Reamhar betaed this. lola-pops pre-read. Thank you, ladies!

This one-shot was written for the Fandom For Sexual Assault Awareness.


Perfect

"When God closes a door, he opens up a window," I hear my mom say on the other end of the line after I told her I didn't get the job. "It's just not meant to be. Something else will come along. Have a little faith, honey!"

I'm tempted to yell at the top of my lungs, "Faith? Really, Mom? God not only closed the proverbial door with a double padlock for me, but also went ahead and screwed the windows shut just for good measure! Never mind that I'm not even sure I believe in him – the omniscient one. Personally, I think he's just a character in a fairy tale who knows jackshit."

Of course, I don't. I'm not perfect, but I try very hard to be good and nice and considerate and most of all—not mean. And until forty-eight hours ago, I've always succeeded.

Some would even say I'm the very exemplary model of a good girl. You may have heard tales and praise about girls like me (and despised them secretly). Girls who always do what they're told and never argue with their parents – ever; who never miss a day of school, even if they're seriously sick; who never drink too much to count as more than tipsy; who always get good grades and strive for excellence; who never ever would kiss strangers, and fall into bed with them? Forget about it.

But I screwed up big time, so that's no longer me.

Still, I can't be rude or scream at the person who, with great pain and much effort, pushed me into this world, as she reminds me all the time.

"I know. It's okay, mom." I sigh, walk with my cell phone in hand to the fridge and play with the alphabet magnets. I spell out L-O-S-E-R because that's who I am.

"Maybe you should expand your mind … your horizons … maybe explore other avenues, try different things, look at other careers," she babbles on rapidly to make me feel better. She must sense my dread. "I'm so certain bigger and better things are just on the horizon. You only need to open yourself up and seize an opportunity when it comes along. Journalism isn't all that lucrative a career choice anyway."

My brain tells me, what she says makes sense. I mean, endless hours working as a contributor to student newspapers, countless classes and internships, not to mention a heap of student loans – and what did it get me? Bubkes.

"Yeah, maybe I will," I say to appease her because despite all the work, disappointment, and heartache – I know I can't give up hope. My heart won't let me. Even after all the rejections and 'thank you, but we're not hiring'-letters I received from nearly all the major newspapers, radio, and TV stations in the Seattle area, I just can't. All I ever wanted to be is a journalist. Since I was twelve years old for crying out loud!

So screw what sounds rational, reasonable, and like a good idea. I'm no longer a good girl after all, so that stuff can fly right out the door with everything else that is proper and polite.

And the woman giving me advice at this precise moment, on this most devastating day of my life, divorced three husbands, currently sells crystals for a living, and has dabbled in everything from Wicca to Southern Baptism. What does she know? She is one lost soul, if ever there was one.

At least that's what I tell myself.

I need to get off the phone because I'm scared that if I continue listening to her, I'll do the sane thing, like really look at other career options and the possibility of moving to another city. I'm not ready yet. So I say, "Okay, mom, I gotta go."

I don't have to be anywhere, though. School is over, it's Tuesday – a workday – and I don't have a job.

After I hang up the phone, I grab one of Alice's packs of cigarettes and head out the door. I know it's stupid and a bad vice, but I think it fits my mood. I sit on our stoop and light the first one, inhaling deeply before coughing loudly.

"Angela, where are you going?" a cute brown haired boy yells at a girl who is stepping out the front door next to me. I guesstimate the boy to be about ten years old. He is playing with his buddy, a boy with golden curls, across the street from our house.

"Hey!" A girl with pigtails runs over to them with a skip in her step and Twizzlers in her hand. "I'm going to see the new Harry Potter movie with my mom! I'm sooooo excited!" she squeals.

"Oh, wow! That sounds awesome," the brown haired boy says with a big smile on his face, while the blond one gives him an odd glance.

"Yeah, really great," the blond one adds after a pause.

They hang out, sitting on the stoop across from me, and start chatting about the latest Harry Potter flick with enthusiasm while the girl waits for her mom. Both boys are clearly vying for the girl's attention – I can tell by the constant game of one-upmanship they're engaging in.

A pang of envy hits me watching them. I wish I were that age again, that age when the world still seemed like such wonderful place to be, when I still believed good things would happen if you just tried hard enough and a boy who was perfect for me existed somewhere out there in this great big universe.

And only two days ago the world was still hanging in the right balance. My life wasn't perfect, but it wasn't rife with disaster either. Two days ago I was a graduate student with some resemblance of a social life, the possibility of getting the job I thought I was perfect for and living in a city I liked. Two days ago I still believed that there was a guy out there for me. I even imagined I'd found him.

