I don't own these characters. They are the sole property of Stephenie Meyer. I only borrow them. No humans are permanently harmed through my actions, though I do confess to harassing, annoying, torturing, and exasperating them – just because it's fun. I make no money from my little stories, sad day. I only play in the sandbox, I didn't build it.
Author's Notes: I originally said that I expected this story to be about ten chapters long. I think now that estimate is a tad low. The characters have kind of gone off in their own direction and Edward is strangely reluctant to spill some beans. I can't hurry the poor man along. It would just be cruel. So... perhaps a few more chapters than ten. I will update at least once every two weeks at least, but probably once a week is likely. This little plot bunny wandered into my garden and I was helpless to resist. Having just finished a long story, I want to play with some smaller ideas.
"Love and fear. Everything the father of a family says must inspire one or the other." ~Joseph Joubert
Edward Cullen was a man who liked order. He prized it in fact. He arranged his life into neat little segments, exercising rigid control in all areas of his existence. It was not that he wanted to control anyone else. No, the one he was most desperate to control was himself. His world was centered around that truth.
So his life was arranged into tidy boxes into which he placed his days and nights, his hours and minutes precisely planned and anticipated.
On Mondays he would arrive at the gym at precisely 6:15 in the morning. He would work out for forty-five minutes, after which he would shower and change into work clothes and head to work. Because he arrived a few minutes later than his usual 7:07 arrival, Janice would already be at her desk. They would exchange smiles and an overall impression of their weekends. After talking with her no less than two minutes and no more than three, he would head to his desk and turn on his computer.
On Tuesdays, he would have lunch at the diner that was two and a half blocks from the office, indulging in a hamburger in French fries, an extravagance for which he would have to run an extra two miles on Wednesday. He always ordered the same thing; he always sat in the same booth (the one that had a small rip in the seat precisely three inches from the edge). Midge was always his waitress and she always asked what a handsome guy like him was doing eating alone. Edward always gave her a playful and flirtatious smile in response. That the smile was fake mattered to neither of them. The niceties must be observed.
On Wednesdays, he would go to the gym in the morning, leaving his house quite early in order to complete his routine. He worked out for an hour and arrived at the office right on schedule – between 7:05 and 7:07 - having allowed for inconvenient traffic or inclement weather. In the evening, he would run five miles instead of the three miles he normally ran on Saturday. If weather permitted, he liked to run outside. It gave him time to think and appreciate the gifts of nature. If the weather was foul, he would run on the treadmill. He always found that slightly disconcerting somehow.
On Thursdays, he picked up his dry cleaning. He always left the house ten minutes later than usual so that he could sync his arrival at the dry cleaners to the time they opened. The woman who worked the counter was named Sharon. He always said hello and asked her how her grandchildren were doing. Sharon always commented on what a polite young man he was. He always blushed when she said that, cursing his fair skin.
Fridays would see him at a bar. There were half a dozen bars that he frequented on a rotating basis. His visits there had a precise and rigid schedule. After an hour or two there, he would set his sights on a woman. He would then do his best to charm her and persuade her to go to a hotel with him. It usually worked. The woman he chose was always there with friends, and he always made sure to introduce himself to those friends, giving them his name. "Hello, I'm Edward Cullen. Pleased to meet you." The words were always exactly the same. His smile was always charming. His actions were a precaution, a safety net that the women never realized they needed. Then he would take the woman to a hotel where he would check in using the same credit card. They would fuck – twice. Always twice. Not once. Not three times. Twice. He wasn't into anything kinky. He didn't need pain to orgasm, nor did he like to inflict it. If anything, his partners would have said he was a kind and considerate lover, if somewhat remote. He never slept there, but would tell the women that he had to get up early. He always left her with a lingering kiss but the impression that he would never use the phone numbers they invariably pressed upon him. Then he would go home and go to bed after showering for fifteen minutes. He did not like to lie, so he would get up early and go about his routine.
Every Saturday morning, he would take another run, just three miles – never half a mile more or half mile less. He never deviated from his customary route – north past the Miller's house, then west up toward the orchard and back home again. Then he would go home, get showered and dressed, and spend the day cleaning his house. He was neat, preferring tidiness in his surroundings as he did in his dealings with the outside world. He was not so obsessed that he spent his Saturdays with a bottle of bleach and a toothbrush cleaning his kitchen floor, but he was organized and methodical. He brushed his hair with fifty strokes of his brush every morning and night. He spent exactly six minutes brushing his teeth and eight minutes washing and conditioning his hair. It took him five minutes to shave. In all things, there must be order. That was his mantra, the guiding principle of his life.
