Note from the translator: all things Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyer, and all things Collisions belong to Drinou, a very talented and popular French writer. No, you're not dreaming, this is the long awaited update! Again I want to thank you all for your reviews and mostly for your patience. Good reading.
Chapter 22: Hangover
As the vehicle slipped into the rather fluid traffic of this New Yorker night, I turned to the Zanzibar. On the sidewalk, Edward, clenched fists and tense jaw, was staring at my taxi moving away.
~ X ~
After a long, relaxing shower, I put on a pair of sweatpants and a tank top, ready to slip into the warmth of my thick duvet. I opened my sofa bed and curled up comfortably amidst my pillows.
What a night!
I replayed the events of the last few hours in my head. Everything had spun so fast. First the frantic race through New York for Emmett's party. Then my bust-up with Mister Iceberg, followed by Emmett literally sending me into the lion's den. And lastly, the grand finale, the icing on the cake of this wonderful day: my rip up, cut into thin slices by a social misfit without any feelings coupled with a potential misogynist.
What could be better to brighten up your life, right?
I sighed loudly and turned off my bedside lamp, letting the darkness pervade my studio and my mind. I'd always been told that sleep was remedial, so I might as well plunge into it headfirst. Perhaps it would allow me to forget that awful day.
I was somewhere in a huge purple and blue forest, chased by a giant strawberry shortcake, when a big muffled "boom" pulled me out of my strange dream. I grumbled, my face crushed against my pillow. Did I leave something unbalanced in the bathroom? No... not that my foggy brain could remember.
Possiblyaripariannuisance, I thought before I let myself being sucked into sleep again.
What the hell is that?
I sat up quickly, on alert, my tousled hair cascading down my face. The thud echoed once again throughout my studio. I fumbled to find the small switch on my bedside lamp and winced when the light invaded my one room apartment. A peek at the digital screen of my microwave oven made me swear. Who was the idiot making such a racket at 4:42 in the morning?
The knocking resounded again. Someone had apparently decided to play La Cucaracha in my hallway. And, according to the shrill cries coming my way, which were absolutely incomprehensible and in addition loaded with a strong Asian accent, I would have easily bet that the target of this heavy pounding was none other than the wall in front of mine.
I growled, slightly crabby. After a shitty day, even my night promised to be bad. But what better than admiring the old hag that was my neighbor shouting at the top of her lungs, risking apoplexy? When you're curious... I extricated myself from under my soft and warm duvet, quickly tied my hair into an approximate bun and, while freezing my toes on the cold tile floor, I went to stick an eye onto the peephole. It was the best location to not miss any dismemberment of the unwary person who dared to mess with the brainless crazy woman.
I blinked frantically; I even rubbed my eyelids vigorously once, twice, three times before sticking my eye back to the opening.
What the hell?
No, no doubt. It wasn't a hallucination straight out of my mind completely clouded by these three little and insufficient hours of sleep.
The effect was immediate. I went from sleepy and curious to awake and furious.
In one movement I activated the lock and opened the door, instantly finding myself bathed in the yellowish light of the hallway.
"What are you doing here?" I blurted as a very drunk Edward Cullen staggered in front of the door facing mine.
Stunned, he tottered dangerously before turning his head in my direction, then towards the neighbor's door, then back to me.
"Isaaaaabellaaaaa!" he bugled in a hoarse voice with unfeigned buoyancy.
Well, there we have it...
After three failed attempts, he finally managed to get his balance back and swayed towards me.
"There you are!" he cried out halfway, almost dropping the jacket he was clutching in one of his hands. "I thought you were over there... Pfff, it wasn't the right place."
He pointed a finger in my direction, which made him lose his semblance of balance. He reeled; then laughed as he regained a steadier position.
"Whoa... Don't spin like that..."
It gets better and better.
This guy was totally crazy! And mostly, seemed completely inebriated. Farewell the sexy attitude he always sported. He looked more like a dropout with his shirt buttoned askew, coming carelessly out of his pants in some places. Not to mention his hair, which usually was cleverly disheveled. Not now; now it looked more like a messy pile badly flattened on his head than a hairstyle worthy of the name.
