A/N I wrote this AH/AU story for MsKathy's Haitian Relief Project; a project that raised a ton of money for Haiti :0)... We weren't supposed to post until March 1st but she has allowed us to post early as part of a new project called Grateful to the Readers….
So thank you to all who have read and supported my stories now and in the past. Your encouraging words have given me much inspiration to keep writing more…
I'd also like to thank my friend, katmom, for looking this story over and correcting my mistakes…especially my punctuation error, which can be many sometimes…
I'd also like to especially thank LittleFairyMaiden and H6p8gv for their invaluable support with my stories and their friendship…
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to Stephenie Meyers. No copyright infringement is intended. Also I do not own any of the songs mentioned in this story...
I smiled at him. "Good Afternoon, Mr. Cheney." He was sitting in a black leather lazy-boy chair that his son had bought him for Christmas. His oxygen tube was fitted around his face, helping him to breathe. A portable tank sat beside his chair.
"How many times do I need to ask you to just call me Patrick," he admonished good naturedly. His soft blue eyes were filled with amusement. As I entered a bit of air came through the room rustling his white hair. It had once been brown as he liked to tell me when he showed me old photos from when he was my age.
"I know but I was taught to be respectful of my elders," I told him as I sat on the edge of his bed. He had a dark green comforter over off white sheets. It was comfortable despite the firm mattress. I never knew how he could sleep on something so hard.
He smiled. "Not many people your age do anymore."
"Well, not many people my age like to hang out with men such as yourself," I countered.
"You mean a worldly fellow that has good taste in company?" he asked with a wink.
I chuckled. "No an old man who is full of hot air."
He moved his hand over his heart. "Miss Swan, I do think you've been hanging around me for too long."
I met Mr. Cheney a year ago when I interviewed him for my freshman journalism assignment. We were asked to get a firsthand account from someone who gave to their community. Patrick was a police officer for over thirty years before retiring. Putting your life on the line to protect those who live around you shows great community pride so I thought he was a great candidate to interview.
When I had first arrived Mr. Cheney was sitting in a brown chair that looked like it belonged in a dining room rather than in a room where someone lived. He had stood upon my arrival and shook my hand. He had broken the ice by joking about the constant Seattle rainy weather. You'd think that by living in Seattle we would have adapted to the weather by growing webbed feet he had said. I laughed before asking 'would that mean we would grow yellow feathers and quack as well?' After that we became fast friends.
I smiled at Patrick. "Are you admitting that you're full of hot air?"
"No, just that when I met you were so quiet and polite and now look at you," he teased.
I crossed my arms across my chest. "I'm still quiet and polite."
"Keep telling yourself that." He winked.
I stood, smoothing my light purple sweater. "I don't have to take this," I told him in mock seriousness.
"Bella, please stay. I want to ask you something."
His eyes pleaded with me and I sat back down. He gently took my right hand between his old calloused ones as he spoke. "This Saturday they are having a Valentine's Day dance in the dining room. I was wondering if you'd like to come."
"I can't dance," I admitted quietly. It was a fact that in my twenty years on earth I had fallen too many times to count.
"I don't believe that." He stood pulling me up with him. He then placed my right hand on his shoulder before wrapping one hand around my back and taking my free hand in his.
"What are you doing?"
"Dancing with you," he answered in a matter of fact manner.
"But I can't…"
He ignored me and moved his left foot forward. I was supposed to move mine back but I didn't, stepping on his toes instead.
"Ouch," he whispered.
I frowned. "Sorry, I did tell you." If he hadn't been holding onto me I probably would have fallen into him. Thankfully his grasp saved me from any embarrassment.
We tried a few more times with similar results. After the last try he gave me a sympathetic half smile. "We can just stick to swaying back and forth."
On Saturday, I dressed in a dark blue blouse and tan skirt. I kept my makeup at a minimum with eye shadow and lipstick and I let my brown tresses frame my face. When I arrived at the nursing home Patrick was waiting for me in the lobby. He was dressed in black slacks and a white shirt. He had his oxygen tank in a small pouch at his side.
