So, I write daily with a wonderful lady. Butterflybetty initially balked at the Alice/Edward pairing in Going Under, but was quickly won over by their personalities. When I offered to write an outtake for the Junkin' for Joplin Auction, I asked her if she could read any one thing from Going Under that would probably never make the story, she immediately answered "When Edward and Alice meet." So, for her birthday (albeit a bit late) I give you her birthday wish. Happy belated birthday, babe! Thanks for being such a great friend and sounding board for all my stories!
This is essentially unbeta'd, other than what nails233 looked over while I snuck to write it when butterflybetty wouldn't see. All mistakes are mine alone.
I don't own it, Stephenie Meyer does. I just moved them all to Virginia and played with them on my own turf!
Let' Wait A While
"Alice, do you have the storyboards for the Windmere house? I thought I'd left them on my desk." Esme called out from her office.
"MMhhmm," my hum trailed off while, I stared at the boards lying on my desk. "I just wanted to review the color scheme one more time before I meet with them this evening."
Esme appeared in the door, "Honey, don't stress about it. You have an impeccable eye for color. They'd be foolish not to accept the design; it's what they were looking for: fresh, vibrant, and open." Stepping next to me she pointed out different aspects on the storyboards. "You've utilized the space well, while recycling and renewing several pieces of their original furnishings to reduce their costs. Sweetie, the design came in several thousand below their budget. They're going to love it." She patted my hand, offering me reassurance.
I gnawed the side of my nail, my usual confidence having fled, my eyes flying across the boards. "Maybe, if I…"
"Mary Alice Brandon!" Exasperated, she snatched the boards from in front of me, zipping them up in my portfolio, "The designs are fine. Now, can you look over this board for the Billings' master bedroom? I'm worried about the placement."
The two of us spent the next couple of hours reviewing story boards for several upcoming redesigns. In the few short months that I'd worked for Esme, she'd come to treat me like an equal, welcoming my input on her designs, giving me my own projects, and always giving credit when due. I'd taken a huge chance when I approached her for a job, just showing up on her doorstep the way I had. It had paid off, though. I loved working with her, appreciated the opportunity she'd given me, but most of all, I genuinely liked her as a person, too.
Esme, and her husband, Carlisle, treated me like family, not an employee. I'd been a frequent guest in their home, something I welcomed, being so far from most of my own family and friends. I knew they had a son a few years older than me, and had raised Esme's nephew after his parents died in a car accident. Pictures of Edward and Emmett were prevalent all over their home, not to mention the pictures that dotted the bookcase behind her desk at work. Looking over toward them, while Esme took a phone call, I couldn't help but notice how much Edward resembled his mother; her green eyes, the red highlights in her hair, and the kindness that shone out from her were reflected back in all of his pictures.
Esme had related many stories about "her boys" over the past couple months, I felt like I already knew them. Emmett's a professional surfer, competing in tournaments across the country. Esme liked to say Emmett followed the sun and the party. Edward, on the other hand, had completed his Master's in English Literature and had begun work on his doctoral thesis. An adjunct professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, he'd just returned from a six month exchange program with Oxford. Esme said his quiet demeanor and studiousness fooled people; he'd often been the ringleader when he and Emmett got into trouble as kids. Tuning back into Esme, I caught the tail-end of her conversation.
"If I leave now, I can be there in about twenty minutes, will that work? Okay. Great. Thank you so much for considering us." She ended the call, putting the handset back in its base. Spinning around from her desk, I noticed the flush of excitement in her cheeks, just before she wrapped me in a hug. "Oh my goodness, Alice! That was the governor's secretary; they are accepting design submissions and estimates for the remodeling of the family's living area, and we've been invited to submit a design!"
"Are you serious? That's incredible, Esme!" I gave her a tight squeeze, then stepped back, while she gathered her purse and keys, then walking with her to the front door. "So, where are you off to?"
"I need to run and pick up the packet for submitting designers; it will have all the information we need. I shouldn't be gone long, two hours tops. Its noon now, what time do you meet with the Windmeres?"
