BETTER THAN PIE
SM owns it, Dollybigmomma rocks it, I just write it.
Prologue – An Idea is Born
In a day and age where innocence and naivety were rare commodities, I would have had to say I was in possession of some very valuable assets until a rather late age. I knew I'd grown up sheltered. Being the daughter of Charlie Swan, it was understandable if you knew him, so calling my upbringing sheltered was putting it mildly. Of course, it didn't seem that way until my friend, Seth, started acting weird.
With my dad as Mayor, he was a well-respected man, and it did have its perks. A deputy would always drive by, as I walked to and from school. I knew it was my dad making sure I was safe. My neighbors all seemed happy to see me, no matter why I came by. Most of the time, it was for silly stuff like to borrow an egg or something, and I did take Mrs. Cope up on her offer to tutor me in math. She seemed happy to have me over.
I started suspecting something was different, though, when I went over to the Newton's to get a toolbox for my dad, and I saw Mrs. Newton actually push her sons, who were eyeing me, out of the room.
I wasn't sure what that was about, but a similar situation came about when I visited the Taylor's house. Also, when we went to dinner at the Smith family's house, I saw their mother shoving them out the back door with a twenty dollar bill. When I went to the bathroom later that night, I passed the boys' room and saw them eating fast food. When they saw me, they quickly shut the door and turned off their music. Not a sound came from their room, like pretending to not be in that room would make me un-see them. Idiots.
The only person I really hung out with who was a kid was Seth, and he didn't seem to mind when the cinema people would only sell us G or PG-rated movie tickets, even if we were fifteen. It eventually became obvious to me that no one wanted to incur the wrath of my father.
Sue and Seth were like my family, and since he was like my obnoxious little brother, we talked about everything. Well, mostly everything. There was a lot a boy wouldn't say to a girl if he didn't have to. Seth was a little on the quiet side, anyways, so if he wasn't talking to me, he wasn't talking to anyone else. I think that was the reason we were both a little behind in the "birds and the bees" department. The one thing I knew for sure about sex was that boys had penises, and if you left them alone with them first thing in the morning, it could get messy.
My relationship with Seth was completely platonic, as we'd practically grown up as siblings from a young age. We had spent the night at each other's houses often, and we frequently would end up in odd positions, but we never thought anything of it. Because of him, I was very familiar with morning woodies and what a mess they could leave behind if you left them unattended and didn't get into the shower. Seth thought my unfortunate discovery of this was mortifying, so there was no way he would talk to me about anything else.
I had the same rules with Seth. He had to take it to the shower, and we eventually worked it out that he would shower first, because I didn't trust him alone in my bed. Horny bastard. I knew he didn't want me like that. He was hot for this girl named Emily, who I was close friends with. I was sure when he started dating her, she caught him up on things, but there was no way I was asking about her, and he wasn't talking about her or what they did, either.
They did eventually end up together, and so we no longer had our movie marathon/sleepover nights. It wasn't long after our last evening together that I went away to college. I was happy for him and hoped that someday I would find someone who loved me as much as Seth loved Emily.
I was curious about sex for a while, but I realized then that we didn't have any cable stations, and our two small-town channels only played sitcoms from the 1950's. They were hilarious, but not sexually educational. I eventually lost interest in it, as I really didn't have a reason to explore it further. The one time I had brought it up with Seth, he had run away and wouldn't talk to me for a week. I thought it best not to bring it up or worry about it until after I was married. There was no reason to push things, and it seemed to work for the people on TV, since they obviously didn't need to have it to be happy. I figured my dad was happy without it.
When it came to women, I knew we had periods, which I found out at the tender age of fourteen. I hated it. Mrs. Cope talked to me about it a little, but being an older, proper woman, I was mostly just told about the evils of tampons versus pads.
