Hello lovely, lovely readers. This is a FGB take that I was way too late on. It's Bella's POV of chapter 10. It would probably make more sense to go back and get a small refresher.
SO many thanks to Charmie77 and Nolebucgrl who read over this for me.
As always, the seed belongs to S. Meyers.
Even though selling diet pills may not be my higher calling, there is something really comforting about monotony when you want to escape your thoughts. The script, ridiculous over-zealous customers and even my co-worker two cubicles over who had an episode of projectile vomit have kept my mind mildly busy.
If I could invent a switch to turn off my over-active mind, that would make me a fortune. Far more than these over-priced caffeine pills.
I tap my pencil against my keyboard as I listen to caller after caller hang up on me. Do they not know that I need them to keep my mind off the scene on replay in my head?
Every time I'm still for too long, close my eyes for more than a beat, I see them. My mind has embellished the scene. Clothes are stripped off as they start to go at it on top of the table. The people around them, drinking and laughing like there isn't a porno taking place.
I know that I'm only making it worse, letting my imagination spin it into even more of a wreck, but I don't have the will power to rein it in.
For the first couple of days my mind was occupied with being a timekeeper. Reminding me with every tick of the clock, just how long it had been since I had walked out of that bar. Of how long it had been since I had seen him. How long it had been and he hadn't made any attempt to contact me.
Maybe I had written too much fiction into my reality. Seen more in his eyes, in his actions, than what was really there. The thought sent my stomach to the ground.
After four days, my imagination stepped in. I guess that was all I was allowed to hope for him to charge in like a knight on a white horse. Or at least a knight in a white t-shirt.
Someone knocks over a pencil cup and tears me from the mini porno in my mind. I should thank them. The phone rings and I force myself back into the tedium.
My mind listens for once and by the time I trudge home, all I want are my wool socks and the familiar warmth of my computer. I kick off my shoes, watching them skid under the still undone futon and fall face first into the unmade bed.
There's no rush to move, nowhere to go and the thought almost sparks my mind back into bar porn. Unwilling to let my story wander towards harlequin, I shake my head clear and pull my computer to me.
The familiar page opens and I chew on my thumb as I scroll through the time line, checking on statuses and accepting friend requests. At this point I am almost ready to take up Farmville to fill my time.
The chat window that pops open scares me a little, jarring the precarious balance of my laptop on my knee. I lean closer, the blue of the screen the only light in my quickly darkening apartment.
Andrew Lake. Huh. I try to place the name, but nothing, just residual bar porn. Boredom and curiosity win over as I open the message.
Andrew Lake: Hey, what's going on?
I stare at the words for a while. Obviously he isn't going to help me along in my quest to figure out where I know him from. The responses are easy, given without much thought.
Isabella Swan: Ummm not much. You?
Andrew Lake: Nothing. Bored. I'm Andrew, by the way.
Isabella Swan: Haha I'm Bella. Do we know each other? I mean… in real life?
The formalities were required, but I don't actually like talking with strangers. My mother did ingrain that in me. That and the unnatural fear of processed sugar. So much so that sugar might have been the villain in the story of my childhood.
Andrew Lake: Unfortunately, no. But I did a search on people with the same birthday as me and you were the prettiest one.
My eyebrow instantly rises. I am by no means an expert on pick up lines, but even I know that's a poor attempt.
Isabella Swan: Wow. Well never heard that one before. How about I just let you have the birthday? Take it off my hands?
Andrew Lake: No fun in that. We can share it. Do anything interesting tonight?
This would be an opportune time to lie. To let my mind spin a tale to tell this stranger. Make me appear more of something else and less of what I am.
Isabella Swan: Interesting? Define interesting? You know what… don't. No, nothing interesting.
Andrew Lake: Boyfriend didn't take you out?
I can't help the scoff that escapes my lips. Another less than smooth line. And yet I am still here, still typing. I guess they may work after all. A myth turned truth to be scratched into my story.
There's something oddly freeing about talking to this stranger. Knowing that I won't bump into him on the street or be forced to relive these words lately. Almost makes me want to spew truth.
Isabella Swan: That was a horrible way to ask if I have a boyfriend. The answer's no. Nothing like a boyfriend. Almost, maybe, I don't know…
Andrew Lake: What's that mean exactly?
