One Stupid Thing
A/N: So yes…still behind on review replies. But school's out for summer! I'm really going to try to correspond better because I love hearing from you and want you to know that. Individually. So here's a blanket thank you for reading and reviewing. Expect something more personal shortly.
Disclaimer: I'm not her. She's not me. This isn't it. But you're going to read it anyway if you're this far into the story.
Edward and Bella aren't grinding, but they are at The Grind together. Surely that counts for something? Additional Jasper exposure and Eddie starts moving in...
Chapter 11: Knock-knock…No Joke
August 28…8 months ago
EPOV (23 years old)
"Edward! Hi. What are you doing here?" She looked completely caught off guard as she looked up at me through her oversized sunglasses. She was obviously wrapped up in the novel she'd been reading, slouched down a little in her chair, one leg crossed over the other. It wasn't until I stood in the path of the sunlight shining on her that she'd looked up. I couldn't fight back my grin at her question; she had no idea she was talking to her new neighbor. But I did feel a little nervous; I wondered deep down how it would go over when she found out.
"What am I doing here? Uh…coffee shop? Coffee?" I nodded over her shoulder toward The Grind, grinning a little as I did so. "I just assumed a place like this would sell it. Or is that just there to tease me?" I pointed at her paper coffee cup on the table in front of her.
"This is actually an empty cup," she replied, removing the lid and displaying the now-nonexistent contents with a little smirk of her own. "And I'd say yes, there is certainly some teasing going on."
I grinned at her reciprocal teasing. Touché.
"I guess we're even now. Anyway, I was going to grab a cup of coffee and a bite to eat before I head to work. Since your cup is empty would you like another…" I stooped to read the side of the cup where her order had been scribbled, "…non-fat vanilla latte?"
She glanced back down at the book in her lap, folded the corner of the page she'd been reading and closed it. She sat up a little straighter in her chair then, peering back up at me with a smile. "Sure. But only if you'll join me." Her eyebrows arched slightly above the frame of her sunglasses.
Not a problem at all.
"Yeah, sure, I've got a few minutes. I'll be right back." I turned toward the door as she laid her book down on the table. "Do you want anything else?" I thought to ask as I grabbed the handle of the door. She smiled and shook her head.
I returned a few moments later, carefully setting down our coffees and the little bag that held the carrot raisin muffin I'd bought. She thanked me for the coffee as I pulled out the chair across from her and took a seat.
"Okay, Edward, back to my original question. What are you doing here?"
"Can't a guy buy a coffee and a muffin?" I frowned at her in mock dismay.
She smiled. I'm pretty sure she was rolling her eyes but I couldn't see past her sunglasses. I was forced to focus on her mouth instead which really wasn't such a bad trade-off.
"Of course you can buy a coffee and a muffin. And the carrot raisin is definitely their best," she added, glancing at the muffin I'd just pulled from the little bag. "I just meant that this is kind of out of the way for you from your parents' house."
She picked up her coffee cup, removing the lid and blowing on the contents to cool it.
I feigned shocked interest at her words. "Are you keeping tabs on me, Isabella Swan? Checking up on my private life?"
She blushed immediately and looked down, biting her lip a little. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound like I was prying. You're certainly allowed a private life."
I realized I'd embarrassed her and I felt a little bad. I wondered what she was thinking; where she thought I might have been coming from. And then it dawned on me she might be thinking I'd maybe just rolled out of someone else's house. I couldn't let her think that.
"I'm just teasing you, Bella. I've been out looking at a couple rental units. I looked at a few this past week but I found one today I liked and just signed a six-month lease." I blew on my hot coffee just as she had done.
"Oh, yeah? Where?" She sipped at her coffee and I did the same.
Face neutral. Voice calm. Try for nonchalance and offhandedness. Ready…GO!
"Just around the corner…The Bellevue apartments." I hooked my thumb over my shoulder as I said it and then took a quick bite of carrot raisin muffin to keep myself busy and to maintain my cover. I was really glad I'd bought the little edible prop.
"You're kidding!" She smiled and uncrossed her legs and sat up straighter, leaning across the table towards me a bit.
I shook my head as I chewed, trying to keep my face neutral, hoping she wouldn't think I'd taken the place because she lived there, although that was exactly the case.
I was an obsessed pervert.