"Go home Edward," I ordered him as he swayed in my direction.
"I just wanna talk to you... You know, you, me and..."
I motioned for him to be quiet as his loaded breath came to me in waves.
"I have nothing to say to you, and certainly not at five in the morning when you can't even stand up straight. I don't know how you got this far, but now you have to go home."
He frowned and staggered even more. As he opened his mouth to retort something, I stepped back and closed the door behind me.
I pressed my head against the cool wood. Decidedly, every time I thought the story was over, a new act was being played. What could have possibly brought him here in such a state?
A scratching noise caught my attention. He was still there, behind the door. I had no idea what he was doing except that he was scraping the wood with his nails. I clambered back on tiptoe to reach the peephole.
"I see yoooou!"
I couldn't help but smile when one green eye, slightly bloodshot, blinked on the other side of the small opening.
Oh boy, he's definitely totally soaked.
"Isabellaaaaaaaa... I see yooooou..."
Shit. He was beginning to make a hell of a racket. And of course my dear neighbor resumed hollering with greater intensity on the other side of the hallway.
She went out from her hideout like a fury, armed with a... uh... a flip-flop? And she started screaming in a way fairly close to hysteria. Normally during her rare quiet time I could barely understand her, but now it was just Chinese to me, no pun intended, of course. The only words that seemed clear in this squalling mess were "racket" and "nocturne." Unless it was in fact "planet" and "Saturn?" In any case, her appearance had at least the merit of calming Edward, who looked at her with big googly eyes.
Unfortunately, his calm was short-lived. He burst out laughing and engaged in an unflattering impersonation of my very dear neighbor.
I was still watching the scene from my peephole, torn between the desire to see Edward being cut into pieces by the other crazy, and the one, incomprehensible, to help him avoiding bloodshed.
Either all my other neighbors were heavy sleepers, or none of them dared to show up. Anyhow, no one came to his rescue.
"Oooooh, a grumpy dwarf," Edward chuckled.
The waxy face of the berserk neighbor enhanced by huge horn-rimmed glasses turned scarlet red. All this topped by a greyish tuft carelessly tied, which looked more like a filthy helmet than actual hair.
Lord... The old hag could be really scary!
I caught the word "police" as well as my name among the fair amount of insults accompanied with flying spittle that the crazy old woman bellowed.
This time it was enough. I swung my door open, hands on my hips, and I went to stand in front of the crackpot.
"Shut up, you old hag!" I spat.
Of course it only increased the verbal attacks from my dear and loving neighbor. I rolled my eyes. Lord, what have I done to deserve this? I wondered. I must have been very bad in a previous life.
"Watch out Bruce Lee!" Edward intervened, still as fresh as a pack of beer in the sun. "Don't piss her off... She looks like a little kitten but... no no ... She's a real tigress... Yes Ma'am!"
"Okay, that's enough," I decreed.
It was time to defuse the situation and for lack of anything better, I only saw one solution. I grabbed Edward's arm and pulled him back to me.
"You, come with me. I'll call you a cab. As for you... Go back from where you came and choke on your flip-flop; it will give us a vacation!"
I quickly dragged Edward in my apartment and slammed the door.
That's over and done with!
Second step: get rid of Edward Cullen, and fast.
I grabbed my phone and quickly called a taxi, all the while watching Edward from the corner of my eye reeling amid my single room and looking everywhere.
"THIRTY MINUTES?" I yelled on the phone. "Can't you be here sooner than that? ... I know but... But... This is a matter of... You don't... All right then."
I hung up, disappointed and on the verge of hysterics. Thirty minutes of waiting! There really had to be a problem with my karma tonight. My fingers strummed nervously on my wood laminate worktop while I was looking for a hypothetical fallback.
"It's soooo nice in here!" Edward cried out, marveling at my studio.
Thirty long, endless minutes...
"Why, you're interested in interior design all of a sudden? Look, I don't know what you came here to do, but one thing is for sure: I have absolutely no desire to see you. So you're gonna sit here and we'll patiently wait for the damn taxi to arrive, so that I can finally go back to bed and forget this crappy day."
Edward turned to me, frowning so much that his brows formed a single pleated line.
