Baby It's Cold Outside O/S Contest
Title: Send Me Love
Rating & Any Needed Warnings: Rated M for language
Word Count: 11,118
Summary: Each of us is looking for that Special Someone. Some of us find it, some of us don't. To Edward it happens under unusual circumstances when he expects it the least. Will he be able to step over the obstacles life has put in his way?
Disclaimer: Everything Twilight related belongs to the amazing Stephenie Meyer. The author of the entry owns only this fictional story.
I hated holiday season. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to get together with your family – if you have one – but all these things are so over-commercialized, it makes me sick. You are a complete idiot if you think Christmas is all about love and forgiving, or some hippie shit like that, seriously. It was only about presents or money, to be exact. I'm a mailman; I would know.
Yeah, my job was pretty cool most of the time. I had to wake up pretty early in the mornings, about six am or so to deliver the mail in time, but I always get the rest of the day free, so it's worth the pain, in my opinion. Some would consider the payment to be the main motive for getting up practically in the middle of the night, but it had never been like that for me. Besides, the salary wasn't big enough to make a normal man get out of his warm bed and leave his hot woman to play fetch with other people's mail. My brother's words, not mine. I loved this job and money had never been a problem for me.
This season was always very busy – with all the post cards and packages to deliver, I always felt like this nightmare was never going to end. I knew my colleagues, too, were stressed out when December came, only with the exception that they thought it was 'fun'. Yuck.
The chaos at the office started on the last week of November and continued for the next two months until the end of January. Yeah, turns out there are people who are either very – overly – lazy or absentminded, or just had a tendency to over-do everything, sending out holiday greeting cards included. Again, yuck.
This year, as far as I could tell, wasn't going to be any different. Today was December Third and we were already up to our necks in. Sort the letters and postcards, grade the packages for delivering and dispatching. The clerks at the post office were going crazy about all of this; it was a good thing my duties only included delivering. I smirked to myself before opening the door and entering the office.
"Good morning, Edward," an overly sweet voice greeted me, and my good mood vanished.
Jessica Stanley. That woman has been trying to get with me since high school. But as boring and whorish as she was back in the days so she was now and I've always shaken her off. However, she never changed and it was almost like repeated rejection was some kind of a turn-on for her – she always kept coming back for more. She really made me sick and it was a shame I had to work with her.
"Mornin'," I grumbled without even looking at her, and immediately regretted having replied at all.
"Oh, Edward! You look very good today." Her words were old as the world itself and I didn't even hear them anymore. In a blink of an eye she stood in my way and tried to "fix" my collar. Ridiculous, because I wore a hoodie today. Sighing in deep frustration, I knocked her hands away from my chest, but she didn't stop babbling.
"What are you doing this evening? Huh? I was thinking we could go out, like, to a movie, or a club, you decide. We haven't gotten together in a while, babe, and I was hoping we could hang out like in the old days." She sort of pouted up at me, trying to be adorable, but that fake doll face made my breakfast turn in my stomach.
"Jess, I've told you thousands of times that I –"
"But I didn't listen!" She giggled like a child and I had to work on keeping my face from scrunching in repugnance. I frowned at her and once again wondered why they even hired this rattle-brained-sham-Barbie. After what seemed like at least half an hour she finally seemed to understand I wasn't laughing with her.
"Oh, come on, Edward. Please?" I gritted my teeth. I fucking hated when women begged me. "Just one time, honey. Come on, Christmas is coming. Please?" She tried again, opening her pale blue eyes so wide it looked like they were going to pop out of her head any moment. Before she had a chance to reach up to me again, I grabbed her wrists and pressed them down to her sides, hating every second I was touching her.
"For the last time this year, and every other year in the future, Jessica." I looked her dead in the eye and spoke each word with perfect clarity. "First, I am not a 'honey' or 'babe' to you – I've never been one. Second, there has never been a time called 'the old days'. Third, I will never go out with you – not to a movie, not to a club, not to dinner. Ever. Even if someone was to pay me a million dollars for that, there won't come a day that I would hang out with you. And fourth, I swear I'll sue you for sexual harassment if you ever touch me again. Do I make myself clear?" My voice was steady and calm while my words mirrored my hatred for this woman.
She raised her chin and glared back at me before snapping, "Fine! But when you come back to me begging to be with me, I'll tell you to fuck off." Tears welled up in her eyes and it amused me to see this whore with an expression like that. I let go of her hands and unconsciously wiped my palms against my jeans.
I said in a warning tone, "You will never await that day, I can assure you. Now, let's get back to work, shall we?" I grinned at her, then bypassed her and went to the door that led to the store-room in the back. Angela, the other office-worker, caught my eye before I exited the lobby and smiled at me apologizingly. I returned her smile and bowed my head in her direction. She was a nice girl and a great employee; everyone around here liked her.
"Asshole!" Jessica shouted from behind me before getting back to her desk. I just laughed out loud and shut the door behind me.
The other carriers were already there, drinking coffee and waiting to receive their share of the morning mail. I exchanged greetings with them and shook their hands, then went to sit at my place next to Ben, my closest friend from work.
"Hey, man. Jess again?" He pointed to the door with his head.
I ran my hand through my hair. "Yeah. That bitch is not letting go. Keeps dreaming we'd go out. I don't know where she gets those sick ideas. She's seriously nuts."
"She's nuts, alright, but she's nuts about you. You could at least get a good lay out of this," he wiggled his eyebrows.
"Oh no, don't you dare go there! She repulses me. I can't touch her; yuck." I shuddered. It might seem like I was being a jackass, but I didn't care. She was disgusting to me and it was bad enough we were working together.
Ben burst out laughing, and the others joined. This was our routine – to laugh about Jessica. She was the biggest joke in whole of Forks.
"That girl's sick, but she's got some nice curves!" Tyler motioned with his hands, bending over with his hysterical laughter.
"Well, then go ahead and take her – she's more than willing," I replied, knowing full well this wasn't going to happen. Although miss Stanley was well-known as a slut, men were running from her like from a disease, Tyiler included.
"Crowley, Cullen, cut the shit." Mike, our boss, wheeled in a cart with the mail and papers, then clapped his hands theatrically. "Gentlemen, we got work to do." Ben patted my back and I jumped off the counter I'd been sitting on, rolling my eyes.
