All characterizations, plot lines, backgrounds and details belong to the author. Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight. November 2010.
Thanks as always, to the incredible xrxdanixrx. Check out her wonderful new story: My Perfect Mr. Imperfect. XO BB
A million thanks to my dear friend MizzezPattinson who has graciously agreed to pre-read this story. Much love, hun. I couldn't do it without you. XO
So, I'm back with another story that has been brewing for several months and just won't leave me alone. I hope you enjoy this story, and this Edward, who you will see, has more than a few little quirks.
Come, join me.
Four hundred and twenty. How many minutes she's been gone.
Nine. How many times Emmett has asked, "Are we there yet?"
Three. How many drinks Emmett and Rose have had as they sit in front of me in first class while we make our way to Cooper Landing, Alaska, population three hundred and sixty-nine.
Five. How many times Jasper has told Alice he loves her so far on this flight.
Three million, five hundred and fifty thousand, one hundred and fifty-four. How many minutes I knew her.
Three minutes, eighteen seconds. How long it took for her to turn her back on me.
One. Empty seat beside me.
My life is, and always has been about numbers. It's all I've ever wanted. All I could really deal with. It's how I survived high school, and how I know I'll survive Jessica leaving me.
I met Jessica Stanley six years and four months ago. Actually, I didn't meet her, I bumped into her, my face literally in a book while I tried to walk and read at the same time. Something I knew better than to be doing. I'm not the most coordinated person.
I never played a sport in high school.
I left that to Emmett.
I never went to a dance.
I left that to Emmett.
I never went out on a date.
I left that to Emmett.
I had exactly one friend in high school, outside of Emmett; Jasper Whitlock. Jasper is smooth talking and good looking. Everyone loves him. So, by extension, and not because they want to, everyone tolerates me.
Emmett and Jasper looked out for me in high school when it became painfully obvious that I was the designated kid to be picked on. No one dared try anything worse than taunting me, and certainly never in Emmett or Jasper's presence. The pair of them would have literally killed anyone who tried.
I'm grateful for both of them. I'm certain I would not have survived high school without them. At the very least, I would have carried deep seeded scars that would have lasted a lifetime. Even as it was, there were some close calls. The first day of grade nine sticks out in my mind. Emmett, being a year older than me, had already established himself as King-of-all-things-athletic at Forks High School.
How could anyone know that the skinny, slouched over kid with the glasses and the sweater vest who scurried from one class to another, trying desperately not to make eye contact, was his brother?
Emmett was and still is everything I'm not. He's social, outgoing, boisterous, and has a heart of gold. So, when Tyler Crowley and his burly gang of Neanderthals pushed me up against a locker and threatened to stuff me in it if I didn't complete their algebra assignments for them, they were beyond shocked when Emmett promptly came to my rescue.
That doesn't mean that I got a free ride. I was never invited to any parties, always picked last in dreaded gym class, "volunteered" to run stats for whatever team the pair of them were on. I essentially existed in their shadow for the four extremely long years of high school. Not that I minded. Shadows are safe… you can blend into them, almost get lost, if you really try.
University was a different matter. Emmett was accepted to Washington State on a soccer scholarship, and my perfect GPA meant I had my pick of any Ivy League school I wanted. They were all practically begging for me to attend. With a great deal of trepidation and feeling like I was going to throw up the entire time, I went with Emmett, of course. The mere thought of trying to navigate any type of social setting without him, impossible for me to imagine at the tender age of seventeen.
Yes, I graduated early with Emmett, and I think Mom and Dad were happy about that. I started hearing the words "photographic memory" and "gifted" around the time I turned six. While Emmett and Dad threw the baseball around outside, I studied the trajectory of it, the physics behind it, calculated Emmett's drop rate percentage. Actually throwing it never was of interest to me.
Being a doctor, Dad assumed I would be, as well. It became painfully obvious that wasn't going to happen when I passed out at the sight of Emmett's bloody nose when he got hit in the face with the baseball Dad and him were throwing one night. I could have told him it was going to happen, given the angle he was standing at and the velocity of the ball when Dad threw it at him.
