"I've Just Seen a Face (I Can't Forget)"
by Little Miss Whitlock for SorceressCirce
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or the Beatles.
** ** **
I've just seen a face
I can't forget the time or place
where we just met, she's just the girl for me
and I want all the world to see we've met
Had it been another day
I might have looked the other way
and I'd have never been aware
but as it is I'llI dream of her tonight
Falling, yes I am falling
and she keeps calling me back again
I have never known
the likes of this, I've been alone
and I have missed things and kept out of sight
but other girls were never quite like this…
Falling, yes I am falling
and she keeps calling me back again
(I've Just Seen a Face by the Beatles)
** ** **
I sat at the high top table, sipping on the last of my coffee and finishing off my bagel. The noise around me was almost overwhelming when I glanced at my Blackberry one more time. My flight would be leaving soon and I didn't want to miss it, but I still had a few minutes to enjoy before I had to make my way to the gate.
The television in the airport café was turned to a news channel, and the ticker on the bottom of the screen was moving quickly; the latest stock reports and news about the troops overseas flashing across it. The world had taken a nasty turn in the last decade, and as much as people prayed for a change, it didn't look like it was coming soon.
"Such a shame… that girl was so beautiful," I overhead a woman say. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her sitting at a table adjacent to mine, a newspaper in her hand. She was flipping through its pages, most likely looking for the continuation of the article she was reading.
"I know; they said she was snatched up outside a grocery store and no one has seen her since," the man sitting with her added.
I looked back up at the television to see the words "Breaking News Update" flash, followed by a picture of a girl who looked to be about my age, with dark brown hair and a warm smile on her face.
"New information has surfaced in the search for Isabella Swan. Police today say that they have an anonymous tip that Swan was spotted in Spokane, Washington, a few days ago. Local police have begun a full-on search and we'll keep you updated. Meanwhile, the family still continues to pray and hold out hope for their daughter's safe return."
My heart fell instantly. I'd never hear about this before, but that was probably because I'd been so busy at work. But something about her just struck me—perhaps it was her age, or that her parents seemed inconsolable about her loss, but I just felt so…bad.
"Flight 5422 with non-stop service from St. Paul to Missoula, Montana, will be boarding momentarily. We ask that all passengers make their way towards the gate at this time. Thank you."
Well, it was time for me to go. I picked up my trash and tossed it in the garbage can, grabbed my carry-on bag, and headed towards the gate. I waited for my row to be called and boarded, sliding into my aisle seat and buckling up. The plane took off without a hitch and I closed my eyes, the picture of the girl, Isabella, still behind my eyelids. I hoped that she was still alive for her family's sake; I knew if I had a sister and she went missing, my parents would be a mess.
The drink cart went by and I grabbed a soda and a copy of the newspaper. I searched for the article and focused on it again as my eyes saw her face. This was a different picture; Isabella stood in her cap and gown, her hair blowing wildly, her parents on either side of her smiling proudly.
The article didn't have many new details, except that she had gone missing almost two weeks ago after leaving a grocery store late at night. Police suspected she was abducted walking to her car, but the video footage from that night didn't show anything conclusive.
It stated that she was twenty-two, a few years younger than me, and that she had just gotten her degree in Biology. She was slated to attend medical school in the fall, and had an older brother who was leading the search for her. Police hadn't given up hope yet that they'd find her, but I imagined pretty soon they would.
This story called to me. I wished there was something I could do. My friend Jasper was working at a crime lab back in Minnesota; maybe he could do some research for me. I ripped the article out of the paper and slid it into my carry-on.
I tried to rest, knowing I would be busy once I hit the ground in Montana, but I kept seeing her face behind my eyelids. I pulled out a small notepad from my bag and tried to start a list of things I would need to do once I landed, hoping that making it would calm me down and help me re-focus. But my mind had a plan of its own. I looked down to see what I had written: Isabella Swan, the face I can't forget.
I groaned and shoved the paper back in my bag, closing my eyes and humming to myself to get her out of my mind. I didn't even know this girl—all I knew was what the paper and the news channel had told me. So why was I so attached?
I grabbed my bag after the plane touched down and headed towards the baggage claim to retrieve the rest of my luggage. I was trying to push my way through the sea of people when I saw her.
Isabella Swan. Her dark brown hair was flowing behind her as she all but ran through the airport. I stumbled but caught myself, taking faster steps to shorten the distance between us. When I was right behind her, I nudged her shoulder. But my heart sank when she turned around. It wasn't her. This woman was much older, with different eyes than Isabella's.
"Sorry, I thought you were someone else," I muttered, walking away embarrassed.
Of course I hadn't seen her. I was about two seconds from going mental over this girl who I'd only realized existed a few hours ago. And the chances were good that she didn't even exist anymore. I shook my head and forced myself to move on from this crazy feeling and idea that I had.
I waited at the carousel for my bag and grabbed it as it made its way on the conveyor belt towards me. I tossed it over my shoulder and began to make my way to the rental car counter when I bumped into someone, causing them to fall to the ground, taking my bag with them as I fell on top.
"Oh my God, I am so sorry," I said, standing up and moving my bag. I held out my hand and she took it, pulling herself up. When she looked up at me I almost had a heart attack.
"It's my fault," she said quietly, turning to leave.
I touched the back of her arm and she turned her face back toward me.
"You're the girl. The one who's face I can't forget," I whispered, feeling like an idiot. Who says something like that?
She shook her head.
I began to pull the article out of my bag. "Yes, you are. You're Isabella Swan, the girl who's been lost."
She stopped my hand, pushing the article away from her. Her head was shaking profusely from side to side and her eyes began to water. "No, I'm the girl who doesn't want to be found."
My eyes bugged out of their sockets. "What do you mean? Your parents are worried that you're dead, and you're saying you want to stay lost?" I looked around for anyone who was watching her or me. "Is he here?"
"Is who here?" she asked hurriedly.
"The man who abducted you," I said plainly.
"I have to go," she said, her eyes darting around the place. "Please don't tell anyone you saw me here."
