Entry #38 – AH
Truly Anonymous Twilight O/S PP Contest
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Title: Frames per Second
Picture Prompt Number: 10
Word Count (minus A/N and Header): 2,944
Summary: Scattered snapshots tell the story of couple's rise and fall. Watch it all unfold. Find a love story in the end, an end in the beginning, and the rest in between.
Warnings and Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.
FRAMES PER SECOND
Their cereal bowls are empty, but still the couple lingers at the table. The metal patio set, while meant for outdoor living, fits perfectly in their kitchen, so in it came. The chairs fold to free up space for parties or impromptu kitchen dancing, if the pair is so inclined. The seats are hard and uncomfortable, yet these two don't mind at all so long as they can steal a few more moments together in the bright yellow of the morning.
She stares at him, her gaze unfocused, letting him know that she doesn't really see him.
He waits, working hard to maintain the face he's making until she sees, until she laughs or rolls her eyes or stands from the table, flipping her long hair over her shoulder and wiggling her butt exaggeratedly, just to mess with him. There are so many possibilities, the many things she does that he loves.
He loves her.
Her vision comes back into focus. A smile parts her face, pushing her cheeks up at the edges like the apples they resemble. With his mouth hanging open, bottom jaw receded, eyes squinted yet crossed, he looks vacant and goofy. He smiles, the scruff on his jaw suddenly funny instead of sexy.
A laugh. Success. The funny face falls away, leaving a content one, his eyes sparkling as he looks at her.
"You always did know how to make me laugh," she tells him. The straps of the nightgown she wears slip just so off her collarbones, inviting him, asking him to remove them completely, set them free.
A glance at the clock. Too late, not enough time. Later, he tells the nightgown.
"I should get ready," he says with regret, standing and clearing their bowls, rinsing them quickly in the sink. "I love you." He says it without thinking, his back to her, automatic but still meaningful.
Her chin rests in her hands. She smiles once more. "I love you, too," she tells the back of his head. He walks away, the bathroom door closing behind him. As the shower runs, she stays in place, not moving her hand or her chin or her smile.
Bella stands in the middle of the room, trying to stay out of the way of the others working out. She takes her tiny five-pound dumbbells and holds them in her hand, curling them up, cringing both at how difficult it is and how difficult it shouldn't be.
Finishing her curls, she puts the weights back, moving to grab her Velcro tools.
When she went to the doctor a month ago, she didn't expect to be playing with toys in an effort to rehabilitate her wrist tendons, but here she was.
An old man walks backwards on a treadmill across the room, a PT assistant standing next to him, making notes in a folder. She watches him, sort of, as she twists a cylindrical Velcro-covered wooden toy across a board. Her wrist twinges a little, but she pushes through.
The timer beeps and she resets it, moving on to the next one, a tiny little thing, almost a key. She turns it, turns it, turns it, rotating as far as she can. A particularly harsh pain jolts through her and she stops, rubbing uselessly at her wrist, but massaging doesn't help.
Time for a break, she tells herself, and she walks over to the water cooler for a drink.
Her eyes linger on another man, looking about her age. She's seen him there before, always doing squats and stretches and sometimes being strapped into traction, like he is now. The machine buzzes as it pulls at his hips, lengthening and limbering him up.
He turns his head on the table, facing her. He sees her watching him. She blushes and throws her cup away, ready to get back to work.
By the time she finishes her exercises, he's gone. As one of the assistants puts ice on her wrist, someone approaches. He's just out of her line of sight, but she can feel him.
"See ya tomorrow, John," the voice says. Bella turns her head, looking up, seeing the dark brown hair, the green eyes, and the lanky build of the man she was eyeing earlier.
He smiles at her.
"Yep. Make sure to ice that back tonight, Edward," John replies, oblivious to the sudden electricity rocketing through the room, emanating from the small space between these two. Fireworks, chemistry, a spark—whatever it is, it is there.
"Hi," he says.
Her jaw is set, stubborn and unmoving, arms folded across her chest, petulant and angry and not caring about any of it. His tie is loosened, askew, red as the rage pooled in his cheeks.
"Did you meet him?" he asks. She doesn't answer, igniting him further. A pillow falls victim as he punches at the couch, a side of him showing that never shows. She isn't afraid. She's repulsed.
"What did he want?" he continues.
Exploding, she stands, arms flailing at her sides, eyes blazing with a gleam she usually didn't have.
"He just wanted to talk!" she explains. Her voice is loud and high-pitched, as it gets when she's truly, truly mad. "He's going through a rough time and he just needed somebody to vent to."
"And that just had to be you?"
"Maybe I needed to vent. Maybe I had things to get off my chest."
"Why don't you vent to me? I'm the one you should be saying those things to."
"You're the one I'm saying those things about!"