Michael Newton was the second biggest joke in this town. With his dirty blond, hair-gel filled hair and arrogant facial expression he rivaled Jessica's bleached mane and cheap-looking image. People said they'd be good together and it was obvious that Mikey here had a small crush on the girl. But he was too big of a chicken to ask her out.
We were given the mail we had to deliver and we spread throughout the town. I took my share for the day to my labor car and sat behind the wheel. A sigh escaped me. Our post office had only two vehicles – this rust VW Caravelle and an old Ford sedan for Mike. The van was placed in my charge, since I was their best carrier – their words, not mine – and, though I preferred my Volvo, this German car was pretty much okay. At least I didn't have to walk around in the snow with my bag filled with letters.
The next two hours passed as usual: weekly magazines for the housewives, morning paper for the husbands, some letters and bills along with postcards. Already. Gosh, it was only the beginning of December, there was still more than enough time for that! I groaned, but I had no other option than to put them into addressees' mailboxes. I tried very hard not to pay any mind to the amount of cards and before the clock struck nine in the morning, I was back home.
I guess you could call my house big but I didn't really see the open space. All I saw was emptiness and painful memories, because it's been years since someone from my family has walked through these rooms.
I hung my jacket in place and dropped my keys on the small table next to the mirror, then crossed the hall without even looking at my piano, I haven't played in years, and went into the kitchen, not hearing my steps resounding through the whole first floor. I made a cup of black coffee and some toasts with cream cheese, and went back to the living room to plop down on my gigantic, black leather couch. There was nothing to watch on TV, so I didn't bother turning the thing on. Instead I made myself comfortable and ate my lunch. I had nowhere to hurry – my day was looking to be very boring.
Around four in the afternoon my phone rang. I almost jumped out of my pants when it went off – it was always so quiet around here and every sound startled me.
"Hey, bro, how's it goin'?"
"Emmett," I let out my breath and sat back on the sofa, somehow feeling pretty ashamed of my reaction. "I'm.. I'm good. Bored. Have nothing to do. How are you? How's Rose and the kid?" I'd spoken to my brother only two days ago, but I missed him, terribly. He has always been my best friend. My life was lonely and monotone, and everytime someone called me, I was reminded of that. I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair, listening to his familiar voice.
"They're good, we're good. Everything's fine. I'm at work now, just taking a break before going back to the court. We're dealin' with the case I told you about. The guy keeps saying he's not guilty, but it's obvious that he's lying. The jury's moved by his tale, though, and it won't be easy to make them see the truth... But that's not why I'm calling."
"Yeah, I.. talked to Alice yesterday." He sounded almost ashamed.
"Oh?" I said again.
"Yeah, ah, she said she's busy with school and she probably won't be able to come home for holidays. I'm sorry, Ed."
I sat in silence, pinching the bridge of my nose and trying to wrap my head around the idea of yet another lonely Christmas.
"Edward? Are you still there?" Emmett's voice broke through the cloud of sadness that was trying to consume me.
"Yeah, yeah... I'm here." I breathed in and out, slowly and deeply. "You won't come either, will you?"
"N-no, I don't think we'll make it. But if anything changes, I'll definitely let you know."
"Yeah, okay… okay."
There was a moment of nothing, then he spoke up again. "You wanna go out tonight?"
Immediately I smiled. He was trying to cheer me up and it worked. He was so good at this. "You'll have time?" I asked and the hope was evident in my voice.
"Mhm," he hummed. "We'll be done in a few hours and Rosalie's at her parents' today. How about, say… 8 pm my place?" I could hear his smile over the phone and I smiled in return, though he couldn't see it.
"I'll be there."
"Okay. Eight o'clock, don't forget."
"I won't. Thanks, Em."
"Anytime, bro, anytime." He let out a small laugh. "Okay then. See you tonight. Take care, Edward."
"You, too. Bye."
After he hung up, I stared at my phone for a while, grinning widely and feeling much better than before. Maybe this day wouldn't be so bad, after all.
A quarter before eight I pulled into Emmett's street. I parked, turned off the engine and looked up at the windows of his apartment. He was at home and I breathed a sigh of relief. My loneliness seemed to have vanished after his call – quite literally bouncing around in excitement and anticipation about the night, I didn't think about how alone I was again. And I didn't want to think about it now, either.
Before I started to hyperventilate, I stepped out of the car and leaned against its side. The cold air stung my nose and cleared my mind to a level where I had no thoughts at all. I just stared at the clear night sky and the stars, wishing the snow would fall and for something else, too – I couldn't remember what exactly it was – until Emmett came down. He actually had to wave his hand before my eyes because I didn't notice the exact moment he appeared next to me.
"Hey," he called, snapping his fingers in front of me. "You alright?"
"Yeah, yeah..." I sighed and shook my head. "Where're we going?" I climbed back in the car.
He sat in the passenger seat and shut the door while letting his breath out in a 'whoosh'.
"Depends on whether you're hungry. I'd have the perfect place.. or we can go clubbin'," he suggested, seeing me shaking my head at the dinner option.
I nodded and a grin appeared on my face. "Perfect." I started the car, still smiling. Lots of loud music was exactly what I needed.
With Emmett's detailed directions I had no problem finding our target. La Foudre, that was the name of the club. Seemed pretty fancy and it looked like Em had been here before, and not just once. The guard and the porter both greeted him like an old friend when we entered the club, a dark-skinned, shoulder-length black-haired man in a tailor-made dark gray suit came up and shook his hand.
"Emmett, my man," the stranger exclaimed with a slight French accent.
"Laurent," Em gave him an one-armed hug and patted his back. I stood aside, feeling out of place as they exchanged niceties.
After Emmett had answered Laurent's question about my sister-in-law, the man finally noticed me.
"And who is this?" he asked in a curious voice, cocking his head to the side.
It was funny to watch Emmett snap out of whatever the hell he was in and remember I was here with him. I would've laughed if it didn't hurt. Was I really that invisible even to my own brother?
"Oh! This," he actually straightened out and his expression became one of a proud parent's. "This is my lil' brother." Em put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me forward a bit. I took the hint and stretched out my hand towards the man.
"Edward Cullen," I said, looking him in the eye. He was almost as tall as I was, maybe an inch or two less. His eyes were almost black, but warm. There was something strange about him, but I liked the guy.
