Okay, so I know I suck. Two weeks turned into two months - for that I apologize. Writer's block is hard. For that reason, this chapter covers a lot of the last from Bella's POV - I just couldn't think of anything else to write! It won't be something I do often.
Thank you to everyone who's reviewed so far. The response to the last chapter was awesome. Please leave a review if you like the story! They really do help to inspire me (even if it does not seem that way at the moment). Trust me, without those reviews, this wouldn't be up before March.
Happy New Year to everyone!
Does it really need saying that I do not own Twilight?
I awoke Wednesday morning in a bad mood. I wasn't sure why – the sun was shining outside, I had just gotten in a new shipment of books, and I hadn't heard from Edward Cullen in two days. I stumbled out of bed at 8am; the shop didn't open until 10, but was always something for me to do. As I padded into the kitchen, still in my pajamas, I ran over them in my head. Inventory, my application for the master's program, reading for tonight's classes…The list went on and on.
I popped some frozen waffles in the toaster for my breakfast. Unfortunately, this was one of the few things I had in common with typical college students – I couldn't cook. Angela had told me that she and her roommate ordered in all the time. I tried not to do that. Having food delivered could quickly get expensive in Seattle. But the alternative to that was mostly frozen foods. Or learning to cook. I had a stack of cookbooks in my kitchen, just waiting to be read, but I hadn't gotten around to it yet. Oh well, it was on the list.
I filled a glass with orange juice and retrieved a bottle of syrup from the refrigerator, placing them on the kitchen table just as the waffles finished toasting. I pulled out a plate from the cabinet – that was something, at least, that I used real plates over paper – and sat down at the table to eat breakfast. Opening my copy of Antony and Cleopatra, part of my work for today's Shakespeare class, I read as I ate. It was one of my favorite works of Shakespeare - even if the Cleopatra was histrionic at times, in my opinion, she was one of Shakespeare's best female characters.
I finished breakfast and cleaned up the table, setting aside my play to bring downstairs and read later. My glass and plate went in the dishwasher, the orange juice and syrup returned to the refrigerator. I frowned at the bare shelves. It was never really fully stocked, but today it looked even emptier than usual. I mentally added grocery shopping to my list.
When the kitchen was cleared, I walked into the bathroom to brush my teeth. Like the rest of the apartment, it was sparsely decorated but clean. After living with Charlie's mess of beer bottles for the three years following my mother's death, it was very important to me that my space not be that way. While Martha Stewart might frown at my mismatched towels, no one could claim the apartment was in any way dirty.
I dressed for the day, keeping in mind the day's task of inventory and pulling on jeans and a tee shirt. I tried to dress more business-like most days, though I wasn't really sure why I bothered. It wasn't like my customers cared, and certainly there was no dictate coming down from the boss. I giggled at the thought, which turned into full-fledged laughter as I examined the thought further.
Edward Cullen thought I had a boss. And while I wasn't under the illusion that my deception could last forever, it amazed me that after months of trying, no one had figured out the truth. Was everyone who worked for him a complete idiot?
By lunchtime, I had finished my application and my reading for tonight, and turned my attention to inventory. Since I kept sold such a wide assortment of books, most of them second-hand, I entered every book into the computer by hand. It was a good system, helping me to keep track of all the books, but it could take a long time. I was anticipating that this latest shipment would take at least the next few days to enter.
I made the trip down to the basement for my first pile of books, bringing them back up with me and dumping them on the front counter. Once they were entered, I stacked them neatly on the floor – some would go on the shelves, where there was room, and others would go back downstairs, organized this time. I repeated the process with a second pile of books, then a third. Apparently today would be a long, quiet day.
Or not, I amended, hearing loud footsteps moving about the store. Someone must have come in while I was downstairs. I looked up and there he was – Edward Cullen, stalking toward me with a predatory look on his face.
I stood instinctively, almost knocking my chair over in my haste as I greeted him coolly. Why was he here? I asked the question aloud, and he claimed to be 'browsing'. I managed not to laugh at that one, as he asked what I was doing. Wasn't it obvious?