"Edward, that's where I live!"
I couldn't help but notice that she hadn't gotten up and run screaming for the hills. That was a good sign. I swallowed the bite of muffin and tried to project the appropriate mix of surprise and delight.
And hopefully I'm projecting very little obsessive perversion.
"Are you joking?"
"No, I'm serious!" She smiled a little more broadly. "Which unit are you? There were two that have been vacant. Are you upstairs or downstairs?"
She had raised her sunglasses, pushing them into her hair and wearing them now like a headband above her hairline. I could look into her liquid chocolate brown eyes now as she leaned closer across the table towards me. She wasn't wearing make-up and she looked so young and pretty with her hair up in a ponytail; just like the girl who had walked into the kitchen and into my heart ten years ago.
I wanted to grab her up into my arms and shout that I was in the apartment directly across from hers and life was terrific and I would be watching her every move on a daily basis. But I knew that was a bad idea and would probably send the wrong message. So I remained seated and answered her question calmly, like a normal person would.
"I took the apartment downstairs. Which one is yours?" I took another bite of carrot raisin muffin.
Like I didn't already know. I would deserve the award for best male actor if I pulled this whole charade off.
"I'm downstairs, too, right across from you. I'm in 108 so you're in 109. You're on the odd side." She picked up her coffee and took a drink.
I nodded, taking a gulp of my coffee. And then I frowned. 'I'm on the odd side?'
"What are you saying, Bella? You're calling me odd?" I knew what she meant; but for some reason it was just fun to tease her.
She started laughing and choked a little on her coffee. I took another sip of mine and polished off my muffin as she spoke.
"You know what I mean," she finally said after clearing her throat. "The even numbered apartments are on my side of the walkway. Your side of the walkway has the odd numbered units. So you are on the odd side, Edward." She smirked as she said it. "Anyway, welcome to the neighborhood." She smiled as she tucked a few stray strands of hair behind her ear. She didn't seem at all reluctant about the situation and I in turn felt relieved.
"Thanks." I smiled, trying not to seem overly excited about the prospect of us being neighbors. I picked up a napkin, wiping my mouth and brushing the crumbs from the muffin off my hands. "It seems like a good place to live; it's newer, I like the pool and the spa and sauna."
Although I haven't actually seen the spa or the sauna.
I have, however, seen the resident across the way. And that sealed the deal for this obsessed pervert.
I took a quick drink of my coffee before my mouth could say something involuntary and ridiculous.
"Oh, it's a great place to live," she agreed. "The pool is seasonal though; it's closed in the winter, but the spa and sauna in the clubhouse are open year round. The manager and his wife are nice. The Yaegers. You probably met him…Peter."
I nodded, crumpling up the napkin and little paper bag in my hand.
"Yeah, he seemed nice. He knew my dad." I shrugged. "So, how long have you lived there, Bella?"
"Almost a year. I moved in after Labor Day last year; right before the school year started." She swirled her cooling coffee around before taking a drink. "So, when are you moving in?"
I shrugged. I really hadn't thought that far ahead yet.
I'd only thought about how I could watch the object of my desires relatively easily from my living room window.
In an obsessively perverted kind of way.
"Um…I haven't figured out moving in yet. Most of my stuff is still boxed up in the garage at my parents' house from when I moved back from Seattle, though. I'll probably bring a few things over tonight after work or maybe tomorrow during the day before work; small stuff, you know, whatever I can fit in my car. At some point this week I'll have to rent a U-haul for the furniture."
She nodded. She seemed to be contemplating something before she spoke again.
"Maybe I could help you. You could use my truck for the big stuff. I'm busy tomorrow, but I could help you any other day during the week. It might take a couple trips but it wouldn't cost you a dime."
I smiled. She was sweet to offer. "No…I don't want to put you out and the stuff will be heavy. I'll just ask Jasper; see if he can help me and I'll rent something."
"Edward, you wouldn't be putting me out. I'm off work for another week and a half. I really have nothing to do during the day. And I have a truck. " She pointed to the shiny red behemoth with the flashy rims a few spots away in the parking lot. The truck I had recognized as probably hers.
"That's yours?" I asked with a grin. It seemed so unlike her to make so many ostentatious changes to her old truck. "Rusty has had a make-over?"