Taking my hand in his, Laurent broke into a blinding grin. It seemed that everything about him was dark, except his pearly teeth that glowed in the dim light. "Laurent Denali, chief manager of this wonderland." He spoke with such enthusiasm, waving his free hand around in the air, and I felt my own lips twitch to smile.
"Nice to meet you."
"Likewise," Laurent put his other palm on mine, then looked at Emmett. "How come you never brought him down here before, hmm?"
"Dunno," my brother grinned, then clapped his hands. "But, since we're here, we'd better be enjoying ourselves, right?"
They laughed, and I smiled down at my feet. Laurent then led us to the bar and excused himself, leaving us in the hands of his magnificent bartender Santi, as he put it. Since I would be driving myself home later in the night, I knew I couldn't drink a lot. I chose a Heineken and Emmett took a Highball. While we waited for our drinks, I followed the manager with my eyes and watched as he chatted with guests and behaved like he owned this place. Maybe he did. Hell, I wouldn't care anyway, I thought, averting my attention to the shelves of liquor when the man embraced a silvery blonde woman.
Emmett filled the silence with some small talk about work and the weather. I didn't really listen as I felt the depression coming back to me. Silly, huh? The most wonderful time of the year was coming, but I felt depressed. Yeah, whatever. It was always like this for me.
Some questions about my days, some jokes about his colleagues and the time disappeared. However, no matter how good it felt to get out of that godforsaken, boring town I loved nevertheless, or meet my brother, the fact that something was missing in my life was like a dull pulse on bruised skin. Emmett was okay – he was happily married and waiting for his first child to be born. I had only my job and a big, empty house to return to.
I'd lie if I said I didn't want to start a family. I just hadn't found the woman yet. Those harlots who threw themselves at me back at Forks held no interest of me. My girl had to have a personality, she had to be sweet, honest, able to give me everything I've been missing and a pretty face would do no harm, either. I sighed and rested my chin on my folded arms on the counter, staring at my second bottle of beer. I had no idea where to find that girl, and that made me even sadder. I sank further into my chair.
I guess Emmett had noticed the gloominess that was out of character even for me. He slid off his stool and put his hand on my shoulder to steady himself.
"Do you wish to go?"
Here's what was funny about Emmett: when he was tipsy, he spoke clearly and in perfect English. Even now, after five glasses of whiskey, his speech was one of a nineteenth century gentleman instead of a drunk public prosecutor that he really was.
I straightened out and stretched, then turned to Emmett but froze in the process.
Did I just moments ago think that I really didn't know where to find the woman of my dreams? Well yeah, if you sit with your back turned on her, you might really not notice her. But there she was.
Sitting on one of the couches along the far wall and watching the people on the dancefloor, lazily sipping from a large tumbler and swinging her right leg that was crossed over her other knee was a gorgeous beauty. Her skin was pale and looked deliciously creamy and glowing in this artificial twilight; her dark hair flowed freely around her thin shoulders and down to her narrow waist. She was so tiny and looked so sad... I felt a sudden urge to rush to her side, hold her to my chest and never let go; to protect her from everything and everyone who'd dare to even try to threaten her. That urge was almost impossible to resist, but something kept me at bay. Staring at this heavenly creature cleared my mind from the liquor fog and I realized Emmett was still holding on to my shoulder. Reluctantly I looked away from the Angel to meet my brother's sleepy yet so observant eyes. He saw the desperate and longing look on my face and followed my gaze to where the girl was sitting. I felt something pull me towards her, but my legs were waiting for a permission to move which I was hesitant to give.
Emmett slightly shook my shoulder to get my attention. I looked back at him and took in his expression. He was frowning with his lips pursed, his brownish green eyes boring into mine. When he seemed to have found what he'd been looking for, his face relaxed and he spoke.
"Go talk to her."
Four short words. One small sentence. Such a simple statement. But it filled me with great fear. What if she didn't like me? What if she laughed at me? I felt very insecure, scared and self-conscious. I knew my face looked awful from inebriation, my eyes and nose must be red, and my hair was always in disarray. And my feet were stuck on the ground anyway, I couldn't move even if someone dared me to.
I shook my head at Emmett, feeling my eyes widen and watching his narrow in turn.
"I can't, no. She's.. no, I can't." I shook my head and then suddenly was in a hurry. "Are you done here? You don't want anything else?" I bombarded him with a thousands questions while paying our bill and leaving a big-ass tip for Santi. Obviously – fortunately – I spoke too quickly and Em lost me somewhere. His brow knit together in concentration as he tried to understand what I had said.
"N-no, I'm.. am, yes," he stuttered, raising his hand to rub the back of his neck.
"Good, good." I breathed out, relieved, and thanked the barman. Then, casting a sideway glance at the beautiful woman, regretting being such a coward and wondering if I'd ever see her again, I dragged my brother out of the club.
I only relaxed when we were back in the car, but even then I was gasping for air and my hands were trembling. I repeatedly ran them through the mess on my head, trying to calm down enough to drive. Nothing worked, though. I was out of explanations when it came to my reaction to that woman. I mean, she hadn't even looked at me, but I'd lost my composure like a freaking school boy asking the head cheerleader to the prom.
"You okay, Ed?" Emmett asked softly and I turned to face him.
"Yeah, yeah. I am." I kept breathing in and out deeply, trying to stop my chest from heaving.
"Well, then why're we not going?" he exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air and then slapping his palms against his thighs. "Rose must be home already and I haven't seen my baby all day!" Em cried, unaware of me silently gaping at his profile. He'd never gotten whiney and crybaby-ish before – this was something new. Or maybe he was just rehearsing for the time less than four months ahead of him, the time when he would become a father?
"Okay, okay," I muttered, finally brining my Volvo back to life.
I drove in silence and Emmett didn't say a word, either. This was good – I could concentrate on the Angel from the club, whose image was etched into my mind. But even now, in a quiet place, almost all alone, I still couldn't help but feel ashamed of ogling the girl when she didn't even know I existed. It was impossible, however, to refrain from doing exactly that with the way she loked and it wasn't long before I again caught myself lusting over the precious memory of her. I have never been more grateful for my photographic memory than I was now.
