A/N: Hey, lovelies! Welcome to A Simple Kind of Man, a collaboration between Maggieloo402 and myself. We hope you guys like this! Many, many thanks to DaniaMCullen for prereading.
Oh, and today, August 24, is dear Maggieloo's birthday. Wish her a happy one, okay? :)
Maggie, I heart you.
Disclaimer: Don't own.
Sometimes, I think people expect too much from me. Really. Either that or I am overworked and underpaid intentionally, I thought to myself.
After a moment of consideration, I decided on the latter. I huffed and pushed my hair out of my face before returning to the stack of papers in front of me.
I had recently been promoted to Fashion News Director for Vogue magazine in San Francisco. In my new position, I was in charge of all the fashion features. I loved my job, really. One week, I may be traveling to Paris for the fashion shows. Other days, I might be styling a shoot, meeting with a new, young designer, or writing or editing articles at the office. It seemed as if I had finally reached my dream job, but I was swamped.
Ever since my promotion, I had been working later hours and then taking my work home with me, only to fall asleep with my head on my desk and a pen still in my hand.
Checking the silver watch that dangled from my wrist, I realized that once again, it was half an hour past the end of the business day and I was no where near the end of my work.
With one last look at the daunting pile of articles I was supposed to have finished today, I pulled out my leather Coach briefcase and prepared to pack the file away to revisit tonight.
As I closed the folder, my Blackberry began to vibrate on my desk.
I cursed under my breath, expecting another last minute task from my boss, Janet, who apparently thought I worked at a superhuman speed. So far, I had done nothing to pique her irritation, but I had heard that she was a storm I was smart to avoid.
I felt my brow wrinkle as I picked up my phone, noticing my father's name across the top of the screen. It was strange for him to call-he was never one for frequent conversation.
"Hey Bells," Charlie's gravely voice echoed through the phone.
I wrinkled my nose at his old nickname for me. "Hey, Dad."
"What do you need, Dad?" I asked after a long silence. It's not that I was trying to rush his call, but Charlie was usually one to get to the point rather than letting the silence linger.
"Charlie?" I asked after another beat of silence.
"Sorry," he mumbled, and I noted the downcast tone in his voice. "I was just calling to let you know that Grandpa Swan died last night."
"Oh, Dad, I'm sorry." I froze as I searched for words to comfort my father. I hardly knew my grandfather, but I knew he and my father had been close. Before I could say anything else, Charlie began again.
"The funeral is going to be on Saturday, and the receiving of friends is Friday evening. I thought we could get there Wednesday to help with the arrangements. I can book your flight for you, but-"
I almost choked as the words came through the phone, but his melancholy kept my disbelief in check.
"Dad, I can't go."
He was silent for a moment after I interrupted him, so I took the silence to explain.
"You know I just started my new job, and I'm already swamped. I've been dealing with so much the past few days- I'm exhausted. I really can't afford to take time off right now."
Charlie took a loud, deep breath. "Bella, this was my father. You're coming to the funeral. Like I said, I can book your ticket, but you'll need to let me know what your schedule is like."
"Dad, I just told you what my schedule is like. I don't have time to take a trip to the middle of nowhere right now! Do they even have Wi-Fi?"
"Do they have what? Bella, I know your job is important, but this is family. Your boss will understand. I'm booking you a ticket out of San Francisco Wednesday morning. I'll let you know the time once I book it. I'll see you then."
I heard a click before I could reply.
I threw the organized files and carefully stacked papers into my bag haphazardly, and I stalked out of my office to the elevator at the end of the hall.
My boss was less than understanding about the situation, but she agreed to let me go, providing I took my computer and Blackberry with me to stay on top of work and in touch with clients.
I was half hoping that Janet would forbid me to go; I still felt insecure in my new position and I was afraid that something like this would make me fall behind and lose my job. I had worked hard for this, and I wasn't about to lose it because I had to take a trip to butt-fuck nowhere.
Dragging my suitcase behind me, I made my way into the San Francisco airport bright and early Wednesday morning.
The lady at the ticket counter seemed especially slow this morning, but for once I was content to wait.
