Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer created the characters, the story is mine. Copyright 2009: BellaMarie117
This is my first full length fic and I'm really excited to share it. A HUGE thank you to my beta/sounding board FanpireMama for all her help and support. She rocks!
Outfits, Banner & Blinkie in my profile. Check out the A/N at the end!
I had never given much thought to my life "after." It never seemed like a pressing issue. When fate hands you a dream so far beyond your imagination, it's difficult to believe it will come to an end and throw you right back into the everyday hum drum of normalcy.
Normal. That was a concept I was completely unfamiliar with.
Normal for me was waking up at five a.m. to be on the ice before the sun rose. It was spending hours stretching and practicing, training and conditioning while others commuted to classrooms and offices. It was standing for costume fittings, listening to musical selections until my ears rang in order to find the perfect selection that would match the tone of the next piece. It was butting heads with coaches and choreographers. It was aching muscles, frustrations, and disappointments, always striving to be better. It was my life…until now.
For as long as I could remember I had been a skater. I loved the ice-the smooth, glassy surface provided a whole different world for me and it was better than any dream I could conjure. I felt a joy every time I set the metal of my blades to the frozen surface. My mother, Renee, picked up on my interest when I was very young and jumped at the opportunity to push and prod me onto competitive levels. Private lessons with the best coaches, consultations with past champions, different choreographers getting thrown at me left and right to come up with perfect programs, and analysts to review them to ensure we could squeeze out every possible point. Nothing but the best for Renee Swan's daughter.
As much as some would criticize her for being a stage mom, projecting her own dreams and aspirations onto her daughter, I couldn't blame Renee for her actions. They brought me to higher peaks than I could have achieved without her. The competition was never what drove me; in fact the politics off the ice would have beaten me down much earlier if Renee hadn't been there to take on the brunt of it. My drive was simply the feeling I got when my skates glided over the ice, allowing me to move in ways that would never occur on solid ground. No, I could never blame Renee. Even now when the rug was pulled out from under me with no cushion to fall back on.
My mother had been a skater before me. She had promise but never proved to be a serious competitor. She'd never had the resources to back her and allow for the opportunities it took to become a force in the sport. Instead she'd gotten pregnant with me and married my father young. The regret of the dreams she gave up ate away at her until she could no longer tolerate life simply as a wife and mother. When she took notice of my love of skating and spark of natural talent on the ice she jumped at the chance to make me the champion she never was.
Renee met Charlie Swan when she was eighteen. He had come to Minnesota from Washington for law enforcement training; she had lived there her entire life and dreamed of excitement away from what she knew. They met one night while out with friends. A whirlwind romance, a positive pregnancy test, and a quickie city hall wedding ensured that Charlie would remain in the Midwest.
I'd grown up in Minnesota until the age of nine. When my parents divorced, Renee and I moved to Colorado to pursue my skating future; Charlie moved back to his hometown of Forks, Washington. His job as chief of police kept him satisfied, and he enjoyed the familiarity of the city was raised in. Perhaps that was the foundation of the difference between Charlie and Renee: he was content in the life he knew and she felt a restless need to experience new things. I was the balance between the two. While I enjoyed the travel and new experiences that came with competitive skating, I longed for the familiarity of the only place I'd ever been able to call home. I ached to feel some sense of belonging and stability.
It's been years since I've been back, Renee despised her hometown and the memories it held for her, and with Charlie gone there really was no reason to return. As my standing rose and my reputation grew to the level where my name was well known and always linked with skating, Renee kept my schedule packed enough that it was difficult to catch a break. Charlie would come and meet us for long weekends every now and again, but even those had become more rare.
A monotonous drone over the plane's intercom shook me from my reverie, bringing the dull throb of my knee back to the forefront of my mind.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We will be landing at the Minneapolis/St Paul airport in about fifteen minutes. Local time is five-eighteen p.m. and the current temperature sits at fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. Please return your luggage to their proper location and place your seatbacks and tray tables in their upright position. We hope you have had a pleasant flight and enjoy your stay in the Twin Cities."
