It's Hard On The Man
A/N: Ooops! Doing some housekeeping and realized that the final beta'd version never made it to press. My bad. If you've read this extra before, it's just a more refined incarnation of the first.
I apologize for the long wait between chapters. Originally, this was supposed to be a tiny part of chapter 4, but I couldn't let it go until I'd written Jacob's whole backstory. So, I cut it loose from the pack, so to speak. My beta and I decided that this chapter would probably best fit as an outtake because it is essentially a Jacob chapter. So, my friends, you've been warned. Turn back now if you don't want to read Jake's backstory. If not, welcome to the corners of my mind!
Thank you to Irritable Grizzzly for beta-ing this amidst Eclipse craziness.
Thank you to Rose Arcadia (The Blinkie Goddess)who made TWW a beautiful blinkie, banner and started a thread over at the Twilighted forum! Check my profile for the links. :)
Thank you to Gossip-Bangkok for the wonderful review on Rose's blog. Mille grazie!
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.
"Jake, are you coming over Saturday for the Celtics game?" called a lean young man named Seth as he serviced a snow thrower.
"That all depends. I was thinking of taking Bella out to dinner on her night off," his manager replied.
The two men had worked side-by-side at Burns Lawnmower since their high school graduation. Their friendship dated back to boyhood, when the pair used to ditch class for the plentiful bass at Lake Congamond. In those days, the lure of the placid waters superseded academics, other recreations and even girls. Sometimes, Seth's older sister Leah joined them at the lakeside. She arrived in cutoffs and a bikini attempting to distract her younger brother and his friend from their fishing with tales of high school and the opposite sex. The boys paid little attention to her at the lake and she eventually quit them.
As the years progressed, so did their interests. Jacob and Seth took an auto shop class in high school and discovered their mechanic abilities. Jacob's father, Billy, encouraged his son's talent. Jacob's mother had succumbed to cervical cancer the Spring before he began high school and Billy worried about his adolescent son. Jacob's initial enthusiasm for the auto shop class, coupled with the instructor's praise relieved Billy and fostered the notion that his son was predestined to become a great auto mechanic. By his Junior year however, Jacob took a management course, part of the school's business offerings. In this, he excelled and earned top grades from his instructors.
Graduation loomed ahead for the two boys. Seth had found his calling early as a grease monkey, but Jacob yearned to find his potential in business school. Without his father's knowledge, Jacob applied for admission to three business schools on close-by college campuses. When the acceptance letters arrived in the mail, Billy Black angrily confronted his son,
"Why would you apply for something like this? I can't afford to send you to business school. You're a damn good mechanic. Don't waste your talent on pipedreams that don't pay."
"Dad, if I go to business school, I could manage a repair shop...maybe even go into business for myself! I just want to see where it takes me."
"If you're gonna to do that, you're not doin' it under my roof. You're eighteen, healthy and strong. I'll let you live here as long as you're getting paid to work. I don't need no goddamn leech for a son."
Jacob respected his father, even if he didn't agree with him. Two weeks after graduation, he and Seth applied in-person for work at the lawnmower dealership. Both were hired for the repair department, but it was clear to Mr. Burns that Jacob had potential beyond the back room. Within nine months of his hire, Jacob was promoted to a showroom salesman position. While Billy was extremely proud of his son's accomplishments, he was nonetheless saddened when Jacob announced he was moving out.
Once again, the two boyhood friends joined forces and pooled their pay from Burns Lawnmower for a small rental on Lake Congamond. Their four-room cottage was on a postage-sized parcel, but the picture window in the living room overlooked the lake. At sunset, the ambiance was breathtaking. Seth's uncle owned the cottage so their rent was minimal. Jacob set aside a percentage of his weekly earnings into a savings account earmarked for business school. Now that he was no longer under his father's roof, he wanted to pursue his ambition. Within two years, Jacob amassed enough funds to pay for the first year of undergrad. He enrolled in all night classes at Westfield State College for the Fall semester.
One hazy night in July, before classes began, Jacob took a phone call that changed his life.
"Hello, I need to speak with Jacob Black. This is a matter of urgency."
"I'm Jacob Black. Who is this?"
"Mr. Black, I'm Dr. Cullen from Emergency Medicine at Baystate Medical Center. Your father was in a motor vehicle accident and brought in here tonight by ambulance. I think it's best if you come here as soon as possible."
"Is he...is he alive?"