I grabbed her arm again. "I can't do that—your parents are worried! They need to know you're alive!"
She pulled away, rubbing at her arm. "It'll be better if they didn't know, trust me. I have to go now."
"I'm going to the police," I said boldly. "I'm telling them everything you just said."
She hissed between her teeth, looking up at me with eyes of stone. "You can't, please. I don't want them to know."
I shrugged. "I don't care. They have the right to know."
"What will it take to keep you quiet?" she asked, pulling a wad of money out of her pocket.
"I don't want your money."
"Well what the hell do you want?" she seethed.
I thought for a second. What did I want? I wanted too much.
"Come with me," I pleaded.
"Why? So you can turn me in? Or call the police? I don't think so."
"I won't tell anyone. I just want to keep you safe. People out there are worried about you."
"You're not going to let this go, are you?" she asked.
I shook my head.
I saw her thinking behind her eyes—warring with herself over what she should do. She had no reason to trust me, or to believe me that I wouldn't drive her to the cops or anything. But at the same time, she didn't want to risk me alerting the cops to her whereabouts, although I was sure she could be on the next plane to somewhere else in a heartbeat. Except she'd have to use her name…
"Fine, I'll go with you. No cops, no news people, no one. You can't tell a soul."
I nodded. "Great, let me get my rental car and we'll be on our way." She picked at her pants pockets, looking down at the ground. I figured she was nervous about the whole thing, so I stuck out my hand. "I'm Edward Cullen."
She gave me a half-hearted smile and shook my hand. "Bella."
We walked over to the rental car line and Bella said she'd wait over on a bench near the side so the lady wouldn't recognize her. I agreed, but asked her to stay where I could see her. I knew by now that she wasn't going to bolt, but if she got scared enough, I wouldn't put it past her. She could evade people as long as she had cash in her pocket, and I figured she had enough to get her through the next few days.
I quickly got my keys and we walked around the side to pick up the sensible car. I threw my luggage in the back seat and Bella slid into the passenger seat, pulling a pair of sunglasses out of her coat pocket and sliding them on.
"I've got to check into my hotel room and then head off to work to do some errands. You can stay there if you'd like." I knew I was an idiot for trusting this girl, but something inside me told me to do it. My friend Alice always told me that if you felt that strong pull you should do whatever it tells you to—that it was intuition talking.
She nodded, staring out the window as the GPS gave me directions. I pulled into the parking lot and looked over at her. "Maybe you should wait here while I check in?" I hadn't thought any of this through.
"Yes, if I stay in one spot for too long, people might recognize me," she said quietly.
Of course they would—the entire nation was on watch for her! I had no idea how I was going to sneak her into the hotel. I walked up to the counter and checked in, receiving my key and instructions on where my room was. I got back in the car and drove around to the back side, thankful that we'd be hidden out of sight. It wasn't the nicest hotel, but it wasn't that shabby, either. My work did manage to put me up for free, so I couldn't complain. I was here to pick up some packages, approve some drawings, and then head back to Minnesota. I had no idea what would happen with Bella, but all I could do right now was keep moving one minute at a time.
I grabbed my luggage and opened the door, Bella trailing in behind me. I frowned when I saw the one large bed. Of course I hadn't thought to ask for two beds—and wouldn't that have looked odd up at the front desk?
Running my hand across the back of my neck, I sighed. "You can take the bed or something. I'll sleep on the couch. Sorry."
She shook her head and excused herself to go to the bathroom. I heard the sink and sat down on the edge of the bed. My phone vibrated with a calendar reminder—I had to be at the downtown office in a little less than an hour. I pulled a clean shirt out of my bag and slipped off the one I had on. I was fiddling with the buttons when Bella walked back out into the room.
"Sorry," she said, averting her eyes from me.
"It's no big deal," I said nonchalantly. "I have to head down to the office to pick up some things and I'll bring dinner back when I come. What would you like?"
"Maybe a hamburger or something? It doesn't matter." She started pulling some money out of her wallet but I held up my hand.
"No, I can get it," I said, stuffing my phone into my pocket. I wrote the number down on a piece of paper and handed it to her. "Here, in case you need to contact me. I don't think it'd be wise if you answered the phone. I'll try not to call, but if I do, I'll call three times in a row. You pick up on the fourth, okay?"
She nodded, and I felt like a criminal myself, hiding out. I walked out and got into my car, heading towards the office. When I got there, I shook hands with the general manager, who escorted me to his office. There I had to sign some papers, look over two designs, and pick up a box full of paperwork to sort through for my boss back at home. I'd be up all night doing this.
I tucked it in the passenger seat and pulled into a fast food chain, where I chose a couple of options for Bella and me. I wasn't sure exactly what she wanted, so I ordered the hamburgers plain and they gave me packets of different condiments to put on top. I grabbed a Coke and a Sprite as well then headed back to the hotel.
It was late when I got in, and when I unlocked the door with my hands full of food, I saw Bella asleep on the bed, her body cocooned under the covers. I smiled a little seeing her so relaxed—maybe she wasn't so nervous around me after all.
I set the food down on the table and slipped off my shoes. I didn't want to wake her, but I figured it had been a while since she'd eaten. "Bella," I called, not wanting to touch or startle her. "Bella."
"What?" she asked sleepily. Then she realized she wasn't alone and she shot up, her hair flying everywhere and her eyes widening when she saw me.
"You didn't think I'd come back? This is my room after all," I joked. "Come over and eat something, I'm sure you're starving."
She got up and walked over, sitting across from me at the little table. I held up the sodas and she pointed to the Coke. I passed it over with a straw and she smiled slightly. She picked up a burger and unwrapped it, eating contentedly.
"So, I figure you're going to need at least one change of clothes," I said casually. "I can run down to the Wal-Mart I saw down the street and get you a few things if you'd like." I didn't want her to feel uncomfortable sleeping in her jeans and t-shirt.
"You don't have to be so nice to me," she said, looking down at her burger. "I'm not going to run. I told you I wouldn't."
