Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns these characters and the awesomeness that is Twilight! I'm just subjecting them to my fun little schemes.
The Role of a Lifetime
"I've got it! The fall semester is going to be starting soon. All the girls are going to be coming back now that classes are starting. We could have a fundraiser where the girls come out in bikinis and have a car wash. It's perfect!"
Edward Cullen shook his head at his second closest friend, Jasper Whitlock. He and the other boys of fire station 88 in Forks, Washington had been brainstorming ideas for ways to raise money all damn morning. So far, Jasper's idea—which was possibly the most degrading of them all, was actually sounding pretty good. He wondered if that had more to do with his lack of a social life or the fact that sex definitely sales.
"Please. I think we have a better chance of us strapping on our sexy suspenders, showing off our abs, and washing our firetrucks while all of those college girls pay to see it," Emmett, Edward's best friend, said with a smirk.
"I think you're both wrong. We should let James just do a striptease for the entire town. Fifty bucks admission," Edward said, totally joking. The five guys sitting around the station's living quarters burst into laughter. James, the resident old geezer, flipped them off. James Stotler was by far the oldest firefighter Edward had ever heard of before, he was like a father to all of them, and the man was relentless in an emergency.
"Alright," Tyler Crowley spoke up for only the second time that morning, "why don't we have a big benefit dinner? I'm talking, we open up the hall, have it catered, put some decorations up, and charge admission to get in. We could rent a DJ."
"That's not a bad idea but do we have the money upfront to pull it off. Sounds like we need money to make money on that one, Ty."
"I think it's a good idea," James put in, obviously over the striptease comment.
"I can talk to Rose and see if she'd help organize it. I'm betting she'd be excited to throw a party with money that isn't hers."
"She always throws parties with money that isn't hers, bro. She throws it with yours," Jasper grinned and laughed.
"True story, Jazz, true fucking story."
"Well, if you ladies will excuse me, I have an important date tonight. I've got to meet her at five and if I'm a minute late, I'll hear about it for the rest of the night," Edward said, standing up.
"Hey, before you leave, tomorrow's Friday. You coming with us or not?" Emmett asked, playing with a pocket knife in his hand.
"I'll have to see. The little lady tends to keep me up most of the night. I'll see how I'm feeling tomorrow."
Jasper laughed, "Have fun, man."
Edward felt that excited feeling he always felt when it was time to go get the only girl who he loved more than anything in the world. Driving past vans and other cars of the four door variety, Edward whipped his ocean blue two-door sports car into a spot by two soccer moms who were no doubt talking about their son or daughter's last game and how much they wanted to kill their husbands for some errand they had forgotten to run. When he stepped out of the car, they quit with their chatter and he could feel their eyes burning holes into him.
He heard the music before the door was even open and he smiled to himself before grabbing the knob. "Head, shoulders, knees, and toes. Knees and toes..." the song droned in the background as he watched the class of ten children between the ages of two and six dancing around the room. He stood idly by, not wanting to ruin the fun. Before long, the daycare worker noticed him, and smiled before announcing, "Kaley, look who's here!"
"Daddy!" The just-turned-two-year-old came bounding towards him and wrapped her arms around his neck. He laughed and hugged her tight, lifting her up and walking over to talk to the young teacher.
"How are things going? Is she doing okay here?"
"She's doing great, Mr. Cullen, really. You don't need to worry. It's been two weeks and we've had no problems at all with her. She's a very happy little girl."
Kaley Ann Cullen lifted her head from his shoulder to smile at the lady that Edward listened to her talk nonstop about. A few weeks ago, his mom had finally managed to talk him into putting her into daycare a couple days a week. No one he knew had kids—except James, and they were all grown up—and his mother was concerned that she wouldn't be social enough when it came time for her to start preschool. It was clear from Kaley's reports to him every night that she loved it. He made a mental note to call and thank his mom when they got home.
"Good. If you need anything don't hesitate to call. I can be here in a heartbeat."
When he had her little book bag packed with her little blanket and little pillow, Edward carried her out and got her strapped into the car. She was babbling away about someone named Dora who had a pet monkey when he noticed the two women were staring at him again. They both had rings on. He had seen them everyday when he came to pick up Kaley since the first day she had started there—and they had definitely seen him.
He would notice them looking at him when they walked by. One day, he heard them make a reference to a sex God. The day after that, he pretended to want to know what they thought about the daycare, since Kaley had just started there, so that he could take time to get a better look at them. He'd be lying if he said he didn't find the one attractive and figured he might have a shot. To his disappointment, both had rings on their left hands and he had kindly said thanks and walked away. That didn't stop them from staring at him though.