I know better now. Life's not like that.

For every pot there isn't a lid and bitter pills never have blessed effects.

As of today, I'm a broke, unemployed twenty-four-year-old woman.

But worst of all, what really stinks, is that I lost any chance I ever had with the boy I like, the man who – even with all the mean things he said to me – I think is perfect for me.

He hates me now. And that almost hurts more than the rejection delivered from the HR lady who called an hour ago.

For the first time in my life I think I feel something akin to regret. If I had a remote control to rewind my life to exactly forty-eight hours ago –the day before my final paper was due and the scheduled interview with The Seattle Times – would I know where to stop, freeze the screen, rewind and do it differently?

~o0o~

It's Sunday. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the outside temperature is about to reach a record high for May. But I don't get to enjoy the first warm rays of sunlight peeking through Seattle's usually cloudy skies.

Responsibly, I stay inside slaving away on my final paper. It doesn't bother me much because freedom is just another couple of taps and clicks away.

By the time the sky shimmers in deep red tones, I've finished writing a forty-page paper, printed out several copies of my resume and writing samples, and have memorized a canned speech about why I am perfect for the job as reporter for the local section of the paper. It's the first interview I've gotten after what seems like hundreds of rejections. I know it's this job or nothing and I have to ace this one.

My eyes burn from staring at the computer all day and I'm slowly coming down from a caffeine and sugar induced high when Alice, my roommate and best friend, comes home with Rosalie Hale in tow.

"Bella! Yoo-hoo…whatch you doin'?" Alice bounces into our living room with a bottle of tequila, limes, and a saltshaker in hand.

"Taking a bath and going to bed," I answer.

"So dependably boring. I'm having none of that tonight. We're going out!"

"Yeah, noooo way! We're going out tonight," Rosalie announces.

"Alice, no … please?" I plead. "I have an interview to get ready for. Partying and eight hours of sleep don't go together." I make Bambi eyes at Alice, hoping she will let me make the sensible choice of a warm bath and bed.

Besides, after a day of sitting on my ass and eating 'bad-for-you' take-out food, I don't feel prepared to be dragged out of my comfort zone from bar to bar and make some failed attempt to feel entertained, like I'm actually enjoying myself.

"Don't even look at me like that, Bella! It's high time you get out and meet someone. Tonight might just be your lucky night. I have a feeling that we'll run into a certain guy who lives … oh, a block away. You know … messy hair … a bit of a frumpy dresser?"

Of course I know.

That guy lives exactly one block and three houses away from us. He's tall and lean, with brown hair, which has a tawny tinge to it when the sun shines on it in just the right angle, and eyes the color of a forest. He reads the newspaper daily, likes his coffee black, and his seltzer water with a twist of lemon. On sunny days, he rides a bicycle, and on rainy ones, he drives a Toyota Prius. He always dresses the same – on weekends in a flannel shirt and jeans and during the week mostly in khakis with a dress shirt. On occasion, he wears a suit, but rarely. I hate his workweek attire, but want to steal his weekend flannel shirts. Still, he looks good no matter what he wears.

I know all about him. He is the guy I've been crushing on for one year and three days exactly.

"He's not interested in me. I told you a million times."

"How can you possible know that?" Alice grins at me and I roll my eyes.

"Because … if he was he would have made some attempt to talk to me by now."

"Maybe he's shy?" Rosalie suggests.

"You haven't seen him. Men like him are never shy," I argue.

"Oh, pleaaseee … he ain't all this and that." Now Alice rolls her eyes.

"Well, have you made an attempt to talk to him?" Rose asks flinging her golden locks over one shoulder. I shrug mine, attempting to avoid answering.

"She hasn't," Alice says, narrowing her eyes at me.

"I sort of have!" I defend myself.

"Sort of? Really? Saying 'good morning' while running past him and not even looking at him doesn't count!"

I cringe, thinking back on the day when I finally managed to utter those words to him. I'd vaguely, sort of, maybe indirectly glanced at him … but then Jake, our neighbor, had walked past me and greeted me back with a chipper, 'Hello, Bella.' So possibly, maybe … he really could've thought I didn't say it to him?

"Well…still," I mumble deflated.

"Well, still – you're going to take a shower and go out with us. Who cares about that dude? You'll meet another one," Rosalie orders. Easy for her to say, Rosalie could get any guy she wants. She's tall and blonde and pretty.

"I'm tired …"

"And I'm just not interested in anybody else," Alice says, mimicking my voice.

"Shut up!" I retort.