As I sipped the last bit of my Frappuchino and brushed a wrinkle out of my simple black Ralph Lauren tunic dress, I finally heard the woman call for the next in line, and with a grumble, I stepped forward to the counter.
"Good morning, where are you headed today?" she asked in a tone that was far too chipper for the early hour.
"Birmingham, Alabama," I muttered scornfully.
I wanted to complain to her that Birmingham was only the beginning of this wretched trip, but I kept my mouth shut while I handed her my driver's license so that she could print my boarding passes.
In no time at all, she had printed the tickets and handed them to me in a neat little envelope, wishing me a "wonderful trip" while I jerked my small carry-on bag away from the counter and trudged toward security.
The flight was stuffy and uncomfortable; I was traveling to Alabama, I shouldn't have expect anything better. The man in the row behind me snored the entire time, and even the music from my iPod couldn't drown out the noise.
Right as I began to doze, the stewardess came over the speaker and announced our decent into Birmingham. I sighed, frustrated, while I leaned forward to let my seat pop up behind me, only half listening as the stewardess talked about baggage claim and transportation. She did, however, catch my interest when she began talking about the weather.
Eighty eight degrees. Seventy two percent humidity. Heat index of one hundred and one.
I glanced out the window, half expecting to see everything outside literally melting in the heat. I already missed the cooler temperatures of San Francisco and we hadn't even landed yet.
I discovered a message from Charlie on my Blackberry once the plane touched down and phones were allowed again, letting me know that he would be waiting in one of the coffee shops in the terminal, as his flight had landed half an hour before mine.
It had been a while since I had seen Charlie, so when I noticed him sitting uncomfortably in the corner of the shop, my first genuine smile of the day appeared, and I quickened my pace to give him a hug.
"Hey, Bells!" he greeted me warmly, returning my hug. "How was the flight?"
I shook my head in response. He didn't need to hear me complaining already.
"It was fine. How was yours?"
"Good, good. You look nice."
I laughed lightly at his observation.
"That's my job!"
He smiled playfully and laughed along with me.
"Do you want coffee or anything before we go?" he asked, waving in the direction of the coffee counter.
I gladly accepted his offer for my second coffee of the day, and we went to the baggage claim to find our bags before renting the car that we would drive to Millerville.
As soon as we stepped outside to the car that was now waiting by the curb, I was reminded of the terrible weather that the stewardess had announced.
The air was so thick with humidity, it was practically unbreatheable.
"Southern humidity is in full swing this summer," Charlie joked, and I realized that he had removed his glasses and was now wiping wet fog from the lenses. I shook my head in disbelief.
"How do people live in this?" I exclaimed as I quickened my steps to get to the air conditioned car. I could already feel the humidity pulling my hair out from its perfectly straightened style.
Charlie just shrugged, clearly just as perplexed as I was.
I huffed in response before sliding in the car and flipping down the visor and opening the mirror on the other side. As I inspected my appearance, I noticed Charlie's sidelong glance from the driver's seat.
"You look fine, Bella," he assured me. "No one here cares what you look like anyway."
"I care," I retorted before rolling my eyes irritably and flipping the visor back up.
We made the drive in near total silence, due in part, to my exhaustion. My flight had left San Francisco at six this morning, but it was only a little past noon here due to the time change. This was going to be one of the longest days of my life, both literally and figuratively.
We passed the 'Welcome to Millerville' sign right before houses began spotting the landscape. Most had long, gravel driveways, allowing the houses large front yards and the woods behind for a backyard.
Tire swings hung from thick oak trees in the front of some yards, and some had flower gardens of sunflowers or other colorful blossoms. Spotted in with these picturesque country houses were also the less appealing ones. Many of the yards were occupied by old broken down or wrecked cars, some rusting, some up on car jacks, without tires-some were even up on concrete blocks! Others had yards cluttered with assorted items that I first assumed were yard sale items, but after seeing several of these, I realized that the items were not for sale, but rather for decoration. After that discovery, I slumped back in my seat, muttering something about rednecks and hicktowns that I'm lucky Charlie didn't hear.
"You hungry?" Charlie asked, pulling me out of my pout.