"Oh! You're angry," he stressed, agape, staggering slightly.
Me angry? No, not at all. I'm absolutely and irrevocably delighted to see you appear at my place in the middle of the night drunk as a skunk, dark moron!
"Angry?" I squeaked, my voice rising in the treble. "Why would I be angry? It's not like we'd gotten into an argument twice tonight and you'd treated me roughly like a big piece of shit. So yes, certainly, I'm absolutely delighted to have you here, and completely drunk to top it off."
"I'm not drunk... I just had a little too much to drink. Besides, wouldn't you have something to drink?"
"Bromide? Arsenic? Hmm ... I might have some very corrosive household products to serve you."
"Oooooh... Some anger."
"That's an understatement," I whispered, pulling a white wool sweater over my tank top.
I filled a large glass of water and slammed it on the counter.
"That's all the house can offer you. You can settle in the chair while waiting for the taxi. I'm going to... Ah! ... I'll be back."
I walked around the farther side of the counter. Why was my studio so small? Unfortunately, the bathroom was my only escape to clear my mind. I slammed the door and sighed deeply. Eyes closed, I gradually evened my breath, until I regained enough calm.
Perhaps you should have let him languish in the hallway with your crazy neighbor?
Yes, perhaps I should have. It would have been easier to manage; two earplugs and the case would be settled. Instead, I found myself stuck with him in my microscopic apartment for the longest half hour of my life.
The thought of being locked here until the end of time became quite attractive. Unfortunately, staying hidden was not a solution. So I worked up the courage and returned to my living room.
"For God's sakes!" I muttered.
Edward was comfortably lying diagonally across my bed, on his side, feet dangling and his face relaxed in sleep.
Had I been locked in my bathroom for so long? A glance at the clock gave me the answer. Not far from a quarter of an hour. Great, now I had to wake him up...
"Edward," I called out.
No reaction. I tried a little harder. No doing. He hardly had his eyes open when his eyelids closed again. Alcohol had completely stunned him. Perfect! That's just what it took on top of this royal day.
"Edward!" I insisted, shaking his arm.
A sleepy grunt was his reply.
Try the tickling; it always works.
"Get up! The cab will be here soon," I shoved him.
"No... not moving," he grumbled.
"Come on! Get up!"
Instead of getting up, he freed the arm I was tugging and wrapped it around my waist, pulling me abruptly on the bed. I landed heavily on the mattress, surprised by his sudden surge of energy.
"Don't go away."
"Edward, let me go!" I demanded while wriggling to free myself from his grasp.
"No ... If I let you go, you'll leave like everyone else did..."
"I'm not going anywhere, but you, on the other hand, must go downstairs to wait for the cab."
"Don't leave me. Need you, Bella," he blurted in a stirring voice as his green eyes, reddened by alcohol and sleep, stared at me intently.
"You're not making any sense."
"Don't leave me. Everyone always leave and I always end up alone... Everyone... Alone... Don't leave..."
"Nobody's leaving, Edward. You just had too much to drink and you don't know what you're saying. Come on, help me out a little," I begged him as I tried to free myself again.
"Yes... It's always the same... Always... They all abandoned me..."
His voice broke, like it was torn by too many emotions.
"Don't abandon me too," he whispered, burying his face against my thigh.
This simple little sentence ripped my heart. Despite all that I had to endure today, the desire to comfort him took over. I gently slid my fingers through his tousled hair and softly tried to soothe him.
"I won't abandon you, Edward," I assured him as my phone was announcing the cab's arrival. "I'm right here, next to you."
The pressure on my waist loosened, his breathing calmed down. He fell asleep peacefully, resting against my leg.
"Who are you Edward Cullen?" I whispered, staring at the mysterious man who was squatting my sofa bed.
I continued to soothe him for a few minutes, playing with the auburn hues of his hair, before slowly freeing myself from his grip and sit up.
Edward protested in his sleep without waking up, too comfortably settled in dreamland to emerge.
I watched him for a while, so peaceful and carefree. He seemed so far away from who he usually was when alcohol inhibited the armor of coldness that he constantly wore. If only he could leave it in the closet more often...
