Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 1: Everyone Needs a Beginning
"God! I can't believe that I'm still listening to you!" I just had to explode — I couldn't take it anymore.
"I've been here far longer than you have, I know a hell of a lot more than you do, and yet you're a manager and I'm just a lowly part-timer! I mean, how stupid could you really be? Each and every day, it seems like even though you were just here, you've forgotten how to do the simplest of things!" I screamed in his face. How could he not understand where this rage was coming from?
I took a deep breath, my face turning red from all the yelling. "My word, Galen, how do you expect to be here any longer?! We all know that you talk of leaving at any chance you can get, but are you honestly that sick of being here? Why do you put Jen and me down all the time? You pick on her to fix the easiest things that you could've done yourself and you don't even listen to me!" He'd been silent during my rant. Good, that's what I was aiming for.
"Just because you're a manager doesn't mean that you don't have to do any work! I know I'm better than you. Jen knows that she's better than you, fuck, even you know that we're both better than you! We could run this store in our sleep! I can't take you anymore! I. Fucking. Quit!" I'd had enough and it was time that he knew it.
"Oh, and by the way," I leaned in to his face, whispering a menacing tone at him, "I can sing a hell of a lot better than you can any day."
A car horn brought me back from my daydream. My foot hit the accelerator and my truck lurched forward. I blushed and slid slowly behind the wheel, trying to hide from the other motorists.
My God, how I wished that I could do that at work someday. I'd just give my lowly second assistant manager a piece of my mind and quit on him, but I needed the money too much. Sadly, my everyday life was surrounded by dullness, if I quit what else would I do? I had such a fixed schedule that it did me no good to even think of deviating from it.
Go to work.
Get home from work.
Take a shower.
Go to bed.
And then the next day would start all over again.
Each and every single day that I worked was like this. I only got two days off a week and there were always things that had to be done, so no rest for the poor.
There were more trivial things to worry oneself with, like paying the bills and keeping my apartment clean and, well, other adult life stuff. Friends were low on the list and I hadn't seen any of them since my move from Forks. The only time I heard from someone back there was Charlie in our weekly phone calls, and the last time I talked to a 'friend' it was to wish me good luck with the move. That was two and a half years ago.
Again, I sighed.
I hated the things that put me in this situation.
I felt extremely lucky that I was already done with work and was thankfully on my way home. I'd been working at the same place for a while now, a little shop called Fuego in the mall in Seattle.
We sold all types of novelty items and everything there was eclectic and wild-looking; the jewelry we sold was over-the-top and sparkled in every direction. I loved it there, but after working there for so long, I'd gotten tired of my routine and craved a change. The downside being that no one — and I mean, no one — was hiring at the moment. So I stayed where I was, miserable and alone.
The only thing to make me happy at the moment was that I was driving. I loved driving my old truck, a gift from my father for deciding to move with him when I was younger. It was an old Chevy from the late '50's, rust-colored red with a bulbous cab that seemed to cocoon me in safety. If I'd gotten into an accident with this thing the other driver may not walk away from it, but I sure would.
I always thought that my father's gift was an inside joke, as I'm not the most coordinated person in the world. I'd had so many small accidents as a child that they knew me fairly well at the hospital in Phoenix where my mother would take me. "Oh, Bella fell down the stairs again," or "Bells just tripped over the dog again."
They eventually just stopped asking what had happened this time, sewed me back up, and sent me home with another lollipop. I was happy to say that I grew up a bit and have gotten better at handling myself. Now I only went to the hospital if I knew I needed stitches or something plastered — everything else, I'd learned, I could take care of myself.
I moved into the left turn lane, my signal making a slight ticking noise, and eased my foot onto the brake. I needed to hole myself up in my fortress of solitude for the rest of eternity… or at least until tomorrow morning.
Today had been an unusually long day and anything that could go wrong, did. I was glad that I'd kept my cool during most of my shift, and when the time came that I hadn't kept my sanity, I'd been pretty much alone and able to save myself from saying something completely horrible to someone and getting myself fired.
I'd daydream about actually quitting my job and it made me feel a little better. The one I was just having seemed to be the best ever. I'd been dying to tell my ass of an assistant manager off ever since he started working at our store.
Finally I pulled into my apartment's driveway. The gate was already open from the last car entering the establishment so I just drove right through.
I lived in a pretty nice apartment complex that was only a few years old. The outside walls were light beige and all of the green grass was cut and well-manicured.
I slowly drove down the street, always trying to keep the noise level of my truck on the low end. Finally I pulled into my covered parking spot, glad that I could relax and take a hot shower.
I was situated on the third floor, something that both my father and I didn't like so much on move-in day. But I'd gotten used to it and I didn't trip nearly as often as I used to. My feet dragged up each step, my brain going to reserve power as my routine started taking over.
I quickly unlocked my door and made my way inside, turning off the alarm swiftly and setting my keys down on the table by the door. I leaned back against the door and let out a breath I didn't know I was holding.