Home. I'd finally made it. It took a lot of convincing and smooth talking to get Renee on my side for this one. Some might think I'd want to be close to my family at a time like this, but as much as I loved Charlie, Washington would never be home to me, I'd only been there a handful of times. Being close to Renee right now would probably aggravate me rather than provide any sense of comfort. Minnesota was not only the middle ground between the two, but it was where I remember being happiest, before Renee and Charlie turned on each other, and before my life was completely absorbed into the skating world. Here I'd just been Bella, and I was hoping to find that again. Of course it also helped that the best doctors and physical therapists we could find resided here.
I'd be meeting with Dr. Cullen on Monday to assess my injury and give me a prognosis for my recovery time. I already knew though. The second my skate hit that rough spot on the ice I saw the end, and "after" came slamming into my immediate future.
It was still so clear in my head. A lazy afternoon practice in late fall; it was a lull in the season-the calm before the storm, if you will. These were some of my favorite practices. I'd set whatever music I felt like and just free skate around the ice. Of course I'd still have to throw in the jumps and leaps and sit spins in order to stay in shape, but there was no choreography to remember, no drills to run, no repetition of a single move until it was perfection every single time. I could just skate.
If I closed my eyes now I could see the ice-empty except for me. The rink practically abandoned as it was nearing the end of the day. Renee and my trainer sat in the bleachers, talking over the next set of torturous drills to add to my routine no doubt. The strains of "Swan Lake" echoed through the arena speakers. We'd recently selected the arrangement for this season's free skate and I distracted myself by imagining the movements that would match perfectly to each note.
I'd set an easy pace around the ice, building up a little speed as I rounded the corner to extend my leg up into a fan spiral when I felt my blade catch on a rough patch. My skating leg stayed glued to the spot, while my body and free leg aimed to continue their intended direction. I felt my world give out from under me-my arms flying out to catch myself as my extended leg tensed and tried to retract before impacting on the ground. My reflexes could only act so quickly though and the next thing I knew, I'd collapsed onto the ice, the full weight of my body landing on my ankle to twist it in an unnatural direction. I remember the sickening crack of my head on the ice an instant later and the faint cry of concern from the stands before I felt myself float into the darkness to the strings of Tchaikovsky lulling in the background.
The screeching of the landing wheels connecting with the runway jerked me back to attention; a series of rapid blinks clearing the vision from my head to bring me back to the present. I really needed to reign in on the daydreaming.
As the plane came to a halt at the gate I stretched my arms up and glanced around at the other passengers gathering their things from the overhead bins and hurrying to depart as quickly as possible. I'd been lucky enough to have two empty seats in my aisle and didn't feel the need to get up and out of my seat quite yet. I waited until the initial rush died down before gathering my messenger bag from the floor in front of my seat and shrugging into my coat, figuring it'd be easier to do it now and deal with being a little too warm than trying to struggle into it while balancing my crutches and luggage in baggage claim.
I realized that I never even bothered to pull out my book or iPod on the trip. I laughed somberly as I mused to myself about the very real possibility that to the other passengers I probably looked like a zombie by staring off into space for the duration of the two and a half hour flight from Jacksonville to the Twin Cities.
You're really starting to lose it, Bella.
Pushing myself up to stand, I hobbled into the aisle, careful to keep my weight on my good leg while I groped around the overhead bin for my crutches. I was never the most coordinated person when it came to moving over solid ground and the crutches definitely hindered what little grace I could usually pass off. I managed to make my way down the aisle and off the plane, only catching my bag on the seat once and stumbling twice.
After retrieving my suitcase from baggage claim I stared down at it, pondering just how I was going to make it out to a cab with my messenger bag, a duffle, a rolling suitcase and no free hands.
"Need a hand?"
I glanced slightly to my left, polite smile in place, ready to decline the offer purely out of habit, only to be met with the purest shade of emerald green I've ever encountered. Beneath the friendly warmth in those eyes was a depth and intensity that I'd never experienced in another person's gaze. I'd never taken the time to really stare into people's eyes before-always just passing glances that barely told me the general shade of their irises. Now I found it impossible to stop myself from getting lost in that vast expanse of green.
I was shaken out of my reverie when a fellow traveler bumped against my crutch in his rush to grab his bag off the rotating luggage ramp. The suddenness paired with my weak knee made for a bad combination and I felt my weight start to collapse before I could react, the bumped crutch clattering against the metal barrier of the carousel as I lost my grip on it.
