A/N: As with my other story, I got the inspiration for this from a song. This time it's "Coffee Shop" by Landon Pigg, and it's divine, so please listen to it if you haven't yet!
A million thanks to my "Project Team Beta" proofreaders for making this li'l fic readable. Lynda (Twimarti), Nobi (Lupin4Tonks), and Nishi (Say Goodbye Again): You guys rock!
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine. S. Meyer owns them.
Twilighted Validation Beta: SaritaDreaming
I felt a prickling sensation at the back of my neck that only happened when somebody watched me intensely. I fought against the pull of that someone's gaze and glued my eyes to the screen of my laptop.
I shrugged, sipping from my hot mug. I was seldom noticed by strangers. Usually those men were old, unappealing, or creepy-as-hell (not so surprising since I was no looker myself). This was why I avoided public places with the exception of Bluebird Café where I was sitting rather comfortably, clattering away on my laptop. I found that the scrumptious muffins and the WiFi more than made up for the risk of attention that I was so allergic to. As the feeling on my nape persisted, I realized that I was considerably less comfortable than I thought and wondered if the Blueberry Delight I was munching on really was worth it.
I continued typing the new story that had been swirling around my head for a few weeks now. I was an accountant by profession but I loved to write fiction as a hobby. Of course I was too chicken to publish anything I wrote, so instead I posted them on a wonderful fan fiction website under my penname, Bellybutton.
As my thoughts wandered, I unconsciously looked up and met the most intense green eyes I'd ever seen. They were framed by beautiful, long lashes. My first thought was that I was looking at a woman, but as I took in the person's face and body, I discovered I was mistaken. It was a man, but he was neither old nor unappealing. His hair, which was impossibly untidy, was a strange cross between red and brown. His features were chiseled, his body well-formed beneath the black shirt and jeans. Why this godlike creature was looking at plain old Bella was beyond me. I unsuccessfully fought the blush that was creeping onto my face and looked back down to my laptop.
I stole a glance behind me, to my right, then to my left, to see if he was just looking at someone else. Nope. There was no one in his line of sight but me. I instinctively shrank in my seat. Whatthehellishappening?I asked myself. I put a lot of effort into blending in with the crowd, looking as inconspicuous as possible. I dressed in dark clothes that were neither too tight nor too revealing and put on very light make up, if any at all. I never raised my voice nor acted out of the ordinary. I was happy to be ignored and left alone (to the consternation of my therapist). What had I done to deserve this gorgeous guy's attention?
Not even bothering to finish my cup of hot chocolate, I threw my stuff into my messenger bag and hurriedly stood to leave. A few stumbles and more blushes later, I was outside the café walking briskly in the direction of my apartment.
"Miss, wait a sec!" I heard an unfamiliar voice behind me.
I was not sure if the stranger was referring to me, so I kept going. Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up and groaned inwardly as I faced the handsome god from the café.
"You left this," he said, handing me my iPhone. I took it wordlessly, blushing even harder at my carelessness. Thank God he was one of the few honest people left in the world, or I would've spent my savings on a new phone.
"Cullen. Edward Cullen." He held out his hand, which I took gingerly.
"Bella Swan," I whispered timidly.
He looked at my hands, then back up to my face. His brows were furrowed for some reason. Then his eyes lit up. "No, you can't be…"
"Excuse me?" I asked, confused.
"Are you the Bellybutton?" he inquired in awe.
My mouth fell open at his question. Howthehelldidheknowmyscreenname?Mymostsecretexistence?NotevenAlice,Rosalie,norAngela—mybestfriends—everknewaboutmysecretlifeasBellybutton!"I beg your pardon?" I managed to croak out in my shock.
He looked unsure for a moment, and then went on. "You see, I noticed that in your profile pic, you were wearing that silver ring, that blue nail polish, and I just saw you using a MacBook Pro…"
I cringed when I realized how stupid it was of me to take a picture of my hands typing on my laptop and then posting it on the internet for all to see. I was obsessed with my anonymity, so a full head pic was out of the question. I figured a snapshot of my incredibly ordinary hands would be pretty safe. Wrong!
"Your real name, Bella, sounds awfully close to Bellybutton. And when you PM'ed me three months ago, you said you love hanging out at an old coffee shop in town. Well, this is the onlyold coffee shop in town."
PM as in Private Messaging? Even though I initially published stories online as a creative outlet, a good number of people seemed to like my works and sent me Private Messages, which I'd replied to dutifully. I can't believe I'd unknowingly let slip parts of my private life in those messages!