"Fucking shit." With my 'good-girl' persona, no one would believe I cursed like a sailor. My outburst was nothing out of the ordinary, though — just my relief at being able to relax for the rest of the night.
I headed towards the kitchen. I was absolutely starving. The fridge was close to being empty, something I would have to remedy soon. I wouldn't have anything left to eat. I grabbed some cold cuts and cheese and made a quick sandwich. If I got hungry later, well, that was later and I'd deal with it.
I sat down at the counter that bordered my kitchen with my plate and a small bag of potato chips. I was about to take my first bite when the phone rang.
"Damn it," I groaned.
I picked up the phone, slightly irked at whoever had the balls to call me. "Hello?"
"Hey there, Bells!" Oh God, not him. Please not again.
"Mmph, hey Jake. What's up?" I tried my best to sound nice.
"Aw, nothing, I was just wondering what you were doing tonight." Well, at least he's straight to the point.
"I don't have any plans, but I've got tons of shit to do tomorrow. Why?" Like I didn't know the answer.
"Oh, I was just wondering if you wanted to, you know, get together tonight." Ding, ding, ding!! And a prize for the lady!
"Ah, sorry to disappoint you, but I have to get an early start and can't really do that if we get together tonight." Try to let him down gently, Bella, you don't want to hurt his feelings.
"I see, well, that's okay, maybe later." Was that really disappointment in his voice?
"Sure, Jake, later." Now if he'd just let me off the phone, I could get back to my yummy sandwich.
"So what are you doing now?" My head fell forward in defeat.
Pushing my plate forward, I answered him. "Oh, nothing much, just got home from work, the usual. What about you?"
I tuned him out, not really focusing on him at all. Jacob and I met in high school when I moved in with my father. He went to the high school on the reservation and I went to Forks High, but our paths crossed frequently. My beloved Chevy truck used to belong to Jake's dad, Billy Black. He and my father went way back and were best friends, so whenever they hung out, Jake and I did too.
We got on really well and were best friends before we knew it. A small kind of romance bloomed between us and we decided to test the waters of dating one another. Whoa, was that a big mistake. He fell head over heels, while I fell. Period. There was no spark for me. Even though he said that I was his whole world, I just saw Jacob. Yes, he was my best friend, but nothing more than that.
When we broke up, it broke his heart. He didn't understand that I just didn't feel that way about him. I loved him, yes, but not the way that he loved me. It just didn't feel… right.
We didn't really speak to each other after that. That is, until a few months ago. He'd called me out of the blue, hoping that we could get together and just hang out. Of course he acted all lovey-dovey and shit, holding my hand and putting his arm around me whenever possible.
I didn't have the heart to tell him to stop. It made him happy and it wasn't like anyone was vying for my affections. As long as he didn't kiss me, things would be okay. And so far, he hadn't even tried.
I was startled by a knock on my door. "Uh, Jake? There's someone at the door, I have to go."
"Oh, okay Bells, talk to you later. Bye."
"Yeah, bye." I hung up the phone quickly and proceeded cautiously to the door. I'd been living in the same apartment for two and a half years and the only time anyone had ever knocked on my door, it was the UPS man who had accidentally gotten the wrong building. Once.
"Uh, who is it?" I asked, wondering why there weren't any peepholes in doors anymore.
"Are you Isabella Swan?" A young voice said.
I mentally checked myself. Yes. Isabella Marie Swan, born September 13th, twenty years old and living by herself. "Yes, who is it?"
"Lady, my mom just told me to bring you your mail. I guess it was put in ours on accident."
Like he can see me, I remembered a second later.
I chuckled to myself quietly and opened the door to find a little boy, twelve possibly, with red, curly hair. He was kind of adorable with freckles all over the bridge of his nose. He grinned up at me and his blue eyes shined.
"Here," he said while handing me an envelope.
"Thanks kid." He nodded and trudged back down the stairs. I looked down at the envelope in my hands. It was standard enough: name, address, the whole spiel.
I waited until I was inside to open it. What intrigued me was that there was no name with the return address and everything was hand written on it.
I quietly locked the door behind me and went back to the counter to try to eat my sandwich again.
After my first bite, I took the envelope in my hand and ripped it open, shaking the letter out from within.
My eyes scanned the letterhead, unsure of what I was actually seeing.
"Dear Miss Swan, It is our pleasure to inform you that you have qualified for our final round of contestants in this year's literary works contest. It is a privilege above all others that you have come this far. To complete the next advancement, we require you to submit another article of literary prose that you have not had published by another company. The deadline is November 21st, 2009. We have included a fully-paid return envelope. Please remember to include three copies, as well as this updated entry form. We look forward to hearing back from you. Sincerely, Joan Ruthersford, Budding Author's Club Associate Manager." I set the envelope down and took another bite of my sandwich, confused.