"You shut up. Go. Shower. Now!" Rosalie has the ability to scare the crap out of me, so I budge.

"If you don't hook up with anybody soon, your hymen will re-grow," Alice says, as I shuffle toward the bathroom. They both laugh hysterically as if my lack of a sex life is somehow the funniest thing ever. "It's been a year now. Let's go."

"I'm pretty sure that impossible," I murmur.

Thirty minutes later, I stand freshly showered with a cocktail in my hand in our kitchen. I feel guilty sipping the pink liquid, but Alice and Rose both give me another eye roll and so I take big swig.

"Let's try not to get home too late. I really should get a decent night of sleep. I don't want to screw up—"

"Oh my God, Bella! You have prepped for this interview for a month now. The job is yours."

I'm tired of her constant teasing. Without another word, I toss back the rest of the drink.

By the time we reach the third bar, I've downed another five shots of tequila and feel more worn-out and a little drowsy.

"I wanna go home. This place is really lame," I whine as we enter the dingy bar. It's my least favorite one in our neighborhood. The drink selection is crappy and the crowd, on average, way too old.

"We're just making a stop over," Rose answers, moving through the crowd and along to the counter. "I know the bartender. Drinks will be free."

And indeed the drinks are free of charge from that point on. The guy behind the bar pours the drinks staring into Rose's big blue eyes.

Next, Alice finds a guy who shares her passion of antique paisley fabric design and suddenly she's so engrossed in a conversation with that guy, she forgets to tap the ashes off her cigarette, never mind remember I exist.

I'm left alone, sipping a drink I don't care to have and daydreaming about a guy I'm not about to run into here – out of all places.

And truth be told, I've know with certainty before I even stepped out the door tonight that I'm not going to run into him at any of the neighborhood bars.

I've looked for him every time Alice or Rose or Kate drag me out bar hopping. And I've never seen him at one. The coffee shop, the supermarket down the block, the movie theater, and at the park – that is where I usually run into him. Never at bars.

But then I see him. He's standing at the other end of the room, leaning against the wood paneled wall, between a Jägermeister poster and a fake buck, with a bottle of beer in his hand. At first, I don't want to believe my eyes. I know it's him, but I can't believe my luck.

I observe him for I don't know how long. It could have been minutes … maybe an hour?

He hardly ever brings the bottle to his lips, making me think he doesn't like the beer. A girl tries talking to him. I will her to go away. She's cute and blonde, in a short, pink, girly dress. I'm worried he's going for her, but then she walks away and he doesn't even give her a second glance, which emboldens me.

Suddenly I have this now or never feeling. It's making me antsy, scaring me into action. If I don't act now, I possibly never will and what will that get me?

I've never done anything like this before. You see, nice girls, average girls, good girls – they never make the first move. Everybody knows that.

Yet, I'm about to do the unimaginable.

I finish my drink, straighten my shoulders and walk over to him.

"Hi," I say, biting my lip because I read somewhere that guys find that sexy. I sure hope he does. I try to seem confident, though my heart's beating a mile a minute and my hands are shaking. "I'm Bella." I smile and reach out my hand.

Instead of smiling back at me and shaking my hand, he remains stiff and stares at me with a peculiar expression on his face.

Finally — after a minute that feels like forever — his shoulders relax ever so slightly, like he's giving in, the warm breath of his exhale hits me and then I feel his fingers reaching for mine. They're cold and clammy, but I don't care because I thought he's perfect right from the start, from the day he moved into our neighborhood.

"Hey, um … I'm Edward." He furrows his brows, pulls his hand back and buries it quickly in the pocket of his jeans.

"I figured I'd introduce myself. You live in the neighborhood, right? I mean, I think I've seen you before." I try hard not to roll my eyes at my own comment, thinking how stupid my question must seem to him.

"Yeah, not too far from here," he says chuckling, his eyes darting around the room.

"Cool." I smirk and flip my hair over my shoulder like I've watched Rosalie do a thousand times before.

"So … um…" he starts, his voice so low I have trouble hearing, "Bella … are you from Seattle originally?"

I exhale in relief. He's trying to talk to me. I can do this! A feeling of exhilaration sweeps over me. I, Isabella Marie Swan, five feet and five inches tall, with medium brown hair, brown eyes, A-Cup boobs, am a bona fide flirting goddess!

"No. I moved here six years ago for school. I grew up all over the place …my mom moved a lot. But my dad lives in a small town not too far from here and I spent my last two years of high school there." In an out of body, out of mind moment, I lean against the wall beside the buck and next to him, his body just two inches from mine. "You don't go to bars often, do you?" I think I might turn pink as the meaning behind those words starts dawning on me.

