When I woke up the following morning, a timid sun was just beginning to rise. But even if it was still early on a Sunday morning, I wasn't the only one already awake. Angela had tried to call me once and I had 4 messages waiting for me, all from her to tell me to call her as soon as I could. unfortunately I had left my phone in my room the night before and I didn't think to check for messages before going to bed so in the last message I had, Angela was desperate. More than a little curious to know what the fuss was all about, I called her immediately and she answered on the first ring. She tended to be a bit dramatic.
"Bella, what took you so long?"
Well, I was asleep; I almost said, but Angela didn't give me enough time to say anything.:
"You won't believe what I saw yesterday"
"I'm sure I won't" I said, stifling a yawn.
She didn't seem to realize that she was entirely too excited for me on a Sunday morning.
"Meet me at Tangerine in 10"
"What? But it's not even 8h30 yet, it won't even be open and I'm still in bed" I protested.
Tangerine was one of the few shops of Forks, selling clothes for all ages. It was closed most of the week but opened on Sunday, one of the perks that came from living in a small town that was almost dead during the week and barely awake on week-ends.
I managed to negotiate with Angela for a half hour preparation before I had to meet her but she wouldn't say a word on what I was to expect. So half an hour later, I was fully dressed, clean and very ready to hear her big news.
I was sad for Alice to be able to go out in the sun while she would be stuck in the attic, listening to Charlie's snores. But she had just one more week to endure this, and she still had plenty of food and games to keep busy so she should be fine.
In front of Tangerine, Angela was already waiting for me. It wasn't open yet but we went in a coffee place nearby and as soon as we had our drinks and a quiet corner to seat at, Angela explained her excitation.
The day before, she had gone shopping with her mother and while they were in Tangerine, Laurent Malory came in. Until then, there was nothing so unusual about the situation. But apparently, as soon as Laurent arrived, the women who had been helping Angela and her mom stopped what she was doing and went to see Laurent and apparently, it was as if she had become crazy. She started yelling at him and calling him names and asking how he could enter this shop and after a while she throw clothes at him until he had to leave. And then, she started crying and calling him back, and saying she loved him and how they should marry. Of course, Laurent was already far away, not wanting to stay too close to the shop; the women was still crying until another sale assistant came to help the first women in the office and calmed her down.
"Of course, mom and I didn't know what to do" Angela continued. "But after a while, the other lady came back from the office, asked us to excuse her coworker Irina who wasn't feeling well and started helping us with the clothes as if nothing unusual had happened. Mom was freaked and we left without buying anything"
At this point, I also was a bit startled; it was a rather strange story, but maybe not one worth jumping out of bed so early on a Sunday. So I wasn't sure what to think of Angela's enthusiasm and how to respond. Angela must have seen my hesitation because she asked:
"You don't see it?"
Still no reaction from my brain
"Irina, the sale person's name was Irina! As in Irina Denali" Angela continued
"right" I said to make her happy. I'm sure she was still waiting for me to feel as excited as she was but it really wasn't coming. What if it was Irina Denali? And why should she be Irina Denali and not another Irina?
"You don't get it do you?" Angela seemed exasperated. "I'm telling you this girl was Irina Denali, I looked her up on Tangerine's website, turns out she is the owner, I never knew. Don't you think her reaction to Laurent was a bit intense? No wonder people always said she was crazy and nobody wants to talk about her"
I recalled Jessica telling me the year before not to mind Rosalie Hale because she was from the Denali family where everybody was crazy... especially their aunt Irina, she had said. And then there was my father who hadn't wanted to talk about her when we had our little chat about the F4. So that's where Irina had ended up; owner of Tangerine. She probably wasn't so crazy then, owning a shop wasn't exactly a cakewalk. But still, I didn't know why it was such a discovery so I let Angela explain it to me.
"You see, in the Denali family, the 3 girls who had our parent's age had to marry well and early to keep the business going. Rosalie's mum married a very wealthy young man who owns several factories in Seattle. Hale is a big name there. Tania married someone even wealthier and when they divorced, it was a big scandal. The only reason she wasn't banned from the family is that she is really good in affair so she kept the business running alone and was even more successful than when her husband was running it. But Irina is another story. She had several fiancés, none of them lasted very long and rumors are that she already had someone she loved, not good enough for her parents, and didn't want her marriage to be arranged like her sisters. Since her parents didn't stop looking for suitable husbands for her, she left the family, another big scandal. And then, when everybody expected to see her married in no time, she never did and more and more people said she had gone insane."
Well, except for Irina's part, Angela's tale was very similar to the one Charlie had told me. But Angela didn't stop there.
"Everybody purposely forget about Irina. Maybe people knew what she had become but I never heard anyone talk about it. And now, here she is, owner of Tangerine and crying over Laurent. Call me crazy but I'm sure there is history there"
Knowing that Angela was usually right, I didn't dare disagree.
"What I think is that Laurent was the person that made Irina throw away all her fiancés and quit her family. But either her love wasn't reciprocated, either Laurent wasn't as serious about her than she was about him. And after having gone to all the trouble and scandal of relinquishing her right as a Denali, Laurent didn't offer her the marriage. It must have been terrible"
I was starting to see where she was going
"Now, how would you feel about Esme Volturi, Laurent alleged fiancée if you were Irina?"
"Well, she wouldn't be my favorite person" I said.