"I'm sorry, but you've got the wrong person. It's all just a coincidence, that's all," I lied, walking away as fast as I could.
I wasn't a very good liar, and I could see he wasn't convinced because he hurried after me. "Wait! I'm Demonwriter!"
His admission stopped me dead on my tracks. "No. Fucking. Way." I breathed deeply, turning slowly to face him.
"Yes way." He grinned, apparently glad he caught my attention. "We're practically best friends! At least we are online."
I gaped at him. "But you're a guy!"
"Did I ever tell you anything to make you think otherwise?" he countered.
"But…. But…." I stammered, and then it all came clearly to me.
I'd known Demonwriter since I published my third story on my favorite website. As my most avid reader, he'd given me lots of encouraging reviews, praising my stories to the skies, and I'd gladly responded. I had read some of his works and they were actually quite good. I told him so, and he replied that a lot of his works were inspired by me. We continued communicating in this fashion, until we became online buddies and even collaborated on a story that instantly became a hit with the fans. I felt like we really knew each other deep down, well, except for real names and other private information of course. Not even an affinity online could make me give up my obsession with privacy.
But I readily assumed that Demonwriter was a girl. First of all, all the writers I've known on the site before were girls. I believed guys would rather play online games than write about romance. Next, he never really said outright that he was a guy! In the hundreds of messages and reviews he'd sent me, he never once hinted at his gender. And thirdly, he was the most deep, sensitive soul I've met in all my life, and I'd assumed that someone with such depth could only be female. All the guys I know, particularly my best friends' boyfriends, were moronic and goofy, not at all romantic like Demonwriter.
Now that I thought about it, I was just so blind in my preconceptions. His profile really wasn't all that girly, his picture was a Grunge logo, and his fiction was mostly fast-paced and action-packed.
The idea of Demonwriter as a man (and a good-looking one at that) greatly clashed with the idealized version of him in my head as a middle-aged mom of four that I couldn't help getting suspicious.
"You're not some kind of con artist are you?" I demanded.
"Of course not!" He was shocked at my sudden change of mood.
"Well, then, you were probably lying to me the whole time! Telling me that you felt this instant connection with me, comparing me to Jane Austen! You were probably just having a laugh, weren't you?"
"You'd think so low of me, after I've revealed my deepest secrets to you?" He sounded hurt and I regretted my words instantly.
After a moment, an idea formed in my head. "Oh. Oh."
"What is it now?" he asked cautiously.
"You're gay?" It almost sounded like a statement, rather than a question.
"No, I'm not! I've come all the way here, looking for you, and here you are throwing insults at me." He was clearly annoyed with me now. "Do you really find it so hard to believe that a guy like me could be as talented as you are?" He shook his head disgustedly. "And here I was, thinking the great Bellybutton was open-minded and against discrimination."
"I'm so sorry!" I gasped. "I feel like a total jerk right now. It's just that you're just so far from the norm, you know? I guess it's all my fault, insisting on the anonymity thing." I hung my head in embarrassment.
He sighed, putting a gentle finger under my chin, lifting my face up so that his bright green eyes locked with mine. "It's my fault, too. It was stupid of me to come looking for you without giving you any warning at all. It was just… I was dying to meet you all this time, and you wouldn't agree to meeting in person. I thought that the only chance I would ever get at seeing you was to surprise you. I should have thought this through before coming here."
He was so sincere, so open, but I couldn't help giving him a test before I was totally convinced. "Okay, answer this: who's my favorite music artist?"
He smiled. "Easy. Imogen Heap! You use her songs as inspiration for some of your works."
I raised a brow. "Too easy. You could've gotten that off my public profile. My favorite ice cream flavor?"
He laughed. "Ben and Jerry's Karamel Sutra."
I nodded my head. But he could've just taken a wild guess at that. "My most secret fantasy?" I fired back.
He leaned towards me slowly and whispered something in my ear.
"Demonwriter! It isyou!" I squealed in joy, jumping up to hug him. Now that I've confirmed his identity, all my pent-up feelings of love and longing for my online buddy (whom I've not had contact with for so long) surged through me. I felt his arms wrap around me tightly. It took a few seconds for my final question (which I had blurted out unconsciously), and his corresponding answer, to sink in, and then I was scrambling out of his arms and covering my hot face with my hands. "Oh my God! I can't believe I've revealed my deepest, darkest sex dream to a guy I haven't met!"