I'm a good girl, but apparently not beyond stalking.

"No, usually not … which is why I suck at this." He looks down at me, and then blinks.

"I'm sorry. I'm not sure I understand." I'm confused, unsure what he's talking about.

He stares at me wide-eyed.

"Um … flirting … talking to pretty girls?" he finally mumbles.

"Well… thanks. You think I'm pretty?" I'm stunned at first, but then catch myself and wink and laugh at his comment, feeling silly.

"Yes … umm …and I'm sure you know you are." He shrugs his perfect, broad shoulders slightly.

"Stop it. You're making me blush." I touch his arm.

"It suits you."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome and really, thank you."

"For what?"

"Coming over and introducing yourself." Our eyes connect and I swear for just a blink of an eye, he means what he says. "I wouldn't have …" His perfect green eyes flicker for a second to the floor. "So, Bella, do you frequent bars often?" he asks, then squirms a little. "Shoot! I didn't mean to imply anything."

"And you didn't. I'm not a barfly if that's what you mean. I really don't go unless one of my roommates drags me out."

"Oh. I see. What do you do when you are not being dragged out to bars by your roommates?"

We talk for an hour. About what, I can't remember. I think he's funny and charming and smart. I don't pay attention to anything else, only him, the sound of his soft, deep voice, the smell of cologne, the creases around his eyes when he smiles … and he smiles a lot.

I feel electricity pulsing in the air, vibrations that cause my hand to move dangerously close to his. A slight touch, my skin against his. Shit. If he doesn't respond, can I still pretend it was just an accident? But then I feel his hand stroking mine. And that small touch…it feels so good.

He looks me in the eyes once and leans in slowly, just an inch or so. He's still too far away for our lips to connect and at the rate he's going it will take at least thirty minutes before that happens. So I do the next uncharacteristic thing of the night. Instead of waiting patiently for him to kiss me, I push myself up on my toes and kiss him once. Luckily he doesn't pull back, but instead moves closer. And then, just like that, we kiss. I mean really kiss, tongue and all. It's sweet and perfect, like him.

I feel his fingers on the patch of exposed skin on my hip where my pants meet my shirt and I kiss him back harder.

"Umm…" he mumbles, resting his forehead against mine, panting. "Bella, I ..."He bites his lip.

"You …ummm …should we…I mean should I … fuck, sorry! … stop?" I step back to give him some room while I pray he doesn't want to.

"No!" I hear a light chuckle and then feel his hand reaching for mine tentatively. "I usually don't do this …" he confesses and his lips latch onto mine again.

"We don't … have to," I whisper, catching my breath. I don't want to stop. I want all of him. I want to be bold and daring, with a dash of recklessness mixed right in.

"I don't want to stop." I feel him shiver.

"I don't either," I admit, my lips touching his perfect, soft ones. "Should we leave then?" I watch his throat as he swallows.

"Okay." His voice sounds tentative, like he's still debating. He grabs my hand and exhales. "Okay. Let's go." With a sudden burst of determination, he pulls me out of the bar.

When we get outside, the wind is much colder. We walk arm in arm, rushing to his place. I squeeze my arms around his middle and kiss him on the neck while he whispers, "so perfect," and, "so pretty," before covering my lips with his.

Nothing before has ever felt like that. That rush of heat on my skin from his touch, my heart beating faster just from one look from him, and the tingling feeling that starts in my stomach and rushes all the way to my toes. It's never been there before. It's all reaffirming one thing: I need to go with this, run with it, that feeling, that high.

So I stumble with him, almost on him, into his apartment, lifting his shirt up, licking him, kissing him and doing all kinds of things I've never done to a guy before. Particularly ones I barely know.

It feels like he can read my mind as his fingers find all the right spots and he touches me exactly the way I want to be touched. Perfect. His skin, his lips, his fingers in my underwear, and when I see him naked standing near his bed he's all that I imagined and more. His body sinewy, his flesh firm and his hands demanding, yet still gentle. I close my eyes, and when I open them there is this look in his eyes, like he likes what he sees.

We kiss and tease and I feel him pressing into my thigh. I reach down and grasp him and hear him hiss. Even that part of him is perfect.

"I want you."

I nod. I feel the same way.

He shifts and groans and rolls off of me. I don't understand.

"Shit," he mutters. " Sorry?"

"What?"

"Ummm…" He turns to face me. "No condoms."

"Oh!"

I remember something.

"I have one," I say awkwardly. Alice put it in my wallet a year ago 'for emergencies.' It's old, but I don't share that fact with him. Just this once, I want to get what I want.