"Yes, he's unconscious, but he's sustained some serious injuries. Can you come within the hour? I understand that you are your father's healthcare proxy."
"Yes, of course. I'll be there right away."
Within twenty-five minutes, Jacob stood outside a beige curtained room divider. He felt detached from his body as he listened to Dr. Cullen describe his father's condition. He caught just snippets of phrases from the doctor.
"Lost control...embankment...crushed...blood alcohol level 0.08..."
Like most nights, Billy Black drank enough beer and liquor to feel numb. His son and two daughters left the nest several years ago and the tenth anniversary of his wife's death loomed in the foreground. Now, only a scruffy mutt kept him company. With a half bag of Utz potato chips to tide his hunger, Billy finished his fourth beer and second shot of whiskey when he realized that he was out of dog food. Not wanting the poor mongrel to go hungry, Billy searched for his car keys in the sofa cushions. Just after eight PM, he staggered into his beat-up work truck and drove the steel beast over the dusty farm roads of Southwick.
He had driven nearly three miles when a deer crossed his path. He swerved to miss the animal, but over-compensated and his truck rolled over the embankment. Within a moment of realization, Billy prayed to the god of his forefathers that, tonight, he should die and join his departed wife in the Afterlife. He felt the crushing pain of metal meet skin and bone. Then nothing. Darkness.
Jacob moved back home and took care of his paraplegic father. College was put on the back burner. He kept their home tidy, but wasn't much in the way of a chef; they ate a lot of pizza and Chinese food. The two were quiet by nature, but since the accident, Billy withdrew even more. Without the use of his legs, Billy's spirit was broken and self-loathing.
Two years passed like time stood still. Without any help from his married sisters, Jacob felt the burden of his father's care. Initially, he took a six-month leave of absence from work and depleted his savings. When he returned to work, he retained his salesman position at the lawnmower dealership, but yearned for distinction. He finally got his chance when old Mr. Burns announced his retirement and named Jacob manager. Of course, there was the matter that Jacob lacked formal management training. Mr. Burns told him that he'd cover the cost of a nighttime adult-ed class in business management. He was apprehensive to spend more time away from his father, but Billy pushed him.
"Go take the class, you've paid your dues. I'm not going anywhere." He slapped the sides of his wheelchair.
Jacob's trepidation toward the night class was short-lived. Seth offered to spend two evenings a week with Billy at the Black's clumsy bungalow.
"Really, your Dad's doing me a favor, Jake."
"Just how do you figure that one, Clearwater?"
Seth snorted and tilted back his Corona. "Billy's not Leah."
Leah Clearwater moved into the cottage when Jacob left to care for his father. She kept hours similar to Seth and worked as a trophy packer in Holyoke. Since becoming her brother's roommate, her furnishings and personal items infiltrated Seth's bachelor pad. She kept six pairs of shoes by the front door which he never failed to trip over. Their small, shared bathroom was overrun with water-stained copies of Vogue and Cosmopolitan. The shower ledge housed Leah's four bottles of shampoo and conditioner, all club-sized. Each time Seth reached for the Irish Spring, a forty ounce bottle fell onto his toes.
Yet that was nothing, compared with one of Leah's impromptu "get-togethers" with women from work two weeks ago. The trophy warehouse let workers out hours earlier that day. Seth returned to the cottage to find his sister and seven of her drunk friends draped over his sofa. Bacardi and Cuervo caused more turbulence in the small space than the kitchen blender. On his way to the bedroom, two of the women propositioned him. Their pores reeked of alcohol and they needed eachother to stand up. Seth declined with a swift door slam.
Jacob remembered the incident and let out a hearty laugh. "Thanks, man. I'll call you if I stay later than nine thirty."
The classroom was a sea of navy and black suits. Jacob looked down uncomfortably at his own short-sleeved shirt and light-colored twill pants. Once he found a seat, he opened his spiral notebook and prepared to take lecture notes. All around him, students unzipped sleek laptop computers from attaché cases, their fingers poised over compact keys.
A gentle "ahem" sounded from the desk behind. He turned and saw a pretty young woman sweetly smile as she tapped his shoulder with a stack of syllabuses. He took them from her, and returned the smile. She lowered her lashes shyly and her complexion took on a marvelous rosy hue. Jacob inwardly chuckled as he returned his attention to the podium at the front of the room.