"Rusty?" she gasped. Her eyes widened and she looked at me in disbelief.
I started chuckling at her indignation. I'd always thought of her truck as "Rusty" though I guess I'd never voiced that out loud. Not that it had been rusted out…it was just old and the paint color had been a kind of rusty sort of a faded red.
She began sputtering at me. "Edward, how dare you? You're calling my truck names? Forget my offer. If you're going to disparage my truck forget my offer!" She crossed her arms over her chest and acted all huffy but I could still see the smile in her eyes.
"How about 'Trusty-Rusty'? Because of the old paint color and because of how dependable he's always been for you?" I raised my brows and grinned, hoping that had sounded conciliatory enough.
"How about 'Scary-Cheri'?" she countered. "Because SHE might just run you down in the parking lot of your new apartment complex?"
I laughed and then I couldn't resist. "So Rusty has had a make-over and a sex-change?"
She gaped at me for a split second then burst into giggles. "Oh my God! My poor truck! You're so cruel! Don't you have someplace else you have to be, Edward?"
I looked at my watch.
I'd totally lost track of the time. And I'd lost track of the real world. And I'd been having a wonderful time, talking and laughing with Bella Swan out in front of The Grind.
"Shoot. Yeah, I've got to go," I said, looking at her and feeling rather wistful. I drained the rest of my coffee and got to my feet, pushing the chair I'd sat in back under the table.
"Thanks for the coffee, Edward," she said, smiling up at me before pulling her sunglasses back into place. "I'm sure I'll be seeing you around. And if you can withhold your rude comments regarding my truck, the offer still stands. And Jasper can help us if he's available."
I grinned down at her. "You're welcome for the coffee, Bella, and I'll think about your offer. Have a nice afternoon."
"Thanks, you too. Bye."
I tossed out my trash and hustled to my car. As I fastened my seatbelt I glanced back over at the table where I'd sat with her. She'd picked her book up but she was looking my way. She seemed to blush a little but I waved goodbye and she waved back. And then I sped out of the parking lot, unable to wipe the silly grin off my face.
When I got to the restaurant, Laurent, our head chef, was already in the kitchen gearing up for the lunch crowd with a few of his kitchen crew. He had a key to the back door that led into the kitchen and I was only a few minutes late, so it was no big deal. I let myself into the office and paused when I felt my phone vibrating in my pocket. I dug out my phone. It was a text from Jasper; I'd known it would be coming at some point this morning.
Did u take my suggestion?
I hit reply and typed out a quick message.
Yep. Signed a 6-mo lease.
He must have had his phone in his hand because his reply text came back immediately.
How'd u like the view?
I snorted at his inquiry. We were so going to talk about this. I needed answers.
The view is awesome.
We need to talk.
After a bit my phone vibrated once again and I checked the message.
Cool. I'll be in for lunch.
Around two o'clock in the afternoon my phone vibrated on the desk in front of me. I'd been sitting in the office looking over the schedule for the coming week and making up the schedule for the following week. I picked up my phone and looked at the incoming message.
I rolled my eyes as I got up and went to the door of the office, opening it to find Jasper one step away from the doorway.
"You know…most people would actually go ahead and knock on the door, not just text the sound."
"What can I say, Edward? I'm a big fan of onomatopoeia. Besides, this way I was able to knock right when I walked in the place and didn't see you. I assumed you were in your office and it saved me all kinds of time."
I just shook my head because sometimes there was no figuring out crazy.
"You want to eat in here or out in the bar?" I asked.
"Here's good." He flopped down on the small couch that sat in the corner of the office and laid his arms up along the back of the couch as he relaxed his head back onto it.
"God, this is the life! I've been standing up all morning. Weekends are busy…everybody comes out of the woodworks to get their outdoors on. Poor Riley…I left him in charge...but he can handle it."
I nodded. I knew Northwest Adventures would be much busier in the summer than any other season, with all the out of town tourists looking for activities. And of course the weekends would be busier than the weekdays. I was glad my job was a little more regular: you had the lunch crush then it ebbed until the happy hour crowd and then the dinner crush. After that it was smooth sailing; the bar was wilder on Friday and Saturday nights but those were Garrett's nights to manage; those were my nights off.
"So, what are you having? You want a menu?" I raised my brows as I gazed at him.
