The pitter-patter of tiny feet came quickly from the room next door, and seconds later the door swung open; the handle banging the wall loudly. In her Buzz Lightyear pajamas, my room-mate looked very few of her twenty two years.
"Bella … Cyggi… what's wrong?"
I had taken refuge under the covers, pulling them gently over my head, and hiding myself from a world that didn't seem to be my friend today. I hated Mondays as a rule, but this one was already turning out to be worse than most.
"Bella, what's up with you?" Alice asked, trying to prise my head out from under the pillow I was hiding behind.
"Ugh Aalith, be gentle with me," I whimpered. "I think I'm dying."
"Bella," she warned "let me see what's the matter. If you hide under there how can I help you with what ever this problem is you're having?"
With a final tug, the duvet was pulled back. Alice pulled gently on my shoulde,r and rolled me over; letting out a piercing scream in the process.
"Fucking hell Cyggi, what has happened to your face? You look like Alvin?"
" Whath, whath do you mean I look like Alvin. Whath's wrong with my face?" I had learnt as soon as I woke up, that it was bloody painful to talk and swallow, but… shit…as my fingers touched my jaw the difference in temperature was obvious; my face was aflame.
Alice knelt on my bed, and leant across picking up my little silver vanity mirror from the windowsill.
"Here you go, take a look for yourself," Alice sighed. "But let me warn you, you're gonna freak."
Gingerly, I propped myself up on one elbow, and took the little mirror from Alice. I knew it wasn't going to be as bad as she was making out, as to Alice one small pimple on the end of your nose meant you had acne, and under use of the tweezers could relegate me to the ranks of a Neanderthal in her humble opinion. Taking a deep breath, I surveyed my face at arms length. For once in her life Alice had not exaggerated. One side of my previously quite delicate face was now swollen and an angry red, stretching from my cheek to way below my chin…I was hideous and it hurt.
"Come on Cyggi, don't cry." Alice said hugging me gently with one arm, whist offering me a large hand full of tissues, two Advil and a glass of water with the other. "No… scratch that, go ahead and cry; I would if I looked like you."
"Thankth Alith, "I snuffled. "You're such a comfort, you really do know how to make me feel so much better."
"It's what I'm here for; you can always rely on me." Alice crawled in bed beside me, hugging me tighter. "Cyggi, I think you're gonna need more than Advil to sort that out, where does it hurt most?"
It was a good question, one that I had already begun to ponder. I had quickly come to the conclusion that I did not have mumps or strep throat; no, this sucker was well and truly based in my face. Prodding gently I found a particularly tender spot near the back of my jaw. So what do you do when you find a bit that hurts? Mhmm, that's right you give it an extra hard poke with your fingers to see just how badly.
"Painful?" grinned Alice.
"YES it's FUCKING PAINFUL," I squealed, "but nothing like the pain your ass is going to feel when it connects with my foot, if you don't get your tiny, unsympathetic body off my bed."
Scrabbling to her feet as if she really believed I would do her harm, Alice stood and straightened out Buzz, who had twisted himself round her chest. Shrugging her shoulders and stamping her tiny foot, Alice glared at me. A glaring Alice is a scary thing; it's normally a prequel to a shouty, snarky, Alice. But for now she simply sucked her lips together into an unattractive puckered pout, folded her arms under her boobs to support Buzz's chin and blew air through her nose loudly.
"I'm going," she huffed, "but I'll be back." With that Alice flounced out of the room, grinning and blowing a kiss over her shoulder.
It was a little over an hour later. I think I had dozed off, as I could remember dreaming of vanilla toffee, gum balls and sherbet lemons. I was woken when I heard the bottom of the door scraping on the carpet, as it opened slowly. I knew it was Alice.
"Am I forgiven?" She asked softly, "may I come in?"
"Alithh there ith nothing to forgive, you know I love you." I drooled. yes that's right drooled. What ever the problem was with my face it had got steadily worse during the past hour, my tongue now felt too big and the bit of my lips closest to the swelling were puffing up as well. I could nibble them gently and feel almost no sensation at all. That's not right.