For the next three hours, he furiously scribbled longhand notes while the rest of the room sounded in syncopated pitter-patter. His fingers cramped and he swore he'd buy a more ergonomic pen for the next class meeting. The lecture concluded and Jacob heaved a sigh of relief. Behind him, sounded a small crash. He looked around to see the young woman abaft him scramble for a dropped voice-recorder. Leaning over, he picked up the device close to his chair's leg and gingerly returned it to its owner.
"I hope it didn't break."
"If it's broken, I'm screwed! I'm not a fast note-taker, so I depend on the audio." Her small mouth was twisted in worry.
"I'd be happy to share my notes with you, if you'd like." He resisted the urge to tuck her wayward locks behind her ears. She was pretty in a farm-fresh sort of way.
"No, that's not it!" she shouted. "I'm sorry, that was rude of me. What I meant to say was that all my day lectures are on here too. I work weeknights, so I wait to do most of my transcribing on Sundays. Oh God, I'm so screwed!"
"Whoa, you take day classes, night classes and hold a job? That's burning the candle at both ends! How old are you?" The moment after he said it, he wished he could take it back. She glowered at him and hastily hit the recorder's playback button. The professor's voice resonated from the small device briefly before she clicked the stop button.
"For your information, this is my only night class. I have to work to pay my tuition. I'm a Junior, you don't need to know how old I am," she spat defensively.
He smacked his palm to his forehead and groaned. Way to go, Geronimo!
"Excuse me, that didn't...I wasn't trying to be condescending. Actually, that's an impressive workload. My name's Jacob, Jacob Black," he offered awkwardly and extended his hand.
Her eyes traveled from his face to his proffered hand, scrutinizing the genuineness of his gesture. With a small sniff, she clasped his large tan hand with her own. His handshake was firm and warm. She felt the work-worn calluses on his hand brush under her fingertips as their hands fell away.
"I'm Bella Swan. It was nice to meet you."She picked up her backpack and pushed in her chair.
"Would you like to go get some coffee with me, Bella? There's a Dunkin' Donuts not too far from campus."
"Maybe some other time, Jacob. I've gotta go," she said with a hint of reservation.
He watched as her petite frame slipped out the door into the late Summer night.
The following week, he arrived early to class hoping to chat with his new acquaintance. Bella Swan and her voice-recorder left an impression on him. She looked so young, but hellbent on being taken seriously. Her ambition was typical of a business student, but her feisty disposition seemed to outweigh her person.
Jacob touched the silver nomenclature on his new pen-sized voice-recorder at his desk. It was a featured item in the latest Radio Shack sale circular. He bought the device to supplement his exhaustive longhand lecture notes. Secretly, he hoped that it might also be a conversation-opener with the pretty Miss Swan.
Just then, a small whirlwind blew through the door, whooshing past the sea of suits and shot to the desk behind him. She looked different today, with a vibrantly colored skirt and a linen blouse. Her hair was pulled back from her face and revealed delicate features and a slender neck. She caught his gaze and threw him a tentative smile. Hope rose in his chest.
At the lecture's end, he again asked her out for coffee. This time, she said, "yes".
Caffeinated Bella was nice and downright fun to be around. Over cups of dark roast she yammered on about work, her penchant for Italian food, school and her major in retail management. Noticeably absent from her conversations was any mention of her parents. Coffee, it seemed, loosened her tongue the way alcohol did to most others. This girl was full of aspirations and goals. As after-class coffee dates became more frequent, the more fascinated Jacob became with her.
"I'd love to spend more time getting to know you, Bella. I enjoy having these coffee dates."
"I'd like to see you Sunday, if you're not busy. I'm afraid I can't stray too far away from home. My dad lost use of his legs in an accident a couple of years ago, so I spend weekends close to home in case he needs help."
"Hmmm, it sounds like you're inviting me over to watch the Patriots game with you and your dad."
"Yeah, I guess I am. Is that okay?"
She snickered and her laughter shook her entire body.
"How about I bring my dad with me? He loves football and could use some company."
"Great, if he likes watching the Pats, he and my dad will probably get along well."
The Swans came over to the Blacks' home on Sunday, bearing snacks and beer. Bella made her famous guacamole. Charlie Swan, a retired police captain introduced himself and openly declared that he'd rather be fishing or watching Patriots football than doing much else. Billy's face lit up like a Christmas tree.