"Nah, I'm good. I'll have the Thai chicken salad and a bottled water."
I picked up the phone and punched the line into the kitchen. I placed an order for two Thai chicken salads, a bottled water and an iced tea. In the meantime, Jasper had lain down, kicking off his shoes and stretching out on his back. His hands were beneath his head, fingers clasped, elbows sticking out to the sides. By the time I hung up the phone his eyes were closed.
"You want me to get you a blankie? Maybe sing you a lullabye?" I asked as I moved aside the schedules for the employee shifts for this week and next.
Jasper raised one hand from behind his head and flipped me off. His eyes were still closed. "You want to rub my feet?"
"Not particularly. But I do want to know what made you suggest The Bellevue apartments to me. I know you know that's why you're here."
He opened his eyes and looked over at me smugly, raising his eyebrows for emphasis and smirking. "I thought you liked the place…you said the view was awesome."
"The view is awesome." I didn't elaborate because somehow I didn't think I needed to.
He grinned and shut his eyes. "I'll assume you took the apartment across from Bella Swan's, then."
He knew all right.
I raked my fingers through my hair though I was tempted to get up and shake the living daylights out of him until he gave me a decent answer. Instead I sighed. And looked over at him. He had a goddamned smirk on his lips and his goddamned eyes were still closed.
His smirk got broader but his eyes remained closed.
I finally gave up with a sigh.
"So how'd you know?"
He snorted a laugh. "I had a feeling…I've had the feeling before and I just put two and two and two and two and two together. I've always been good at math."
His fucking eyes were still closed. I sighed once again. I was getting nowhere fast.
"Okay, I give…what were all the twos?"
Really. What the hell was he talking about?
He rolled over on his side, curling up in a sort of ball as he did so and looked across at me, eyes glowing in triumph.
"This goes way back, doesn't it?" he asked with a proud smirk.
I didn't bat an eye; I just sat there waiting impassively.
"Okay…here are the twos as I see them…," he finally said as he pulled himself back upright. "I came in here late last night but you'd left long ago. I was sitting at the bar, shooting the shit with James and he asked me something about Chief Swan's daughter; he wanted to know if there was something between you and her. I said I didn't think so; that you'd been friends since she tutored you when you were a kid. But he told me she'd been in here with Pastor Weber's daughter, Angela, and you went and sat with them after you were off. He said you'd taken some appetizers over and you'd sat and had a drink with them…and frankly, Edward…you don't usually sit and drink with anybody here. That was the first two and that got me to thinking about the twos from the past.
"When you were a kid and Bella was tutoring you, you never once had a negative thing to say about it. Most kids would have been irritated about tutoring biting into their social life, but you never once said squat. You gladly left whatever fun thing was going on to go to your tutoring session. That's not normal. You weren't normal. That's the second two.
"And then freshman year…you were fine in Beginning Spanish; you were getting A's, but you got together with Bella occasionally for extra 'help.'" He made air quotes with his fingers as he said it. "You didn't need help! Damn…every time Goff called on you, you knew exactly what she was saying and you answered correctly in near-grammatically-perfect Spanish. 'Help,' my ass!" He shook his head. "That's another two."
He kept going and I just sat there still and quiet.
"Senior year…second semester…Bella Swan shows up in our Spanish Four classroom. She's introduced as Goff's Student Teacher…and you're sitting there with a glazed look on your face; a mixture of fear and awe. I mean, heck…I knew her when she was in high school, too…she was over at your house with your sister all the time…but I didn't get that glazed look in my eyes. I knew right then that you were hot for teacher. Of course you couldn't really do anything about it, though…"
His eyes suddenly widened and he stared at me.
"Oh, dear God…!" he blurted suddenly. "Jessica Stanley was a decoy, wasn't she?"
I exhaled like I'd been punched and I was feeling a little lightheaded.
Jasper's eyes just went a little wider at my non-admission admission.
"Son-of-a-bitch! That's a big fat fucked-up two, right there! Christ Almighty!"
I just sat there dumbfounded, listening to all the twos. I hadn't realized there were so many. I'd thought I'd hidden the twos so well.
"Senior Prom…the end of the school year…you slow-danced with her, buddy. Nobody slow dances with their teacher…or their student teacher. I mean, yes, you had some kind of unusual history with her that was different than the average student…and she was a close friend of your sisters and she was awfully pretty and did look awfully young, but still…a slow-dance? That just screams two at the top of its lungs.
