This was my entry for the Twilight Gift Exchange hosted on LiveJournal. Musical Voice AKA Haley DK requested a few prompts, and I jumbled them all up to suit my needs ;)
A million thanks to BittenBee for the last minute beta job. I adore you.
All characters within belong to SMeyer. The tomfoolery is all mine, though.
Stumbling unsteadily on my feet, I weaved my way to my dorm, head swimming slightly from one shot too many. A few windows of those that were still lit were decorated with random strands of festively colored lights, and the blinking patterns made my head swim dizzily. There was a cold nip to the air, and I burrowed my face into my scarf, breathing into the fabric to warm myself quicker. My hands were twisted inside of the pockets of my heavy winter coat; one played distractedly with a long forgotten lighter from last year.
Too bad I didn't have any cigarettes to go along with that lighter.
My father hated my habit, and he had voiced his displeasure loudly about "bad influences" on my last visit home. I'd rolled my eyes and promised him that I could give it up whenever I wanted to, but even I didn't believe my unconvincing lie.
Not that he can say anything about it this time, I thought.
I actually had kicked my habit, thanks in large part to a roommate who thought it was helpful to chop up the cigarettes I left laying around into fourths and placing them back in my pack. Tired of spending way too much of my limited income replacing them, and not wanting to go outside to smoke when the weather got too cold, I'd given up. After huffing up the stairs to class one day, I realized they were probably right. It wasn't very healthy.
Finding old lighters in my current mood made me want to start again though.
My father, Charlie, had finally taken time off from the job that he loved so much, and he and his new wife Sue had made the long trek to Minnesota to see my new step-brother for Christmas. Seth's first year of college had gone well, and he'd met a nice local girl there with whom he was 'madly in love.'
Insert eye-roll here.
Instead of going home to Charlie's empty house, I'd placed a call to my mom to tell her that I'd be spending the holiday break with her and her husband Phil. However, when she'd answered her phone sounding so excited, I couldn't help but ask her what she was doing.
With yet another 'fuck-it-all' bombshell, I'd learned she was at a travel agent's office. Phil had surprised her with her Christmas gift early: they were booking their travel itinerary for the trip to Morocco that would take them away from their lives in Florida for the entire last half of the month of December. My roommate, Alice, not wanting me to be alone for the holidays, had begged me to come home with her to Mississippi, but I hadn't wanted to intrude. This was the first time she was going to introduce her steady boyfriend, Jasper, to her extended family, and I didn't want to detract from something so important with my sob story.
And so, in a stunning turn of twists that led to this being the worst year ever, I was completely and utterly alone for the holidays.
My loneliness had taken me to the local campus hot-spot earlier this evening. It was dead, save for the regular patrons who had their favorite spots at the bar and the few students who also hadn't gone home for the Christmas break. After a few beers and a couple of shots, my head had begun to get fuzzy, and I'd figured it best that I stop. A lone girl walking home at night was dangerous, and I was now cursing myself for my stupidity.
I picked up my pace, trying to move and quickly and safely as possible for a naturally clumsy girl could who had drowned her sorrows with alcohol. My breath blew out in little wisps of fog around me, cloudy and opaque and reminding me that much more of the empty cigarette box in my back pocket.
Thankfully, I made it to my dorm without any major tumbles, but my luck could never hold out for too long.
Just as I made it unscathed to the top step sheathed in ice, my odd sense of accomplishment caused me to do an awkward fist pump. In my impaired state, I forgot to remove my hand from my pocket, though; with an un-ladylike squawk, I began to tip backward, flailing my hands and trying to regain my balance. As I lost my footing, I muttered, "Fuck…"
However, instead of landing on cold stone steps, my back connected with something warm and hard. My breath whooshed out as two hands came around my waist to hold me steady.
Instinct took over. My earlier musings about how unsafe it was for me to be walking home alone sprung to the forefront of my mind. My hands clawed at the stranger pair around my waist, and I kicked my legs.
"Let me go, or I swear on all that is holy I will scream bloody murder," I growled.
"Sorry," a quiet voice spoke behind me. I was set on my feet, and the hands were yanked away from me quickly. "You were going to fall."
I skidded up the steps, laying my hand on the door before I turned around. My harsh scolding caught in my throat when I saw my attacker…savior…whatever. I blinked past my alcohol induced brain fog.
A guy about my age stood there awkwardly, hands shoved deep into his pockets and eyes cast down. From my height advantage, I could still tell that he was tall, and his lanky frame was covered by black jeans and a heavy woolen pea coat. His messy hair flopped down over his eyes, hiding his full face from view. His shoulders were slumped, and he looked so uncomfortable that I immediately began to feel bad for the way I'd behaved.
"Hey, I'm sorry," I said, voice contrite and full of apology, "I was just… You scared me, is all. I didn't know anyone was behind me."
He glanced up, and in the dim light streaming out from the entry way I could finally see his features fully. His hair was just a bit too long and hung in haphazard disarray on his head and into his eyes. His jaw was smooth, free of hair and sharp. But it was his eyes that I focused on. Like broken shards of sea glass, green and sad, they met with my own.
"I didn't want you to hurt yourself," he explained softly. "I was a little behind you and I saw you start to fall…" he trailed off, his eyes once again focusing on his feet.
"Thank you," I said honestly. "I'm kind of a klutz."
The corners of his mouth twitched, and he looked back up to me. He moved cautiously, as if he was afraid to scare me again. Of course he is, jackass… you just attacked him for saving you.
Gesturing to the door behind me, he took another step closer. "Do you room here, too?" I asked suspiciously.
