"Ow! Son of a mother fuck!" I growled, having just stubbed my toe on the kitchen door. I dramatically limped my way into the room and flopped myself down onto one of the hard chairs around the table, huffing in the process. Alice turned to face me, her attention momentarily shifting from the pancakes that were browning nicely on the cooker. She raised a playful eyebrow and pointed her spatula at me.
"I can't believe I let you kiss me with that potty mouth."
I glared at her while I rubbed my sore foot. "Those kisses can be stopped very easily, you know," I mumbled, feeling like this day had already gone down the crapper. I saw a smile tug at Alice's lips, before she turned back to our breakfast. She knew that was a completely empty threat.
"Are you ever cheerful in the morning?" She asked over her shoulder. I rolled my eyes, knowing that she didn't really expect an answer to that. Ignoring her question, I glanced down and continued to rub my foot. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Alice shift her weight from one foot to the other and I couldn't stop myself from raising my head to watch her again. Her back was to me and she had begun humming to herself, her hips moving in time to her nameless tune. My eyes were inexplicably drawn to her pale, tapered legs which were on full display, thanks to the minuscule sleep shorts she wore to bed last night. I couldn't stop my mind from conjuring images of my own hand gently stroking up and down those legs; of my hands wandering over her toned stomach; of those shorts suddenly not being there anymore… "There's coffee over here if you want some."
Alice's voice jerked me from my slightly perverted thoughts and it took me a few seconds to process the words she had just spoken. "Um, right. Yeah, okay." I stood and shuffled over to the counter top beside Alice, grabbing a mug from the cupboard and pouring myself some coffee. For some reason, I couldn't quite bring myself to look at the tiny woman beside me.
"Here," my little Alice said, inadvertently forcing me to look at her. She reached for a plate and placed two pancakes on it, before handing it to me. "Just the way you like them." She beamed at me for a moment, before pushing herself onto her tiptoes and kissing me sweetly on the lips. Pulling back, she gazed at me with adoration and I couldn't stop the idiotic grin that spread across my face, any feeling of awkwardness evaporating instantly. My eyes roved over her delicate features: her face was free from make-up; her hair was messier than normal and looked not quite as fashionable as it usually did, and yet, she was still perfect. With my free hand, I tucked a few strands of her spiky hair behind her ear, before stroking my thumb across her cheek. I couldn't imagine living another minute without Alice by my side.
"What would I do without you?" I said, barely above a whisper, before leaning down and placing a loving kiss on her forehead.
"I'm sure you would find someone else to make you pancakes," she said with a smile, turning back towards the cooker to make her own.
"I doubt it," I uttered, grabbing my coffee off the counter and making my way back to the table. Within minutes Alice joined me, occupying the seat opposite me and pouring syrup all over her breakfast.
"So, what are you going to do today while I'm at work?" Alice asked after a moment, before taking a sip of her coffee.
Oh, you know, I'm just going to sit here and obsess over the life altering job offer you still don't know about and then wait for my life to come crashing down round my ears, due to my inability to talk to anyone about anything…
"Don't know," I shrugged, not looking at the tiny woman opposite me. "Maybe Rose will feel like talking today."
It had been almost a week since the disastrous dinner and I hadn't heard a peep from Rosalie since, just like so many times before. Except this time it was entirely my fault. I had tried to phone her every day but she never answered and never returned any of my calls. I even tried going across the street to talk to her in person but according to Emmett, she was always out. Unless I was very much mistaken, Emmett also seemed to be annoyed with me, which was a first.
"Still no word from her?" Alice questioned, her eyebrows knitting together in sympathy. I just shook my head and began tearing bits off a pancake with my fingers. "She'll come around; you know what she's like," She finished.
Hearing Alice talk about Rose reminded me of something that happened on the night of the dinner, which I had forgotten to ask about. "Hey, by the way, what did you say to Rose after you arrived the other night? You really pissed her off." Even though she tried to hide it, I saw a little smirk appear on Alice's beautiful face.
