The "Missed Connections" Contest

Story Title: Unavailable
Disclaimer: Twilight characters belong to a very lucky, Stephenie Meyer.

Prompt: You complimented my tattoos- m4w 29 Seattle

You had tear-stained eyes outside of the bar on a Saturday night and I was surprised you came over to join me. We had a conversation about our tattoos and their meanings and shared stories of stupid ones. You seemed so carefree, and I wondered if I really had seen you crying. We smoked cigarettes and people-watched and I said something that might have made you upset. I saw the wedding ring on your finger and then you confirmed to me that you were married. I really feel like we connected, if only for a few minutes. I don't know why you shared with me what you did, but it feels unresolved. I know it is impossible, and you are unavailable, and I have no right to contact you. Still, I can't stop thinking about your stunning beauty and the story I could see hidden behind your eyes. If you need someone to listen, please, contact me. Tell me your name and that funny tattoo story, so I'll know it's you.

E.

Location: Seattle


Unavailable

Edward POV

"So you're like, a doctor?"

I wouldn't say she was bad-looking, but she wasn't exactly gorgeous, maybe a solid five on a ten point scale. I couldn't help but notice that she seemed more fake than real, at least from what I could see on the outside. She had brown hair with blonde highlights and long black fake eyelashes.

I supposed Rosalie might have set her up with me, though she hadn't said it was a date. I knew from earlier in our attempted conversation that she was a co-worker friend at the office where Rosalie worked. We were all standing together in a group, drinking so it wasn't like I was by myself. Rosalie was with Emmett, Alice came with Jasper, Jessica and Eric, and then it was me and this random chick. We were out celebrating at a bar for Emmett's birthday.

"I'm doing my residency now," I said.

I prepared myself for the fawning over me to begin. She was already smiling like a Cheshire cat. It wasn't unusual for woman to practically jump my dick at the mention of my job; I suppose that was a given since I was still fairly young. It was kind of cool to get that reaction. I put in a lot of hard work to get the MD title.

"Wow! That is so amazing! What type of medicine do you practice?" she yelled over the music.

"Pediatric Neurology," I answered. If she was interested in my job, like most women my age were, I'd throw some medical terms around and let them marvel at my education and passion for work. It was a bit of a game, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Plus, I really did love my career and it made conversation easy.

"I know what Pediatric means but… Neurology? Hmm, what is that again?"

I didn't feel up to the task of teaching. If she didn't know what Neurology was, she would be easily impressed and it would be a boring conversation. She was already boring me by hanging on every word I had already said.

"Diagnosing and treating disorders of the nervous system, in children."

"Oh! Neat!" she said, rubbing my arm.

I noticed that she was touchy-feely. I was surprised she hadn't tried to grab other, less innocent areas on me. She wasn't shy; that was for damn sure. She had passed by me earlier, and had "accidentally" bumped if not grinded into my cock with her ass while she made her way to the bathroom. My dick didn't know any better. That innocent or not-innocent pass had been the closest thing besides my hands to touch my manhood in months. My arousal didn't last long, I wondered if I'd be able to get it up if I ever got laid again. She seemed like a vanilla-fuck if I ever saw one; still, it'd be nice to get some.

The music was so loud that it was hard to think, let alone have any type of conversation, intellectual or otherwise. I began getting a headache and needed a break from the loud, thumping base music. People were packed inside like sardines. I started sweating from the closeness of the bodies of people around me.I started sweating from the closeness of the bodies of people around me.

"Hey, I'm gonna go outside for a few minutes and smoke a cigarette," I yelled over the music to Jasper.

The woman's small French manicured hand touched my arm as I moved to turn around. She smelled like she bathed in floral perfume. When she moved, the scent wafted into my nose and made the headache pain travel down to my sinuses.

"Where are you going?" she said, batting her eyelashes. I couldn't remember her name. I think it might have started with an H. Hillary? Helen? Heidi?

"Do you need company? It's kind of hard to have a conversation in here," she said, tugging on my arm to say it closer to my ear.

"No, that's okay. I'll be right back," I said, keeping it vague. I definitely didn't need her or her perfume to follow me outside.

"Okay. Well, we can talk when you get back."