Since my move away from my father, I'd taken to writing to calm myself down and to reflect on things. I'd always been a quiet person, thanks in large part to my father's genetic tendencies, and didn't really communicate with others too voluntarily.
I'd accidentally left one of my writings at work one day. My coworker had found it after I'd left and sent it in to some contest she'd heard about. I guess this is the result of it.
It should have been good news, should have been something to get my heart racing. I should have been running to the phone right now to call my parents, but I didn't. I didn't feel anything close to happy or excited and that made me wonder where the spark of life inside of me had gone.
What in the hell was wrong with me?
I didn't see any of my friends any more, not since the move here at least. Now I just lived a little too far away for 'convenient' visits. Of course there were the people that I worked with, but they were just coworkers and we never hung out together outside of the workplace.
I needed some new people to be around, I needed to make new friends and do new, exciting things. I wondered where I could find some, or even if I could…
I pushed my conversation with Jake to the back of my mind, throwing it in with the other conversations that were exactly the same. 'Hey, wanna get together tonight? No? Alright, I'll try tomorrow…' It was exhausting, really. I finished my sandwich quickly and put my dishes in the sink, headed toward my bedroom and went into the attached bathroom. While undressing, I looked myself over in the mirror. I wasn't completely horrible looking, but I wasn't extraordinary either. My long, dull brown hair had gentle curls through it and my brown eyes seemed to make my face look sunken in. My skin was almost translucent, a joke I often told as, "I'm so white, I glow in the dark." End of story, close the book, roll the credits, and leave the theater. Goodnight folks, it was a pleasure.
My breasts weren't abnormally large or so tiny that you'd call them mosquito bites, they were firm and rounded. I loved them every once in a while, when they weren't complete nuisances. They led the way to my 'not-quite-flat' stomach. What could I say; I liked to actually eat every day. And then my legs started. I was short, but not unusually short. Seeing as everyone seemed to stop growing at 5'5 now-a-days — well, at least the people I knew — I was normal.
It only took two seconds to have a complete picture of boring. Look it up in the dictionary if a direct visual was needed.
I started the water for a shower, contemplating a bath to relax my muscles, but decided that I didn't want to be pruney for the rest of the night. After a moment, the water turned a delicious temperature and I stepped inside, closing the curtain behind me. I dipped my head under the spray and ran my fingers through my quickly soaked tendrils.
Being in the water had always calmed me ever since I was a baby, "Oh goodness, Bella's having a tantrum, put her in the sink." My mother loved to retell each memory of me like that, no matter who she was telling it to. Jake had done everything in his power to get me into the water whenever possible. I suppose he always thought that it would soften me up to him. Oh, how wrong he was.
I ran some shampoo through my hair, strawberries and cream today, and rinsed off the excess of another day gone by. At least tomorrow was Friday, Payday to be more precise, and to make it even better, I had it off. It would have made me downright giddy if I'd actually had plans for Friday night, but I didn't and I was more than pleased that I'd have it off at all. If it was nice, like the weather forecaster had said, maybe I'd go to the park and relax in the sun, I thought.
With the shampoo completely out of my hair, I squeezed in some conditioner and reveled in the silky-smoothness it made of my hair. The water cascading with the runoff of the conditioner down my back and over the round fullness of my bottom was entrancing to even myself. I could only imagine what a pair of male hands would do to me inside the shower. Wetness appeared between my thighs that had nothing to do with water. I groaned.
Perhaps getting myself off would help me relax further and get me to sleep earlier than I usually did after a long day of work. I snorted; it would take way too much energy to even think about that at the moment. So once the conditioner was out of my hair completely, I finished scrubbing the day from myself and turned the water off.
There are times when I loved living alone, and others that I really wish that I didn't. This was one of the times that I didn't. In between the time that I'd gotten into the shower and now, the world had turned black. And I'd forgotten to turn any other lights on in the apartment. Shit.
I always, always, ended up bumping into something and either falling, stumbling, or crashing into something else and making the biggest mess of broken things ever known to man. And it seemed like tonight would be no different. Just as I was taking my first step into my bedroom, it all happened.
Jiminy fucking Christmas! How was it that I ended up tripping over a shoe, stumbling into my closet, breaking the wooden rack holding all of my hanging clothes, AND getting hit over the head with said rack that fell down, bringing all of my clothes along with it? I was a crumpled heap on the bottom of my closet, my damp towel clinging to my body. I assessed the damage as one hand was on my head to see if it was bleeding, and the other was trying to move my ankle to see if I'd broken anything.
The back of my head stung like a son of a bitch, but it was nothing compared to my ankle, which was starting to throb painfully.
I didn't need a broken ankle; that would be completely horrible timing. A broken ankle at work meant that the managers wouldn't give me any hours at all until it was fully healed. I'd hoped that I'd just sprained it really bad and that I could still walk on it lightly, but I'd need a trip to the hospital to have them double check for me. I thanked my lucky stars that it was my left ankle that was causing me pain; if it was my right, I'd have to call an ambulance and that was something I definitely did not want.
