The Twilight Twenty-Five
Pen name: mopstyle
Pairing: Edward and Bella
SMeyer owns any and all things Twilight.
Bella and Edward had met a thousand times if they had met once. Seeming to run into each other where ever they went, it was unfortunate that they were never alone when it happened. There was always too much company—too much noise. Opportunities came and went, but they always seemed to arise at particularly bad times.
Somehow, each found themselves drawn to this small college town. Small because one couldn't go two days without encountering the same face at least twice. Each denizen was committed to their routine and each pretended to mind their own business. Surely, up to twelve students were intimately crammed into two stories worth of bare carpet and bad partitions. For Bella, the town itself didn't matter, she was just running. For Edward, it was easy to disappear here, even if that wasn't exactly what he was after.
Edward was fortunate enough to have rather quiet housemates. At thirty-four, he may have been the youngest resident. His one room apartment, messy with neglect, faced south. He had one closet, one small fridge, no private bathroom and a view into the dismal wood to the north—one of the last undeveloped areas in the city. It was rare to glimpse much nature here. Abandoned downtown renewal and an ever dwindling employment rate had all but laid this city to waste. Not so rare though, were the conspicuous parking lot drug deals or street side altercations. Though he didn't feel in much danger himself, Edward walked taller and with haste.
The intersection was teeming with newly twenty-one year old's screaming into liquor stores and dodgy locals, asking for change. Puddles lazed against curbs and the light sheen left by an afternoon's rain was content to glaze the pavement and trees. Frankenstein Victorians lined the streets, ready and willing to house the young learners new to town. A silver Acura was haphazardly parked across a lawn. Broken sidewalks crossed gravel driveways pitted from overuse and ill repair. Edward trodden through his days, and this day in particular, constantly lonely, but rarely by himself. He kept a distance from his co-workers and rarely made eye contact with anyone. Never sure if he was coming or going, he lived like a boarder, ate at dreadful diners, and had at least three whiskeys a day. Work, home, drink, sleep. In that order.
He wasn't fond of actually being alone. It made him uneasy. The recent swirling in his stomach was a sign to him that he was running out of time in this city too quickly. The inevitable packing and leaving behind of his possessions was on his mind a lot. He'd stayed here longer than most places. He grew up here, had some roots, a bit of family, but no real reason to stay. Also nothing to leave for.
There are as many women here as anywhere, he said to himself as he walked slowly to dinner. There is the cute-ish attendant girl at the hospital, and the plump, anxious one at the funeral home. Both had looked at you differently than most girls did, though neither compare to her.
Bella had no idea who Edward was, but the first time he walked into the diner, her belly flipped. He was tall, unassuming, quiet. She got hot and her face turned red. Very aware that his eyes were locked on her, she glanced at herself in the window, pulled her stomach taut, and remembered to breathe.
She had more than enough confidence in nearly every situation. None of it had her back this time. It was 7.13am, March 14. Chilly and wet outside, the shop was quiet, save a few smokers coughs and a distorted bass line. She didn't want to look at him. She didn't want to smell him or get too close to him. He sat at the bar, three feet from where Bella was standing. His hands were fisted, side by side, knuckles just barely touching—pale tattooed fingers against the dark stone counter top. And there it was, the aroma of cigarettes and hint of a minty mouthwash. He smelled sweet, like honey, but thick like milk and sweat. She licked her lips and asked if he wanted coffee.
But Bella could barley get the word out.
Edward pulled his knit cap down a bit and said plainly, but softly, "to go."
His voice made her dizzy, and she was suddenly aware that she had never before encountered anyone that had made her feel this way.
His eyes were a startling green. She could tell he wanted to look at her, but was afraid to—like he'd stumbled upon something he wasn't sure he was supposed to have seen. How badly Edward wanted to say something, anything, but his lips failed. Cheeks flushed, he accepted the coffee, put a five down on the counter and walked out.
As it turns out, Bella and Edward had many friends in common, though Bella doubted he knew of her. He became more consistent with his morning coffees, eventually spreading out to an occasional lunch, then a weekly dinner. They developed a private acquaintance. Bella knew not to take it too far. Smiles and sharing a friendly 'good morning' or 'good evening' were one thing, but gazing at him while he wasn't looking only made her wither with impossibility. Her restraint was failing her miserably. In a clear minds eye she could see their skin, glistening and rounded, their bodies hooked together. No matter how she tried, she couldn't shake it off. Just keep the bar between you, she thought. Keep anything between you.
