs left to bathe and one cat named Brutus.
I didn't even notice it was lunch time until one of the vets came in to tell me she was leaving. She pulled her wavy caramel hair out of it's ponytail and rolled her shoulders slowly. "I'm going to lunch," she said while pulling out a compact.
I grinned, "with Carlisle?" They had been married for ten years, but Esme still primped before she saw him.
She smiled, still looking at herself in her little compact mirror. "Yes. Do you want me to bring something back for you?" She knew I rarely left the building during lunch.
"No, that's ok, have fun."
"Hello, ladies," Carlisle poked his head in where Esme and I stood amongst the dog kennels. I smiled automatically.
Esme closed her compact and he kissed her on the cheek; he murmured something I couldn't hear that made her blush. They said goodbye and left me to my own devices.
"Ok, Beauregard, it's bath time," I unlocked his cage and he trotted out happily, running circles around my legs. I led him over to the oversized basin and helped him into it; he'd been through the routine before and wasn't afraid. His friendliness, however, proved to be problematic. By the time he was rinsed off, I was soaking wet. He shook himself off and I let him down; I wasn't going to put him back in his kennel right away. I toweled him off a bit and he shook again; he followed me when I walked into the lobby to talk to the receptionist.
"Hey, Angela," she was a woman whose pathological shyness was mirrored by my own; it took a while, but over the last year that she'd worked there, we'd become good friends. I think it was mostly due to Esme's prodding.
"Hi, Bella, hi Beauregard," she cooed to him as he put his head on her lap, using his charms to get his ears scratched. "Sarah went to lunch, but she said there aren't any appointments until two, so we should be fine." The shelter didn't serve as a vet's office, but if someone were to adopt a pet from us, they'd be able to get basic medical visits for a discount.
She and I chatted for a few minutes while the other three girls that dealt mostly with adoptions and fostering pets went to lunch. Angela pulled out her lunch and ate at her desk; she shared a small bag of chips with me. I was about to put the partially dried Beau back in his kennel when the little bell on the front door rang; Angela and I raised our heads at the same time. My chip filled mouth fell open before I could think to control myself.
Stupid Mr. Perfect with the Sexy Hair that Ignores the Beautiful Blondes but Will Still Never Notice Me. Standing in our lobby. In all his glorious sexiness. And I was still drippy and probably smelled like dog.
I had realized during my month or so of lunacy that he always looked like he'd just gotten out of bed. I wondered if I was right and if so, was he sharing that bed with anyone? Or lots of anyones? Could I be one of them? Anyway, today was no exception. He wore a soft looking pair of dark brown trousers that reminded me of the UPS man uniform and a t-shirt with a band on it that was mostly blocked by his slightly ratty looking coat. His hair was damp again; he wasn't carrying an umbrella. He looked between me and Angela, who answered first. "Hi, can I help you?"
He ran a hand through his hair, which stuck out randomly. "Hi, yeah, I wanted to know if I could see the dogs," he grinned crookedly and I almost fell off my chair.
Angela answered him again while I stared stupidly. "You're welcome to take a look, Bella can show you around if you'd like."
He looked in my direction, "thanks."
I made a semblance of a smile and let out a small noise like a laugh, or maybe a sound of panic? I didn't know. I could feel Angela staring at me pointedly, was I supposed to do something? I stood up and breathed out a "hi," before turning around and walking toward the back without checking to see if he was following. I didn't look until I was about to open the door that led to the kennel room; he was following with Beau trotting beside him. He smiled at me. I opened the door and held it for the both of them. Mr. Perfect smelled good, like soap and clean cotton and something else.
Surrounded by the animals, something in my brain woke up and I was finally able to speak. "So, do you have a particular breed in mind?"
"Well, I live in an apartment, so nothing big," he reached down a little to scratch Beau's head. "But nothing that I'm going to trip over in the middle of the night either," he grinned again.
I cleared my throat before continuing; I knew there were other things I needed to ask, but questions were coming to me very slowly. "Have…have you had a dog before?"
"I grew up with a St. Bernard and I had a schnauzer who passed away a year ago."
"Oh, I'm sorry," I said before I could stop myself.
"I got her as a rescue, but she was really old."
When I couldn't think of anything else to say, he started browsing the kennels. Beau came to stand by my feet; he looked up at me and cocked his head as if to ask – are you ok? Mr. Perfect moved past me to the second set of kennels and kneeled down to where one of the few puppies we had was standing, shaking his tail intently. "Does he have a name?" He asked. It startled me.
"Not yet, we were waiting to see more of his personality."
He put his fingers through the cage door, causing the little Border terrier's tail to shake harder. The puppy was ten weeks old and had been abandoned on the side of the road.
His voice sounded warm and slightly higher pitched, "you're a scruffy little thing, aren't you?" He looked up at me, "can I see him?"
I nodded and put Beau back in his kennel before unlocking the puppy's door; he came bounding out, running circles around us. I wanted to kneel down and pet him, but that would put me in very close proximity to a gorgeous man that made me lose all sense of time and place and proper behavior. He bent to one knee and the dog jumped into his arms, which was funny because that was exactly what I wanted to do. He stood up, holding the dog and faced me. "We look kind of alike, don't we?" He smiled.
They did and it made me smile in a genuine way for the first time since he'd walked inside. "You kind of have the same hair." It was a musing that I didn't mean to actually say out loud, but it made him laugh, which was a nice sound.
After a few more questions, he decided he wanted the dog. Fortunately for me, or unfortunately for him, he wasn't able to just take him. We had to run a check on him to make sure he wasn't crazy (it would be just my luck to be secretly obsessed with some psychopathic serial killer) and introduce him to a vet, though neither of them were around at the moment. I had him fill out a couple of forms, telling him we'd call when he could pick up the puppy. He shook my hand before he left and I felt it all the way to my toes. I looked at his form quickly to finally give the man a proper name.
He did that partial smile again. "Nice to meet you, Bella."
"You too, Edward."