Summary: She's troubled, he's in a rut. They're complete opposites – but they've been brought together. She's a young, naïve stripper and he's the successful recently-single man who wants to help her. BxE . OOC.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Twilight saga.
A/N: Hai guys! Thanks for clicking to read and give my new story a go. I hope you enjoy :)
I was always running late.
I tried to remember where I'd told Alice I would meet her but the memory had faded away. I snatched my diary out of my bag to see if i'd written it down, but no such luck. I guess just as i'd run out of time – i'd run out of luck. I pulled my phone out and rang Alice, who I could tell was thoroughly pissed, rightfully so, too. I'd done this to her too many times over the last few months. She told me where we had said we would meet and I hurried out to the car.
But it wasn't my fault. I was just going through a rough patch. I'd get my feet back on the ground soon and then everything would be alright.
I knew I shouldn't, but I pulled into the service station to buy some Merit lights. God knows i'd need a relaxant after dealing with Alice and the kind of relaxant i'd prefer – well, let's just say that was kind of out of my price range at the moment. Not to mention, Alice had a way of making me feel ultra guilty about my occasional indulgences.
I figured cigarettes were relatively harmless.
"You were meant to be here an hour ago," Alice scowled as I walked into our usual breakfast hangout after stamping my smoke down outside the door. "And you stink." She fanned her hand in front of her face for dramatics before patting down her spiky, short black hair.
"Sorry," I murmered. "At least I called you beforehand. I had a big night last night."
"I'll bet. You always do." Alice rolled her brilliant blue eyes and me and began perusing her menu. "How was work?"
I hated how she always said it like that; work – in that fucking disgusted holier-than-thou tone.
"It was just fine, thank you," I replied sweetly.
"We have an opening at my work for an admin assistant if you're interested."
"I'm perfectly happy with my job at the moment, thanks."
"You're perfectly happy with being a stripper?" Alice lowered her voice and gazed at me. "Come on, Bella. This game has gone on long enough. We get it – you're independent and everything. Don't you think you should just come back to my place and get on track?"
Alice tried this everytime I saw her. If we were out in public she'd speak in a hushed voice, eyebrows raised, but if we were behind close doors she had the ability to yell for hours and hours, but I generally stopped her at the ten minute mark.
"I deferred from college, which means I can go back and I will....eventually. Besides, I'm only nineteen."
"You'll be twenty soon and college is starting in a few months. You haven't even looked into going back, Bella. What would Mum think of you?"
"She's dead, Alice," I reminded my sister. "Now you play Mum, remember?"
Alice was always the perfect older sister. She had the perfect job and perfect apartment and perfect boyfriend. Everything Alice-related was just so fucking perfect – except me that is. It did my non-perfect head in and just made me fucking sick.
"Yeah, well someone needs to tell you to grow up," she said bitterly, as if she didn't get off on this. She was always on one big power trip.
"Look, I get it. You're my sister and you love me and only want what is best for me, but i'm really fine. I like my job and the pay is good and i'm living in an okay apartment and I don't need anything else. Can you please just drop it?"
"Fine," Alice sighed, "I didn't ask you here to yell at you anyway."
"I have some news." I gestured for her to continue. "Jasper proposed...and I said yes!"
"You just moved in together. What's the rush?" I asked casually. "Wait are you, like, pregnant?" I joked.
"No, I'm not pregnant," Alice replied through gritted teeth.
"Aw, no baby Jalice?"
"Why can't you ever be happy for me?"
"Okay. I'm sorry, Al. You and Jasper are great together." I forced a smile on my face, but truth be told – I was far from happy. It's not like I didn't like Jasper, I actually really did. It's just that they were young. Well, Alice was anyway. I'd never understood why someone who was twenty-three needed to go out and get married. I'll admit, I was perhaps a little jaded from my own experiences, but still.
"I want you to be my maid of honour," Alice whispered.
"Yes, Bella. Please refrain from the curses."
"Wow, Al. That's great." I smiled and ignored her request. She was always asking me to stop swearing.
Truth be told, I was completely surprised my sister wanted me in her bridal party. Alice and I weren't generally in eachothers good books.
It started when our mother passed away. I was seventeen and Alice was twenty-one. She was off at college, while I was in my junior year in high school. Alice decided to defer for six months and she came home – effectively driving me insane. It was like she wanted to replace our mother, which she really couldn't do.
