The "AwkWard" Contest
Story Title: Life According to Plan
Pen name: unicornhime
Disclaimer: Characters to SMeyer, I'm just borrowing them for a bit.
To see other entries in the "AwkWard" contest, please visit the C2:
Notes: Thanks to the lovely Anechka86 for being my beta. I hope you all enjoy this. :)
This was it.
Today was the day that I, Edward Anthony Cullen, was going to actually talk to her.
Her. Bella. I didn't know her last name, or even her middle name, but I was sure both were perfect. Some people had names that just didn't suit them, or felt awkward to say. But Bella just looked like she'd have a perfect name.
She wasn't the type of girl that would be appearing on the cover of a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, but she was still the prettiest girl I'd ever seen. She had a very quiet kind of beauty, the kind that only really showed when she was smiling or laughing. Her smiles made me stutter and stammer meaningless words and gave the butterflies in my stomach caffeine pills.
But that was going to end today.
Today, after the spin cycle and before the time in the dryer, I was going to talk to her.
Every Thursday for the past six weeks, like clockwork she appeared at the Laundry 101 Laundromat at 4:13. Occasionally she was a minute or two early or late, but never more than that. She had a schedule. I liked that.
She never had more than two loads – one colored and one whites – and she always read a book while she waited for the machines to finish. Some times she made small talk with the chatty lady who owned this fine establishment (which was how I discovered her name in the first place). She always folded her things as soon as they were dry, then loaded them into her basket, hefted said basket on her hip and left in a big old rusty truck.
Regardless of whether or not I needed to wash anything, I was at that Laundromat at 4:00 on the dot. I usually brought my laptop with me and used the free wifi from the neighboring McDonald's to catch up on some blogs, but ever since she appeared, I'd lost the ability to concentrate on anything else.
Then I decided I needed to stop acting liking a creeper and actually talk to her. Which was easier said than done, but I was resolved to do it.
I had it planned out perfectly. I would finally going to get up the nerve to talk to her. I'd introduce myself and say something witty. She'd laugh and we'd have a brief conversation about nothing in particular, and then I'd happen to mention how I had a free Saturday and would she be interested in seeing a movie or something? She'd blush and in that shy way of her's, happily agree. We'd have a great date and see each other everyday for the next six months. We'd fall in love and get married and my mother would finally stop not-so-secretly wondering if I was gay.
Clearly, this was a perfect plan.
It was 3:46 when I opened the door to my familiar haunt and I quickly put the clothes I'd scrounged up in the wash, too nervous about what I was about to attempt to bother messing with the correct settings. The machine started with a lurch, and I took a seat at the bare table where Bella usually sat. I knew I was exceptionally early today, but I was too nervous to wait any longer before leaving my apartment.
In addition to my perfect plan, I'd also done some research online in preparation, which armed me with some helpful tips that would assuredly make this plan even more perfect.
Tip #1 – Be Approachable. Most people won't want to intrude or interrupt you, so smile and make yourself open to conversation.
This made sense. However, it also made me very impatient as I sat at the table without my laptop or a book to read. I tapped my fingers on the linoleum as I looked around the room, trying to find something to distract myself with. All I found was an older lady giving me the stink-eye until I stopped tapping.
I checked the plain white clock on the wall to see how much time had passed and was dismayed to see that it was only 3:57. I needed to find something to do until she arrived or I'd go crazy with anticipation.
There were only two other patrons in this fine establishment. The previously mentioned older lady was currently seated at the other table, knitting away, her needles clicking furiously against the backdrop of the rumbling machines. The other customer was a middle-aged man, who looked distinctly like he belonged in a biker gang. Or in a movie about biker gangs, because he had the full on leather jacket-handkerchief - tattoos combo, but he looked quite at home as he pulled some clothes out of the dryer and proceeded to fold them, using the row of unused washers as his table. I must have been watching him too intently, because he turned and scowled at me as he gathered up his things and left. I heard the distinct growl of a motorcycle and wondered what his story was.
Maybe he was just a biker. They probably wanted clean underwear just as much as anyone else, and didn't really have anywhere else wash, did they?
I checked the time again. 4:08. Five more minutes.
I realized I was bouncing my leg slightly and tried to sit still as I ran over what I was going to say in my mind.
Tip #2 – Compliment Her. Everyone likes to be complimented, and this is an excellent icebreaker. As a warning, however, keep to facial features or personality traits, such as pretty eyes or a nice smile, or you may come off as sleazy or creepy.
