Disclaimer: I only own the plot of the story. The characters and the recognizable situations belong to Stephenie Meyer.
Thank you so much to the ladies at the Project Team Beta for beta'ing this chapter.
I was in the sauce aisle at the supermarket, thinking about calling Sam to ask him what sauce they preferred, when I heard someone calling my name. I turned around and saw the massive form of Jacob Black.
Jacob was our neighbor; he lived at the end of the hall. He and Sam had been friends for a few years. He greeted me with a huge grin that I returned. I had only seen him a few times, but I liked him; he was always smiling, cracking jokes, and in a good mood. He reminded me of Emmett.
"Are you here alone?"
"Yes," I replied. "I need a couple of things to make dinner."
"What are you cooking?"
"Hmmm, that sounds delicious. It's been a long time since I ate a homemade meal," he said. "What are you going to put in them?"
"Chicken. I'm making red sauce too and pico de gallo, but I don't know if I should buy guacamole or sour cream. I'm not sure what Sam and Emily like."
"You should make guacamole," he said.
"They like it?"
"They don't, in fact. But I like it."
I turned my face and looked at him and saw a toothy smile on his face. I chuckled. "Jacob," I began, "do you want to come to dinner?"
His expression turned to one of fake surprise. "Really?! I'd love to. Thanks for inviting me."
I laughed, taking the guacamole from the shelf. He took it from my hand. "This is on me. Don't you have a cart?" he asked.
"No, I have a shopping bag." I moved my left crutch so he could see the bag that hung from it. "It's not easy for me to push a cart. I need to lean on something stable to move, and the cart has wheels."
"Oh, of course. Okay, give it to me."
"Oh…err…it's not necessary, I can carry it."
"I don't doubt it, but I'm sure it'll be easier for you if I carry it. It has to be heavy."
"It doesn't weigh that much."
He sighed. "Bella, I just want to help you, and you're not making it easy on me. I don't know if me believing that you need help offends you or if you're just stubborn."
"I'm not offended," I said, shrugging.
"So, it's just that you're stubborn."
"Give me the bag," he said, and without waiting for my response, he took the bag from my crutch.
We paid, and he accompanied me to my car. "Will you be able to bring everything up to your apartment?" he asked.
"Of course, I told you that it doesn't weigh that much," I said and chuckled at the look he shot at me.
"Okay. I have to go to the shop and pick Claire up from her grandparents, so I won't be there to help you."
Jacob was a mechanic, and he had his own auto repair shop. He was also a widower; his wife died two years before from cancer, and he was left with Claire, his beautiful three-year-old daughter. I had met Claire one afternoon when I was walking Max and they were walking their Yorkshire dog, Nymeria. Though it was Claire's dog, Jacob named it. So while Claire played with the dogs in the park, Jacob and I started a long conversation about A Song of Ice and Fire.
Jacob left my bag on the passenger side of my car, and I thanked him before we went our separate ways.
I got home and started cooking, marinating the chicken and vegetables in lime juice and preparing the tortillas. I was making the sauces when the bell rang. I looked at the clock and saw it was half past six.
I opened the door and saw at the other side a dark-haired woman, not too tall and with features that reminded me of Emily, except for a pair of beautiful dark eyes. I supposed it was Leah, her sister. On her arms, and supported against her hip, was a little boy with eyes like hers but with lighter hair.
"You're Bella, right?" she asked with a smile.
"Yes. You're Leah?" She nodded, and I added, "And who is this little man?"
"He's Matthew," she said, looking at him adoringly.
They came in, and I closed the door behind them.
"Mmmm, it smells delicious in here," she said, entering the living room and leaving Matthew on the floor, who immediately started playing with Max.
"I'm making fajitas."
She looked at me incredulously. "Are you cooking?" I nodded. "Gosh, I'm sure they've never cooked anything in that kitchen besides coffee and toast."
I laughed a little. "I've noticed that they buy everything ready to eat," I answered while she entered the kitchen.
"There are even homemade tortillas. Be careful or they won't let you go away." She said the last part while laughing. "Can I help you?"
"Hmm, can you take out some plates to serve the food?"
We started working together while we talked. I learned that she was twenty-four and Matt was one, she lived in Oakland, and she was divorced. I found it strange that she had been married and was divorced at twenty-four, but I didn't ask because her face when she told me was one I knew too well; it was one I saw every time I looked in the mirror, one that said that she had been hurt beyond imagination.