My mother and I were always so close, so it really hit me close to home when she died in a car accident. I didn't want Alice just stepping back into my life and telling me what to do. Who was she to criticize me and try and pretend she was my best friend, like mum was?
It wasn't fair and I definitely didn't like it.
Charlie, my father, was distant as always. He threw himself into work and his hobbies after mum died and our time spent together became even more minimal. We were like two ships passing in the night. I tried not to be resentful towards Charlie, knowing that he had suffered the loss of wife just as I had lost my mother – but I couldn't help it. He was the parent. He was supposed to help me get through this and he wasn't. Hence, Alice returning to Forks.
My grades slipped and i've been on what Alice refers to as 'the rapid decline' ever since. I fell into what Alice called the 'bad' crowd in high school and my school work was suffering.
I scraped through my junior year and pushed myself in senior year purely so I could get into a good college and get the hell away from Forks – the small town Alice and I grew up in. I suceeded in getting into the University of Washington and of course, it only lasted a couple of months before Alice had to come in and rescue me like the heroine she was.
I was studying literature as my major – something I was passionate about and loved, but I was finding the balance hard. I knew I was slipping a bit, but I really was trying. I was trying to get out of bed every day and focus on school, but I knew i'd rather be out partying and you just don't have the opportunity to do so when you're a broke full time college undergrad.
Alice was there to watch me crumble and then to help me pick up the pieces after I'd failed a string of classes.
"Now look what you've done," Alice had scolded when she'd come by to help me move my things out of my dorm room, "you're lucky Jasper and I got a two-bedroom condo."
It worked out for a little while. I stayed in their spare room and everything was fine for the first few weeks. I even managed to secure a job at a book store and I really liked it. I wasn't at school, but I continued to tell myself I'd go back the next semester when I got my shit together.
Then I met James.
The epitome of sex on legs.
Of course, Alice hated him just like my mother would have.
He had bad boy written all over him. He was a college drop out who worked as a mechanic and dabbled in some drug dealing every now and then, "to help with the bills," as he'd put it – and I was completely infatuated with him.
I first encountered him when he walked into the book store I worked at and approached the counter.
"Hey sweetheart, where do you keep those idiots guide books? The yellow ones?"
I smiled at him like a mezmerized halfwit before leading him to the self-help aisle. We chatted while he sifted through the shelves. I found myself lost in his brilliant blue eyes and wanting to run my hands through his light brown hair. He was witty and spoke in a way that had me intrigued. He was very charming.
I was completely taken off guard when he asked me out on a date but of course, I agreed.
"So, Bella. How would you feel about going out on a date with me?" He had asked and I stared at him in disbelief.
There I was in my blue work-shirt, with my hair swept up into a messy bun and there was James looking beautiful in torn jeans, a wife beater and a plaid shirt.
"Y-yes," I stuttered after first verifying he was serious.
He purchased his book from me, winked at me and then walked out of the shop entrance leaving me completely delerious for the rest of my shift and wondering what on earth he saw in me.
The night of our date, he picked me up from Alice's apartment on his motorcycle and drove me to a rundown restaurant and then for a walk in the forest. Of course, I thought it was absolutely romantic, young and naïve as I was. He didn't need to shower me with money – he was completely perfect in my eyes and I got as much satisfaction from his mere presence than most girls would've gotten from diamonds.
By the end of the night, I'd kissed him and vowed to myself that i'd do much, much more in the not too distant future. I was a virgin and had only ever dated a few boys through high school, but I was very much enthusiastic in changing that. James seemed experienced and I didn't want to lag too far behind in fear that he'd get rid of me because I couldn't keep.
We went on a few more dates and I quickly found myself tumbled in his sheets and maybe he was taking advantage of me – but I never wanted to see it that way.
I'd given him my virginity after we'd been together for three weeks and then by our fourth week i'd told him I loved him. He said it back and whether or not he meant it, i'm not entirely sure, I felt ecstatic. All I knew is that my world was slowly shifting to revolve around him. He was my everything, in every conscious and unconscious thought.
When Alice made her disapproval clear, I was staying at James' old studio apartment more and more, until it became like my permanent living arrangements. That's when I saw the real James. He did things that frightened me, but he'd never hurt me so I wasn't too worried. Yet. I was still so blinded by his charm and good looks that I had a tendency to overlook all the bad. And believe me – there was a lot to overlook.
