Here I am again, as promised, with the Faking It Prequel. Just to be clear, it's about Bella before the story starts, so there's no Edward, no sexin'. So no complaints afterwards that Edward wasn't in it!
However, if you need another Edward/ sexin' fix, there is a smutty outtake of Faking It floating around on my desktop that I will be submitting for the Christmas Day edition of Ninapolitan's Friday Free For All over on Twilighted. So keep an eye out for that!
And a disclaimer: All recognizable characters from Twilight are the property of Stephenie Meyer. The rest is mine.
"Bella! Is there any more sopresatta back there?" Mike shouted from the front.
"Geez, Mike, I haven't even set my bag down yet!" I laughed as the back door of Sandwich Planet swung closed behind me, "Give me a sec, okay?"
"Sorry," he shouted again, "Eric called in sick so we're short up here and I haven't been able to get back there and check."
I pulled the handle on the walk in refrigerator and scanned the shelves on the left until I found what I was looking for and grabbed it. I scooted through the small, cluttered steel kitchen, throwing a smile to a very busy Tyler, who was furiously assembling churascos, and through the door to the front counter, tapping Mike on the shoulder with two rolls of sopresatta .
"Thanks a million, Bella. I know you're not supposed to clock in for another fifteen, but…"
"Sure, sure," I sighed, "Let me just get my apron on and wash my hands and I'm good.
Mike smiled at me in relief. I ducked into the back and prepped as quickly as I could for my shift, stashing my bag on a shelf, scooping my hair up into a ponytail and donning my orange Sandwich Planet apron. Seriously, orange? Is there a person in the world who can wear this ghastly color? It sure isn't me.
Mike looked nearly faint with relief when I appeared to start my shift early. There was a semi-large line of customers, so without a word I dove in, taking orders and assembling sides. Jessica was already there, running the register. Now that I was there to retrieve the food from the pass through window as Tyler finished it, Mike excused himself to the back so he could re-stock Tyler's supplies.
It wasn't a massive crowd, but a steady stream that didn't let up until well after lunch, keeping us humming. Absolutely no time to get any reading done for British Lit or to work on those lyrics for Jasper's new song.
It was nearly 4 pm before things began to quiet down. Jessica and I needed to re-stock the front, wipe everything down and clean up the various messes that had accumulated all afternoon, but she and I were a good team and we made quick work of it. We were able to chat and laugh a little while we worked, which always made things go faster. She was sort of a ditz, but she was a good person and by far my favorite person to work with.
Then my least favorite person to work with sauntered through the door. Lauren. Freaking bitch. She nodded wordlessly at Jessica and me as she headed to the back to clock in and stow her stuff. She was supposed to be on in fifteen, but I knew it would be half an hour before we saw her bony ass up front. No, she'd hang out in Mike's office for as long as possible, flirting and looking to ingratiate herself with the manager. Of Sandwich Planet. Way to aim high, Lauren.
"You working all night tonight, Bella?" Jessica asked me.
"Yeah, till closing."
"No, not tonight. We got bumped to Sundays at the Dugout. Speaking of which," I said, pulling a folded up flyer out of my jeans back pocket, "Will you come on Sunday? We have to keep the numbers up at the door or he'll cut us from the roster completely."
Jessica took the flyer and smiled, "Sure. And who knows? Maybe I can rustle up a date, which would make two."
"Maybe you could ask Mike," I said casually, knowing there was nothing she'd like better in the world than to bring him and also that there was nothing she was less likely to do than to get up the nerve to actually ask him. It was killing her that that skank, Lauren was back there right now flirting with him. I'd nudged her in this direction before with no success, but it didn't stop me from trying repeatedly.
She blushed and said nothing, just kept her eyes on her magazine.
"How's the new song coming?" she asked.
"Way to distract, Jess!" I laughed, "It's coming slow. I'm just so busy with classes and I'm trying to pick up extra shifts here. Jasper wants us to finish recording the demo, but studio time is so freaking expensive."
"When are you just gonna give it up, Bella?" The smug snarl came from over my shoulder. "I mean seriously, aren't you getting a little old to play at rock star?"