It was the school nurse who noticed my irregular periods when I was seventeen, as I came in at odd times for supplies. I was so grossly under-educated on the subject that I didn't know periods weren't supposed to be annoyingly sporadic. I was too embarrassed about the irregular periods that when I was getting my birth control to regulate it, I didn't ask any questions on the subject, and I pretty much blocked out everything the doctor said. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
I'd swear, I thought they were just period control pills for the first six months of taking them, at least until the pharmacist said otherwise. My father was already gone by then. I realized at that time, I should have talked to Sue about all of this, but it was too late. She was gone now as well. She had taken Charlie's passing hard. In fact, the whole town seemed to feel crippled. It was stifling. It seemed to pain people to see me. Women literally would burst into tears. It made me feel so alone. I knew then I had to get far away from Forks.
I went as far as I could, excited to get a chance at seeing life outside of my sheltered small-town cocoon. I knew there was a lot I didn't know, but I figured I'd learn it all with time. I decided to focus on classes, because I knew I had to be able to make it on my own in this world. I didn't have parents to fall back on, and I didn't want to return to Forks with my tail between my legs. I knew I would end up a lonely cat lady if I did, since none of the males my age in town would come within a ten-foot radius. I was pretty sure they thought cooties actually existed.
I was ready to go out into the real world, with real people, and get some real-life experience. I wanted to be treated like Bella Swan, college student, not Bella Swan, the sheltered deceased Mayor's daughter. I was pretty sure it was the whole town's mission to protect my virtue. I didn't really have the desire to be un-virtuous, but I figured it would be nice to leave town and have the option.
Of course, I found my new neighbor, Alice, talking about her boyfriend and eventual husband mortifying. I knew now just how poor Seth had felt. I'd stopped her pretty quickly the first couple of times she started talking about sex. I couldn't hear this stuff about a guy I'd actually see and had to interact with on occasion. My interest in sex and un-sheltering myself died really fast after that. I knew it would be best to just focus on school and get on with my career, before I settled down and really learned about it. I was sure the husband I would eventually pick would be a kind and understanding man, who would find the fact that I was an under-educated virgin sweet. That was the plan, at least.
Life had a way of throwing plans off course, though, and I realized getting by on my own was very difficult and precarious at best. I had to stay focused on school and work, but when I hurt my ankle, I found myself rethinking my choices and feeling more unsettled than I liked.
I grabbed some old pantyhose and wrapped them around my ankle. I couldn't even afford a proper bandage to wrap it, but it seemed to work. At least the swelling had gone down. I didn't think it was broken. I realized then that in one clumsy moment, I could be screwed. If I couldn't work, I couldn't pay rent and eat. If I missed work, I'd most likely be fired and even more screwed. No, I just had to buck up and get on with it. I just wished I had money for some pain pills. I hoped Alice would have some she could spare.
I hobbled next door, not wanting to use any of my few cell phone minutes to call her. I needed to get used to walking on my bad ankle, anyways. When she opened the door, she covered her mouth with a sneeze, and I jumped back, sure I'd have the bad luck of catching whatever she had. You couldn't serve food when you were sneezing.
"Oh, sorry, I don't know what I have, but luckily I have an appointment this afternoon with my doctor to get checked out."
"That's nice." I didn't want to admit I was jealous of her. "How do you afford health insurance?"
"Jasper gets it through work."
"And it covers you?"
"Yes, silly, I'm his wife. You're always gone at work…doesn't your job provide health benefits?"
"No, I have two part-time jobs. I don't qualify for any at either."
"Why don't you go full-time at one of them?"
"Neither wants a full-time person, and I can't really afford to take time off and look for a new job. I doubt there'd be a new job anywhere to be had around here, anyways. Besides, having the different hours makes it easy to be scheduled around my classes, and that's what's most important right now."
"I suppose." She looked down, just noticing my oddly-wrapped foot. "What on earth do you have on your ankle?"
"I think it's sprained. I had some old pantyhose. They seem to be working. I was hoping you had some painkillers to help get me through my next shift."