"Are we back to this again? Are we ever going to get off this goddamn carousel? I swear, if I explained it once, I explained it a thousand times." His frustration is bubbling over, acidic and eating away at everything.
"Your explanations aren't good enough, Edward. I need more than that. I need time with you. I need you to be home when I go to bed. I need to see you over breakfast in the mornings. This isn't a life." At first she's yelling, then fading into soft, sad tones, grieving.
"It's the only one I can give you right now," he points out, turning away from her. "And you knew that going in."
"Well," she says, but stops.
He waits. She waits.
"Maybe I would've chosen differently, had I realized."
Edward stands with his hands in his pockets, his shoulders slumping and his lower back aching from standing in one position for almost an hour. He looks down at Bella, seated on the edge of a bench in the restaurant's foyer.
"I'm sorry," he tells her for the twelfth time.
She shakes her head, telling him with a look that it's fine. He's so good looking yet terribly insecure, it seems, and she's had to reassure him several times that she's not upset. He had refused to sit when she offered, even though he's the one with the back injury. His chivalry is nice but also a tad bit annoying.
"Cullen, party of two," the hostess calls, barely looking up. Edward immediately snaps to attention and Bella rises from her perch, hungry and thirsty and already wishing the night were over.
They're lead to a table right in the middle of things, near the kitchen, not in the slightest bit romantic. Both focus on their menus, ordering food as quickly as they can, but then are left with halting silence to fill.
"So," he says, clearing his throat. "What happened with your wrist?"
She blinks, for a moment not understanding his question. "Oh! Um, well, it just started hurting one day."
He nods and waits. She nods and looks around.
"That's it?" he asks.
"Yep. Went to the doctor. Got sent to physical therapy."
Pause. Long pause.
"That's the whole story?" He laughs. She can't help but chuckle along.
"Unfortunately," she says. "But I bet the reason you're there is much more thrilling."
The smile on his face dims just a bit. "It is. It's a story of . . . international espionage . . . intrigue, corruption, fake passports. You name it."
"Hmm. So am I really at dinner with Edward Cullen, or is this just part of the plot? Are you my protector?" She leans in, lowering her voice. "Is someone out to kill me?"
"You're but a tiny piece of the puzzle. But yes, it's all a conspiracy. The physical therapists are even in on it."
"I thought John looked a little too . . . shifty to just be a regular guy."
Edward laughs, a dimple appearing in his left cheek, but not the right. Their drinks arrive and both gulp greedily at their water.
"But really," she finally says. "What happened?"
"I fell asleep at the wheel. Hit a guardrail."
"Oh, gosh. I'm sorry."
"It's okay," he says, shrugging. "I learned my lesson. And thankfully no one else was hurt."
"I'm just glad you weren't hurt any worse." She smiles at him.
He smiles back. He watches the light glistening off her dark hair, the dip of the front of her dress, the pinky ring she wears.
She's beautiful, vivacious and alive.
Their meals eventually come after nearly forty minutes of waiting, both dishes incorrect. Rather than complaining and waiting, they switch and dig in. As the evening draws to a close, neither feels it was the best first date they'd been on, but it wasn't over yet.
Standing outside of her apartment, he leans in, lips pursed and pressed against hers and warmth seeps through their bodies, magnetizing and energizing and giving them the green light.
"I'll see you tomorrow," he says. She's dazed. "At physical therapy."
She giggles, light and carefree and she feels like twirling. When she gets inside, she does.
Seated on the cold wood floor, Bella packs the few DVDs she had brought from her place. Instead of holding them, looking at their covers and reminiscing, she just neatly stacks them. The couch beside her, a place once home to hugs and kisses and sometimes more, is now an unwelcome sight, a thing no longer to sit on and remember but to ignore and forget.
A key in the lock. A doorknob turns.
Edward appears, still in his suit, shrugging off his coat.
She doesn't look up.
"So now you can be bothered to come home by dinnertime?" she asks, the chill in her voice frostier than that outside, re-freezing the snowflakes melting in Edward's hair.
"Do you really want to do this again?" he asks.
Shaking her head, she swivels where she sits, grabbing at a stack of books and checking the inside covers.
"I knew you'd be here," he tells her.
Standing still at the door, he waits but she doesn't respond. Another sigh, muted and dejected. Walking past her, she watches his shiny shoes reflect the feeble lamp light of the room. She hears the fridge open and the telltale sound of a beer being opened.
The shiny shoes appear again, facing her, stopping mere feet away, but she doesn't look up.
Overcome with courage, she looks up, right at his green eyes. "I've become this other person. Someone I never wanted to be."
He blinks, conceding to her confession without speaking.
"And for that, I'm sorry."
He nods. She nods.
Looking back at the books, she carefully places them in the plastic tote at her side.