He felt uncomfortable about it. These women were married. They had husbands waiting back home for them, yet they stood outside of their child's daycare and ogled him. The pain came to him full force as he thought of himself, just a few years ago, in the position of those husbands. Tanya Cullen had drilled a hole straight through his heart and as much as he tried to protect her, through his daughter's as well.
On their way home they passed the station and Kaley asked if they could stop. He knew the guys had probably left after he did so he promised to take her a different day. The problem was, he was working two jobs. He would go into Saxton and Chase every morning after dropping Kaley off where he pretty much acted a a gopher for the small law firm. He delivered mail, picked up court documents, made a few phone calls—nothing that a student of three years of law school should be having to deal with. He had picked up that job after dropping out of college.
He would remember that week as the most fucked up week of his life. On Monday he had been sitting in class, taking notes and dreaming out how in less than a year, he'd be a full fledged lawyer. On Wednesday, they had gone out to a bar and he was told that once again—it had happened before—that Tanya was cheating on him. On Thursday, he found out that his life would never be the same-he found out Tanya was pregnant.
That Friday, Edward realized there was no way he was going to finish school in time. Tanya had moved out the night he'd found out she was sleeping around, due to a request by him. She had sworn up and down that the baby was his. He hoped and prayed she was right. This changed everything, though. If he and Tanya were to have the baby together, he could have afforded to finish out school while she kept working at the D.A.'s office. While he planned for his child, she planned to abort it. When he found out from a mutual friend of theirs, he begged her to keep it. If it was his, he would raise it. If it wasn't she could put it up for adoption. He pleaded with her for three days before she reluctantly agreed. Late in the afternoon, he sat in the library of the school and emailed registrars, informing them that he wouldn't be returning after this semester. He had a baby to take care of on his own. He needed to provide for him or her.
So, he picked up the entry level position and after being introduced to firefighting through a boyrfriend of a friend, he decided to join.. Emmett McCarty and Jasper Whitlock quickly became two close friends and he realized he found a part in the brotherhood he'd found in the guys he served their small community with. When Kaley was born, there was a paternity test done. Tanya and him hadn't spoken much throughout the pregnancy. He would call her for updates and it had been set up with an adoptive family to take the baby if it turned out to not be his. While any of man in his position may have prayed to God that test proved he was free of responsibility, he prayed that the little one was his own. He couldn't stand the idea of the baby going home with people neither he nor Tanya really knew.
He pretty much knew from the moment they came to the waiting room to get him and walked him back to her that she was his. There wasn't a doubt in his mind. She had the greenest eyes—much like his own, and her hair, which she had almost a full head of already, was blonde like her mothers. It only took a few hours to complete the test and in the end, he was handed a newborn.
As soon as he'd gotten the results, he named her and took her out to show his mom. Esme was absolutely thrilled and had even stayed at his house with him the first few days. The year before he had imagined this day, bringing home his little one, but things were a hell of a lot different. This newborn little girl was his sole responsibility and when his mom left on the third day the weight of that slammed him hard. That little five pound miracle was relying on him to keep her safe, cared for, and loved. He had no idea how truly hard it could be.
Having lived in Forks his whole life, he had gotten to know most of the women and his options for dating her pretty slim. While Forks was small, it was also a college town. The locals were okay with it, knowing the University brought them a lot of money, but there was always a population boom nine months of the year and almost everyone of the knew people were younger than him—and definitely not looking for a man with a baby. He'd been on very few dates since Tanya left him and the main reason was that he didn't want Kaley to get too attached. He was tired of one night stands.
Just recently, Tanya had tried to get back together with him. He had never really pushed for the divorce, just letting it take its time but it still bothered him when people referred to her as Tanya Cullen. He turned her down every time she asked him out but he knew she wouldn't give up that easily. He hoped that she'd leave him alone tonight. Kaley was going through a stage where she would fight sleep and then get cranky and be up fussing all night—he didn't need his estranged wife to make his nights worse.
During his prayers to the man upstairs, begging him to allow him some peace that coming night—to let the little girl sleep, Edward noticed the U-Haul pulled up almost directly in front of his house. Up until a few months ago, an elderly couple lived there. Now, they were in Florida and renting the house out to college students. Edward sighed, having prayed that no one would have taken the house. He didn't want neighbors—especially not noisy college students who would keep Kaley up even more.