She frowned at my waitress uniform. "Bella, don't you have anyone to take care of you?"
I shook my head no, trying to hold back my black laugh. "I don't have time. Once I get out of school and get a real job, things should get better." I think I said it more for my benefit than hers.
"You're looking a little too thin, honey. Are you skimping on food again?"
I shrugged. "The diner was too busy last week, so I didn't get a chance to stop and eat every day." I think not eating was what had made me feel woozy and caused me to stumble and sprain my ankle. In just a few more years, I'd be done with school and could relax, and I was determined to take care of myself. I didn't have anyone to fall back on, and crying about it wouldn't change anything. I had to push forward like my father had taught me.
"Honey, how are you going to survive several more years of this? You're gonna up and kill yourself trying to make it."
I hated that she was making sense. It was ridiculous, but at the rate I was going, I could actually kill myself trying to reach my goal.
"Why don't you try that online dating stuff? I'm sure you could find a nice gentleman to take care of you. Just be sure he's the real deal and not some loser trying to use you."
"Sure, Alice." She was nuts.
"I'm serious, honey. I'd be in the same boat as you if I didn't have Jasper on my side working while I go to school. There's nothing wrong with having some security. You need to look into this, before something comes along and lays you out on your rump."
I was sure she was crazy, but sometimes, crazy people made sense. I tried to stop thinking about it, but the idea of having a man to take care of me kept rolling around in my head. The problem was, I didn't have time to date, and I doubted I'd have time to form any sort of real relationship with someone between my classes and work at this point. Besides, I hated the idea of being with someone solely for the purpose of being supported. That made me sound like a whore.
I brushed the thought from my mind, but it didn't seem to really leave me alone. Every time I saw Alice and Jasper, I thought about getting a Jasper of my own. No, I couldn't marry a man for his money. That would be wrong…wouldn't it?
It was two weeks later that I'd devised a plan. I didn't want to be a gold-digger, but that was exactly what I was looking to do. I decided if I was going to do this, that I would be honest about it. Of course, there were no dating sites that let you tag yourself as a gold-digger. I guess that practice was frowned upon. It shouldn't have been, but I doubted the other gold-diggers would be honest about their intentions.
One of my classes wanted me to start an interactive blog. I knew just what I would do with it…
It had been less than a year ago that I had lost my mother and my father. Less than a year since my life had been turned completely upside down. I went from being a boy without a care to a man with huge shoes to fill and more responsibility than I had ever wanted. I felt overwhelmed, as I stared at my father's desk. If I didn't put my college degree to work, his business would go under, and a lot of people would lose their jobs. I wanted to curl up and cry in the corner, to mourn the loss of my parents, but I didn't have time for that now.
I was pulling out the contents of my parents' safe, when I came across several life insurance policies. We weren't poor by any means, but I didn't fully understand why we needed so many insurance policies totaling so much. My heart sank, as I realized that several of them were for my mother, most of them, actually, and only a quarter of them were for my father. I would need to turn these in to the lawyer, so he could settle the accounts.
In the back of the safe was a thick file. It was actually three folders rubber-banded together, all with my mother's name on them. Curious, I pulled them out and sat down on the floor in front of the safe. I started to flip through them, wanting to see my mother, wanting to know my mother better, more than just the twenty-three years I'd had with her.
As I flipped through the pages, I started to become confused. I went back and forth between the files several times, until it became clear to me that my mother had been sick for a very, very long time. I couldn't have been more than two years old when it started, if I was to go by the dates on these papers. I studied them closer and realized that in the beginning, she had not been ill, but was being tested to be matched. There was a side note with my father's name saying he was not a match, nor was I. An hour later, after pouring through the files, it became abundantly clear that my mother had donated a kidney to my brother, Emmett. Her health had gone downhill after that. She had needed a transplant, but she never got it. Her illness wasn't anything I'd ever noticed, as it had happened when I had been so young and unobservant. I never knew my mother other than the way she had been, and she'd seemed fine in my head.
