Disclaimer: I own nothing. Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight and everything to do with it.
A/N: Well, as you guys probably guessed, this is going to be an AH Alice/Bella story, told from Bella's POV. It is rated M for language, adult themes and future sexiness. I'd love to know what you all think of this first chapter. Enjoy!
"But, Rose, I don't want to go," I whined as I sat on the edge of my bed, watching my friend silently disapprove of the state my room was in. She had got into a routine of doing this to me periodically, usually when I started to show signs of turning into Howard Hughes. Once again, some poor, unsuspecting man was going to have to put up with my awkward behaviour while we made painful small talk over a dinner table. Or 'a date' as she liked to call it.
"Come on, Bella, it's one date. I'm sure you'll survive. This one is nicer than the last one, I promise," she responded, encouragingly, while rummaging through the piles of clothes that littered my floor. That wouldn't be difficult, I thought to myself. "Besides, when was the last time you went out?" She continued, turning round to face me with her hands on her hips.
"Well, we all went to the aquarium last month, remember? Although, I must say, it was a bit-"
"On a DATE, Bella!" She practically growled at me, sounding exasperated and gesticulating with her hands. I knew that's what she meant, I was just trying to distract her. No such luck. As it happened, it had been quite a while since my last 'date' so I knew deep down I wasn't going to win this one. Nevertheless, I wasn't going down without a fight, at least.
"I don't want to date anyone. I've told you before - I'm happy on my own," I stated triumphantly.
"And I've told you before - I don't believe you," she countered, tilting her head slightly to one side.
Every single time we have this same, circular conversation and she always wins. Except once, when I was sick. Okay, pretending to be sick. She did know me infuriatingly well, I have to admit. I wasn't happy on my own and she knew it. It was just a line I fed her to make her stop matchmaking because, in all honesty, I had given up; to the point where I just wasn't trying anymore.
Also, she was terrible at matchmaking. As long as one had a penis and one had a vagina, nothing else seemed to matter to her.
"Please, Rose, don't do this to me. You know I hate going on these blind dates. I get all nervous, I stutter and nine times out of ten I fall over at some point during the evening," I argued, pouting slightly and giving the puppy dog eyes that got me off the hook with everyone but her.
She grinned at me. "I know. They always tell me about the falling over part," she announced, her demeanour changing to one of genuine amusement, while I groaned in embarrassment. Of course they would tell her that part. "I don't understand why you always put up such a fight when I set these things up for you, Bella. I'm just trying to help you."
And here comes, the guilt train, right on schedule. I know she only does it because she worries about me. That's why I always give in: to keep her happy.
"I know, I just… it'll be a waste of time, it always is." I hung my head when I said that and suddenly found my fingernails incredibly interesting. This was going to go the same way as that horrendous dinner I had with Eric Yorkie. I could just feel it. I heard Rose's footsteps come closer before feeling a new weight settle beside me on the bed. She put a reassuring hand on my shoulder and I turned my face towards her.
"You never know when you'll find that special someone, Bells. For all you know it could be Mike," she said, looking me straight in the eye and smiling.
"Mike?" I inquired.
"His name is Mike Newton. He just started at my office a few weeks ago. He seems nice," she finished, a bit too emphatically.
"Yeah, you already said that," I mumbled before continuing. "I think I'm getting too old for this, Rose. Not to mention your entire work place probably thinks I'm some kind of a desperate… cougar!" I hastily spluttered out, going slightly red in the face.
"Cougar?" she repeated, chuckling slightly. "Bella, you're only twenty-seven. Don't worry about that. I know loads of thirty-something's in exactly the same situation and they are way more desperate than you," my very best friend in the whole, wide world said to me. Thanks, babe, big help.
She just didn't get it…
I had nearly exhausted my arsenal of excuses not to go and she took full advantage of my silence. "So, are you going to go?" she asked brightly, clearly ignoring the slightly irritated expression on my face.
"Fine," I answered with a dramatic sigh.
"Good girl," she cooed in a patronising tone of voice before kissing the side of my head. "Now, tell me, do you actually own anything apart from jeans and plaid shirts?" she asked sarcastically as she resumed her perusal of my discarded clothes.
"Of course. There's sweat pants and tank tops in the drawer," I replied with a straight face.
She looked at me with a raised and perfectly sculpted eyebrow. "You really do know how to annoy me, Swan, you know that?"
I just smiled at her. Silly Rosie, of course I knew. That's why I did it.
I was staring across the dinner table at Mr. Mike Newton (in a very mediocre restaurant, I might add) three days later. As he talked incessantly about himself, I was trying to decide exactly how many bottles of product he had used on his gravity defying, blonde hair. Just the one, I think. I had paid enough attention at the start of the conversation to know that his parents owned some kind of shop not too far from here. I should really find out the name so I can avoid it. Maybe it's just called Newton's. Maybe it's…
"…And, basically, that's how I got into finance." I abruptly came back down to earth and tuned in just in time to hear the end of his monologue.
