Chapter One: Neighbors
It was always hard to lose a patient, but as Edward dragged himself from the hospital changing rooms he was weighed down by this one. The woman had been young, about his age. And she had been pregnant. He didn't know the details, but she'd been in some sort of car crash and though technically her husband had gotten her to the hospital alive, it was only barely.
Her husband. Edward rubbed at his eyes as he saw the memory of the man again. He'd been quiet while his wife was worked on, so quiet no one had thought to remove him from the room until long after his wife was cold. Cold and dead. Edward had finally called her at 9:33. Security had had to remove the man then, he'd lost it.
He'd launched himself at everyone in sight, yelling at them, telling them she was still alive. Begging her to be.
Edward was done for the night now, his shift having ended during that unfortunate episode. He made his way home quickly and quietly, mulling the stranger who's life he had not been able to save. The baby who had never had a chance. The distraught husband they'd left behind. He wasn't sure who had it worse off really, but while he doubted he would forget the bruised and pale red haired woman's face, he knew he would not forget the look he'd seen in the husbands eyes.
When he finally made it to his apartment building, his revere was broken by the unexpected sounds of laughing. The hallway leading to his apartment was filled with a good smell, a food he couldn't quite identify. The laughter sounded again, coming from the apartment next to his. There seemed to be a lot of people inside, and a small smile tugged at his lips as he slid the key into his own door.
Edward didn't know it yet, but that was the night that Isabella Swan became his neighbor.
~~~ Weeks Later~~~
Bella was coming to a very strange revelation: she needed to meet her neighbor. She was fairly sure she's met everyone else in the building so far, and she was just as near sure that every female so far had gushed about the godlike creature she was apparently sharing a wall with. She'd never seen him herself, but she was fairly confident she could write his resume at this point. If she could draw she could probably produce his likeness.
Her upstairs neighbor, Jessica, had been particularly specific in her summation of his physical qualities. Angela across the hall had been quite taken by his job as a doctor. There were whispers that he sometimes played a piano in his room.
The men had been decidedly less vocal, but she hadn't actually heard a bad trait yet. Ben across the hall simply rolled his eyes in what seemed to be amusement as Angela recounted running into this mysterious man in the hallway caught up in a phone call to his mother. His mother, Angela had stressed, as if that were the some ultimate sign.
Bella found herself somewhere between amused at the strange lot she'd apparently signed on to live by, and curious to see the source of all these rumors. But in the weeks since her move the most she herself had heard from the apartment next door was the occasional sound of the door in the early morning and again at night. A few times she'd though she heard the faint sound of music, but it had only stoked her curiosity rather than satisfy it. And that was the catalyst that led to her current situation: sitting in her kitchen with Heathcliff, her rather large mutt, holding a leash and starring guiltily at the door.
Like clockwork she heard the neighboring door open and she was up like she'd been stung, heading out the door. Exiting her apartment she told herself mentally that she was just walking the dog, nothing unusual, but her heartbeat betrayed her and, as she locked the door behind her and turned to face her neighbor, so did her body.
He was walking passed her towards the entryway as she locked her door and turned. But in her nervous state she forgot about the dog, who turned out to be just as eager to go for a walk as she had been to ambush her neighbor. Heathcliff turned opposite Bella, and in her haste she stumbled over the unexpectedly taught leash and fell, her torso connecting with that of her rather startled neighbor in an abrupt embrace.
Shocked, she looked up and suddenly locked eyes with the man, her face no doubt bright red even as she lost herself inappropriately in his green eyes. She took in his strong jaw, his flushed face, the bits of hazel in his green eyes. Her only lucid thought was that her neighbors hadn't been wrong.
"Uh…hello." He said finally.
"Oh, uh, hi." She said eloquently as she suddenly started pulling herself up awkwardly away from him. Heathcliff pulled on his leash again, oblivious to the moment, and she lurched forward again. His arms reached out to steady her instinctively, and they once again found themselves almost embracing in the hallway. Bella was positive her heart had ceased functioning. Her brain wasn't fairing any better. "I'm Bella, nice to meet you?" The introduction came out as a question.
"Edward." He smiled slightly at her and moved to stand her up. "Nice to meet you too, Bella."
They began to walk towards the nearby door together, the dog barreling out first. But Bella didn't notice Heathcliff's energy. She didn't notice much of anything really. One of Edward's steadying hands lingered on her arm as they left the building, and her entire brain was focused on the soft heat seeping through her shirt sleeve where his palm lay, even after it was gone and she was off down the street with only Heathcliff for company.
Had her attention not been so occupied, she might have noticed the lingering look her neighbor—Edward gave her as they parted outside the building, or the way his fingers flexed slightly as he finally turned and headed towards his car.
Of course, had either of them not been so occupied, they might have seen the man sitting in his van across the street watching their interaction. Edward might even have recognized him.