Asthenia

Annaleise Marie and Nachos4Children

Chapter Seven: Truancy and Tardiness

AN: Nachos4Children and I may or may not own... Hmm... I don't know, a kinky love dungeon. But we don't own Twilight. That is, of course, Stephenie Meyer. I'm pretty sure Nachos4Children owns Terrance the nice waiter, though.

- Annaleise Marie

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(EPOV)

No matter how Emmett had tried to talk her up, Tanya wasn't anything special.

Well, maybe that was unfair to her. Maybe if I hadn't had my mind on someone the complete opposite of her, with her strawberry blonde hair and sharp gray eyes, I would have been way into her. She was at least intelligent, could hold a decent conversation about something other than herself, was pretty witty, and had nice body on top of that. Maybe, if I had met her before, I would have seen her as being what I had been looking for.

But no, even now, as her head rested on my chest, her fingers tracing lazy patterns over my stomach, I couldn't take my mind off of the opposite – Bella. The girl I hadn't managed to form any bond with strong enough to withstand that damned call from loud, obnoxious, voice-could-carry-across-a-fucking-football-field Emmett.

Christ, Alice had been really mad about this one, for some reason. I mean, I regularly ignore her – not that it usually ends well for me but there you have it – and she almost never gets this angry. You would think I had just somehow snubbed the saviour of the fucking universe.

And by this angry, I mean angry to the point of tracking me down and shouting at the top of her little pixie voice at me in the middle of the street.

I saw her coming, barreling out of the bookstore, all ninety-odd pounds of her positively radiating anger.

"Edward Masen!" she shouted, and that's when I knew it was bad. She only used my original surname when she wanted to distance us as family. "What the hell? Why would you answer Emmett's call and not mine? Don't you know by now that what I have to say is important?"

Well, she was being a little arrogant there. I couldn't even begin to tell you how many calls I've had to field about "ah-mazing" men's sales and how I "absolutely needed" to update my wardrobe. But given that she was right this time, I didn't say anything. Not that she would have given me the chance as she plowed on, gesticulating wildly in her frustration.

"But no, you had to ignore my warning and answer that call. Didn't you even read the text? No, of course you didn't! You wanna know how I know? I saw that you didn't! I see things, Edward, which is why you should listen to me! Jesus Christ, you are so hard-headed. Well, I hope it was worth it! I hope the cheap floozy Tanya will be worth it! Of course, I already know, but you wouldn't listen to me anyway so I'm not going to tell you!" she finished, her tone suggesting that she was itching to add on a "so take that!"

"And it doesn't matter to you that I take time out of my day to keep your ass out of the fire! I'm missing my Chem lab, but no, the great Edward Masen can't be bothered to care about that," she continued, apparently catching her second wind. "Next time I see you getting in trouble, maybe I'll just ignore it, and then you'll learn!"

"Alice," I started, glancing around warily. A crowd was starting to gather to stare at the midget who could 'see' things and the man that she was shouting at about it.

She glared at me for a second before turning on the small crowd.

"What?" she snapped at the nearest woman before grabbing my arm and steering me into a nearby music store. "You need to fix this," she said in an undertone once we were inside.

"What's the big deal? I barely know her, and I guarantee you that she doesn't really care for me, anyway," I said defensively.

"Listen to me for once," she hissed. "I'm tired of hinting around at it! Bella is going to be very important to you, and don't give me that look! You know it's true! She's already important to you! Now fix it!"

"How?" I asked.

"Figure it out!" she shouted, earning us a glare from the employee at the counter, before stomping out of the store. After a second the door opened and she came hurtling back in.

"You know I wouldn't care about this if it weren't important, right?" she demanded.

"Yeah, I know," I sighed.

"I just want you to be happy, you idiot," she continued. Now, that's love, right there; when you can be mad enough to spit and still care about your brother.

"I know," I repeated and she gave a short nod before spinning and exiting the store again, leaving me standing alone amongst the sheet music.

Not knowing how to fix this, and having already told Emmett that I'd be by later, I went anyway. I didn't think Bella would take kindly to me showing up at her doorstep, and I really didn't want to take the chance of Jessica really being her roommate and Bella not being home, leaving me alone with her.

In my defense, I tried to be good. I didn't sleep with her that night.

But the next night, the alcohol came out. A bottle of Grey Goose later, and here we were, with her still in my bed the next morning.