My stomach growled as if on cue, and I remembered that I hadn't eaten yet today.
"Good, I know the perfect place."
I nodded in agreement as Charlie turned onto the next road.
We pulled into the gravel parking lot of a dilapidated white building with a rickety sign that boasted the name "Court Cafe" in faded red letters. My nose wrinkled at the sight.
"I can't believe it's still here!" Charlie said proudly as he cut the engine and got out of the car.
I stepped out onto the gravel, but had to immediately grab the car for support.
"You alright, Bells?" Charlie laughed as he came around the car to help me.
"I can't walk in the gravel with these heels on," I snapped, irritated that the gravel was probably ruining my three hundred dollar Stuart Weitzman pumps.
Charlie started to laugh, but I shot him a look that silenced him immediately. Instead, he composed himself and walked over to where I stood, still hanging onto the car door, to offer me his arm.
I took it to steady myself as I walked gingerly through the gravel, breathing a deep sigh of relief when we reached the concrete sidewalk.
"I hope you brought more sensible shoes," Charlie commented as he opened the door for me.
I glared at him before entering the diner, and looking around.
The whole place held the overwhelming stench of bacon grease and cigarette smoke-an offending combination. It was full of booths and chairs covered in worn red leather, most of them split open so that the stuffing was pushing through.
"This is the place you're so proud of?"
Charlie just chuckled and led me to a table in the center of the room. I felt like everyone in the place was staring at us, and I struggled to hold my head up and try not to shrink into a slouch.
I sat uncomfortably across from Charlie as I surveyed the room surreptitiously. There were mostly men in the diner today, most wearing tattered shorts or jeans with holes worn into the knees. Many of them were wearing white shirts that had yellowed with time. I counted three mullets. All the patrons looked rough-not one of them would have fit in on the streets of San Francisco.
I sighed and crossed my arms over my chest. I had just gotten here and I couldn't wait to get home.
"Wait here, kiddo, I'm going to go say hello to an old friend."
I scowled at the nickname, but he had already turned his back and was walking toward the counter.
"Charlie Swan!" the lady behind the counter exclaimed.
A small grin danced on my lips at the thick accent in her voice when she bellowed Charlie's name, but I didn't dare let the laugh escape.
"Hey, Es, how's it going around here?"
"Same 'ol, same 'ol," she replied, placing her hands on her hips. A hint of sadness entered her round hazel eyes and she spoke again.
"Edward told me about your dad. So sorry to hear that. He was such a good man. Always so good to Edward."
Charlie nodded somberly before relaxing into one of the stools that lined the counter.
"I hate that we didn't get down here before he passed."
The woman placed her hand over Charlie's on the counter in a comforting gesture and offered a gentle smile. It was such a foreign gesture; it was strange for me to see that kind of intimacy between the two of them, they were virtually strangers!
They fell into an easy conversation, and I tuned them out as I took the menu from its place between the condiments on the table and began looking it over.
The menu boasted "specials" like fried green tomatoes, soup beans and cornbread, chicken fried steak and gravy, fried catfish, and the most unbelievable, frog legs.
This was not food. Dogs in San Francisco ate better than this. I glanced again at Charlie, who was still talking to the woman behind the counter, and I was about to call him to ask if we could go somewhere else when his phone started ringing.
He pulled it from his pocket and flipped it open, bringing it to his ear to answer the call.
As he did, the little woman behind the counter's face puckered and frown lines creased her forehead as she began wildly gesturing toward a sign behind her on the wall and hoarsely whispering to Charlie.
My eyes followed her motions to a sign that read "NO CELLPHONES".
Charlie covered the receiver and whispered that it was about the funeral, but the woman shook her head and pointed to the door. I watched as he rose from the stool and walked grudgingly toward the door.
I didn't know whether to laugh that Charlie was just ordered out of the diner or roll my eyes that the old fashioned place didn't even allow phones inside.
I turned back to the menu once again, but the sound of the door flying open behind me caught my attention. The person who entered held it.
"Hey, Momma!" a tall, lean man called across the diner to the woman Charlie had been talking to a moment before.