All the life insurance policies suddenly made sense. They knew she was dying. Both my parents knew, and they hadn't bothered to tell us. They hadn't warned us our time with her would be cut short. It explained why my father didn't seem all that surprised, when she became gravely ill and was hospitalized. What I thought was his denial was actually acceptance, because he already knew she was dying, and the moment she passed, he planned to follow quickly by drinking himself to death, leaving Emmett and me alone to deal with the aftermath.
I threw the files back in the safe and slammed it shut. I paced the room, frustrated and angry, feeling more alone than I had in all my life. I pulled up the cameras and checked on Emmett. He had just gotten home from the hospital after a bad stint of pneumonia. His life was so tentative and fragile itself, and if something happened to him, I would have no family at all. I tore off my suit coat and ran to the gym downstairs. I slammed into the punching bag, furious that my parents had planned to leave me like this all along, that my mother wouldn't let me help her fight, that my father wouldn't even try to fight. They both had abandoned us so willingly.
Frustration exploded from my fists, coherent thought left my mind, and all I knew was that I was angry, but I wasn't sure at whom; at my father for loving my mother so much that he wanted to follow her into death, at my mother for loving Emmett so much that she'd risked her own health and eventually her life, or at Emmett for not warning me about all of it happening. Of course, I knew Emmett was innocent and just as surprised and devastated as I was at the loss of our parents. Their absence had taken a horrible toll on his health, and my last surviving family member had been spending the last three months in and out of the hospital, fighting to stay alive while trying to cope with the loss. If I lost him, I would lose everything, and I really would be alone.
I screamed, furious with my parents, "How could you leave me like this? You know once he's gone I'll be totally alone!"
I woke up coughing hard. My chest hurt, but I didn't want to go back to the hospital. At least it didn't hurt to breathe anymore. I found my robe and decided to look for Edward. I used to sit with my mom at night when I was sick. I missed her. I hoped Edward would let me sit with him now. He wasn't in my dad's office, where he had been working all day. I missed my dad, too.
As I started down the hall, I heard a thumping noise coming from the gym. It was a little late for a workout. I was almost to the door, when I heard Edward scream. I thought he was hurt. When I opened the door, I heard him crying. He was scared he was going to be left alone. I knew I was sick, and that I couldn't live a very long time. Edward was a lot younger than me. It was true. I'd probably die before him and leave him by himself. I would get to go to heaven with my mom and dad, but he would be stuck here all alone. I needed to find someone for him. I couldn't leave him here all alone.
It was a few weeks before I was feeling better, but I had thought of a few ways to find Edward someone to look after him when I was gone. My first idea was to hire a permanent nurse, but I just shook my head. Most nurses didn't like Edward, because he wasn't very friendly. I thought of putting an ad out. There were personal ads on the internet and in the newspaper. I looked up what the stuff meant, and I was pretty sure I could put one together saying "man searching for another man to be his best friend." There were lots of those like that in the paper. I knew I was his best friend, but I was okay with being replaced when the time came.
I ended up going through our back gate to Esme's house. She was the closest thing to family we had. I had spent months trying to think of how to get someone to take care of Edward, and I knew if I told Esme my problem, she would help me.
"I was thinking about putting an ad in the paper saying he wanted another guy for a best friend. I'm sure there are a lot of nice guys who would be able to get Edward out of the house," I told her.
She seemed to giggle at the idea and took my hand. "Come to the kitchen and let me get you a snack." She pulled out a salad. I didn't know why she thought that was a snack. Salad was what you ate before dinner, but I ate it, anyway.
"You know, Emmett, I know just what Edward needs." She leaned across the counter, and I leaned in, too, ready to hear the answer, "A good wife."
I was confused.