To his annoyance, a young Native American boy and a man dressed as a cop, came down the ramp of the U-Haul carrying boxes. Great, that's all I need. Some damned frat boy living right beside us. A little puppy, much to feminine for either of these men was sniffing around the mailbox—and immediately got Kaley's attention. He'd just unbuckled her car seat and set her on the ground while he crawled in further to get her things when he heard a happy shriek and watched her take off running.
"Kaley! Hey! Come back here!" Edward sighed, throwing the tiny princess book bag over one shoulder and heading towards her.
Edward watched as the dog ran towards the other side of the moving van and Kaley followed. He ran, yelling to her to stay off the street, wishing the two men were at least still there to stop her. That's when he saw her. A tiny girl, about five and a half feet tall with ivory skin and deep mahogany curls came around the van carrying his daughter. "Kaley, don't you ever do that again!" Edward cried before apologizing to the girl.
"No worries. She just got excited about Peanut, my little Yorkie."
"I know but I should have been watching her better."
Bella just looked at him, obviously not knowing what to say, before tucking her hair behind her ear and asking, "So...do you live next door?"
"Yeah. Are you the one moving in here or..."
"Yes. My dad and Jake are helping me out but it's just me. This is my first time away from home and they're both kind of freaking out."
"Is Jake your brother?" Edward asked quickly.
"Um...no...he's a...childhood friend. I've known him all my life."
"I see." Edward wondered why the hell this piece of information bothered him so badly.
"Oh...um...sorry. I can take her," he mumbled, reaching to take Kaley from her. Surprisingly, Kaley reached back out to her and whined a little. "She's just a little cranky since she's probably hungry. I live right next door so if you need anything, don't hesitate to stop by."
"Hey! We officially have the tv hooked up! Our work here is done!" Edward watched the boy called Jake yell obnoxiously from the front door of the house.
Edward chuckled as the beautiful girl rolled her eyes and smiled before walking away with a nod. He found himself watching her as she walked away and it took Kaley, who was squirming to be put down to get his attention. Forcing himself to turn around and walk back towards his own house, Edward berated himself for not getting his new neighbor's name.
A few hours later, he had Kaley fed, bathed, and pajama'd. They stood in the bathroom, her on the toilet and him in front of the sink brushing their teeth for the night. She was mumbling through the toothpaste and Edward gave up trying to stop the dripping result from getting on her top. It was white anyway. "I na puppy."
Edward knew what exactly what she had just babbled. Great. A puppy. I can barely take care of the two of us let alone a puppy! "Alright, little bug, get those teeth brushed and we'll go read some stories."
That must have been enough to get her to calm down because she smiled, toothpaste going everywhere, and hopped down. Handing him the toothbrush, she let him rinse it off, then wipe her mouth and shirt. "Dadadada..."
Of course the first book she picked from her princess shelf was a book whose main character was none other than a puppy. "Alright, climb in," he laughed, lifting her covers. As soon as her head touched the pillow shaped like Aladin's lamp, her eyes started to flutter closed. Edward knew that if he tried to leave without reading to her, she'd open them back up and they'd stay that way all night. As he started to read about a little girl whose mother bought her a puppy, he could almost see the wheels turning in her head.
When he finished the story, she asked for another, like she did every night and he gave in. After that, he kissed her goodnight, tucked the covers as tightly around her as he could, and flicked on her butterfly nightlight. Walking out into the living room, he flopped down on the couch and stretched out. Since Kaley was born, the only time he really had to himself was when she was sleeping or with his mom. He took the opportunity to think about the mystery girl next door, telling himself it was just because he was concerned about his neighbors.
There was no doubt in his mind that she was either attending college or just recently graduated. When he'd seen her earlier that day, she had been wearing a gray sweatshirt with UW on the front. He thought about the way it was cut so that it hung off her one shoulder, exposing just enough of her pale skin to make him want to run his finger across the exposed area. The short cotton shorts she was wearing left little to the imagination.
Wow. Yeah, keep checking out your college student neighbor, you perv. He shook his head but couldn't deny that he thought she was hot...the basketball shorts he wore did little to hide to his excitement. He had thought about her while he got Kaley's dinner ready, while he played hide and seek with her—for an hour-and even while he read that book to her. This girl was seriously driving him crazy and he didn't even know her name.