I hadn't been to the ER in a few years; I suppose I was past due to return.
I crawled out of the closet, wondering why again, for the fifteenth time, I didn't have a door for the damn thing. Oh, right, it was a studio apartment, no doors except for the front door and the bathroom door. Only because I needed to save as much money as possible had I chosen the studio floor plan. It flowed nicely, not too many odd corners, except to block off the bedroom for privacy's sake.
I was fortunate that I had this apartment actually — my father was old fishing friends with the owner of the complex and he'd owed my father big time for some small traffic violation that my dad had looked the other way on. Once.
It was the only time I'd ever heard of my father looking the other way for any cop-related thing.
I'd asked him what had happened and Charlie, being his usual self, muttered something about deserted woods, a car, and the friend's new girlfriend. Then he turned bright red.
Yeah, I got my embarrassment gene from Charlie alright…
So because of that one favor Charlie was owed, I was able to stay at my lofty apartment for a lot less money than anyone else who had the same thing. Don't get me wrong, it was pricey, but I wouldn't be able to afford it if I wasn't getting the discount.
So not getting hours at work would be a bad, bad thing.
Once I reached the bed, I used it to pull myself up, testing my weight on my ankle with something to at least hold onto. I almost crumpled back to the floor in pain. Oh yeah, something wasn't right. I hopped to the dresser that was near my bathroom, opening it up and pulling on a ratty old t-shirt that I'd slept in more times than I could count. I contemplated what I should put on my bottom half, again going with comfort as I pulled out a pair of baggy sweats. I maneuvered my throbbing ankle through the pant hole, wincing in pain as I straightened it to pull the fabric up.
With those successfully on, I found some flip-flops and hobbled back to the bathroom to pull a brush through my wet hair.
I turned off the light and rested my hand on the wall to steady myself as I limped past the offending shoe and made my way to the front door.
I was in pain. Humongous pain. I mean, I'd done some painful things and I'd never been in this much pain before. I had somehow miraculously gotten myself down the stairs without hurting myself any further and now I was in my truck, practically racing towards the ER. My uninjured foot inched farther down on the pedal, making my truck barrel down the highway. The whine of the engine didn't even faze me like it usually did. If I didn't get any pain medication NOW, then someone was going to get hurt.
Every stop sign seemed to mock me. Ha ha, you've got to wait. Always yield to the traffic on the right, Bella. Red means stop! No rolling stops either! You must stop completely and then proceed if traffic is clear! Completely unacceptable! You're lucky there isn't a cop nearby to see this, young lady! Charlie's voice was inside my head. Being the Chief of Police in a small town didn't matter, he was still a policeman and the law is the law, he always made sure to tell me.
Thankfully it didn't take me much longer to reach the hospital, and I parked my truck near the emergency entrance. I hopped towards the sliding doors and felt a wave of relief wash over me. There seemed to be only a handful of people already in the waiting area. I hobbled up to the receptionist.
"Hello there, what seems to be the problem tonight?" she asked.
I blushed, an involuntary action that happened when anyone talked to me, it seemed. "Well, I tripped and twisted my ankle pretty bad. I think it might be just a sprain, but it never hurts to check." I conveniently left out the fact that I'd tripped over a shoe in the dark. They didn't need to know the completely stupid reason I'd fallen, I thought. She told me to take a seat in front of her and took my insurance card and I.D., typing everything into the system. I was grateful that I was still on my father's insurance; I always seemed to need it.
I wondered about the woman sitting in front of me. She was older, I'd imagined somewhere around forty, and was slightly plump. She wore glasses and her hair was piled on top of her head, platinum blond and curled everywhere. I wondered what made her choose this profession and how long she'd been there. Her miniscule desk area was piled with little trinkets that seemed to emanate happiness and, well, pinkness. God, how I hated the color pink.
After she took all of my information, she directed me to the waiting area and I was grateful to find that at least one person had already left, leaving only two people ahead of me. I settled into a chair and scanned my surroundings. Generic white walls with hopeful, yet subtly Christian-influenced paintings, check. Vending machines hidden behind a recessed wall, staying out of the limelight, check. A television in the corner playing some old reruns of Bonanza, check.
I let out a small breath and leaned my head back against the wall, the back of the chair being too low to reach my skull.
I could've dozed for a few minutes, I don't remember how long it was, when a young brunette nurse called me back. She seemed to be around my age but the complete opposite of me. Where I rarely did my hair and make-up, she probably woke up two hours early just to get them all done perfectly. She was one of those kinds of females where everything is based on looks. Amazingly, she was peppy and all smiles, odd behavior for someone at nine o'clock in the evening. She told me her name was Jessica, and that she'd be taking up my chart to get me ready for the doctor. She held out her arm to help me hobble along beside her. Thankfully the exam room wasn't too far away and I sat down on the exam table as gently as I could.