"Mmm, that sounds really interesting," I said with a smile and a nod and quickly proceeded to shovel a fork-full of pasta into my mouth. My contribution to the conversation seemed to please him no end, judging by the smug look on his baby face.
"What about you? Tell me something interesting about Bella Swan," he asked, laughing lightly at his own choice of diction. It was hard to tell if he was being intentionally patronising or if he just spoke like that naturally.
I'm never sure what people are looking for when they ask that question. Something interesting? Like, how I can fit half a bag of skittles into my mouth in one go? I think that's interesting but, if my past dates are anything to go by, most other people don't. "Rosalie told me you work mostly from home. What exactly do you do?" He jumped in again while cutting into his 6oz steak.
This one I could answer. "Oh, well, I'm an Illustrator. Mostly children's books, but I get the odd freelance job doing posters, greeting cards, that kind of thing."
As far as I was concerned, I had gone as far as I could with that particular conversation topic. He, however, looked at me with an impish smile, obviously expecting me to say more. "So, umm… yeah, I work mostly from home. I have to travel every so often to meet with publishers but other than that…" I trailed off, nodding my head like a moron.
After a slight pause, he began nodding his head in much the same way. "That sounds really cool. I don't think I'd have the self discipline for something like that," he added with a chuckle. There was an awkward silence before he finally spoke up again. "Will you excuse me for a minute, I need to use the bathroom."
I watched him leave the table and couldn't help but notice one of his trouser legs was tucked into his sock. I shook my head a laughed to myself. This really was just like dinner with Eric Yorkie, at least Mike didn't seem to have a perverted fascination with my breasts. That was a Tyler Crowley special, that one. God Rose, you sure can pick them.
I had noticed a woman a few tables to the left of ours when I arrived and she seemed to be having the kind of horrific date that rivalled my own. My eyes followed the man she was with as he got up and walked towards the restrooms, with an almost visible cloud of cologne trailing after him. Seriously buddy, I can smell you from here. Just as I brought my eyes back to his female companion, the woman in question did something that, quite frankly, shocked me. She took a quick scan of the room, opened her purse, threw some money on the table and swiftly left the restaurant, disappearing from sight.
I stared wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the door she had just fled through, with only one thought going through my head: Why had I never thought of doing that? How many terrible dates had I been set up on over the past three years, and not once had I ever thought to run away as fast as my clumsy legs would carry me.
I quickly shook those thoughts away. I couldn't possibly leave… could I? It's not like I was ever going to see him again anyway. It would be humiliating for him, though. Not to mention the fact that Rosalie would kill me when she found out. Because she would find out… My hands seemed to be moving towards my purse before my brain could process the decision. Before I knew what I was doing, I had flung money on the table and was half way through the glass-panelled doors.
"ISABELLA MARIE SWAN!"
I had been sitting peacefully in Rose and Emmett's living room, having a civilised conversation with Emmett himself, when we both heard the unmistakably aggravated voice of Rosalie shout from the top of the stairs.
"God, Bella. What did you do?" my best friend's burly husband asked, a look of terror on his face. He had often been the cause of that tone of voice in his wife and he seemed to be genuinely scared for me. I simply responded with a shrug, trying my best to act nonchalant. In reality, I knew exactly why she was now stomping down the stairs and, to be honest, I was surprised it had taken this long. My right leg began to jitter uncontrollably as I sat on the sofa, waiting for the blonde bomb-shell to appear.
"Bella! What is the matter with you! How could you do that?" She was furious. Her hands were on her hips and her left eye seemed to be twitching slightly.
"Hey, Rose, what's up?" I countered pleasantly, trying to diffuse the tension. However, she didn't look impressed and proceeded to close her eyes and pinch the bridge of her nose, obviously trying to calm down.
After a few deep breaths, she tried again. "I just got off the phone with Mike and he said you did a disappearing act last night at dinner, while he was in the bathroom?" It was phrased as a question but I didn't know if I should answer or not. Luckily, I was saved by Emmett's booming laughter but it quickly ceased as Rosalie turned her glare on him, acknowledging him for the first time since she had entered the room. He cleared his throat and mumbled something incoherent before ambling out the front door, leaving Rose and I alone in the house.
"Rose, honestly, it's not as bad as it sounds," I said, holding my hands up as a sign of peace. She raised an eyebrow and looked at me incredulously. She was trying to make eye contact but I couldn't bring myself to meet her gaze so my eyes darted round the room, looking at anything that wasn't an angry, blonde woman.
"Did you, or did you not, leave Mike Newton sitting in a restaurant by himself, utterly humiliated and heart broken?" She asked very slowly and dangerously. Heart broken? Honestly, she's such a drama queen.