His aunt would call him every Saturday evening, somewhere between five and six. They would talk for half an hour. Every week she expressed her love and concern for him. Every week he placated her with empty words. She had done her best, after all. And he was doing the best he could as well. He told her that he loved her, because he did. She had been a boy's savior, and a man's lifeline. Then they would hang up and he would fight the urge to weep. Always, he would triumph over that need because tears represented weakness and an excess of emotion. Those things were not for him.
On Sunday, if football was in season, he would have some guys from work over to watch the game. If asked the men would have said they were good friends. If asked, Edward would have said they were acquaintances with whom he was friendly. While he liked sports, he never allowed himself much emotion when watching the games. Control. It was all about control. Too much emotion was both dangerous and unnecessary, so in all things he preferred moderation and control. If football was not in season, he might have a barbeque for some people from the office. No one would ever call him a loner, though in truth he was lonely.
For years, his life went on in this way. He wasn't happy, but neither was he unhappy. He was content and that was all he asked. He felt a sense of satisfaction in knowing what he had overcome. The beast that surely lived within him had been firmly leashed and that was all that mattered. If he was not particularly fulfilled, he was also not a danger to those around him, and that was enough.
He was comfortable in his chosen path, knowing what each day held, being able to predict the conversations he would have, the foods he would eat, where he would be at different times during the day. The routine was his healing balm and it helped him forget – for the most part.
Then the day came (it was a Thursday, and sometimes he would ponder that if it had been a Wednesday he might have missed meeting her altogether and she might have abandoned her quest) when his carefully ordered world was thrown into chaos.
The knock on the door was both unexpected and unwelcome. Edward Cullen did not like surprises, and nothing in his previous experiences had indicated that any surprise could be pleasant. So he was already scowling when he opened the door.
He was never sure what he expected when he opened the door, but what he found wasn't it.
She was petite, not dressed particularly well and probably around his age. Her eyes were large and dark and intelligent behind her glasses, which gave her the air of a librarian. Her brown hair was pulled back in to a ponytail and she had a pen stuck behind one ear. In her hand was a steno pad and dangling from her wrist was one of those little recorders that he had learned to despise long ago. She blinked at him for a moment, as if surprised that he was actually home.
If it had been Wednesday, he would have already safely made his escape.
A tiny line appeared between her brows. "Mr. Cullen?" she asked. Her voice was slightly husky, as if she had a cold perhaps. She licked her lips.
"Yes, I'm Mr. Cullen," he replied. His skin felt itchy now, too small for his body. It was Thursday and he had to leave for the dry-cleaners soon.
"Edward Cullen?" she pressed.
"Yes," he answered with a frown, glancing at his watch. If this kept up too much longer he would be late. He could not abide tardiness.
A relieved smile broke out on her face and she breathed out a gusty sigh. The smile changed her face, he noticed. She was...well, she was pretty. Quite pretty in fact, in a girl-next-door kind of way, but it was not Friday and they were not at a bar and she had no friends to whom he could introduce himself. So he ignored her girl-next-door looks. "Oh thank goodness, I was afraid I'd gotten it wrong."
"May I help you?" He looked at his watch pointedly and she took the hint.
"Uh yeah, I mean, yes, I hope so." She seemed flustered. Since he was feeling the same way, he allowed himself a small twinge of satisfaction.
He quirked one eyebrow at her, urging her silently to come to the point already.
She began rummaging around in her bag, and then pulled free a piece of paper triumphantly. "Are you the same Edward Cullen who graduated from Jacksonville University?"
He frowned. "Yes." What could this possibly be leading up to? And why? If she didn't come to the point, he'd arrive late at the dry-cleaners and that possibility annoyed him.
Another smile from her, and this one was more uncertain. Her voice, when she spoke, trembled a bit. "Are you the Edward Cullen who was once known as Edward Masen II, son of the serial killer Edward Masen, Senior?"
He shut the door in her face and leaned against it, gasping for breath.
Control, Edward, he reminded himself. In all things, control. You are not subject to whims of excess in anything. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It didn't matter. He would say nothing. Confirm nothing. He would ignore her. She would go away eventually. She had to.
After a long moment, he heard her footsteps leaving his porch and dared to peek out in a gap between the curtains of the window. As she drove away, he found his fist clenching and before he could stop it, he had punched a hole in the drywall next to the door.
He stared at the hole, abashed and ashamed. This was not control. This was not moderation. This was not temperance. This was...this was the first step onto a path of destruction. This was the first rattling of the bars of the cage that held the monster. He closed his eyes and shook his head. "I'm sorry, Mom. I'll do better. I'll do better."
He felt something wet and warm on his cheek and wiped it away with a carefully controlled motion.
Edward Cullen did not cry.
Edward Cullen did not like surprises.
It was a Thursday and he was supposed to be at the dry cleaners already. He was late.