With the Friday night traffic it took us longer than usual to get back to Emmett's, but eventually we arrived at his house. I turned off the engine and put my hands in my lap, staring through the windshield.
"Hmm?" I turned to face Emmett and saw that he was frowning and his expression indicating that he was examining me again. He didn't respond for a long minute, then took off his seatbelt and opened the door.
"Thanks for the night, bro. 'T was awesome." I nodded slightly; he shook my right hand and then climbed out of the car. He turned around and was about to shut the door when he shifted his weight to his other leg and glanced at the sky in direction of Seattle's downtown.
Emmett sighed. "You're gonna regret it, Edward. Bye." Closing the door of my car, he turned his back on me and went for the door of his building.
I watched as my brother greeted the porter and disappeared into the lobby, then averted my eyes to the steering wheel, all the while seeing nothing but the beautiful brunette's small form. Again my fingers flew to my hair and I sighed heavily, mumbling to the wheel,
But there was nothing I could do about it – the mistake was made and the girl was lost to me.
To see the one I've been searching for the twenty-six years I've walked this earth and then just slip away like nothing had happened was probably the hardest thing I've ever done. But there was no way to undo any of that now. Returning to my usual depressed self, I drove away, leaving the big city and the Angel behind me.
The days flew by quickly and I didn't even notice them passing because, just as Emmett had predicted, the beauty from La Foudre never left my mind. Every day my thoughts wandered back to her – usually on more than one occasion in a day.
That night when I got home, I felt like the walls were closing in on me; I was so depressed by what I'd done. Thankfully, it was Friday and I never had to work on Saturdays, so I got drunk and went to bed as soon as my already half-empty bottle of vodka was completely drained. The alcohol-induced haze was beautiful and relaxing, and the sleep came quickly when my head finally hit the pillow. That night was the first time I dreamt of her.
In the morning I was slightly disgusted and angry with myself but felt no surprise at seeing the woman in my dreams.
The following few days and the first week was the hardest. I was glaring murderously at everything in sight when all I really wanted to do was beat myself up for behaving like an idiot. My colleagues only spoke to me if the need was acute and even Jess didn't throw herself at me anymore, which, I had to admit, was great. Every evening I dreaded going to sleep and was scared shitless of the pain and helplessness that were sure to come in the morning after every time I saw her in my dreams.
That first week was the most terrible. After that I had already grown accustomed to the dull stinging and coldness in my chest and I rather welcomed it. At that point I was practically one hundred per cent positive I would suffer about anything if it meant I could see her – no matter if it was only a briefly lasting dream or a fading memory. I saw what was happening – what had happened already – with me.
Long ago, I had promised someone I would never lie to myself or deny a crystal clear truth, so here I was now, admitting it. Over this short time I had turned into an addict, living with a constant need to see that face, that hair, craving for a chance to hear her voice, to touch her skin. And I was falling head-over-heels in love with her, hard. I knew it was wrong, it was ridiculous to tie myself to someone who didn't even have an idea that I existed and that by doing so, by falling for that girl I would be signing up for potential heartbreak or a life filled with longing for someone I could never have. But there was a fact, a well-known, rock solid fact that you couldn't tell yourself, your heart who it was right to love.
That was the way my days passed now: wake up in the morning, usually with a slight hangover, frighten the shit out of everyone at work, come back home, somehow spend useless and lonely days while thinking of that woman all the time, not wanting and at the same time craving the sleep and dreams of her. And today was no different.
My eyes popped open at the exact moment my alarm went off. As soon as Muse's Map of the Problematique began blaring, my slumber vanished as if by magic, like a bucket of cold water had been poured over me – the sounds of the guitar had always had such effect on me. I loved the song, always have. And now, I loved it even more, as the lyrics reminded me of the woman I'd seen a little more than two weeks ago, and who I had secretly began calling 'my Angel'.
I can't get it right
Get it right
Since I met you
Loneliness be over
When will this loneliness be over
I rubbed my chest in a way that had become a routine for me, then threw the covers aside and climbed out of the bed. I slid my palm over my face and groaned into it quickly, feeling the blood pounding in my head and hobbled over to the bathroom. Standing in front of the full height mirror on the wall, I examined myself. Tall and athletic, but sagged and crumpled-looking body. Hair – a complete mess as usual. Finally my face. Dark circles under my bloodshot, sleepy eyes; the green of my irises made a sharp contrast with the red, swollen lids. My skin was a paradox on its own: pale, but at the same time flushed with a shadow of light brown stubble on my jaw. I frowned at my reflection and moved on to the wash basin. I knew that sixth beer was a bad idea. Oh well. It was too late to undo it now.
After about twenty minutes I was done in the bathroom and returned to my wardrobe. Choosing a pair of bleached, light blue jeans and a deep brown turtleneck sweater, I dressed quickly and went down to the kitchen. I turned the TV on to watch the morning news as I always did, then went to fix myself a large mug of milky coffee because I needed coffee like the air I breathed, but discovered that today was not my lucky day even if '21' claimed to be my lucky number – I had run out of milk.
"Fuck," I cursed, pinching the bridge of my nose. "That's just fuckin' perfect!" I shouted and slammed my palms hard against the cold granite counter. They began to sting immediately, pulsing and even becoming a little numb, but I thought nothing of it. I ran my fingers through my messy and still a bit damp hair and figured I'd have to have black coffee if I wanted to get to work. I got the drink ready and took a sip, groaning in annoyance. I hated black coffee. And this was going to be a long, boring, piece-of-shit day, I could feel it.
Half an hour later I pulled up at the post office. Turning off the engine, I sighed and snuggled deeper into my jacket. The weather had gotten colder over the past few days and the world was thoroughly covered with a layer of snow. It wasn't very deep, but enough to already be the cause of several car crashes and make the rest of the drivers cautious. The chief of Forks PD, Charlie Swan, wasn't short of work to do.
I stepped out onto the ground and looked up at the pale, bluish gray clouds. It would be clear for a child that it was going to snow again. Fucking white Christmas. How cliché. I snorted quietly and entered the office, heading straight to the store-room and greeting Angela on the way.
The guys were quite used to my new grumpy self and they only nodded or waved their hands as a 'hello' when they noticed me. Only Ben, who knew me for a longer time than the others and, I suspected, had an idea of what was wrong with me, wasn't affected by my strange behaviour and offered me his hand which I shook.