"I told her she might want to lose a bit of weight if she wanted to wear a dress like that," Alice replied innocently, tossing a bit of pancake into her mouth. My jaw hit the floor.
"You're kidding!" I exclaimed. "Why did you say that? She's not fat in the slightest! I'm fatter than she is!" Alice looked slightly taken aback by my outburst, but proceeded to reply in a calm voice.
"I know she's not fat, and just for the record, neither are you." Alice had propped her elbows on the table, nodding her head slightly to further enforce her statement. "I just wanted to say something that I thought might shut her up for the rest of the night. You have no idea how insecure she is about that kind of thing."
"No, I guess I don't," I murmured. We were silent for a moment until I stood, pushing my chair back, the screeching sound echoing around the kitchen.
"What's wrong?" I heard Alice say, her voice sounding higher than normal, as I walked to the counter with my coffee mug, topping it up. I paused before turning round to face her again. She had shifted in her chair so she was now sitting with her legs draped over the side. I ran both hands through my unruly morning hair and took a deep breath.
"It's just…" I began, not really knowing what I was trying to say. "Sometimes I don't think we know the same Rosalie. It seems like she was so different with you when… when you two were…" I finished my statement with a strange waving motion of my hand.
"Bella," Alice breathed out, standing from the chair, but not moving towards me.
For weeks, months even, I had been holding myself back from coming right out and asking Alice about her feelings for Rose. I couldn't hide from it any longer, not with my feelings for Alice getting stronger and stronger by the day. I needed to know.
"I know you said you never loved her, and I believe you," I started, rushing the latter part of my statement after seeing the look on Alice's face. "But… do you… do you still have feelings for her?"
"Bella, I want you." The tiny raven-haired beauty spoke in a firm voice and took a quick step towards me.
"That's not what I asked you," I responded, my heart sinking at her refusal to answer my question. My eyes never left her face and whatever emotions I was outwardly betraying made Alice's features crease in anguish. The object of my affections lowered her gaze to the floor, before moving backwards to lean against the table. She moved a tiny hand through her hair, brushing it away from her face.
"I can't change what happened between Rosalie and me," she said in a raspy voice, still not looking at me. "Will I ever be able to have a normal sisterly relationship with her? No, I don't think I will." Is that supposed to make me feel better? Slowly, Alice's head lifted and her sparkling blue eyes looked deep into my own chocolate brown ones. "Rosalie was…" Alice paused again, seemingly looking for the right words. "She was everything I thought I could never have. She was beautiful and she exuded this… confidence that just drew me in. I got carried away. I thought I was feeling things that I wasn't." I frowned at her words.
"I don't understand. I thought you liked her," I interrupted.
"So did I," she replied in an honest voice, taking a few more steps towards me. "And I suppose on some level I did. But almost since the first moment I met you, I realised I had been kidding myself. I was looking for things in Rosalie that weren't there; looking for things inside myself that weren't there," Alice closed the remaining distance between us and took my hand in her own. "But now they are there," she whispered, lifting my hand and placing it over her heart. "They're here."
As I stared at my hand on her chest, I could feel the gentle rhythmic beating of my tiny angel's heart beneath my fingers and I suddenly understood her fascination with mine. There really was something reassuring about it. It was like I could feel the sincerity of her words reverberating through my own body with every beat. Alice raised her own hand and placed it over my heart, as she had done so many times before, and for the first time in years, I felt completely at peace. I leaned my forehead down and rested it against Alice's and with her free hand she reached up and gently caressed the side of my face.
"Bella, I've never felt about anyone the way I feel about you. Don't ever doubt that; not even for one second," she whispered against my lips. I nodded against her, before claiming her lips with my own, trying to put everything into the kiss that I couldn't find the words for. She seemed to understand and responded with equal vigour. When we finally pulled apart, Alice pushed herself flush against me and buried her face in my shoulder. My arms wound around her, holding her to me in a vice like grip.
"Alice?" I mumbled quietly into her soft hair, after a few moments.