"I mean, shouldn't love bring out the best in people?" she says. Sniffles, not too loud, are coming from the doorway. She doesn't want him to cry.
A tiny sound, the tiniest pitter-patter. A mouse no bigger than a tube of lip balm, scurries out from under the couch, making a run for freedom.
Jumping to her feet, she leaps onto the couch, and Edward is propelled into action. He nearly drops his beer as he races after the rodent, but it slips down the hall and he doesn't feel like chasing it.
Hand clasped over her mouth, she stares, wide-eyed. He warily turns, glancing from her to the floor.
A squeak. Her eyes are bright. A laugh bursts forth, something she hasn't done in awhile, and it feels so good it hurts.
Then her laughing is choking and then it's crying.
The lights of the Christmas tree warm up Edward's sparsely furnished apartment. Bella steps back, admiring her handiwork.
Her smile puts the Christmas lights to shame. His hand dances across her body, touching her face, her neck, her chest, her stomach, the button on her pants.
Heat, fire, an oven, a stovetop, an explosion. Curves and planes and hard and soft and puzzle pieces meeting and fitting perfectly.
She bumps her head on the coffee table, but laughs as he apologizes. Her elbow hits him in the gut, knocking the wind out of him. When he recovers, he laughs, too.
She takes him in and guides him home and his hands cradle her gently until they can't anymore, and then he holds her steady while he finds a rhythm.
Her skin spills around his palms and he loves it.
Panting. It's over. It's perfect.
The Christmas tree watches them, a voyeur to their passion. The star on top winks at them. Shivers. The floor is cold. Naked he disappears, returning with blankets and pillows and warmth, so much warmth.
Edward watches in confusion as her face screws up tighter, her eyes mad and glinting like he's never seen. Her voice, what pitch is that, how high can she go, will his ears recover, will the neighborhood dogs start barking?
He reclines on his bed, once relaxed and sated and now utterly bewildered.
Clothes in her hands, deodorant sticks and mascara wands and hair tie things and underwear. What is she saying? What is he not doing?
"If you want me to keep staying here, I need my own space," she says, tossing her things angrily on his desk, over important papers, and oh—well, never mind, he doesn't mention it. "I can't tell what's clean and what's dirty and I can't find anything half the time."
"I-I," he stutters. What does she want?
Looking around the room, he glances at the dresser.
"I can clear out a drawer for you."
Anger lines gone. Guns are put back in their holster. She smiles.
Her body gliding forward like an angel (but her temper, oh, her temper), she crawls up on the bed, straddling his legs, beatific above him.
"Thanks," she whispers. Her lips move against his mouth, then down, down, down, lower, they go.
Bella keeps her eyes closed, not moving or responding, pretending for a moment she didn't hear him say what he said.
But he doesn't like the silence and the not knowing of it all and he can't keep quiet.
"I said I love you."
"Hmm," she replies. "How 'bout that."
Her eyes stay closed so she doesn't see his reaction, the way his head pulls back, looking at her from further away, thinking that might help, that might reveal something he isn't quite seeing.
But she looks the same from that distance.
He huffs. Her eyes open.
"I won't say it unless I mean it. When I say it, it won't be a response."
Blinking, he nods, accepting it. He can wait, he thinks.
A day passes, then two, then three, then he wishes he could take it back, but words, they stay out there in the atmosphere, forever running rampant, never going back inside his mouth, up to his brain where he can rethink everything.
God, why, why did he say it, he wonders and begs and pleads and maybe if he—
"I love you," she says. Simple. Sweet. Bright in the winter, red against the white snow outside, painted across the cloudy sky.
Her lips widen into a grin.
A familiar head of dark brown hair is three places ahead of him in line. Edward leans to the left, peering around people, but he can't see her face. Dropping his vision to the floor, he sees her shoes, the familiar scuffed sandals such a welcome sight he wants to cry.
As if hearing his thoughts, she turns, looking directly at him. Her cheeks are full and happy, a smile on them he hasn't seen in too long. Her lips are still berry-colored and pouty, her eyes still dark and twinkly. She's the same, exactly the same, yet she looks at him with a new expression, one he doesn't have a name for.
It's her turn. She steps up to the counter and orders.
It's awkward until he too has ordered and they both stand near the counter, cups in hand, looking around at everything.
She stands close enough to him to take in the scent of his cologne, not changed since they were together. Just months ago they were curled up under covers, limbs entwined. Just a year ago they had sat at that terrible metal table in nightclothes and rumpled hair and un-brushed teeth and were in love.
Perfunctory questions and answers follow, the usual how are yous and what are yous and good luck to yous.
If he wanted more from this, his disappointment chokes him when he realizes she's got to go. There are no obligatory I'll call yous or can I see you agains.
And when she walks away, she still walks away; this time she really goes.