I turned to glare at Lauren, where she was leaning on the opening to the kitchen.
"I'm twenty two," I spat.
"Like I said…" Lauren said with a smile.
"Geez, Lauren, be more of a bitch, why don't you?" Jess snapped over her shoulder. I chuckled and turned to join Jess at the counter.
Lauren rolled her eyes but she backed down and wandered over to the register, attempting to look busy. Jess went back to flipping through her magazine. I stared straight ahead out of the plate glass front windows at the people streaming by on the sidewalks of downtown Seattle. I have to get the fuck out of here, I thought with a sigh.
"Damn…" Jess breathed.
"What?" I asked.
"Come check it out," she said, motioning to her magazine.
I leaned down and braced my elbows on the counter, our shoulders touching, so we could look at it together. It was some glossy entertainment gossip magazine, not the sort of thing I generally read, but Jess was all about this stuff and hell, anything to make the time pass faster. Jess was examining a spread of pictures from some ritzy Hollywood party. I looked closer, to where she was pointing, and recognized Edward Cullen, in all his Hollywood superstar, bedroom-eyed, sex-haired, kissable glory.
"He is just so fucking hot!" Jess sighed.
I chuckled at her dreamy tone, but nodded in agreement. "He is that," I said. Because that's not even an opinion. It's a fact. He's hot. Everybody knows that.
"The hair…." Jess moaned.
"The hair is pretty extraordinary," I agreed. "I wonder what it feels like."
"Jesus, I'd like to find out," she muttered.
Lauren had been trying to ignore us and finally with a huff, she gave up, coming up behind us to see what we were ogling.
"Oh, him. Yeah, totally hot," she said. Amazing. Alert the media. Lauren and I just agreed about something.
"What I wouldn't give for just one night," Jess murmured.
"One night," I said with a smile, settling in to enjoy our little game. It was kind of like talking about what you'd do with the money if you won the lottery, "I could do a lot with one night!"
"You know what? Forget one night. I'd take his clothes away so he had to stay naked in bed for days," Jessica giggled.
"Mmmm," I agreed. "A twenty four hour sex marathon. Just to get warmed up!"
Lauren snorted softly at me, "Why are you wasting time lusting over some untouchable god in a magazine when you could totally nail that hot guy in your band?"
I swiveled my head to fix her with a stare.
"Are you talking about Jasper?" I asked.
"I would hope I don't mean the other one. I mean, isn't he your cousin? That would be so gross. And illegal," she sniffed. Then her expression changed, grew nastier, if possible, "But then again, maybe that's why you've never tapped the blond hottie. You're hung up on your cousin."
I straightened quickly, intending to tear her to pieces, but Jessica was too quick, flinging herself between us, a hand on my shoulder.
"That's enough, Lauren. That was so wrong. Just back the fuck off."
Lauren held my gaze for a minute before she gave a bored shrug and turned to the kitchen. Jess watched her go with a pained expression, guessing, probably correctly, that she was headed back to flirt with Mike some more.
"You can't let her get to you," Jess said, turning me to the front.
"I fucking hate her," I snarled. Jesus, what I wouldn't give to be able to quit this lousy fucking job. If we could pick up enough gigs for the band to live on, to be able to just play, no crummy part time jobs to pay the bills. That was my scorching hot fantasy. But it was still a long way off. We had a little recording time logged on the demo, but there was still a lot more to do and studio time was so expensive. Sometimes it felt like we'd never get there.
Jess and I finished out the shift in peace. The night stayed quiet, which was good and bad. It meant we didn't really need Lauren up front which was good, but it meant she hung out in the back with Mike instead, which for Jess, was very bad. I wished I knew how to get her to make a move, because I had a feeling she could land him if she just tried a little. But we'd talked about this a million times and it was fairly hopeless.
Jess spent the rest of her shift hunched over her magazine, fantasizing about Edward Cullen. Hey, whatever gets you through your night, I say. Lauren stayed mostly out of my way, which meant Jess and I got stuck with the brunt of the closing duties, but it was more peaceful that way.