I threw out my arm to try and catch myself and met a warm, solid frame suddenly surrounding me. Looking up, I was once again met with those eyes. I tore my gaze away from them to quickly take in their surroundings. What I found was worth much more than a passing glance, but I figured I'd already embarrassed myself enough and mumbled a quiet "sorry" before pushing off his chest to try and steady myself.
"Are you alright?" the concern evident in his velvety baritone voice. He'd yet to remove his arms from where they'd encircled me to catch my fall.
"Yes, of course. I'm fine," I insisted, still straining against his hold. His embrace, though out of concern for my safety rather than one entered out of passion or desire, set my heart racing. I feared that if I let myself stay in his arms I'd lose my senses entirely.
I cleared my throat nervously, managing to quietly squeak out, "Thanks," as I looked down at his arms around my torso.
He must have realized that he'd yet to remove them because he retracted his hold very suddenly.
"Sorry about that, you startled me for a minute there," he rushed out, nervously?
He bent down to gather my fallen crutches and I took advantage of his distraction to let out a long exhale of breath I hadn't been aware I'd been holding.
"Here we go," the green eyed stranger said as he offered out my crutches he'd retrieved from where they'd fallen. I quickly arranged them under my arms and leaned my weight back on them. Even months after the accident I was still wobbly on my own two feet without their assistance.
"Thank you, again," I said, glancing up from under the fringe of bangs that had fallen over my eyes. I noticed his hand lift up towards my face before he rapidly pulled it back and stuck it in his pocket.
"Sure, no problem" he assured me as his free hand went up to ruffle through his hair. It was a messy arrangement of a strange color-not brown, not red or orange, but almost like a bronze tone. Like his eyes, it was a shade the likes of which I'd never seen before. I found myself wanting to replace his hand with my own and smooth the stray tendrils away from his strong forehead. I even started lifting my hand before catching myself and combing through my own waves in a nervous habit.
His face was completely distracting and devastatingly handsome. His nose was slightly crooked, like it had been broken at one point and his jaw was strong and chiseled with the faintest covering of scruff, not the deliberate type where it was neatly groomed and intended, but more like he hadn't remembered to shave in a couple days. My desire to run my fingers through his hair was replaced with an ache to nuzzle my cheek against his to feel it scratch against my smooth skin.
"Uh, did you need some help? It looks like you've got your hands pretty full."
"Oh, no. I mean, yeah, I do…uh you don't have to help though, I'm sure you've got places to be," I stammered, cringing a bit at my own awkwardness. Why couldn't I just suck it up and graciously accept the gorgeous stranger's help? Oh, right, a stubborn streak a mile wide and a habit of always taking care of myself without assistance.
"Really, it's no problem," the gorgeous stranger said. I still hesitated, my eyebrow lifted at him in question. "I promise, there's no where I'm in a rush to be," he urged.
"Sure, that'd be great. Thanks," I gave in. "Are you waiting on your bags?" I'd barely taken my gaze from his face since he caught me and as my eyes swept down I saw an oversized duffle bag at his feet next to my own bags. He easily hefted it to his shoulder like it weighed nothing, even though it looked fairly heavy.
"Nope, I've got it all right here," he said as he patted the bag before reaching down to raise the tow bar on my rolling suitcase and lifting my own duffle to rest on top of it. I grabbed the strap of my messenger bag before he could add that to his load as well. I wasn't completely handicapped and I certainly wasn't going to let him carry everything.
"Is someone picking you up or are you parked?" he asked as he gestured me ahead to the sliding automatic doors leading out.
"No, I'm just going to grab a cab I think," I responded, trying to simultaneously watch where I was putting my crutches, and gauge the bustling crowds around me. The last thing I needed to do was totally biff it and embarrass myself further.
"Did you need a ride somewhere? I have my car parked in the overnight lot."
My eyes snapped up to his with a mixture of surprise and confusion. This must be the "Minnesota-nice" everyone's always referring to. Chivalry apparently still lived on in this state.