Time flew, and before we knew it, it was past seven, and Jacob was at the door with Claire, followed by Sam and Emily not long after.
What was supposed to be another night at home, became a welcome dinner for me – in Emily's words.
"Hey, Bella, if you keep cooking, I'll start cleaning your room," Emily said between mouthfuls, and Leah shot me a look that said, "I told you so."
"No, really," continued Emily. "This is incredible, and anyway, the other day I saw you sweeping, and I thought that you could use some help."
"Hmmm…" I began, but before I could say something coherent, Leah spoke.
"You saw her struggling to sweep the floor and you thought that she could use some help, but didn't help her?" she said, shaking her head.
"She didn't ask for help…I didn't know if I would offend her!" Emily defended herself.
Leah laughed and shook her head again.
"Don't worry, you won't offend her," Jacob said, shooting me a look. "She won't ask for help, but she won't feel offended if you offer it."
This time I laughed. "I don't mind cooking," I said to Emily. "You don't have to clean my room though."
"Stubborn." Jacob tried to whisper it, but we all heard him and laughed again.
Somebody had brought tequila and it was starting to affect us, making us more bold and noisy. It also helped me to confirm my suspicions about Jacob and Leah; I had seen the way he looked at her, and at first she had rejected him, but now with the alcohol in her system, she showed that she felt something.
I really hoped she'd stop rejecting him. They made a wonderful couple.
- . - . - . - . –
The next morning I woke up with a huge headache and cursing to whatever thought that had lead me to believe that drinking the night before my first day at work was a good idea. At least I hadn't had nightmares, which was something good and welcome.
I took a shower and dressed, and when I went to the kitchen, Emily was making coffee. Sam was sleeping on the sofa; he opened an eye when he heard me and chuckled. He was sleeping there because Leah and Matt had stayed and shared the bed with Emily.
I took eggs and bacon from the fridge because my experience told me that greasy food was good when you had a hangover – though I had never drank that much before, so I hadn't had a hangover as bad as that.
Emily gave me an ibuprofen, and we ate in silence. When we finished, we actually felt a lot better. In the minutes we had to spare, Emily helped me put my makeup on so I could cover the signs of my tiredness because I'd never used makeup besides applying eyeliner and mascara.
When we got out of the apartment, Emily closed the door with more force than necessary and a smirk on her face. "Did you hear him chuckle when you walked out of your room? He laughed at me too because we have to go to work while he can stay at home and sleep."
We laughed a little and said goodbye when we stepped onto the street. She went to the bus stop to go to San Francisco, and I went to my car.
Heidi offered me a cup of coffee when I got to the office, and we started working: answering the phone, handling Mr. Masen's and Mr. Dwyer's – or Edward and Phil, as they had requested me to call them – agendas, welcoming the clients, filing documents….
It was a busy morning, but there was a moment of calm in which I filled out the form for hospital volunteers and forwarded it to Kate. I spoke with her later, and we agreed that I'd go Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
I had lunch with Heidi, and she talked mostly about her newborn son. She had just come back from her maternity leave. She had a neighbor to watch over him in the mornings, but she'd have to pay someone to do it in the afternoons, though she and her husband couldn't afford it at the moment. She told me that she had been working with Edward and Phil for six years, since they had started the law office. Since they had reduced her hours to only the mornings, they had been looking for someone to work in the afternoons. They paid her a bit less than before, but she said that less money was better than no money if she had to stop working.
By the end of Friday, I was in control of the filling system and the agendas, and though I was a bit nervous, I believed that I was ready to start working alone on Monday afternoon.
- . - . - . - . –
Saturday afternoon, Emily had offered to take Max out for a walk and I was getting ready to go to the hospital when Sam knocked on my bedroom door. I was in the bathroom brushing my hair and told him to come in.
"Hey, Bella… hmm… can I ask you a favor?" he asked, leaning against the door frame.
"Of course," I answered, giving up and throwing my hair up in a ponytail.
"Well, today is my anniversary with Emily, and I have something prepared, and…I feel like an ass for asking you this, but…I wanted to know if...errr…I don't know how to say this without it sounding bad…"
"Sam, just say it," I told him with a smile while I turned around and leaned against the sink.
"Well, I wanted to ask if you would mind giving us some privacy? I know this is your place now too, and I can't really ask you to stay out of here a few hours, but…"
"Sam," I cut him off. "Don't worry, it's not a problem. Today I start as a volunteer at the hospital in San Francisco; just call me when you're finished." I blushed slightly while I said the last part, knowing exactly why they wanted the apartment to themselves.