I wanted to tell Tanya to get out. Under normal circumstances, I would kick her out without hesitation. But I didn't really have the energy to deal with that right now. I had to go to class soon, so she'd have to leave then, anyway.

I jumped as my phone rang, diving for it without regards to the fact that I had almost knocked Tanya off of the bed in the process. Hopefully it would be Alice with an idea of how to fix this, because I was seriously drawing a blank on it.

But it was an unfamiliar number. I debated whether or not to answer it, finally deciding to on the off chance that it was Alice from a different phone.

"Hello?" I answered.

The voice that answered made my heart start racing.

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(BPOV)

I'd been thinking about Edward for nearly two days now.

I couldn't seem to shake this inexplicable sense of guilt that followed me everywhere I went. He'd made such an effort to get me to go to lunch with him - even agreeing to all of my terms, and I had walked out on him without so much as saying goodbye. Sure, I'd been upset about the phone call he'd received, but it wasn't like he'd actually done anything. Why was I always jumping to conclusions? I mean, didn't I see him run out and look for me? Didn't that say something about his feelings?

I'd been completely rude to him.

And I should make amends.

Right?

Ahhh, who the fuck was I kidding? It was more than that. In spite of everything, I liked Edward. I mean, really liked Edward.

After he had convinced me that the flowers weren't a joke, I'd begun to look at him differently. Even though I'd snapped at him when he confessed that he felt he should "watch out" for me, I had to admit that my insides had simultaneously done a little dance of joy. To my knowledge, no one had ever felt that way about me before, and hearing Edward say it made me feel good all over.

Maybe it was time to start removing a few bricks from the wall I'd been building for years, just to see what was on the other side.

I wanted to talk to him to try and make things right, or if anything, to hear his velvet voice once more. But I didn't want to wait until 7am to do it. At 7am, we would be surrounded by eavesdropping classmates and sadistic professors who were apparently into public humiliation. I couldn't risk another episode. I needed to do this on "my" turf.

So here I was, sitting on my bed at 6:30am with my index finger tracing down the class roster Professor Emerson had given us last week. It stopped on "Cullen, Edward - (206) 555-2282." A surge of adrenaline coursed through my veins - I knew that if I didn't call him now, I would never have the guts to do it. I figured he had to be awake - I mean, we had class in roughly 30 minutes.

I noticed that my fingers were trembling slightly as I punched the numbers into my cell phone.

Oh my God, it was ringing.

Suddenly, I panicked. I hadn't even thought through what I was going to say to him.

"Bad idea! Abort! Abort!" my brain screamed at me.

But it was too late.

"Hello?"

"Edward? Ummm, hi - it's me, Bella. Bella Swan?"

---

(EPOV)

"Oh, yeah, hey," I said after a moment. I didn't have trouble remembering who she was. I was shocked out of my mind for a second, that's all. "I wasn't expecting to hear from you."

"Yeah," she said quietly. "So, um - I just wanted to apologize for running out like that the other day. It wasn't really fair."

"Right…" I said slowly, my gaze flicking back go Tanya. It was totally fair, I guess. No need to let her know that, though.

"So I was thinking maybe I could make it up to you somehow?" she continued, almost hesitantly.

"What did you have in mind?" I asked, trying to sound casual. She wanted to make it up to me? Fucking awesome. Not that I could honestly say I really deserved it. But again, no need to let her know that.

"I don't really know," she said. "Lunch?"

"Nah," I said. "It was one of your conditions that I can't stalk you on lunch," I reminded her, smirking. Looks like her conditions could work in my favour. "Let's go somewhere today."

"We have class in like, twenty minutes," she pointed out.

"You really want to go and hear about the importance of composers like we don't already know?" I asked. "Come on, it's just a discussion day, anyway."

"I do have other classes."

"So do I," I said. "Skip them."

"Where do you want to go, anyway?" she asked. I thought about it for a second.

"Have you ever been to the Seattle Center?" I asked.

"No."

"They have an exhibit on music—" and science fiction, but let's not let the closet sci-fi geek out until she likes me enough to put up with that "—that seems like it would be interesting."

"Okay," she agreed, and I resisted the urge to do a victory fist-pump. This is Washington, after all, not the Jersey Shore. "So…" she trailed off.

"I'll pick you up in a half hour," I said.