"Just think about it. If he had a wife, she'd live with you and maybe give him kids, so he'd have more family. She'd really love him, just like your mother loved your father. That's what he needs. Not just some silly guy friend who might get mad at him and take off."
"Why would he get mad?"
"Emmett, Edward can be a little hard to deal with sometimes."
I let out a sigh. She was right, Edward was often a butthead, especially lately, but I knew he just missed mom and dad. "Okay, so how do I get him a wife?"
"Leave that to me. I know some single girls I can send his way and see if he's interested in any of them."
"Okay, I hope that works. I want to get him a good wife quick."
She grabbed my hand, looking concerned. "Are you sick again, honey? Is there something I can do?"
"No, I'm feeling better. I just want to meet his wife, and then you said they could have kids, I want to meet them before I go, too."
She frowned and then pulled me into a hug. "You leave it to me, sweetheart. We'll get your brother a good wife. I promise."
Esme was driving me nuts. For some insane reason, she was dead set on me dating. I would admit I'd had a bit of a dry spell, but I'd been very busy. There were more important things for me to do than entertain gold-digging socialites. She just wouldn't give up and went as far as finding a date for me. I didn't want to stand the girl up, so I bucked up and dressed for my first date in a long time, with a woman named Tanya.
I went to the address specified and ended up at some condos that were well known as daddy-keepers. When spoiled rich girls wanted to move out and play big girl, they moved here. I could already see this going south.
I knocked on the door, and when a maid answered, I knew I was in trouble. "The missus will be ready in a moment, Sir."
I sat down, checking my watch. Esme had made reservations for us at some nasty French restaurant. I'd eaten there before, and it sucked. Don't get me wrong, I liked French food, when prepared correctly, but I'd been to France, and I could tell you, that chef was not French.
"Well, hello, Edward," the woman I assumed was Tanya attempted to purr at me. "It's so nice to see you again."
I just nodded. I really didn't remember ever meeting her before now. "Shall we go?"
I grabbed the door for her, because I would never shame my mother by not being a gentleman. She sauntered past...yes, sauntered. I knew she was going to be trouble. She spent the evening talking about her daddy's money. I would suppose she was trying to impress me. The thing was I knew her dad and all about his money. He was a nice man, so I could only assume it was her mother who had messed up this girl so badly.
The waiter asked if we would like dessert, and Tanya said she would like it to go, as she winked suggestively at me. When we finally left the restaurant, she told my driver to take us to my place. I would bet she wanted to case the joint. At least that was what it felt like. I was still polite. I hoped that if I got her plastered, I could shove her into a car and send her home.
She walked through the front door and looked around. Her eyes settled on a painting of Emmett's that hung over the fireplace. "Why, Edward, this painting is just exquisite. You obviously have wonderful taste. It fits the room perfectly."
"My brother, Emmett, painted it specifically for this room," I said proudly. "He does have a wonderful eye for art and design," I bragged.
She looked at me confused. "Brother?"
"Yes, my older brother, Emmett." I was sure it was common knowledge that I had an older brother, even if he wasn't involved in the family business.
It looked like she finally remembered, as she smiled widely. "Oh, your retarded brother. That's very sweet of you to support him in his little…" she waved her hand at the painting. I didn't like her demeaning my brother's work. He was a well-recognized artist!
"So, where does he live? I assume he's in some kind of institution?"
"No, he lives here with me," I gritted out. If she hadn't been a girl, I would have hit her.
"Oh, Edward, don't be coy. I know you want to be involved in his care."
"His care?" My voice was raising. "If anybody needs caring for in this house, it's you! You're the one living off your daddy's money, where Emmett lives off of a legitimate, well-invested inheritance, as well as the money he earns from his work!" I flailed my arm toward his painting.
Her lips pursed. "Really, Edward, I don't see why you're being so rude. Okay, he's mentally challenged, not retarded," she sneered condescendingly. "Regardless, everyone knows that you were stuck caring for your brother."