"You look beautiful," Patrick said, kissing the back of my hand.
"You are handsome as well," I complimented, red coloring my cheeks.
A brilliant smile plastered his face when he saw my cheeks. It seemed like he was amused by my reaction to his compliment but gentlemanly enough not to say anything; though I was half expecting him to tease me about it, which would ultimately make my face flame a brighter red. Instead he just crooked his arm and said, "Shall we?"
I was thankful that he didn't say anything, taking his arm allowing him to lead me into the dining room; a spacious rectangular sized room with gray walls. It was already filled with other residents while Frank Sinatra crooned with "I Got the World on a String". Pink and red paper hearts were strewn all along the ceiling in decoration. Patrick escorted me to a brown chair, like the one I had first seen him sitting in and went to get us drinks. I surveyed the room while he was gone. Most of the people in the room had walkers or canes. There were a couple in wheelchairs; more than likely they were there to listen to the music.
Patrick returned holding two cups of fruit punch. I took one from him and sipped some of the cool liquid.
"Won't you sit Patrick?" I asked, noticing that he was still standing. There was an empty chair to my left.
"Bella, I…" He wrung his hands nervously.
I raised an eyebrow. "Patrick, what is it?"
It took a moment before he could look me straight in the eye. "I asked you to come here because I wanted to introduce you to my grandson."
He nodded. A guy about my age with brown hair approached us wearing dark jeans and a gray long sleeved t-shirt. He had blue eyes like his grandfather.
"Bella, this is Ben," Patrick said.
Ben smiled timidly. "Hi."
Returning his smile I said, "Hi, Ben, nice to meet you."
Patrick eyed the two of us eagerly waiting to see what was to happen next. When neither Ben nor I said anything more he broke the silence by saying, "Well, Ben, aren't you going to ask the lady for a dance?"
Ben looked at his grandfather then to me. "Bella, would you like to dance?"
It would be impolite to say no even though I hated dancing so I nodded. I took his hand as we strolled into the middle of the room.
Ben was the first to speak. "So my grandfather tells me you're originally from Phoenix and you attend the University of Washington."
"Yes what about you?"
"I recently transferred to the University of Washington."
We slowly twirled around the floor. A couple of the nurses had coaxed some of the others to dance a little, including Patrick. He looked like a professional as he deftly performed the Cha Cha with a nurse wearing light pink scrubs, her caramel colored hair swept back into a bun. He winked when he caught my eye.
Turning back to Ben I asked, "Where did you go before?"
"Why'd you want to leave?" I was genuinely curious. California was a sunny place and being from Phoenix I had enjoyed sun filled days; something that I missed by going to school in Seattle.
"I'm from Forks and my family is here so I wanted to go someplace close to home." My father, Charlie, was the police chief in Forks. I was about to tell Ben but his eyes seem to catch something over my shoulder. "He thinks he's so clever with this whole charade," he murmured.
I giggled. "Patrick you mean?" He nodded. "He just wants what's best for you," I added.
"He likes you, you know?"
"I like him too." He was a sweet man with a great sense of humor.
Ben bowed as the music ended and I couldn't help the chuckle that erupted from my lips.
"Hey, you shouldn't laugh, my grandfather taught me that," Ben said with a light frown.
"I'm just not used to seeing guys do anything chivalrous," I told him honestly.
He smiled and bowed again. "Well, that was before you met me."
I chuckled even harder than before. "Okay, now that was cheesy."
"Hey, want me to ask the DJ to play something different?" he asked, effectively changing the subject.
Elvis Presley was singing "Jail House Rock."