"Alright. See you then," she said.

"Bye," I said before hitting the end button.

Mother fucking YES.

I stared at my phone for a second before Tanya's voice broke into my thoughts.

"What's going on?" she asked. Fuck. Why is she still here? I mean, I know why she's here, but why didn't Alice warn me to get rid of her sooner?

"Nothing," I said, scrolling through my call log to find Alice's number. She answered on the first ring.

"Well hello, big brother," she greeted me smugly. Suspicions confirmed.

"You could've given me some warning!" I said as I stood up, searching for my underwear.

"You don't listen to me, anyway," she said in that same smug voice. I let out an irritated growl and hit the end button. Fucking Alice and her fucking revenge.

Where is my underwear? This is ridiculous!

After I had collected myself enough to remember that I was in my apartment, where there was plenty of clean underwear, I set to work on finding jeans. Apparently I need to do some laundry.

Once I had finally managed to get dressed, I rushed for the door, nearly forgetting about Tanya entirely in my haste. Damn. I turned to look at her, still in bed, staring at me like I had lost my mind.

"Uh…" I started unintelligibly. "You're welcome to stay for awhile. Jasper will show you where the breakfast stuff is—" please let Jasper be home "—and just give Rosalie a call when you want to go home."

That was the best I could come up with that quickly. Wow, she looked offended. Like, way more offended than was really necessary, in my opinion. Damn. Oh well. It's not like I was dying to see her again.

Without further adieu, I dashed from the apartment, stepping onto the elevator and pushing the down button before realizing that I hadn't showered. I took advantage of the empty elevator to do a pit-check. Yeah, no way I was getting away with that today. I cursed and waited for the doors to open, pressing the up button to go back to the apartment.

By the time I showered and redressed, I was only ten minutes late pulling up to Bella's apartment. Record time, for me.

And after I found parking, I was still only fifteen minutes late. Stupid city.

I knocked on the door and waited for a moment as footsteps approached. There was a pause in which the person was presumably checking the peephole and then the door swung open to reveal none other than Jessica Fucking Stanley.

Fuck. So she is Bella's roommate.

"Bella!" she shouted, not taking her over-lined eyes off of me. "He did show up, after all!"

I didn't like the way she said that. I was only fifteen minutes late, after all. And that was because I insisted on being clean. I thought about shoving her face into my pits so that she could smell the mountain-fresh soap scent, but thought better of it because hell, she'd probably like that, and I didn't want a face print of makeup on my shirt.

"Do you want to come in?" she asked, batting her mascara-caked eyelashes at me. Jesus Christ.

If you're leaving, then sure.

"Yeah, thanks," I said, stepping carefully past her into the living room. She followed me in and sat on the couch.

"Have a seat," she offered. I made sure to pick the spot on the couch as far away from her as possible. It made no difference. She scooted her ass right on over until she was sitting practically on top of me. I wondered how hard I would have to hit my head against the coffee table to make myself black out, and if that would get her to leave me alone. Probably not. She'd just molest my unconscious form.

Please, God, let Bella be ready to go soon.

---

(BPOV)

Okay, I admit it: I was punishing him for being late. But it's not like he didn't deserve it. Where I come from, you call when you're going to be late.

A little time with Jessica wouldn't hurt him.

Much.

I took my time brushing my hair out until it shone, and then slid a thin headband into place. I double checked my outfit in the mirror: blue jeans and a dark blue, long sleeved shirt. That should be just fine for a trip to the Seattle Center. I'd never been there, but it actually sounded fun. Playing hooky for the day made me a little nervous, but I was excited to spend some time with Edward as well. Thank God I had the weekend to catch up on anything I missed.

I looked at my watch - ten minutes ought to be enough.

I walked out to the living room to see Edward squished against the side of the couch with Jessica sidled up next to him. If only I'd had my camera.

"Ready to go?" I asked him.

I have to stifle a laugh as he quickly scrambled off the sofa to stand next to me.

"Ready if you are." I could hear the relief in his voice and I had to smile. "I guess I'll see you later, Jess."

"Have fun. You too, Edward." She semi-smirked at him.

"We will," he replied dryly, placing his hand on the small of my back. I bit my lip knowing that Jessica was probably fuming inside.

"Shall we?"

"We shall," he replied, smoothly guiding me toward the door.