"I'm not stuck with my brother. If anything, he's stuck with me! He's the one who looks after me, and I'd never, ever send him to some stupid home, because he does just fine on his own!"
"Are you just trying to scare me off or something? Why would you lie and say you wanted to keep him here? Obviously, it wouldn't be safe to have him around when you're married and have children."
"What in the name of…" I had to stop myself. I was gripping the back of the couch. It was a good thing it was a heavy one, or I might have thrown it at her. "Get out!"
She looked at me shocked and gaping.
"Get out now, before I lay hands on you and throw you out! You can wait on the porch for the driver. Just get out of my sight!"
She must have finally believed I was pissed, because she scurried out the front door. I took a few deep breaths, trying to calm myself, but then I spotted her damn dessert. I threw it out the front door at her, splattering chocolate all down her dress, and then I slammed the door. I was sure I would hear from Esme about that, but I didn't give a shit. There was no way in hell I would ever have any part of that Tanya bitch in my house again.
The last couple of dates hadn't worked out for Edward. I knew Esme was trying, but the girls she picked were just not nice. I decided to look on the internet. You usually could find whatever you wanted on there.
I found a site that was called Good Wife dot com. That was exactly what I was looking for. It talked about what a good wife was and then had links to Asian, Latino and Russian mail-order brides. I decided to go with Russian, because I didn't think I'd ever seen Edward date someone who wasn't blonde. I added the Russian mail-order bride site to my favorites list, and then I decided to look some more.
That was when I found the site of a local girl. It would be so much easier not to have to deal with paying all that postage for her and then teach her English. This local girl had a silly auction thing, but it wasn't for money. You checked off what you would be willing to do for her and what you wanted in return.
I went down her list, reading it carefully.
Pay college tuition…check.
Pay for school books…check.
Pay for school supplies…check.
Pay for healthcare, double check…well, I couldn't double check, because it just unchecked it, so I had to triple check it.
Supply a separate bedroom…check.
Supply a study space…check.
Cover all living expense…check. That was just a silly question, who would want to pay for dying expenses?
Transportation…duh, how would she get to school? Check.
Car insurance…I was pretty sure the cars we had were insured. If not, I could do it, so I checked that, too.
Allowance: None, small allowance of $100 a month, medium allowance of $300 a month, or large allowance of $500 a month…I checked large allowance, because large was always the best.
Severance package providing room, board and living expenses for the first year after she graduated from school…I had already said we would give her a room and living expenses, so I just checked yes again. I guess she just wanted to be sure she wouldn't have to live in my treehouse.
Then there was a second section called what you wanted.
Cooking…nah, we had a cook. Skip.
Cleaning…we had a maid. Skip.
Car maintainer…wasn't that what the driver did? Skip.
Hold a part-time job…why would she do that when she was going to school? Skip.
Hold a full-time job…well, that was even sillier. Mom always said it was important to focus on our schoolwork. Skip.
Marital acts…okay, I didn't think her doing karate was important. I certainly didn't want her beating anyone up. Besides, we had a security system for that. Skip.
Dress to certain specifications…I wasn't sure what that was, but I'd already marked that we would give her clothes, so I skipped that one, too.
Personal waitress…again, if we went to a restaurant, I didn't think they would let her be a waitress unless she worked there, and she shouldn't work and go to school. Skip.
Then there was a section at the bottom to leave a comment. I looked over the stuff I had checked and what I didn't and felt okay. I decided to leave a comment for her, hoping she would pick us:
You need a bigger allowance. I would like to date you.
I put that last bit in, because I was pretending to be Edward. He was a good brother, so I knew she would like him. She just had to.
Chapter 1 – For Sale
I checked the website again. I couldn't believe I was doing this, but it was working. I had put myself up for auction. Not for a slutty night of sex. I made sure they knew I wasn't in it for that. No, I was auctioning myself off as a wife.