She grabbed my bicep and gently squeezed it. I smiled, then turned around and rolled my eyes and started walking toward the door.

I've always been able to tell within the first ten minutes of meeting someone new whether they'd be worth knowing. I'd spent a lot of time with school and studying and basically hadn't had much of a social life at all since high school. It wasn't just about looking for a girlfriend for me; it was about friendship, too. I wanted to surround myself with people that made me happy. I didn't have time to waste on people who were insincere or into playing games.

There were a few annoyed glares as I bumped into people to get them to move as I squeezed through the maze of bodies to get outside.

I walked out of the door and onto the sidewalk. The buzz of the bar's lighted sign flicked. I looked up to see three moths twirling around the light, bumping into it. The traffic on the street, and the faint ringing in my ears from the music system filled my ears. The night was crisp, clear, and cool and it was a nice contrast to the stuffy crowded bar. I took out a cigarette and lighter and lit my cigarette, taking a long puff. I walked as far away as possible from the noise and the claustrophobic crowd of people to the very edge of the building. It was the furthest place away from the front door, but my side vision saw something that made me turn the corner.

She had mascara streaking from the corner of one of her eyes; the long black stream of wetness glistened on her cheek. Her back was up against the red brick wall of the building and her eyes were closed shut. She held a cigarette in one dropped hand at her side. A clutch was under her other arm. It was obvious that she had been crying. She was upset or hurt or sad, but she wasn't hysterical. It had been a silent sadness, an energy that could be felt from where I was spying. If I were just passing by, I would have thought she might have just been resting her eyes. However, I was at most three feet away.

I contemplated turning away before she caught me. It was a private moment and I didn't have the right to intrude. I looked around; I wasn't sure what I was looking for. Maybe a person? Someone or something that would show me what the problem was? Who wouldn't want to be comforting her? Even without her eyes open, her body was fucking perfect.

She wore a black strapless dress and silver sparkly open-toed pumps. She would fit in with the crowd inside. She had probably been in the bar or perhaps she was meeting someone there? Her body was thin, but she filled her dress nicely in all of the right areas.

When her eyes opened seconds later, a lone tear rolled from her eye down to nearly her chin. I wondered if she felt my eyes on her, and felt bad for disturbing her. I wanted to divert my eyes and apologize for catching her in that private moment, but her eyes focused on mine and it made me motionless, a statue, unmoving.

She brought the cigarette up to her lips, breathing in and letting the smoke out slowly. With my attention focused on her face, I noticed a silver stud Monroe piercing shining under the bar's neon lights. Despite her obvious pain or sadness in her eyes, she was a picture of beauty. She wiped her cheek with her palm, getting most of the black streak off of her skin and started walking toward me.

With each step she took, I saw her full beauty shining under the harshness of the bar's fluorescent lights and limited moonlight. Her legs were smoking hot; miles-long, lean, and elongated even more by her open toed heels. Her heels clanked loudly on the sidewalk and all of sudden she was next to me. Her skin was porcelain white, with perfect smooth and clear skin. Her cheeks were pale. I saw a perfect scattering of freckles along her nose and into her cheeks. Her eyes were the color of honey, a brown with golden specks in them.

"Hey," she said simply, tilting her head. She took another long puff of her cigarette, as did I.

"Hi," I said with a shaky breath. She was breathtakingly beautiful and I was nervous as fuck. With the exception of the mascara, she didn't appear to have any other makeup on except a pale pink lipstick and most of that was now on her cigarette. She bit the corner of her lip before speaking.

"A fellow smoker," she said. I looked at her but she seemed to be talking to the wind. A few seconds later, I was treated to her voice again. She turned to look me in the eyes.

"I like your tattoos, man." Her mouth moved to form a half-smile. She took a step back seeming to take an admiring look.

I wore short sleeved t-shirts whenever possible to display them. They traveled from a portion of my chest to my shoulder down my wrist into an intricate sleeve of tribal swords, swordfish and barbed wire. I'd designed it myself. I knew this was unusual for someone in my line of work, but I kept adding to it until it became what it was.

"Do you mind if I get a closer look?" she said.