"Hey," he said, slapping his hand on his thigh, and turning sideways to look me up and down. I could see the look in his eyes and knew without him saying a word that he thought I looked awful. Yeah, no shit.
"Uh, hi." I practically fell onto the counter we always sat on and let a heavy 'whoosh' of air slide between my lips.
Ben carefully eyed me again. "You alright?"
I knew he was just concerned about me and I should be thankful for a friend like him. But I also knew that this all was weighing on me and I needed to get rid of at least a part of it.
"No, I'm not alright. Far from it. I can't sleep – well, actually, I can, but it brings me no rest. I get drunk every night, wake up with a hangover, spend a useless day and then the cycle starts anew. I'm going crazy over all this and on top of that I ran outta milk this morning!" The last part was spoken in almost shouting voice and the room was completely still once my words faded out. The men had stopped talking and were now staring at me, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. My chest was heaving and my hands were shaking, and I looked down to my lap and whispered,
"Sorry." It felt so good to get at least something off my shoulders.
Some time later the conversations resumed but Ben said nothing with regards to my rambling. He just patted my back and looked at me sympathetically. The pity in his eyes almost brought some anger out but I managed to keep it back and instead smiled at him apologetically. Then I climbed down from my seat and got myself a cup of synthetic office coffee that was said to have at least a bit of milk in it and felt it calming my nerves instantly. I loved milky coffee.
It wasn't long after I finished my drink that Newton appeared with his mail cart. He gave us our shares that were mainly holiday greeting cards and letters along with smaller and not so small packages from ebay, Amazon and other Internet shops. Obviously people were getting ready for Christmas which were only four days away. Damned holidays, I thoughts, glaring at the decorated envelopes and postcards with snowmen, reindeers and fat Santas.
I was just about to exit the store-room when Mike called my name.
"Uh, Cullen?" I heard behind my back. I turned around and saw him frowning at his pad with an impatient expression. I frowned in turn and held back an eye-roll, strolling towards him.
"What?" My voice was dripping with annoyance. He glanced up at me, trying to hide the startled look in his eyes. He didn't succeed and I smirked at the poor bastard. He cleared his throat and looked back at the pad in his hand.
"We, um, we got a parcel that was specifically asked to be delivered by our best and reliable carrier, and.. that's you." He threw me a sideways glance which I, of course, noticed, then coughed. "Khm, I talked with the sender on the phone and he said he's ready to pay you extra to deliver the package today at noon sharp. He gave the address and the items are back there –" he pointed over his shoulder, "– so get rid of the morning mail and report back here at half past eleven. Got that?" His voice became louder and more commanding as the words continued to flow from his mouth, and I stood next to him with my hands in my pockets, inwardly laughing my ass off at my stupid boss.
The man amused me so much that I couldn't help it: I straightened out, clicked my heels and saluted military style. "Sir, yes, sir!"
Mike smiled at me, completely oblivious to my mockery. "Good," he sighed and his shoulders relaxed. He waved me off, telling me to go get the work done and I walked out of the room, shaking my head and laughing silently. He was such a bull-headed idiot.
Sitting in the van, I sorted through the mail and put it in a definite order, so I could start delivering from one place and wouldn't have to move back and forth. I took my time because I saw no point in going back home and returning later again. But the irritating question about the special delivery kept resurfacing through my other thoughts, diverting my attention from the work I had to do. The relentless voice in the back of my mind and the dull pulsing in my chest had vanished for the moment, though and I realized I felt almost.. excited? I couldn't explain the sensation, but jumpy laced with nervousness seemed to be the closest term.
It was almost as if something pulled me forward, hurrying me to finish everything and get back to the office, as if that would somehow make the time go by faster. What had triggered these sensations, I didn't know, but I pushed the questions and the memory of the night at the club aside and turned the key in the ignition.
The shiny and overdecorated Christmas greeting cards were a total of sixty-seven and by the time I got back to the post office parking lot, I felt like vomiting. I got out of the van and half-ran to my car, opened the back door and grabbed the thermos with water from the back seat. Eagerly, I drank one cup after another until I felt something cold and wet land on my skin. I opened my eys and looked around. Of course, it was snowing. I cursed under my breath, put the lid back on my thermos and locked my car, running to the office entrance.
"Shit," I muttered, once inside, and wiped the snowflakes off my clothes. Only when I lifted my head again, did I notice the foyer was crowded with people who were all staring at me. I offered a small smile, averting my eyes to the clock that read half past ten, and quietly apologized.
I somehow spent the hour I had to wait, pacing around, drinking the pee of a coffee and watching senseless talkshows on TV. All the time I felt my stomach twisting and turning in nervousness, making me feel like I was back at school when I had to stand in front of the whole class and answer to questions I didn't know the answers to. I hated that feeling.
Finally, Newton decided to free me of the misery and called me to the room where the packages and big items were stored. I didn't pay attention to his babbling about how important it was to place the delivery right into the hands of the addressee, blah fucking blah and shit like that. The first thing I noticed as we entered the room was the overwhelming, sweet smell of roses that attacked my nose and made my eyes water. A scent that strong could only be if.. holy crap.
There, on a table in the middle of the room stood a bucket with what looked like a meadow's worth of bloodred roses. I quickly counted the flowerheads. Twenty-one. The number was so cliché – three sevenths, the luckiest number on earth – that I felt my stomach make an unpleasant somersault. Either the guy who sent this was a hopeless romantic or just a plain ass-kisser. I walked over to the table and silently fingered the flowers. Of course, my mind drifted back to the girl from that Friday night and my dreams of a future I had so carelessly thrown away without even giving them a chance to come true.
Mike's voice cut through to me and I snatched my hand away from the flowers, putting it into my pocket and taking a step back. I looked over at my boss and saw him swaying on a ladder trying to retrieve a box from the second highest shelf in the room. With a low chuckle vibrating in my throat I strode over to him and grabbed the black, neatly wrapped box before it could fall to the floor. It wasn't very big, just a square of about six by six by six inches, but the thing felt kinda heavy. I twiddled it around and examined from all angles, but stopped when I heard something rattle inside of it. I quickly put the box on the table and my hands behind my back, going into an innocent, I-didn't-do-anything mode. I sure as hell did nothing on purpose.