I could cook, clean, sew, and iron with the best of them. My only requirement was that they support me through college and pay for my medical care as any husband would in exchange for my labor. I desperately needed the healthcare coverage for doctor visits and my birth control pills to keep me from maiming someone in a PMS-induced rage, but I couldn't afford them having no insurance. I couldn't afford a lot of things these days, but Alice had put the idea in my head, and now I was running with it.
Married people could insure each other, and so the idea Alice had suggested slowly developed in my mind. I didn't date. I was on the quiet side. I wasn't ugly, but I wasn't exactly a bombshell, either. My father always said I had an understated beauty. Was that parent-speak for ugly? I wasn't sure.
I had no other sure-fire way to find a real husband, anyway. Between working two jobs and going to school full-time, so I could get the most out of what little grant money I had left, I was too busy, not to mention I was exhausted and looked like hell.
I posted a picture of me and gave my measurements. I explained what I would be willing to do for my husband. I never once mentioned sex. I would cook, clean, iron, run errands, and even play secretary if that was what he needed, but I wouldn't be giving up my virginity to someone I didn't love. I didn't clarify that, exactly, but whoever won the auction would find out soon enough.
There were three high bidders battling it out...Yodelerman, Scooterslim and Tushmaster. I was nervous about the last one, but it turned out the guy was a doctor who had invented something similar to the Thighmaster, only it worked on your butt. I tried looking up all of them, but none of them had pictures. In the end, Yodelerman won out.
I sent him an email, letting him know that he was indeed the winner, and I wanted to meet him for dinner. I invited him over to my place, because I knew where my gun and pepper spray were if things went bad.
The man who arrived was short and plump. When he finally looked at me, I realized he had Down syndrome. I smiled and took his hand, leading him inside.
"My name's Bella, what's yours?"
"I'm Edward tonight, I like being Edward. He's handsome."
I smiled, all my bidders had verified their finances before they were allowed to bid, so I wasn't worried. In fact, I was kind of relieved. If this guy needed a friend and wanted to marry me, I could do it.
"Edward sounds like a very handsome name. Do you like spaghetti?" I asked.
He nodded his head, his eyes widening with excitement. "I love it!"
I took him to my little card table and pulled up a folding chair. I set a plate with plenty of meatballs on it for him. "You know, I'm an excellent cook. I hope you like my meatballs."
He popped one in his mouth and giggled. "It's very good," he said through a mouthful of food, spitting sauce across the table.
I let out a laugh, when he gasped in panic. "Don't worry, Edward. I've got it."
He pushed up his glasses and nodded, as I patiently wiped it up. "So, I have dessert as well. Do you have any allergies that I should be aware of?" I asked.
He tapped his chin, looking up at the ceiling. "No, but I don't like mushrooms."
"Well, it's good thing I didn't put any in the sauce, then," I said with a smile.
"Yeah, good thing."
"So, Edward, can I talk to you and tell you why I'm doing this?"
"Doing what?" he asked.
"Why I auctioned myself off as a wife."
"Oh, yeah, you're going to marry Edward," he said beaming.
I nodded. "Yes, I need help with paying for school."
"I go to school!" he shouted excitedly. "I paint! I'm the best, my brother says so!"
"You'll have to show me some of your work. Do you have some hanging around the house?"
He nodded yes. "Over the fireplace, that's the place of honor, only the best goes there."
"That's wonderful," I said. "Are you ready for dessert?"
He nodded yes eagerly. "Is it pie?" he asked wide-eyed, as I pulled out the dessert. It was homemade chocolate pudding with whipped cream. He scooped it into his mouth with big gulps. "I love pudding, too. It's almost as good as pie, unless it's one of those pies that has pudding in it, then it's the best!" I couldn't help but smile. He was so adorable.
"Edward, do you live with someone?" I asked. I had to guess there was someone in charge of his care. The more I thought about it, the more I realized he probably couldn't marry me and give me the support I needed.
"I live with my brother."