Once we were outside, he opened the passenger door of a shiny Volvo parked about a block or two away from my apartment.

"Nice car," I said appreciatively. It sure beat the hell out of my old truck.

My dad had bought my truck, affectionately nicknamed 'Rusty,' for me my junior year of high school. I loved Rusty - truly I did - but that didn't mean that I didn't envy something as beautiful as Edward's car.

"Thanks," he said, somewhat sheepishly. "It was a gift from my father when I graduated from high school."

"You must have been a good boy, then." I teased him while sliding onto the leather seat.

"Yeah, something like that," he said and then closed the door. He walked around and climbed into the driver's seat. "Have you had breakfast yet?"

At the mention of word 'breakfast,' my stomach let out a resounding growl. Shit. I'd been so nervous, I'd forgotten to eat.

"Umm, no - obviously," I giggled.

He turned and smiled warmly at me. "The museum doesn't open until 10:00, and I know a great place, if you're up for it."

"Sure." I smiled back.

15 minutes later, we were pulling into the parking lot of a small restaurant called "The Marmalade Cafe."

"It looks very....quaint," I said, reaching for the door handle.

"I'll get that for you," he said quickly, jumping out of the car and rushing over to my side. He opened my door and held out his hand to me - I was slightly taken aback at the gesture.

He must have misinterpreted my hesitation, because he immediately started apologizing.

"I'm sorry, is that one of your "terms?" Like, "don't open doors for me and stuff?"

I guffawed, but he looked absolutely serious.

"No, it's fine. Thank you." I tried to sound gracious as I placed my small hand in his and scooted out of the car. But on the inside, I was cringing - afraid that my little "terms" speech had now painted me as a feminist shrew. That wasn't what I had been trying to say at all. I mean, I wasn't just uncomfortable with him spending money on me - I was uncomfortable with anyone spending money on me. I didn't have a job, I was living off financial aid, and it made me feel bad when I couldn't reciprocate the same kind of generosity.

After I stood up, his fingers lingered on mine for a moment before letting go. I marvelled at how smooth they were, compared to my own. Years of violin playing had left me with permenant thick, hard callouses on my left hand, and I had always been grateful that I was from a society that shook hands with the right.

The restaurant was adorable on the inside - rustic wooden tables with bouquets of daisies on them and walls the color of orange dreamsicles.

The hostess showed us to a table and said that our waiter would be right with us. I breathed a mental sigh of relief. A waiter, not waitress, meant no skank to deal with today. I realized that Edward was thinking the exact same thing when he caught my eye and winked at me. I bit my lip and looked down at the menu in an effort to hide the smile slowly spreading across my face. I heard him chuckle softly as he picked up his own menu.

As promised, our waiter - a very nice man named Terrance - soon came over to take our order: chai tea french toast for me and a smoked salmon scramble for Edward.

"So...." he said.

"Buttons," I replied automatically.

"What?"

I laughed. "It's something my grandmother used to say whenever someone said 'so...' As in 'sew buttons?' Kinda like 'hey is for horses.'"

"I see. Well, speaking of grandmothers, tell me about your family. Do you have any brothers and sisters?"

I shook my head. "Nope. Just me. My parents got divorced when I was just a baby. I lived with my mom in Phoenix until I turned 17, then I lived with my dad in Forks, Washington, until I started college. I know my mom and my stepdad tried for awhile to have a baby together, but it never happened," I sighed. "Sometimes, I think it would have been nice to have a little brother or sister though."

"Eh, it's not all it's cracked up to be," he interjected.

"Oh yeah? What about you? What's your family like?"

"Just one sister - Alice, of course, she and I were both adopted when we were very young - and one brother - Emmett, who's married to your good friend Rosalie, remember?" He grinned at me, referring that "special day" when Alice had bailed me out of class.

I rolled my eyes at him. "What do your parents do?"

"My father is the Chief of Staff at a hospital here in Seattle, and my mother is an interior designer specializing in the restoration of older homes."

"That sounds interesting. I bet you have an amazing home if your mom's a designer."

"I guess so, but unfortunately, I don't live with my parents - I live in a crappy two bedroom with my best friend since 6th grade, Jasper. Who just happens to be dating my sister." He shuddered a little at that last part - so I deduced that he must not be entirely comfortable with that situation.

"I see what you mean about siblings not being all they're cracked up to be."