I stared at her with amazement. "It's not that at all. I just want you to be comfortable. I know this has got to be awkward, but I know you don't want to be found. So I'm trying to help you the only way I know how—by taking care of you."
She didn't speak another word to me for the rest of dinner.
I walked around the local Wal-Mart in a haze. I didn't really know what size Bella was, or what she would even like. I was feeling like quite a failure. I picked up a few t-shirts and some elastic waist-band shorts. I figured those were safe bets. I also picked up some travel-sized items, like a toothbrush, deodorant, body spray, and some girly-smelling shampoo. As I was walking past all the bath scrubbies, I saw an aisle I thought might be perfect: hair dye.
I wasn't sure if she'd be interested in this, but a plot was already forming in my mind. If she was going to stay hidden forever, she'd need to create a new sense of self, and a lot of people associated themselves by their hair. I picked up a few colors -- red, black, and blonde -- and threw them in my basket. At the check-out, I got a few glances from the cashier, but I simply smiled and paid for the items.
When I got back to the room, I set the bag next to her. She rummaged through it and looked up at me, offering me a warm smile. "Thank you, Edward, but…hair dye?"
I shrugged. "I thought maybe you'd want a change or something. I don't know…" I said warily.
She grabbed a box and some of the clothes then stepped into the bathroom, shutting the door. I changed into some pajamas and sunk down into a chair to go over some of my paperwork, the television murmuring softly in the background. My eyes began to get tired, so I took out my contacts and wore my glasses to give them a rest.
I looked up when I heard the door open. Bella came out wearing some of the clothes I had gotten, and they were a tad bit too big, but nothing major. When she pulled the towel off her head, I almost gasped—her previously dark brown hair was now a blondish color.
She turned to look in the mirror and frowned at her self.
"Sorry if they're too big," I mumbled, setting my paperwork down.
She shook her head. "No, it's fine. Thank you…for everything."
"Blonde doesn't look so bad on you," I tried, hoping she'd crack a smile.
Her eyes watered. "I don't feel like Bella anymore…"
I turned to her. "Well, maybe you should pick a new name. A new life deserves a new name, right?"
She thought for a moment. "Olivia. Olivia Potter."
I nodded, going back to my paperwork.
At some point, I must have fallen asleep on top of the papers, my head resting on my arm. I shook myself awake and looked at my phone, checking the time. I picked up a few things out of my bag and hopped into the shower. My muscles were tense from falling asleep at the table and I cracked my neck a couple of times to help loosen myself up. After my shower, I pulled on some khakis and a nice shirt, fixed my hair, and walked back out into the room. Bella—now Olivia, I reminded myself—was still asleep. I left her a note and asked her to call me if she got hungry or needed anything.
When I hopped in my rental, I turned on the radio as I headed back to the office to finalize some designs. The announcer on the radio interrupted the music.
"Sorry, folks, but this is an important news update about missing woman Isabella Swan. Reports have come in that numerous people at an airport in Missoula, Montana, spotted Miss Swan a day ago. She was last spotted wearing light blue jeans and a grey t-shirt. Tips noted that they didn't see her with another person—she was seen wandering around the terminals. Please be on the lookout and if you have any information or tips, call 1-800-THE-LOST."
My heart was in my throat, and suddenly the implications of my actions came crashing down on me. What if someone had seen me leave with her? I felt my hands clam up and I gripped the steering wheel, pulling into the parking lot. I felt like I was going to be violently ill. This was more than me playing Prince Charming. This was bad.
I somehow made it through the day at work, leaving close to lunch time, claiming I had a headache. On the drive back, I placed a call to the one person I knew could help me out.
"Hello, Edward," my mother's soothing voice called over the line.
"Mom," I said nervously, "is Dad there?"
"He sure is, honey. Is everything okay?"
I swallowed thickly. "Yeah, can I talk to him real quick?"
I heard a rustling noise over the line and then a cough. My dad answered in shortly after.
"Dad, I…I think I might have gotten myself in a bit of trouble."
"Trouble you need help with, or trouble you just want to warn me about?"
"I don't think I can tell you, but I just…I need to know that I'm doing the right thing."
I heard him sigh. This wasn't the first time I'd given him a scenario like this one.
"Give me a hypothetical situation, son."
"Okay well…let's say that someone had something in their possession that was reported as stolen. But what if it wasn't stolen? What if it was simply missing and that the owner simply misplaced it? The person who would the missing item could be in a whole heap of trouble anyway, right?"
The line was dead as my dad tried to make sense of what the hell I was talking about. "So I take it that there could be legal ramifications over this missing item?"
"Maybe," I said quietly.
"Son, whatever you've gotten yourself into doesn't sound good to me. You need to take this thing and get rid of it."
I wanted to cry. It wasn't as though I had any claim to Bella-Olivia, but I did want to keep her safe and make sure she was alright. And here my dad was telling me to throw her out like a piece of garbage.
"Thanks," I said glumly.
"I love you, son, and I know that whatever is going on, you'll know the right choice to make. Just listen to your intuition."
Well, little did he know, my intuition was telling me to hold onto her tight.
I grabbed some food and headed back towards the hotel. Tonight, I would need to pack up to head back home tomorrow. I wasn't sure what was going to happen, so I knew I needed to talk to Bella-Olivia about it.
I unlocked the door to find her sitting at the little desk, scribbling away on some paper. I smiled at her before calling out to her. "I've got food," I said teasingly.
She looked up with a smile on her face. "Oh, good! I'm really hungry!"
I sat the food down near her and removed my cufflinks, rolling my sleeves up to my elbows. I washed my hands and then sat down, pulling the sandwiches out of the bag. We began to eat and I nodded my head toward the page. "Whatcha got there?" I asked curiously.
She pulled at the paper, bringing it closer to her body. "Oh, it's nothing, just a drawing," she said, biting into her sandwich.
"Can I see it?"
She looked at it hesitantly for a second before sliding it over to me. It was a drawing of a girl, and she was sitting in a chair, looking out the window. The detail was so intricate; I could almost hear the rain that was coming down against the window.