"I'm guessing your brother takes care of the money?" I said cautiously.
"Yes, but I can spend it."
I smiled at him sadly and reached over and took his hand. "Edward, I don't think your brother would let you marry me and help put me through college, and that's really what I need."
He frowned. "I like you, you're nice to me, and you make pudding."
"I have some extra, would you like to take it home?" I offered. He nodded yes excitedly. "Is there someone I can call to come pick you up, sweetie?"
He smiled. "You're nice, he's going to like you."
His statement confused me. He handed me his cell phone, and I pushed the "brother" button.
"Who is this, and why do you have my brother's phone?"
"I'm sorry to disturb you, but your brother, Edward, here came to visit me for dinner, and I was wondering if you could pick him up?"
"What? Are you mad?"
"Gimme it! Gimme!" Edward said excitedly and took the phone from me. "Hey, Brother, I bought you a wife. I like her, you should come meet her."
I could hear shouting on the other end of the phone, and he slowly passed the phone back to me, looking scared and worried.
"I don't know who the hell you are or what you did to my brother, but just know you can be put in jail for messing with him!"
"Whoa, hang on, I didn't do anything, he came to my house, and I just fed him dinner. Now, are you coming to pick him up or what?"
After a few swear words, the guy composed himself and took down my address and said he would be there in thirty minutes. Poor Edward looked a mess. He was really upset that his brother was mad at him. I gave him a hug and told him I would make sure his brother wouldn't be angry with him.
Thirty minutes later, I opened the door to a gorgeous man who looked furious. He was about to storm in, when I stepped in front of him. "Now just settle down, there's no reason to get angry, it was all just a misunderstanding. I'm sure Edward here was just trying to help out."
"Edward?" he growled. "I'M Edward, that's Emmett," he snapped, pointing sharply at the man I'd had dinner with.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. "Look, there's no reason to be upset. I knew from the moment I talked with him that he couldn't go through with the contract. I knew someone else had control of his money, so he couldn't help me."
"What? You were trying to take him for his money?" the real Edward shouted at me.
"NO! I auctioned myself off to be married to the highest bidder to help put me through college and provide medical insurance for me. I know it sounds bad, but I think it'd be a good deal. I can cook, clean, iron, run errands, do clerical work, and I even do windows."
"Then why don't you just work as a maid or a clerk?" the angry man snapped.
"I work two jobs and go to school full-time as it is, and I'm just not making it! If I get sick, I'm screwed. I'd be homeless!"
The man looked around my apartment, and his eyes landed on the dinner table.
"No mushrooms!" Emmett shouted from behind me. Edward raised an eyebrow at me. "She put whipped cream on the pudding, too, and it was so good, and when I made a mess, she wasn't mad. She's nice to me, Edward! Please, can we keep her?"
Emmett was bouncing behind me excitedly. I reached back and squeezed his hand. "Emmett, honey, I don't think your brother likes me, but I'll still be your friend," I promised.
He frowned. "But you work too much, when will I see you?" he asked pouting.
I walked over to my calendar and looked over my schedule. Emmett and Edward both came up behind me, eyeing it over my shoulder. I pulled it a little out of Edward's view and more toward Emmett's.
"See here, next week I have a Thursday morning free. Could I see you then?" I asked.
Edward pulled out his phone and looked up something. Finally, he let out a sigh. "He can see you then, do you want me to send a driver over to pick you up, or would you prefer to stay here?" he asked the last part with a little disdain, but Emmett didn't seem to notice.
"My house! My house!" Emmett said, jumping around, "Then you can see my painting over the fireplace. I'm really good."
I smiled and gave him a hug. "I'm sure you are. I can't wait to see it."
I grabbed a pen and wrote down "Play with Emmett" for that morning. Edward let me know a car would come around to get me and take me to their home. I shut the door behind them and slid down it in defeat. The auction hadn't worked after all. I guess it was for the best.