Disclaimer: All Twilight is S. Meyer.
I followed behind Alice by a few paces the entire walk back up the sandy shore to the parking lot near the pier, unable to stop staring at her, but not wanting to be caught in the act. She was barefoot, and sand clung to her tan ankles and feet like a fine coat of pixie dust, befitting her further into the image she had imprinted on my psyche: she had flittered into my eyesight, now I wouldn't be able to see any other girl. Even the way she walked drew me in, a certain swagger of her hips hypnotized me, accentuated by her slim thigh muscles shifting with every stride her short legs made. I knew she was exaggerating her walk just a bit to entice me, but I thought that too was adorable, just as cute as the little dimpled grin she flashed me when she turned her head back and caught me in mid-stare.
I swallowed hard and sped up just slightly to walk even with her, choosing not to acknowledge the fact that she had busted me. "So, Alice," I began, clearing my throat. "You live around here, or are you vacationing?"
"I live here, born in Savannah and raised right here on Tybee. My parents own the shrimp market some blocks away from here, we sell fresh domestic daily catch. They also own a restaurant on River Street in the city, called The Shrimptail Factory, you can guess what the main seller there is." Alice gave me a wry smile, and I laughed.
"Probably," I agreed, nodding. I knew exactly where she was talking about, Angela and I had lunch there only a few days before, and I told her so.
"Yeah? How'd you like it?" she asked me curiously, raising an eyebrow as we came up into the parking area.
"It was good... a little expensive, but good."
Alice giggled, shaking her head. "Always the same response from everyone, every time. I tell Dad he should lower the menu prices, but he never listens to me when it comes to business."
"Parents always know best," I reminded her, and she made a face, sticking out her little pink tongue.
"That's me, over there," she said, pointing to a nice, shiny light blue Jeep Wrangler with its canvas top down. "You can ride shot gun, of course," she added playfully, walking around the vehicle and opening the door for me. She bowed, giving me a small smile.
"Gee, thanks," I said with a laugh, pulling myself up into the front seat, setting my pack between my feet.
"Anytime," she replied with that same flirty smile, and I wondered if Angela had seen this coming. I mean, she had to have told Alice that I was gay, or there was no way she would be coming on this strong, right? There were definite tones, and the looks she gave me that were only enhanced by that grin... there was no mistaking that, no way.
And I couldn't help but have the question in my mind if she was the other gay cousin. If she was, then I would have to profusely thank my best friend for guilting me into this particular situation. Alice looked good behind the wheel of the jeep, it was like an extension of her in some weird way, and it made me want to draw her like that; only when we started to move a few seconds later, I realized I would have to capture the way the wind blew her hair into such an attractive disarray. I had to force my eyes away from her once again, and I stared determinedly out of the windshield, only looking at her when she spoke to me not a minute later.
"What about you? I know you're not from around here, or we'd have met before now. Are you here for vacation, or are you a SCAD student?"
Damn. Call me out, why don't you?
"Both," I said with a smile, and she raised an eyebrow.
"How old are you?" she asked suspiciously, and I gave her an amused chuckle.
"How old do I look?" I retorted, and she rolled her pretty light hazel eyes, but she couldn't stop the smile.
"I don't know. Nineteen, twenty?"
"Twenty-one," I said. "But this is my freshman year. I took three years off. How old are you?" I steered away from that subject as fast as possible, before she could ask why I took so long of a break.
"Twenty-one," she said automatically, so fast that I felt myself question her veracity, until she laughed at the skeptical look on my face. "I wouldn't dare let you even begin to guess at my age, you would pop off with something ridiculous, like twelve. Everyone teases me about my height, and I try to cut the jokes in the bud. I promise you, I am twenty-one. I was born February 21st, 1990."
"Pisces," I mumbled to myself. Pisces was my opposite sign on the zodiac wheel... not that I followed such things.
"Yeah, the fish, and what of it?" she shot back, glancing over at me with a playful smile, and I shook with silent chuckles.
"The fish from the island," I joked, and she shook her head.
"I admit, that's a new one," she told me, taking a right hand turn onto the main vein through the island. "So, what's so funny about me being a Pisces?"
"Well, my sign is opposite yours on the wheel, making us virtually completely compatible, if we can compromise," I informed her.
A red light stopped us, and she looked over at me speculatively. "A Virgo, huh?"
She knew that Virgo was opposite Pisces. Hmm. Interesting. "Indeed," I answered with a nod. Then I froze, realizing that we were discussing zodiac signs, and I felt myself groan on the inside at how lame I was for bringing it up. The only thing worse could have been if I had looked at her and began talking about the weather. I wanted to smack myself in that moment, I really did.
"So, are you living in the dorms already?" she asked, changing the subject back to me.
"No, we don't move in until the beginning of September. We have a house on North Beach, for now." I watched her smile a little more at that.
"Hmm, cute and close," she quipped, making me turn red.
"What, are those pre-requisites?" I said without thinking, and then proceeded to try to melt into the seat, averting my face. Jesus Christ, where is my brain-to-mouth filter?
"Well, yeah," she laughed. "I don't do summer romances with the tourists. That's how you get burned, it happened to my cousin, Kate."