"This is great," I whispered.
Her cheeks pinked and she took a sip of her drink. "Thanks. I took a few art classes in college."
"If you start a new life, you know you won't be able to use your degree," I said.
She swallowed. "Yeah, I've thought about all that. But I also thought, maybe I could move to a small town and do sidewalk art or something. It could be fun and freeing to not feel constrained by all the world's pressures."
She was inspiring. I couldn't believe that she was willing to give up everything—her career, her family, her entire life.
"It sounds stupid, I know. I won't give you a sob story about how much my family life sucks, but you'd never understand the decisions I made or am making now."
I nodded. "Well, um, that's kinda what I wanted to talk to you about. I have to go back home tomorrow."
She stared at the table silently.
"And we don't have documents for you to fly with, so you wouldn't be able to fly back with me." My heart sunk at this realization that I might have to leave Bella-Olivia behind. I felt queasy at the thought, unsure of what would happen to her.
Her finger traced her napkin, two, three times in a row before she spoke again. "Oh."
I looked up at her. Was she sad?
"I guess I figured something like that would happen eventually," she said sadly.
"I…I could get a rental car and we could drive back. I have some vacation days stored up…" I suggested. I knew it was a silly fantasy that I was indulging in, and that eventually we would have to part, but something in me wanted to keep her near me as long as possible.
"You would do that?"
I nodded. "Definitely. Be—Olivia, you don't understand, and I don't expect you ever will, but…"
"I don't want to be apart from you," she said softly. I almost didn't hear it, and for a moment, contemplated that maybe I had made it up.
"Me either," I breathed out in a whisper.
"Please take me with you, Edward."
She didn't need to say anymore.
After dinner, I called my bosses, and although they were very upset with my request, they let me exchange my return flight ticket for a rental car. I promised to send in a list of places that I needed to stop in and check on along the way, and thanked them profusely. I reserved a vehicle over the phone and made arrangements to go exchange my airline ticket in the morning before coming back to get Bella-Olivia.
That night, the air was a bit lighter between us, but I couldn't help but feel nervous at the same time. My feelings for a girl that I'd just met were very strong, and it scared me. What if this was all a scam?
When it came time for bed, we awkwardly decided to share the bed, placing a row of pillows between us. Bella-Olivia claimed I had a long drive ahead of us, so I needed my sleep. I fell asleep with a smile on my face, content with the idea of what could happen in the next few days.
A day and a half later, we had made it halfway across South Dakota. The drive hadn't been bad, and Bella-Olivia had slept most of the way. I didn't mind; it felt good to know she was comfortable enough with me to just pass out. I'd stopped along the way to get gas and bought her a hooded sweatshirt that had some cheesy gas station name on it, but she fell in love with it. She'd immediately pulled it on over her head and burrowed into it, and I couldn't help but smile; I was glad she'd accepted my small gift.
She stirred and opened her eyes, staring over at me. I grinned at her. "Happy nappy?" I teased.
She groaned and stretched, and I noticed the playful look in her eye.
"Well, I called and got us a place to stay tonight. Twin beds this time, so we don't have to have the Great Wall of Pillows," I teased.
"Can we order pizza?" she asked excitedly.
I laughed and nodded. "Yes, anything you want."
She fist-pumped and did a victory dance, and I held back an eye-roll because she was too darn cute. When I pulled into the hotel and checked in, I left her in the car so she wouldn't be spotted. After I got the keys, I drove around to our room and let her in first, locking the door right behind us. Since we'd left Montana, I'd been nothing short of paranoid. I knew we didn't have too much to worry about now that her hair was blonde, but I didn't want to take any unnecessary chances.
The pizza I'd ordered wasn't due for another twenty or so, so I turned on the television and began to take off my shoes, tossing them in the corner. Bella-Olivia walked into the bathroom, and a few seconds later I heard the water turn on. I kicked my feet up on my bed and laughed at the episode of Friends that was on. A little while later, the pizza man arrived and I paid him, blocking the door. He was counting out my change when I heard the bathroom door open. He whistled and said, "Nice."
I raised an eyebrow and held out my hand, not wanting to get into it with him. I took the cash he handed me then shut the door in his face. When I turned around to put the pizza on the table, I saw her.
In a towel...
"Uh," I stammered.
"Okay, I had an idea; one more way to make me less noticeable. I need to cut my hair, but I didn't want to get it all over my clothes. Can you help me?" she asked nervously.
I swallowed. "Y-y-yeah," I said, taking the scissors she held out in front of her. I walked over to her and held them up, my hand shaking.
"Calm down, Edward. Don't take my life with those scissors," she joked. She tucked her hair underneath, looking for the length she wanted. "Right here, near my chin," she said decisively, "I know that it's really short, but it's probably what's best."
I willed myself to remain calm as her hair fell into my hands and I chucked it into the wastebasket. Inches upon inches were gone by the time I was done. She looked in the mirror, and I couldn't help but notice that her lip quivered some. I put a hand on her shoulder reassuringly. "I think you look beautiful," I said, my cheeks turning red at my own admission.
"Thank you," she said, pulling at the ends of her hair. She went back into the bathroom and was in there for awhile, more than likely staring at her hair. When she came out in her pajamas, I thought she looked fantastic. The short bob haircut -- although not the best ever -- really gave her a different look, but it worked.
We ate dinner while I told her stories about growing up in Minnesota and what it was like living with my parents. She giggled and smiled, asking tons of questions.
"Goodnight, Edward," she said quietly as she slipped under covers awhile after we had watched some television.
"Goodnight, Olivia," I replied, turning to face her. She offered me a smile and closed her eyes, falling fast asleep. I stared at her for a bit longer before drifting off to dreams of this now blonde-haired angel and myself.
I was nervous as we neared St. Paul the next day. We'd traveled all afternoon, chatting and teasing each other comfortably. I kept imagining my parents' reaction to seeing Bella, wondering what they would think. Would I be able to hide the truth from them, letting them believe that Bella-Olivia was a girl I had just met, and not a girl that was running from her old life?