Dimly lit street lights and liquor store signs dotted Edward's path—a well worn avenue into an all too familiar moonless night. Autumn coming cast a chill in the air he wasn't dressed for. He missed the mountains, the wilderness. One could hike all day without encountering another human—warring with the solidarity, but at peace inside. There were nothing but flat, gray days here, but when the clouds were large and well defined—dark topped with light on the horizon—Edward could almost convince himself that the hills were in the distance.
What little sunshine there had been was fading fast this evening. Edward could just make out the silhouette of the red Chevy truck she drove parked on the side of the diner. His heart beat a few extra times in anticipation, but he was ashamed that it did so. Yes, he knew what vehicle she drove, though he'd never seen her drive. Recognizing so much about her, yet so little, made him feel like a stalker. Considering all the unintended run-ins, he was sure, as he walked into the diner, that she was becoming suspicious of his activities.
She was everywhere. The diner, of course, but also the bar, the grocery store, the coffee shop. Just walking down the street he would see her. He would drive by and wave meagerly, she would always wave back. B, her name tag said, nothing more, just B.
The only diner he preferred was the one she waited at, but he didn't like to focus on her too often. He knew he would never man up and talk to her. It was best to leave it alone, smile, tip large. He would often remind himself to not hope, too much, that the shimmer in her eye when she smiled at him was anything other than a reflection.
Edward sat at the bar, on a torn, red stool bolted to the floor. The smoking section. When the blonde waitress called Anna started in his direction, he was disappointed. This would be a quick dinner. He wouldn't linger over coffee, just watching B work. Her shapely frame was taut under her jeans. The apron she wore bit into the flesh just above her waistband. It made him jealous. He lamented that they couldn't be alone. He thought of what he might say if they were. Nothing good enough came to mind. He would bore her and she would leave. He thought of what it would feel like to run his palm from the top of, to the small of her back—her skin hot and soft under his. He wondered at how she would smell if his face were inches from her neck.
"Hello," the blonde said, eying him suspiciously. "What can I get for ya?"
"BLT on rye, fries, coke," Edward said, not even looking at the menu.
He ate in silence, frustrated for letting himself wish for this girl. He'd all but sworn off women after the last one. What a disappointment that had been. You try to be the nice guy, not push things too fast. Then before you know it, she's sleeping with your best friend. When Edward got his hopes up, they were almost always massacred by rejection.
Single this time for almost six years, Edward had resigned that he would be alone forever. The unevenly knotted string of drunken nights and mercy fucks had kept the monster at bay, for now. If he kept himself busy, it was easy to not be too lonely; easy not to dwell on mistakes and opportunities long passed. What woman would want a shy, timid guy who transports dead bodies anyway? How creepy was that?
Edward dragged on his cigarette deeply and stubbed it out in the tray. He hadn't noticed his tab had been delivered by the blonde. Wishing he had brought a jacket with him, Edward made his way to the cashier.
Bella saw him slide up from the bar and head to the counter. She winked at Anna, her co-worker. "I've got this one," she whispered and smirked. As she stepped up to the register, she felt the presumptuous blush flowing through her cheeks. He was looking around absently or looking away quickly, Bella wasn't sure. Gripping a twenty in his left hand, he tapped it lightly against the glass. His fingers were long, thin, and somewhat crooked through the middle and top. They were clean and slightly trembling, but strong looking. That twenty doesn't stand a chance... neither would I, Bella thought and smiled again.
"Was everything alright?" she asked.
"Yes, fine," he returned nervously. He smiled, trying not to grin too widely. She made his hands sweat and he shifted his weight as she counted back the change. He couldn't bear to just stand there like a fool.
"Thanks. Have a good night," she suggested.
Here was his chance, he could tell her what bar he was going to and maybe, just maybe, he would see her there again. He could buy her a drink, learn her name, tell her his.
"You too," he mumbled and turned for the door. Bella watched him leave. She watched him walk down the street, only breaking her gaze when his shrinking figure was too tiny to recognize. Returning to her work, she looked forward to maybe running into him later. It seemed their paths crossed often.
Perhaps it was the stars setting up a fateful encounter or it was just finally time. They were both, later that night, walking somewhere between drunk and sober, between Ballard and Cross. They saw something shiny out of the corner of their eyes. It was far off, down a block and on the corner. Sparkling like moonlight on the water, it was beautiful. Bending and wavering, it was distressing, like broken glass on the side of the road.
Edward was walking toward home. He was thinking of that bit of shine, that dreadful lure. He coached himself as he drew near. Go see what it is, he thought.
And there she stood. Out of nowhere, like she always was. She made him think of words he didn't have definitions for. She seemed to trail a mist, a cloud of dust, something. And then it was gone. As he walked toward her, she looked up, smiled and waved, and waited for him to meet her.
Thank you to Revrag, Sobriquett, and Bella'sExecutioner for pre-reads.