He was bare chested with a thin white tank top thrown over his shoulder, and I couldn't help but notice the defined muscles that rippled under his skin as he moved. He was tanned except for the back of his neck, which was tinted red from the remnants of a sunburn he must have gotten. His lower half was covered in heavy camouflage pants that were now hanging loosely off his hips, and he wore chunky brown boots that were caked with mud.
His bronze colored hair stuck out in all different directions, but somehow it suited him, and his bright green eyes were such a color that they stood out brilliantly against his dark skin. They were both playful and genuine, and right now they were full of excitement as he strode through the diner.
His path to the counter where his mother stood took him right past my table, and that was where my fascination with him ended abruptly. I had to turn away in disgust at the smell that lingered after he passed. If I had to put a name to the scent, I would say he smelled like something dead, but it was worse. It was sour, almost. He smelled like a sour, dead carcass.
"Edward Cullen!" his mother crowed. "You are not above the rules of this diner even if I do own it! Put that shirt on this instant! You're covered in dirt!"
She brushed at the layer of dust that lay across his broad shoulders and defined arms with a napkin as he casually pulled his shirt over his head.
"I don' see what the problem is," he complained as he settled into the same stool Charlie had been sitting in. "I don' wear a shirt nowhere. 'S not like nobody here ain't seen me without mah shirt."
He turned to face the rest of the diner's patrons as if seeking approval from them, but when he did, his eyes caught and held mine. I felt my face color slightly, but I tried to sit straight and ignore him. With his shirt on, it was much easier to do.
He raised his eyebrows slightly as our eyes locked, and with a sideways glance at his mother, he mumbled, "Er, mayb' not."
Before the woman could respond, he had hopped down off the stool and was headed in my direction. I felt like sinking down into my chair until I disappeared.
His stench was bad enough when he was just passing by, but when he took the seat across from me at the table and spun it around so that he was straddling it when he sat down, I almost choked.
"Edward Cullen," he began, sticking out one grimy hand as if he expected me to shake it.
My eyes slowly moved from the playful grin on his face to the disgusting hand he had extended toward me.
"I'm not going to shake your hand," I stated bluntly as I crossed my arms over my chest.
His hand fell limp before he tucked it under his other arm on the back of the chair.
"Because it's disgusting and I'm about to eat lunch," I replied.
He feigned hurt, but before he could say anything in return, I spoke again.
"And could you move? I'll have to be able to breathe when my meal comes and I can't do that with your horrid smell."
His nose wrinkled as if he were trying to catch a whiff of the smell I found so offensive, and then his crooked smile returned. He leaned closer, as if he were planning to tell me a secret, and I instinctively leaned away at the smell.
"That's premium doe estrus spray darlin'. Only the best 'round here."
His crooked smile got even wider. He was enjoying this.
"'S deer piss-of a doe in heat."
My eyes widened and I could feel my mouth opening and closing dumbly.
I finally realized I had been holding my breath-probably a reaction against the offensive odor-and took a deep breath to regain my composure.
"Get away from me!" I practically shouted at him.
"Lord, don' they teach yuh Yankees any common courtesy?" he asked with an exaggerated roll of his eyes. I could tell that he wasn't actually angry with me, but that he was just teasing me.
"I'm not a Yankee," I retorted.
"Where ya from?" he challenged.
He looked down at the table between us for a moment while he appeared to be sucking on his front teeth. It was quiet for a moment while I glared at him, willing him to leave me alone.
He slowly lifted his eyes to me, gazing at me through long lashes with a crooked smile on his face as though he were privy to some amusing joke.
"What's yer name, sugar?" he drawled slowly.
I hardened my glare so that he would be sure I wasn't going soft on him. "Bella Swan."
The coy look immediately disappeared from his face, and he raised his head so that he was looking at me squarely. The change in his demeanor confused me, and I was about to ask him about it, but the bell on the door chimed again, pulling his attention away from me.
"I cain't wait ta see 'at fucker on the wall!" a deep voice bellowed behind me.
When I glanced back at Edward, his expression had changed, and he was standing to talk to the beast of a man that had just come through the door.