"And then since senior year…with college and living in Seattle and all…I figured that had pretty much become a non-issue. But then I remembered…just a few weeks ago…when you moved back to Forks…and we started hanging out…I was telling you who I still saw around town…the minute I mentioned her name you perked right up. It was out-of-the-ordinary-interest, my man. Undeniable two…right there, dude."
He sat there staring at me and I sat there trying to wipe the look of shock off my face.
"So am I right or am I right?" he drawled "You've had a thing for Miss Swan for a long time, haven't you?"
I stared at him. The twos were overwhelmingly stacked against me; giving me away.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door interrupting us. It was an actual knock-knock, not a knock-text.
"Come in!" I said, thankful for the distraction, hoping we could just move on to something else.
Victoria came in with a tray, smiling at me and greeting Jasper by name. She set our Thai chicken salads down on my desk and the little table next to the couch. She put down our drinks and our set-ups and asked if we needed anything else. I shook my head and thanked her and she left the office, pulling the door closed behind her.
"I'll bet she's a real wild one," Jasper observed, once the door had shut.
Yes! So easily distracted!
But before I could say anything regarding Victoria he pressed on.
"Well? Bella Swan? Yes or yes?" He stabbed a forkful of salad and brought it to his mouth, waiting and examining my expression.
I sighed heavily. I ran my fingers through my hair. Then I did it again for good measure.
"Yes," I finally admitted with a long and drawn out exhale. It was almost a relief to admit it to him.
"I knew it! I had a feeling!" Jasper was smiling at me smugly, self-satisfied asshole that he was. He began digging into his salad with gusto. I began picking at mine.
"It's that obvious?" I asked.
"Well, not really," he said as he poked his fork around. "I just know you well, Edward. You're the closest thing I'll ever have to a brother. You've actually concealed it fairly well. But I've got to say…that shit's been going on for a helluva long time." He chewed thoughtfully then looked up at me for confirmation.
"Yeah, it has," I agreed, nodding as I picked at my salad; no longer very hungry. "You think it's stupid?" I finally asked after a few moments.
"Oh, heck no!" he sputtered. "Why would it be stupid? She's cute. She's sweet. Always has been. Shit, everyone in that Spanish class was in love with her…girls included… Though not sexually. At least I don't think so." He paused and looked thoughtfully into space for a moment. "No, I don't think there was any of that." He shook his head and dug into his salad a little more heartily. "Anyway, I think it has potential."
"How come you never said anything?" I was curious. He'd had all the twos, after all.
He chewed and looked at me for a moment before replying.
"Same reason why you've never said anything; it wasn't the right time.
"And you think now is the right time?"
He shrugged. "It wouldn't have been do-able before. Now I think it's do-able."
"So how did you know the apartment across from hers was available?" I was still curious about that, too.
He took another bite, smiled, chewed and swallowed.
"I saw her at The Grind a few days ago. I'd gone for a ride on my mountain bike and stopped by there on the way back for some coffee and to relax. She was out front at a table, reading a book. I sat down with her and we just chatted. She said she lived right around the corner in the Bellevue apartments, I asked her about the apartments…
"You know…sometimes I feel like I should move into something bigger than that dinky little apartment above Northwest Adventures. I can certainly afford it, you know?"
I smirked as I nodded and snapped my fingers in front of his face because he was getting side-tracked.
So easily distracted.
"Oh, yeah…right. Anyway, she told me there were a few units available; one right across from hers. When you texted me last night that you were ditching me to go apartment hunting, I figured it was probably still available. The rest is history.
"So tell me what happened this morning," he said as he speared his remaining forkful of salad. He chewed, took a long drink of his bottled water then laid back down on the sofa, curling up on his side once again with his hands folded together under his cheek, like I was about to tell him a bedtime story.
I told him the entire story, from the time I first stepped foot into the complex all the way up to the goodbyes at The Grind, including her offer to help me move with her truck. He listened raptly the entire time.
"So what do you think I should do?" I finally asked, rocking back in my desk chair, feeling a little lighter for finally confiding in him.