'I've always noticed you have such beautiful eyes.'
'Your smile always makes me smile.'
My prepared comments ran though my mind, ready to be spoken at a moment's notice. I was so ready for this. I would be eloquent and charming, and I would sweep her off her feet.
And then she walked through the door. I watched her out of the corner of my eyes as she went through the motions of emptying the contents of her laundry basket into a washing machine, until I caught the flash of a white bra. Then I turned away to stare at the table directly in front of me, my cheeks a tinge more heated than appropriate.
'Come on, Edward, a simple white bra is nothing to get excited about. Focus.'
I noticed she was humming to herself, and redirected all of my attention to the sound of her voice. She seemed to be going on autopilot as I chanced a look back up. Sort the socks from the bright shirts. Pour in the detergent. Press start. Every movement had the feeling of familiarity and ease about it.
She routinely walked over to my table, her focus more on pulling a book out of her backpack than on where she was headed. She'd already dropped her bag on the table and pulled the chair out before she even noticed she wasn't the table's only occupant. When she finally did look up, she blinked and took a step back in surprise.
"Oh!" she froze halfway between sitting and standing. "I'm sorry, I didn't see you. Do you, um, mind if I sit here?"
She was actually speaking to me! All of my rehearsed speeches and remarks flew out the window. "Go ahead," my voice squeaked out. Squeak? Did I really just squeak at the girl of my dreams?
'Introduce yourself, stupid!' I cleared my throat as she looked at me expectantly and lowered herself into her seat. "I'm Edward," I said.
"Bella," she smiled shyly. "It's nice to meet you."
"You too," I tried to smile, but I think it came out more of a grimace.
A beat passed and she shifted in her seat. I realized she was waiting for me to say something more.
'Remember the tips! Compliment her!'
"You have a pretty face!" I blurted out.
"I mean, I'm sorry," I rushed to recover some sense of dignity, "I meant, um, I've seen you here before, and I just always thought how pretty you looked."
She blushed and looked down at the table, "Thank you?"
"No it's a good thing!" I said quickly, then sighing. "Sorry, this just sounded so much better in my head. You probably think I'm some kind of crazy guy now."
"Not at all!" she looked back up, "I'm flattered."
There was another pause while my mind raced for something – anything – to say, when Bella broke the silence this time, smiling encouragingly. "So tell me about yourself, Edward."
My mind flashed back on my research.
Tip #3 – Be Interesting. Everyone has something interesting about them, you just have to find out what makes you interesting and memorable, or else you'll be stuck with polite conversation that goes nowhere.
'What was interesting about me? This is like one of those getting-to-know-you games that always turn up during orientations. Oh!'
"I can hold my breath under water for three and a half minutes!" I exclaimed, flinching at how loud my voice was. There was a brief pause in the knitting clicks before the old lady started back up again.
Bella blinked, "Wow really? That wasn't really what I meant, but that's impressive."
"Um yeah, my brothers would always dunk me at the pool, so I got really good at holding my breath in order to play a trick on them," I smiled at the memory. "They thought they'd drowned me and completely flipped out. It was great."
"You know, you have a really pretty face, too, when you smile like that," she observed, taking me by surprise. She continued, "I could probably only go a minute or so. I don't have any siblings."
"I always wondered what growing up without siblings would be like," I said, internally jumping in excitement over her previous statement. "I can't imagine being an only child. My family is so loud, I wouldn't know what to do with myself with all the quiet.
"It can be quiet and lonely at times," she admitted, "but I'm comfortable being by myself. After all, that's who I spend the most time with, right? So I had better like myself," She laughed softly.
"That's a very interesting way of thinking about it," I said, and silence fell between us again. We just sort of stared at each other for a long moment, neither of us seeming to want to look away.
A loud buzzing startled both of us, and I realized my load must have finished. That's what I got by getting started so early. "Just a moment," I stood up, "That one's mine, I'll just switch it out."
She stood, too, "Let me help you with that."
"Oh no, you don't have to," I insisted, trying to remember what all was exactly in that load.
"It's no trouble, we just have to carry it over to the dryers, right? Is there anything that needs to be air-dried?"
"Uh, no?" If there was, it certainly had never been air-dried before.
"This one is yours, right?" She stood in front of the machine with my white laundry basket on top of it. "I've seen you with this basket before," she confessed, grinning. "You weren't the only one noticing your surroundings."
I laughed nervously, and confirmed that the machine was mine. We both reached in at the same time, bumping our heads together with a dull thud.