"No, I don't mind." I smiled and wondered if that was her way of trying to flirt with me.

I pulled my arm outward so she could get a better look. She grasped my arm and moved it slowly with her hand lightly touching it as she examined the details. As she was looking at my arm, I found myself admiring her in small details. Her nails were very short and painted with black nail color. I watched how her facial expressions took in the design, in awe. Her hair was tucked behind her ears and she wore no earrings. I thought it was unusual, because she had a piercing on her face.

I basked in the feeling of her touch on me. Inside, I was annoyed at the girl's constant need to touch me. Outside, though, I craved this mysterious woman's touch.

"This is great work. I really like it," she said with genuine-looking eyes. She traced the edge of one of the swords on my upper arm and then let go suddenly as if I had electrocuted her.

"Thanks. It took a few sittings and over six hours to complete."

"I wish I could do something like that, myself."

"So, do you have any tattoos?" I asked her, raking my eyes over her to see if I saw anything. I couldn't find anything visible.

"Yeah. Just one though. I can't handle the pain. It's not as intricate as yours. It has meaning to me though, and that's all I wanted it to be."

There was still a tiny bit of black mascara smeared on her cheek that I wanted to wipe away.

It felt a bit inappropriate, but her exposed skin teased me. With her standing so close to me, I felt an incredible excitement and energy. I imagined Bella's naked body on top of me. I wondered where her one tattoo was hidden on her body and if I'd be able to see it while having sex. As she talked, I discreetly shifted myself.

"Yeah? Cool," I said.

"I've seen some really stupid tattoos that have absolutely no meaning," I laughed.

"Oh my gosh!" She brightened at the mention and I knew she had something to share.

I smiled widely at her excitement of sharing a story.

"I once went to this party in my first year of college. There was this guy who had been hitting on me all night; he was so not my type. He asked me if I wanted to see his tattoo. He didn't seem interesting, so I could care less."

I held on to that comment because she had asked me about mine. I wondered if she thought that I was interesting. Was I her type?

"He didn't wait for me to answer. He was already looking through his phone. Next thing I know, the screen is in my face and…it was a close up picture of his hairy ass with a big Tweety Bird tattoo!"

I grimaced as she laughed.

"He was drunk. He went on to tell me that he was dared to get the tattoo. I told him, 'Dude that is fucking sick!' Needless to say I avoided him for the rest of the night. It was horrifying at the time, but it's funny now. I had fun telling the story to my friends."

"That is really sick. Some people are idiots," I said shaking my head.

"Actually though, I have one that I think might be worse. I knew this guy in college who had a topless woman tattooed over his chest. One of her nipples is actually one of his. It looks like she is grabbing it."

She burst out laughing.

"Oh. Okay. Yeah, that is totally crazy. I mean how would he even get a woman to take him seriously?" she asked softly.

"I sure as hell wouldn't want to see some silly tattoo like when you are about to have this sexual…"

She looked away from my eyes, shyly.

"I'm sure he regrets it, now. Shit. He may have even regretted it then, but he always showed the guys and was pretty damn proud of it."

"Usually I find tattoos to be sexy, especially when they are personal or have meaning. It's like a story of someone's life," she said, returning back up to meet my eyes.

I smiled because it felt like she was definitely flirting with me.

I realized that I didn't know her name yet, so I decided to introduce myself.

"Hey, so my name is Edward, by the way," I said taking her hand and shaking it.

"Bella," she said.

Her handshake was firm but her hand felt very soft.

We were silent for a bit as we smoked our cigarettes and watched people that were walking into and leaving the bar. Groups of guys and girls came together and couples walked hand in hand.

We couldn't help but stare at two girls who came walking up together. Their breasts were almost spilling out from the tops of their too-short dresses with push-up bras. The girls both looked me up and down as they passed, giggling. I watched Bella's reaction who seemed to be suppressing a laugh. I think they could tell that Bella was holding back her laughter. They gave an annoyed glare but kept on walking by. We both checked them out from behind. One of the girls turned back and caught me looking and gave me a big smile. The only reason I was staring was because they looked completely ridiculous.

They were the type of girls who weren't looking for anything serious; they were unabashedly flaunting their bodies.