Guilt started to fall over me as the radio announced the search for her was still on. Her mother's voice came on, pleading for any information pertaining to her daughter. Bella-Olivia sniffled and stared out the window, her jaw clenched. I knew deep down that part of her was missing her family, but she was so determined to stay lost that going home would never be an option for her.
We didn't speak for the rest of the ride. Once we got to my apartment I let her go in first, turning on the lamp on the shelf. I briefly muttered about where the bathroom and bedroom were then tossed my bag down by the washing machine. Grabbing a beer from the fridge, I used my shirt to twist the top off. I flicked it somewhere across the room and took a long swig, the past few days coming back to hit me. Hard.
Bella walked into the room and I opened the fridge door. I told her what drinks I had to offer and she chose a Gatorade. I handed it to her and walked into the living room, collapsing on the couch.
She sat quietly next to me, her legs tucked underneath her as she curled into the corner. I flipped on the television and there was her face again. She winced.
"Better get used to it, you're a celebrity now," I joked.
"I'm not going back," she stated.
"Never said you had to. But you should at least let your family know you're alright and that you don't want to be found. Instead, people are out there combing the streets looking for you. It's not right that you're leading them on that way," I said boldly.
She glared at me. "Well I am sorry I'm inconveniencing you and your life," she spat bitterly.
"You're not. But I just think you should put your parents at ease."
After a few minutes of silence she excused herself. I heard the water turn on in the bathroom and assumed she was taking a shower. My phone rang and I picked it up; it was my mother.
"Edward, I made some food for you and I wanted to bring it over. Would 15 minutes from now be alright?"
I felt queasy. How was I going to explain why Bella-Olivia was at my house?
"Edward, are you there?" she asked.
"Yeah, mom, I'm here. I, uh, guess if you want to bring some food over that would be nice. I have a friend over, but it should be fine."
I could tell she had a million questions that she wanted to ask, but she kept quiet. "Alright, we'll be over soon," she said excitedly as she hung up the phone.
I put my head in my hands and closed my eyes, hoping the room would stop spinning if I did.
"Edward," Bella-Olivia said, standing in the doorway. I looked up and caught her eyes, staring back at them.
"My parents are coming over and bringing some food for us. I didn't tell them who you were; I just said I had a friend over."
She nodded. "This will be a good test, I guess."
Her hair was wet but towel-dried, sticking out on end. Her face was pink, so I figured the shower had been a hot one. She walked off down the hall and I ran my hands through my hair nervously. My heart was beating fast, and I must have sat there for a while because I was startled when I heard a knock on the door. I walked over and opened it, letting my parents in.
My mother was glowing, snaking her head around to try to get a look inside. I moved aside and she breezed past me, a bag of groceries and a casserole dish in her hands. She briefly whispered a greeting and my dad just shook his head. He stared at me, concerned. "How was your trip home?"
"Fine," I said, staring down at my feet.
"Oh, hello, I'm Esme!" I heard my mom shout and I groaned. She'd found Bella-Olivia.
My dad took off towards the kitchen and I followed behind, hanging in the doorway.
"Carlisle, this is Olivia. Isn't she gorgeous?"
Bella-Olivia's cheeks turned a dark shade of pink as my dad studied her carefully. I knew he'd be the toughest one to convince, only because I had already made a weird phone call to him.
He stuck out his hand and smiled warmly. "Hello, Olivia. I'm Carlisle, Edward's father."
She was pleasant and charming, making light conversation with my mother as she dished out our dinner onto some plates. The food was great, as expected, and the women started clearing the table for dinner. I stood up to help but my dad asked to speak to me in the other room. As soon as we were out onto the small porch, he turned to me with a fire in his eyes. "Are you out of your mind?" he hissed.
I tried not to let my nervousness show. "What?" I asked innocently.
"What? You're kidding me, right?" he asked, glaring at me. "You must think I am stupid, Edward. After your phone call and you acting all shifty, I knew something was up. And then tonight, when we walked in and I met 'Olivia,' I knew it."
"Knew what?" I asked, raising my voice.
He pointed towards the kitchen. "Her picture is all over the news, and on every corner shop window. You can change her hair color or even her name, but I know that's the Swan girl, the one who was kidnapped, Edward. Did you kidnap her?!"
"How could you think I would ever do something like that, Dad?!"
"Well, then please enlighten me. How did you end up with a kidnapped girl at your house?"
"She wasn't kidnapped. She ran away. I've just been helping her get back on her feet and trying to encourage her to get in contact with her parents."
"This won't end well, Edward, if you get caught with her. You could be taken in and…oh, God, do you have any idea of what you've gotten yourself into?" He began to pace the room, pulling at the ends of his hair.
I felt my eyes burning and fought back tears. I was terrified, but I wasn't going to let him see it. I only hoped that my mom and Bella-Olivia weren't listening in the other room.
"You don't know what she's been through, or why she even left home in the first place!" I yelled.
"Oh, and you do? Tell me, Edward, what were your plans? Keep her locked up in your place for the rest of her life?"
My mom walked over and crossed her arms, glaring at the two of us. "Will you keep your voices down? You're scaring her."
"Esme," my dad began in a hushed whisper.
She shook her head. "No, I am not going to sit here and listen to all this. She needs us right now, and you two in here arguing is only going to make it worse. Now, I know Edward would never kidnap someone, so just drop that assumption right there."
"Mom, I'm sorry," I said.
"It's done with, Edward. You can't take it back. We just have to make sure everyone gets out of this safely and unharmed."
I couldn't believe this was happening. My parents knew that Olivia was really Bella.
"Maybe I should go," Bella-Olivia said softly. "I'm not trying to cause any problems with you, Edward."
"No!" I shouted.
Mom walked over and put her arm around her. "Dear, you're welcome to stay if you'd like. Of course, I think it'd be best if we contacted your parents or the authorities to at least let them know you're safe and that you haven't been kidnapped."
Bella-Olivia started to shake violently. "No, I can't go back there. Please, don't make me go back there!" she started sobbing as she ran to me, collapsing into my embrace.