I nodded. He led me to an empty chair before walking over to the corner where the DJ had set up his equipment. There were two huge speakers and a table that looked like you could spin records on it. Ben leaned over to touch the DJs shoulder. When he turned his green eyes met mine for a second; beautiful dark green eyes to be exact. I wanted to get a better look at him but he was behind Ben. All I saw was a crop of untamed bronze hair. Ben whispered something in his ear and he nodded. Green eyes looked up and upon seeing me, said something to Ben. Ben turned and motioned me to come over.
I stood hesitantly and smoothed down my blouse before making my way over to them. The moment I reached them, I saw that Green Eyes was over six feet tall and lanky. He wore dark jeans and a black button up shirt. He had a handsomely chiseled face as well.
Ben had to speak a bit louder since we were by the speakers. "Bella, I'd like you to meet my good friend Edward; Edward, this is Bella."
Edward moved around the table so that we stood next to each other. "Nice to meet you," he all but shouted.
My cheeks flamed. "You, too."
"Want to dance?" he asked holding out his pale hand.
I knew I should have said no for fear of stepping on his feet but gazing into his eyes I found the words stuck in my throat. Sensing my hesitancy he calmly spoke. "Don't worry, I won't let you fall or anything."
I gave him a small smile and placed my hand in his. I pulled back slightly as an electric jolt ran through my palm and up my arm. I glanced up at Edward and he was looking at his hand as if he felt the same thing. I gently put my hand back in his and together we walked to the middle of the room. His touch was warm and comforting. It was strange, I just met this man and I knew he wouldn't let me get hurt.
"I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne began playing as we swayed back and forth. His hand was firmly on my back.
He smiled down at me. "See, nothing to fear."
"Because of you," I admitted.
When the song ended Edward asked if I wanted to sit out in the lobby where it was much quieter. I nodded and followed him to the well worn burgundy couch that sat in the middle of the front lobby. He allowed me to sit before taking the opposite corner.
"So I know your name is Bella and that you are not keen on dancing," he started.
I smiled. "Yes, I'm Bella, Isabella Swan and I'm never going to be a great dancer."
He shook his head. "You did well while we were out there."
Instead of commenting on his confidence in my ability I said, "So your name is Edward."
He smiled again. "Edward Cullen."
His name had a nice ring to it; it just rolled off your tongue.
"Are you a professional DJ?"
"No, my brother Emmett is though. Our mom asked him to play here today but Emmett got the flu and I stepped in for him," he answered.
I went into my journalist mode and shot out the next question. "Your mom?"
He gazed back at the dining room. "She's a nurse here. She's the one dancing with Ben's grandfather."
He meant the one with the caramel colored hair. "Patrick, Mr. Cheney, was the one who asked me to come."
"I'm glad he did," Edward murmured softly.
"I'm majoring in music at the University of Washington," he said carrying on as if he hadn't said anything.
My head shot up. "Really? I am a journalism major there."
"What year are you in?" Edward asked.
"My sophomore, you?"
"Where are you from Edward?"
For the rest of the night we fired questions at each other about anything and everything. I told him about my parents and how they divorced when I was three years old and he told me about his father being a doctor at the hospital and his brother Emmett. He discovered my passion for reading the classics like Austen and Bronte and I, in turn, found that he loved composing his own piano pieces and reading Superman comics. We also discussed favorite colors; green for me and brown for him, and favorite places to vacation; California for me and Alaska for him. He said the skiing in Alaska was fantastic. Having never skied in my life I just took his word for it.
"I can teach you to ski sometime, if you'd like," he had told me.
"I'd probably break a leg," I answered back.
His body shook with silent laughter. "I wouldn't let that happen, Bella."
I grinned sheepishly. "I've always been clumsy. I can trip over air."
He laughed aloud this time. "How can you trip over air?"
I shrugged. "I'm not sure; I just know that I can."
He just laughed again and shook his head. I glared at him.
His laughter died down instantly. "I'm sorry to laugh; it's just that I never heard of anyone tripping over air before."
Before we left that night Edward had asked me out to dinner on Tuesday. I immediately told him that I would love to and we set a time to meet.