It's not that I was looking to find my soul-mate at a bar, but the type of clothing someone wore, usually matched their personalities. If they looked fake, and if they dressed with no shame, their personality was most likely the same. If they looked cheap, they'd probably be an easy lay. They'd get a lot of attention inside from the guys and that's probably what they were looking for.

Bella started laughing once they had entered the bar.

"What's so funny?" I said amused and also happy to see her getting further and further away from that fragile tear-streaked woman a few minutes ago.

"What's not to laugh about? Did you see those outfits? Just…some girls…try too hard. They obviously are looking for one-night stands," she said, rolling her eyes.

"Is that a bad thing?" I said, joking. I was so caught up in our easy conversation that it felt like we were old friends. I didn't know how long I was out there smoking and talking with her, but it hadn't been very long.

Her smile suddenly was wiped off her face.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I don't mean that I think we should….I wasn't trying to imply that we-"

I stuttered with my words, kicking myself for letting what sounded like sexual innuendo come from my mouth.

She shook her head no.

"I like the way you're dressed. Also, I really like your piercing," I said shyly, bringing my mind back out of the gutter. I wanted to tell her that she was beautiful, but I was so out of practice. I was not great at flirting. We weren't talking about my career and she wasn't hanging on me like she'd hit the dating lottery. I hoped it didn't sound too lame of a pick-up-line.

I looked at her and her expression changed again into a smile as she did a little curtsy. She looked so innocent and cute. I had a big, goofy grin on my face. Who needed a crowded bar when I had the attention of Bella outside?

"Thanks. That is very nice of you, Edward."

I liked the way my name sounded coming from her mouth.

"So were you waiting for someone…or?" I asked changing topics. I didn't want to go back inside, but I wondered if I was keeping her from meeting someone there.

When she looked down at her shoes, I asked her another question.

"Can I buy you a drink?"

She looked down at her hands and that's when I saw the glistening of a diamond ring on her finger. I couldn't remember feeling it when we shook hands and then realized that she had also used her right hand to investigate my tattoos and it was her right hand she used to hold her cigarette.

"You are sweet. But, I shouldn't have come down here. I was contemplating whether or not I was going to go inside," she said softly.

"Why? Are you okay? Did you come by yourself? I don't mean to pry, but you seemed sad earlier."

"My husband works here. He's the manager,"

She confirmed what I saw was true. She was married, but what did that have to do with her sadness? Was she just trying to get rid of me? Was that her way of saying she wasn't interested, that I should back off? It felt like my stomach flipped and my heart dropped.

A taxi pulled into the parking lot and idled. She tossed her cigarette butt on the ground and stepped on it, putting out the glowing coral spark. She waved at the taxi to alert him that she was coming.

"Oh," I said. I wanted my eyes to be directed at her face, but the revelation made me focus instead on a cracked brick on the wall behind her head. I'm sure if I'd look her in the eyes it would have displayed my disappointment.

"He's been cheating on me," she said softly. I looked directly at her, and saw those sad eyes that I'd seen earlier had become cloudy with tears again. This time, they had an clearer meaning behind them. She was crying over her bastard of a husband. It hurt worse this time, since it was my fault for reminding her that she was standing outside the place where the mother-fucker worked.

I was stunned and shocked. I didn't know how to react to the words.

"I'm sorry," I uttered.

She gave me a weak smile and started walking toward the taxi.

"Wait!" I said, panicking. I wanted to make sure she was safe or had a place to go to. It was impossible, we'd just met. I doubted she would have trusted me. But if she needed someone to talk to, I could be there for her. I didn't know what I was hoping she'd say or do. She was unavailable, married, and I had no idea about their relationship. I wanted to tell her, "He's stupid! Why would he cheat on you? You are beautiful."

She turned around and paused for a second.

I couldn't speak.

"Have a good night," she said before opening the taxi's door when I didn't say anything.

Speak to her!

"You shouldn't be treated like that! He doesn't deserve you," I said in response.

How did I know that? What if she was a terrible person? What if she cheated too?

She paused before stepping inside of the door and looked at me, with those deep eyes and it was like she could see inside of me. She nodded. I didn't know if it was a "have a good night" nod or in response to my final comment.