So she is the other gay cousin! I did a mental jig as this confirmation came through, and I tried to keep my face clear of any signs of the conga-line my hormones were doing inside of me at that moment. I had a sporting chance with this stunning example of an American woman, and it made me tingle all over just to know those signs I was picking up were probably exactly what I perceived them to be.
"Are you near North Beach, then?" I said, changing the subject back, and away from romance. That was something else I didn't feel like touching at the moment. But that's not to say I couldn't get used to looking into those yellow-brown eyes for extended periods of time, touching that beautiful skin that looked soft as satin in the sunlight, or playing with that perfectly wind-blown mop of dark hair, seeing that smile, and knowing it was meant for me and only me... Wait, what the fuck? No no no no no. Not happening, not again, not going to do it again.
Him on top of her, and her eyes locking onto mine as he thrusted against her like an animal in rut, not showing any remorse for the infidelity she was committing right in front of me.
That was the day we made plans to leave Rome. I would never look at an Italian woman ever again.
With that reminder, my defenses came back up full force, and I swallowed hard to hold off the scowl that fought to cross my face. I'd only known this girl for ten minutes, there was no reason to take out my anger on her. But she felt my mood shift, and gave me a curious glance as she turned into the tiny parking lot where I spotted Angela standing next to the bumper of Ben's truck, laughing at some joke he'd likely told. "No, we have a house on the South side of the island a little further down from where we were," she said in an answer to my earlier question.
"Ah," I said, clamming up after that. It was too easy for me to be myself with her, too simple to banter, tease. I didn't seem to feel reserved around her at all, and that was dangerous to me, as it had happened once before, and I swore it would never again. My growing quiet was covered up by the fact we were parked now, and getting out to meet with everyone else to go inside and eat. I sidled up to Angela straight away.
"You set me up for this, didn't you?" I whispered fiercely in her ear, tugging my pack up on my shoulder.
"What do you mean?" she whispered back, and I rolled my eyes. She knew what the hell I was talking about.
"Alice!" I hissed, and she slowed down her walk to hang back with me as everyone else moved ahead to go into the restaurant.
"What? You should be thanking me right now, she's beautiful and she's sweet. She is completely what you need, Bella. I don't see the problem," she replied in a low tone. "She was really intrigued when I told her that you draw, because she apparently shares the same passion for it that you do."
That stopped me. "She draws?" I said, surprised. She hadn't mentioned that on the beach, when she'd told me she had watched me before catching my attention.
"And I hear she's really good," she confirmed, and my mouth fell open, unable to form words.
Angela let me process that, and I finally looked up at her with a pained expression. "It's easy to talk to her. I'm not shy with her at all, she flirts and I flirt back. I don't know, Angela, I don't like it."
"You only don't like it because Alice isn't some floozy you picked up in a dance club. She's a real girl, Bella, someone you could connect to on that level. You're letting that woman eat you alive again, from thousands of miles away... it was two years ago, Bells. Let her go."
With those words, Angela turned and walked towards the door, and I stood in the gravel of the parking lot for a minute, trying to save some face before I walked in and Angela had set me up sitting next to Alice. I know her. She loves me, and she does what she thinks is best for me. Maybe I should just trust her and go with the flow, no matter where it would lead me, because I couldn't deny to myself that I was insanely attracted to Alice. Everything from her voice to her strut drew me in, and I really wanted to get to know the girl. I was just as curious about her as I was attracted to her.
As predicted, I was at a table for four with Angela, Ben, and yes, Alice. It wasn't so bad, though, as conversation was inclusive of all of us, and not paired off, like I feared. It turns out that we were all avid Atlanta Falcons fans, and were excited about the upcoming season, after our disappointing loss in last season's playoffs against Green Bay. Despite the fact that we had been in Marseilles during the last season, our dads had kept us current on the team's progress, and we had the Internet to stream games when we wanted to watch a really important game. There was a moment where Alice and I reached for the nacho basket at the same time and our fingers brushed that made my face go tomato red for some unknown reason, and Alice sent me a wink as she dipped the chip she'd fished out into the salsa. Her wink went straight through me, and I sat back in the booth seat with a sigh, wanting so badly to run away and hide, but knowing there was no where I could really go.
After lunch we all went back to the beach, and though the volleyball net was taken, we ended up making camp on the sand near the water's edge, and from then on it was all water play. Angela hung back on the dryer side of things, but Alice wasn't letting me rest with my sketch book again, she was dragging me out into the surf with her.
"So, what do you like to do for funsies?" she asked me out in the water, and I laughed at how she had phrased the word "fun".
I jumped as a wave crashed into my once-dry back, the water cold to the sun-warmed flesh of my shoulders. "I don't know. I like to read, and I like to write. I like to draw, and I like to watch old black and white movies."
"What's your favorite book?" she asked curiously.
"Wuthering Heights," I replied, and she nodded to herself, seeming to store that away. "Do you like to read?"
"I love to read, it's almost all I do. When I am at the market, I get yelled at by the manager to get my nose out of Wonderland and get to work. Get it? My name is Alice, so anything I read automatically becomes Wonderland."