"Hell yeah," he agreed, "'At sonofabitch is goin' right in the livin'room."
The new man had come around the table to stand beside Edward, and they began speaking in a dialogue so far from normal English that I just tuned them out.
This new man was just as sloppily dressed as Edward, but he wore a camouflaged cap that boasted what must be years of wear, and even when he took it off, the brown curls on his head maintained the shape of the cap. His face was covered in a boyish grin so that I could tell whatever they were discussing was exciting to him.
"Who's this?" he asked after a minute, looking at me and raising his eyebrows in the same way Edward had.
"Name's Bella," Edward replied as if I weren't even sitting there. "She's just in town fer a couple o' days."
I started to open my mouth to ask how he knew I was only here temporarily, but Charlie chose that moment to come back to the table, apparently having finished his conversation with whoever had called. I couldn't snap a reply to Edward's condescending tone in front of Charlie, so I settled with a stiff glare at both him and his friend before deciding to ignore them again.
"Well hello, boys," Charlie greeted them as he turned his chair back around. "Did you meet my daughter, Bella?"
"Yes, sir," both boys replied, smiling at both Charlie and I before they exchanged pleasantries with Charlie and went back to sit at the counter where Edward had been before.
"I hope you weren't rude," Charlie said in a warning tone. Even though I was far too old to be chastised like a child, Charlie knew when I had acted out.
I just sighed, knowing I couldn't deny it. I hadn't meant to be rude, exactly, but something about Edward intimidated me in an unfamiliar way, and my defense had been my rude behavior. And frankly, he was repulsive.
Charlie helped me choose something that I could stomach from the menu. Even though it was practically fried bread and grease, I ate the chicken fried steak with gravy thicker than pancake batter quickly, just so I could get away from this place to a nice, clean hotel room.
Charlie paid the bill, which was cheaper than anything you could get in San Francisco, and he helped me to the door. I could feel eyes on me from all directions as I walked out of the restaurant-the two most noticeable pairs coming from the counter-but I chose to ignore them.
The bell on the door jingled once again as Charlie opened it for me, and he called a goodbye to Edward's mother before we stepped out into the Alabama heat.
I surveyed the parking lot for our rental car, but what I saw instead caused me to freeze there on the sidewalk. I felt my stomach lurch, and the only words I could manage came out between shallow breaths.
Grandpa Swan was gone.
It was just too much for me to wrap my head around. He'd been sick for awhile, but I guess I just thought he'd live forever.
He was just a little ol' man, probably not six feet tall and a hundred and thirty pounds soakin' wet. His skin was thin; it seemed like he was always covered in bruises. His face was full o' lines and wrinkles-Grandpa Swan had definitely aged over the last 15 years. One thing about him never changed, though. He always had them big ol' brown eyes that practically looked through a person, rather than just at 'im.
When my mom, Esme, and my dad, Carlisle bought the house next to old man Swan's, he took me in like I was one o'his own. Dad worked at the lumber yard in town, and stayed gone a lot. Mom had just started working at the diner. When they were working, Grandpa Swan was there, a-lookin' after me.
When I was a just a pup, he'd take me fishin', and taught me everything there was to know about huntin'. He taught me how to bait a hook, how to cast a line, and drive a boat before I started kindergarten. When I got older, he taught me how to shoot a gun, how to use a bow and arrow, and all about the best invention ever was-the muzzleloader. I'll never forget the look on his face when I reeled in my first small mouth. He was so damn proud of that half pounder he'd had the thing fuckin' mounted for me. I came in one day, and found him in my room, hanging it over my bed, lookin' happy as a pig in the mud. It was the same when I got my first buck.
"A man's gotta mount his first, son. Ye hang the special'uns on the wall. Everything else, yuh eat. Ain't no sense killin' it if ye ain't gonna eat it er give it a place of honor in yer house."
More than huntin' and fishin', though, Grandpa Swan taught me about life, and how to be the kinda man that would make my momma proud.
"You wanna know the secret to life, kid?" he asked the night before I started high school.
"Sure, Grandpa Swan," I said with a sigh.