"Exactly" Angela beamed, happy at last, to see me catch her point. "But how much, that's something we have to find out"
"How?" I began
But Angela was already standing up and leaving the coffee place. I'm pretty sure she did it on purpose because if she had exposed her plan to me while we were still far from the shop and not walking towards it like we were, I would never have agree. Instead, she almost pushed me forward until I had no more choice but play along.
Her plan was simple, she wanted to pretend we were doing an article for our school newspaper about Forks leading families and ask Irina for an interview and maybe try to ask her about Laurent.
The only problem was, after hearing how she had reacted to the sight of Laurent the day before, I doubted she would be very happy to talk to 2 girls prying for information on her private life. I tried to say this to Angela but of course she didn't listen.
And in fact, her plan worked rather well and did serve his purpose. When we reached the shop, Irina was there alone and she seemed truly flattered to be asked for an interview. Since the shop was empty except for us, we took place in the small back office and Angela looked at the questions she had prepared in her always present notebook. I have to say, I was impressed by her professionalism. she totally had a future in journalism, or maybe in the police, section interrogation.
She began by some questions about the shop, like since when Irina owned it, how she managed it, how she chose her clothes etc. They even had a long debate about which colors goes best with which skin tones. Which was kind of funny when you know Angela is so uninterested in fashion that she almost never managed to have 2 socks the same color. But Irina and her seemed more and more at ease talking together so I wasn't going to interrupt.
When all business related questions were covered, Angela switched to more personal questions about Irina's family. Irina wasn't volunteering anything but questions after questions, we were able to understand better the strict way of life she had grown up in. And once again, I thought about Rosalie and how she must live the same way. I wondered if there would be the same edge of sadness in her voice if she talked about it. Probably.
But at least Irina wasn't bitter. She seemed to have made her peace with her family. She didn't regret leaving them, only that after all this time, they were still too proud to admit they might have been hard on her. Up until then, I couldn't tell why people thought she was crazy. Only when she began speaking about the importance of making choices and following what we thought was right did she appear a little bit exalted. And about love. She talked a lot about love and that's when she stopped answering Angela's questions and became hard to follow.
Now that she was started, there was no stopping her. She wanted to give us advises about boys and love but sometime she would tell us it was the most wonderful feeling of all and the next minute, she would tell us never to fall in love and never trust a boy. One minute she would be focused and calm and the next excited and restless. Whatever had happened to her, I felt very sad for the girl she had been and the hardship she seemed to have endured.
Angela waited patiently for her to finish and when she was, she ask very nicely: "Where you talking about Laurent just now?"
Irina opened her eyes very big and shook her head no too quickly. She seemed afraid for some reason. But Angela took her hands and looked at her with her wise eyes for a long time before Irina dropped her head and murmured "yes". It was as if Angela was now the adult and Irina had became a little girl. And I knew right now that she would tell us her story, the unabridged version, because she looked tired of keeping the secret.
She still had the strength to make us promise we weren't going to write an article anymore and tell anyone about it. But then, she surrendered.
Irina's story was very sad. We knew much of it, but it wasn't the same to hear it from Irina. She indeed was in love with Laurent when her parents were trying to find a suitable husband for her. The Denali didn't like the Malory and didn't want their daughter to marry Laurent. They wanted her to forget about him, and maybe she should have. But she thought he loved her as she loved him. So she left her family. She now felt ashamed for all the things she had done for him when he didn't reciprocated.
"I'm sure he liked being with me. I was happy and easygoing then" she explained. "But I should have realized he wasn't really interested in me. When I was cut from my family and came to his place, hopping he would take me in, he didn't. Instead, he helped me look for a place in town. I should have realized right then that he had wanted me for my name. But I didn't. I wanted to believe my dreams were coming true and nothing was going to keep us apart. Laurent said he didn't want people to know we were seeing each other, that it would fuel the scandal of my departure from the family. He would come to see me and leave in the morning. But still I didn't mind, waiting for the day he would ask me to marry him."
It lasted a while before Irina heard the rumor about Esme's engagement with Laurent. Angela had wanted to know if Irina was angry with Esme but if she was, she hide it pretty well. Laurent had made sure nobody knew he was seeing Irina and Esme couldn't know either. Besides, Laurent wasn't Esme's choice, just like Irina's fiancés had been found for her. Esme's parents wanted Laurent as a son in law to assure that the hospital wouldn't go to the Cullens when they were gone.
Irina didn't hate Esme but she didn't like her either. She said she was a goody goody, being too nice to everybody and doing everything her parents said. She couldn't see how Laurent could chose Esme over her. But when she confronted him about her, she understood he didn't.
"Since I wasn't going to inherit money for my family" Irina explained "Laurent wanted to secure our future by another way. He said our future but he meant his"
What Laurent wanted was easy to understand, he wanted Esme's wealth and Irina's entertainment. Irina just didn't know how he could have both but as twisted as it was, she fell for it and fell for Laurent's promises of eternal love. And now that she was all alone, she didn't dare loose him. So she didn't confront him again.
At this point of her story, she stopped and seemed to remember where she was and who we were. And as suddenly as she had started, she looked at her watch and stand up, blaming the time that passed to quickly.
"Well, you know the rest" she said. "Esme died and Laurent had the money and all the girls he wanted so he finally admitted that he didn't want to marry me and I was left alone. End of the story".
But not end of my story...