"We're scheduled for five right now, but Mrs. Windmere called yesterday and mentioned a school appointment that might delay her."
"Good, then we'll have time when I get back. Hold down the fort, I'll see you in a bit." With that, she bustled out to her car. With a wave, I sent her off, then headed back to my office.
Immersing myself in the information for a new account we'd acquired the week before, I pulled over a fabric swatch book, making notes on some ideas for the living room we'd be redecorating. I popped in the earphones of my iPod, letting the machine grab any incoming calls, then set to work on building a storyboard. Lost in the sounds of Kings of Leon, singing along with my favorite songs, I didn't hear the front door open. Swiveling in my chair, I screamed when I saw the man leaning against the doorjamb, an amused smirk on his face. I jerked the earphones free, my hand resting over my heart that now raced in my chest.
"Oh my God, you scared the hell out of me! Uhm…Esme, I mean Mrs. Cullen, isn't here. Is there something I can help you with?" It was then that I recognized the face standing before me, despite the fact that his pictures didn't do him justice. "Oh! You're Edward! Your mom's told me so much about you. I'm Alice, Alice Brandon, her assistant." I extended my hand to him, jumping a bit when his warm grasp enveloped mine.
"I figured. Mom had mentioned she'd hired a new assistant, but she certainly left out some pertinent details." He released my hand, looking around the room, before zeroing in on the storyboard in front of me. "I see she didn't exaggerate your talent, either. This is really nice; the color choices are bold, eclectic, but work well together." He ran his hand across the fabric swatches I'd pinned to the board, "This is nice, what's the material?"
"It's…ah…its canvas duck. The family has three boys, all under twelve. They needed durable, functional fabrics, but still wanted the room to look attractive. Since the boys will be the primary users of the room, I wanted to offer a scheme that would fit them, but still fill their parents' need for style." I pointed at a shelving unit under the wall-mounted flat screen I'd sketched in, "These baskets allow for storage of the boys' video games and controllers. It keeps them accessible, while also keeping them out of sight when not in use. Over here, these large apothecary jars on the shelves, are filled with…" My voice trailed off when I felt the warmth of his breath ghost across my cheek. Shivering, I swallowed hard, before leaning away. "I'm sorry. I get really involved in my designs, forgetting that most others could care less."
"Oh, on the contrary," he smiled down at me, "your passion for your job is reflected in your work and your enthusiasm. However, I did come to surprise my mom and take her to lunch. Since she's not here, perhaps I can interest you in joining me instead? You can tell me some more about your designs, and how you came to work at my mom's design house."
"I…oh…I'm not sure if I should. I've got a presentation this afternoon and some other designs to start working up." Before I'd finished talking, Edward had pulled out his cell phone and made a call.
"Hi, Mom. I'm good, I got back in town last night. I'm at the office, now. Yes, I know you're not here, Alice told me. Yes, she does seem like a lovely girl." He looked at me and smiled again, mischief twinkling in his eyes. "That's why I'm calling. Since you're not here, I'd like to take her to lunch in your stead, if it's not a problem. No? Great, thanks. Yes, I'll come by the house this evening to see you and Dad. Love you too, Mom." He ended the call, a victorious look on his face. "There, it's all settled. Mom said you needed to go to lunch, you skip it too often. So, where would you like to go?"
Thirty minutes later, we were seated at a corner table at the Cheesecake Factory. The waitress took our drink orders, before leaving us to look over our menus. Edward glanced at his, then closed it, setting it aside. Folding his hands on the table in front of him, he stared at me. Trying to avoid meeting his eyes, I made an effort to study the selections offered, the whole time aware of his intent gaze. Giving up, I opted for the Cobb salad. It had always been a favorite, and I loved the flatbread they served it on. The waitress returned with our drinks, took our orders, and left us alone again. Picking up the bowl of lemon slices she'd brought for my sweet tea, I busied myself with squeezing them, then dropping them into the glass, using my straw to push them down under the ice.
"So, Mom mentioned you were from Washington. How'd you end up in Virginia?"