I scramble over to my jeans on the floor, remove my small wallet and toss him the condom.

He laughs. "I'm an idiot. I'm sorry." I shut him up by kissing him.

And then everything happens fast. I hear something rip and feel him moving inside of me. Pure perfection and so good.

It doesn't end there and somehow I'm no longer tired.

Curled up in his arms, our feet tangled in his sheets and with sweat on our skin we fall asleep as the sky turns from black to purple.

When the sun creeps through the shades, I see his alarm clock blinking 7:30 AM in red lights. I remember that I've to hand in my paper before eight o'clock and that my interview is to start promptly at nine. Panicked, I search for my clothes and steal out of the apartment as quickly as I can. When I'm in my room putting my stuffy suit on and grabbing my final paper, it dawns on me that I just ran out of his apartment without so much as a note with my number on it.

It isn't because I think this is a one-night stand. No. The opposite is true. I want more of him. I want to wake up next to him, kiss him, touch him again – get to know him. And I'm convinced he must know. He has to. It was in my touch, my words. I like him…already so much. He is perfect and I think we might be, could be… perfect.

I sprint out planning to hand in my paper, have the interview and then rush back to his place and wait for him to come home. Maybe, on my way back from the interview, I'd stop by the supermarket and buy a bottle of wine to celebrate. He'd see me and smile and the world would be in order.

I manage to drive to school, hand in my paper, and by some miracle I'm standing in the lobby of the office building that houses The Seattle Times by eight-forty-five sharp.

My first interview is with a woman in the HR department named Victoria James. I've done my homework – I know where she went to school and what companies she worked for prior to joining The Seattle Times.

She offers me a cup of coffee and some water and my initial interview is over quickly. I can't say whether it went terrible or really well. She only asked me some basic questions, and I know the real challenge is still ahead: the interview with my direct superior.

Her name is Esme Cullen. I'm impressed with her resume. She graduated from Columbia with a Masters in journalism, spent some time as a reporter with The New York Times, followed by three years as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East via AP, and finally settled – after an already impressive career– as a senior editor and editorial writer for the paper.

Since none of her profiles had pictures attached, I'm not sure what to expect. I surely didn't expect the striking woman, looking barely older than thirty-five, who walks into the conference room I'm sitting in. Initially her looks and her academic credentials make me nervous.

"Ms. Swan. Pleasure to meet you," she says with a warm, inviting smile. I nod, still apprehensive, and shake her perfectly manicured fingers, noticing the short but polished nails.

"Thank you very much for meeting with me and giving me the opportunity to interview with you for the position," I say with a knot in my stomach.

"So tell me something about your work experience so far. I see you worked as an editor for two of the University's newspapers and you've completed some internships."

I rattle off the things about me that I hope make my experience unique and perfect for the position. For all intents and purposes, the interview continues smoothly. As expected, she asks me what I believe I would bring to the table and all the rest.

Despite the tequila and lack of sleep, I answer all her queries confidently. We've clicked, I think, when she smiles at some of my answers.

After an hour, the interview feels more like a conversation.

"Well, Ms. Swan, I just wanted you to know I read your pieces and very much liked the angle you've taken in them. I think the stories you picked and your writing is exactly what I'm looking for." She gives me an encouraging smile and I'm so happy I think I might pee my pants.

"Thank you very much. I'm glad you liked my work." I blush and have to stop myself from fiddling with the hem of my suit jacket.

"You're welcome. Ms. Swan, I'd like you to meet our editorial writer for the business and technology section, Mr. Masen, next. He's been with us for a year now and he's taken over my role in giving assignments when I'm away, so he'd be your direct supervisor when I'm not around. Don't worry. He's a nice guy," she says in a reassuring way. "You can just stay here in the conference room and I'll go get him."

"Okay. Great," I say smiling.

Five minutes pass, maybe six and I'm nervous again. Nobody told me that I'd have this second interview, and I feel unprepared. I don't know anything about him –this Mr. Masen, I think in alarm.

And then Ms. Cullen comes walking back into the room with him.

I stand up, unsure of what to do. I'm surprised, but happy to seem him and tempted to rush forward to greet him. Until his eyes zero in on me, and his stare is so positively hostile and his jaw so tense, that I feel my blood rushing out of my head. I feel like I'm going to faint and my mood quickly shifts. Something is wrong … very wrong, I realize.

"Ms. Swan," Ms. Cullen says, motioning toward Edward, "this is Mr. Masen. He's going to take it from here." She leaves the room.