Mike told me to wait there and scurried to his office. My gaze returned to the red flowers and I stared at them, wondering why they made me feel closer to my Angel. Have I gone insane? Was I imagining things, willing them to be true? Fuck's sake, the girl didn't even know there was an Edward Cullen walking the face of this earth. I rubbed my face and groaned into my palms.
A tap on my shoulder made me jump and I turned around with a racing heart, glaring at the culprit and trying to catch my breath.
"Jesus, Cullen! It's just me. Grinch hasn't arrived yet," Newton laughed at his lame joke. I didn't bother correcting him that Grinch has been here all along – in the form of me. Really, what was he point? I just leered down at his butt-ugly face until he got uncomfortable and remembered about the existence of the piece of paper in his hand.
He coughed and re-read the information that was written on it. "Uuh. So, yeah, deliver at 12 am on December twenty-first, to miss Isabella Swan, Black Road Nineteen, Forks, Washington." He finished reading and took a breath, handing the paper to me. I went through the sentences scribbled in Mike's nasty handwriting to make sure I didn't mishear, then looked back at him like he had grown another head and a pair of boobs.
"Miss Isabella Swan?" I asked, my eyebrows shooting up to my hairline. He caught my confusion and put his hands on his hips, as if he were dealing with an ignorant kindergartener instead of his grown-ass 'best and most reliable carrier'.
"Don't look at me like that. I know nothing of that man's reasons or intentions."
Okay, so maybe he didn't get me right. "But Isabella Swan?" I put all emphasis in the world on the lady's last name. "And what's that woman doing at Chief Swan's house?"
Realization dawned on his face and I wanted to roll my eyes. "Apparently, Chief Swan's daughter is in town." He breathed down his nose like a fucking bull and walked to the door, swinging his arms at his sides. "Now get to work."
I aped behind his back at the cocky tone he used, then turned back to the table with the things I was to deliver. To say I was beyond confused would be the understatement of the year. Chief Swan had a daughter? How old was she? How come I never heard of her? How long she'll stay? Who sent her these flowers? Was she single?
My mind was going a million miles a minute and senseless questions were buzzing in my head, giving me no peace. Eventually I realized that thinking wasn't going to help and I should get up, and go and see for myself. I gathered the roses, wrapping them in an old newspaper I found lying around, and took the box. In the office I earned some curious looks from clients and I was brought to a level where I just wanted to drop everything and shout, "Fuck off, people!" or something like that. They could see I was a mailman, damn it, so please, be good citizens and mind your own fucking businesses, thank you very much! But I didn't open my mouth, just offered a death glare and got out of that place before I lost my composure.
Taking in the scene of the parking lot before me, another curse escaped me. It looked like it'd been snowing all the while I was inside. The cars were all white and the world looked so peaceful. I almost choked on thin air when my thought registered in my brain. Peaceful? Oh my God.
Shaking my head, I made my way down to the lot. I decided to take my Volvo so I wouldn't have to come back here, and set the box and the bouquet in the passenger seat. I started the car and checked the time – it was ten to twelve. I would be just in time. How great. Stepping on the gas, I sped out of the parking lot and down the street towards Chief Swan's house.
Eight minutes later I sat in my car, trying to work up the courage to get out of my ride and get the job done. My nerves were all over the place again and with no surprise I noticed my shaking hands and ragged breath. I put one palm over my eyes and the other hand on the steering wheel.
"Come on, Cullen, get your shit together," I whispered. I was out of time and needed to move. "You got work to do." I leaned back and looked at the small two-storied building. Didn't look like anyone was home, but I guess I wouldn't be the one to know the best. My eyes traveled down to the delivery at my side and I took my seatbelt off. I was a grown man, I could do it. It was my job to do. So I got the items and walked to the front door.
I knocked three times and waited. While no one came, I examined the clouds again. It was bound to snow once more and I just prayed I would make it home before the blizzard started.
There was some shuffling behind the door and a muffled 'don't', and the door was finally unlocked and a face appeared.
Well, fuck me.
It was her. The beautiful Angel from the club was her, here. I had found her. Isabella Swan. Well, this was a surprise. How long was she going to stay? The questions from earlier showed up again but I could only stand there and gape at the woman before me.
Her face was even more beautiful than I had imagined, smooth ivory skin, plump, pink lips and a small, straight nose. Her cheeks were round and a little flushed. Her wavy mahogany hair was pulled away from her face in a high ponytail, showing off the soft and almost translucent skin of her forehead. And her eyes! Perfectly almond-shaped, the left one slightly higher than the other, her eyes were two hypnotizing brown orbs surrounded by thick, long, dark brown, practically black lashes. I seriously thought I could drown in those warm chocolate pools of hers.
I don't know how long I stood there like that, admiring her beauty but at one point her perfectly sculpted eyebrows scrunched together and she looked over her shoulder into the dusky house. She hissed something in a low voice, then turned her face back to me and eyed the things in my hands I desperately held onto.
And her voice. Quiet, rich and my new favorite sound in the whole world. Music to my ears. But then I remembered I hadn't answered yet and cleared my throat, willing my head to clear and my heart to slow down.
"I, ah.. I have a delivery," I all but whispered, hopelessly lifting my hands and motioning to the box and the flowers. In turn she raised a sceptical eyebrow and gave me a 'no shit' look. I decided to look away from her because obviously she greatly affected my capability to think and act like a man. I read through the data on my pad once more.
"I have a special delivery for miss Isabella Swan," I said in a slightly steadier and louder voice.
"That's me." My eyes shot back to hers and I felt my lips part. God, she was beautiful.
She stepped out to the porch and I took in her outfit. Another pair of skinny, deep denim jeans that hugged her round, feminine hips and slender legs in the most delicious way; a navy blue, long sleeved V-neck tee that made her skin look inhumanly radiant. And she wore white ballet flats.
I put the pad and pen in her outstretched hand and she signed on the line. Her handwriting was as perfect as she was. I thanked her and handed over her stuff.
"Is there a card?" She asked. I turned around on the last step and saw her inspecting the bouquet and the box. Her eyes flew to mine and I chuckled nervously.
"I wouldn't know, miss."
She smiled at me shyly and bowed her head. "Yeah, right. Well, thank you."