"Now tell me Isabella, how did this happen?" She asked bubbly, I wondered if she'd taken a dose of that Five Hour Energy crap.
"It's Bella actually, please call me Bella. I was coming out of my bathroom and didn't see a shoe in front of me, I suppose. I ended up falling into my closet and twisting my ankle in the process, a wooden rod fell on my head, but it doesn't really hurt."
Anymore, I added as an afterthought.
She let out a little snort that I pretended not to hear, but my blush betrayed me, alerting her to my embarrassment. "Sorry, but it is a little funny. What's your level of pain for your ankle at the moment? One being the lowest and ten being the highest." She looked up at me from her writing.
I thought for a second. "About an eight." She nodded her head and wrote it down on my file.
"What about your head? Your vision isn't impaired at all? No dizziness?" She went back to the chart, awaiting my answer.
"That's like a four; all I've really got is a headache," I answered, looking down at the ground. She nodded her head and again wrote it down.
"Alright, a doctor should be with you in a few minutes." She smiled and turned on her heel, exiting the exam room with a bounce in her step.
I sighed as I eyed the room, thinking about taking a peek into the drawers. I was always surprised at what I'd found in them; extra gloves, sometimes some sterile-looking equipment. Mostly they just had gowns and band-aids inside of them. I felt like this hospital was just the same as all of the others that I'd been to. I used the table to slip off my flip-flops and swung my uninjured leg back and forth gently to release some stress.
A light knock on the door brought me out of my contemplations and memories, and then it opened to reveal a stunning man in a white coat.
He should have been an actor.
Shit, he should have been a model.
Anything but a freaking doctor.
I held back a gasp, he was gorgeous! I'm not into older men, but this one definitely stood out. I wanted to ask him where he was from so that I could get me one of him, or ask if he had any sons that were my age. Fuck, even a long lost brother twice removed would do.
His gold hair glimmered in the florescent lights, waving gently to one side as his hazel eyes found me on the table. His light skin looked washed out in contrast to his white doctors' coat, and a light blue button up shirt made him look like he was glowing.
And then he smiled. I was caught off guard by the movement of his lips pulling back to flash me his perfectly straight, white teeth and took in a ragged breath. I'd seen this man for all of two seconds and my heart was hammering in my chest. I hoped he didn't hear it.
For the second time tonight, I asked myself, what the fuck was wrong with me?
He walked two paces inside the room and then Jessica was behind him. She must have seen me ogling this beautiful specimen of a man, because she grinned at me and rolled her eyes playfully.
I shook my head to get the fog out of my brain as he extended his hand out to shake mine.
"Good evening, Ms. Swan, I'm Dr. Cullen, and I'll be taking care of you tonight." His voice sounded as smooth as butter, and I melted slightly.
"He-hello," I stuttered out, reaching his hand and shaking it. Shit, that's all I can come up with? 'Hello.' LAME!
He sat down on a small stool and rolled over to the table where I was situated. "So I hear that you twisted your ankle pretty badly. Let's take a look, shall we?" he said in that same smooth voice.
I silently thanked God that I'd had the foresight to shave my legs this morning; Lord knows I didn't want him to see me bruised and hairy.
I raised my left leg a little bit and pulled my pant-leg up, revealing my already swelling ankle. He tenderly brought his hands up to my calf and felt around the muscle, and as he got closer to my foot, I hissed in pain and winced.
"Well, you've clearly done a number on it. Can you wiggle your toes for me?"
I did so, wincing yet again, and took a sharp intake of breath as he began to rotate my foot. "Ouch, ouch, ouch! Shit!" I muttered painfully under my breath. He looked up at me and nodded, letting me know that he'd heard me. I smiled timidly back.
"Well, I don't think it's broken, but we'll have to take an x-ray to be sure. Now what about your head? Still have that headache?"
What headache? I wanted to ask as his fingers went to work on my skull. I wanted to pay him for the massage that he was giving me, not for treating my injuries. But as he reached the back of my head, I winced slightly — a knot had formed and it was a little tender to pressure.
He removed his hands from my head and pulled out a tiny flashlight from his shirt pocket. He held the flashlight in front of my eyes and waved one finger of his other hand in front of my face. "Just go ahead and follow my finger, dear." Well shit, he called me dear, that just blows up everything! Not that it really mattered, what was he…thirty, forty-something? Ah, now I see the wedding band. Nice call there, Bells, way to see that one coming, I thought as my eyes tracked his finger from one side to the other, then up and down. He flicked off the light and placed it back inside his pocket.
"I don't see anything wrong with your head Ms. Swan, but to be on the safe side, we're going to x-ray that as well. After those are done, I'll come back and finish talking with you."
"Bella, please call me Bella," I said as I nodded at his statement. I was ready to get my x-ray taken and get out of there.