The four got along very well. At half-time, Jacob pulled Bella into the kitchen for a hug that wound up as a kiss. Her soft lips parted against his, encouraging deeper contact. He wrapped his arms tightly around her shoulders and took her bottom lip between his own. Her lids fluttered closed with the sensation and he moved to kiss her temple.
"Bella, thank you for coming today and for your wonderful idea. Dad's enjoying himself more than he has in years."
She gave him a little squeeze and whispered, "Mine too. My dad's been just a shell of himself since Mom left him. This was good for him as well, he's happy. Our dads seem at ease with each other."
She reluctantly withdrew from his embrace. He watched her find another bowl in the cupboard then wipe down the counter. She looks so natural here. He recalled a happy early memory of his mother, Sarah, wiping down the same tile countertop when he was a boy. She used to smile and let him choose his own milk glass. His eyes returned to the young woman in the room and his old memory melded with the current vision of Bella pouring ale into his favorite childhood glass.
"What?" Bella asked, smiling. She was suddenly aware that Jacob was watching her.
"Nothing," he said and smiled brightly. He held out his hand and lead her back through the swinging door to the living room, where their fathers sat.
"Jake, Charlie here is coming back next week to go fishing at Congamond. Can you bring me to Wal-Mart tomorrow so I can renew my fishing license?"
Wow. That was that. The two fathers spent more time together during the week than Jacob and Bella. When Billy and Charlie weren't out fishing, they watched a Pats game on TV. Sometimes, Jacob stayed at home and watched the game too, but then his father started asking about Bella.
"Why aren't you out on a date with Bella? It's a Friday night, you shouldn't be staying in with us old guys."
"She said that she had to work late tonight."
Charlie pulled Jacob over to the sofa. "Son, she told you that she's working late, not that she didn't want to see you. I know for a fact that she gets out at nine tonight. Drive over there and wait for her shift to end. I can tell that she likes you."
Not wanting to seem rude, he replied, "Sure, sure." He grabbed his Husqvarna cap from the end table, jamming it onto his head and made his way outside to his decrepit VW Rabbit. The rusty car probably had more Bondo patches than red-painted sheet metal. A new car was one of the first things he wanted to buy with his manager's salary.
He drove to the West Springfield Stop & Shop supermarket and sat in the parking lot. He absently picked at the Rabbit's saggy headliner and contemplated his current situation. He liked Bella, but wasn't sure that he wanted a romantic relationship at the moment. He was on the precipice of a promotion, was primary caregiver to his paraplegic father, and Bella was his only friend from the business management class. He didn't know if he could take on new responsibilities and expectations as someone's boyfriend.
He was about to turn the key in the ignition when he saw Bella amble out the automatic door alone. She wore a tailored tan pantsuit with a little scarf tied around her neck. The bun on top of her head made her appear fifteen years older than her actual twenty-one years.
He got out of the car and advanced to her side.
"Hey, Jake! What are you doing here?"
"I'm taking you out tonight."
"But I'm not dressed for going out!"
"Hey, look at me, I'm wearing jeans. You look great. Just undo your hair."
She reached up and patted her bun and frowned.
"What's wrong with my hair?"
"Nothing's wrong with your hair." -he touched a tendril- "It's...it's soft. I like seeing it down."
Her features softened with his admission. She pulled the hairpins out of her coif and shook her hair loose.
"Can we go to Bertucci's? I love their pizza," she said shyly.
"You look amazing and I'd love to take you to Bertucci's." He led her gingerly to the Rabbit's front passenger seat, and kissed her hand before he closed the door.
It was just before six o'clock when Jacob turned his Ford F-150 onto Talcott. From two houses down, his home appeared unoccupied and dark. When he reached the driveway, he saw Bella's car already parked.
That's strange. Her car is here, but there are no lights on.
A worried pang coursed through his mind as he imagined potential worst-case scenarios. His heart thumped erratically and he hastened his step to the back door. The deadbolt was locked and there were no apparent signs of break-in, much to his relief.
"Bella? Bella, where are you?"
He walked through the mudroom, not bothering to wipe his feet.
"Bella?" his voice reverberated off the tile walls and refrigerator door. He ceased movement and held his breath, straining to hear signs of life in the house. That's when he heard the ceiling squeak from a floorboard above. Someone was upstairs.
Fear and adrenaline fueled his body and he managed to grab his baseball bat from the mudroom closet. He ascended the hallway stairs stealthily, skipping every known noisy step. A dim light showed under the master bedroom door. He gripped the bat, ready to inflict serious pain on the intruder. His left hand crept toward the handle, but he paused first to listen at the door.