My head tilts to one side and I shake my head as I type my answer. So far Andrew Lake delivers slick lines and doesn't take hints.
Isabella Swan: It means no.
I almost let that be enough. But then the words break free from my mind, tumble down my arms and through my fingers to the screen before I can stop them.
Isabella Swan: It means sometimes you should listen to your friends and your gut and that people are always what they seem.
And he gets a truth. Unfiltered and unedited. It feels good to let it out, without risking Alice's judgment.
Andrew Lake: Whoa who fucked with you? Wanna talk about it?
Apparently Andrew Lake got the message with the last answer. And I do want to talk about it. Want to unload it on an objective mind, but there's still part of me that wants to hold my humiliation close, keep it to myself.
Isabella Swan: No one. It's no one's fault. I got too involved before I knew the whole story. Just found that out in the worst way.
Andrew Lake: So? What's the whole story? Maybe I can help with the guy perspective thing.
My thumb finds its way back to my mouth as I consider his offer. I don't often get to access a male mind and maybe he can find an explanation I have been unable to access.
The scene unfolds again and I shake the idea out of my mind. Cut and dry. Clear as glass.
Isabella Swan: I don't need help figuring out. It figured itself out for me. In front of me. Pretty cut and dry. But thanks for offering.
Andrew Lake: Things aren't always what they seem. Sometimes explaining something out loud gives you perspective and takes away some of its power, you know? It can't hurt—you'll never even see me. Plus, my curiosity is off the radar.
His words are just enough to edge out a little glimmer of hope. A sliver of possibility. I want so badly to see it another way.
Isabella Swan: Haha well you know what you said about curiosity? Kind of like what they say when things seem too good to be true?
Isabella Swan: He just helped me figure out that I don't want to be one of many. That maybe I don't share well.
Andrew Lake: Your almost, maybe, I don't know boyfriend cheated on you?
I'm almost impressed that he's been able to decipher that much. Is that was Edward was? Were we ever even that close to any kind of official title?
Isabella Swan: Can you cheat on someone you're not officially with?
Isabella Swan: Probably not. Like I said. No one's fault. Should have known better.
Andrew Lake: So, how'd you find out?
Instantly I'm back in the bar in the moment. I'm sure it would be simpler if I heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend, but you can't easy argue away witnessing it first hand.
Isabella Swan: Saw it. Watched it. Wanted to burn my eyes out after. Enough of this and me. Tell me a story about you.
Andrew Lake: I'll tell you this, B. If I've learned anything it's to fight for what you want. And when people piss you off you tell them, you don't hide from them. We miss you here. And I'm sorry if I hurt you.
My whole world screams to a halt. Gone are the simple hopes of getting an outside perspective.
I read the words over and over until there is no denying them. My throat is thick with emotion as I swallow. How?
My hands hover above the keys and I wait for this moment to burst. But he's still logged on waiting. I can't even process what the words mean. Just who delivered them.
Isabella Swan: Edward?
Andrew Lake: Who else would this be?
My mind is asking the same question. How? Why? I can't even wrap my thoughts around it. He found me here. Created a fake name. Why?
I teeter a little as I try to comprehend it all.
Isabella Swan: I don't know. Maybe Andrew Lake.
Isabella Swan: I can't. I don't. I have to go.
Andrew Lake: This conversation isn't over, Bella.
I chuckle sarcastically. There is no way I can handle this. Not now. Not when I had so fully locked the possibility of him away and for good reason.
My words aren't ready for him, were just going through a warm up.
Isabella Swan: See the thing is… I was talking to Andrew Lake. This kind of obnoxious flirt online. Not you. Those words weren't for you. So yeah. The conversation is over.
Andrew Lake: First of all, you shouldn't be flirting with strangers online. Second of all, the words were about me so they are for me. I have a right to know why you've suddenly disappeared from my life. Especially when my kid asks for you every day.
My heart pangs at the mention of Finn before a new emotion presses up, irritation. My teeth grit as I narrow my eyes. People who kiss other people don't get to give orders, to lay out rules.
I don't kiss anyone who looks somewhat appealing. My kisses meant something, said something, at least to me. The familiar pang of hurt I have been trying so hard to avoid, pulses through me.