I started, not sure what to say. I didn't tend to be shy around men, but Edward unnerved me. Besides the fact that he was my boss' son, his general presence had caused butterflies to well in my stomach. Taking a sip of my tea to give me a minute, I set the glass back down on the coaster, before telling him about my Grand Plan to escape the wet wilds of Washington State. He let me ramble on, talking about my friends and family, the dreams and goals I'd had, and the adjustments I'd made when I realized where my true talents laid. The more we talked, the easier it became, and I found myself asking a few questions of my own. We paused when the waitress brought our food, then continued our conversation while we ate. While I'd known Edward's intelligence far surpassed mine, the depth of his passion for literature consumed him. While he related his stories from England, the places he'd been, the things he'd seen, he managed to pull me into the world he occupied. Though my knowledge was lacking, he never once made me feel dumb, just inspired to learn more. Before I'd realized it, three hours had passed. I never noticed Edward pay the check, though I did notice him having a piece of cheesecake boxed up for his mother. I smiled, touched by his thoughtfulness.
The drive back to the office went quick, and I found myself disappointed that our impromptu lunch had to end so soon. I waited for him to open my car door, accepting his hand when he offered to assist me. Walking back inside, I paused near the door.
"Thanks for lunch, Edward. I had a wonderful time." I wanted to say more, but couldn't find the right words.
When he stepped closer to take my hand, I fought an instinctive urge to step backward. I tilted my head back to look up at him drinking him in to remember everything I could. The variegated shades of green in his eyes reminded me of malachite. His tousled hair resisted his best efforts to control it, and shone like an aged penny. I found myself attracted to his easy nature. If nothing else, I hoped we could be friends. I'd left my best friend behind in Washington and I'd been so busy since coming to work for Esme, I hadn't really had the opportunity to make new ones. Before I could say anything else though, Esme appeared from her office, as if conjured by my thoughts.
"Edward!" She flew across the room, wrapping her arms around his neck, while he gave her a tight hug. "I hoped you'd stop in when you brought Alice back. Where did y'all go for lunch?"
"Hey, Mom. We went to your favorite place, and I brought you back a little something."
Peeking into the box, Esme stood on tiptoes to kiss his cheek. "Yum! Turtle cheesecake, my favorite. Such a good boy to think of his momma."
Not wanting to interfere, I excused myself to my office. I closed the door on their conversation, pleased to see Esme's obvious joy at seeing her son. My parents had divorced right before I started high school, forcing my mom to have to work full time. While we had a good relationship, it lacked the warmth I'd seen between mother and son. The closest I'd had to that had been with Bella's parents. So much so, that I bought them cards for Father's Day and Mother's Day. I sometimes wonder if things had been different, would I've been so eager to leave Washington, but I'd never regretted the decision to do so.
Checking my desk, I saw two notes from Esme. The first concerned my appointment for that evening. Mrs. Windmere had called, asking to reschedule our appointment. Esme had told her she'd have me call back. With a sigh, I picked up my desk phone, rescheduling the appointment for two days later, noting it on my calendar. The second note rested on the storyboard I'd been working on before lunch.
It's shaping up nicely.
They're going to love it!
Taking pride in her appreciation yet again, I set the note to the side, pulling the board in front of me. Pulling the chair out and pushing it over to the wall, I hovered over my desk. Popping in my earphones again, I scrolled to a playlist of classical music. Humming along with the music, I made a few notations, shifting the position of some of the furniture. I finished laying out the paint chips and fabric swatches, creating notes on a separate sheet of paper concerning their placement. Pleased with the design's progress, I moved the board to one of three easels I kept set up for my works in progress. Rifling through the pile of work orders, I pulled out two I'd had ideas, looking them over before deciding on one. Without looking, I reached behind me to where I stored my story boards, jumping when my hand was wrapped in long, firm fingers.
Edward tugged my hand, turning me to face him. Looking up at him, my pulse racing under his thumb, I realized my earphones were still in when I saw his lips moving, but couldn't hear him. With my free hand, I pulled them from my ears.
"I'm sorry, I didn't hear you, but DAMN could you please stop surprising me like that!"