The taxi took off immediately leaving me shocked and confused at my feelings.

She had been crying moments before I found her. Where was her husband? Why wasn't he begging for forgiveness? Was it a common occurrence or had she just caught him?

Stunned, and with a rapid heartbeat, I walked back inside the bar and looked around. The only people I saw that looked like they worked there were at the bar serving drinks. I had no idea why I expected to see him there. I didn't even know what he looked like or why, but I felt like I needed to bash his brains in.

Emmett and Jasper spotted me and brought me over for some shots. I downed the liquid roughly and tuned out everyone else until I went home. Alone.

That night, I fell asleep thinking of her. She was like a mirage of satiating, fresh water when I was lost and thirsty. She'd been in and out of my life in maybe twenty minutes, tops.

Bella, the beautiful woman with the rocking body and the unknown tattoo, was gone. Even worse, why did it feel like I needed to find her again?

xxxxx

Almost two weeks to the date that we'd met, I woke with a plan to try to get in contact with her.

I knew it was crazy that I still had her on my mind. I'd spilled my guts to my friends and they were no help. They told me not to bother with the pursuit, but of course, it only made me want to find her even more.

After work, I stopped by the bar where I'd met her at around six in the evening. Inside was a work crowd, mostly professionals, in ties and medical scrubs and very few young people. I sat at the bar and ordered a beer. I watched the employees while I drank my beer and looked for signs of a manager. When the bartender came back to get my second drink order, I decided to try to get information.

"So, I'm wondering if you might be able to help me out."

"What can I get ya?" the bartender said.

"I'll take another," I said pointing to my Heineken. He left in a hurry to get it, and when he came back, I tried fishing for facts, for anything that could help me on my search.

"Hey, so one of my acquaintances is friends with your manager's wife, what's his name again?"

"Which manager?"

"Oh. I didn't realize. There's more than one?"

Shit.

"Well the current one is Jacob Black. Then there was also, Newton. Mike."

"Is one of them married to Bella?" I asked.

"Bella? Oh, yeah. That's Mike's wife, but he doesn't work here anymore. He quit a couple of weeks back."

I perked up that he knew who I was talking about, that she was a real person and someone knew her. But I felt a drop in my stomach when he'd said the word, wife. Still, I hadn't asked the right question at all. It wasn't a big help unless she was listed in the phone book, and how many people had house phones? Or what if I called and he answered?

What would I do with a name anyway?

"So, are you friends with Bella?" the bartender asked.

"I know her," I said.

What a bullshit plan. All I know is her name is Bella Newton.

I knew I'd screwed up royally. My plan wasn't thoughtful or thorough. Instead, I had asked simple questions that resulted in one-word responses.

I knew he'd get suspicious if I asked anything more. After I finished my second beer, I left the bar deflated and depressed. I'd taken it one step too far. It might have even been considered stalking.

xxxxx

"I've been looking on Craig's List for-fucking-ever for a working old-school Nintendo and I finally a found one!" Emmett boomed, as soon as I came in and plopped down on his couch.

"Cool," I said still in a funk. I was cranky and tired and feeling very introverted.

I sometimes felt like my brother and Rosalie were my adopted parents. I came over to their house frequently to mooch and free-load off their family dinners. I was just one mouth to feed, and they made lots of food anyway for their family.

"You tired or something? We've been waiting to get a good working Nintendo and all you say is, 'cool'?"

"I just have something on my mind," I grumbled.

"Something or someone?" Rosalie asked. How she always knew there was something else on my mind, I'll never know.

I closed my eyes, massaged my temple and kept my mouth shut.

"Ah-ha! It is a girl," Rosalie teased.

"Wait. Is this that chick from the bar you told me about?" she asked.

I sighed loudly and nodded my head.

"Dude…you cannot pursue a married woman," Emmett said.

"I know that," I snapped. "Don't you think I know that?"

"You don't even know her, Edward. There are plenty of other women out there that are available. You are a great catch; you have a great career and are a great person. You just have to get out there more, meet new people. If the girls we suggest don't catch your attention, you need to something about it on your own. Women aren't going to magically appear in your home."

