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Chapter 1: Notes
Who needed one day out of the entire year to celebrate love?
Let me set the record straight here and now: I'm not anti-love, or anti-Valentine's Day. Really, I just hadn't had a memorable enough reason or experience to celebrate it.
And don't blame any of my reasons on the fact that I hadn't lived long enough. I was twenty two years old for cryin' out loud! I'd at least been alive long enough to know that I should have had one great 'love' memory.
The fact that I hadn't yet made me depressed.
It was because of this fact that Alice, Angela, and Rosalie — my three best friends since elementary school — had set me up on numerous blind dates for the past three months. Tonight, Valentine's Day night, would mark number forty-two.
Forty-one failed first dates.
Forty-one people who didn't find me interesting enough to ask for a second date.
Forty-one attempts at finding the love of my life.
The girls figured that if I went out I'd find my one true love and magically become happier.
I couldn't blame them for trying. They'd all been attached to their boyfriends for as long as anyone could remember and led well deserved, happy lives. I was envious and resentful all at the same time.
It'd been my doing that had gotten them together with their respective other halves in the first place. I was some weird kind of matchmaker, unable to find my own match.
Alice and Jasper were the oldest couple, kind of like the grandparent figure in our makeshift family. Jasper was my math tutor in our junior year of high school. A year ahead of us, and rockin' the whole senior vibe, he knew what I needed to accomplish to pass my SAT's with flying colors. One sunny afternoon, Alice was scheduled to pick me up from my last session before the big test. Jasper and I were late finishing so she decided to march into the library and see what the big hold up was. They'd never met before. Once Alice's eyes settled on him and his blonde head of hair, she'd clambered to a stand still. For the first time in my life, she couldn't say a single word.
Alice was known for being rambunctious and energetic and in the two seconds she'd seen him she did a 180 on herself. It was pretty bewildering as I took in the situation, slowly introducing Alice to Jasper. I watched his face split into an ear to ear smile and I couldn't help but feel some sort of electricity in the air.
They'd been inseparable ever since.
Angela and Ben were a different story and much like a parental figure of our family. He'd also gone to our high school and had been giving Angela secret looks since the first day of classes in our senior year. She reciprocated, but only when his head was turned in the opposite direction. Finally, I'd had enough of them dancing around each other and took matters into my own hands. One day, I went up to Ben and flat out told him that Angela liked him and that he should do something about it. I slipped him her number and left him with the message of 'stop pussy-footing around'.
The rest was history.
Rosalie and Emmett were like the siblings of our family. They argued often and were each so stubborn that it was a miracle they were so in love with each other. Being the latest couple to pair up, the way they met was slightly different than the others. I'd known Emmett from my job at the college bookstore. He was funny, quick-witted, and protective. I couldn't help but think that he would be perfect for Rose and her snarky and blunt attitude. He could definitely keep her in check if the opportunity presented itself. For once, I set her up on a blind date. Though, technically I pulled a bait-and-switch on her. She was supposed to be meeting me for dinner, but when I pulled Emmett along behind me, her icy attitude melted and she let her guard down. I left them to it and had to find my own way home later.
Their passion was endless.
Staring at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I sighed for the twelfth time that afternoon.
Why couldn't I find someone like that, someone for me and me alone?
I'd done it for them, and they'd all worked out marvelously so far.
Was there something wrong with me?
I took in my long, dark, wavy hair and sad brown eyes. Yes, I was plain looking by today's standards, but I considered myself a classic beauty. Maybe I was just in the wrong time, my true love waiting for me back in the 1920's.
I pursed my lips and shook the thoughts from my head. It wouldn't do well to dwell in the past, it would only make me somber and I needed to be on my A game tonight.
Alice, being the fashionista she was, had stuffed me into a dark blue, sweetheart cut dress that draped around my curves like I was a Grecian goddess. I had to admit that I looked almost like royalty and if no one found interest in me tonight, I would definitely swear off men for the rest of my life.
Who knows? Maybe it wasn't really lucky number three, but lucky number forty-two?
Okay, so number forty-two wasn't a winner. There was no way in hell that the man sitting in front of me would even be remotely close to my one-and-only.
Ut uh. No way, José.
The only upside was that the restaurant we were at was very nice and swanky. I felt expensive and made a mental note to empty out my savings account the next time I came here voluntarily, just so I could pay for it.
Mike was an investment banker that worked alongside one of Ben's friends. He was uptight, stuffy and exuded the tone of 'I'm so much better than you it's not even funny'.
He was prattling on about bonds and portfolios like they were his children and I had to nod my head to make it look like I was interested.
I wasn't. I thought that money wasn't the center of everything. I was happy surrounded by friends and family, I didn't want anything else.