He threw his head back and laughed, before apologizing.
"I'm sorry, I really am. I'm not laughing at you, but at the situation. I did knock on the door, if that counts for anything."
Waving my hand in dismissal, "It's okay; I think my heart will recover." I tugged my hand, hoping he'd release it, but he only tightened his hold. "Did you need something? I'd just started on a new design and I wanted to knock a bit of it out tonight."
"Well, I hoped I could interest you in dinner. Or, if that's not possible, could I have your phone number? I enjoyed lunch and our conversation. I'd really like to see you again."
"Oh." I paused, warring with myself. I did want to see him again, but it seemed so awkward to even consider dating Esme's son. Regret evident in my voice, I replied, "I don't think it's a good idea, Edward."
"I thought you had a good time at lunch. Was I mistaken?"
"Oh no, I had a wonderful time. It's just, under the circumstances…" I didn't finish before he interrupted me.
"What circumstances? The fact that you work with my mom?"
"I don't work with her, I work for her, and there's a huge difference between the two."
"For. With. I don't see what the big deal is. I don't have any stake or influence where the design house is concerned. But, if it will make you feel better, I'll ask Mom for permission to date her employee."
From the hallway, I heard a giggle, then Esme's melodic voice rang out, "You have my permission, Edward. Now you just have to convince Alice." Her office door clicked shut when she finished speaking.
Edward stared at me, his eyebrow lifting in question, the unruly hair falling across his forehead. He resembled the charming rake on the covers of my mother's old romance novels. I couldn't help but think that his actions were calculated to exude charm at levels mortal women couldn't resist. It worked. Releasing a sigh, I shook my head.
"I can't believe I'm agreeing to this. Fine. Put the charm away, Edward. I'll go out with you again."
"No, not tonight, I have plans. Besides, aren't you supposed to go see Carlisle? Call me, though. Maybe we could try for over the weekend."
Edward agreed, though it seemed he wanted to push the issue. He programmed my number into his phone, then with a final squeeze of my hand, he left. He opened his mother's office door, walking in to give her a hug and kiss goodbye. I couldn't hear their whispered conversation, though I did see Esme glance across to my office, speculation in her eyes. She stood and walked Edward out, then came back to my office. She pulled the chair back over to my desk, settling into it. Leveling her gaze upon me, she folded her arms across her chest, a smug look on her face. Unable to handle the pregnant silence, I turned and sat on the edge of my desk to face her.
"Just wondering why you told Edward you had plans this evening, when I know your appointment's been cancelled. From the way you were chatting when you walked in earlier, it's obvious you enjoyed each others' company."
"I did Esme, and that's why I don't want to rush it. I think your son is quite charming and sinfully handsome. I also think that he may have had it too easy finding willing dates. Even you've said that he never seems to settle with anyone very long. From what I've noticed, Edward seems like the kind of man that only really appreciates something he has to work for. So…"
"You're going to make him work for it." Esme finished my sentence. Her whole face brightened, and she dropped her head forward, her shoulders shaking with laughter. Standing, she leaned over and gave me a hug. "Date my son with my blessings, Alice. You are the breath of fresh air he needs, and I'm going to enjoy watching him have to stay on his toes for a change. I think Edward's met his match, all wrapped up in a five foot tall package from Washington. "
I watched her leave, then turned back to my desk, a smile ghosting my lips. Edward Cullen had indeed met his match. I couldn't wait.
Chapter title from the Janet Jackson song of the same name
So, yes, I have submitted an auction item To FanFicAholics Fundraisers for their Junkin' for Joplin auction. All proceeds will be donated directly to the Red Cross fund for Joplin, MO recovery efforts. Up for bid is a Going Under outtake, any POV, no less than 4K words. Minimum bid is set at $20 dollars. The winning bidder will choose all the particulars, including whether or not it will ever be posted. If you are interested, check out the fundraiser group on Facebook.
FFA Fundraisers: www(DOT)facebook(DOT)com/home(DOT)php?sk=group_213588222009155
Thanks as always for all your love and support for Surfsper and his friends!