I waited until she pulled back enough to look at me. "Do you think Rose is in love with you?" I asked, not really sure if I wanted to know the answer. Sparkling blue orbs scanned every inch of my face before settling on my own inquiring eyes.
"I really don't know anymore."
…If you are at all interested on our offer, please contact us, either by telephone or email, no later than April 21st.
April 21st, that's still four days away. There's no need to panic, Bella. You still have time…
It was the same pep talk I had given myself every day since I had opened the letter. Every day the same, despite knowing in the back of my mind that the longer I put it off, the more panicked I was becoming. Each day I had asked myself why I hadn't told anyone about the job offer and everything always led back to Alice. If I told her and she decided she wouldn't come with me, what would I do? Would I take the job anyway and live the rest of my life in misery, always thinking about what could have been? Or would I stay here and be with Alice, eventually growing to resent the fact that she effectively stood in the way of me realising my dream? I couldn't stand the thought of growing to resent Alice. Maybe Alice would agree to come with me just because she knew it would make me happy; my happiness at the expense of hers. I couldn't stand the thought of Alice being unhappy either.
I stared down at the now crumpled and dog-eared letter in my hand. I had developed a habit of carrying it around in my back pocket all day, every day, and I'm not really sure why. There was no need for me to even look at the words anymore; I had memorised them days ago. If anything, carrying it around with me only made me feel worse. I could feel the weight of it constantly in my pocket and it was starting to drag me down. How can one piece of paper hold so much power?
Slowly folding the letter again, I stood and walked over to the drawer I kept my dish towels in. I pulled it open and shoved the folded letter under the pile of materials, right at the bottom, and pushed the drawer shut again. Oh, that's fantastic Isabella. You're safe from it now, aren't you?
Ignoring my own sarcastic scathing mind, I sighed and returned to the kitchen table, picking up my charcoal pencil again with hopes of finishing the sketch I had started yesterday. I'll never get the eyes right, I thought to myself, as I studied my half-finished drawing of Alice Cullen. The image of her that my memory recalled was nothing compared to the actual beauty she possessed.
Fifteen minutes later, as I was still trying to get the spikes of her hair just right, there a very business-like knock at my front door. My brow furrowed and I glanced at my watch. Who is coming to see me at lunch time? With greater effort than should have been necessary, I heaved myself from the chair and made my way into the hallway. My hand paused on the cold metal of the front door handle as I frantically wondered who was on the other side. Is it Rosalie?
As I slowly opened the door, I felt my heart sink when I saw Emmett's tall and burly form revealed to me. He had a solemn and serious look on his face and he was wearing a high visibility jacket and dirty jeans, indicating that he had just come from work. I definitely hadn't been expecting him and to be honest, I think I would have preferred a show down with Rosalie, rather than an answer seeking conversation with Emmett, which I was sure this was going to be.
"Em, this is a surprise," I said, stepping to the side and holding the door open a little wider. Emmett simply nodded and loped his way into my home, heading for the kitchen. I took my time closing the door, trying in vain to put off the inevitable. I eventually followed in his wake, ambling all the way, but as soon as I caught sight of him in the kitchen I froze. He had my sketch pad in his hands and he was intently studying the charcoal drawing that was very obviously his little sister. I couldn't move; my legs felt like lead and my voice didn't seem to want to work. All I could do was stare at him, my arms rigid by my sides.
"It's good," Emmett finally said, still looking at the picture before him. "You got the eyes just right." My face flushed with colour at his words and I lowered my head in an attempt to hide it.
"It's p-practice," I managed to wheeze out, chancing a look at Emmett from under my lashes. A small but genuine smile spread across my guest's features, as he turned to face me for the first time. He must have sensed my unease because his face softened even more at seeing my awkward demeanour. He placed the pad back on the table and lowered himself into the seat I had previously occupied.
"Ever since Alice finally told me about the whole gay thing," he said, skimming his hand across his dark curls. "I've been wondering why she did it; why now? And I decided that it was because she has finally met someone she truly loves." My heart rate increased astronomically; so much so that I thought my heart would beat right out of my chest. Someone she truly loves? "It's you, Bella, isn't it?"