Eleven years later, I know what happened in high school was largely irrelevant in my life. University makes you grow up, pretty fast. I soon learned that there were others who shared a similar horrific high school experience. Not that I became friends with any of them, but it was nice to know I wasn't totally alone in my extreme awkwardness and loner tendencies.
I breezed through the Masters of Accounting Program, gaining my CPA in record time. Looking back, I'm sure I could have done it all in my sleep, or drunk… if I ever got drunk. Being, well, me, I know my limits. No more than two light beers.
Which brings me to today and how I'm sitting on a plane, bound for Alaska on a trip I was supposed to be taking with Jessica. Jessica had different ideas. Her ideas included what she described as a "fuck-hot lover" who was "better than I could ever dream to be" in bed. She left me this morning, four hours and forty-three minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave.
I can't really say I blame her. I'm not experienced in bed. I've read all the books, strictly for research purposes, of course. I know the mechanics; the fact that it should take approximately seven to ten minutes from start to finish. Intimacy has never been something I'm comfortable with. It's the reason the only experience I have is with Jessica. When we did have sexual relations, which was only a total of eighteen times, she always took the lead, telling me what I was supposed to be doing, moving my hands to where she wanted them. She would ask me if it felt good. I suppose it did. I ejaculated when I was supposed to, but I'm pretty sure I was missing something.
I know how Emmett and Rosalie are. I've had to watch them fawn all over each other for four extremely long years. Jessica and I never did that. I've seen the way Jasper and Alice look at each other, like there isn't anyone else in the room… in the world. Jessica and I never did that, either.
Maybe I'm just not cut out for a romantic relationship. I was just fine before Jessica, and I'll be just fine without her. I know on some level, I should be upset about Jessica leaving me, but I don't really feel anything.
Maybe it's because my life is completely full as it is. I have our renovation business to take care of. Emmett, Jasper, and I somehow manage to run the most successful home renovation company in Seattle without killing each other in the process. Emmett takes care of the contracting and construction, Jasper, the interior design, and I take care of the planning and accounting. Every dime accounted for, every single job completed exactly when we say it will be, not one extra drop of paint left over when we're done. To say it's a well oiled machine is an understatement. We split the profits of the business equally, and there are a lot of profits.
I also teach an accounting class at Seattle Community College on Wednesday nights to keep me busy. Emmett, Jasper, and I work out in my gym at the house at six-thirty in the evening on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Try as they might to get me to join a gym, I'd rather keep the germs to a minimum. My gym at home is more than adequate, taking up half of the second floor of my house, and has all the latest equipment. I don't need to go to some germ infested fitness center where people will only stare and judge me. Thanks. I've been on that ride, I have the t-shirt. I'm actually proud of the fact that I can finally run on a treadmill without falling off it. It took Emmett literally years to teach me… I've had a litany of bruises to show for my failed attempts, but eventually, I did learn.
My weeks round out with Sunday afternoon lunch at Mom and Dad's, and the rest of the time, I work. So, I guess, I really don't have time for a relationship, which is probably why things didn't work out with Jessica.
I settle back in the seat and open up my laptop as Emmett turns around, an unimpressed look on his face. "What are you doing? We're supposed to be on vacation," he scolds.
"I'm just going to get started grading the mid-terms that were submitted. I've downloaded them, and they're just sitting there, and I can't—"
He reaches over the top of seat and pushes the laptop closed. "Yes, you can, Edward. You need a break. You work constantly, bro. They're coming around with drinks. What would you like?" he asks, leaning over the top of the seat, his massive arms swaying back and forth while the flight attendant waits in the aisle with the chrome beverage cart.
"I'll have a glass of ice water," I say to her, fishing my PBA free water bottle out of my bag and handing it to her. She lifts her eyebrows to me, her eyes lingering on my face before she shakes her head, gently taking the bottle out of my hand. See? Even the flight attendant thinks I'm a freak.
"Ice water? You sure do know how to get all wild and crazy," Rosalie teases, peeking over the top of her seat. "Edward, have a drink."
I push my glasses back up my nose and narrow my eyes at Rosalie. "We're thirty-seven thousand feet in the air. Alcohol is only going to dehydrate me," I argue.