I tried to shush her, running my hands softly across her back. "You don't have to go, Bella. You don't have to go."
"Isabella," my dad started, walking closer to her. "We just want to make sure that your parents know you're alright. I know if Edward had run away, I'd just want to know he was safe and alive. You're over eighteen, so technically, your parents can't make you come home."
She nodded against my chest, her warm breath tickling me. I held her close still, not ever wanting to let go.
"I'll call them. I don't want to get Edward in trouble," she mumbled against me. Inside, I felt a mix of anxiousness and relief.
Part of me wondered what would happen, and the other part couldn't help but wonder why she would want to stay with me at all.
I left a note for Bella-Olivia, who I guess was back to being just Bella, on the fridge door. I had to go to work, so I let her knew how to work the security alarm and where the remotes and a few other things were in case she wanted them. I quickly drove to work, glad to be back and hoping my bosses weren't furious with me. As soon as I got there, I was called into my boss' office. I sat down in my chair and gripped onto the wooden arms for dear life.
"Edward, how are you feeling after your long drive back?" he asked.
"Much better, sir," I answered politely. "Once in a while, I just get panic attacks, and I didn't think it'd be smart to get on a plane," I lied, although it was true; I had suffered from the occasional panic attack.
"Good to hear. I got a great report from our associates, so you're lucky for that. That'll be all," he said, dismissing me. I turned to leave and he called my name. "If you ever feel like you're going to have another panic attack, make sure you get it backed up with medical documentation. I'd hate to have to let you go for dishonesty." I swallowed thickly and shut the door behind me. Damn, I thought, my life is falling all around me.
When I returned to my desk, I scribbled furiously for about an hour. Taking an extended lunch, I ran home with food for Bella and myself. She was sleeping in my bed, the blankets tucked all around her and her face smooshed into my pillow, so I left her there. I set the food in the fridge and headed back to work.
I was just as unproductive as I was earlier in the day, so I left an hour early, stopping by the grocery store to pick up a few things. As I was standing near the checkout, I spotted some fresh flowers, so I pulled out a bunch for Bella. It was a mix of small purple, light blue, pink, and white flowers. The cashier woman smiled at me knowingly and I couldn't help but blush. I paid for my items and drove home, my stomach in knots. Would Bella think this was too much? Would she think it was stupid?
I walked into the apartment hesitantly, setting my keys and phone down on the table with the groceries. I called her name so that I wouldn't startle her. She came bounding down the hallway, stopping dead in her tracks when she saw the flowers.
"I saw these and, uh, I thought you might like them," I said quickly, all but throwing the flowers at her.
She smiled and said, "Thank you, they're pretty." She sniffed them and giggled as they tickled her nose. "I started making dinner, and it should be ready in a little while."
"Sounds great. Did you have a good day?"
"Not bad. I did some drawing, watched the world pass by. You know, the usual," she teased.
We sat down on the couch and she pulled her knees up to her chest. I ran my hand over the back of my neck anxiously. "Did you call your parents?"
She bit her lower lip, shaking her head. "I was waiting for you to come home…in case it didn't go well…or they wanted to speak with you…or something," she mumbled.
I wanted to reach out and grab her, but we had barely touched since she let me hold her while my parents were here. In fact, now that I thought about it, I realized that we hadn't touched much before that, either.
"You can use my phone, of course," I said.
She nodded and took in a large breath. "Guess I should get this over with, huh?"
"Whenever you're ready," I said, handing her the phone.
She took it and stared at the keypad for a few seconds before dialing familiar numbers. I watched her wait, and could hear it ringing on the other end, sure that her parents were more than likely tracing the number and location the call was coming from. I just hoped this wasn't going to end badly.
"Hello, Mom?" Bella asked a moment later.
I heard wailing and crying on the other end as Bella held the phone away from her ear.
"Mom, I'm alright. I can't talk long because I know you're probably tracing this call. I wasn't kidnapped. I ran away. I don't want to come home. I love you."
Her mother began begging her not to leave and my heart broke into two pieces. Bella assured her mom that she was fine before she hung up the phone, looking to me. "How long was I on?"
I shrugged. "I don't know; maybe a minute?"
"Okay, I don't think they can trace the number. I just don't want you to get into any trouble over this, Edward. You and your family have been so kind to me…and I know that no one would believe me if I told them you didn't kidnap me."
We ate dinner and watched a movie before I told Bella that I was going to sleep. She nodded and followed me up to my bedroom. Even though she could have stayed up late, she chose to come and be with me, and I couldn't help but smile as my heart soared at the thought.
I changed and lay in bed, Bella watching me from the corner of the room. When I patted the small empty space next to me, she scurried over and got under the covers. The night before, she had fallen asleep on the couch and I didn't want to move her—and I wasn't really sure if she would want to sleep so close to me anyway.
"I can take the couch if this makes you uncomfortable," I said quietly.
"No, no. I like being close to you." Her hand ran through my hair as my eyes closed in sheer pleasure of the contact. I held my breath, not wanting this moment to end.
"Bella," I heard myself whisper.
"You're the only other person in my world, Edward. Without you, I'd be so alone," she said shakily.
I couldn't open my eyes, afraid she'd see me cry. Seconds later, I felt her lips brush softly against mine and a tear fell down my cheek. "Please don't leave me," I begged.
"I couldn't even if I wanted to," she said as she settled herself down next to me. I relaxed when I heard her steady breath, and eventually it lulled me to sleep.
I'm not sure how much later it was, but the sun still hadn't come up. I woke up to Bella shaking my arm. There was a loud pounding on the door and she was scared. I stood up and looked around, but found nothing to grab for protection. "Stay here, and don't come out until it's safe," I whispered to her. She clung to me, begging me not to go. "It'll be alright," I said quietly, giving her a reassuring squeeze.
I walked down the hall and heard the shouts of "Police! Open up!"
I turned to see Bella behind me. I shook my head at her. "Back in the bedroom!" I whispered hoarsely. "Call my parents on my cell phone, please."