"Come off it Rose, I left more than enough money to cover both of us and it's not like the evening was going very well." I was starting to get irritated and that just didn't happen with Rosalie. Sure, we got annoyed with each other, almost on a daily basis, but it was nothing more than banter. This was different.
"It never seems to go well with you! Is that really your excuse for running out? Have you done this before? Is that what happened with Sam? God, Bella, why do I even bother." She rambled somewhat rhetorically, sounding completely exasperated.
And that was it. I had reached my breaking point. Her annoyance and total disbelief at my actions I could put up with; I'd been doing it for years. But the accusations and insinuations that everything was my fault didn't sit well with me. I had tolerated Rose's obsession with my love life for years to placate her; as a way to convince her I was okay. In doing so, I had inadvertently made myself even more miserable. I was tired of being miserable; tired of pretending. It had to stop.
"I don't know, Rosalie, why do you bother? You know damn well I hate going out with random guys, but that doesn't seem to matter to you," I shouted, my eyebrows furrowing. She looked slightly taken aback and genuinely confused.
"Bella, I'm trying to help you," she said in earnest, removing her hands from her hips and letting them fall at her sides in a less threatening pose.
"Help me? You're trying to help yourself! Tidying me away into a relationship with some nice, reliable man who looks good in a suit so you don't have to worry about me anymore." Her eyebrows had risen and she looked like I had just slapped her across the face.
"Bella, that's not-"
"JUST-!" I began in a shrill voice but stopped when I felt my voice start to quiver and I turned my face away from her. I needed to leave. I couldn't cry in front of her. Straightening to my full height, I made my way out of the living room towards the front door. "Just leave me alone, Rosalie, alright." My voice sounded monotonous and defeated even to my own ears as I escaped into the night.
I made my way across the street to my own house and, after fumbling slightly with my keys, I flung the door open and dissolved into tears. "Shit," I choked out as I slid down the wall adjacent to my front door, my head in my hands. I had never flown off the handle like that with Rose before and if she wasn't worried before, she sure as hell would be now. What was wrong with me? I knew she was only trying to help me and still I lashed out at her like she was to blame for everything. I hauled myself to my feet again and wiped furiously at my eyes before dragging my hands through my long, chestnut coloured hair. My life is a sham.
I made my way upstairs into the bathroom, where I proceeded to strip down and step under the hot mist of the shower. The cleansing water did little to improve my mood and ran cold all too quickly. Within fifteen minutes I was sitting at my kitchen table wearing a pair of purple pyjama bottoms and a white tank top. Already feeling like white trash, I thought I would complete the look by getting myself a beer from the fridge and drinking it from the neck. Not long after I had situated myself back down at my wobbly table, I heard a key turning in my front door. I didn't even turn my head when I heard footsteps coming towards me; I knew who it was. Only one other person had a key to my house.
"I gave you that key for emergencies, you know," I stated evenly before inclining my head towards my guest.
Rosalie shrugged her shoulders. "Well, Emmett ate all the hummus so…"
I smiled slightly in spite of myself and shook my head good naturedly. She returned my smile before slowly moving towards the table and gracefully lowering herself into the seat directly opposite me. By this stage I had averted my gaze again and it was a few moments before Rose broke the silence.
"Bella, what's going on?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. "I know you hate me setting you up all the time but you used to at least make the effort. Now, you just seem…" she trailed off, gesturing randomly with both hands, obviously trying to physically illustrate what she couldn't find words for. I still couldn't bring myself to look at her and started to pick at the label of my beer bottle. A sigh left my lips when I realised Rose wasn't going to budge until I opened my mouth.
"I don't know. I just feel like…" I began, before cutting myself off and chewing slightly on my bottom lip. "Maybe I'm just one of those people who is meant to be alone," I finished in a self-deprecating tone.
Whatever my companion was expecting, it wasn't that. She stared hard at me for a moment before slowly reaching over and prising the beer bottle from between my hands, placing it to one side. Her hands slipped into my own and she ducked her head in an attempt to make eye contact.
"Bella, look at me." I did as she asked. "Listen, I know how much Edward hurt you, but you can't let-"
"I swear to God, Rosalie, if you bring that shit up tonight, I will throw up on you!" I said loudly, cutting her off in a dangerous voice, suddenly not so hesitant to look her in the eye. I watched my dearest friend stare at me strangely, smirk, and then burst into a fit of laughter. At that point, the ridiculousness of what I had just said hit me and I couldn't help but laugh too.
It took several minutes for the pair of us to calm down enough to communicate again. When I had wiped the last of the joyful tears away, I got Rose's attention once more.
"No more dates, Rose, please. Promise me," I pleaded.
She studied my face for a moment before answering. "Only if you promise me something in return," she countered, her face slowly turning serious. I raised an eyebrow in silent question.
"Don't ever give up on yourself, Bella."