"Then you just have more," Alice chimes in, leaning across Jasper's lap and smiling at me. Rosalie and Alice are the only women I've ever known that don't treat me like I'm different. Rosalie always tells it like it is, which I appreciate, and Alice is constantly supportive of me, even when the in crowd in high school disowned her because she was seen talking to me in the hall between classes.
"You do realize that there's only about ten percent humidity in this plane? You need to keep hydrated," I explain as I take my water bottle back from the flight attendant. She looks flushed and turns her attention to Alice, while I set the bottle on the tray table beside me.
"Hence the reason I'm having another glass of wine," Alice says, handing her plastic glass to the flight attendant.
Jasper just snickers and kisses her on the cheek. "That's my girl," he says lovingly. "You should have a drink, Edward. You deserve it after what you went through this morning with Jessica."
"Please do not mention that skank's name, ever again," Rosalie says, turning around and sinking back into her seat.
"I don't think you should call her a skank, Rosalie," I whisper, cringing at the word as it comes out of my mouth.
"For the millionth time, Edward, call me Rose. I've known you for four years, you've seen me naked, I think we're past formalities at this point, and yes… Jessica is a skank. You're just too much of a nice guy to admit it." I feel my body shiver at the memory of walking in on Emmett and Rosalie… errr Rose, on my parent's couch two weeks after they started dating. Rosalie was naked, on her knees in front of the couch, and Emmett had a big red bow, right-
"Would you care for some nuts?" the flight attendant asks as she brushes her hair behind her shoulder and blinks repeatedly at me. Does she have something in her eye? It must be contact lenses.
I'm glad I didn't wear mine on the flight. I hardly ever wear them. They were a birthday gift from Alice last year. She said my glasses hid my eyes and that was a shame because my eyes are green and you hardly ever see green eyes. I don't think Alice breathes nearly as much as she should when she's talking. No one cares if my eyes are green. No one ever wants to stay long enough to even find out they're green. But, rather than engage in an argument that I would never win, I let her buy me the contacts. I don't like them, if I'm being honest. They are awkward to put in, and they kind of throw off my depth perception, which isn't good for someone like me, who is uncoordinated at the best of times.
"No, thank you," I say, opening the laptop back up, now that Emmett has turned around in his seat.
"How about some pretzels?" she asks, holding out a tiny bag in front of her.
"No. I'm okay, right now."
"Well, if you need anything, just let me know," she says as she pushes the cart down the aisle.
"Dude!" Emmett turns around in his seat, looking all excited.
"Yes, Emmett?" I ask, scowling as I scan the first of the tests I downloaded this morning. I wonder if my students are even listening to what I say half the time. "C" is every single answer in the multiple choice section of this test, and there are little digital happy faces in the essay portion.
I look at the name of the student. Lauren Mallory. Yes, she does have the attention span of a child. I suppose I could offer to tutor her after class, again; although, the last time, she spent the hour licking a rather large lollipop and bumping my leg with her shoe. Even though she nodded and said, "Oh, I get it," twenty-nine times, I'm fairly certain she didn't "get it" at all.
"That flight attendant totally has the hots for you," Emmett says, hitting me in the leg.
"How much have you had to drink?" I ask, looking up from the computer screen at him.
"You should go for it! Join the mile high club!"
"You're an idiot," Rosalie says, smacking Emmett in the back of the head.
"Ow! Babe, that hurt," Emmett complains, rubbing his head.
"The mile high club?" I ask. "Is that like a points club or something? I already have air miles, Emmett."
Jasper chuckles and raises his eyebrows to me. "The mile high club is sex on a plane, Edward."
I feel my eyes widen. "What? Where does that even happen? There are people everywhere!" I whisper across the aisle to him.
Jasper waggles his eyebrows at me. "That's what makes it so much fun. And where? The bathroom, usually." He smirks knowingly.
"The bathroom? That's disgusting, Jasper! Do you know how many germs are… you know what, forget it. That's just…" I shiver and turn back to my computer, wishing I never heard of the mile high club.
I know this is yet another thing people don't like about me. I'm not a risk taker. I detest the idea of breaking from the norm… well, my norm. I like structure and order and predictability. I don't have OCD or anything, and yes, I've been tested, I just like things to be reliable and consistent. That's why we're currently flying Air Northern. It's the safest airline that flies to Alaska with the biggest first class seats, and the most on time arrivals of all the airlines that fly there.