"My pleasure," I replied and watched as she opened the door to disappear from my eyes. "It truly was my pleasure."
What happened in the next moment, though, was far from my suspicions or dreams.
Before Isabella had a chance to set her foot on the floor inside the house, something knocked her aside and dashed down the steps and right at me. Next thing I knew, I was lying in snow with said something on top of me, and I felt a hot and heavy breath along with a warm and wet tongue on my face.
A dog. The creature every mailman in the world despised. They were almost like our natural enemies, always chasing the carriers on bikes or with carts, or on their own, tearing the newspapers into pieces and not letting us deliver the mail. And the woman of my dreams owned one. Could there be an even crueler irony?
"Cooper! Get off!" I heard her calling the damned dog and he certainly heard her too, but didn't even think of obeying. I glanced around my raised hands that tried to push the furry, salivating thing away and saw the girl trying to pull it away by its collar. Unfortunately, she wasn't that strong and couldn't move him one bit.
"Come on, you stupid dog!" She grunted with each useless yank, then gave up and started slapping him. "Why do you never do what I say? Why are you such an idiot? Get off of the nice man! Cooper!"
Hearing her say I was a nice man caused a stupid grin to appear on my face and my macho side decided to take over the game. I grabbed at the loose skin on the dog's neck and yanked him to the left. Cooper tried to get away by shaking his head furiously but he wasn't lucky today. Finally, I landed him on his side and rolled over to press him to the ground like they do in cop movies, but the dog just looked extremely happy to be getting attention.
His tongue was hanging from his open mouth and he was leering at me from the corner of his eye. He tried to get out from under me, but again, he didn't succeed. We laid like that for a while until my breathing slowed down and I heard laughter behind me. I sat up and looked at Isabella. She was splitting her sides with her amusement and I soon joined. This was fun, I had to admit, and I felt quite victorious for beating the dog, which was ridiculous. I stood up and grinned at her.
My question only caused her to laugh harder and Cooper began barking and jumping around us. He was a chocolate brown Newfoundland. How fitting, I thought, looking at Isabella's sparkling brown eyes.
"Look.. look at.. yourself!" She giggled, bending over further and motioning to my body. I glanced down at myself, afraid she might have seen something she shouldn't have, but with both relief and anger I found that the reason of her hysterics was entirely different. My jeans were soaked with melted snow as was my sweater, my jacket had pretty footprints on it and my boots were brimful with the white snow.
"Crap," I muttered and only then noticed that my teeth were chattering.
I felt her move closer and looked at her, surprised at how close exactly she had come. I could feel her warmth through my wet clothes and my heart stuttered in my chest.
"Come inside. We gotta get you warm again," she said, turning towards the house.
I didn't dare say that I could get warm by just one embrace from her because that would hardly be appropriate. So I just smiled and followed her up the stairs. Of course, Cooper led the way into the house and immediately went to his bowl of food. I knew that much from the sounds that came from where the kitchen was.
Isabella followed her pet and I stood in the hallway, looking at the pictures hanging on the wall, and wondered what I was supposed to do now and what was going to happen.
"You want coffee or tea?" She called and I quickly snapped back to reality and slowly entered the small kitchen. She was standing by a cupboard with two large mugs in front of her and looking at me. Again she raised her eyebrows and the sight was so cute, I smiled.
"You got milk?"
She looked a little caught off guard by my question and I chuckled. Her eyes flickered to the fridge, then back to me. "Yeah; why?"
I smiled even wider and took a few steps towards her. "Cause, I only drink milky coffee."
I stood in front of her and she had to bend her neck backwards to keep looking in my eyes; she was so small. The urge to keep her safe from the world returned with vengeance and oh, how I wanted to kiss her. Her mouth looked so welcoming and the tip of her small tongue that darted out and moistened her lips almost was my undoing. But there was something that kept me back. I looked down into her eyes and saw that they were warm and inviting – almost hungry. Again I turned to her lips. She was so close.. I inhaled her soft breath.. so very close.
I felt something step on my feet. Stupid dog. I hated him even more than before now when Isabella bent down and nuzzled Cooper's fuzzy neck.
"What is it, baby? Huh? Is my lil' Coop hungry? Are you? Yes, you are, baby, yes, you are!" Phrases like that along with rumbles and growls from the dog echoed through the small room and I realized I would never understand that. The dog had just eaten; when the hell did he manage to get hungry again?
I also realized why'd it felt so wrong to kiss her now: we had just met and Isabella knew nothing about me, not even my name. I put my hands into my pockets and frowned to the floor. Would this ever work out?
When she stood up again, she went back to the cupboard and turned on the electric kettle so the water could boil. I remained where I was and wondered if I shouldn't just leave. The awkwardness surrounding us was palpable.
"Give me your jacket."
My eyes snapped up to hers. "Huh?"
"Give me your jacket," she repeated, holding out her hand. "I'll go put it in the dryer."
"Oh, yeah, yeah... sure." I quickly shrugged my coat off but couldn't help the shudder that ran down my spine. It wasn't from the cold, I was sure. I pulled my hands out of the sleeves and handed it over to her and saw her eyes shooting up from somewhere around my chest and her cheeks became a lovely pink tone when she caught my eye. Was she.. checking me out?
"Thanks," she muttered and scurried out of the room. I couldn't help but grin behind her back. I felt elated, the sole thought of her finding me attractive sent me flying. Maybe I had a chance with her.
She was back after a minute, looking completely calm and composed. I wouldn't say I liked it, but perhaps it was better that we began slowly and moved on gradually. Passing me, she chuckled so quietly I wasn't sure she really laughed and motioned towards the dining table.
"Take a seat, please."
At the sound of her voice, my smile returned and I lowered myself onto a chair. While she fixed our drinks, I noticed that the kitchen looked quite weird: the cupboards were painted bright yellow and the three chairs around the table I sat at were far from looking alike. Seemed like a hippie had or still lived here. I shook my head and looked down at the dark, wooden surface. Suddenly a mug appeared under my nose and I looked up at her smiling face.
"Drink," she said and pushed the coffee towards me, sitting down in the chair across from me. Isabella took a sip and I did the same, always watching her. God, she was beautiful.