"Ms. Swan," I hear him say. I stare at my feet. I shake his hand. "Please, take a seat. This shouldn't take too long." His voice doesn't sound like the voice I remember from last night.

I stumble and sit down. When I glance up, he has taken a seat a couple of chairs away from me, but it might as well be the North Pole it's so far away, and he's inspecting my resume.

"I didn't …" I tentatively start.

"Excuse me?" he says, with raised eyebrows as if he's seeing me today for the first time in his life. "Is there anything you'd like to add that I can't see clearly on your resume?" His words cut me.

"No, I'm sorry."

"So, Ms. Swan, do you have any experience interviewing for articles?"

I stare at him. He flips the pen in his hand.

"Yes, I do. I have worked on a ––"

"And how would you describe your approach to interviewing subjects for your articles?" he cuts me off.

"Well, it depends on whom I'm interviewing, but of course I try to create a trust between the person and myself, something that I or her confide in me."

"And how far …" He coughs. "Excuse me, how exactly do you go about establishing that trust?" He looks at me with a sneer of distaste on his face.

"I'm not sure I understand what you mean?"

"Never mind. It's obvious that you're quite committed to getting what you want." His voice drifts off and I feel shafted. I want to protest, but another icy look from him renders me too numb to respond. "As you may know, at this paper at least, we try to hold ourselves to a higher ethical code of conduct than that of most of our competitors around the country. No manipulations of facts or people are permitted. Do you feel prepared to abide by such a code?"

"Yes, of course." I shift in my chair, shaky and insecure. I've never done anything remotely improper or unethical in my professional assignments.

"I see." He taps his pen on the table, then flips it around, then taps it again. "I don't think I have any further questions at this time, Ms. Swan. Unless there is something you'd like to tell me about yourself?" he asks abruptly.

"I'm sorry?"

He stares out the window.

"Did I say anything that requires clarification? Did you not understand?"

"No… not that … I mean… I didn't …" I stutter. I know this is supposed to be my opportunity to give him the sales pitch, the speech that will make him see that I'm perfect for the job. But then his eyes flicker back to me, and the look he gives me makes it seem like he's almost appalled, disgusted even with what he sees. I think he's made up his mind already as far as I'm concerned and no infomercial highlighting my strong suits is going to change that.

"Well, as I've said, I don't think I've any further questions at this time." He doesn't make a move, but instead starts typing away on his BlackBerry. I just stare unabashedly at him. "Jessica, Esme's assistant, will show you out, if you don't know the way," he adds without looking up.

I don't know how I do it, but I miraculously rise and next thing I know I'm standing on the sidewalk outside walking to my car.

How did this go so wrong?

I slump down on a kitchen chair when I get to the apartment. It's twelve o'clock and I wish the day were over.

Rose and Alice crawl out of bed around one and I'm still sitting in the same spot.

"Did you have fun last night?" Alice says with a wiggle of her eyebrows.

I don't respond. In fact, her presence barely registers.

She asks something else and starts making coffee.

I hear her.

Alice asks something about my interview.

Rose comes rushing upon Alice's yelling …

"Bella, what's wrong?" Rose shakes my shoulders in alarm.

Tears stream down my face, coming from nowhere. I don't really make any sound.

Rose bends forward and looks at my face. "Something must have happened. Bella, what happened? How did the interview go? We called you and I know you came home in the morning, so I assumed everything is fine?" Her forehead is wrinkled in concern.

"Alice, why don't you draw Bella a bath," she instructs Alice who looks like someone has punched her in the stomach. She nods and leaves. "Bella, what happened?"

I remain mum. In a trance like state, I walk to the bathroom with Rose by my side. They undress me and bathe me and wash my hair, like I'm a three year old, incapable to do that on my own.

"Bella, say something!" Alice says. "Should we bring her to the emergency room?"

And that does it; it hauls me back to the present in an instant.

"His name is Edward … Edward Masen. He's perfect," I say. "He hates me, I think. And I think I'm not getting the job because he hates me." The dam breaks and I start bawling in earnest, snot, tears, wailing sounds and all.

Alice and Rose slowly get the whole picture. I don't bother leaving out any details.

"To be honest, he looks kind of like a dork. He's handsome enough…but there is something about him that screams out uptight-anal-asshole," Rose says with a scowl on her face when I'm done. "And it's unfair that he's treating you this way in an interview. It's not like you knew!"

Alice nods eagerly in agreement. "He's a dick. Forget about him…"

Instead of feeling better, I feel worse afterward.

"I have to do something," I mutter. "I have to go see him."

"Are you sure it's a good idea?" Alice asks.