My need for certainty is also why I've already pre-programmed the GPS system with the directions to the Cooper Landing Lodge, the only hotel in the city with a five star rating and internet access. Although, the word "city" seems like it's a stretch. With only three hundred and sixty-nine people, I think it's probably better defined as a town or a village.
Cooper Landing is located on the Kenai Peninsula, approximately one hundred miles South of Anchorage. It's an old gold mining town that got electricity in 1962, and its first fire truck in 1975. There's a tackle shop, a liquor store, four bars and eight restaurants. There are some recreational eco tours that take visitors on hikes, kayaking, and fishing. And then, there's Cooper Landing Lodge, owned by Miss Isabella Swan.
I have meticulously planned our twelve days in Cooper Landing down to the minute. I've printed personalized agendas, which I bound at home and gave to the four of them upon our arrival at the airport, exactly two hours before the flight. The agendas are complete with a bear guide, pepper spray, and the necessary emergency protocol should we happen to encounter a bear, which is extremely likely, given our itinerary. Like I said, I like to be prepared.
The Lodge itself is located on Kenai Lake, and has, according to the website and Miss Swan, been recently renovated. Yes, I've called to speak to Miss Swan several times since Emmett decided he was taking us all on this trip… well, quest is more like it. Emmett has been fascinated with bears since we were children, and he saw a documentary on them. This trip is all about him, experiencing a bear in its natural environment. Miss Swan tells me that she sees bears nearly everyday, and that Emmett should have no problem with realizing his dream.
Miss Swan's voice is friendly, and she giggles a lot at my questions, which is not out of the ordinary. Women normally end up laughing at me, but her laugh is more of warm enjoyment, rather than the biting ridicule I'm generally used to.
Miss Swan has told me that the Lodge serves breakfast from six-thirty AM until nine, and then dinner from six PM until ten. There is entertainment in the bar at night, which she assures me will make us feel at home.
I'm skeptical at that statement, since the kind of music that makes me feel at home is classical -Bach, Beethoven, Brahms. You really can't go wrong with the three B's. I know that I will be stepping out of my comfort zone on the entertainment portion of this trip, which is why I have the three B's programmed into my iPod… you know, just in case. I simply cannot picture Bach being played underneath the rustic memorabilia, hunting trophies, and deer antlers, which figure prominently on the Lodge's website.
I've never understood the killing of an animal for sport. It is incomprehensible to me that one could find enjoyment from it and want to mount the remains of the defenseless animal on their wall. To each their own, I suppose.
As I try to finish grading the dismal midterms from my less than stellar students, I think about the conversations I've had to date with Miss Swan. What started out as research into accommodations and activities has turned over the last two weeks into something that I have begun to look forward to.
Miss Swan has been extremely helpful in making suggestions for our itinerary. She has a wealth of knowledge on Alaska and seems genuinely interested in hearing about Seattle. The first time she asked about it, I was taken aback.
We were discussing the various hiking trails in the area near the Lodge, when she asked if I liked to hike in my spare time. As usual, because the conversation drifted from my scripted questions, I stumbled over my words and blurted out to her that I don't go hiking, I run on my very expensive treadmill in my home. It's safer for me, and I'm actually a little worried about hiking in the wilderness of Alaska given my history of clumsiness.
She laughed melodically and told me that if I could master a treadmill, I could surely hike in the woods. She even offered to accompany me. I'm sure she was just being nice. Once she sees that I'm much more comfortable with my nose in the Financial Post, I'm sure she'll be taking that hike alone.
A reminder pops up on the computer screen, signaling the first snack break for the trip. I reach into my backpack and pull out five granola bars. I tap Emmett on the shoulder and hand him two. "What's this, dude?" Emmett asks, turning his head back to me.
"They'll give us food, Edward," Emmett says, rolling his eyes at me.
"Airline food is horrific, Emmett. It's all freeze dried and been sitting around for God knows how long," I whisper, passing Jasper two of the organic bars.
"And this is somehow better?" Rosalie's voice drifts to me as I hear them all start to open the wrappers.
"These were made by Mrs. Cope at the Natural Food Pantry two days ago. Yes, these are better," I explain, opening the wrapper and taking a bite.