I could feel the heat creeping up my neck again and I shuffled forward, placing my hand on the table to support myself, just in case my knees decided to buckle beneath me. Could I tell him? Would he tell Rosalie? What would Alice do if she was here right now? By the sound of it he already knew anyway...
…Someone she truly loves?
"H-How did… why do you–"
"Is it true?" He questioned, cutting me off, his voice sounding eerily calm. "It doesn't bother me, if that's what you're worried about. If it's true, then I'm happy for you both." Now that I was standing closer to him, I noticed that Emmett looked extremely tired and the mischievous gleam that usually twinkled in his eyes was no longer there. He looked deflated; broken almost. He was looking at me expectantly and before I could stop myself, I nodded, confirming what he already thought to be true. Another smile spread across his face and he nodded himself, in understanding. "And Jacob?" He pushed, catching me completely off guard with his stream of short, concise questions.
"A friend," I croaked out. Something about the way Emmett was talking made me feel very uncomfortable in his presence, which was something that had never happened before. I didn't think it could happen with Emmett. He proceeded to shake his head; a barely there movement, but I noticed it.
"I don't understand. Why did you–" Emmett began again, before cutting himself off and slumping slightly in his chair. "That's not important right now," he continued quietly, more to himself than to me, as he began toying with a worn corner of my sketch pad. "This isn't why I came here." Jesus, there's more?
I wasn't sure how much more I could take today.
Abruptly, Emmett's giant form stood from the table, the material of his reflective coat rustling as he moved. He moved over to the sink, leaning against it. "If I asked you what you and my wife fought about the other night at dinner, would you tell me?" He asked, addressing his question to the floor. Did Rosalie tell him we fought?
"What makes you think we had a fight?" I responded, as innocently as possible. He then raised his head to look at me and raised an incredulous eyebrow.
"I know you both well enough to know when you've had a fight, Bella. I'm not as big an idiot as everyone seems to think I am." There was a hint of irritation starting to creep into his voice and my brow furrowed in confusion at his odd statement.
"What do you mean?" I inquired, not following his thought process. My eyes followed Emmett as he scratched the back of his neck nervously, before shifting himself so he was looking out of the window, his back to me.
"Do you ever have that feeling when you think everyone is having a laugh at your expense? Or when everyone knows the punch line of a joke but you?" He spoke suddenly, and somewhat cryptically. I was becoming more and more concerned by the second at Emmett's strange behaviour. I moved slightly closer to him, despite knowing that he couldn't see me, my hand now resting on one of the chairs for support instead of the table.
"Emmett, nobody is laughing at you."
My friend swung around and threw both hands out to the side, almost as a sign of surrender, making me take a step back again. "Then why do I feel like you all know something I don't?" That would be because we do. "Rosalie…" He started again, pausing briefly to take a deep breath. "She's not the woman I married anymore, and I can't help but think that you know the reason why," he continued, sounding frantic and desperate. Well, that's not entirely true… Emmett was staring me hard in the face, desperate for me to give him answers that he knew deep down I couldn't give him, even if I did know them. This was beginning to feel like a rehash of the conversation the two of us had when Rosalie disappeared off to her mother's. Despite everything that had happened between that time and this, I still couldn't tell him anything. As much as it broke my heart to see him like this, I couldn't be the one to tell him.
"Em," I said gently, finally closing the space between us and placing my hand on his shoulder. "I can't give you the answers you want. Only Rose can do that." His sad eyes searched my face before he finally lowered his head and nodded his acceptance of my statement. I felt his fingers curl around my free hand.
"I know it's not fair of me to come here and say these things to you, Bella, but…" His voice began to quiver and I could see tears sparkling in his eyes. "I just want my wife back," he finished, sounding like a child who had his favourite toy taken away from him. My own face creased in sympathy and I hugged my friend, giving as much comfort as I could to a man who was head and shoulders taller than me.