Our house was mostly dark when I got in at nearly midnight. Everybody must have already gone to bed. I scooped up the mail from the floor inside the front door as I came in. God forbid anyone else in this house sort it for once. I had mopping duties tonight, so I felt sweaty and my back was killing me. I needed to unwind a little before I went to bed, even though I had class at 9.
I headed straight to the kitchen, opened the fridge, grabbed a beer and popped off the cap before I sat down at the table and began to flip through the stack of mail. Tuition bills from U Dub for me and Rose. Freaking awesome. I wondered how long I could put that off. The power bill, my truck insurance... fuck, why does everything have to come at once? We'd never be able to scrape together enough to get the demo finished.
The last envelope was long and narrow, with a return address from Los Angeles. It was made out to Emmett McCarty/ Eclipse. Well, it had Emmett's name on it, but it also had the band name so I figured it was fair game. And I was dying to know what the hell it was. I popped the back of the envelope open and slid out the letter inside.
My fist pounded six times on Emmett's door before I heard anything from inside. Finally Rose groaned.
"What the fuck?" she muttered, but she opened the door. She was wearing just her underwear and a tank. Emmett was sprawled in bed behind her, a sheet pulled up to his waist and I really didn't want to know what he had on, or didn't have on, under it.
"Jesus, Bells," Emmett groaned, "I just fell asleep. What the hell do you want?"
"Bells?" I heard Jasper's voice behind me and turned to see him wandering out into the hall in only his boxers, scratching his stomach and yawning.
"Fuck, Jazz. How about some pants?" I growled, throwing up a hand half-heartedly to shield my eyes. He ignored me and came over to where I was leaning in the doorway of Rose and Em's room.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"Hmmmm," I murmured in a sarcastic tone, one finger tapping against my chin, "I was just wondering why we got this letter today saying that Eclipse has made it to the final selection round on America's Next Great Band?" I waved the letter over my head.
Rose and Jasper just stared at me slack-jawed, but Emmett sat bolt upright in bed.
"No fucking way," he murmured. Rose and Jasper swiveled to stare at him, open mouthed.
"So you did it? You sent in a tape of us?" I asked.
"Um…" and now Emmett had the sense to look a tiny bit apologetic, "Yeah, I sent in the tape a few months ago."
"Emmett!" I screeched, "Why the hell didn't you ask us?"
"You'd have just told me there was no way we'd make it," he said defensively.
"And I'd be right. We won't make it! Have you seen the bands that make it onto that show? They're all but signed artists. We can't compete with that!"
"We made it into the final round?" Jasper asked, finally awake enough to catch up.
"Yeah," I said, but there's still like 50 bands. Do you really think we'll be in the top twenty? Us? Come on!"
"Which tape did you send in?" Rose asked.
"The one from Jones Tavern that we taped last year," Emmett said.
"Oh, Em!" I wailed, "That's the one where I tripped over Rose's amp cable and nearly broke my neck! They're probably laughing their asses off at us right now!"
"Yeah, but Bells," Jasper said, "That's also the show where you hit that crazy note at the end of that song and there's no way anybody remembers anything that came before when they hear that."
Emmett nodded in agreement. "What's the big deal, Bells? So I sent in the tape. No harm done. And hey, we made it into the final round! That's pretty good."
"Yeah, just don't get your hopes up, Em. There is no way we're making it onto that show," I said, turning to head to my room. Jasper shrugged and returned to his bedroom, too.
I started to get ready for bed trying not to think of a room full of TV executives watching me get my ankle tangled in Rose's cable and flail wildly for a minute before righting myself. I had a lot of clumsy embarrassing moments in my life, but that one was a blue ribbon winner. And a bunch of faceless TV people were in some room in LA watching it, no doubt thinking it was a joke we'd even applied. Emmett was a fool if he thought we had a chance.
"For next class I expect you to have finished Moll Flanders and be prepared to discuss it, people."
My English Lit professor cast the evil eye over all of us as my stomach sank. I was nowhere near done with Moll Flanders. I probably had a good 250 pages left. I could see that I would be up all night trying to get it read before the next class.