"No, really, a cab will be just fine," I assured him and he looked over to me, nodding. His face had a look that almost seemed like…disappointment? I shook it off as my own silliness, but not wanting to seem ungrateful told him that I appreciated the offer.
As we hit the doors, the warmth of the overheated airport startlingly gave way to the bitter cold that lay outside and I cursed the fact that I left my mittens buried in my bag. I could already feel my ears growing pink in the frosty air and I gasped in a breath at the sudden change in temperature.
He looked down at me with one side of his mouth lifted in a little smirk at my obvious reaction to the cold. "Where are you coming from?" His tone held a hint of humor as if he found my discomfort amusing.
"Uh, here originally, but it's been a long time. I guess I forgot what January in Minnesota feels like," my face flushed, both from the cold and from sheepishness over what a wussy little girl I was acting like. It's not like I hadn't grown up in ice arenas and frozen spaces all my life. Suck it up, Bells.
"Where have you been lately if not Minnesota then?" he inquired, a hint of real interest and curiosity to his tone. He didn't seem to be asking just to make small talk. And who would make small talk standing out front of an airport in below freezing temperatures, really?
"Florida most recently. Colorado before that. Other places here and there. We've moved around a lot I guess," I said as I set my bag back down by my feet, turning slightly towards him and shifting my gaze between my own shoes and his face.
"Yeah, my mom and me. She never really likes to settle, you know? And until very recently, where she went, I went."
"Hmm, like a modern day nomad, huh?"
"Yeah, I-I guess you could say that," I said, glancing up at him with a small smile.
Why was he still standing here, talking to me? He didn't have any clue who I was, didn't even know my name. Courtesy and kindness would have ended his obligation about five minutes ago when we'd reached the curb. Yet here he stood, more beautiful than any individual person I'd ever laid eyes upon before in my life, still with his hand on my suitcase and keeping up a conversation with me.
"Are you here for awhile then?" he asked, his head bowed down but his eyes glancing up from beneath the hair falling messily over his forehead to meet my own.
I couldn't look away from those eyes even if I wanted to. I felt trapped there, but not unpleasantly. "For the foreseeable future," I answered coyly.
I closed my eyes and mentally smacked myself. What the hell Bella? Are you seriously getting flirtatious with the gorgeous good Samaritan who is completely out of your league? Do you really think you can pull off flirting on crutches when you can't even manage it on your best days? In your dreams. Your very vivid dreams that will now be so much more enjoyable after having his likeness committed to memory.
"Well, that's good to know." I opened my eyes and raised them to meet his again; he had the most breathtaking, crooked grin on his face.
I think I just swooned a bit. Totally gorgeous just transformed to completely dead sexy, panty dropping hot. I drew my bottom lip between my teeth to gnaw on it as I always was prone to when I was nervous or out of my element. Standing here flirting with a six-foot-two Adonis was definitely out of my element. And being on the receiving end of that sexy crooked smile awakened feelings I never thought myself capable of over another person. Something to process later, when I wasn't under his observant stare.
"Maybe that means I'll bump into you around town sometime," he said, lifting his hand from my suitcase to tousle through his hair again. I wondered if it was a habit of his like my own lip biting. It would explain why his hair seemed to stand up in every opposing direction possible, creating a beautiful, bronze mess on top of his head.
"Yeah, it's definitely a possibility. You live close by?" I asked, not wanting to end the conversation despite the cold and the fact that I should have grabbed a cab and been on my way ten minutes ago.
"Yeah, St. Paul."
"Cool, me too. Well I'm moving there I mean."
"Yeah. I'm not really familiar with the area, but from what I saw in the ad it looked nice."
"My sister lives down there and she seems to love it. I'm over off Summit Hill."
"Really? That's such a beautiful neighborhood. I always loved it when I lived here, all the old houses."
"Yeah," he said, his eyes flickering between my eyes and my mouth as we lapsed into silence, just staring at each other. I was sprung back into the present when a biting wind swept past. I coiled into myself and let out a strangled cry. Because moaning and swearing always make you warmer, right?
"Welcome to Minnesota, right?" he laughed as he reached down to take my bare hands, holding them between his own and rubbing them slightly to warm them.