I made a brief assessment of the place. My bed being squatted by a surprise guest a bit invasive, I was left with few options to host myself until dawn.
And why not keep him company? You don't want him to catch a cold...
I mentally gagged my nasty little inner voice. It was way too early for that kind of innuendo.
There was no way I was going to sleep in the same bed as Edward Cullen, even though said bed was mine. Well, my old club chair with its all shredded brown leather would do for the few hours that still separated me from the shrill beep of my alarm clock.
I picked up Edward's jacket, which was strewn in ball at the foot of the bed, and folded it carefully; then I gently removed his dress shoes and pulled the quilt up to his waist.
And to think that you could be his blanket... Killjoy!
Absolutely. Out. Of. Question. I'd rather spend the night perched on a stool than put one toe on this bed.
I went to get a throw blanket from my closet, snuggled into my chair, and after a last glance at Edward fast asleep and curled up, I turned off the light.
God, what a short and ankylosing night! I ached everywhere from staying still and embedded in this chair for so long. So, at the first light of day, I had painfully unfolded myself. So be it if I was ahead of my alarm clock, I couldn't spend a single minute more in that damn seat.
Tip-toing, I grabbed some clean clothes and went to the bathroom. First a restorative shower, and then a good strong coffee. It would take me that, at least, before gathering the courage to wake up the Sleeping Beauty with the face smashed into the pillow.
Unfortunately even the hot water, usually so beneficial, didn't overcome my many body aches.
Once I had my sweater and jeans on, I returned to the living room. There we were... I turned the coffee maker on and started the percolator.
The effect was immediate! The human wreck asleep on my bed came back to life with a growl of protest.
When the second cup of coffee was on the way, I loudly put the first one down on the counter, next to the bottle of aspirin and glass of water waiting for him. You can never be too careful...
The hoarse and slurred voice growled over the purring of the coffee flowing from the percolator.
"Coffee's ready," I said, swallowing the first sip of mine.
Ooh, verrryyy difficult awakening!
With all the trouble in the world, he raised his head from the pillow and rolled on the bed.
"Too much light... Shit! But where... Isabella?" he wondered while I was biting my lips to keep from laughing at his expression.
"Surprise!" I exclaimed with sarcasm at his not very smooth-spoken tone.
"But what is... Fuck!" he growled as he sat on the bed, his elbows on his knees and his head resting in his palms.
"Um, a real trooper! It's quite lovely," I said.
He ground his hair harshly before assessing his situation with a reddened eye.
"Shit, I remember absolutely nothing," he complained. "What am I doing here?"
"No wonder, you were way over the legal limit! And truth be told, I have no idea. I meant to ask you the question, actually."
I filled the coffee maker for a third time and poured myself another coffee. With the night I had just spent, I would need at least a gallon to stay awake.
Try an IV; it's more efficient!
"Argh, tone it down!" he growled while pressing is hands to his temples.
I opened the bottle of aspirin and dropped a tablet in the glass of water that I handed him.
"Drink this," I advised him.
He stood up as nimbly as his condition would allow, grabbed the glass, and drank it in one gulp while grimacing. I smiled at his withered face: his hair more tousled than ever, his shirt as wrinkled as a cloth, not to mention the magnificent pillow mark encrusted on his cheek for at least the next couple of hours. I slowly sipped my coffee while he eyed his with disgust. In the end he chose to abandon the idea of drinking it down and slouched back on the bed, one hand still pressed to his aching temple.
"Damn, what the hell did you do to me?" he grunted.
Yeah, right, now it's my fault...
"Are you fucking kidding me?" I gritted.
"Not so loud," he complained, the masterful migraine he was enduring making him wrinkle his forehead.
"Stop using me as a scapegoat and maybe I'll speak softer. You show up here drunk, all high and mighty at four in the morning, you create mayhem in the neighborhood, all that because Mister The-king-of-the-world decided he wanted to see me in the middle of the night, and I just have to stay calm and keep my voice down? Jeez, what world are you living in?"
"Fuck... not so loud... Argh!"
And now I found myself in the same edgy state as the previous evening. He had certainly a gift to get me all worked up in record time.