The first night he brought out the blow, coke, whatever you want to call it – I was fascinated. I wanted to watch how it affected him rather than try it for myself just then. I watched James snort a few lines and he seemed much the same. I figured this was because he was twenty-three and had a bit of experience with this stuff.
His dilated pupils were what struck me the most – probably because the aesthetic effect proved to me something was going on inside of him as well. "It's only a little. I'm not going to go manic," he reassured me at the time but I remember feeling panicked and worrying that he'd start foaming at the mouth.
I'd gotten the impression he dabbled in drugs a bit when we were dating, but it still didn't worry me, even when I moved in with him. I always saw it as a social thing and not something that was a driving force in his life.
When he came down from the high he seemed slightly restless, but nothing to be overly concerned about. He smiled at me and while I sensed it was a great effort for him, I trusted him completely – to love me, to keep me safe and protect me from the evils of the world.
If only he could protect me from himself.
Eventually, I ended up dabbling in a little drug use for myself – I tried cocaine. It felt amazing and otherworldly. It was an incredible experience. James said this was my first high and that I probably wouldn't feel it that intense again, but that didn't deter me from seeking that high again. I knew drugs did bad things to people, but this wasn't heroin or anything anywhere near as bad and I had James. I truly believed that he would always look after me.
It didn't become a huge habit for me – my lifestyle in general was more the bad habit that I needed to kick.
I'd sleep in and was often late to work, but I was lucky that it was a family-owned store so they were flexible with my hours. Still, as much as I loved my job, the money just wasn't satisfactory. I'd always loved books and being surrounded by them all day put me in a high, but I yearned for more. I was always wanting more. More money, more James, more time, more highs, more fun.
James lived life at quite a fast pace. If he wasn't high most nights, then he was drunk and I was quickly learning just how dark he could be. He was slipping into a cycle even more; he'd come home late and wouldn't answer his phone so i'd work myself up and call Alice. She tried to convince me to go back to her place ten's of times before finally giving up on the idea. James was so good at making me forget why I was even worried to begin with. Alice, however, didn't forget.
"I'm sick of you fucking lying around," James slurred when he'd arrived home one night after i'd been living with him for three months, "go get another job or something. Get out of my fucking place."
He apologized when he had sobered up the next day, but I wanted to make him proud so I began looking for other jobs. Unfortunately, they were scarce especially given the fact that I had dropped out of college and had next to no experience.
James' friend Victoria was over one night doing some blow with James when she suggested I go into stripping.
"I just quit, so they're looking for someone."
"Why'd you quit?" I asked.
"I'm going into escorting now," she'd giggled, "but for someone like you, stripping would be a good place to start. You don't even need to do anything, just dance around and look good in a thong."
"That she does!" James exclaimed.
I blushed – I was still shy despite everything – and James moved across the room to hold me in his arms.
"I love you, Bella," he murmered before kissing me softly.
I looked at Victoria and noticed she had a look of anger on her face. "I better get going." She slammed the door behind her, leaving James and I alone.
Nights like those – they were the good ones.
I remember that specific night. James and I stayed up and watched a movie, cuddling and kissing just like carefree, young lovers. When we finally made it to bed, we made love into the early hours of the morning. "I love you so much," he groaned into my hair as he came and I came with him. It was bliss.
"I love you, James," was my response before I curled into his naked body and fell into an easy, peaceful sleep.
Times like those were my favourite because I could pretend that everything was well and good in my life. It was so easy to forget all our problems when he held me in his arms and whispered that he loved me – truly, completely and wholly. That's why it was harder than I ever could've imagined to leave him.
It was seven months through the school year – seven months I would've completed of an undergraduate degree if i'd stayed in college – when I left James.
He was having a particularly bad day and I'd just started at the strip club and was feeling the effects of the late nights, little sleep and physical exertion of the job. James had just lost his job at the garage two weeks prior and was starting to get into some heavier narcotic deals.
Then he started getting into even more trouble than he was already in. Naturally, he blamed me and for the first time – he hit me. A slap across my face that left me bleeding and scared to death. I'd never been worried about James hitting me until that night and I was only worried when I saw him raise his fist. I was too trust and so unsuspecting.
I ran out of the apartment while James called out apologies after me. He chased me down to the street where my beat up truck was parked. I sped away as fast as the old Chevy could imagine and I didn't look back.