"I don't know. I need to try." I glance at the clock on the wall. It's nearly five, which means I've wasted at least a solid three hours crying. He usually comes home right around now.

I push my feet into my sneakers and yell, "Thank you, guys," and run.

That night, of course, he doesn't come home around five. I don't give up though. I've to tell him that maybe I did screw up, but not intentionally and Renee always says, "Everybody deserves a second chance."

It's dark outside when I see his car pull into a spot down the street.

When he reaches his front door and sees me he halts.

"Hey," I start. "Look … I'm sorry–˝ I want to tell him that I really like him, would like to see him again, if that's possible, but I don't even get to go there.

"Well, I don't think you are," he cuts me off. His posture stiffens. I'm confused.

"Excuse me?" I try again.

"Look, had I known what kind of person you are…" he says.

"What is that supposed to mean? What do you mean what kind of person ––"

"Someone who does whatever it takes to get what she wants, someone who is not afraid to step on people, hurt them and climb over them. I mean … everything down to the condom…" He shakes his head. "How could I've been such a moron to think you actually liked me? And congratulations! Esme Cullen loved you. She's going to hire you and you know I'm not going to say anything negative," he says in a bitter tone before opening the door. "Now if you excuse me, I'm tired." He slams the door shut in my face and I'm rendered speechless.

He thinks I planned our night together to get a job. It's sounds too crazy, too far-fetched for me to have even thought of something like that, but he wouldn't know.

Deflated, I walk home where Alice welcomes me with open arms. She wants to watch bad movies and eat brownies, and because I have not an ounce of energy left in me, I do as she tells me.

I fall into a deep slumber when I crawl into my bed late at night. My tear ducts feel dry, my eyes rubbery and my heart hollow. The phone call from Victoria at exactly two o'clock in the afternoon is what wakes me finally up.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Swan, but we have decided that we will …"

I don't even listen to whatever else she's saying.

~o0o~

After I've replayed everything, I'm not sure I'd do anything differently. Forty-eight hours ago he was just a crush. Now…

I toss the cigarette into the Coke bottle, hear it hiss and sigh. And now … it feels like more. He's no longer just a crush. I know him. Sentimental, but I believe it's true. I've seen the small group of moles just above his hip, discovered brown flecks in the green of his eyes, and a rough patch of skin on his arm. We've already had our first fight.

I guess I could have left him a note or woken him before I ran out of his apartment, but then I'm not sure he'd have reacted differently at the interview. After all, Mr. Morally Superior in not so many words accused me of sleeping with him to get the job.

"Angela, let's go!" a woman in her mid thirties calls out, standing on the stoop next door.

"I'm coming," Angela yells loud and excitedly. She looks left and right, before skipping across the street to her mom. "Bye." She waves to the two boys.

I put the pack of cigarettes away and give up. Smoking isn't my thing, I decide.

"Should we ask my dad to see whether he can drive us to the movies?" the blond kid asks the brown haired one.

"Why?"

"Well, we could go see the movie with Angela?"

"Angela is there with her mom, Mike. And Harry Potter is totally gay! Why would I wanna go see that movie?"

"But, you just said to Angela…" the blond boy stammers.

"Yeah." The brown one rolls his eyes. "To make sure she likes me enough to let me touch her boobs. Duh? Sometimes you are really stupid, you know that?"

I can't help but laugh out loud. I'm not even sure I could detect boobs on that girl. Something else dawns on me and I snap into action. I check my cell phone for the time and sprint back upstairs, toss my clothes into the laundry and step into the shower.

I do all the girly stuff I hardly ever bother doing unless Alice or Rose tells me I have to go out with them. Rose would be so proud of me if she saw me using a straightening iron, an eyelash curler and mascara. I rummage my closet for my favorite t-shirt and a pair of tight jeans before I check the time again.

Then I run. I run until I'm at the same place where I was last night. A woman with a dachshund under her arm is about to unlock the door.

"Hi," I say. "That's such an adorable dog! Do you mind if I sneak in with you? I'm trying to surprise my friend. He lives on the second floor – Edward Masen?"

Her smile tells me it's working. "Sure. Come right in. About time that that man has some social visits," she adds.

I smile and chuckle. She opens the door to a first floor apartment and disappears. I walk right up to his door and knock, repeatedly and with force.

"I'm coming. One second." I hear from behind the closed door.

And then he's standing there in front of me. He has glasses on I've never seen on him, his shirt's untucked and he's wearing white tennis socks. I'm starting to think Rose is right. His mouth is agape when he sees me and I think spit might soon slide down his chin.

"Hi," I say. "May I come in?"

He doesn't say anything and doesn't move. I take that as a "no."