"Bella you need to get up, dressed, and seen to." Alice stated firmly.
I sniggered at the thought of 'being seen to' looking like this, and decided that the possibility of that was slightly less than that of a snowball surviving in hell.
"Shit, Swan you did not just find something dirty in that surely to God, not feeling the way you do?" Alice questioned, unbelieving.
"I guess I did… I can't seem to help myself." My mouth tried to smile, and inadvertently I dribbled again in the process.
"That is gross Bella. not even the scruffy git who lives in that cardboard box down the street would want you when you dribble like that."
To say I had been going through a dating dry patch, would be like saying Death Valley was in need of a little rain. For some reason that I couldn't fathom, I had been totally unable to locate any suitable dating material since before Christmas, and that was over six months ago. Believe me when I say I have tried really hard. I think even Alice would go as far as to say I had become a slave to the pursuit. Sadly nothing I do has located me a single decent guy; hence the reason that looking like death and feeling like shit, my poor sexually deprived body was still on high alert.
"Again with the complimenths Alithh, shut up and help me find something to wear that doesn't have to go over my head."
"No sooner said than done," she called, running off to her room, to hunt in the bowels of her vast closet.
Eventually, after a short shower which had felt like a hail of miniscule bullets on my face, and a very careful change into some comfy clothes, (Alice must have truly been channelling my pain), I ended up sitting at the breakfast bar. I leant down, folding my head in my arms; my face resting on a pink fluffy hot water bottle, courtesy of my best friend. The warmth felt really good against my extremely painful face, but it wasn't long before there was little difference in the temperature between the two. I had been ignoring pleas from Alice to phone for an appointment at the doctors, claiming that I was already on the mend; when the door bell rang.
"I'll get it," breezed Alice "I bet it will be for me anyway, you stay put."
"Like I was going to move," I snarked.
Outside the door in the hall, there was silence for about a minute, and then the sounds of hushed whispers. Jasper came through the door alone, wearing a concerned look, and some really tight jeans.
"Cyggi, you O.K? Ali says you're doing some weird chipmunk shit. Le'me see."
Coming closer, Jasper gently placed his hand on my shoulder, rubbing small circles with his thumb. I think I probably groaned in appreciation. His hand moved to my head, carefully smoothing my hair. It felt nice.
"Cyggi, babes, show me; I wanna see."
Knowing that it was going to be impossible to stay in this position all day, I raised my eyes to look at him, and sighed.
"Promise you won't laugh, because if you do …"
"Cyggi, why would I laugh? Darlin' you're hurtin' and that ain't no laughing matter…sit up…show me your pretty face."
"Jasper," I groaned, "now I know you're making fun of me!" I whined; dribble running out of the corner of my mouth again. "Just leave me be and let me die in peace."
I felt Jaspers' warm hand on the back of my neck; he really did have soft hands for a man and I knew from Alice's explicit descriptions, just how gentle they could be.
"I'm not messing with you; you know I think you're beautiful and if Alice wasn't so perfect for me I…"
"Enough," I said, "I'm going to show you, just…"
As I raised my head from its resting place to look at Jasper, his expression was one of shock and disbelief.
"Shit, Cyggi that is some swelling, can I touch it?"
"Don't you dare come near my face with those fingers," I growled, "I know where they've been."
Alice breezed into the kitchen looking smug. She wrapped herself in Jasper's welcoming arms, tilting her head right back to look him in the eye
"Well that's sorted!" she beamed at Jasper.
"Good girl." Jasper replied pressing his lips tenderly to her brow.
"Excuth me, but what is sorted?" Alice shifted her tiny frame slightly behind Jasper, using him as a human shield. "Alith, what have you done?"
"Please Bella, there's no need to get worked up about this; I've just made a little call and arranged for you to see someone who might be able to help you with your problem, that's all."
Images of hospital waiting rooms and doctors' offices, flashed through my mind. She had to be bloody joking if she thought there was any way that I was going to walk willingly into a medical facility ever again. The only way that would happen was if there was an imminent arrival of a baby on the horizon or I was so unconscious as not to be able to protest. Both of these scenarios were, I hoped, very unlikely in the near future.