"So," I swallowed my coffee, "Isabella –"
"Just Bella," she corrected me over her mug. That and her soft smile was the reason why my stomach suddenly felt crowded with tons of butterflies. 'Bella' was very personal and made me feel somehow connected with her. While I wondered if this was right, I couldn't help but gladly accept the trust she gave me before even learning my name.
"Okay," I dipped my chin slightly. "So, Bella, thank you." I raised my mug as if making a toast.
Her blush was adorably beautiful and I think I fell in love with her even more. "You're welcome, er..." She frowned at me, "What was your name again?"
I set my coffee back on the table and cleared my throat. "I never said it. I'm Edward Cullen," I smiled at her and stretched out my hand. The moment she touched it, I felt a sensation, almost like an electroshock running up my arm and hit my spine. I saw stars before my eyes; the white hot current was anything but unpleasant. Hearing her gasp softly, I knew she felt it, too.
Nevertheless, the gentleman in me demanded that I apologize. I offered a sad smile and muttered towards her drink, "Sorry."
"No," she whispered, shaking her head. "Don't apologize, Edward."
I smiled up at her, silently mouthing 'okay'.
We sat there, talking about random things until we finished our drinks. She was a really nice person – not that I had ever imagined her different, though – and I felt like I'd known her fow a lifetime. The topics of our conversation came easy and our dialogues were casual, unstrained, not at all like a discussion between two people who hardly knew each other would usually be. But it's not like I cared. She made me feel alive. I smiled warmly at her just to feel the reaction I got when she smiled in return, that affirmed my statement.
I helped her wash the mugs and get the kitchen back in order and when there was nothing left to do, again we found ourselves in that same positions as before. I stared down at her; she gazed back up at me. And then it just happened – something, I don't know what, almost pushed me forward towards her to finally give in to the urge and press my mouth to hers. I leaned in and her eyelids fluttered close. I could taste her breath on my tongue – coffee, chocolate, strawberries...
Right then, in that very moment, a phone began to ring. Her eyes popped open and darted between my irises as if she was looking for an answer there, not sure what to do. Owl City's The Christmas Song continued to sound through the house until I sighed and dropped my hands from her shoulders.
"You should probably pick up," I pointed to the hallway where the song was coming from. You and I met passing by, and now our spirits feel warm...
She hung her head and nodded. "Yeah, I probably should." She gave me an apologetic smile and exited the kitchen.
I slid my hands back into my pockets and rocked on my heels. Then ran a hand through my still slightly damp hair and looked around the room I was in, wondering what I should do now. I walked over to the calendar on the wall next to the door and examined the marks made on it.
I didn't mean to eavesdrop, I really didn't, but the walls were thin and the door was open.. and my ears seemed to pick up her every word like a fucking radar.
"Yes, I'm fine," she said. Her previously soft and warm voice had changed into a cold, closed-off tone. I could only hope her change wasn't caused by me.
"I'll be staying here for some time... I don't know how long exactly. I've settled everything with my boss, Victoria gave me up to a month free."
The was a shout on the other end of the line, then a more quiet string of words and sentences. After the other person finished finished talking, Bella spoke up again.
"Are you finished? Good." She sighed. "Jake, I told you I needed a break. So why are you not giving me that space?"
Jake? I blinked in surprise, then began to pray. Please, dear Lord, don't let her be in love with someone else.
Said Jake talked for a moment while Bella listened. The voice somehow seemed pleading to me, but not in a way that showed genuine remorse. Sounded more like ass-kissing to me.
She sighed again. "Can we not talk about that right now?" Apparently Jake agreed because a thankful 'okay' followed. My fists clenched at my sides. I never wanted her to have to ask for something and obviously that fucker made her do just that. I slid out in the hallway and stood back against the door-post, quietly watching her.
A brief silence came next before a questions which made Bella lift her head from her forearm on the wall. "Your gift?" She straightened out and looked around her as Jake continued to speak into her ear.
"Yeah, twenty-one rose, little black box, ever seen it?" he chuckled. "I told them to deliver at noon sharp, I figured you'd already have received it."
"Yeah, I got it, thanks. The flowers are very beautiful," she said with a smile in her voice, but it seemed fake to me. She was still searching for the present which, I knew, was long forgotten out on the porch.
Jake kept quiet for a moment, I guess sensing something wasn't quite right. "Oka-ay. Then I won't beat around the bush anymore." He took a breath, "Bella, will you marry me?"
I stopped breathing, she stopped moving. No.
"Marry you?" she squeaked.
Could fate really be this cruel and take her away from me before I even had a chance to have her?
"Yes, Bella, will you marry me?" Jake repeated.
"I, I.. uh!" Her left hand flew to her ponytail, pulling at the hair. "Jake, we, I mean, God. This needs to be discussed face to face. And I need time to think about this, okay? Please, give me some time," she pleaded with him again, shaking her head. At that moment I hated that Jake person with everything I had.
I hardly heard them say their goodbyes and her end the call. She stared at the item in her hand with wide eyes, shocked, trembling a little. I didn't have much left in me, either: the bubbling life I had felt earlier was gone bye-bye now.
I pushed away from the wall and went closer to her. "Hey."
She looked up at me with her eyes wide, making me swallow hard. I had to get out of here before I lost my composure. "You okay?"
She nodded rapidly. "Yeah, yeah. I'm fine." Bella cleared her throat. "Sorry 'bout that, I just..."
"It's okay. You don't have to explain anything." I smiled sadly. "Actually I have to go. Would you please get my jacket?"
"Ah-kay." She gave me another wide-eyed look as if trying to memorize me, then disappeared for a moment. She was back before I could even blink. "Here you go." Her face was sad and solemn, but I knew I had to leave her alone. She was with someone already and that someone wasn't me. My chest ached.
"Thanks. So, merry Christmas, Bella. It was very nice to meet you. Give Cooper a nuzzle from me, will ya?" I said, stepping out on the porch.
"Okay, I will," she nodded and her eyes glistened with unshed tears. God, she was beautiful. "Happy holidays, Edward!" She called as I climbed down the steps. I bowed my head and closed my eyes.
To make it even worse, it had started snowing again, making the world all white and cold. Happy holidays, mister Cullen, I thought, lifting my eyes to the sky and feeling the snowflakes sting my face.
I hated holidays.
A/N After this contest, the story will be continued :)