"Fine we can do this here. Since you didn't let me finish one sentence the two times we saw each other after we slept together … had sex?" I think about it for a moment. "Yeah, sleeping is such a misnomer for that night. Sex it is. Well, either way, I had some things I needed to say to you. First off, I had no idea you were working at the paper or that I'd have an interview with you the next day. To the best of my recollection, though I admit it is hazy, you didn't mention that you worked at the paper when we did talk. So the suggestion that I slept with you to get a job really is completely preposterous. Trust me, when I tell you I was as surprised, if not more than you, when I saw you walking into that conference room."

I stop for second and look at him. He's still staring at me, but now his cheeks are pink and his mouth has closed.

"The truth is, I liked you. I really, really did. In fact, I thought you were perfect," I continue, standing straight, my chest pushed forward and my hand on my hips. "And I was berating myself… going over every little detail, considering everything that had happened and I've come to the realization, that yeah, you know what? I've made mistakes. Maybe I should have woken you before I ran out of the apartment that morning. Left a note … I don't know. But I was in a hurry, okay? I had to hand in my final paper, put on a suit, and run to an interview. I didn't mean in anyway to imply by my actions that I didn't want to see you again. I was going to come back. I thought it was so painfully obvious how much I liked you that you could never, not in a million years, think I was ditching you."

I exhale. His eyes are darting all over the place. His mouth is opening up, like he's about to say something. I hold up my hand.

"I'm not done yet! So I realize, I'm not perfect, I'm not always the good girl, I don't know all the answers and I make mistakes. I'm sure all the time. But you know what? Neither are you!" I point my finger into his chest. "You acted like a complete asshole during that interview. I'd go so far as to say your behavior was on the verge of being unprofessional. Anyway, have a nice life."

I nod, more to myself than to anybody else, turn on my heels and walk away. Down the stairs quickly and out the door onto the street I sprint before I slow down. I breathe in and out to calm myself, collect my thoughts and walk away. A drop hits my face, and I look up at the sky. It's back to the good old grey clouds. A second drop – whack – hits me and it feels good.

I start walking. I feel relieved, lighter and maybe not happy, but not unhappy either. I'm okay. The rain starts coming down in buckets, but I don't hurry up.

I'm on my block, on my turf, when I hear someone scream, "Bella! Wait! Please…"

I stop and wait until I hear him approaching behind me.

"Yes?" I turn around.

Edward is standing in front of me. His hair is matted down and his dress shirt is so wet, it's see-through.

"Listen, I'm sorry. You're right … I acted like a complete idiot … asshole, I guess, and there is …" he says, looking kind of pathetic "… no excuse for my behavior … my assumptions. What I said during that interview … I can't believe I said that. I'm really, really sorry. Believe me, I am. I should have never treated you that way."

He exhales, takes his glasses off and pushes back his hair.

"But you're wrong about one thing. The thing is … I do think you are perfect. At least to me."

I narrow my eyes on him. His chest rises and falls and his pants look really soggy and then I glance down and see he's standing in front of me in wet, dirty tennis socks without any shoes on.

I laugh, just a little.

"So …um… so you think …maybe we … you'd consider …" He blinks repeatedly, examining my face. "…consider having maybe dinner? With me?"

"I didn't get the job."

"I know. Nobody did. They cut the salary out of the budget yesterday. I'm sorry. I swear I told Esme that I thought you were highly qualified."

"It's okay."

"So … um … yeah," he mumbles and steps from foot to foot once.

"Dinner, huh?" I smile.

"Yeah?"

"I think I'd like that. Should I give you my number?"

He pads the pockets of his pants. "Oh, shit," he murmurs.

"Well … I live down the road, house number ––"

"I know," he says quickly. I furrow my eyebrows.

"Oh, my resume!"

"Well, yeah … but … I knew before. Apartment 3b, right?"

"Right."

"Sorry," he says.

"What for?"

"For being such a chicken shit and never talking to you before … and, yeah, for everything else … and the job."

I laugh.

"So, how does tomorrow around eight sound to you?" A small smile appears on his face and the rain comes down a little less hard.

"Good," I say with a smile. "Well, I'll see you tomorrow." I turn around and walk the few steps to our house.

As I'm towel drying my hair, standing in front of the kitchen window, a small ray of sunshine pokes through the clouds. Maybe Renee is right after all, I wonder. I'm not sure magic or an omniscient being are involved, but maybe steering off the beaten path, or doing what doesn't comes naturally to you every once in a while, is right thing to do after all. And who knows? You might find something imperfectly perfect for you a long the way.

The End


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