"Um, yes… this is my dorm," he answered, smiling sheepishly at me, taking yet another step closer till he was on even ground with me. I looked up...and up. He was really tall.
"Oh! I'm sorry, here, let me." I opened the door, and held it for him, but he shook his head and reached above me to hold the door.
"After you," he said, voice still soft and shy.
Ducking under his arm, I walked into the common area and stopped at the stairs. Wanting to compensate for my behavior again, I held out my hand to him. "I'm Bella."
His face was already splotchy from the cold, but my attention was drawn to the tips of his ears. They became even became redder, if possible, flaming a deep maroon color. "Edward," he told me, holding his hand out to grasp mine and shake it.
"Well, Edward, it was nice to meet you. I really am sorry—"
"You don't have to apologize," he said a little more firmly this time. "I scared you, and for that I'm sorry."
I rolled my eyes, amused at his calm acceptance. "Still, I am. Thank you for catching me."
He blushed again, and my heart gave a funny little squeeze. "Good night Bella, it was nice to meet you."
I watched him walk away, hands once again stuffed into his pockets. "Good night," I called after him.
His head turned slightly over his shoulder, and he gave me a small, sheepish smile. One corner of his mouth lifted, resulting in an adorable little half-grin-smirk thing. Smiling to myself, I made my way up the stairs to my room.
Once inside, I shed the heavy layers of my scarf, gloves and coat quickly before changing into a pair of comfy pajama pants and an oversized tank top. Glancing down at the tank top in distaste, my lip curled into a sneer when I realized who the previous owner was. I really hadn't been paying attention earlier when I'd yanked it from a drawer.
The damn thing belonged to my ex, Tyler. I had pilfered one night to sleep in and never given it back. I hadn't wanted to part with it when I'd thrown all of his crap into a trash bag and tossed them out my window at him on Halloween. It was comfy and soft, thin from repeated washings and a touch on the see-through side, but as I was alone tonight I didn't mind.
'Finders, Keepers' and all that jazz…
I'd caught the dirty punk with his tongue shoved down some chick's throat at his fraternity's Halloween bash, and had promptly flown into what can only be described as a jilted lovers rage. I'd…cooled them off by pouring my beer over their head, ruining homegirl's barely there angel costume.
Personally, I thought it was an improvement.
Alice had taken me back to the dorm and helped me root all of his stuff out. The trash bag had been her idea—she always was one for the melodramatics.
While I'd been tossing things into the bag, she'd called him and told him to meet us outside the dorm. Showing up with a truckload of frat brothers, he waited on the small steps leading up to our dorm for us to let him in. That is, until his stuff started to fall on his head.
His brothers had gotten a kick out of the show. Howling with laughter, they'd watched from the safety of the large truck while he fumbled for his things on the lawn. Alice and I had hung our head out the window, tossing insults along the way.
My relationship with Tyler had been terribly one-sided. While I had thought we were 'in love', he apparently had been banging chicks on the side. It had never taken much to keep me satisfied: date night once a week or a night spent at my dorm or his frat house in his room. Texts and phone calls. Him showing up randomly outside one of my classes… Any little gesture was appreciated and rewarded.
His false words of love and devotion were bullshit. The "I miss you" and "I need you" lines that he fed to were enough to keep me happy so he could go behind my back. And I'd eaten every one of them up.
I was naïve to believe him, and it had hurt when I'd learned the truth. Alice, my ever-positive roommate and best friend, had been my rock though. She'd let me cry for a day before going into her no-nonsense mode.
"Bella," she had said firmly, "You aren't the only one that this has ever happened to. Chin up, girl. Don't let him break you down."
She was right, of course. My fractured heart was easily mended. The cracks in my psyche weren't enough to hold me down for long, and Alice wouldn't have allowed them to, anyway.
She was a whirlwind of positivity. A true southern belle, her twangy accent was smooth and luxurious—all honeyed bourbon layered over delicate lace. She firmly believed that you should never go out of the dorm without being properly coiffed and dressed to the nines, even if we were only running to the grocery store. Her inner fashionista had wept to the Gods of Couture when we'd first met. My casual jeans, flannels, and a tee shirt ensemble had sent her into an all out tizzy of fashion nine-one-one.
Gradually, she'd worked her magic on me, getting me to trade my loose, ill-fitting clothes for more form fitting styles. I was still casual, but not so…disheveled, I guess. I would never be a walking runway model, that wasn't who I was, but I was at least dressing for the current decade now.
Taking a seat at my desk, I booted up my laptop, waiting not so patiently for it to load. Fighting my earlier buzz, I logged into my email account first, giggling at the subject line that stood out the most.
I'm never coming home. Want to move to Morocco with me?
Snickering to myself at her enthusiasm, I waited for the page to load. She had attached tons of pictures, and my heart twisted at seeing the happy, smiling faces that I missed so much. Pictures of Renee in brightly colored tunics and sandals, her and Phil standing in front of the Casablanca Cathedral, a large outdoor market filled with brightly colored goods. Sand dunes, and mosques, snow capped mountains and ancient Roman roads; she had labeled them all, including thoughts about each of the snapshots and where they were taken.
The last was a picture of my silly, unpredictable mother atop a camel, her hand clasped over her mouth—knowing Renee, she had undoubtedly squealed when the camel had risen from the ground—and excitement shining from her eyes. She looked so happy, so carefree…
I closed out of my email program quickly at that thought, my glum mood returning.
Happy holidays…Yeah right.
What's your favorite Christmas song?