She took off towards the room just as the door was kicked in by a man with a face shield on. They started shouting for me to freeze and put my hands up, so I did as I was told. An officer approached me and grabbed my arms, twisting them almost painfully behind my back. I saw them rush down the hall to my bedroom, coming back with Bella screaming at them, begging them to let me go. Her face was covered in tears as she reached for me, telling them that I hadn't taken her. I tried to move towards her, but the officer who had a hold of me threw me down to the ground, his hand holding my face to the wooden floor.
"Edward Cullen, you are under arrest for the kidnapping of Isabella Swan. You have the right to remain silent…"
I blocked the rest of his spiel out as I hung my head. They were going to take her away from me, and there was nothing either of us could do about it.
I shook myself awake, staring at the blank wall ahead of me. It had been months since my arrest, and I'd been stuck in this jail cell, only let out for visits with my lawyer and "recreation time." The days seemed to run together now, no longer consisting of sun up and sun down, but of her face. Every time I closed my eyes, Bella was there. I couldn't get her out of my mind.
The other inmates didn't like me very much and they let me know it. At first I was given meals in the dining room, but after being physically attacked by a group of men who thought I was "disgusting" for kidnapping a young woman, I was allowed to eat in my cell. I spent recreation time inside, rather than outside with the others, for fear of my own life. I'd been allowed into the extracurricular room -- under strict supervision -- where I would sit and draw her face. At first, my drawings had started out as simply lines and scribbles—I hadn't been the best artist in my class. But every day I would start over, and each time, they got better and better.
My guard, Marcus, didn't believe that I had kidnapped Bella, so he never told them that I constantly drew her face. After my free time was over, he would take the picture from me, not that I needed it to see her.
Hers was a face I could not forget.
At night, when everyone else would go to sleep, I'd stare at the wall. Although the lights were out and I couldn't see, I would pretend that there was a picture of her, smiling back at me. She was beautiful, and sometimes I would whisper words to her, telling her how much I missed her and needed her back in my life.
My lawyer kept me up-to-date on what was happening. After Bella was "rescued" from my apartment, she was returned home to her family. Their reunion was shown on television, and many rejoiced after the almost three months she'd been missing. Bella's parents made a statement to the press, thanking all the volunteers and those who'd helped return their precious daughter home.
Bella still remained firm on the fact that she wasn't kidnapped. The news sensationalized this, claiming that she had developed a relationship with me because I was the only person she'd been around during her ordeal. News stations began flashing bits of my life story, interviewing old teachers and neighbors who were so shocked because I was always "a good kid."
I knew I probably didn't stand a chance once we went to trial. My parents were allowed to visit, but I begged my dad not to bring my mother back. I knew how much seeing me in jail upset her, and I couldn't blame her. But my dad stayed strong throughout the whole ordeal. He'd tell me how everyone was doing, and encouraged me to try to be positive about the situation. He had the best lawyers money could buy working on the case, and was sure that my innocence would be proven. I never asked him about the one person I desperately wanted to know about. I knew that my dad wouldn't be able to contact Bella, but I burned with loneliness for her.
I started praying more, asking God to help me out, to help the jury see the real truth. I prayed that they would let Bella testify, too, so that her part of the story could be known.
But for as much hope and faith as I had, I still felt uncertain in the end.
I sat behind the wooden table, handcuffed and dressed in a suit, when I heard a hush come over the crowd. The door opened and I strained my neck. That's when I saw her. She looked exactly as I remembered, if only a bit worse for wear, as I'm sure I did, too. She was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, her once blonde hair now brown again and held back by a small headband. I watched her every move and wanted to cry when her eyes found mine. Her mouth opened slightly and she began to cry.
My father, who was sitting behind me with my mother, leaned forward and rubbed my back reassuringly. I knew how important this day was for me, so I kept quiet. But deep down inside, I wanted to run to her and hold her, breathing in her familiar scent. How was I to know that spending one week with this girl would change my life forever?
The judge walked in and everyone stood and then sat when we were allowed to do so. The trial went on for days, as many experts were called to the stand to testify for and against me. The highlight of every day was waiting for Bella to walk in and look over at me. I could now make it through each court session, knowing that the next day I would see her again.
Finally, the day came when Bella was called to the stand. She walked up quietly, swearing her oath of truth. I sat forward, my arms resting against the table, hands clenched tightly together. The prosecutor began to question her, and she recalled the months she spent alone before she met me. She told them what happened the night at the grocery store:
"I was walking toward my car when I suddenly realized that if I wanted to live a new life, the only option I had was to start one. I realized that I would have to disappear, and I knew that my parents would be worried and upset, but I didn't know who I was anymore and I had to get away. So I left my car along with all of my belongings and headed for the train station. I emptied my savings and checking accounts, bought a few train tickets with cash, and headed anywhere that I could.
"Eventually, I ended up at the airport looking for food when I bumped into Edward. He was worried about me—of course he'd recognized me from all the news stations and newspapers. I knew if I wanted a chance at starting over, I was going to have to eventually trust someone and let them in, and he seemed like the guy for the job. So I went with him and he took care of me. When he had to leave to come back to his job, instead of flying home, he rented a car so that I could travel safely with him. Not once did I ever feel stuck with Edward, or scared of him. He was nothing but kind to me, and never laid a hand on me in ill will."
My heart jumped as I watched her talking directly to the jury, every so often wiping a tear from her cheek. The jury was looking around, taking notes and whispering to each other. The prosecutor continued to ask her questions after, but she never waivered in her story and I saw him becoming tired and nervous.
The court took a quick recess, and afterward, I was called to the stand. I answered their questions honestly, my palms sweating and legs shaking violently. I was scared that the jury wouldn't see my innocence and sentence me to life in prison. Though my whole life was still ahead of me -- part of it sitting across from me in the court room -- it now rested in the hands of twelve strangers.
The court session ended for the day as the jurors were let out to deliberate. My mother rushed to hug me, and I felt her tears on my shoulder; she was worried about me. My lawyer assured us that today was a good sign for us, and that we should hope for a positive verdict. Because the jury had still not made a decision by seven o'clock that evening, we had to wait until the next morning for their verdict.