Well, except for love. But I would stop searching long before I bought someone off to love me.
He was wearing an expensive looking grey suit, and I had to fight the urge to spill my glass of red wine all over it.
I was resisting really, really hard.
"So, Bella. What do you do for a living?"
I straightened up at finally being acknowledged. "Currently I'm a student at the University of Washington, and I have two side-jobs as well. One of them is working at the campus bookstore, while the other is waitressing at a local diner."
If I'd been as self-involved as he was, I wouldn't have noticed the way he scrunched his nose in distaste over my career possibilities.
"And what are you studying?"
"Literature," I replied tersely.
It was one of my passions, literature from the early years of Britain and such. They inspired me with their thoughts of love and romance.
"Well, that's nice," was his answer.
After that, we fell into a silence. Actually, I fell into a silence while he continued to boast about the benefits of having a CD versus a savings account.
I didn't care.
His monotone voice was beginning to make me sleepy, in combination with the copious amount of alcohol I was trying to drown myself in.
He didn't notice.
I was staring off to the far side of the restaurant when someone tapped me on the shoulder. Startled, I turned to find a waiter holding out a note to me.
"Sorry to interrupt, but this note has just come for you miss," he said politely.
"Oh, thank you," I said slowly as I took it from him.
I shot an apologetic look at Mike, who somehow hadn't noticed the waiter and was still talking like a pompous idiot.
Unfolding it in my lap, I read it once. Then once again to make sure I'd read it right the first time.
Your date looks like a bore. If you need assistance getting away, excuse yourself to the lavatory. I can take it from there and by the time you get back, he will be gone.
I took a breath, thinking for a moment.
I looked back at Mike again, who was still droning on without a clue as to what was happening right in front of his eyes.
Oh yes, I shall.
"Er, Mike? Sorry to interrupt, but could you excuse me for a moment? I need to use the facilities," I said politely.
Finally, after being formally addressed, he stopped talking and nodded his head.
I had to pace myself to keep from running away.
At first, I thought the note was from Emmett, it was signed 'E' after all. But then I noticed the handwriting and the words used. The script was too nice to be Emmett's blocky words, and the vocabulary was filled with words that a proper kind of person would use. I'm not saying that Emmett wasn't proper, but he would often fart, or burp at the dinner table and that wasn't the kind of thing the person behind this note would do.
Once inside the confines of the ladies room, I used the only available toilet.
Looking up from my perch on the seat, I noticed another note taped to the back of the door.
Confused, and slightly excited, I removed it and opened it.
I see you've taken me up on my offer. Don't worry about paying for dinner, it's on me.
I blushed. The guy had me, what could I say?
Chuckling lightly, I finished on the toilet and made my way to the sinks to wash my hands.
When I looked up, I noticed another note.
I could've sworn it wasn't there when I'd walked in.
After cleaning my hands and drying them off, I freed the note from the mirror and slowly opened it.
You are far too beautiful to be spending Valentine's Day night with someone so deplorable. I offer myself to you instead. Granted, I'm not an investment banker, but I do know how to treat a lady correctly.
If you agree, kindly meet me at the coffee cart on the corner. I'll be the one in the black tuxedo.
I was intrigued.
Okay, more than intrigued, I was mystified.
All this time I've been going out, meeting people to try and fall in love with someone when this one time, someone actually was pursuing me.
I definitely liked this.
Placing a quick call to Alice to let her know that the date was over and that I'd be out on the town for a little while longer, I left the restroom confidently. I grabbed my coat and thanked the staff as I left, double checking to see that Mike had indeed left our table and that a new couple was sitting there.
I paced in front of the restaurant, debating with myself over the possibilities that awaited me.
Say that I didn't go to meet this stranger. I would go home, dejected after another fruitless date and drown my sorrows in a bottle of rum that beckoned and comforted me. My love would accumulate into a hallucination that resembled Captain Hook from Peter Pan and I'd probably pass out thinking that I was wearing a fluffy red hat with a feather sticking out of it.
But what if I did go and meet this stranger? There were three very real outcomes that could change my life forever if I did.
- He could be a crazy stalker intent on torturing and murdering me.
- I could find him incredibly boring, like I had done the past forty-two dates I've had.
Or I could meet a wonderfully charming man who was everything I'd ever dreamed of and more.
I could be complete.
I could be happy like the rest of my friends.
I could start the journey to my happily ever after with my knight in shining armor.
Worrying my bottom lip between my teeth, I made my decision.
I went to the coffee cart to meet Mr. E with my heart full of promise.
Maybe I did need Valentine's Day after all.
A/N: Huge thanks to my beta, Amelia! She's the bomb-diggity! Also to my mother, thank you. I do have more planned for this story, hold tight! Please leave a review!