As I shoved my notebook in my backpack and gathered the rest of my stuff, I wondered for the thousandth time why I was doing this to myself. A nearly full time job at the sandwich shop, nearly a full load of classes, plus the band. What did I really think I was going to do with my stupid college degree anyway? If I were smart, I'd just drop out, but I really hated giving it up. And besides, the band seemed to be going nowhere fast these days. At least if I had a degree, I could get a real job one day. That thought depressed the hell out of me.
The depression settled in solid as I left the class room to face the miserable grey late afternoon and the chilly drizzle. How could it be this miserable in the beginning of October? It would only get worse from here. It felt like forever until I'd see a sunny day again. I trudged across campus as quickly as possible, but not fast enough. By the time I reached the commuter lot the drizzle and the mist had soaked me. My hair was a frizzing mess around my face and my shoes were squishing.
Big Red didn't like the cold and wet any more than I did. It took three tries to get the engine to turn over. I was about to give up and call Rose to come get me before it finally caught.
I patted Big Red on the dash soothingly. "One day I'll retire you to someplace warm, I promise."
The drive home did little to improve my mood, since Big Red's windshield wipers were malfunctioning and I had to squint to see the whole way. I cast a despairing glance around our street as I pulled up to the curb. The houses looked shabby and run-down under the best of circumstances, and in this weather, this place looked like the absolute end of the road. And our crappy little rental house was the worst of them all. Pieces of it were actually falling off.
All three of the band's clunker cars were already parked in the drive and spilling onto what could be euphemistically described as a lawn along side of the house when I got there, so I left Big Red on the street. I was surprised that the rest of the band was all at home at the same time. Between school and our jobs, that very rarely happened. I didn't think I'd see anybody else until I got to the gig tonight.
The gig. I groaned. I wanted to stay in, warm up and read. But we had a gig, so I was going to have to get cleaned up and dressed up. Ordinarily I was never sorry to perform, but tonight…..
I slammed Big Red's door and nearly wiped out on the slick wet grass before I made it to the front door. I shoved it closed behind me before realizing that I'd just walked all over the mail with my wet muddy feet. I could hear voices in the living room and it just annoyed me.
"You know I'm not the only one in this house capable of sorting the goddamned mail!"
"Chill out, little cousin," Emmett chuckled from the doorway, "Crappy day?"
"Yeah…no. Just long. And I'm wet and tired. And we have a gig tonight."
"Yeah," he nodded his head in understanding, "I'd like nothing better than to stay in tonight and get good and drunk, but we have adoring fans to please."
I snorted at his joke and rolled my eyes.
"Where're Jazz and Rose?"
"Guitar Hero," he said succinctly.
I nodded sagely. We wouldn't see them for hours, then.
"I'm going to go see if there's anything edible left in this house," I grumbled, heading back to the kitchen.
"Good luck with that," Emmett snorted.
I chuckled and waved a hand over my shoulder at him, shivering slightly as I made my way to the kitchen in the back of the house. This place had never been properly insulated and was horribly maintained. At the least hint of inclement weather, the wind just whipped through the cracks in the walls and the badly fitting windows. It was only marginally better than being outside.
Emmett was right, the kitchen was indeed bare. It was hard to keep anything stocked with him around. He vacuumed up food like there was no tomorrow. When I worked a shift at the sandwich shop, I just ate there, but I was on my own tonight. I could head out to the pizza place up the block, but that was $2.50 for a slice. If I could tough it out till we got to the bar, I might be able to con the bartender into a free order of sliders. Hmm.
I was standing there, trying to assess my level of hunger, if $2.50 was worth three more hours of starvation, when the phone rang on the wall next to me. I groaned, because almost no one called the landline except bill collectors. Well, no one else in this house was going to face it, so I took a deep breath and picked up.
"Emmett McCarty, please," the voice was clipped, efficient. Definitely a bill collector. I wondered what kind of hot water he'd gotten himself into now. I decided to stall and fish a little before I threw Em to the wolves.