I hated that they were talking to me like I was some young boy that had no experience with women.

I guess I just needed a little dose of reality, and they were right. Bella was out there, living her life. She'd work out what she needed to do: cry, fight, leave or stay, and I had nothing to say about it. I needed to live my life too.

xxxxx

Emmett called me as soon as I got back to my own house. He was calling for more Nintendo talk. He walked me through Craig's List to find the listing and details for the game system that he had called about. After we talked a bit about it, I hung up and started searching for old Nintendo games to go with it. I was excited again, thinking of the memories of me and Emmett playing. I got a bit carried away and after one hour, I went back to the main page and started looking through the other categories.

Personals

One of the top sections of the website contained the personals section. I clicked on the section titled women seeking men. The first thing I got was a big bolded yellow message about scams. I shook my head and laughed as I clicked to continue.

I cannot believe people use these things.

After I noticed headings such as "looking for a date," and "must wear glasses" I realized this was probably the lowest of low places to search for a date. I clicked through a few out of curiosity and just for laughs. I figured I'd wasted enough time so I clicked back to the homepage. Just as I clicked the red x to close my browser window, I saw something that caught my eye. I opened a new window and brought up the page again and hovered the arrow cursor over the missed connections link under the personals header.

Missed connections? Is this what I think it is? I looked through the listings, and quickly got the gist of it. They were random encounters with people that were trying to reconnect, who didn't speak up or didn't have the guts to act. Some people seemed to be talking to the universe, talking to imaginary people. I read through a couple and it looked completely therapeutic.

Maybe I can let Bella go, if I send this out into the universe?

My fingers slid rapidly over my laptop's keyboard. I didn't even hesitate with the simple form.

Title: You complimented my tattoos- m4w 29 Seattle

You had tear-stained eyes outside of the bar on a Saturday night and I was surprised you came over to join me. We had a conversation about our tattoos and their meanings and shared stories of stupid ones. You seemed so carefree, and I wondered if I really had seen you crying. We smoked cigarettes and people-watched and I said something that might have made you upset. I saw the wedding ring on your finger and then you confirmed to me that you were married. I really feel like we connected, if only for a few minutes. I don't know why you shared with me what you did, but it feels unresolved. I know it is impossible, and you are unavailable, and I have no right to contact you. Still, I can't stop thinking about your stunning beauty and the story I could see hidden behind your eyes. If you need someone to listen, please, contact me. Tell me your name and that funny tattoo story, so I'll know it's you.

E.

Location: Seattle

I hit the submit button on the form and I let out a jagged breath. I knew that probably the majority, if not all of the listings were just hopeless notes sent out into the universe, still it felt like I had at least tried.

Missed encounters were everyday occurrences. A cute woman in the supermarket smiling at me, a woman asking me a question about a book I was reading at a bookstore, eye contact in a crowded restaurant. All of those were similar. What made this one any different than those?

xxxxx

One month after I sent my message out into the universe and many false and spam responses later, I went to go back and delete the message. Deleted and done. All it was bringing me was unwanted messages. For some reason, I didn't realize that the messages were displayed by date. I knew it was a long shot, but I looked at my posting and found the date on my calendar of the date I met Bella.

I paged back so many pages that I didn't know if they would even be saved that far back. I found one that made my heart drop. It was posted the day after our encounter.

Title: I was drawn to your tattoos w4m- 27 Seattle

You saw me crying but didn't shy away. When I walked up to you, we talked about your tattoos. We had a silly conversation about regretful tattoos that made me forget my troubles. I could tell you were interested in me and I was too, but I am married. I don't know why I told you about my husband. I guess I was scared, and despite the hurt that I'd felt, I couldn't hurt him. It was easier to tell a stranger what my friends refused to listen to. I never thought that I'd end up in a marriage filled with lies and crying and selfishness with no one to support me and tell me that things can be fixed.

Do you believe that things are meant to happen? Do you believe that people are meant to come into your life during hard times?

I want to thank you for giving me the courage to believe that I was worth much more. When I left in the taxi, I went home and packed my bags and left. I don't know where I will go from here, if things will work out, or if I'll be gone for good. I just needed to get away from our toxic marriage.