"There ain't no damn secret," he chortled. "All ye can do is go through yer day like yer momma's a-watchin' ye, and man up and say you's wrong when ye get caught actin' like she ain't."
Grandpa Swan had a way of lookin' at me when he talked. It was like he was a-tellin' me the cleaned-up version of what he really meant, but his eyes told me the cold, hard truth. "High school is big, kid, but don't be dumbass and mess up yer life before it really starts."
I don't know if it was his words, or them big ol' eyes of his, but whatever he said stuck with me. Whenever I'd find myself 'bout to cause a ruckus or pull some stupid shit with Jasper and Emmett, I'd hear that old fucker in my head, or worse, I'd imagine my momma watchin' me.
That ol' man knew exactly what he was a-doin' when he dished out his 'wisdom'.
When I was 16, I willin'ly went to him for advice for the first time.
"Grandpa Swan,what's love supposed ta'feel like?"
He chuckled and took a long pull from his cigar. "Never one for the easy stuff, huh kid?"
"See, there's 'is girl...Charlotte...we've been goin' out' for a while, and last night, she told me she loved me."
"Hmm...what'd ye say?"
"Nothin.' I ran away like a chicken shit. I didn't wanna say somethin' I don't mean, and I don't know if I'd mean that er not."
He laughed. "I guess you've put yerself in a pickle, kid."
I was pissed. I couldn't believe he was laughin' at me. I stood to leave, and he pulled me back down to the chair beside him, and patted my shoulder roughly.
"Hold yer horses, son. I'll answer ye question." He took a deep breath before continuing, "When yuh first see that special girl, she'll be all you can think about. The first time ya lay eyes on 'er, she'll own every part of ye that yuh swore ye'd never give away. Bein' aroun' 'er will make ya feel like shit, 'cause ye know ye ain't worth her time-but she'll make yuh feel like yer the only thing that matters to 'er. She'll be th'only person that can break yer heart, but she holds it together instead. She'll be able to rile yuh up, calm ya down, and work ye over with a touch of 'er hand or a look in 'er eye. When ye fall in love, kid, nothin' is yer own anymore."
"Sounds...fun," I said sarcastically.
"Misery in it's finest, son. But it won't matter-she'll be th'only thing 'at does." By the time he'd finished, I could tell that he was thinking of his own love-the woman he'd lost before I's a glimmer in my Daddy's eye.
Leavin' him to his thoughts, I stood and walked out of his house, and off the porch. I got as far as his driveway when I heard his shaky voice. "Edward?"
He sighed, and looked in my eyes. "If yer a-doubtin' it..." he trailed off.
'It ain't there,' I finished in my head.
"Yeah. Thanks, Grandpa Swan."
When I went off to college with plans on becomin' a doctor, he was there again, guidin' me along.
"Yer a man now, Edward. Go make ye a simple, satisfied life. 'S all a man can do. And for God's sake, son, have some fun."
Four years later, I felt like I was on top o' the world. I'd been livin' it up and workin' my ass off at the University of Alabama. I graduated top o'my class, aced the MCATs, and had a scholarship to Johns Hopkins medical school. Then, ev'rthing came to a screechin' halt when my momma called me, a-cryin' her eyes out.
"Edward, yer Daddy...there was an accident at the lumber yard...his leg-"
"Momma, I'm on my way."
Turned out, my dad's leg had shattered when a truck bed broke down, and sent trees flyin' all over the yard-one of 'em landed on 'is leg. He needed physical therapy, and someone to help 'im get around. His doctors weren't sure if he'd ever get back the full use of 'is leg.
My Daddy was a big ol' boy, a good two hundr'd pounds of muscle; my Momma wasn't no bigger'n a minute. Wasn't no way she could take care o' him by herself.
It was simple; it wasn't even a question. I cancelled my enrollment at Johns Hopkins so I could help take care o' my old man.
E'rybody said I was stupid. Said I's throwin' my life away.
"Edward, don't be like 'is. I can handle it," Momma said.
"Son, I ain't gonna be the reason ye never leave Millerville. Yer too good for 'is place," Dad said.
"Fuck, Edward, yer gonna be stuck here the rest o'yer life if ye stay here. Get out while ye still can," Jasper and Emmett said.