"Um, I'm not sure if he's here right now. May I ask who's calling?"
"Are you…is this Bella Swan?"
I started a little, wondering how he'd have my information. If that bastard had put me down as his guarantor or something, I would have his freaking nuts.
"Um, yes…what's this about?"
"Bella Swan from Eclipse?"
Now I was really puzzled. Because this guy sounded like he'd heard of us. And nobody had heard of us. We were a small time bar band from Seattle and we were constantly losing the few gigs we had.
"Yeah, that's me. Who are you?"
"Well, Ms. Swan," the mystery man said, and I could practically hear the smile in his voice through the phone, "I think I have some very good news for you."
Jazz was hunched forward at the waist, his too-long, shaggy hair half concealing his eyes, curled over his "guitar" as he focused intently on the fingering pattern he was trying to copy. Rose stood to his side, arms crossed over her chest, smirking evilly at her twin brother.
"You can try, baby brother, but you are soooo not taking me down," she smirked.
"Rosie, I'm three minutes younger than you," Jazz rasped through gritted teeth as he tried to hold his focus. "And you need to stop trash talking me."
"Oh, are you going to cry like a little girl, Jazz?" she laughed.
"My God, woman, you are pure evil," Emmett boomed from where he lay sprawled on the couch, watching their game. "And I fucking love it, baby!"
Rose threw him a kiss over her shoulder before she turned her attention back to staring down Jazz and ruining his concentration. Honestly, I don't know why anybody bothered challenging Rose to this game. It was a lost cause. She could trounce us all.
I stood quietly in the arched doorway to the living room, just watching them for a minute. They'd pushed our instruments out of the middle of the floor so they'd have room for the game. Emmett's drum kit was set up in front of the defunct fireplace. The collapsing squishy couch we'd rescued off the curb last summer was against one wall, Emmett's feet dangling over the scuffed arm.
Jazz was moments away from losing, his whole body tense with concentration. Rose was watching the screen, watching him go down in flames, her eyes alight with the thrill of the kill. Emmett's head lolled back on the arm of the sofa, watching Rose with a soft smile on his face. I loved the three of them so much. I took just a moment to drink them in, as they were now before I opened my mouth and changed our lives, hopefully forever.
"We made it," I finally said softly.
They didn't seem to have heard me, as at that moment, Jazz lost spectacularly and Rose fist pumped the air in triumph.
"We made it," I said again.
"What's that, Bells?" Jasper asked without taking his eyes off the TV.
"We made it…to the top twenty," I qualified.
Emmett swiveled his head to look at me now.
"What did you just say?"
"We made it onto the show."
Rose and Jasper froze in unison and pivoted to stare at me.
"What?" Jasper whispered. Emmett scrambled up off the couch to stand behind Rose.
America's Next Great Band. That was them, on the phone. We made it. We have to go to LA next week."
There was a long moment of silence as the three of them stared at me and I stared back.
"Oh, God," Rose finally whispered.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Emmett shrieked, his voice several octaves higher than he would have liked, I'm sure.
"LA? We're going to LA?" Jasper murmured.
"To be on fucking TV!" Rose yelled.
And then the tense disbelief that had held us each to our places snapped. Emmett whooped and seized Rose around the waist, hoisting her up in the air. Jasper swooped forward and pulled me in to a fierce bear hug as I laughed uncontrollably. Emmett screamed at the top of his lungs repeatedly while Rose chanted "TV! TV!" over and over while she clung to his shoulders. She scrambled free of his arms and grabbed my hands and we twirled in a circle, like we hadn't done since we were little girls.
"Famous! We're going to be fucking famous!" she shouted as I shrieked and laughed and grew dizzy and Jasper and Em high fived each other and bro-hugged.
There in the cluttered living room of our drafty run-down shabby house in Seattle, we all reveled in our shining moment of success, the one that had taken so damned long to find us, and we dreamt of the new lives that were waiting for us in the sun and warmth of California.
A/N: I wrote an outtake for Faking It as part of last year's Fandom Gives Back Charity Auction. It's posted separately under my profile.