Since he and Tanya were married, Edward had pleaded with her to sign the damn divorce papers more times than he could count. The fact that it was easier to sign their daughter away than it was to get her to divorce him upset but didn't really shock him. What did shock him was that her new fondness of him. She hadn't seen her daughter since signing over all rights to him the day the little girl was born and he damn well intended to keep it that way.
Sometimes he wondered about Kaley's well being and if having a mother in the picture was necessary for her to turn out normal. He wondered what normal meant and decided that as long as she had one parent who loved her unconditionally and provided for and kept her safe...she was about twenty steps ahead of some of the other children in the world. That fact alone was exactly why he couldn't bring himself to allow someone he didn't know to raise his child. He'd never be able to live with himself if he had given up that little girl.
She looked like Tanya, there was no denying that with her curly blonde hair. She had his eyes, though, those green eyes that seemed to be able to see right through just about anyone. The girl had good intuition and to his surprise, she was very cautious of new people—except when the new people had a puppy. She was a happy child and very friendly but she just took awhile to open up and not be shy. His mom loved her and babysat for him three days a week. Kaley went to daycare the two other days. Just yesterday, his mom had broken the news that she wanted to go back to work—something she didn't need to do but wanted to do. She was a pediatrics nurse—it was how she had met his father—who was a pediatrician. On the already tight budget they were living on, he didn't know what he was going to do.
These were the nights he longed to have someone there to make the tough decisions with. He dreamt of the day when he'd sit down across from his partner as they discussed what would be best for their children and their family as a whole. Tanya tried to talk to him, tried to tell him that she wanted him back, but he didn't trust her and didn't want her close to Kaley. Tanya was a bit of a free spirit and he knew that while she was good in bed, she wasn't meant to be a long term wife or mother. He suspected it was more about playing house than actually taking care of one. There was no way he was letting his daughter become attached to her just so she could take off with someone new in a few months.
His phone beeped, alerting him that he had a text message. He pinched the bridge of his nose, suddenly exhausted, and flipped it open. Sure enough, it was from her. Hey, Edward. I just wanted to know if maybe you wanted to get drinks tomorrow night? He sighed and was just about to tell her he couldn't because he had a child to take care of, he realized that he was actually supposed to be going out with the guys the next night and had forgotten to find a sitter. Cursing under his breath, he saw that it was only nine thirty and called Esme.
"Mom? Hey, do you and dad have any plans tomorrow night?"
"We were going to do some grocery shopping but why?" his mom asked pleasantly.
"Um...they guys from the station wanted me to go out with them for a few drinks tomorrow. It's not a big deal..."
"Edward, we'll be happy to take her. Really. It's been so long since you've gotten out, just go have fun. Why don't we keep her overnight?"
"I don't...I'll be home early. I don't plan to drink much and on the weekends she usually stays up until about ten thirty. I'll pick her up by ten. Are you sure this is okay?"
"Yes! Do you want me to get her from daycare tomorrow?"
"No. I'll get her. I'll drop her off about six after I get her some dinner."
"Alright, see you then!"
They were just about to get off the phone when things went into chaos—but it was chaos that they were used to—organized chaos. The sirens went off, automatically bringing him into a straight up sitting position. "Do you hear them?" his mom asked.
"Yeah, I have to go, Rose will be here any minute..."
"Edward, be careful!"
"I will. Love you, mom!"
He hung up and made his way to the bedroom, throwing on a pair of jeans and his blue station shirt, he cracked open Kaley's door to make sure she was still asleep. Satisfied that she'd be okay, he grabbed the baby monitor and bolted outside. Emmett lived three miles away from him and about five from the station. Standing at the end of the sidewalk, waiting for Em to show, he began pacing. This was always the most stressful time for him. If the alarm sounded six times that usually meant a car accident. If it went eight that meant fire. More often than not, he forgot to count them, his first instinct always to check in on his daughter.
Lights came bouncing down the road towards him as he ran his fingers through his hair and prayed whatever emergency had occurred was just a simple fender bender or maybe a bonfire just a little out of control. He glanced over at his new neighbor's house and saw that there were still lights on, wondering what she was doing up so late, and then realizing it wasn't even ten o'clock yet. The second the large black truck stopped in front of him, he heard heels clicking and saw Rose come around the front towards him. As was tradition, she gave him a quick hug, a kiss on the cheek, grabbed the monitor, and told him to be safe. The last thought on Edward's mind as Emmett filled him in on just how bad the scene was on the highway where two cars had slammed into each other, was the fact that he hadn't bothered to text Tanya back. He smiled to himself, knowing that he was finally over her. He just prayed it would stay that way.
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