Hi there. So, this is my new story. I hope you like it. I'll post a chapter a day for 16 days.

Thanks to sadtomato for telling me when something sounded good or bad and to MeteorMuse for her awesome beta skills and to Anntastic23 for her lovely prereading thoughts. Thanks for reading, friends!

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. Are we posting these still? I mean ... whatever. I didn't create Edward and Bella. I just created this ficlet. Xox

"Dude ... it looks amazing. Seriously, I love it." As I pull my tee shirt back over my head, I wince. The plastic on my shoulder crinkles a bit, but I don't need the noise to remind me what I've just done. My first tattoo. My mother-God rest her soul-would kill me. I walk toward the door of the shop and turn to wave. "Thanks again, man."

It's dark, and I'm tired, but I head down the street toward the bar. After working until two a.m., I had three classes this morning and then a two hour session at this tattoo shop, but now I have a five hour shift at work ahead of me. No rest for the weary.

I walk in the back door and set my bag on a stool, grabbing a piece of gum and shoving it in my mouth as I lean back against the door to close it. Remembering my shoulder too late, I wince when it grazes the cold metal. Shit, it's gonna be a rough night.

"Hey, Eddie! We need some more pint glasses up here. Now!"

I wipe the sweat off my brow on the sleeve of my white v-neck before hauling the drainer bin full of glasses up and carrying them out front. Scalding hot water runs down my forearms, dripping off my elbows as I load the glasses into the cooler, quickly checking each one for traces of lipstick.

"Thanks, babe. It's way busier tonight than usual."

I work at a bar run by two chicks who ruffle my hair and call me babe. I think they gave me the job because they thought I was cute in a little brother sort of way. Or maybe they just felt sorry for me. Either way, it's essentially slave labor. I'm a liquor gopher, a stockman, a dishwasher, a busboy, and one time, I even got to throw someone out. I mean, Mandy threw the guy out. I just stood behind her and looked like I was going to punch him if he didn't leave. It seemed to be effective.

Anyway, they pay me better than minimum wage, and they always give me more than my share of the tips for the night, so I can't complain. Between working here six nights a week and the student loans I have out, I get by. Barely.

I go to the back and grab three of our cheapest bottles of vodka and one of Patron. It's well drink night so I'm sure vodka will be low, and one of our regulars, John, only drinks Patron straight up. He's a crazy mother fucker, Johnny. Tells stories about all four of his ex-wives as if he still loves them all. Probably still does, if he could just remember their names.

I look at my watch: two hours until close, another hour of cleanup, then the bus, and finally, bed. Maybe Mandy will give me a ride. I'm dead on my feet here.

Three hours later, the bus is late. Mandy the night owl was staying after to work on the books, so I made my way to the bus stop, and it's fifteen minutes late picking me up. Collapsing into a seat, I fall asleep and almost miss my stop, but one of the other regular riders on my route notices me and kicks my shoe at the last minute. I stumble down the walk, up the stairs and to the end of the corridor, shove my key in the lock, then the deadbolt, and slam the door behind me. Home, sweet home. I don't even bother turning on the lights, simply kicking off my shoes, dropping my jeans and collapsing onto the bed.

The next morning, I undress my shoulder and look carefully over it into the bathroom mirror, smiling at what I see.

It's perfect. The font, the spacing, everything. It's exactly how I've been picturing it for two years, and after saving up the cash it's finally there. Faulkner's words on my back forever, hidden from everyone but those I choose to reveal it to.

Go on and wonder.

I hope my mom would at least be proud of the message I chose.

I get ready for class slowly: shower, coffee and cereal with a book in my hand. Then, I realize how much time I've wasted and brush my teeth while I throw on shoes and socks, grab my bag and run out the door in a rush. As I turn the key in both lock and deadbolt, I sigh, shrugging my bag higher on my shoulder. Another day begins.

As I wait at the bus stop, I watch cars pulling in at the shitty public high school across the street. One after another, rusted out hand-me-down rides mingle with tricked out hoopties. I never had a car when I went to school there. My uncle didn't think it was necessary, and I never minded the bus. Gave me time to read.

I watch patiently, waiting. A neon blue Cadillac. 1985ish. Chrome wheels. Bass shaking it's tinted windows. A hot pink 1995 Chevy Cavalier. Dented doors on both sides and a gray trunk lid. I think they must slide in through the windows. As more cars file into the parking spaces, I wonder if they're skipping today.

The bus pulls up, and I start to get on but then I see it flying down the street. A black Dodge Caravan. Probably 1992 or 3. Some punk boy band blasting from all around. The blonde is driving of course, but she barely even registers. Instead, I can't take my eyes off the passenger seat. Long, straightened dark hair swirls out the open window, a nose ring glints in the sunlight. She's bobbing her head and singing along to every word of some song I'm not cool enough to know the name of.

"Bella," I whisper, wishing she could actually hear me, and get on the bus.

Bella and I went to the same high school for a few years. She was-is-a year younger than me, and while I moved on to college, she's a senior now. Some days I wish I was back there, but all of my reasons revolve around seeing Bella. She's gorgeous, and fun seems to follow her everywhere. But there were a ton of times, when she thought no one was paying attention, that she got this faraway look in her eyes. This look like she'd rather be a million miles away. I was paying attention. I saw her, and I wanted to go wherever that place was too.

The thing is, I don't think she even knew who I was back then. Probably still doesn't. See, in our high school, there weren't very many groups. There were jocks, geeks, drug dealers, and punks, with the small percentage of white kids divided among the other groups. Bella was always hanging out with the popular punk kids, and I was usually at a table alone, reading a book or writing in my journals. I mean, I had friends, but I didn't belong in a group. It's hard to make many friends when you're one of only a handful of kids in a failing public school system that wants to go to college, that can't wait to write an essay. That likes to learn.

It's a short ride to campus, so after I'm done daydreaming about Bella, I don't even have time to pull out a book to get lost in. This is my reality. Day five billion.