"Inventory today. I enter each book when I get them so I can track them down. Usually I know where they are, but it's always helpful to have a system."
"You know where all these books are? Every single one?" His voice said clearly that he didn't believe me. God, what an irritating man!
I lifted my chin as I met his gaze evenly. "I try to. If there's ever the event that I can't, that's why I have my database. I also keep a lot of books in the back. So this way I can know what we have. And it's good for our website."
"Your website?" Seriously, another facet he doesn't know about? Did he even do any research before charging in here and trying to buy my store?
"Yes." I turned the computer screen to face him, pulling up the website I had created. "We keep an online inventory, so people trying to track down a book can see if the store has it. I fill a lot of online orders as well."
"Hmm," was his noncommittal reply.
I turned the screen away, annoyed, returning to my inventory. Maybe if I ignored him he would just go away.
He didn't. He stayed in his spot, staring at me. I could feel my face heating and turning red as the silence lengthened. Finally I looked up at him.
"Are you waiting for something in particular? This is a bookstore. Browse, buy, or read. Or leave. Staring at me is not one of your options."
His eyes widened at my rather rude statement, while my subconscious cheered at my daring. Myvictory was short-lived, though, as he smiled at me before he turned into the nonfiction aisle and brought back a biography.
I took it from him, glancing at the cover. Hmm, I never would have figured him for a Civil War aficionado. If it were anyway else, I would ask, but not Edward Cullen. I rang him up and he paid for his book.
As I handed him the book and his change, I dismissed him with a "Thank you for your purchase. Have a nice day." Of course, he wasn't that easy to shake.
"What happened to your wrist?" he asked abruptly.
I looked down at my wrist, still in its splint. The sprain had been worse than I first thought. "Oh. I tripped." I shrugged. "I'm very clumsy, unfortunately."
I went to return to inventory, but a touch to my hand stopped me. I froze at the touch, looking up at Edward as his hand covered mine. What is he doing? I tried to tug my hand away, but he was stronger and I couldn't pull free.
Did I even want to? While he was an arrogant, conceited, dominating jackass at times, he was still one of the most magnetic men I had ever met. Okay, the most magnetic. Curiosity held me captive as I stopped trying to pull my hand free and just watched as he brought my wrist up to his mouth.
He placed one kiss on my palm. As I shivered from the sensation of his lips on my skin, he moved further down my arm, placing tiny kisses as he went. I wanted to touch him also, and I reached out to gently stroke his cheek, feeling the faintest hint of stubble along his smooth skin.
Suddenly I was moving, guided by Edward's gentle tugs around the counter, to stand in front of him. How malapropos, I thought to myself. He didn't strike me as the gentle type.
He let go of my wrist, his hands sliding down to my hips instead. Even through the barrier of my jeans, I could feel the heat of his hands. His hands held my hips lightly, then suddenly, and unexpectedly, slid under my shirt. Bella! Bella! My subconscious was screaming at me, but I ignored her. I hadn't been this close to anyone in so long. It was only when his hands started to move upward that my thoughts managed to break through the fog in my head, and I could feel myself tense under Edward's hands.
It seemed Edward felt it as well; his hands retreated and trailed back down to my hips. Then suddenly his lips were on mine, but not like the last time. Today, his kiss seemed…kinder. I allowed myself to enjoy it, not even reacting when his hands moved lower still, gripping my bottom firmly.
And then I was moving, my feet leaving the ground as Edward used his hold to lift me onto the counter. Why is it that my feet never stay on the floor when he's around? His lips slid away from mine, and he leaned back, smiling at me when I looked up at him. His green eyes were dark as he bent back down, placing his lips on my temple.
"You want more?" he asked, his lips still. Did I want more? I wasn't sure…but I found myself nodding anyway.