His laughter echoed off the brick walls surrounding us. "Well, you know mine, so we're pretty much even."
His statement made my face burn even hotter, if that was possible.
"Ookay. Enough awkward talk. Let me buy you a cup of coffee, D'write!" I announced, linking my arm through his and pulling him back inside the coffee shop.
I could not believe my luck. I had traveled hours to get to this place, relying purely on faith that I would find the person I was looking for without any fucking clue about what she looked like. And here she was, sitting across the table from me, sipping her second cup of chocolate.
She was even more beautiful than my wildest imaginations. I was ashamed to admit that Bella wasn't the only one with the biases. I thought that someone with her creative genius could only look like Velma in Scooby Doo. But no. She was a goddess in comparison. With her long brown hair, flawless white skin, and large liquid eyes, she was indeed a sight to behold.
And her quirky personality which had caught me at the very first line of her published work did not disappoint. She was funny and clever and just bursting with so many ideas that I could talk to her forever and never be bored.
A mischievous light sparked in her chocolate eyes. "So… how come a crime-fighting detective like you got caught up in the addictive world of sappy fan fiction?"
I unconsciously raised my brows at the bait. "Well, my brother and his new girlfriend visited me last summer. One night, while she was working on her laptop, I happened to look over her shoulder at the screen, and I saw something that almost gave me a heart attack!"
"What?" she asked totally engrossed in my story now.
"I saw that she was reading your story on the net, 'The Passionate Painter'. It was like Christmas morning all over again! It was so full of smutty goodness that I honestly thought it was as good as watching live action porn. Needless to say, I ended up with a boner. And of course, a new addiction!"
She rolled her eyes and muttered, "You're such a guy." Then she straightened up and looked at me intently. "Seriously. What made you decide to become an active writer for a fan fiction site? Aside from the smut, I mean."
I thought it over before saying, "I really love to write. It helps me relax, you know?"
She nodded in understanding.
"So—" I began after a sip of my coffee, "—why didn't you want to meet up with me? Didn't you admit a while ago that you really missed me?"
"Aside from the fact that you could be an axe-murderer for all I know?" She giggled. "Hmmm… I've always been particular about hiding my real identity. You wouldn't believe it, but despite me being a lemon-writer extraordinaire, in real life I couldn't even tell green jokes in front of many people. I'm just really shy and uptight. But when I'm in front of the computer, all my inhibitions fall away and I'm a totally different person."
I ignored my body's reaction to her statement about her lack of inhibitions and said, "Like Jekyll and Hyde?" I smirked. "I wonder what would happen if one of your girlfriends read one of your more graphic stories and knew the author was you."
"Probably would have an aneurysm." She laughed, and I laughed with her.
"Bellybutton is truly the naughtiest girl I've ever met!" I teased.
"And you love me for it!" she retorted.
"True, true." It was so amazing, how we could talk like we've known each other for so long, when we've only just met a few minutes ago. I leaned back and watched her as she concentrated on another question for me.
"How do you do it? Like you can read other people's minds? Your stories show you've got remarkable insight. It's one of the things I really admire about you."
My chest swelled at her admission. "I find it very entertaining to just sit and observe people, watch their facial expressions, read their moods. You can get a pretty good idea of what they're thinking when you're looking at them… especially when you look into their eyes." I gazed deep into hers. "And of course, years of practice in the interrogation room helps a lot too."
"Of course," she echoed, her eyes glazing over.
"How a come a pretty little thing like you has never had a boyfriend?" I asked, wildly curious.
She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "Well, um…" She frowned, like she didn't want to answer my question, but I refused to back down. "Reading and writing all about romance made me crave for my own fantasy man, and so far, nobody has ever lived up to him. I guess… I've just never met the right guy yet." She raised her perfect brow. "How about you? Have you already met the love of your life?"
I stopped short. She'd already asked me that question before, during one of our e-mail exchanges. I'd replied, "No.ButwhenIdo,you'dbethefirsttoknow."
Now that she'd asked me a second time, she set me into thinking.
I had embarked on this trip this morning, believing it was one of the most foolish things I'd ever done. But since the moment I'd met her, seen her for who she really was, I realized it was all so worth it. I had been instantly reminded why I could never stop thinking about her all these months, why I decided to see her in the first place.
"I think… "I said slowly, holding her gaze captive."… I've already found her."