His ears hearkened for sounds of a struggle, but instead he heard a couple of electronic noises followed by a drawer slam. His breath hitched and he grabbed the handle, but it was being wrenched open from the other side. He came face to face with Bella, her face registered with alarm.
"Are you alright? Are you alone?"
"I'm fine. Oh my God, you've got your bat? Who did you think was here?"
He stepped into the bedroom and flipped the lightswitch. He saw Bella wince as the light hit her pupils. The room looked the same as when he left it this morning. The draperies were pulled shut; the bureaus looked intact; the bed was made, but the duvet was slightly rumpled on Bella's side.
She looked at him sheepishly and admitted, "I was taking a nap, I didn't hear you drive up."
He looked at her incredulously and let out a snort.
"I called your name several times and you didn't answer. I heard noises upstairs, so don't tell me you were sound asleep. For Chrissakes, I thought maybe you were being held against your will in here!"
"Well, I was sleeping but then I got a text from Esme about this Saturday." She combed her fingers through her already-mussed hair and caught the edge of her necklace in the downsweep. Her wedding band poked out from neath her shirt.
"Why, what are you doing on Saturday?"
"Didn't I tell you? Saturday night is the company party. I'm meeting up with Esme Whitlock."
"Oh, well, you probably did tell me but I forgot. I was going to see if you wanted to go out to dinner with me that night. Just the two of us, pretty casual, you know?"
"Well, I would, but it is the company party. I'm expected to attend."
"Bells, I'm sure they could get along without you this year. You're not pulling a department anymore, who the hell would care?"
"Thanks for reminding me. You know, a lot of people want me to go. Esme, Shelly Cope, Vicky Tanner, and Mr. Newton all said I should go. Why don't you come too? It's an open bar, please?"
Jacob thought back to the last time he attended a Stop & Shop Holiday Party. It was five years ago, before they were married. He was very uncomfortable and out of place, knowing only Bella. Most of the party attendees went without dates. He felt superfluous. Since then, he always planned to be somewhere else.
"Nah, I'd rather not. Go and have some fun. I don't even know any of those people like you do. We can still eat out some other night. We haven't done Bertucci's in a long time. Is that okay with you?"
In one moment, she stood by herself in the middle of their bedroom. In the next, she threw herself around Jacob, pecking his face with tiny, loud kisses. He thought he heard her sniffle.
"You wanted to take me to Bertucci's? God, I... that's so sweet. I'm sorry about Saturday, I really am. What will you do without me?"
He tipped his head back and laughed.
"Bella, the Celtics are playing the Bulls in Chicago. Need I say more?"
She chuckled and rolled her eyes at him.
"You watching the game here?"
"No, I'm probably going over to Seth's. He bought a forty-two inch HDTV in October and I've gotta help him break it in." He grinned and waggled his eyebrows at her.
"Men! I swear, you're just like my dad when it comes to sports," she pouted.
"Yep, what can I say? You've got good taste in men," he joked.
A muffled buzzing noise interrupted their comic relief. Bella's eyes darted toward her bureau and she bit her lip anxiously.
"Go ahead and answer your phone. I'm going to take a hot shower and get something to eat. I'm glad we talked."
He pulled her head into his arms and placed a firm kiss on top of her hair.
"I love you."
Endnotes: Thank you again for reading! It makes my day to receive your PMs and chapter reviews. I respond to each and every one. You can find me on Twitter (at) jeneffleurage.
FGB Eclipse Edition Update: I am participating in the Author Auction that benefits Alex's Lemonade Stand and begins June 26 at 11:59 PM EST. To bid, visit my auction page: http:/www(dot)thefandomgivesback(dot)com/item(dot)php?id=739 or visit the effleurage auction forum thread, where you can post questions, requests or ideas http:/www(dot)thefandomgivesback(dot)com/forum/viewtopic(dot)php?f=13&t=123 . I'm offering one exclusive TWW 3,000-5,000+ word outtake using the existing characters of your choice. This auction is first-come, first-serve. Perhaps you'd like to read a particular E/B citrusy Backroom outtake? Maybe you'd like to know more about Emmett and his private life? Need to know all the details on Vicky's heartbreak? Bid on me! It's for a wonderful cause.
Have a great time watching Eclipse in theatres! OMG! The maroon Gucci suit - YIKES!