At my affirmative response, his head lowered…though not back to my mouth as I expected. His bronze hair flashed before my eyes as he moved to my ear. He had hair like liquid metal, and I reached out before I could think about it, running my hand through the wild strands. His hair was soft…wild…I clenched my fingers in it as I felt him nibble lightly at the sensitive flesh of my ear. I had never felt anything like this before.
He dropped one last kiss before making his way further down, to the place where my neck met my shoulder. I could hear him inhale, taking me in. Crap! Doing inventory for hours…I probably smell gross…and sweaty…and then he'll never come back…which is what I want…right? But still!
But his next words reassured me. "You smell delicious, Angela," he whispered. The name 'Angela' was an icy shock to my system, reminding me once again that he didn't know me and I didn't know him. But that thought, like every other, was forgotten as his lips touched my neck and he drew the sensitive skin into his mouth, licking and sucking at it…hard. For the first time, pain mingled with the pleasure, and I felt hesitation rise – should I tell him to stop? But I couldn't…I could only gasp, as the two sensations blended, until they were almost one.
He pulled back from my neck, something new gleaming in his eyes. It looked almost like…satisfaction? "I've been thinking about you since we met," his voice was smooth, seductive, a balm to my confused senses. "Have you been thinking about me?"
Yes…of course…how could I not? But I said nothing, not wanting to admit my weakness. Still, I could feel a blush growing as I held back the truth. I'm a terrible liar…even by omission.
He growled at my continued silence, swooping down and pressing his lips to mine again. This time, though, was like the first…he took control then, as he did now.
Since lifting me to the counter, he had been standing, bracketed between my legs, but he had kept his distance. Now, he took that last step, pressing his hips firmly into mine. "Do you feel what you do to me? Do you feel how much I want you?" I could feel the evidence of his desire…through his expensive wool pants, he was hard and hot. And large...at least from what I knew of men. "I want you, Angela. Very much."
After a moment, he withdrew, pulling his body fully away from mine, and I tried to regain some semblance of dignity as I gasped for air. I noticed him watching, his eyes gently amused. Of course, he had nothing to straighten up; he was perfectly together, as always. I ducked my head to avoid his gaze.
He wouldn't let me though, a negative murmur escaped his perfect lips before his hand reached out, pulling my face back up to look at him. "Would you like to have dinner tonight, Angela?"
"Dinner?" I asked. He smiled down at me winningly, and I could feel myself sigh a little. He really was a beautiful man. "Dinner? With you?" Of course with him, Bella, who do you think it would be with? The Queen of England?
He echoed my subconscious's thoughts with his reply. "I'd prefer it to be with me, yes." He was still smiling down at me. "Would you like that?"
I was nodding before he'd even finished his question. Dinner…with Edward Cullen.
"Wonderful," he said easily, beginning to make his way toward the door. "I'll pick you up at 7."
The distance between us finally allowed my thoughts to break through my head. You're an idiot, Bella! Stop it! Do you know who this is? What happened to your plan? Do you think he's seriously interested in you? He turned to leave, and I stopped him. "Wait!"
He spun around quickly, stalking back to me with that predatory look on his face. Is that his permanent expression? It's actually kind of…appealing. No, Bella! Remember your plan! Right, the plan. Resisting. I murmured the word a few times under my breath, and when I look up, he was standing before me. I cast about frantically for something to say, before spotting his abandoned bag on the counter next to me. I picked it up and thrust it toward him.
"No. No dinner."
"Why not?" he asked silkily, his voice calm as he took the bag. You see, Bella? He doesn't care!
Right, right, of course. Plus, he's trying to buy Ren's. He doesn't even know who you really are. "I…I…I can't. No. I'm sorry." It's for the best.
He smiled at me. "Another time, then." What?
Before I could say no, he left. As soon as the door slammed behind him, I brought my fingers up to my lips. They felt swollen. Evidence of my weakness. But at least you managed to turn down his invitation.