Grandpa Swan ne'er said a word about it. One look in his eyes, though, and I knew.
He woulda done the same damn thing.
I told myself, and everyone else, that I'd go back after Dad could walk again, but three years later, I's still in Millerville. Emmett had helped me get a part time job as a forest ranger, so I could save some money for school and help Dad at the same time. When Dad could do more on 'is own, I started workin' full time. Workin' with Emmett was fun, and I liked the work. I decided to stick around; I didn't wanna leave. We got an apartment with Jasper, and I ain't looked back. Life was simple, and I was satisfied.
Grandpa Swan fell sick, and it just made sense for me to help take care of 'im. From what I heard, his family was in Washington, and they couldn't make it down to Alabama. So I stepped in, and did what I could for 'im. I helped him around, cut his grass, and took 'im to the doctor when I could. He'd been there for me, so I figured it was my turn to be there fer him.
When he took his last breath that evenin', I'd been with him, talkin' about cuttin' his grass. He closed his eyes, and just...stopped. I called the authorities, and watched as they wheeled him out o'his house. After I called my Momma and told her the news, I called Emmett and told him I wouldn't be in work for a few days. Then, I sat in Grandpa Swan's favorite chair and cried myself to sleep like a little girl.
I woke up in the middle of the night, and did the only thing 'at made sense. I went home, showered with my scent blockin' soap and shampoo, put on my unscented deoderant, and pulled on my camoflauge shirt and pants, then yanked on my favorite boots. I tucked my hair under an orange cap, and slipped on the vest before dousing myself with my premium doe estrus spray. Grabbing my bow, jumped in my Chevy pickup truck, and headed for the woods.
Reaching the edge of the forest, I parked and began my trek through the trees. It wasn't long before I found the familiar tree stand, the one Grandpa Swan and I had shared, and climbed up.
This was good.
This was right.
This was exactly what Grandpa Swan woulda wanted me to do.
I took in my surroundin's, and settled in for a long night.
I'd been out all damn night, and nothin'. I'd thought that bein' here, our place, woulda made me feel better, hurt less. A'ter sitting there and watching the leaves blow around all goddamn night, though, I felt just as shitty.
Could I really've expected anythin' differ'nt? Some kinda sign or some shit, that ev'rthang was gon' be okay? Stuff like that don' fuckin' happen.
The sun was shinin' through the trees. I sighed. Grandpa Swan's grass needed to be cut that morning, before his family showed up. It was time for me ta'head 'em up and move 'em out.
As I turned to pack up, I heard the familiar sound of hooves clumpin' toward me.
I picked up my bow and looked through the scope. Just ahead of me was the biggest buck I'd ever seen-a fourteen pointer. I loaded the arrow silently, and prepared to shoot. The buck turned toward me, and I swear the fucker smiled at me.
One squeeze of the release, and he was mine. I hoped Jasper could keep that smile on the son of a bitch's face when he mounted 'im. Whenever I would pass by that sucker from his place of honor on my wall, I'd feel like Grandpa Swan was a-lookin' down on me from wherever he was.
With a smile on my face, I walked to my truck, grabbed my phone, and called Emmett. I couldn't pack that sucker down from the mountain by myself.
"Em, what time you gotta work?" I asked quickly.
"Edward? What the fuck's wrong?"
"Nothin', nutsucker. I need some help. I got me a buck just now."
"You went huntin'? Shit, I'd'a went."
"Last minute. Anyway, what time ya gotta work?"
"Three o'clock. How big is it?"
"Ye won't believe it til ye see it, so get yer ass down here and help me haul 'im down."
He groaned. "Fine, but yer takin' me to the diner after."
"Butter my ass and call me a biscuit that's a moterfuckin' fourteen pointer! He must weigh three hundr'd pounds!" Emmett yelled, as soon as he laid eyes on Oscar.
"Biggest damn buck I ever seen," I said proudly.
He whistled, low and long. "Well, let's get 'im down. My ass hole's suckin' hickeys on my back bone, and yer momma has the best frog legs 'n grits in the South."