"Can you just... can you just answer me one thing?" Emmett implored, when he finally released me from his bear like embrace, wiping frantically at his eyes. I stiffened slightly in anticipation of a question I was sure I wouldn't want to answer. "Is she cheating on me?"
Cheating? As in the present tense? "No, I don't think so," I responded simplistically, with no intention of elaborating. That one simple line seemed to act as a lifeline for him and made him relax infinitesimally and I knew he wouldn't ask me anything more. He glanced at his watch.
"Shit," he murmured, sounding flustered, already striding towards the door. "I have to get back to the site. I'll let myself out." Just before he disappeared from sight, he stopped and turned back towards me.
"Thank you, Bella," Emmett stated firmly and sincerely.
"What for?" I was the last person in the world he should be thanking for anything.
"For making Alice happy," he stated plainly. "I'm guessing Rosalie doesn't know?" Fuck, I hope not; not yet… I simply shook my head in response and he gave me a small smile. "I won't tell her. This is something she needs to hear from you." A meaningful look passed between us and Emmett smiled again. "Please take good care of my sister, Bella. God knows, she deserves it." With that, he vanished from the kitchen and a few seconds later I heard the front door close behind him.
I stood rooted to the spot, my eyes being drawn to Alice's likeness on my kitchen table. Tears began to well in my eyes and I pulled out the closest chair to me and fell into it. With my elbows on the table, I buried my face in my hands. "Shit," I sobbed out, as my tears finally fell.
Alice and I were sitting at opposite ends of the couch that evening, me having just told her everything that happened earlier, both of us with our hands resting in our laps.
"I'm sorry I wasn't here," the tiny woman finally said, sounding genuinely sorry. I moved my head to look at her, before reaching across and taking one of her hands in my own.
"In a weird way I think it's better that you weren't here." She looked like she wanted to challenge my statement, but changed her mind at the last second. Instead, she slid closer to me and entwined her other hand mine as well.
"But he's fine with it, right? And he said he wouldn't tell Rosalie?" Alice asked, wanting me to reaffirm what I had already told her. I nodded to show that she had understood me correctly. "Well, this is a good thing, isn't it? All we have to do now is figure out the right way to tell Rosalie and…" She stopped suddenly, mid flow, and looked down at our interlocked fingers. "And then we don't have to hide anymore," she finished, barely above a whisper.
Now! Tell her now! My mind screamed at me. Tell her before you start making promises you don't know if you will be able to keep!
"A-Alice," I stuttered out. She slowly raised her head and tilted it to the side, looking like a curious kitten. I could do nothing to stop the grin that spread across my face, at the sight of her looking so endearing. She beamed back at me and I couldn't do it. I couldn't tell her now. "I-I should get started on dinner," I finished lamely.
I'll talk to her later. Definitely later.
I leaned forward and kissed her forehead, before standing and making my way to the kitchen, while Alice remained in the living room. You're a fucking coward, Isabella.
As I stood and watched the defrosting chicken rotate in the microwave through the glass front, I heard a knock at my front door. If that's Emmett again, I swear, I'm going to climb out this window…
"Alice, will you get that!" I called out, hearing the living room door creak open and Alice's footsteps walking towards the front door. I turned round and lifted the glass of water I has just poured from the table and took a big gulp.
"Bella?" Alice's uncertain voice could be heard over the dull thrum of the microwave and a sudden shiver ran down my spine. Something was wrong. With my glass still in hand, I cautiously crossed the threshold of the kitchen and started down the corridor. It seemed longer than it usually did and at the end I could see Alice standing with her back to me, in front of the open doorway, blocking my view of our visitor. She must have heard me coming because she turned to look at me, a completely unreadable expression on her face. Slowly she moved to the side, revealing a tall, bronze haired man, whose face split into a lopsided smile at the sight of me. My water glass slipped through my fingers, shattering on impact with the hard wood floor and I felt my heart stop.
"Bella," his smooth, velvety voice spoke.
When did they let him out?