I wasn't sure how long I sat on the counter. Eventually, the sound of the door opening jarred me out of my stupor, and I looked up to see an older woman enter. She stopped in surprise when she saw me in my place on the counter, and I quickly slid down, giving her a smile in welcome. She smiled back tentatively. Great. Now all the customers are going to think I'm crazy.
I returned to my place behind the counter, seeing the current time on my computer. Two hours had passed since Edward Cullen's arrival. Perfect. I'd never finish the inventory at this rate. I sighed. "Let me know if you need me," I told the woman, who nodded, before I went into the back and down to the basement. I had things to do.
Today, I managed to close the store on time, though there were still books waiting to be catalogued. I made my way up to my apartment quickly; I wanted to change and eat before class. Once I devoured an apple, I pulled on clean clothes - a navy striped sweater and grey jeans. My clothes from today were grimy from doing inventory.
Sitting on my bed so I wouldn't fall this time, I shoved my feet into a pair of yellow sneakers. I held my feet out in front of me idly, inspecting the cheery color. It wasn't exactly reminiscent of my mood today. I felt rather…melancholy. A continuation of my mood from this morning? The low after the high I reached from seeing Edward Cullen? I didn't know. Suddenly, I wished that I was the irresponsible type, the kind that skipped class when they didn't feel like going. I could skip class and…what did people do when they skipped? Probably sleep.
But you're not that type, and you don't skip class, I reminded myself, as I walked into the bathroom to wash my face. Especially since you pay for school. I flipped on the light, looked in the mirror, and instantly gasped at my reflection. There was a large, dark bruise on my neck. What the hell? I raised my fingers to it tentatively, and realized what it was. Damn that man!
I flew back into my bedroom, hastily pulling out a jar of concealer. It was old, barely used, but hopefully it would work. I patted it onto the bruise, looking in the mirror to check my handiwork, and grimace. Hardly an improvement – now it just looked like I had makeup on my neck. I'd never been especially skilled at applying the stuff.
I frowned at my reflection, trying to pull my sweater up to cover my neck. It wasn't working. I huffed out an exasperated breath and grabbed my blue coat from my closet. There, covered. Now I was ready to go.
I walked into Shakespeare on time today, though only just. Angela smiled a greeting at me as I slid into my chair. I gave a small smile back, pulling out my notebook for today's discussion. My reading done during a quiet period this morning, I was prepared. I opened my notebook, flipping through the sheets idly until I arrived at a fresh page. But the anticipation that usually filled me at the sight of perfectly clean pages just waiting to be filled with that day's class was conspicuously absent. I sighed to myself. It would have been nice to stay home today. Get some extra work done in the store, plus maybe an extra few hours of sleep. But I hadn't done that. I was here.
Yes, such a good girl, aren't you, Bella, my subconscious taunted. Never do anything wrong, never step a foot out of line. So responsible, dependable…steady and boring. That is what you are. Can't even skip class when you want to.
My teeth bit sharply into my lip at the suddenly brutal thoughts. Where had that come from?
From me, sweetie, my subconscious answered, with an air of mocking patience. I am you, you know. Your deepest thoughts…desires…and the truth. Always the truth. You know I'm right.
At that moment, Angela happened to look in my direction. I stared blindly back at her as a frown crossed her face - I suppose at my arrested expression.
"Everything okay?" she mouthed silently. Professor Cook had just begun his lecture. I nodded, trying to pay attention to his words rather than my own illogical thoughts. But I found myself unable to concentrate, my focus turned inward instead.
Those thoughts weren't the truth. Where were they coming from? I was happy with my life, I really was. There was no denying it was difficult at times, but how many people got the chance to make so many of their dreams a reality at my age? The answer – not very many. I'd be a fool to give any of it up. In a few years I would be done with school, and could concentrate solely on the store. In the meantime – I could deal with it.