"People are not at your disposal or at your service, Cullen, all rich and powerful that you are. And definitely not me! You were very clear about what I represented in your eyes last night, so now that you've sobered up, go home and leave me alone!"
"If I was that clear, what am I doing here, Isabella? Why did you put up with me if you no longer want to see me?"
"Why? Because I had no choice, you moron!" I snapped. "Because you were making such a racket in the hallway that my crazy neighbor was ready to call the cops, and once you were in here, you collapsed like a shit, whimpering like a baby "Don't leave me... Everyone always leave... Don't abandon me too... blablabla..." I mimicked him.
But his reaction stopped me dead in my tracks.
My diatribe pulled him out of the hazy torpor of his hangover. He straightened up, a scowl etched on his face. A simple stride was enough for him to reach the kitchen bar, which he walked around to face me.
"Interesting. And what else did I say, Isabella? Nothing more... um... juicy?
He put his hands on either side of my hips, on the cabinet behind me, surrounding me with his arms.
"Fuck you, Cullen," I said, pushing him away.
"It's so kindly asked... But let things be cleared Isabella, I wasn't myself last night, and whatever I may have told you is to be put on the account of alcohol. Is that clear?"
I glared at him.
"It's perfectly clear. Now that you made your point, I just need to show you out," I stated, pointing the door.
"Ooh, how aggressive," he laughed, walking a few steps away. "Don't worry, I'm leaving."
He felt the pocket of his pants for a moment, then, satisfied, he headed toward the front door, holding his keys.
Stunned, I watched him grab his jacket as if nothing happened.
"Don't tell me that you drove here in the state you were?"
"It would seem so."
"Bravo, very responsible of you. You were lucky to get here in one piece."
"I'm sure you'd have missed me if it weren't the case. Have a nice day, Isabella."
With these words, he unlocked the door and slipped out.
"Yeah, that's it. Have a nice migraine, Cullen!" I grumbled, nose into my coffee mug.
Even with a hangover, this guy managed to drive me crazy. It was no longer the arrogant asshole world title that should be awarded to him; an interplanetary class should be open just for his category.
Edward Cullen, intergalactic asshole.
How could he be both so irritable and so fucking sexy? Because I had to admit it though, as wrinkled and dowdy as he was this morning, with his messy hair, red eyes and pale face, he was still damn...
And a little morning mental slap; nothing like it to put me straight.
Too bad that the urge to gut him alive ran through me every time he uttered a word.
I finished my coffee in one go, then I started drinking the one left by Edward while I tidied up my studio a bit. Nothing like a little household chores to calm things down.
I'd just converted the sofa bed when someone knocked at my door. A delivery man, perhaps? Although I wasn't expecting anything special...
I placed the last cushion on the sofa and ran to open the door.
Farewell sweet benefit of household chores.
Anger resurfaced immediately in my veins.
"What are you still doing here?" I instantly scowled. "You decided to spoil my life today? The little "humiliate Bella" session of yesterday was not enough for you? Just leave me the fuck al..."
"Stop!" he cut me off, his fingers pressed against his temples. "For pity's sake, stop."
I sighed, swallowing back my murderer instinct to try and regain some calm.
"What do you want?"
He ran a hand through his tousled hair, suddenly looking bothered.
"My cell phone's battery died and I need to make a call."
I stared at him. Did he really expect that I be at his beck and call?
"And?" I inquired.
"And could you let me call from here?"
Doesn't he realize something is missing here?
I impatiently tapped the door with my fingertips, gazing at him insistently.
There you go; it wasn't that complicated.
"All right, but hurry up. Ordinary people are not sitting on wads of cash. I have to go to work soon."
I opened my door wider to let him pass.
"It never crossed your mind that..."
"Nothing. Forget it. May I use your phone?"
I picked up my cell phone on the counter.
"Would you happen to know a cab company number?"
"A cab?" I wondered. "You didn't drive after all?"
He ruffled his hair once again, pulling hard at one of his strands, while suddenly heading toward my one and only window to contemplate the view blocked by the building opposite.
"Yes, but it seems that my car has accidentally met a lamppost."
I bit the inside of my cheeks to keep from laughing heartily, leaving just the outline of my smile show with dignity on my face.