Isabella Swan: You don't get to tell me what to do online. Or anywhere else. I don't owe you words like you don't owe me an explanation.
Isabella Swan: And I'm sorry about Finn. Tell him I read Harry Potter and think about him.
I log off before he can reply. Before he can use his words against me. I slam my computer closed and swallow a frustrated scream. This is hardly the knight in a white t-shirt I wanted.
More than anything I am irritated that I'm not curious. Like an itch it rises slowly and demands I pay attention to it. Why does he care? Why would he go through all that effort?
My mind starts to whirl, but I force the thoughts down before they even begin. A dull throb builds and I reach for the Advil. At least the pain seems to keep my internal questions at bay. I curl into bed and pull a pillow over my head.
My story had already changed directions, started down a new path; I don't know if I even know how to go back.
The dull ache clouds my first thoughts in the morning and I reach for the Advil again, happy to not be overwhelmed with the reality of the night before. There are too many possible emotions waiting to boil over.
I go through the motions, letting habits guide me. I wander through a fog and find myself at my window. I'm looking out it, but not really seeing anything, unwilling to focus on the familiar door below.
My mind is at odds with itself. What I want and what I think I need taking very separate corners. I chew on my thumb and wait for the familiar ringing of my phone to rescue me from my thoughts.
"Looking for someone?"
I jump and cover my heart with my hand. My eyes run over them again and again. The words fall from my mouth before I can stop them.
"What are you doing here?"
It probably sounds harsh, but what else can I say?
"Hi, Issybella! Daddy, I wanna give Issybella a hug."
Finn's voice breaks through my thoughts and I give Edward a hard look. But despite everything else, this amazing small person has done nothing wrong and opening my arms to him is the most natural thing I've done in 6 days.
Finn slides into my arms and I can't help but smile as his small hands reach up and cover my cheeks. His lips pucker exaggeratedly as he leans forward and places a smacking kiss on my lips.
And just like that I melt, just a little.
"Hey, Finn, you came to see me," I say. I try to force down the shock and other emotions and just focus on him.
"I missed you. Oh! I picked you a present. Daddy, where is it?"
He reaches towards Edward and I watch as he presents a small wild flower to me, dirt still clinging to the bottom. My smile is automatic.
"Do you like it? I picked it from the dirt just for you."
"I love it," I answer and drop a kiss on his cheek. "It's the best present I've ever gotten. How did you know what to get me?"
"Because it looked pretty and you're pretty, Issybella."
More melting. Finn might be the best kept secret ever. He could turn whole stories around with his sincerity.
"Thank you, handsome," I say. I shift him carefully into my desk chair and pull up minesweeper. It only takes a few seconds for him to pick up on the general clicking.
I take a deep breath and prepare myself to face the larger problem. The one looming right behind me, surrounding me with his scent and wearing a white t-shirt.
My hands find their way to my hips as if it's going to help me along in this conversation. Maybe I look a little foreboding.
"You can't just show up where I work, Edward. Especially using your way too cute for his own good child as your wing man. You just can't," I hiss at him, trying hard to keep my words from Finn.
He shuffles his feet and almost looks apologetic, but it passes quickly.
"The kid wanted to see you, Bella. Who am I to say no?" He shrugs. "Besides, I told you our conversation wasn't over. Not my fault you didn't want to finish it last night."
I roll my eyes. I should have known that a headache would not be able to rid me of the events of last night. I take a quick look around, glad that no one seems too interested in my little corner. The irritation from last night is rising again, with no little boy in my arms to quell it.
"And I told you that I wasn't talking to you. That was a cheap trick and you know it. If Finn wanted to see me, you just had to ask and I would have come to see him."
It's the truth. I probably would have made Emmett do the hand-off, but I would never deny Finn. I know how important friends are, even small ones.
"I would've if I had your phone number. And you blocked me on Facebook so this was really our only option."
I fix my eyes on the floor and take a steadying breath. Damn his quick replies and his answers for everything. Damn his smile that still makes me feel alive. My still thinly-fogged brain is no match for this. Especially when half of me wants so desperately to believe him, to give in.
"I just needed some time. Time to fix, to build, to just feel better. I wouldn't have stayed away forever," I offer. It's the truth.