Who are you trying to convince? The voice was back. I shook my head frantically, but it wouldn't dissipate, instead continuing. You know, you don't have to do everything at once. There's always fewer class, less bookstore hours…there's this thing called options. You have them. I don't know why-
I shook my head again, harder this time, as though the movement could eradicate my thoughts. It couldn't. All I had done was given myself a headache. I pressed my hand to my forehead and groaned silently, closing my eyes as my head fell forward.
When I looked back up, Angela was still staring at me, the look of concern growing. I ducked my head, embarrassed. My hair swung forward, effectively shielding my face from view. I toyed with a strand, twisting it back and forth between my fingers as I wrote a few notes. Then, to my horror, I heard my name being called.
I looked up to see Professor Cook smiling kindly at me. "Bella? Do you want to comment on the ideas that have been shared so far? Or perhaps add your own thoughts to our discussion?"
"I-I…umm…I…don't really have anything to add," I stuttered, caught off guard. "I-"
"Professor?" Angela suddenly called out, and his eyes moved over to her, away from me. "Something I found interesting - the character of Cleopatra…"
I didn't pay attention to the rest of Angela's words after the first few utterances, retreating back into my own world. When the light, clear tones of her voice disappeared, I looked back up, giving her a small smile of thanks. She nodded back briefly, her kind face earnest but solemn.
The class finally ended, thankfully, though, I wasn't called on again. As the class dispersed, I pulled my application for the master's program out of my bag and walked up to the front. Professor Cook was talking to another student that decided to stay behind – a rare occurrence, but a lucky break for me. I quickly dropped it on top of his other papers and made my way back to my desk. Angela had already left. I could feel myself wilt a little as I saw her empty desk. I didn't particularly want to talk about my strange behavior in class today…but did her absence mean she was angry with me? She did have to rescue me today, after all…
I walked out of the classroom and turned down the hallway to go to my next class. I had taken a few steps when I heard my name spoken.
"Bella," Angela called, stepping out from her position in the hallway's shadows. She hadn't gone after all. I turned to face her, adjusting my bag nervously when I saw her face. She didn't look angry, she looked…I would say determined was the right word.
"Ang," I replied, moving over to the side of the hallway where she stood. "I thought you'd left."
The expression on her face changed to one of surprise at my words. "Why would I leave? We always walk to your next class together."
I shrugged, winding the strap of my bag around my finger and fixing my eyes on the floor as I spoke. "I thought maybe…you were…I mean, you did have to cover for me today. Thank you for doing that. I didn't mean to…well, thanks."
I chanced a look back up at her. She was staring at me reproachfully. "You don't have to thank me, Bella. Friends help each other out, it's what they do." She linked my arm with hers and began hauling me down the hallway toward my next class. "You know what else friends do? They talk to each other. What happened today in class?"
I shrugged again, Angela's arm through mine limiting my movements this time. "I can't be perfect all the time," I mumbled, avoiding the real question. "I just drifted off."
"Umm hmm," she hummed back, the few syllables still managing to convey her skepticism with my answer. "And you know what else?" She charged on, not waiting for my answer. "You look sad today. And tired."
I smiled weakly at her. "According to you, I always look tired."
"But today more so than usual," she insisted, still walking rapidly toward my next class. She came to an abrupt halt, the sudden stop catching me off guard. Still walking, I tripped over my sneakers, the ground flying up rapidly to meet me. Luckily, Angela's hold on my arm prevented my fall. "Whoa, Bella, try not to actually break any bones today." Once I regained my equilibrium, she let go of my arm, now standing in front of me, blocking my path. "Seriously, though, what's going on with you?"
I considered my options briefly. I could try to avoid this conversation – I pictured myself running around Angela and making a dash for my next class. But she'd probably catch up – she's taller and more athletic – not to even mention how juvenile that would be. I could lie – but we both knew I was a terrible liar. Or there was the truth – but what was the truth? I didn't even know what was upsetting me. I could feel the foolish, unbidden tears rising to the surface, as I tried to think of a response for Angela.