I know you won't see this, and I'm no poet, but you've inspired me to write a poem:

Marriage is not a joke, they said

There's no use in crying

It's supposed to be tough

Get a stiff upper lip and bite your tongue

But when there is no love

And a stranger can see that you are pained

And worthy of love

To see what your friends are too blind to see

Courage must emerge and conquer and I now

see that I can be set free

Thank you, E. You gave me the courage to act on my own behalf. And if you should see my message, please contact me with the tattoo story we'd discussed. I regret not finding out more information about you, but you gave me the push of courage to do what I needed to do.

B.

My mouth dropped open. I reread it countless times to make sure I wasn't just trying to make it into our story. The message was from Bella, it had to be from Bella. That had been our story, and I was one-hundred percent certain. I was excited and confused and troubled all at once. I hit the reply button and typed a response.

Dear Bella,

I'm so sorry that it has taken me this long to find you. I wrote you my own missed encounters message, though we wrote them at different times.

We talked about the Tweety and topless girl tattoos.

I'm happy that you felt compelled to act for the better, and I hope that whatever you decided to do, that you ended up happy. If you need a friend, please respond back to me. I'd be thrilled to hear from you again.

Edward

I closed the message by entering my phone number and hoped that it wasn't too late. I hoped that she hadn't taken him back. I hoped that I'd get to hear her voice again, to see her beautiful face, and we'd be able to have a longer conversation and really get to know each other.

xxxxx

The next morning, I received bad news. I checked my email on my phone and saw the big bolded letters: Mail Delivery Failure. It was sent just minutes after I sent my message.

This message was created automatically by the mail system.

A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:

My message was attached to the bottom. After all of that, I'd responded too late. She had closed her account or wasn't receiving messages at that email anymore. I was beyond frustrated. I shut my eyes and went back to sleep. There was nothing I could do anymore. I had erased my message, and she wasn't checking hers anymore.

xxxxx

One year later.

Bella POV

My new job was kicking my ass. The long hours were killing me, but I was glad I had my education to fall back on when I'd left. I was a 28 year old divorcee. I hated the word, and I hated to be called Mike's ex-wife. I knew he'd been cheating on me for a while. I talked to my mom and my best friend, and they both thought I was paranoid.

"You can't take marriage for granted," they'd say. No one's marriage is perfect, they told me, saying that I had to work on it. But they didn't have to live with the lies and the strain it caused. They didn't have to deal with the self-esteem issue of not being able to please him enough not to stray.

The final straw was when he'd said he had to stay late for work for the third time that week. I knew he was lying, because he did things to call attention to his lies. He'd stutter when he was on the phone, or he added way too many details. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. He told me he was staying late, so I picked out a dress and got all dolled-up.

He had our only car, so I called a taxi. I walked into the crowded bar and asked one of the bartenders if he was there. He told me that he hadn't seen him.

I went outside and leaned against the brick wall taking in deep breaths. I called him, and he answered on the fourth ring, just as it was going to voicemail.

"Hey, where are you?" I asked him as soon as the line picked up.

"Bella, I just talked to you. I told you I had to stay late at work."

"Okay. Well I'm standing out here to surprise you, please come outside."

It was silent. So fucking silent on the line, I thought the phone might have died.

"I…um…"

"Where are you?"

"You should just tell that bitch already, Mike. I'm tired of waiting," a woman's voice said in the background.

The tears came down in a steady stream. My hands were quick to end the call. He didn't have to say anything more. I'd been suspicious that he'd been cheating but still it was shocking to hear something so cruel. I felt betrayed and used and sick. My body shook so violently that I wondered if I were having a panic attack. I turned off my phone and sobbed openly. People passed by and no one stopped to see if everything was okay. Instead they walked as fast as they could without making any contact.

When I got myself together, I took out a cigarette and called a taxi to take me home, then immediately shut it back off. I saw the voicemails, but I didn't bother listening to them. I wanted to get the hell out of there and prayed that the taxi would be speedy. I didn't want to be standing there if he was going to make any attempt to come and get me. I leaned against the brick building for support and took in deep breaths of air and hits of my cigarette.