"Oh, okay, that's perfect."
"Okay, I have to go," I said, stepping out of the bathroom and taking my bag and a jacket. "Oh, and just so you know, I always sleep with the iPod playing and my earbuds in," I added before going out of the apartment.
- . - . - . - . –
"Bella! I'm so glad you came," Kate said when she saw me.
"I told you I'd come," I said with a smile.
She hugged me briefly, and I laughed in her excitement. Since Wednesday, when Emmett invited me to have lunch with them, I had found myself laughing more. Additionally, the last two days I had been exhausted from work when I arrived home so I slept soundly and dreamless, and the lack of nightmares had helped my good spirits.
"Well, my shift ends in an hour. So let's see if we're finished by then, and then I can go home and relax," she said with a smile.
"You have Garrett waiting for you?" I asked without thinking. I got nervous instantly because I hadn't known her that long and that was a personal question, and she'd surely think that it wasn't any of my business, and… Agg! I was going to stop kicking myself mentally to really kick myself physically because I was an idiot that always overthought everything that came out of my mouth.
"Something better," she said with a mischievous glint in her eyes while she took a folder from the front desk. "He's gone to visit his parents in Santa Barbara for the weekend, so I have the place to myself." We laughed together.
"Well, let's start," she said after looking at a couple of papers in the folder. "You've volunteered with kids before, so you can skip the training part. I'll take you with me on a round so you can meet some of the patients, and you'll begin tomorrow. You're coming on Sundays too, right?
"Yes, of course."
"Okay, follow me."
We went to the bedroom in which Kate said there was a six-year-old kid that had a broken leg and a sprained wrist because of a bad fall.
We were in front of the door when it suddenly opened, and who I saw at the other side left me speechless. It was the guy from the mall, the same one that threw coffee over me on Wednesday. He was there, in scrubs and looking at me with his green eyes, making it impossible to take my eyes off him.
Kate said something, but I could only focus on him.
"We have to stop seeing each other like this," he said with that smile that lifted only one side of his mouth and always left me mesmerized.
I think I mumbled some answer, but it didn't register with me. In fact, nothing registered until Kate addressed me. "Bella, this is Edward; the friend we talked about the other day," she said, and I finally tore my eyes away from him to look at her. "Edward, this is Bella; a new volunteer, and my new friend."
My throat closed, and my eyes prickled when she introduced me as her friend. The emotions came back in full force, and I felt slightly pathetic for being moved to tears because someone called me their friend.
I cleared my throat before speaking. "Hi," I said shyly. It felt surreal being introduced to someone I already knew… technically.
"Hello, Bella," he said, and the way my name fell from his lips made me feel as if he was caressing me, covering my skin in goose bumps.
I tried to recover quickly and seem indifferent because I didn't like the sensations he was making me feel. When someone like him made someone like me feel that way, the only possible ending was someone like me getting hurt, and I wasn't willing to take the risk.
I knew that I was really unfortunate when Kate's pager went off, and she asked Edward to do the round with me. He accepted instantly, again with that smile on his lips.
By the time we finished, I felt bad because I had been really rude even though he had been truly nice to me. I thought, though, that after that he probably would want nothing to do with me.
We met Kate again at the front desk, and she proposed going for a coffee before going home. Edward accepted because his shift had ended too. I agreed and told them that I'd wait for them at a bookstore I had seen a block away, while they changed.
- . - . - . - . –
The clerk had taken the book I was going to buy – A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness - to the cash desk because it was a heavy book, and I was in the classics aisle trying to decide if I should buy a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo, too. It was my favorite book, and the copy I had was tattered.
Suddenly, the hairs on the back of my neck stood, and seconds later I heard a voice that was now familiar.
"Searching for light literature?" he asked, pointing at the book in my hand.
"No, I've already chosen the book I'm going to buy. This is just to replace my old copy."
"So you've read it already."
"Lots of times," I said and bit my lip before continuing. "It's my favorite, and the copy I have at home is falling to pieces but, I don't know… I don't want to get rid of it."
He took the book from my hand and put it back on the shelf.
"Why don't you bring it tomorrow? My mother works as a book restorer, and maybe she can fix it." He was so close to me that I had a hard time concentrating on what he was saying, and when I finally figured it out, all I could do was nod.