I was simultaneously stunned by two things. His hands were warm, especially against the frigidness of my fingers. He hadn't been wearing gloves either and should have been as cold as mine, but the contrasting temperature was wonderful. The other was that the moment his skin touched my own I felt a shock, not like the quick prick of static, but rather like my entire body had been plugged in and now had an electric current humming through it. I looked up to see if he'd felt it too, but couldn't be sure, as the only change in his expression was a slight furrowing of his brow, as if he was concentrating on a puzzle in his head.
"We should probably get you a cab, it's freezing out here and you're not really dressed for the weather," he said after a moment, nodding towards my lack of hat and mittens.
"Yeah, probably should have dug out my mitten supply before landing," I smirked at my lack of foresight and he chuckled, giving my fingers a soft squeeze before letting go to hail a cab over to the curb. As one quickly pulled in, I immediately felt a sense of loss as I realized this was it, the end of this dream of a conversation with the beautiful man. Although we didn't talk about anything terribly important or probing, I felt instantly connected to him. I didn't even know his name or really anything about him, but I felt like I'd miss him when he was no longer by my side.
He placed my duffle and suitcase in the trunk before slamming it shut and walking around to the passenger door to prop it open for me. He pulled the messenger bag from my shoulder and slid it across the seat to the far side. I hobbled down off the curb but hesitated before getting in, standing on one side of the car door and he stood on the other, resting his forearms on the top of it and leaning towards me.
"Thanks for your help-"
"Edward," I repeated, enjoying the way his name rolled off my tongue. A beautiful, unusual name for a beautiful, unusual man. It seemed nothing about him was ordinary or expected. "It was nice talking with you."
"You too-" he paused, obviously hinting for my name in return.
"Bella," I provided, looking up at him from under my lashes.
"Bella. I enjoyed it immensely." And there's that sexy crooked grin again. I sighed silently and gathered my crutches to shove them over in the seat.
I looked up to give him a smile and a small wave before lowering myself into the cab.
He didn't close the door; instead he reached down and touched my shoulder hesitantly. "Bella?"
"Um, my friends and I hang out at this bar on Grand almost every Tuesday night, around eight o'clock. Billy's?"
"Yeah, I've heard of it."
"Maybe I'll see you there sometime?" he suggested, sounding hopeful and unsure. It was so odd to see a man so beautiful acting anything less than confident, but compelling none the less.
"Yeah, I could probably swing by sometime. Once I get settled in, you know," I stammered out. He wanted to see me again and that thought alone made my heart flutter in my chest.
"Great! Well I'll see you around then, Bella," he stepped back from the door and retrieved his own bag before stepping in to close my door.
He lifted his hand in a wave that I returned shyly as the cab pulled away. As we rounded the corner, I sat back in my seat, finally able to fully catch my breath and relax now that he was out of my sight. I gave the driver my address before closing my eyes, leaning my head against the back of the seat. I didn't know if I'd actually get up the courage to seek him out again, I'd probably psych myself out and convince myself that it was a fluke. There was no way I'd ever catch and hold the attention of a man like Edward. But for this one moment I sat, picturing his handsome face and dreaming that somehow he could be mine.
A/N: Forgive the length of this but I want to throw a few general disclaimers out right from the start.
1) This is a fictional story and all characters will be fictional. While real life hockey teams, locations, and skating events may occur, no real life people will. All results of any hockey or skating events will also be completely fictional.
2) I am not, nor do I claim to be an expert on either hockey or figure skating. I enjoy them both, but please don't flame if I make the occasional mistake. If you'd like to kindly bring it to my attention, that's a different matter.
3) I will not be a weekly updater, at least not right away. I'm too slow of a writer to promise super fast updates and I don't want to leave people irritated when they're expecting one and it doesn't come on time. I will update as quickly as I can and I am saying right here and now that I will not quit the story until it's complete.
For those of you who read my o/s First Time Caller, I will be expanding it but not until after TTI is over. I'm happy with how it stands as a o/s so I'm comfortable waiting for a bit to go back and play with them. That will be coming eventually.
This is Not My Life by Isakassees- If I could only read one fic for the rest of time, this would be the one I'd choose. It's just at the peak of the angst and drama and I'm so looking forward to where it'll go from here. Check it out!