Naturally, James tried to contact me but I found it was easier to let go than I'd anticipated. I attributed that largely to the fact that I was earning good money (for my age and skills, or lack thereof) and had gained some independence because of that.
"So, will you be in my bridal party?" Alice asked across the table, snapping me out of my recollections.
"Yes, of course," I replied and reached across the table for Alice's hand. As much as Alice had done for me over the past eight or so months, this was the least I could do for her. I knew I often found myself angry with her, but she was a good sister. She was a good person.
"Good." She smiled and reached across the table to gingerly stroke my arm. "Honey, I know I push you but I have to ask, what are you going to do with yourself?"
"I don't know, okay?"
"You're incredibly smart, Bella. Don't feel like you can't go back to college because you have to support yourself. You're more than welcome to come back and live with Jasper and I. We honestly don't mind. I'd rather see you happy, in college and know that you're safe. Okay, sweetie?"
"Okay, Al. I'll think about it. Thanks."
It was a little after two by the time I arrived home after meeting with Alice. There was a note on my door from the land lord about my rent. I snatched it off and scrunched it into a ball before heading into my apartment. I'd figure out the rent somehow – just have to work hard tonight and hopefully hit up a nice man for some extra cash.
It wasn't that my pay was insufficient, I just was in a bit of debt. When I was with James, I'd racked up huge amounts of bills and I was working to pay them off, often meaning my rent was a little bit late.
However, I'd only been at the apartment for two months so the landlord wasn't overly keen on extending my payment periods.
He'd threatened me several times and said he'd kick me out, but he was yet to do so. Not yet, anyway. I was relying on him continuing to like how I looked. Maybe I could use that to manipulate him slightly. I shook away the thought – I may have been a lot of bad things, but I was still above prostitution at that stage. Fair enough, I sold my body to an extent, but I never hooked myself out and I didn't plan on doing it either – James was still the only guy i'd ever had sex with.
I sat down with my worn and overread copy of Wuthering Heights wishing I had a television with a decent signal, or some other form of entertainment. I drummed my fingers up and down on the coffee table before picking my phone up off the table and dialing the number of my friend from college, Jessica.
She picked up after three rings and I asked her if she'd like to go see a movie.
"Uhm, don't you have work, Bella?" She asked.
"I don't start until midnight."
"Well...um, I don't really have any money Bella. I'm sorry. I have to go." With that, she hung up on me without so much as a goodbye.
Jessica and practically all my other 'friends' from college had pretty much ceased all contact with me. Jess and I occasionally went out but I guess now she considered herself too good for that. I flicked through my address book, trying to figure out who else I could call but there was no one. Everyone – bar Alice and her fiancé – had abandoned me. Not that I could exactly blame them. I wasn't the easiest person to get along with.
I went into the small bedroom in my one-bedroom apartment and pulled my laptop off the table and opened it up. It was the nicest thing I owned and I'd bought it with my trusty credit card. It started up quickly and I was thankful that i'd at least invested in wireless internet so I wasn't completely disconnected from the world.
I went through college courses for the good part of an hour before becoming frustrated. College meant living back with Alice – and I didn't want to be dependent on her. I was dependent on James and that only ended badly. I needed to make it on my own terms.
After shutting down my computer, I ran myself a hot shower in which I shaved and washed my hair before the grooming process began. I blow dried by hair – which took close to thirty minutes because it was so thick – and then I straightened it.
I applied my usual coat of make-up; foundation, powder, blush, liquid eyeliner, mascara , pencil eyeliner and a light coat of lipgloss. Voilà – total cakeface. You needed to be with the harsh lights they used in the club. They showed every imperfection, therefore, I had to appear perfect at all times.
I pulled on my jeans and a singlet before deciding there was nothing else I could do at the apartment. I grabbed a jacket, locked up and walked down the stairs and out into the night. It was July, but being Seattle, it was still a little nippy so I pulled my jacket on and headed down the street.
There was a bar close to my work where I often went for a light meal and a few drinks. Tonight, however, I scrounged in my purse and only had enough for a can of coke and a bowl of chips.
I ate my meal in silence before walking down the road to the club. The bouncer at the front door, Seth, waved me in enthusiastically and I mustered up a smile for his benefit before walking in. The music was already blaring but I tried to tune it out as I walked back to the dressing rooms and stripped off my clothes.
This was my life.
A/N: Obviously, just introducing you to Bella.
Next chapter is Edward's POV and B and E meet for the first time.