"These are pretty good, Edward!" Alice says appreciatively as she devours the granola.
After I tell them all to make sure they use their hand sanitizer that I included in their agenda travel pack, I settle back into the seat and set to task on finishing the midterms.
"Oh! Let's take that plane!" Alice's high pitched voice practically sings as she jumps up and down and pulls on Jasper's arm, her hand flailing in the direction of a tiny yellow float plane that's docked in the water while we wait for our rental car to be delivered.
I feel the panic spike almost instantly. This was not in the plan. Jasper looks at me helplessly. "Alice, we have a SUV coming, and part of the trip is seeing the landscape," I explain. "This wasn't part of the plan." I button up my overcoat, wrapping my scarf around my neck, thankful for the fact that I have layers on. It's cooler than it's supposed to be for Alaska in April. The average temperature here in April is thirty-six degrees Fahrenheit, but it feels more like thirty.
I scowl when I look at Emmett's attire, which consists of a thin jacket over a short sleeved t-shirt and a pair of ripped jeans with holes in the knees. Did he not read my pre-vacation email where I mapped out suggestions for what to clothes to bring? I hope he's packed something warmer, at least some long sleeved shirts and vests, or he's going to freeze.
"But you could see everything so much better from the air, and we'll be there faster. Please… please? Edward? I really, really want to take a ride in that plane!" Alice yells.
I feel the blood drain from my face as I look at this deathtrap that they are trying to pass off as adequate transportation. When was the last time it was even tested? How many hours has this plane actually flown? It looks to be at least forty years old. Can it even handle five people and the sheer amount of luggage that Alice has brought? The weight from the suitcases alone could crash it.
"I don't think that's a good idea. We need the SUV to get around when we get to the Lodge," I say logically as I fiddle with my hair the way I normally do when I start to feel anxious.
"We can rent one when we get there, Edward. Please? Please? Please?" she asks, her voice rising as the jumping gets higher.
"They probably don't even fly into there," I say, knowing I'm fighting a losing battle. No one else is even trying to talk her out of it.
"Fly into where?" a deep voice asks from behind me. I turn around to see a young, dark haired man, standing with his arms folded across his massive chest, looking thoroughly amused at Alice's desperate plea. He doesn't look dressed appropriately for this weather, either. He's got a black-t-shirt on and a baggy pair of shorts that look a little worse for the wear.
"Cooper Landing. Please tell me you fly there!" Alice squeals, running up to this poor soul and jumping up and down in front of him.
He smirks at her and nods his head. "Yeah, actually, I do. I was just going to make a trip there with some supplies."
"Oh! See! It's fate, Edward," Alice squeals.
"Fate doesn't exist, Alice," I say, feeling my heart hammer faster as I look at the plane skeptically.
I feel a steady hand hit me in the shoulder, quite forcefully, my entire body moving forward with the force of the impact. "Fate is all we have and fate just called your name, Edward, is it?" he asks me.
I nod at him, unable to speak. I can't believe I'm going to get into this pathetic excuse for a plane. This is it. I'm going to die. We're all going to die before we even get to Cooper Landing.
"Name's Jacob Black. I'd be happy to take you, that is, if you're not afraid," he taunts, sauntering towards the plane.
Emmett looks at me anxiously, gauging my reaction like he always does. "What do you think, bro? It would be kind of cool to land on the water," he urges, flashing me his smile that he uses when he really, really wants something.
"Kind of cool? Like how my body temperature is going to feel when we plummet into the ice cold waters of Kenai Lake?" I squeak out.
Jacob laughs and stops in front of the plane. "Kenai Lake is actually warm this time of year… well, as warm as it can be for Alaska. You'll be fine. Trust me." He opens the miniscule door on the side of the plane and lifts his eyebrows to me. "Fate is calling, Edward. What are you going to do?"
I feel all eyes on me as we stand under the crystal blue Alaskan sky, and for the first time in my life, I abandon the plan.
My eyes couldn't get any more clenched shut if I tried. My fingers are permanently embedded in the arm rest of what Jacob Black tells me is a de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver, a single engine, propeller driven bush plane. "They stopped making them in 1967." Somehow, that comment that Jacob yells over the Harley-Davidson like sound of the engine doesn't do anything for my nerves. I'm certain I'm going to pass out. My heart has never beat this fast in my entire life.