He turned and spoke to Jessica, who I'd completely forgotten was there. "Make sure Bella gets those x-rays and then I'll be back." He smiled once more at me and then left the room.
My eyes followed him as the door clicked shut. I don't know what expression was on my face, but I heard Jessica laugh softly. I blinked.
"It's okay; he has that effect on every female here. Shoot, even a few guys too. But, sadly, he's happily married," she said conspiratorially. She giggled and held out her arm again for me to take. She helped me slide off the table and slip into my shoes, then led me to a wheelchair that was waiting outside the room.
She gossiped while she wheeled me towards radiology. Apparently Dr. Carlisle Cullen had been the Chief ER doctor at Seattle Memorial Hospital for the past ten years, donating and researching all throughout that time. He was a prominent figure in Seattle, everyone loving him and his family. She told me that he came from money and that he didn't really need to work, but he loved it so much that he couldn't find it in himself to stop.
She gushed about how much he loved his wife and son, how whenever he talked of them, his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. His beautiful wife, Esme, was a well-established interior decorator. Her work was photographed in every issue of Better Homes & Gardens. They'd been together for the last twenty-five years, extraordinary in contrast to the climbing divorce rate in our country. Their son, Edward, often volunteered at the hospital, interacting with elderly patients and helping in the pediatrics ward whenever his schedule allowed. He was at UW studying music and business. She also mentioned the fact that, like the good doctor, Edward was ridiculously attractive and everyone wanted in his pants. She laughed at a particular memory, saying that there was this nurse who had tried to get Edward's attention once.
I looked at her in confusion.
"Oh, let me explain the entire story! See, Dr. Cullen had been here for a few years, and so everyone knew him pretty well when Edward started volunteering. We were in our senior year of high school so he only came by once a week, always on a Wednesday."
I nodded, showing her that I was following her story.
"And this one Wednesday we were up in the cafeteria when one of the long-time nurses came up to grab him for his father. Turns out that Carlisle didn't really need him, but Burt had dragged Edward into the nearest janitor's closet and practically attacked him!" I snorted, but she continued her story as if she hadn't heard me.
"When that door opened, man oh man, it was priceless! I don't think I've seen Burt run so fast in my life! But you wanna know the best part? Edward's face when he left the closet. I swear to God, he was scared senseless!"
By now Jessica had tears in her eyes as we came to a halt in front of the radiology desk. She handed my paperwork to the person behind the desk and turned back to me, "I have to run back to the ER, but I'll see you once you get back from taking your x-rays." She smiled brightly and I smiled shyly back, glad that I was getting away from her for a few minutes at least.
I'd only just met her and my ears felt like they were going to fall off.
I was glad that the technician, Angela, was very quiet and calm. I liked her so much better than Jessica, and she hadn't even said anything. Where Jessica looked like she was trying to be noticed by everyone, Angela was more laid-back and natural. Her light brown hair made her face radiate serenity and happiness. She asked the obvious question of how I had ended up there, and instead of snorting like Jessica had, Angela just grimaced and said, "I see."
"This kind of thing happens to me a lot," I told her glumly as she started setting up the machine.
"You trip over stuff a lot?" she clarified.
"Yeah, I'm just way too clumsy for my own good. You wouldn't believe how many times I've been to the ER in my life," I explained, laughing softly.
"I understand. I'm kind of the same way, though I manage to save myself usually."
"I wish I could save myself. I'm in big trouble if it's broken though," I said sullenly.
She looked at me curiously. "Why is it big trouble?"
"Well, I work at the mall, and if I'm incapacitated by a broken ankle then I won't get shifts and no shifts means no money. You know how it goes from there…" I trailed off.
She nodded in understanding as she finished setting up and told me to roll the pant-leg of my sweats up. I toed off my shoes again and got comfortable. After I was situated on the table, she went into the next room and started the machine; it clanked as it took the images of my ankle.
Angela came back into the room a few minutes later, apparently satisfied with the images taken. She smiled and winked at me, a sign I took as an 'all clear' that my ankle wasn't broken.
The smile on my face was huge; I could feel it in my ears. Her gestures made my system calm down from the panic that was taking residence in my brain.
She smiled warmly again and offered her hand to help me off the table. She handed me my shoes and I slipped them on again, wincing as I wiggled my toes on my bad ankle.
"I see that Dr. Cullen wants you to have a head x-ray as well. That's a different machine, so you can either hop back in the wheelchair or hobble a few feet into the next room. It's totally your call."
I thought for a moment and then decided that I wanted to stay away from Jessica for a few more minutes. "I'll hobble, thanks."
She nodded her head in understanding and gripped my arm as I eased off the table, putting most of my weight onto my good leg.
"So where do you work?" she asked me as we started heading out of the first room.
"At the mall, a store called Fuego."
"Oh! I love that store! Do you like working there?"
"It's alright. I've been there for so long that I'm ready for a new change in job scenery, if you know what I mean."