"Oww," she cried, laughing. "If you really didn't want any help, you could've just said so. There's no need to headbutt me," she teased.
"Sorry, I'm sorry," I apologized rapidly, reaching to feel her forehead instinctively, hoping I didn't hit her hard enough to bruise. "I have a hard head. Another side effect of growing up with brothers."
She let me brush her hair out of her eyes and feel her temple. My hand lingered perhaps longer than necessary, but I couldn't bring myself to pull away because I was actually touching her.
With a smile, she pulled my arm down and then pressed me away with a hand to the center of my chest. She held me in place, somewhat dumbstruck at the contact, as she lifted my wet clothes out with the other hand and deposited them into the basket.
Unable to think properly with the feeling of her hand almost directly over my racing heart, I could only watch her. She was so short that she nearly had to bend in half to reach the clothes that had stuck to the bottom.
I didn't snap out of my daze until she nearly fell into the machine trying to fish out the last couple articles of clothing. I steadied her with a hand at her waist, until I saw what exactly she pulled out.
'Oh why didn't I pay more attention to what I was washing?!'
As soon as she was sturdy on her own two feet, I lurched forward to grab the offending pair of black and yellow boxers, but the damage was done.
Giggling madly, she managed to say, "Batman, Edward?"
"What's wrong with Batman?" I asked defensively, wondering if this was the point where she realized what I dork I was and turn me down flat out.
She shrugged, still laughing, "Nothing at all. I'm more of a Superman girl myself, but…"
"You like Superman?"
"Sure, what's not to like? Average farmboy discovers he actually has superpowers and then proceeds to save the world? Kind of like a male version of a princess fairy tale isn't?"
"Superman is not a fairy tale," I retorted, shocked. I didn't even like Superman and she had me defending him! "But then, that just proves Batman is better. He made himself into a superhero out of tragedy and his own hard work."
"So did Cinderella," Bella smirked. "Well, into a princess, but the same concept holds."
I gaped at her. "Are we really having this conversation?"
She laughed. "I think so." She watched as I carried my own laundry and threw it into the dryer, without her help and much more discreetly this time. She continued, "I have to admit, this isn't what I expected when I came in to do laundry today."
"In a good way, I hope."
"Oh definitely," she smiled again. I couldn't help but smile back.
"I have a confession," she said as I pushed my quarters in and hit start. I looked down at her, startled and suddenly very nervous. She was staring at her shoes and wringing her hands.
"I was kind of hoping you'd talk to me. Six weeks ago, my washer broke down, so I had to come here, and I saw you for the first time. My machine was fixed by the next week, but I came back here again anyway, in hopes that I would see you again. And when I did, it just made me so happy, but I was too shy to say anything to you. And I had no idea what to say. But I kept coming back here, in hopes that you'd notice me and say something to me. And now… well I'm just really glad I did."
There was a long pause where I just stared at her until she finally looked back up at me. "Please say something," she said, eyeing the exit.
"Really?" The word just sprung out on it's own. "I mean… really?"
"Of course really." She kept glancing at the exit like she was about to make a run for it any moment, her clothes forgotten.
"Bella," she looked back up at me. "I could say the exact same thing."
"Your washer broke down, too?" She said dubiously.
I choked out a laugh, "Well, no, but the rest of that. The 'coming back every week at the same time in hopes of seeing you' part. I don't think I've ever had so many clean clothes."
That got a genuine laugh out of her. My Plan finally came back to me and I gathered up the rest of my courage.
"So now that you've seen my underwear, can I ask for something from you? I mean," I stammered, "You don't have to show me your underwear. Not that I don't want to see it eventually. No! That's not what I mean, because I'm sure they're wonderful and while we're being honest I kind of saw some when you were putting your clothes in the washer today and- oh geez, this is not where this sentence was supposed to go."
But Bella was laughing so hard that I gave up any hope of trying to backpeddle my way out. She was completely bent over, leaning on the wall of dryers for support while she tried to catch her breath. "Calm down," she said in between giggles when she'd calmed down a little herself. "I know what you meant. And it's a Laundromat. It was bound to happen. I won't hold it against you."
"What I meant to say," I struggled to form a coherent sentence, "Was something along the lines of asking if you'd like to spent time together outside of the Laundromat. You don't have to say yes, I would completely understand if you didn't want to. I've made a complete idiot of myself and -"
She cut my mad babbling off by placing her fingers on my lips and grinning.
"Edward? I'd love to."
I knew it was a perfect plan.