When he moved away and I paid for the other book, I realized that Kate wasn't there.
"She had to go," Edward said when I asked about her. "Her boyfriend was feeling lonely at home and called her to see if she'd be there soon."
I obviously knew he was lying, and I wondered for a moment if maybe he had asked her to leave us alone; I couldn't think of another reason for him to lie. A part of me, the stupid part, was excited at the prospect of spending time with him. The rational part, though, hadn't forgotten everything I had been through and knew that the smart thing to do was keep my walls up. So she tried to kick out the stupid part, which defended herself saying that I couldn't go back to the apartment until Sam called me.
It seemed that my rational part turned stupid with that last thought because, instead of telling him that I knew he was lying, I played dumb and agreed that the café in the corner was perfect.
- . - . - . - . –
I didn't know how, but what had started as just a coffee, ended in dinner. Edward had started saying that he was famished, and that sandwiches in that café were great. Then he said that he couldn't eat alone. So I was having a piece of chocolate cake as a dessert while we played a game of twenty questions because apparently we were teens again.
"Okay, my next question is really serious," he said.
We had already gone through those generic questions like name or age. That's how I knew that his complete name was Edward Cullen – well, I already knew that, and after he answered I told him that I knew Emmett and his brother, and that I worked for his uncle. I also learned that he was 26, he was on his second year of residency as a pediatrician, and he had always lived in Berkeley.
"What is…" he started with a serious face "…your favorite color?"
I gaped at him. "That's…that's a really deep question," I said, trying not to laugh, but failing completely.
"Everything depends on the answer."
"Okay, I have two: green and purple."
"Don't you see how the question was important?"
"You like green."
"But you said green first."
"My eyes are green."
"Plants are green too."
"You know, I think my ego just fell to my feet," he said with mock offense.
"I think your ego needed it," I said with the sweetest smile I could muster.
He laughed, shaking his head. My phone beeped at that moment with a new message.
You can come back whenever you want
I thought that I didn't want to go, and my rational part looked at me with a terrified expression, but it was getting late.
I went to pay, but Edward stopped me. "This is on me, for the coffee I threw on you," he said. I hesitated. I didn't think it was necessary, and it wasn't like he had done it on purpose. He took that time to pay for both of us. "Come on, you can invite me the next time."
"What makes you think there will be a next time?" I asked while we walked back to the hospital.
"My personal charm?" He again used that smile.
"Do you want me to make your ego fall again?"
"No, please," he said laughing. "I don't think it could bear another fall so soon."
We got to my car, and my stupid part felt sad because I had to say goodbye to him while my rational part looked at her and shook her head.
"Do you need a ride?" I asked him, and the rational part banged her head against a wall.
"No, my bike's parked over there." He signaled with his thumb to the workers' parking lot.
My mind drifted to him straddling a bike, and I felt my face heat when I thought about a powerful machine between his legs. I was such a pervert.
I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn't realize he had me trapped between the car and his body, and his face was getting closer to mine until I felt his nose brush against mine. I turned my head at the last moment, and his lips grazed my cheek. That time it was my stupid part that banged her head against a wall.
"My ego has died," he whispered against my skin.
I chuckled awkwardly. "I have to go," I said a moment later.
He stepped back, and I thought I heard him sigh.
He stood there until I left. It wasn't until I was almost out of the city that I realized my whole body was shaking and that butterflies and killer bees battled in my stomach.
- . - . - . - . –
What I liked less about my new place was that I had to park in the back of the building. It was a place that seemed like an alley and made me remember that day, the one that haunted me with nightmares.
I walked as fast as I could to the front door of the building and I felt relieved when I got in the elevator – or at least as relieved as I could be given what I was feeling at the moment.
I went to the front door of the apartment and heard a noise at the other side. I opened the door slowly and poked my head inside.
"Are you presentable?"
Emily appeared at the threshold in a matter of seconds. "Bella! Come in, we have a surprise for you!"
I stopped in the hall. "A surprise?"
Emily smiled, and my eyes widened when I saw the person that appeared behind her.
Well, what do you think?
I'm completely flattered by your comments on this story. I was hesitant about posting it but I'm glad you like it.
A couple things that I probably should have said before: first this story is set in 2011; second, Bella wasn't raped.
I hope you liked this chapter. The next will be up around February 23th.
Thank you so much for reading, commenting and adding the story to your favourites and alerts.