"Did you like that story growing up?"
She smiled, a far away look in her eyes. "I loved it. Through the Looking Glass was always a bedtime favorite, when my mother would read to me. Alice wasn't my favorite character, though, I really loved the White Queen, and the Mad Hatter. The Jabberwocky was scary to me."
"I loved it, too. I also loved the Wizard of Oz books. And Harry Potter."
"Oh, let's not forget our contempory literary goddess Rowling, hmm?" Alice joked, nudging me with her elbow.
"Hey, those were amazing books! And not to mention some of the hottest girls ever written were major characters in the story," I defended, and she laughed a beautiful laugh, showing all of her perfect teeth.
She moved towards the beach, and we settled down on a couple of towels to dry off, while Alice took a sip from a water bottle before responding to my belief.
"Pray tell, Bella. What Potter girls do you consider the 'hottest girls ever written'?" I gave her a look to see if she was mocking me, and she held up her hands in a gesture of humbleness. "I'm purely curious, I am not judging you, not by any means."
"Well... Hermione, for one." I stopped when she started to giggle, and when she looked at me and waved a hand for me to continue, I did. "Luna, Bellatrix, Narcissa, McGonagall-"
"McGonagall?" Alice screeched indignantly, raising her eyebrows so high in surprise they disappeared beneath the wet raven locks plastered to her forehead. "She's, like, seventy years old or something!"
"But she's so powerful, so brave... that old woman could have given Voldemort or Dumbledore a run for their money, any day. It's not all about the looks for me, anyway," I said softly, with a shrug of my shoulders. Sure, physical looks drew me in just like any other human being, but it sure wasn't enough to keep me if there was nothing to a person besides a pretty face.
"Are you calling me shallow?" she asked, and when I lifted my eyes to meet hers, I saw a bit of a scowl in them.
"No, not at all. I was just speaking for myself," I said honestly, as I had no intentions of offending her with my remark. "I wasn't saying I would have sex with McGonagall, just stating I see her sex appeal."
"You left out Fleur Delacour," Alice pointed out to me, and I shook my head.
"You didn't let me finish, either. She, Ginny Weasley, and Tonks were all on that list, as well."
We laughed at that, and then went on to discuss "Potter Philosophy", which something I can go on about for hours once I get good and warmed up. I don't know how it did, but soon after the conversation turned to Star Wars, and it turned out Alice loved it like I did, and then we found our mutual love for all things Padme Amidala and Natalie Portman, the actress that portrayed her. Natalie Portman led us onto a conversation about V for Vendetta, another mutual love, and it was during that conversation that I finally noticed that the sun was getting low, and I was still lying on the sand, talking to a girl I'd only known for a few hours.
Like a syncronozation of our brains, Angela called out to me from further up the beach, and I twisted around to see her wave at me to come on. I felt something in me deflate with disappointment that I had to leave Alice so soon. I looked back at Alice, and she had a look on her face that I am sure mirrored mine. "Well, I guess I have to go, my ride is leaving," I said slowly, and she nodded, looking down at the towel she was sitting on.
"Yeah, I should probably get going soon, too. I have to wait tables at the restaurant tonight, because we're so short staffed. But hey, are you going to watch the fireworks here tomorrow night?"
Ah, that's right. The next day was the Fourth of July.
"I don't know. I mean, I could probably see them from the house, but I don't know if Angela actually wants to come out here and watch. She doesn't do well with a whole lot of people, and I imagine it's pretty packed." I pushed myself to my feet and picked up my towel to shake out the excess sand, and snagged my tank top from inside my bag.
"It is, but there's an amazing view from the end of my parents' dock. I could grill some fresh haul, buy some beer. We'll make a night out of it," she suggested, also getting to her feet, and I found myself nodding in agreement, a sly smile coming up on my lips.
"Are you asking me out on a date, Alice?" I said, loving every second of the blush I finally made appear on her face.
"W-well, yeah, I-I guess I am," she said with a nervous laugh, and I giggled.
"I'd love to. I had an awesome time, hanging out with you today," I said honestly, and she smiled, biting her full bottom lip.
"Yeah, me. too. I think we'll get along just fine... may I have your number, just so maybe we can text later, if you're not busy?"
I zipped up my bag once I'd stuffed my towel back inside, and stood up, swinging it onto my back, a broad smile on my face. " Sure," I said happily, reciting the digits to her and watching as she tapped them into the pshone she'd fished from her beach bag. "So, what time are you picking me up tomorrow?"
"Seven's good. Need directions, right?" I said, already trying to remember the address of the house.
But I was surprised when she shook her head, that grin in place once more. "Nope, I'm pretty sure I can find it myself. See you tomorrow night, Bella."
A/N: So this is released with the gracious permission from its owner, my dear friend WildImagination28. If you guys are really digging this story, all thanks goes to her.
Thank you guys for the reviews, and the love! And to my LLB readers, I am currently working on LLB19 as we speak... I have recently become rather attached to one Beetlebum101... and right now we have a deal... she is reading while I am writing XD
Leave your thoughts, I love to hear them.