"It's just…I guess…everything's closing in all at once," I heard the quiver in my voice as I spoke. Evidently Angela did also, taking a step closer in support. But I shook my head, retreating back from her. Any sympathy would make the precariously balanced cards of my life come crashing down. "There's just so much to do…decisions to make…people to fight…and I don't want to. I'm tired. I just want to be like everyone else. Enjoy a normal college life." I could hear the words tumbling out, but it was like I couldn't stop myself. "I could live in a dorm room. Hang out with friends. Have a boyfriend, and not kiss random guys who are trying to take everything I've worked for!"
Angela looked alarmed now, not that I blamed her. I must have sounded insane. "Bella, what…what are you talking about?" I drew in a deep breath, but said nothing. "Okay, never mind. This isn't really the place to talk anyway. Why don't we go back to my room? My roommate won't be there. We can hang out and talk. Maybe I can help."
I shook my head. "I appreciate the offer, Ang, but I don't think you can help." I attempted a smile, but from the look on Angela's face I wasn't entirely successful. "I just have to…keep together. Soon the semester will be over, and I'll have more time. I need more time, that's all."
"Oh, that's all? Such a small thing," Angela said sarcastically. "Bella, tonight I'm not taking no for an answer. You're coming to my room to talk, and that's final!"
And that was how I found myself in Angela's room two hours later. I had gone to my second class - over Angela's protests - but it had been a useless endeavor. I was just as functional there as I had been in my first class, but this time, there was no Angela to save me. I sighed unhappily. Now that professor probably thinks I'm an idiot. How wonderful.
Angela and I sat at her kitchen table, waiting for the food to arrive. As promised, her roommate was out. We had ordered pizza – a staple of student life, Angela had assured me, along with cereal, popcorn, and wings. Though she had admitted sheepishly that popcorn wasn't part of her repertoire – it seemed the smoke detector and Angela cooking popcorn did not mix. I had laughed at that. I might have even been able to enjoy myself, taking a moment to be a normal college student, if Angela hadn't been looking at me expectantly from across the table. And if I didn't have other things I could be doing back at the bookstore.
I met Angela's expectant gaze flatly. If this was a contest to see who would speak last, I would win. After all, she was the one who had insisted I come here. I didn't really have too much to say.
As expected, Angela broke the silence first. "So, Bella," she began uncertainly.
"So, Angela," I repeated back, letting my voice fill with false joviality. I wasn't feeling very cheerful at the moment. I wanted to go home and avoid this talk. If I didn't talk about my problems, maybe they would cease to exist. Ha! My subconscious chortled at that wishful thinking.
"Bella," she tried again. "What happened today in class? You were totally out of it. And you seemed really upset after."
I fiddled with the blue cuff of my sweater as she waited for an answer. "I told you after – I can't be perfect all the time. Sometimes the pressure…builds up. Like today." I shrugged. "It led to a little breakdown on my part. I think maybe that was good. Cleansing. So now I can really concentrate on what needs to be done."
Angela met my shirking gaze directly. "That is the biggest load of bullshit I have ever heard," she said severely. "And I'm an English major. Every day I hear people talk about topics they know nothing about."
I let out a small laugh at that. What she said was true. But maybe Angela had missed her calling – if this interrogation was any indication, she would be great in pre-law. I sat silently as she continued to talk.
"And then what you said just before you left – what random guys have you been kissing?"
I felt the heat rise in my face. I guess it would have been too much to hope that Angela had missed that part. My idle fingers returned to the cuff of my sweater as I considered my response. What would be the harm in telling?
The weakness, the voice inside me whispered. Do you want Angela to consider you weak? Incapable of standing up for yourself? Of resisting a man who could destroy everything you've worked for?
Angela had been sitting silently as my internal debate raged on. Oh, what would be the harm in telling?
"Edward Cullen," I blurted out quickly, before I could think better of it and change my mind. At my admission, Angela's mouth had dropped open, her eyes widening as she processed the name I had spoken.