Two months later I went downstairs dressed in a navy blue shirt and jeans. My brown locks were pulled back into a low ponytail. Lipstick and some mascara finished my look. I was to meet Edward at six so I decided to head down a bit early. Reaching the bottom of the stairs I saw a guy sitting on the main floor loveseat with his head in his hands. I immediately went to him and put a hand on his shoulder.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
He looked up, his face tear stained. "Ben?" I said. Ben had become a good friend, almost like a brother to me. A few weeks after I had met him, Ben had bumped into Angela, a sweet nursing major who lived four doors down from me. They were happily dating.
He sniffed. "My grandfather, Bella, he passed away this morning."
I sat next, my heart slamming in my chest. "What? How? He was fine when I saw him yesterday."
"His… heart…gave…out," he said through muffled sobs.
I patted his back hoping that would help. "I'm so sorry Ben."
He took a tissue from his pocket and blew his nose. He tossed it in the trash next to the loveseat.
"When we went to his room earlier I found this," he said, taking a folded up letter from his other pocket and handing it to me.
I quickly unfolded it.
I know that this might not make any sense but I think my time here on earth might be coming to an end soon. Before that day comes I wanted to tell you how glad I am to have met you. It must have been nerve wracking walking through the door that first day, yet you handled it gracefully. I was impressed by your graciousness and humor. And even after your assignment was finished you still kept coming back. I looked forward to those days. Sure, I had my family but it was nice telling stories to someone who hasn't heard them all ten times before. Your constant friendship brightened my life this past year and I hated seeing how lonely you've been. So that's why I tried to set you up with my grandson at the dance, but when I saw you with his friend, Edward, I knew that Ben wasn't the one for you. You seemed lost in each other as you danced and then you quietly left the room. You two looked like you were having a great time just talking to one another. Your whole face lights up when Edward is in the room, or if you talk about him. I don't think I've ever seen you so happy. There was always a tinge of loneliness and that connected us in a way. I knew you probably thought that it was the fact that your dad was a cop as I was but it wasn't. It was the need to talk to someone that drew us together. I don't know if I told you this story before but I met my wife at a Valentine's Day dance the town was having when I was twenty-one years old. My buddy, James, told me that I could meet someone if I went. I was skeptical but I went anyways and the first person I saw was Emma. She was standing by the refreshment stand in a little red dress. I asked her to dance and six months later we were married. I lost her five years ago and not a day goes by that I don't miss her. So, Bella if Edward's that special someone, grab onto him and never let him go. You deserve the same happiness that I shared with my dear Emma; we were married for forty two years.
Tears formed in my eyes as I read the letter. I folded it back up and placed it in my pocket.
Ben stood. "I'm going to find Angela," he told me before heading upstairs.
A moment later I heard Edward's panicked voice. "What's wrong Bella?"
I looked up to see his eyes staring at me in concern. He was wearing a green shirt and dark slacks. He was instantly kneeling in front of me, covering my hands in his.
I wiped a tear from my eye. "Patrick died yesterday."
"I can't believe it, how?"
"His heart," I answered.
Edward sat next to me, wrapped his arm around my shoulders and kissed my hair. "I'm sorry, love he was such a great man."
I squeezed his hand. "He was."
"Would you rather stay in tonight? We could order Chinese or pizza."
I looked at him and nodded.
"Alright then." He moved to stand but I stopped him.
"Can we just sit here for a while?"
He settled back into the seat cushion. "Sure."
I reclined my head on his shoulder. Patrick was right; I had been lonely when I met him. Now with Edward by my side I didn't feel so alone anymore. Ever since that first conversation with him there was an easy camaraderie that existed between us. It was more than just friendship, what we had, was special. As the realization dawned on me, I clung to Edward. He just smiled and pulled me closer, placing another kiss on top of my head.
I gently squeezed his hand again. "Thank you, Edward."
He smiled "You're more than welcome Bella."