He flashed that crooked smile at me and felt myself blush instinctively. Dammit. How the hell did he do that?!

"Right," he agreed. "So what about your parents? What do they do for a living?"

"Well, my father is the Chief of Police in Forks, and my mom is a minor league groupie."

"A what?"

I had to laugh. "She follows my stepdad, Phil, around the country like a groupie. He's a minor league baseball player. Homebase is in Jacksonville, Florida."

"Talk about far away," he mused. "Do you miss her?"

Now that was an interesting question. "Sometimes, I guess - as much as you can miss an over-protective scatter-brain."

"Over-protective?"

Fuck. I should have just left it at "Sometimes" and kept my mouth shut. That's the problem with getting comfortable around someone, my inner v-chip goes haywire.

"Uhhhh, just - mothers, you know how they can be...." I trailed off, hoping he'd leave it alone.

But of course, he wouldn't.

"Not really," he said. I quirked an eyebrow at him questioningly. "Well, my mom's kind of a workaholic, and I'm the middle child," he continued. "We didn't have a family so much as a chain of command. She got Emmett through most of his teen years, and then she threw herself into her work and Emmett was in charge of looking after Alice and me. It's almost like she wasn't really there..." he trailed off, suddenly looking very uncomfortable.

Well, obviously "mothers" was a sensitive subject for the both of us. My eyes searched to meet his, to let him know that I could sympathize - but he just stared at his hands, which were anxiously folding and twisting his cloth napkin.

"So what did you mean by overprotective?" he said quickly, still not looking up.

"Oh," I said - a little taken aback for a moment. I had nearly forgotten what had led me to try and avoid this discussion. How could I put this so he would understand? "Well, I just meant...well, have you ever had a really clingy girlfriend?"

He swallowed hard and nodded hesitantly at me.

"It's kind of like that. She always wants to know where I am, who I'm with, what I'm doing, am I okay... Past the normal point of concerned parents. Add that to the fact that she's so scatter-brained that it's almost like I'm the parent most of the time, and it can get pretty frustrating. I mean, if she doesn't hear from me for a day or two, it's like she just assumes I'm laying dead in a ditch somewhere. It gets old pretty quickly."

"Well..." he said sheepishly, shifting in his seat.

I narrowed my eyes at him. I already knew where this was going - I could recognize it by the tone of his voice. But before I could say anything, he waved me off.

"Wait, don't get me wrong. I know you've never died, obviously - but you can't deny it's a legit fear when you're concerned. I mean, you didn't have a pulse for crying out loud."

"I was never in danger, but my mom doesn't seem to understand that" I said matter of factly. "The doctors have explained it to her over and over. But ever since it started, she's been like this."

"It?"

I sighed reluctantly. Did we really have to do this now? When things had been going pretty well so far? "I'm not really comfort - "

"Here you go!" A chipper voice cut in. "Chai tea french toast for you and a smoked salmon scramble for you, sir." Terrance smiled, placing our plates before us.

"Oh wow - this looks amazing!" I exclaimed, perhaps a little too loudly, but I was more than thankful for the interruption.

"It's one of our specialties," Terrance beamed proudly. "I order it at least once a week."

"That addicting, huh?" I laughed.

"You might need an intervention," he played along, completely unaware of Edward's exasperated gaze. "Now, is there anything else I can get you two?"

"No, we're fine." Edward said quickly, the annoyance in his voice clear as crystal.

Well, that was rude. I looked at him sharply, then gave Terrance an apologetic smile.

"Thanks, Terrance. I think we're okay."

"Well, enjoy your breakfast," he said before walking away.

"What was that all about?" I asked, a little tersely.

He didn't answer me at first. He just picked up his fork and started stabbing at his eggs. "I just don't appreciate interruptions, that's all," he finally grumbled.

"So we should send the food back, then?" I laughed, trying to make light the situation.

His lips curled into a tiny smile. "No. It's fine. I can see that neither one of us wants to ruin this...um, date," he cleared his throat suddenly, then continued. "by talking about our mothers. So let's just hold off for now and enjoy the food."

I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe he was a little more perceptive than I had given him credit for. Althought I certainly would rather avoid having this conversation altogether, I knew that I would have to have it eventually.

But not today.

Not now.

I flashed him a big grin. "Sounds good to me. Let's dig in."

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