"Edward Cullen," she repeated slowly, obviously fighting to keep her reaction contained. "Isn't he trying to-"
"Buy the bookstore? Destroy everything I've built? Yes! Logically, I know all this. But he's so…" I could feel the heat rise to my cheeks as I spoke. "He's…magnetic. I don't know the right word. Undeniable? He doesn't even-" a choked laugh escaped before I could stop it. "He doesn't know who I am. I've been lying to all of them."
"All of who?" Angela asked, concern evident in her voice.
"Everyone. Everyone from his company. I've been lying to all of them. It's how I hold them off."
Angela's brows furrowed at my words. "Bella? I'm trying really hard to follow you, but I have no idea what you're saying. You've lost me."
And so I told her. How people from Edward's company had been coming by for months, trying to buy my store. How I'd downplayed their efforts when I told her about them previously. How I'd used her name to keep them away from 'Bella'. And how, finally, Edward Cullen himself had come to end the stand off. And kissed me. Twice.
Angela' eyes were wide by the time I'd finished, her mouth opening and closing slowly as she fought to find words.
"I know, right?" I laughed, hearing the hollow bitterness in my tone as Angela said nothing. After a minute, she jumped up, dashing into her bedroom.
"What are you doing?" I called out nervously, rising from my seat to follow her. When I entered her room, she was sitting at her desk, her internet homepage loading. I crossed the room to stand at her shoulder, watching as she clicked over to Google. "What are you doing?" I asked again.
"I want to see him," she replied, typing 'Edward Cullen' into the search space. She twisted in her seat to face me, a small grin spreading across her face. "I understand the seriousness of this, Bella. But please, let me be happy for a moment that my best friend has been pulled out of her solemn, quiet world, and experienced her first kiss." She beamed up at me.
I sputtered helplessly at her upturned face. "That- that is not true! Freshman year, Mike and I-"
She cut me off before I could continue, rolling her eyes. "A kiss on the cheek during a school assembly does not a first kiss make, Bella. Now, let's see this guy." Turning back to her laptop, she pressed 'enter' before I could stop her. She clicked over to images, and suddenly, Edward Cullen's face filled the screen. Angela let out a tiny squeal at the sight, enlarging the first image. A serious Edward gazed back at us from his profile page on his company's website. Angela turned her head to look up at me again. "Bella," she said seriously. "If you don't want him, you can send him over here." And then she burst out laughing.
I stood there in disbelief for a moment. What had happened to Angela? I looked down at her smiling face, and fought the urge to laugh with her. This situation was anything but funny. Now he had Angela on his side too?
"I'm sorry, Bella," Angela said, wiping her eyes as her laughter died down. "But he's just so- I mean, wow."
"He's very good-looking, Ang," I began. "But-"
Angela cut me off before I could continue. "No, Bella. Ben," referring to her boyfriend of two years, "is good-looking. As much as I love him, I can admit this. Your Edward is on a whole different level."
"He's not my Edward," I replied instantly. "He's just some asshole who wants to take away the most important thing in my life."
Angela started to say something, but a knock at the door interrupted her. "That must be our food!" she declared, rising from her chair. She walked over to her door, then paused and looked at me sternly. "This conversation is not over."
Once Angela was in the common room getting the pizza, I sat down at her desk and clicked back, looking at the search results. Edward Cullen with an attractive older couple - his parents, the website told me. Edward Cullen at a charity event, smiling politely at the camera as an attractive blonde smiled with him. At another event, this time with a redhead. I clicked through a few pages of results. Mostly he was unaccompanied in his pictures, though there were several with women. All very attractive women. What did he want with me?
Angela came back into the room, as the tantalizing smell of pizza wafted through the apartment. "Hungry? I have everything all set up in the kitchen. I figured you'd come in." Her eyes looked past me to her computer, seeing the images I was looking at. She smiled. "I guess the scenery's better in here."
My head fell back as I closed my eyes, fighting the sudden ache in my temples. I just couldn't deal with this right now. I took a second to gather myself, then rose from the chair and met Angela's gaze squarely. "Let's change the subject, okay? I'm in the mood for lighter conversation right now." My tone was overly sharp, but I fought back the urge to apologize. I needed a break from somebody.