"You should have said something," he almost scolds. "You wouldn't need time to feel better if you'd just get your shit off your chest."
He leans in, his face so close to mine I can smell the chocolate milk on his breath.
"We never established anything serious between us. I get that what you saw hurt you but above all we're friends. And you should've fucking told me."
I take an unsteady step back from him. His words are tugging at my guilt. If nothing else we were friends. Just as quickly I feel all the resentment and anger the bar porn had created wash over me.
"And said what? That I felt stupid for letting myself think something that wasn't true? For acting like a silly 12 year old girl with a crush? Because that sounds like something I wanted to say. Not embarrassing or anything," I ramble. My face heats up and I know I am the color of a tomato, but the words feel good. Soothing.
My thumb finds its way to my mouth and I want more of this balm in the form of words.
"No. And no. You can't act like this was all friendly fun. You, you got off on my ass. You kissed and touched me. That's not just friends stuff. Don't try to make me feel stupid," I hiss. The guilt that may have pricked me is nowhere to be found. And I can feel my eyes narrow in something close to anger.
I want him to tell me I'm wrong, to tell me something, to give me any kind of clarity. Something that will show me which way my story is going to go.
"Obviously it's fucking more, Bella. Do you think I let everyone I kiss and touch into his life?" he asks, emphasizing his words by pointing at Finn. My eyes follow his motion.
"Do you think anyone has ever slept in my bed just because I like having her there besides you? I'm saying we haven't set up our boundaries. And I can't do that until you figure your shit out."
His words make hope tingle within me. I swallow thickly and try to find my way to a logical response. The phone rings shrilly and shakes the sense from me.
Finn reaches for it and then pauses, looking up at me.
"Issybella, can I answer it?"
"No, Huck," Edward answers for me.
I run my thumb over the bridge of my nose and then grab the phone. The scripted lines come easily, a welcome respite from this surreal moment. I meet Edward's eyes and he's waiting, expecting. The lines pour from me, instinct taking over.
He approaches and leans towards the phone, reaching towards the hold button.
"Tell them to hold on," he tells me.
I feel my eyes widen as I shake my head. I need this break, a moment to compose myself.
"Tell them to hold on," he repeats.
I swat at his hand, but he is relentless, bringing it back, every time getting closer to the hold button. His other hand raises holding all five fingers up. Slowly he begins lowering them. By the time I realize what he's doing, he's down to three.
When he has one finger left I stop my dialogue and ask the customer to hold begrudgingly.
"We can't do this here," I insist. "You're right. I have no reason to be angry."
I need more time, my head is whirling. He nods at me and reaches to tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear. The contact set me ablaze.
"So we're good then?"
I sigh and fight back the goose bumps. I close my eyes tightly and nod. If it gets me time, gives me a piece of sanity back, then I'll give him that much.
"Yeah, of course. I mean, it was just a miscommunication."
The words feel hallow, I'm sure they are what he wants to hear, but I can't quite put sincerity behind them.
"You're sure?" he presses. I nod and tear my eyes from him, focusing on Finn instead. He is too good at reading me.
"Friends, right? I just overreacted."
My mind almost believes the words, even if my heart turns its nose up at them.
"We can be whatever we want to be but whatever that is, we're friends first. That's all I'm trying to say," he offers.
His words soothe me a little. Leave a small sliver of hope inside of me. One that says we might not be stuck as friends forever. The possibility of more swimming in front of me.
"Friends," I agree softly, sounding out every letter. It doesn't sound so bad when growth is an option.
He nods and his eyes scan my face and I know he's looking for truth. I grab the phone and pick the call back up. Truth isn't clear at the moment.
He lets out a frustrated breath and grabs my notepad. He scribbles quickly, holding it up in front of me. It's hard to speak and read at the same time.
This means I better be seeing you if not tonight then tomorrow.
I roll my eyes and take the pad from him, writing out my response.
Maybe. We'll see.
"No," he says out loud. "I'll see you tonight or tomorrow. Don't make me come find you again because I'll bring Finn and Walter with me."
He doesn't wait for my response. He picks up Finn and leaves the building. Not giving me a chance to argue or give an excuse. Not that I would. My resolve is already falling.