"I can't believe you're even asking me, dude. I mean, of course I'll help you move the heavy stuff; Riley can cover the shop, so just let me know when. But seriously? She offers to help you…you know it will take hours, several trips, two days if you stretch it. Of course you take her up on her offer! Then you invite her to dinner; cook it yourself or take her out…to thank her, you know?. That's how you stretch it into three days."
He shook his head and rolled his eyes. "I can't believe you asked me if you should just rent a truck."
I sat back and looked at him. He was absolutely right. I'd be a fool not to take her up on her offer. I decided I'd definitely head back over to the apartment later tonight after work. If her light was on, I'd stop by and let her know how much I would appreciate her help and we could make arrangements.
Jasper left shortly after that. I walked him out and then I schmoozed with the customers afterward for a bit before returning to my office.
The rest of my day lagged. I couldn't wait to get out of there. I'd decided.
As soon as Garrett showed up I stopped by my parents' house, trading my dress pants for a pair of worn jeans and losing my tie and belt. I thought about changing my button down shirt as well, but I was already wasting too much time, so I just rolled up the sleeves and kept it on.
I picked up some clothes and boxes to unpack at the apartment. I didn't want to look like a total imbecile, turning up on her doorstep just to ask her for help sometime during the week. That seemed rather pathetic…though I'd be the first to admit I was indeed pathetic. I just figured it was better not to call attention to it. And so I would go over there with a load of things to unpack and put away.
It would be a start, at least.
I pulled into my designated carport in the Bellevue parking lot shortly after seven o'clock. I was a little disheartened to see that Bella's truck wasn't parked in the space next to mine. So much for my plans. But it was a Saturday night, after all. It was perfectly understandable that she would be out doing something with friends.
I left my car, heading for my new apartment, juggling the big, clanking box filled with kitchen cookware. I glanced over at Bella's unit just to make sure. Dark. No one home. I sighed as I dropped off that box and headed back to my car for the box that had been labeled "glassware, dishes and utensils." I'd figured I could get the kitchen organized even if I couldn't move any big furniture items yet.
I hadn't thought to bring any lamps, but there were already bulbs in the overhead light fixtures in the entryway, the kitchen, the bathroom and the hall. Enough of the apartment was illuminated for me to maneuver. It wasn't like I was going to trip over any furniture in the dark in my living room or bedroom, anyway. The place was as sparsely decorated as you could get.
On the final trip back to my car I grabbed a huge stack of clothing I'd pulled out of my closet at home. Everything was still on hangers. I draped all the clothes over a box marked, "bathroom" and took the entire pile with the box directly to my room. I was staggering and on the verge of dropping everything and couldn't manage to shut the front door.
In the bedroom I struggled to hang up the clothing that was still on hangers. Most of the hangers were being uncooperative, the heads turning sideways and getting stuck together while some of the clothing slipped off of them and onto the floor.
But that's where I was, fighting a losing battle, when I heard it... It was the sweetest sound you could imagine. And it was coming from my living room entryway.
It wasn't just that it was verbal onomatopoeia, as opposed to texted onomatopoeia; it was her onomatopoeia. Bella Swan was at my opened front door, checking to see if I was home, possibly requesting to be admitted.
"Back here! I'll be right out!" I yelled as I wrestled with the uncooperative hangers. They refused to bend to my will. I finally just gave up and threw the pile of clothing, hangers and all, onto the floor of the closet and slid the closet door shut in exasperation and hurried to the front door.
I was looking back over my shoulder as I hustled out of my bedroom, thinking about how I still had to unpack the box of bathroom things.
I wasn't watching where I was going. I rounded the corner and I plowed right into her as she turned the corner coming down the hall. She'd shrieked, startled at first, and then exhaled heavily as I knocked the wind out of her in our collision. In that split second I knew that she was going to land flat on her butt and I had to prevent that. I lunged forward as she was flailing backward. I was reaching out, both arms wrapping around her body, but realized in the last moment that I had too much forward motion going. I was off balance and couldn't stop our fall; I had no counterbalance. We were going down together hard. I think I yelled an incoherent expletive. One of my hands shot up to cradle her head so she wouldn't slam it on the floor when she hit and the other hand shot out beneath her to help break our fall.
Shit! I was about to squash Bella Swan like a little bug!
A/N: *Giggle* Oh you just know this is going to be entertaining, don't you?