"Gotcha. You know, I didn't always want to be an x-ray tech. Before this, I wanted to be a caterer. But whiny customers all the time would've gotten on my nerves, and I needed something else to get me going in the morning. A friend of mine decided to go out for the nursing program at U-Dub, so I went with her. It was then that I decided that sick people make me, well, sick, so I thought that studying x-rays would be a nice way to settle both. You know, helping people without really touching them."
I was silently happy for her. She'd gone from the same situation that I was in to a completely new one that she enjoyed. I'd only known the woman for all of five minutes and I was pleased that her life was going well. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I hoped that we'd be able to keep in contact. She'd be a really good friend, I could tell.
She got me situated into the next machine and before I knew it we were out of there and on our way back to the ER.
"So what happened to your friend?" I asked her as we wheeled out of the radiology doors.
"Hm? Oh, she's a nurse at the ER. I think you've already met her though, her name's Jessica."
"Oh, that's nice." I didn't think that Angela and Jessica would be that close as friends. They seemed to me like they were two different kinds of people.
"I know, she's a little much at times, but she's a pretty good person once you get to know her." I blushed in embarrassment, I hadn't thought that Angela had taken my 'oh, that's nice' for more than it really was. Busted.
The rest of the trip passed in comfortable silence, and before I knew it, we were back in the room where I saw Dr. Cullen.
"Well, it was nice to meet you; I hope it's not a break." She extended her hand and helped me out of the wheelchair.
"It was nice to meet you too," I returned as I got situated on the table. "I hope I don't have to come back," I joked.
She laughed lightly as she left the room, leaving the door slightly ajar.
Again I sat there, contemplating taking a look inside of the drawers; this room didn't have any magazines for me to look at.
I gingerly got up from the table and hopped my way over to the door so that I could peek out into the ER waiting room. I had the tendency to watch people and ask myself what they were really thinking of when I got seriously bored.
The room I was in was situated in front of the nurse's desk, where a few of the nurses were seated and typing away at computers while a few others were walking around and talking with each other. I saw Jessica and another woman, who was dressed nicely, talking in a hallway near the station. She was strawberry blonde and beautiful, tall and elegant. Her demeanor exuded money and high society life. I briefly wondered about their conversation; it seemed as though they were gossiping about someone.
I was never one to get into gossip — it always just created more drama than necessary and it always ended in pain and suffering.
I looked in the other direction and my heart stopped.
He was walking in slow motion towards the nurse's station. My world slowed down as he walked in front of my exam room. He was the most beautiful man I'd ever seen in my entire life. More gorgeous than Dr. Cullen, and that in itself was saying something. His bronze hair was sticking up in all kinds of chaotic disarray. It was sex hair, THE sex hair.
It looked amazing on him. His nose was straight and his eyes were the most brilliant shade of emerald green that I'd ever seen. He was looking straight ahead, not paying any attention to the now-devoted servant tracking him with her eyes as he walked by her exam room.
He had a strong, chiseled jaw, and his lips, oh God, his lips! They were full and just begged me to run my fingers over them time and time again. My lips actually burned as I watched him form a lopsided grin at something amusing.
His body made my knees weak. He wore a dark grey polo shirt that defined all of the muscles in his chest but was loose enough to not be too clingy. His legs seemed to go on forever in the khaki pants he was wearing. I could've sworn that I'd seen him in a Ralph Lauren ad, or was it Tommy Hilfiger?
Oh Lord, I think I just came a little bit.
And I didn't care.
How was it that this God of a man was just walking through the ER at this time of night? He had to be working there — he wasn't limping or stumbling or bleeding from anywhere that I could see. And believe me, I was checking him out thoroughly. Finally I noticed the badge on a lanyard around his neck, and in bright vivid red letters was the word 'VOLUNTEER.'
Time resumed as he finished passing my room and I took an unsteady breath in. Somehow in the last minute or so that I was ogling him, I had forgotten to breathe entirely and my head had begun to swim. I nearly swooned at the sight of a man! How fucking corny is that? I let the breath out and my mind returned to normal. I'd completely forgotten about the pain in my ankle as I watched his ass in those pants. Someone could've amputated and I wouldn't have noticed.
Did I somehow end up going to that hospital that was on Grey's Anatomy? Did I drive myself to the wrong fucking hospital? My doctor was McGorgeous, and here I am staring at McPerfect. What the Hell? Did everyone who works at this hospital look like this? Jessica and Angela were both pretty in their own right, but I think as a girl I was being biased.
I watched as he approached Jessica and the mystery woman and began talking with them. Jessica seemed just as mesmerized as I was, though the blonde was openly flirting with him. She was touching his arm and laughing way too much.
Jessica saw me standing in the doorway and said something to the other two. I saw the blonde wave a hand in dismissal and the beautiful man nodded as Jessica started walking towards me.
I gave her a hesitant smile as she reached the door. "Dr. Cullen told me to get you some pain medication when you got back from taking your x-rays. Are you on any medications now?"