"Bloody hell Alithh, I thought you were my friend, I thought you knew me well enough not to do something that would hurt me." Hot tears began to streak down my face as I continued, "And you Jathper, I bet you encouraged this. I hate you both."
Between the now copious tears, and the dribble, I was a mess.
"It's not what you think Cyggi," Alice crooned, trying to undo some of the fear, "Jasper has this friend and…"
"Alith I don't care if he has a friend, I don't care if he has a whole army of friends, you're not taking me to the hospital if I don't want to go…AND I DON'T." I had managed to shout the last three words, self inflicting a considerable amount of pain. But I am Bella Swan and no one, not even the people I love most in the world can make me do what I don't want to…right?
"Like Alice said Cyggi, it's not what you think. Please just listen to me a minute, we are only doing this to help."
"Yeh, we know how scared you get, and to be honest I don't blame you, but please just sit down and listen to what Jasper is suggesting."
Grasping both of my shoulders gently, Jasper backed me up until my knees hit the small couch in the corner of the kitchen. I slumped down. This seat's better known as the 'booze bench,' as it's where friends sit and drink, while I play around in my domain, whipping up something delicious to share; but for now it was my temporary prison, where I was to be held until submission.
"Well," Jasper began, "it's like Alice said, I have this friend that I think could help you."
8:25am and already I want to go home, this place can be so irritating; so the pay is good, but sometimes that really isn't enough. I swear that if Carlisle tells me one more time that 'It is inappropriate to be seen chewing gum while working in this establishment,' or 'Perhaps Miss Stanley you could reconsider your choice of nail polish while at work,' then I'm gonna scream. What difference does it make what colour my nails are painted, one colour is as good as any other right? All I can say is it's a good thing he hasn't seen me standing up yet, 'cause when he does I know he's likely to flip.
I bought it yesterday, a short, ok very short, white skirt, in hip hugging silk jersey. Well it has to be white doesn't it, (everything in Carlisle's life is snowy white, pure and clean) boss's orders. Well until today the term would have been boss singular, but it seems I'm going to get a shiny new boss to play with. Hmmm… and judging by the photograph I saw stapled to his resume when I accidentally knocked the papers onto the floor in Carlisle's office, he was cute. So in honour of Mr Cute Boss – a sexy new skirt.
I answered the phone on the first buzz. "Certainly Carlisle, every thing has been arranged as you requested." See, I can sound posh too.
"Please refer to me by my title, it's Dr. Cullen."
"Yes Dr. Cullen." Stuck up bastard.
At exactly 8:30, the glass door slid open with a 'swoosh'. I should have moved faster because before I could stand, Carlisle was there holding out his hand.
"Great you're here. It's good to finally meet you; how was the journey?" he asked.
"Brief," cute boss replied, "my apartment is close, it's only a 15 minute walk. I moved in yesterday with the help of a friend, so I avoided the long commute I was expecting to have to make. It's good to meet you too."
"That's great. Come on in and I'll show you around."
Well damn! 'Over here, hello, what am I invisible?' Surely Carlisle wouldn't ignore the fact I was sitting there right in front of them without making an introduction, he might be a pompous prick, but he was a well mannered pompous prick.
"Ah yes," Carlisle's eyes met mine, "and this is Miss Stanley our receptionist."
"Jessica," I smiled holding out my hand and beginning to stand.
"Miss Stanley…please don't get up…It's good to meet you." Cute Boss replied. His gorgeous mouth smiled, but it didn't quite reach his eyes…I should have stood up; the skirt would definitely have helped! I turned to watch the two men walk out of reception and through to their rooms along the wide corridor. Luckily for me the corridor is long, because it was a fantastic view, and I enjoyed every tight-butted, lean-legged, step of it.
Hmm, so it might not have gone exactly to plan, he might not have got an eyeful of the skirt, but it's all good. Carlisle hasn't fired me for indecent exposure…yet, and there's still coffee to deliver right? Yeh, that'll do it, lots and lots of coffee.