Emmett keeps hitting me in the arm and telling me to look, that I'm going to miss the most amazing landscape he's ever seen. That's quite descriptive coming from Emmett, and so, I tentatively open one eye and then the other, and I am indeed treated to the most amazing landscape I've ever seen.
I strain my neck over the aging red life preserver that currently sits around my neck and become awe-struck by the pristine beauty and sheer vastness of the untouched, remote wilderness beneath us. Jacob turns the plane, and we fly close to the sheer rocky edges of a mountain that rises up from the mouth of the glacial lake below us. "Mountain goats to the left," Jacob says, while Emmett laughs loudly beside me.
"How cool is that, bro?" he asks, his smile widening further. As I can't speak, I just nod my head and take another tentative glance out the window to the turquoise water below us that looks like a pane of glass.
I push my glasses up my nose, squinting to make sure I'm seeing properly, and then hit Emmett in the leg. "There's a bear down there, Emmett."
"What? Where?" Emmett pushes his face closer to the window beside him, his mouth dropping open. "Oh, can you go down at bit?" he asks Jacob, tapping him on the shoulder.
"No, I don't think that's necessar—" I start to complain, but its too late. Jacob has already turned the plane on a sharp angle, hurtling towards the rocky bank of whatever lake we are over, getting dangerously close the ground.
"Oh my God! We've only been here an hour and I've already seen a bear!" Emmett's voice is full of excitement, while he stares at the mass of brown fur that blurs before my eyes as we whisk by it and then ascend back up into the clear blue sky.
My stomach is in knots. I'm not going to be able to eat for days, I'm sure. The fact that I haven't vomited yet is a minor miracle. Still, I can't deny how surreal and utterly breathtaking this experience is. Alice is right; we never would have seen the landscape this way from the SUV.
The plane passes over a group of people fly-fishing, and Emmett turns his head to me. "We're doing that, right?" he asks.
"Yes, of course. Well, you are. Tomorrow at seven-thirty AM. You and Jasper have reservations to go salmon fishing on the Kenai River. It's world renowned for it," I tell him, annoyed that he doesn't remember that part of the agenda.
I hear Jacob chuckle and he turns his head towards us. "Been doing a lot of research, there, huh?" he asks, looking thoroughly amused. I, however, am not amused. He's supposed to be concentrating on flying the plane and not turning around in his seat, taking his eyes off of the windshield. It's a wonder we haven't crashed yet. Is he always so reckless?
The plane dips slightly and my stomach goes along with it. "Sorry. Air pocket," Jacob explains, while Alice squeals from the seat in front of me.
"What is the regulated weight for one of these?" I yell.
"Around two thousand pounds. Don't worry. I know there's a lot of suitcases back there, but I don't think we're anywhere near two thousand pounds," Jacob assures me. Jasper snorts and kisses Alice quickly, leaning over to watch out the window on the side.
I nod my head and try to swallow back the lump in my throat. "Hundreds of these are still flying. They were designed for remote areas, like this… places you can only get to by canoe or foot. Just think of it as a half ton truck with wings," Jacob explains happily as we turn in the direction of a body of water. Sorry, I should have said we dive in the direction of a body of water.
I'm sure my eyes are going to pop out of my head as the trees get closer and closer, the water inching its way towards us until I feel the thrust reduce, and the floats touch down, water shooting out from the sides as we glide effortlessly towards a dock at the end of the lake.
"Holy shit!" Rosalie screams, grinning at me like a fool.
I've lost the ability to speak. I have no words for what we've just experienced… sheer adrenaline, pumping, coursing through me like it never has before. I stare out the window at the sprawling wooden lodge that sits nestled back from the lake we are currently skimming across. While I wait for my heart to return to its normal cadence, a welcoming sign with a carved black bear tells me we have finally arrived at Cooper Landing Lodge.
Chapter End Notes:
So, what do you think of our Edward?
Visuals for Jacob's plane and Cooper Landing, Alaska which does actually exist: www(dot)photobucket(dot)com/albums/xx267/CarLemon/By%20The%20Numbers/