Disclaimer: The Twilight universe belongs to Stephenie Meyer. No infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This is a follow-up of sorts to "Three Left Feet." Several readers expressed an interest in additional stories about Bella's interactions with each of the Cullens. I want to express my gratitude to Snowballsniper for prompting this tale.
The sun was high and bright in the late June sky. Warm air blanketed the forest; the weather would be ideal for a hike to the meadow. I knew that Edward's perfect skin would glitter in the sunlight, millions of tiny diamonds producing a rainbow of breath-taking color that even my feeble human eyes would find glorious. I sighed as I thought about what the afternoon could bring.
Sadly, my musings were merely wishful thinking. Edward was out of town, completing some clandestine pre-wedding errand with the assistance of Jasper. I would not see my fiancé for almost twenty-four hours. The only bright spot in the weekend was Alice's absence. She and Esme had flown to Los Angeles to look at flowers. Apparently whatever variety my almost-sister-in-law wanted was not available in the Pacific Northwest. I knew she would spare no expense having the plants shipped to Forks if she decided these blooms were perfect. Thus far, she had yet to find the perfect blossom.
At least her expedition gave me a respite from the near-constant experimentation with up-dos, cosmetics, manicures, and measuring tapes. I wanted desperately to marry Edward, but a very large part of me wished we could simply run away and be wed without any fanfare. However, the mere thought had left Alice traumatized, and I didn't have the heart to wound my sister like that. So I withstood it all and tried to smile through the torture.
Today, though, I could simply stop at the house and pick up the conditioner Alice had ordered from Milan and insisted that I use every day until the wedding. I shook my head at the extravagance. Still, it was a relatively painless procedure, and I had decided that my cooperation with this small matter might earn me a few points with Alice, points I could trade in later when she decided to torture me again.
The truck lumbered along the winding road that led to the Cullens' house. The engine seemed a little sluggish and clunky today; I had to accelerate harder than usual. I was glad for the moment that Edward was away. He had been begging me to accept a new car from him for months now, but I was perfectly content with my old truck. It only needed to last another few weeks. Once we were married, I would undoubtedly be compelled to drive a car fit for a Cullen. But until then, I had every intention of keeping my trusty red Chevy.
Unfortunately, it was sounding less and less trusty the closer I got to the house. If a truck could groan, my poor vehicle would. I checked the gauges; I had plenty of gas. But the oil light was on, and I knew that wasn't good.
Emmett came bounding out of the garage as soon as I pulled up in the drive. He waved, his smile huge as he darted toward me. In an instant I found myself in his massive arms, the victim of a bear hug. Yet despite his size and strength, his hold was gentle.
"Bella!" he boomed, my name vibrating through his chest. "Didn't know if you were gonna make it. That truck sounds like it's on its last legs."
He set me down, and I looked up at him with a shrug. "I think maybe it just needs an oil change," I said as casually as possible. While Emmett wasn't quite as adamant as Edward about my choice of transportation, it was best to err on the side of caution.
He laughed heartily. "Right. And a new filter, and probably some spark plugs…" He glanced at the garage. "Rose is working on the BMW. Let her take a look at this beast."
He patted the hood affectionately, causing the truck to dip down several inches. At least he didn't leave a dent…
Imposing on Rose was the last thing I wanted to do. She and I had reached a sort of tenuous accord of late, but we certainly weren't close or even friendly. I tried to be amiable, and I was glad to receive a nod rather than a sneer or grimace in return for my smiles and greetings. She was a little better when Edward, Esme, or Carlisle were around, but when it was just the two of us, she preferred to acknowledge me in the briefest way possible.
"Uh no," I replied, "that's okay. I can take it to the mechanic at the gas station—"
"What? No way, little sis! Rose'll fix it up… unless you wanna just scrap the whole thing, and I'll take you car shopping in Seattle." He grinned broadly.
"No, thanks, Emmett," I said quickly. Choosing the lesser of two evils, I continued, "If you don't think she'll mind, I guess it would be okay."
"Nah, she'll enjoy it. Come on." He reached inside the open window and popped the car into gear, then he easily pushed it toward the garage.