My mom kissed my cheek as they took my back to my cell and I changed into my jail uniform. I kneeled down in front of the bed that night, my elbows resting on the uncomfortable cot, and prayed to God like I had never prayed before. I made all kinds of promises that night, hoping that He was listening to me.
Marcus, the guard, walked by my cell and looked in on me. "Hang in there, Edward. I heard today went well. That's a good sign. The news is reporting that things look favorable for you. There are crowds outside the prison right now, and they have candles and are praying and waiting for news. Lots of people are rooting for you."
"Thank you, Marcus. I'm going to need a miracle."
He left and I settled onto the bed, staring up at the ceiling. Eventually, I fell asleep, but was woken up by the sound of tapping at my door.
"Time to get dressed, Edward. It's the big day!"
I got up and took a shower in the private bathroom they'd allowed me to use since I wasn't allowed to be near the other inmates. I shaved my face and dressed in my suit. The guards walked me out past the throngs of people and photographers when I was ready, and led me toward a van. When we arrived at the courthouse, it was much the same as it had been during the trial, where the guards had to push their way through the crowd in order to get me safely inside.
Inside the courtroom, I sat in my chair, my leg shaking nervously. I smiled some at my parents when they walked in holding hands and took their seats behind me. Eventually, the rest of the audience came in and sat staring straight ahead at the wood grain of the judge's bench. I didn't dare turn around to look at Bella; I knew if I did, I'd start crying—and I didn't want her to see me that way.
"All rise; the honorable Judge Banner presiding."
The judge came in and took his seat. He called the court to order and called for the jury. They announced that they had reached a verdict and I felt my hands begin to sweat again.
"And how do you find the defendant?" Judge Banner asked.
An older woman with silver-grey hair stepped towards the microphone. She took a few deep breaths before unfolding a white piece of paper. My heart was racing a mile a minute.
Dear God, Dear God, Dear God, I kept silently praying.
"We, the jury, find the defendant, Edward Cullen…"
The whole room waited for the next word.
A huge roar hit the room as people cheered. I wanted to jump up and scream, but all I could do was clench my fist and bow my head to the table as warm tears spilled down my cheeks. My lawyer clapped me on the back.
Judge Banner banged the gavel and called the court to order. She announced that the case was now closed as news photographers started taking pictures and rushing to ask questions. People began filing out of the court room. I stood and turned toward my parents who enveloped me in a huge hug. I felt both of their chests heaving as they sobbed tears of joy. Everyone was so relieved that justice had prevailed in this case.
I searched the room for Bella, desperately wanting to see her beautiful face. I stood on my tip-toes and spotted her across the room talking to someone I didn't recognize; it was an older man who I assumed was her Uncle or Grandfather. Her eyes locked on mine and they sparkled for the first time I'd ever seen. I smiled as a wave of relief came through my chest, almost knocking me backwards. This whole ordeal was finally over.
I was ushered out by the guards, who helped me after the crowds of people started congratulating me and trying to get comments from me; my lawyer promised that he would see to it that a comment was released on my behalf. I was taken back to the jail by my parents, where I retrieved my possessions back. I was on such a high that as soon as I got outside that I cried again.
I was free.
My parents were there waiting for me and helped me get through the mess of people to my car. I thanked the people for their support and climbed in, taking a breath of quiet air as I stared out of the window. And then I panicked.
"Dad, where is Bella?" I asked.
He looked at my face in the rearview mirror. "I'm sure she's with her parents, Edward, and her lawyer."
"I didn't even get to see her after the trial," I said sadly. "What if I never get to see her or talk to her again?"
My mom turned to look back at me and took my hand. "I'm sure things will work out as they should."
I wanted to believe her, I really did.
We drove back to the courthouse to fill out some extra paperwork and it felt like I was signing my life away, although I was finally getting it back. I just wanted to go home, take a shower, and lay in my own bed. As we headed outside, my dad turned to me. "I'll give you a few minutes," he said as he winked and walked away, hand-in-hand with my mom.
I looked down at the bottom of the steps. The crowds had left hours ago, and standing there waiting for me was Bella. It took all my control not to throw myself down the stairs towards her. As soon as I reached her, she grabbed my hand, squeezing hers around mine.
"Edward, I'm so—"
I shook my head. "This is not your fault. I got myself into this knowing there might be consequences. And even if I had known that all this would have happened, Bella, I would still have done it all over again."
Her eyes started to water as she tucked herself in my arms and began to cry. I hushed her and rubbed my hand on her back, attempting to soothe her. "Where are your parents?" I asked.
She sniffled. "I don't know, and I don't care. They didn't believe me when I said you didn't take me. My dad never thought I would run away. I'm sure by now they're long gone on their way back home. My mom was so furious with me that she told me if I wanted a new life that I could have one. I don't think they really care what happens to me anymore," she cried.
"It's alright, Bella. You'll be just fine. You can get through this. You're the strongest girl I know."
She looked up at me. "How did you do it? How did you sit in prison for months, not knowing what was going to happen?"
I kissed her forehead sweetly and smiled at her. "It was you. Your face. I knew I could survive as long as I remembered. You see, Bella, yours is simply a face I couldn't forget."
"So what happens now?"
"Well, if your family doesn't want you to come home, I know a family in St. Paul that would be more than welcome to have you."
"Really? They don't hate me?" she asked quietly.
I squeezed her tight against my chest. "Of course not! They love you."
Her face was very close to mine. "And you?" she asked.
I smiled. "I love you, too."
She leaned in and kissed me and I felt so alive. This girl whose face I'd seen on a television screen, who'd changed my entire life, had called to me, come to me, and finally set me free.
Happy birthday, Jensper! I hope this birthday is a great one! I'm so glad we've had the last year to get to know each other and even meet! I look forward to much more in the future!
I know you enjoy the Beatles, so I let them influence me as I twisted this little tale for you!
Love and snuddles!