"Yeah, come on, Princess, hate for ye t'hafta starve."
"Fuck you, I'm a growin' boy."
"Yeah, sure. Get yer growin' ass over here 'n grab Oscar's hind end and let's go."
After haulin' 'im down and tyin' him to the top o' the truck, I took of my long-sleeved shirt and threw it behind the seat. It had t'be better'n ninety degrees-no way I's wearin' a shirt. Hell, I didn' wear a shirt in the dead o'winter.
Emmett raised his eyebrow at me, but kept 'is mouth shut. He knew I didn't wear a shirt nowhere.
Once we pulled into the parkin' lot of the diner, I jumped out o'the truck to go in, but Emmett hollered, stoppin' me.
"Ye think yer momma's gon' let you in without a shirt, boy?"
"She owns the damn place, why not? 'Sides, e'ryone in 'ere's seen me without it 'fore," I said, crossin' my arms over my chest.
"You dumbass, ye know yer momma don' care who y'are-y'gotta follow the rules. 'S why you keep an extra beater in yer truck," he said, throwing a wife beater in my direction.
As we were a-talkin', more people started showin' up. Pretty soon, people started crowdin' around Oscar, wantin' a better look. I wasn't in the mood to tell the story, so I threw the shirt over my shoulder and ran inside, hollerin', "Good luck, fucker," at Emmett.
My momma jumped on me, o'course, for not wearin' my shirt. I started t'argue, but no self-respectin' southern boy argues with 'is momma. I pulled the shirt over my head and caught sight o'the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen.
She wasn't from Millerville, that was for sure. This wasn't some good ole country girl-she was city. She was wearin' a black dress 'at fit 'er chest like a glove, and some shiny black shoes with a pointy heel. 'Ere wasn't a hair outta place, she wore it down around her face. She was pale, 'cept for a splash o'freckles across her nose. Her lips were real full and pink; I had'ta fight the urge ta'kiss 'er. One look at her pink cheeks and big brown eyes and I felt like the world started spinnin' the other way.
She was so goddamn perfect. I had ta'talk to 'er.
It was real obvious, right off, she was not int'r'sted in me. A'tall. She showed 'er ass a little bit, sayin' I was gross and stunk an'all. With her piss poor attitude, I couldn' help but tease 'er; the way she got all flustered and hateful was fuckin' funny. And sexy as Hell.
When she told me 'er name, it was like she punched me in the gut.
Grandpa Swan's family.
I shoulda known when I seen them motherfuckin' big brown eyes. Her 'n Grandpa Swan had the same damn eyes.
Damn, I miss him.
Bella looked 'bout my age, so I figured she was prob'ly his granddaughter. I wondered if she was close to 'im, but she hadn't been 'round for at least three years, so I figured she wasn't.
I wanted to fault her for it, but nobody knows better'n me how life gets in th'way.
This trip was prob'ly gon' drive her crazy-she stuck out like a diamond in a goat's ass. She was prob'ly already itchin' to get back to San Francisco.
It hurt to realize that in a few days, that's exactly what she'd do. After the funeral, she was gon' go back home, and not come back to 'Bama again.
Thankfully, Emmett barged in and interrupted us-my feathers was a-gettin' ruffled. I ignored Bella and talked to him. I couldn't even make m'self pay attention to 'er when Emmett asked 'bout 'er.
When 'er daddy came back, Emmett and I left 'em alone pretty quick. We ordered us a mess o'frog legs and grits, and talked 'bout Oscar. I watched Bella while she picked at 'er chicken fried steak-poor girl acted like she'd nev'r seen real food b'fore. I couldn't keep my eyes off 'er as she walked out o' the diner.
E'rythang 'bout that girl had mah attention.
I 'bout fell off m'stool a-laughin' when I saw her stop mid-step and shriek somethin' toward my truck. Guess that would surprise 'er.
"Edward, man, you okay?" Emmett asked, thinkin' I's off my rocker.
"Naw, man. I don' think so," I said, smilin'. I finished in my head:
I think 'at snotty city slicker's gon' dig 'er way inta m'heart.
A/N: Reviews are better than Edward wearing camo.