"Hey babe," he said as we entered the large, open area. "Can you take a look at Bella's truck? You heard how bad it sounds."
Rosalie was bent over the open hood of her BMW. Her hair was pulled back neatly, and she had her sleeves rolled up. When she lifted her head, I saw a few smudges of oil on her cheek and neck. I smiled at the sight.
"Bella," she greeted unenthusiastically. "I suppose I can see what's going on."
Her gaze moved to the truck. Emmett had pushed it up next to her car. He released the hood then lifted it for her inspection. Her eyes flicked over the engine quickly yet appraisingly as she sniffed experimentally.
"The oil needs to be changed," she said, "and these gears," she pointed, "are filthy and clogged. I can clean them; it will help as much as anything will. But I'm not sure how much longer this thing can run, even with my skills."
"But you can get it in working order?" I asked hopefully.
She nodded. "For the time being."
Her expression had shifted slightly. Now I could see a hint of interest in her features. She was in her element, using one of her areas of expertise. I realized that she didn't mind the request. Indeed, she seemed almost pleased.
Emboldened by her reaction, I blurted out an idea that suddenly occurred to me. "Would it be all right if I watch?" I asked. "I mean, if it won't bother you? I'd really like to see what you do and learn a little about it… if you don't mind…" My voice trailed off as I realized that she would not want an audience, particularly a slow-thinking, human one.
So her response genuinely surprised me. She gave me a curt nod. "If you want."
Emmett was grinning from ear to ear. "Let her help, babe," he suggested.
She eyed me warily for a second or two then nodded. "It's your truck. I suppose you should know how to maintain it."
"I'd really like that. Thanks," I responded.
Rosalie spent the next ten minutes pointing out the parts of the engine and explaining briefly how each contributed to the vehicle's function. Her tone became less condescending and more genuine as the lesson progressed. I asked a few questions, trying to tap into my knowledge of basic chemistry and physics, which seemed to please her.
After her rudimentary instruction, she began dismantling the engine, removing gears and valves, which she set on a pristine towel on the low shelf along the far wall.
"These need to be cleaned," she told me. She reached for a new rag, a small brush, and a dark, unlabeled bottle. "Use a few drops of this," she explained, uncapping the bottle, "then scrub thoroughly. Your eyes can't see the tiny bits of grease and debris, so keep scrubbing even when you think it's clean."
She spoke the last words matter-of-factly, not patronizingly. They were true, of course. I nodded in understanding and picked up a gear.
"Wipe them with alcohol, then dry them completely when you're done," she finished.
This was a task I could do, and I felt eager to accomplish it successfully. Rosalie returned to the truck as I put the first drops on the gear. The scent of the substance was familiar and somehow unexpected.
"What's in this?" I asked curiously.
"It's Rosie's own special formula," Emmett said with pride. "She makes it up herself."
"It smells like something, but I can't quite place it," I commented.
"Bergamot," Rosalie replied succinctly.
"Oh, like in Earl Grey tea," I said.
"Right… I guess," she acknowledged. "It's only one of the ingredients, but I imagine that's what you're smelling. It's an excellent solvent."
Renee was fond of Earl Grey tea, and the scent evoked memories of her sitting at the table, telling me about her latest discovery—yoga, tai chi, Pilates—and vowing that she would pursue it for the rest of her life. I almost chuckled aloud at the thought. I had tried a sip of the tea once but found it unpleasantly tingly in my mouth so had not sampled it again. And with my low tolerance for caffeine, I tried to stick with herbal teas anyway.
I worked for some time before the inevitable mishap occurred. It was nothing major, but I was frustrated by my apparent inability to complete even a simple task without managing to injure myself. I was cleaning the third gear when the piece slipped from my grasp, scraping over my wrist and leaving a small scratch. A few drops of blood welled from the minor wound. Frantically I tried to rub them away with my hand, then I reached for the nearest cloth and pressed it over my wrist.
I glanced up to see Emmett standing motionless about four feet away from me. His nostrils were flared, and his eyes had darkened. Rosalie shot to his side, gripping his arm as his body began to strain forward.
To be continued...