"I'm delighted to cheer up your day."
"Press on 'redial' and you'll reach the taxi company that I contacted last night."
His call was brief, just long enough for me to pour myself yet another coffee, causing Edward to wince disapprovingly as he just hung up.
Whoops! The joys of a migraine...
"So?" I asked.
"The cab should arrive in fifteen minutes. I'll go down and wait for it."
"And what about your car?"
"I'll call my assistant to take care of it."
"Rosalie?" I wondered. "But it's Saturday."
"So it's the weekend and she's certainly got better things to do than take care of that little detail – like getting laid with Emmett, perhaps? – No but seriously, aren't you old enough to call the tow truck yourself?"
"Miss Hale is paid quite highly enough to take care of this kind of 'detail,'" he retorted with emphasis on the last word.
I rolled my eyes.
"If you say so."
He walked around the counter, handing me my phone.
"I'll wait for my cab downstairs. Thank you, Isabella."
"Um... You're welcome," I stammered, surprised by this unexpected thanks.
I watched as he walked around the central island again to reach the front door.
"You can wait here," I suggested without thinking.
"Your taxi, you can wait for it here rather than staying a quarter of an hour in the cold. Well, if you prefer to go downstairs..."
"I thought you had to go to work," he said with surprise.
"Yes, but I still have a little time and I was about to make breakfast. Toast?"
He winced and, while letting go of the door handle, he shook his head slightly.
"Unfortunately I don't have much else to offer you except maybe an omelet," I offered as I quickly inspected the contents of my fridge.
"Actually, I couldn't eat anything but another aspirin."
"Oh, okay... I should be able to find that for you."
Mechanically, I grabbed the bottle of aspirin that I had put nearby and I threw it at him. The tube bounced off his chest before he had the reflex to catch it. I quickly filled a glass of water and placed it on the counter in front of him. Then I resumed savoring my coffee, watching him as he prepared his analgesic, looking embarrassed, almost sheepish, especially when he thrust his hands deep in the pockets of his pants while waiting for his aspirin to dissolve in the water.
"Thanks. I hope it will alleviate the herd of elephants in my skull," he joked, showing the hint of a smile on his drawn face.
Strange how the atmosphere had changed, going from a forced politeness to a shy friendly exchange.
"Ouch," I sympathized, burying the hatchet for a moment. "The bathroom is over there if you want to refresh yourself."
I led the way, entering the small bathroom to give him a towel.
I smiled shyly at him in response and closed the door behind me as I exited the room.
I went about my business, putting two slices of bread in the toaster. I devoured them as soon as they were out of the toaster, along with a swig of orange juice to wash it all down, and my breakfast was a done deal.
I was quickly cleaning up my dishes when my cell phone rang.
"The cab is there," I yelled through my little apartment before even answering my phone.
"Tell him I'm coming in a minute," he stated to my back.
I jumped and spun around in surprise. I had not heard him exit the bathroom. Yet his damped hair and the fine translucent droplets running down is jaw to get lost in his stubble could only confirm that he was coming from there.
Driven by my total lack of response, he put his hand on my back and slipped it into the back pocket of my jeans. I stopped breathing, enjoying the feeling of his fingers on my buttock.
He retrieved my phone that I had slipped in there and brought it to his ear, leaving a strange burning where his hand had brushed against me.
"I'll be there in a minute," he declared in a clear voice before hanging up as abruptly while staring at me attentively.
He quietly put my phone back in my pocket and, while keeping this strange eye contact, he rummaged through his damp hair.
"Thank you for allowing me to stay here last night despite my drunkenness, Isabella. I guess you could have done without this little... overflow. But fear not, I won't bother you like this again."
His face hardened slightly as he paused.
"I wanted you to know that you were not just a distraction for me."
I was stunned. What did he just say? Damn brain, why was it bugging now?
He leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on my cheek.
"I'm sorry for hurting you," he whispered in my ear before walking away. "Have a nice day, Isabella."
By the time I regained my senses, my apartment door was closing behind him.
Shit, what was that?
To be continued...
Thank you, Lizzard43. For everything.
Until next time