"I'm on the pill, but other than that I don't take anything regularly."
She nodded and continued, "Did someone drive you here? Or did you drive yourself?"
"I drove. Didn't want to call an ambulance for a sprained ankle, you know?"
"True, now that would've been embarrassing. I'll let Dr. Cullen know that you're back and he should be in with you in a few minutes." I nodded my head and hobbled back to the table to sit down as she left to get me some medication; I wasn't sure how my knees had carried me so far, they felt like Jell-O.
My mind was like a movie reel, images of that handsome man played over and over again in my head as if on a loop. I briefly wondered if that stupid 'Hallelujah' song had really been playing or if I was seriously delirious from that bump on the head. Maybe I should visit the loony wing since I was already here…
She came back in a minute later and handed me a paper cup with water in it and a small cup with two little white pills inside.
"Here, these should help with your headache as well as the pain in your ankle. It won't knock you out or anything so you'll be fine to drive home. Dr. Cullen's probably going to give you a prescription for something stronger though, so you can get that filled tomorrow. He's finishing up with something out there and will be in with you next. Is there anything that you need?"
I shook my head no, but at the same time my mouth had other ideas. "Who is that guy I saw you talking to?"
She smiled a devious smile and bent closer to my head as to not be overheard. "That, my deary, is Edward Cullen."
I gulped. Suddenly my insides didn't feel so good.
"An-and, who, who is the girl overly flirting with him?" Why in the world was I worried about a man I didn't even know? How was it that in the span of two minutes I'd gotten my hopes up incredibly, stupidly, high?
She rolled her eyes. "That is Tanya Denali, his fiancé."
I was going to throw up.
On Tanya's expensive, sparkly shoes.
About a minute after Jessica left, Dr. Cullen came in and took a seat on one of the vacant chairs, facing me.
"Well, I've taken a look at your x-rays and it appears that your head is fine and nothing is broken." He shot a quick smile in my direction. "Instead of a break, you've got a serious sprain; you're going to have to take it easy on that foot for a couple of weeks until it completely heals. I don't want you to put all of your weight on it at all, no heavy lifting, and absolutely no running or jumping or any physical kind of activity like that. Do you understand?" He'd taken an ace bandage out from one of the drawers in the room and started unrolling it.
"Yes, but could I get a note from you to give to my work? I don't want them to think that I'm making anything up."
He nodded. "Absolutely, I'm very glad that you're being responsible about all of this. But I was wondering why no one else brought you in; surely one of your friends could've helped you out." He spoke as he started winding the bandage around my ankle and foot.
"Sure, if all of my friends didn't live in Forks. It's a little bit of a drive just for a sprain."
"Oh I see, so I take it that you've just moved here?"
What was up with all the third degree? I raised an eyebrow without thinking and replied, "Mmm, nope. Been living here for about two, two and a half years now."
"And none of your neighbors could've helped?" He had finished wrapping my ankle and was sitting there, asking me these odd questions.
"Actually, the apartment across from mine has been empty for the past few months. And I honestly don't have the time to get to really know the rest of my neighbors. Been too busy trying to live, if you know what I mean."
"Alas, I do. Now you said that you live in an apartment? You wouldn't by any chance happen to live on the ground floor, would you?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye.
I snorted in earnest, "Of course not. Third floor, all the way at the top."
"How in the world did you get down the stairs?! Weren't you in pain?"
I thought back to how I'd gotten myself down the stairs in the first place. "Well, I kind of just hopped down them and used the railing for leverage. And then I prayed that I didn't face-plant."
Dr. Cullen laughed and thought for a moment. "Alright, this is what we're going to do. First, I'm going to get finished with your paperwork and sign your discharge papers. Then, since you're my last patient of the night, I'll follow you home and have my son help you up the stairs. We drove in together today, and I'm sure he'd be happy to help you. He can even drive your car for you."
I felt my trademark blush creep up my cheeks and stuttered, "Oh n-no, I'll be fine Dr. Cullen. I-I promise. I just ne-need my note and then I can drive myself home. I-It's not that far."
"Even better! Bella, there's no way you'll be able to get up three flights of stairs by yourself. Honestly, you look like you're exhausted and in need of a good night's sleep."
I thought about it for a moment, completely taken aback by this total stranger's generosity. I slumped by shoulders forward in defeat. "Alright, if it's doctor's orders."
"Excellent, I'll just finish up and have Jessica escort you to the front of the ER entrance." He got up from the chair and left the room.
I sat there, wallowing in my lame excuse for getting out of a completely hot doctor's nice favor, when it hit me.
"I'll follow you home and have my son help you up the stairs."
"…have my son help you up the stairs."
Oh good Lord, I was about to meet Edward Cullen.
A/N: Huge thanks to Ellie and Amelia for looking over my work and for being the greatest betas ever! To my mother, who's always believed in me, thank you.
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