Angela nodded, as I followed her into the kitchen. Over our pizza, she regaled me with talk of her boyfriend, her Thanksgiving plans, and a class I was thinking about taking next semester. I helped her clean up once we had both finished. It was eleven-thirty, and I had to go if I was going to get home sometime tonight.
I made my way over to the couch and picked up the coat I had tossed there earlier. "Ang, I have to leave. But thank you for worrying, and listening to my problems. I appreciate that. It was good to just…tell someone about it."
Angela smiled as I pulled on my coat, but it didn't reach her eyes. "I keep telling you. That's what friends are for. I wanted you to talk to me." He eyes dropped to my hands as I slid on gloves. "Look…do you want to stay here tonight? I don't know if you should be taking the bus so late by yourself."
I looked up from my gloves, surprised. "Oh. Well, I have some work to do back at the store. And I have some reading to do for-"
"Class in the morning," Angela finished. "Which I also have. So you can use my books. And borrow some clothes. It'll be fun." It sounded fun. I chewed on my lip, undecided. I really did have things that needed to be done back at the store. At my silence, Angela continued. "Please? You can finally meet my roommate."
That was true. Angela had wanted me to meet her new roommate since August, as the one she had had for the past two years was studying abroad this semester. And I could probably finish my class reading more quickly if Angela and I worked on it together.
"Okay," I acquiesced. "I guess I can do inventory tomorrow."
"Great!" Angela grinned. This time, it was genuine.
An hour later, Angela and I were sitting across from each other on the couch – my makeshift bed – finishing the last of our reading. It had been faster, working together. I wasn't sorry I had stayed.
A clicking sound had me looking up from my book, as Angela turned towards the door. "There's Leah," she announced, sounding pleased. The door swung open quickly after her words, revealing a tall girl with tanned skin and long dark hair. A guy followed her in, shrugging off his coat to reveal arms thick with muscle and the same tanned skin.
"Dammit, Jake!" the girl was complaining. "This is the second time this month you've gotten us kicked out of the library. Pretty soon we'll be banned from the place. Then where am I going to study?"
The guy slung a heavy arm around her shoulders, grinning. "It's not my fault those librarians can't lighten up. I need to a study break every now and then. It helps me concentrate, you know?"
"Inviting your little fuck buddies into the stacks to hook up does not count as a study break!" the girl yelled back.
I watched the fascinating interaction quietly. Angela, though, was not as silent, clearing her throat as the pair swung around, noticing us for the first time. The girl looked embarrassed, while the guy continued to grin, apparently unabashed.
"Hi guys," Angela said dryly. "This is Bella. Bella, my roommate Leah and her friend Jake."
"Her best friend Jake," the guy clarified, leaning forward to shake my hand. "Bella, huh?" he asked, as his large hand enveloped mine. "You look familiar. Have we met before?"
"Umm, around campus, maybe?" I asked, trying to tug my hand free. He wouldn't let go.
"No, that's not it," he shook his head. He stared harder at me. "Bella…Bella Swan?"
How did he know my name? I cocked my head at him as his face lit up. "It is you, isn't it? Remember me – Jake?" He laughed. "You used to come out to La Push all the time with your dad…ten year ago, maybe?"
I stared up at him in shock. "Jake?" He was a lot bigger than I remembered.
"You do remember!" he pulled me from the couch by my arm, lifting me off my feet as he enfolded me in a tight hug. "I missed you when you stopped coming around."
I nodded, dropping down to my feet when he finally let go. His hands crept to my waist instead, touching me more familiarly than I would have preferred from a childhood friend I barely remembered. "How are you, Jake?" I asked formally.
"I'm great," he replied, grinning back at me, his hands still on my waist. "How are you?"
I smiled politely at him as I took a step back. Maybe I was sorry I had stayed after all.