And then I felt eyes on me, and I was nervous for a moment, scared that it was Mike and we were going to have a huge blow-up fight. Instead, it was a handsome man. He stood just a few feet away from me. I noticed his tattoos first. He wasn't scared that I'd been crying so I came over and pretended to be fine.

We had an easy going conversation and I found myself incredibly turned-on by him. If Mike could have an affair, so could I. But, I couldn't. As our conversation turned from tattoos and sleazy girls to one-night stands, I knew that I couldn't do that to myself or Mike.

I should have been focusing on my marriage while at the hotel, but instead I fantasized about Edward. I felt so hopeless, stupid, and guilty. The next morning, I went to use the computer in the free computer lounge. The only computer available had a webpage opened to the Craig's List homepage. My eyes were drawn to the missed encounters link. I figured I had nothing to lose and poured out my thoughts at that moment. I knew it would attract spam, so I put an old email that I never checked. I'd wondered what would have happened if things had progressed. I wondered what would have happened if he had somehow miraculously responded.

xxxxx

The parking lot was jam-packed with cars. I hated to do grocery shopping, and I hated it even more when I was just off of work and dead on my feet. I got a grocery cart and mindlessly grabbed items in a daze. I didn't make eye-contact with anyone; I just focused on getting some essentials and getting the hell out the madness.

I turned into the frozen foods aisle and something made me look up. A man wearing scrubs. His hand on the door of the freezer made his muscles flex, showing a long-sleeved series of tattoos which peeked out from his scrubs. Sexy. His hair was an untamed mane of copper. He turned at that moment and our eyes met. Realization hit both of us, a mix of delight and coincidence.

Edward. I'd always remember him, I'd always wondered what could have happened between us. He was the one who gave me the courage to leave.

I smiled and saw the brightness of his jade eyes sparkle. He walked toward me, looking almost bashful and unsure.

"Hi, do you remember me?" he asked cautiously, with the sweetest smile.

"Of course I do, Edward," I said, returning the smile. It seemed like we stood there for ten minutes just looking at each other.

"I saw your message," he said confidently.

"You what?"

"The Craig's List, missed encounters message?" he questioned. The words seemed less confident.

"Oh my gosh. You saw that? I uh, I never thought you'd see that. Why didn't you answer?"

"I did."

It was weird to have this conversation in the middle of the frozen food isle of a grocery store, but he told me how the message was returned to him. He told me that he found my message late, after he'd typed his own message. I never saw the message he'd sent because I wrote mine and never returned back to the website. I had used an old email, that I rarely checked and I supposed it may have been full. I didn't know the reason for it being returned; I kind of wanted to believe in fate.

Was it fate that Edward would randomly bump into my life when I needed the courage to act? Was it destiny that brought him randomly into my life now? I wondered if I would have been ready back then, if I would have agreed to meet Edward when I was still dealing with my crumbling marriage.

I told him that I'd filed for separation shortly after I'd left him, even after everyone told me that I had to try to make it work.

"I saved the response to your message," he said.

"Really?" I asked, shocked.

He took out his mobile phone and started pushing buttons. I couldn't help but notice that he didn't appear to be married; there was no wedding ring on his finger. He was shaking his head and smiling. I felt the excited energy between us.

Somehow he found the one he'd sent me. He looked back at my proudly to have found it. I looked at the date and the error message and read his response just below. It was a perfect response.

Two times he'd walked into my life by chance and this time I wouldn't have any regrets.

xxxxx

That same night, we had dinner together in a quiet restaurant and discussed our lives. I felt at peace with the world and my life. I'd made the right decision, and Edward helped me realize it.

I enjoyed his company. We laughed, discussed our careers, and found many common interests between us. The funny thing was, neither of us used Craig's List on a regular basis. He'd used it to search for something completely unrelated, and someone had left the webpage open while I was in the hotel.

There was one memorable moment that stood out from that night. He said he'd always had a burning question about me.

"Where's your tattoo?" he asked with an arched eyebrow during dinner.

If stars aligned and destiny was written through casual encounters and chance meetings, if people came into someone's life for a reason, at the right time, I had no choice but to believe in it.

Edward eventually saw my tattoo.

xxxxx